Traditions and Practices

If you are considering making your first visit to Nativity, some of the traditions here may be new to you. Below is a short guide to some of these traditions and practices.


When you first arrive, people may be lighting candles. Parishioners may pray and then light votive candles or candles to be placed in holders beneath the icons at the front of the church. The candles represent the light of Christ and the flame of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3).


At the front of the church is the Iconostasis, or Icon Screen, which defines the altar area. The Royal Doors are in the center of the screen and beyond them is the Altar. The priest faces the Altar (East) along with the congregation unless his liturgical actions are specifically directed toward the people. Icons - sometimes called "windows to heaven" - are the visual gospel and represent significant people and events in Church history. The images of the icons remind us of the presence of heaven during our worship and also serve as "family pictures," instructing us about the blessed lives of the community of saints who surround and encourage us.


Incense is used often because it was a part of the worship described in both the Old and the New Testaments, and its use honors God's presence. It has a pleasing aroma and shows our prayers ascending before God (Psalm 141:2).

Sign of the Cross

We frequently make the sign of the cross. This reminds us of God's ultimate act of love for us: the crucifixion and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. By touching our forehead, heart, right shoulder, and left shoulder, we show the dedication of our mind, heart, and strength to God. This practice also involves us physically in the act of worship.


In the Byzantine liturgical system, each week is assigned to one of the eight tones. See the link at bottom for a full explanation.

Holy Communion

Catholics of any Rite and Orthodox may receive Holy Communion. At the end of the Liturgy, the congregation (including baptized non-Catholic believers) may come forward to receive Antidoron, a piece of blessed bread offered in token of Christian fellowship. They may also kiss the cross held by the priest.

How to Greet the Bishop

How do you address him? "Glory to Jesus Christ!" or "Slava Isusu Christu!"

If Bishop offers you his hand, you take it and bow to kiss his hand, as a mark of respect for the priesthood of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Bishop. It's not absolutely necessary that you put your lips to his hand, but the gesture remains the same.

When the Bishop blesses, you make the sign of the cross....when he's coming in, or during Liturgy or at ANY time.

For Further Information