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Prostrations, prayers rugs and fixed times of prayer are all traits of traditional Orthodoxy.  These practices

are most closely associated with the daily Divine Office prayed daily by traditional Orthodox clergy, both Eastern and Western Rite, and reflect the praxis of the ancient faith of our holy Fathers and Mothers from

the earliest days of the Orthodox Church.




Carrying over the praxis of Orthodox Judaism during the time of Christ and the Apostles, Christian believers were required to pray three times each day, stopping whatever they are doing to pray.  Historically, Jews prayed at fixed intervals throughout the day. King David, who is believed to have written the psalms, proclaims,


    Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint

       and moan, and he will hear my voice. (Psalm 55:17)


The Church, ever guided by the Holy Spirit continued the practice of praying at fixed hours and, under the influence of Monasticism, developed the “Divine Office” which is fixed prayers for any given day in the Hours of Matins (Early Morning) Lauds (Second Morning Prayer), Prime (First prayer after daily Mass) Terce, Sext, None, Vespers an Compline. The Church prays 8 times during the day.  The prayers of the Divine Office for any given day are found in the book called the Breviary.  See:  http://www.celticorthodoxchurch.com/BREVIARY.html 




Christians frequently kneel down and touch their heads on the ground in a type of prostration. It is repeated several times a day as part of the Rubrics of the Divine Office and a prayer rug was used and is

today used as a way of aligning with the local church and to ensure a clean area. Additionally, a man’s shoes are removed during prayer.  The Priest prays a special blessing on the prayer rug, thus making the prayer rug part of the local church.  It is not always easy to go to the church building (called a Temple in Holy Orthodoxy) but when he opens the prayer rug he is now kneeling on part of the church floor.  The blessed rug is a portable part of the church.


Some Christians, especially in the Celtic Orthodox Church, Armenian Orthodox Church and the Coptic

Orthodox tradition, frequently made use of prostrations during prayer. The Celtic Orthodox Church, a member of Biblical Orthodoxy, and all the world churches identified as part of Biblical Orthodoxy make heavy usage of the prayer rugs.  The method of prostration is the man kneels down on the rug, and then moves the head down to touch the ground, his hands made into a fist, and the knuckles and both thumbs touch the ground. This is done when one begins to pray … prostrating three times in the name of the Trinity; at the end of each Psalm … while saying the “One is Holy, One is the Lord Jesus Christ etc.” and multiple times during the multiple Kyrie eleison. (Lord have mercy etc.) The sign of the Cross is repeated three times and the prostration is repeated three times. 


This tradition has its source in the Gospels, where Jesus is recorded as praying in the Garden of Gethsemane: “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39).


Additionally, it is an ancient tradition in the Celtic Orthodox Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and all of Biblical Orthodoxy to pray without shoes, leaving them at the door of the church. 



When Orthodox Christians pray they always take care to face the Tabernacle if they are in the church building.  If they are not in the Church they face toward the Orient. For 2,000 years Christians have prayed facing towards the Orient, the East. East is the direction of the sunrise and was naturally associated with various Christian imagery. East was first seen as a symbol of Christ, the “light of the world,” and the direction of his Second Coming. The sunrise was also associated with the Resurrection, as it is written in the Gospels that Christ rose from the dead at dawn. Christians for many centuries prayed facing east (ad orientem), both for the Eucharistic liturgy of the Mass and at daily prayers.  Today, only Holy Orthodoxy perpetuates the practice of the Apostles in offering Mass and prayers “ad orientem”.