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Offline Orthodox11

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Arms folded during prayer
« on: August 19, 2011, 01:13:40 PM »
I've noticed that the Russian Old Believers always stand with their arms folded during prayer. The Old Orthodox Prayer book calls for the "brethren to stand with their arms folded over their breasts and their heads slightly bowed" during the reading of the Six Psalms. I was wondering if there are any references to this posture of prayer outside Old Believer literature. Is it an ancient practice, perhaps having a common origin with the posture used by Sunnis?


Some examples:




« Last Edit: August 19, 2011, 01:17:46 PM by Orthodox11 »

Offline Punch

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2011, 02:07:20 PM »
Don't know.  My arms naturally go to that position when I pray or stand in church for a long time.
I would be happy to agree with you, but then both of us would be wrong.

Offline podkarpatska

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2011, 02:12:50 PM »
Hmmm? "Gradually instead of hiding behind objects we learn to fold our arms tightly across our chests, whenever we feel in danger, uncomfortable or nervous.

When a person folds their arms during a face-to-face encounter, it is possible to "suppose" that you may have said something with which the other person disagrees, even though the person may be "verbally" agreeing with you.

Studies have shown that when a person folds his arms not only has he negative thoughts about the other person, he is also paying less attention to what is being  said."
http://www.memorymentor.com/what_does_folded_arms_mean.htm  ;) ;)
« Last Edit: August 19, 2011, 02:32:10 PM by podkarpatska »

Offline Punch

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2011, 02:14:27 PM »
Hmmm? "Gradually instead of hiding behind objects we learn to fold our arms tightly across our chests, whenever we feel in danger, uncomfortable or nervous.

When a person folds their arms during a face-to-face encounter, it is possible to "suppose" that you may have said something with which the other person disagrees, even though the person may be "verbally" agreeing with you.

Studies have shown that when a person folds his arms not only has he negative thoughts about the other person, he is also paying less attention to what is being  said."
http://www.memorymentor.com/what_does_folded_arms_mean.htm

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I would be happy to agree with you, but then both of us would be wrong.

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2011, 02:23:33 PM »
Don't know.  My arms naturally go to that position when I pray or stand in church for a long time.
Same here...
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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2011, 02:54:20 PM »


Really?

If my hands aren't busy making the sign of the cross, lighting candles, etc. they usually hang straight down at my sides.

I would never cross my arms in church.  I, personally, would think it inappropriate....almost seeming careless, just like I would never cross my legs in church.

Not judging anyone who does, I just never would.

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Offline elephant

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2011, 03:00:03 PM »
Dear Orthodox11,

Do you think the people in this picture are in prayer?  Maybe they are trying to listen to a very long speech. 

Love, elephant

Offline podkarpatska

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2011, 03:09:53 PM »
^ Maybe they don't like having their picture taken.... ;D

Offline orthonorm

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2011, 03:22:32 PM »
My Priest is a kind fellow and lets folks develop their own "physical" relationship to the DL and doesn't try to dictate too much.

But that would not be suffered very long.

In the "West" crossing ones hands at the waist is respectful as is arms to the side.

The above definitely sends a specific message already quoted about
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Offline orthonorm

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2011, 03:24:16 PM »


Really?

If my hands aren't busy making the sign of the cross, lighting candles, etc. they usually hang straight down at my sides.

I would never cross my arms in church.  I, personally, would think it inappropriate....almost seeming careless, just like I would never cross my legs in church.

Not judging anyone who does, I just never would.



Another thing my Priest has emailed about not doing. Or when sitting, using the pews as a "park bench" arms stretched out and the like along it.
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Offline LizaSymonenko

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2011, 03:31:09 PM »

That photo can't be Old Believers.

I thought their women never tied knots under their chins.

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Offline Punch

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2011, 03:39:21 PM »
Read up on the history of the pretzel. 
I would be happy to agree with you, but then both of us would be wrong.

Offline podkarpatska

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2011, 04:05:01 PM »


Really?

If my hands aren't busy making the sign of the cross, lighting candles, etc. they usually hang straight down at my sides.

I would never cross my arms in church.  I, personally, would think it inappropriate....almost seeming careless, just like I would never cross my legs in church.

Not judging anyone who does, I just never would.



Another thing my Priest has emailed about not doing. Or when sitting, using the pews as a "park bench" arms stretched out and the like along it.



