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Question: 13
Greetings Father!

In the Greek Orthodox churches here in Australia, during the Divine Liturgy, when the priest announes «Πρόσχωμεν τα Άγια τοις Αγίοις», the Curtain or Royal Doors are closed. I have seen on television broadcasts of the Divine Liturgy from other countries. Yet, when the above line is said in those Liturgies, the Curtain/Royal Doors are not closed. Now I know during the Easter period the Curtain/Royal Doors are left open, but my viewings of the Divine Liturgy on television were not during that festive period. So my question is:
Is it required that the Curtain/Royal Doors are closed during the Divine Liturgy when «Πρόσχωμεν τα Άγια τοις Αγίοις» is said? Or is this tradition fading away and optional?
I thank you and hope to hear from you soon.


Answer to Question 13

Dear Evangelos,
Most of the services we have in Parishes are in fact Monastic services and the liturgical books which contain these services (Book of Hours, Paracletiki, the Menaia, Triodion and Pentecostarion) are monastic liturgical books. Town parishes had different services for Vespers, Mattins and Hours which have not survived except only in manuscripts. Thus up to the 7th and 8th century there were two sets of Rubrics, the monastic and the worldly which were used side by side. The monastic rule came form St. Savva's Monastery in Jerusalem and is called St. Savva's rule, and the worldly rule came from Antioch and Constantinople and is called the Constantinopolitan rule. In time the monastic rule took preference in parish churches and this is the rule we have today in all the Orthodox Churches. With the monastic rule, certain Monastic practices were also adopted in the Parish Churches. One of these is the closing of the Curtain of Royal Doors during the Communion of the Priests. In fact, in some Monasteries, the doors are opened and shut more than once during the Liturgy. They are shut after the opening Blessing “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father…” reopened for the Little Entrance, closed after the Great Entrance and remain closed until the time of giving Communion to the laity. The practice of closing the Royal Doors at the words «Πρόσχωμεν. Tα Άγια τοις Αγίοις» (Let us attend. The Holy things unto the Holy) is a custom still kept in many Monasteries and Parishes. In monasteries, during this time, the Abbot and then the brethren according to their rank, will very quietly and reverently go one by one and kiss the Icons on the Iconostasis then standing in the middle of the Church will bow to all the brethren asking forgiveness. This custom was copied by Parishes, but without the solemn and reverent order of the monks. Like many things in Parishes, the people have no idea of order and would all rush to kiss the Icons before receiving Holy Communion and in many places would sound like a stampede of cattle. With the curtains closed, many people very wrongly and irreverently treat this time similar to an interlude at the theatre and start talking among themselves: all that is missing is the popcorn. Far from being an interlude, this time should be used to recollect our thoughts and pray from the heart that God may find us worthy to partake of the fearful Mysteries without condemnation. In an attempt to bring back some order at this most solemn time, many Parishes have put a ban on kissing the Icons at this time and purposely leave the curtain open so that the people can see that the service is not in an interlude but is still continuing with the preparation for Holy Communion. So traditionally the curtains should be closed, but circumstances have forced us to find solutions to teach the people a sense of orderly conduct. Sadly we still have a long way to go. You need only be witness to the communion of the people on the Great feasts. They completely ignore the proclamation “With fear of God, faith and love draw near” and with a disorderly madness everyone pushes to reach the Chalice first, stepping on each other toes in the process.