In the Liturgy and every service of the Church, we come to Church to talk: to talk to God, not to one another!
As soon as we enter the church, even if no prayers have started, we must be mindful that this place and this time are set aside for Him. They are holy to the Lord, and we must each struggle to protect that holiness. One of the major obstacles to this is habitual and needless talking and chatter.
Rather than chatting before the Liturgy in church, let us keep silence and join ourselves to the praying of the Hours with heart and mind, standing before the Lord with humility and the fear of God.
If someone we know comes and stands by us, let us be glad and joyful, but let the verbal or physical greeting wait until an appropriate time, not during prayers.
When we are waiting to commune, we do not talk in the queue, but stand in silent submission, with our arms folded – mindful of the wonder of Christ’s mercy in coming to us, despite our unworthiness and faults.
If we have communed, when we go for zapivka or stand at the front of the church before the moving of the Holy Gifts to the preparation table, we do not chatter or socialise, but rather contemplate that not only has God revealed Himself to us, but that Christ our God has entered into the very temples of our bodies, silently mindful that we have become living tabernacles of His Presence.
In the Tabernacle and the first Temple, the Ark of the Covenant only contained the manna from heaven, but when we commune, we contain the Bread of Heaven, Christ Himself. He is within us!
Even if we have not communed, we still silently honour the Lord’s self-giving and self-emptying love expressed in His Presence in the Holy Gifts, and – neither sitting nor talking – we are silently mindful that Christ our King and God is in our midst, as we stand before Him.
During the Thanksgiving Prayers, unless we are reading on the kliros, we remain in silence – mindful of our debt to the living and loving Lord for giving Himself to us, to cleanse us, heal us, and vivify us. This too is not a time for talking even if we have not received the Holy Gifts. The Church is still praying, and the Church is giving thanks for the wonder of the Liturgy and the Holy Mysteries – the great token of God’s inexhaustible love for the Church and every soul within it.
We are all stewards of the Divine Liturgy, and we must all work together to preserve its holiness and ‘otherness’, in which we have put aside all earthly cares, so that we may receive the King of all, invisibly escorted by the ranks of angels.
So… do not be shy in Liturgy. If people are talking whilst the Church is praying, turn to them and politely signal for them to be quiet. If necessary, quietly ask them to stop talking. If they persist, please approach the starosta/church-warden.
In Liturgy, we talk to God, not to one another. There is ample chance for that once Liturgy has finished.
When trapeza is blessed, this is the time for friendly, warm conversation; for greeting one another; for welcoming new faces; for catching up and socialising – and this is a blessed and cherished opportunity to enjoy one another’s company, having dedicated our words and voices during the Liturgy to God.