Your priest really emails parishioners about their posture? Really? He must have a lot of time on his hands or he is not paying attention to the altar during Liturgy. That would make for a great annual parish meeting where I come from!!!!!

Offline Benjamin the Red

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2011, 04:11:16 PM »
The explanation I have heard, and I don't have sources because this was word-of-mouth, is that this is an old Imperial stance taken from the Byzantine court. When standing in the presence of the emperor, one's hands would always be folded. This showed respect to the emperor, and more practically, displays that you don't have weapons.

Christ is King of all, and so one would naturally fold one's arms in the same fashion in church.

FWIW.
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Offline LizaSymonenko

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2011, 04:17:53 PM »

That may have been true in Byzantine times, but, today it just smacks of boredom.

I wouldn't stand like that at work before my boss, so, why would I in church?



As for the pretzel, yes, I know the story.

We do cross our arms when going up for Holy Communion - right over left.

However, the stance in the picture is not truly crossed over one's chest.  Just crossed so they don't fall down.
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Offline Ionnis

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2011, 04:19:43 PM »
I was told that during the six psalms we stand as still as possible with our heads down, free from distraction, as these will be the psalms read by our guardian angel when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ and receive the irrevocable judgment.  Perhaps this is why they cross their arms, they take the command to stand absolutely still very seriously. I don't know for certain though.
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Offline Benjamin the Red

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #16 on: August 19, 2011, 04:22:12 PM »

That may have been true in Byzantine times, but, today it just smacks of boredom.

I wouldn't stand like that at work before my boss, so, why would I in church?



As for the pretzel, yes, I know the story.

We do cross our arms when going up for Holy Communion - right over left.

However, the stance in the picture is not truly crossed over one's chest.  Just crossed so they don't fall down.


True, and this practice fell from Greek use, and was removed in the Nikonian reforms...but the Old Believers still cling to it!

And I would fold my arms that way, too, if I had to stand like that for over an hour!  :P
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Offline Punch

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #17 on: August 19, 2011, 04:35:12 PM »
I would have no trouble standing that way in front of my boss, none whatsoever.  Same with him.  I guess none of us got the body language memo.  We have other things to think about in a nuclear power plant.  The only thing that my priest tells us is to not put our hands behind our backs.  I often stand at the side of the altar as a server with arms crossed and my hands tucked into the sleeves of my robe.  In fact, this is my usual stance during the litanies.  I have served if four different parishes under eight different priests and none have ever corrected me for that behaviour.  I did get tired during the reading of the Kathisma once, and crossed my legs while sitting.  My Godfather, a monk, leaned over and told me if one of the nuns saw me do that, she would knock me off the bench.  I got the message.


That may have been true in Byzantine times, but, today it just smacks of boredom.

I wouldn't stand like that at work before my boss, so, why would I in church?



As for the pretzel, yes, I know the story.

We do cross our arms when going up for Holy Communion - right over left.

However, the stance in the picture is not truly crossed over one's chest.  Just crossed so they don't fall down.


True, and this practice fell from Greek use, and was removed in the Nikonian reforms...but the Old Believers still cling to it!

And I would fold my arms that way, too, if I had to stand like that for over an hour!  :P
I would be happy to agree with you, but then both of us would be wrong.

Offline Shanghaiski

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #18 on: August 19, 2011, 04:53:37 PM »
The explanation I have heard, and I don't have sources because this was word-of-mouth, is that this is an old Imperial stance taken from the Byzantine court. When standing in the presence of the emperor, one's hands would always be folded. This showed respect to the emperor, and more practically, displays that you don't have weapons.

Christ is King of all, and so one would naturally fold one's arms in the same fashion in church.

FWIW.

This makes sense. Byzantines, as Eastern Romans, were quite different than people today. The whole thing about Tone 5 being the "happy" tone and all, as well as eating honeyed door mice.
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Offline biro

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #19 on: August 19, 2011, 05:45:08 PM »
Yipes, why didn't somebody invent cherry yogurt first?
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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #20 on: August 19, 2011, 06:10:43 PM »


Really?

If my hands aren't busy making the sign of the cross, lighting candles, etc. they usually hang straight down at my sides.

I would never cross my arms in church.  I, personally, would think it inappropriate....almost seeming careless, just like I would never cross my legs in church.

Not judging anyone who does, I just never would.



Another thing my Priest has emailed about not doing. Or when sitting, using the pews as a "park bench" arms stretched out and the like along it.



