What If a Layman Is Late for the Service?

Question: If a layman is late for the service, how should he act: to pass candles through people to icons, to walk around the church from a candlestick to a candlestick, or to stand quiet and not disturb anyone?

Answer: Being late for worship is bad, of course, but circumstances can be various.  When a latecomer enters a church, the feeling that he is guilty of something must keep him from lighting his candles unblushingly.

But there are people who just come to light a candle during the service. It is their task in visiting church – every person carries his own measure. This is their prayer, their offering to God. It is small, but it is their “two mites”.

People are different. Some people know the Divine service and understand at what point you can safely walk up and place you candle on the candlestick. But others do not know, and they find it hard enough to figure out. And during some Divine services there are many people, while during others there are few.

My opinion, as a priest, is that when there are many people, a person should humble himself and pass his candle through someone, and not to create a crush in church. If there are few people and a person knows at what moments of the service he can walk up to the candlesticks, he goes quietly and puts his candles. However, if your state of mind requires lighting a candle right now then go and do it.

The highest gift from God is the gift of reasoning. You look around, you feel what is happening, and the Lord tells you what to do. Because church is the place of God, and He teaches us how to act here, as a rule.

And there is no definitive answer to this question. So many men, so many situations. And Divine services are always different, even though sort of the same thing is always served. The priests are different, people in church are different, so a clear recommendation cannot be given.

The main thing is not to be irritated by both those who are late and those who are praying nearby.

After all, the Church experience for the layman often starts with a person who stands near the candlestick. If there is someone who cannot help but be irritated, then the Church experience immediately ends for many. Unfortunately, this is often the case.

While in church, you must not forget why you are standing here. There is communication with God and there is no need to look around: who has just come into, how is standing here, how someone is making a cross sign, etc. This is not your business! As Christ said: “What is that to thee? follow thou me” (John 21:22).

When a person talks to God, the one who stands near is nobody for him at this very moment. You have nothing to do with it – this is a conversation of a different level.

Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds

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