On Greeting One Another During the Divine Liturgy
The following was written by Fr. Alexander Lebedeff, a Protopresbyter of much
experience in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, in response to a layman's comments about
greetings during the Divine Liturgy.
Please permit me to be frank. As far as I know, there is no tradition in any
of the local Orthodox churches (Greek, Russian, Serbian, Antiochian, etc.) for the
greeting "Christ is in our midst" as anything but a greeting between two
Unfortunately, in our modernist times, some churches have begun to introduce practices
that give to lay men and women certain expressions that are properly reserved to clergy.
The so-called "Kiss of Peace," [in most modern churches, a handshake]
accompanied by the words, "Christ is in our midstHe is and shall be" is
one of them. Having the congregation say the deacon's three "Amens" after the
Consecration of the Holy Gifts is another. Both these erroneous practices (and many
others) should be corrected.
For a priest to do this at the kissing of the cross at the end of liturgy is an
innovation, not supported by a valid tradition. It is very "catching," so there
it is no surprise that people will pick this up and disseminate it. It is not in keeping
with the tradition of the Church. Please bear in mind that seemingly innocuous
innovations, however well-intentioned, actually serve to separate parish from parish and
jurisdiction from jurisdiction. Soon, we will not have Orthodopraxis, in humble submission
to valid Tradition, but liturgical anarchy, with everyone encouraged to "do their own
That is not Orthodoxyit is ecclesiastical disorder.
But what about the inclusion of The Kiss of Peace in the Divine Liturgy Service book
as published by the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America? I
have recently received a copy of this book as the format to which we are to conform by the
year 1999. "Christ is in our midst" followed by "He is and ever
shall be" is designated as the spoken words between brethren as they exchange
handshakes (or hugs, as in our parish). How is that reconciled with what I hear you
This is an excellent example of an innovation that has spread like wildfire across
American Orthodox parishes of various jurisdictions. It is, however, still an innovation.
The fact that the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America has seen fit to include it in
their new service book (making it virtually mandatory) doesn't change this.
In fact, it should be a "no-brainer" to test whether this is an innovation or
not, by comparing the service books published by the Antiochian Archdiocese in previous
years (or used by them) with the new one.
Is this practice found in Hapgood? No. Is it found in Nassir? No.
Is this the practice of the Church of Jerusalem? No.
Is this the practice of the Church of Alexandria? No.
Is this the practice of the Church of Greece? No.
Is this the practice of the Church of Serbia? No.
Is this the practice of the Church of Bulgaria? No.
Is this the practice of the Church of Russia? No.
I personally have no way to confirm this, but I sincerely doubt whether the practice of
laymen exchanging the "kiss of peace" (with hugs or handshakes) at the words
"Christ is in our midstHe is and ever shall be" is to be found in the
Church of Antioch itselfin the "old country."
So, since one can produce service books going back many hundreds of years (Greek,
Russian, Syrian, etc.) where this practice is not to be found, isn't it clear
that this is an innovation, "brand new" for 1990s.
What is sad is that innovations such as this become perceived as such an integral part of
the service, that when a parishioner used to such practices visits another parish where
this practice is not done, he or she sincerely feels that something is being "left
out"that they're not doing the liturgy properly, when the exact opposite is the
I can understand the benefits of breaking down the invisible "barriers" that
keep people separated, and asking people to turn to their neighbors, shake hands and
introduce themselves is a technique that has been used by motivational speakers and
protestant evangelists for decades. It is, however, not part of the Orthodox liturgy for
the laity to do this.