The Orthodox Practice of Standing for Worship
Standing before God has been the only acceptable posture for Orthodox Christians from the earliest of times. We recognize that a faithful servant would never sit before his master, for the faithful are all servants of the Lord, whom we worship as we stand in our temples. The Holy Apostle Paul tells us, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith” (I Cor. 16:13); “Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth (Ephesians 6:14).
As Christians we must always be on guard spiritually, ever more so then when attending the divine services. By standing we subject our bodies to the attention needed to properly and fully worship God with all our mind and soul. We subject ourselves before the Master as His humble servants, being attentive to our God. When we become fatigued during long services we symbolically become offerings to the very God we worship. Saint Paul says: “Present you bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).
In addition to the ascetic practice of standing in worship, we Orthodox can also add the pious act of prostrations. Prostrations can be done when entering the nave from the narthex, before we venerate an icon in the temple, or when saying the Jesus Prayer in the privacy of our home. There are times to sit (cf. the Kathismata: the sections of the Psalter read each day: Kathisma means “seated”), and not to sit (the Akathistos: not seated!
Monks commonly perform prostrations while saying the Jesus Prayer, especially when fingering the beads that are spaced throughout one’s prayer rope. Prostrations, like standing, help aid in purifying the heart, for in doing so we bring the mind’s attention back from wandering, and worship God with body and soul united.
With love in Christ,
About the author
Fr. Tryphon is the Abbot of the Monastery of the All-Merciful Saviour, which was established in 1986 by Archimandrite Dimitry (Egoroff) of blessed memory. The Monastery is under the omophore of His Eminence Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.