Your priest really emails parishioners about their posture? Really? He must have a lot of time on his hands or he is not paying attention to the altar during Liturgy. That would make for a great annual parish meeting where I come from!!!!!

Yes it would make for a great annual parish meeting where I come from as well. 

Offline Orthodox11

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #21 on: August 19, 2011, 06:31:55 PM »
Dear Orthodox11,

Do you think the people in this picture are in prayer?  Maybe they are trying to listen to a very long speech. 

The ones in the first picture are at prayer. If you watch videos of Old Believer worship, you will see them standing in this way. It's also described in a lot of the literature.

That photo can't be Old Believers.

I thought their women never tied knots under their chins.

The photo is from the Church of the Nativity in Erie, which is under ROCOR but follows the Old Rite.

The explanation I have heard, and I don't have sources because this was word-of-mouth, is that this is an old Imperial stance taken from the Byzantine court. When standing in the presence of the emperor, one's hands would always be folded. This showed respect to the emperor, and more practically, displays that you don't have weapons.

Christ is King of all, and so one would naturally fold one's arms in the same fashion in church.

Thanks! This sounds like a plausible explanation.

That may have been true in Byzantine times, but, today it just smacks of boredom.

I wouldn't stand like that at work before my boss, so, why would I in church?

Russian babushki seem quite adverse to it, but I've never seen anyone else object in church. Never struck me as being disrespectful.

Offline orthonorm

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #22 on: August 19, 2011, 06:35:44 PM »


Really?

If my hands aren't busy making the sign of the cross, lighting candles, etc. they usually hang straight down at my sides.

I would never cross my arms in church.  I, personally, would think it inappropriate....almost seeming careless, just like I would never cross my legs in church.

Not judging anyone who does, I just never would.



Another thing my Priest has emailed about not doing. Or when sitting, using the pews as a "park bench" arms stretched out and the like along it.



Your priest really emails parishioners about their posture? Really? He must have a lot of time on his hands or he is not paying attention to the altar during Liturgy. That would make for a great annual parish meeting where I come from!!!!!

Thankfully our parish ain't beholden to such nonsense, as I have come to find out ww are without hardly any politics compared to other places. Evidently to the good from what I gather from others' comments.

And you don't think your Priest notices anything during the DL? Please.

When the seasons change we gives out an email suggesting appropriate conduct within the parish: no shorts, baseball hats, where to place umbrellas, jackets etc. and he takes those times to also go over about how to comport oneself while in the parish.

No he doesn't send out emails: I saw x last Sunday. Rather pastoral emails regarding the above on a seasonal basis.

That is called being a pastor, especially when we have an influx of converts and inquirers coming in.

If I implied otherwise, that is my fault.

As I said he is rather generous, but some stuff don't fly.
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Offline orthonorm

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #23 on: August 19, 2011, 06:36:50 PM »
I would have no trouble standing that way in front of my boss, none whatsoever.  Same with him.  I guess none of us got the body language memo.

You both obviously have intimacy issues with each other, I suggest a couples therapist. //:=)
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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #24 on: August 19, 2011, 06:51:54 PM »
The explanation I have heard, and I don't have sources because this was word-of-mouth, is that this is an old Imperial stance taken from the Byzantine court. When standing in the presence of the emperor, one's hands would always be folded. This showed respect to the emperor, and more practically, displays that you don't have weapons.
Christ is King of all, and so one would naturally fold one's arms in the same fashion in church.
Thanks! This sounds like a plausible explanation.

Is it hands or arms?  Crossing your arms does little to show that you have no weapons.  For fun, try folding/crossing your arms when talking to a cop.
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Offline Tikhon.of.Colorado

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #25 on: August 19, 2011, 06:58:16 PM »
This is a part of Islamic prayer.  I know that for sure.




Offline Orthodox11

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #26 on: August 19, 2011, 07:01:08 PM »
This is a part of Islamic prayer.  I know that for sure.

Sunnis do it. Shi'a Muslims pray with their arms down by their sides like Nikonians.

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #27 on: August 19, 2011, 07:10:13 PM »
The explanation I have heard, and I don't have sources because this was word-of-mouth, is that this is an old Imperial stance taken from the Byzantine court. When standing in the presence of the emperor, one's hands would always be folded. This showed respect to the emperor, and more practically, displays that you don't have weapons.
Christ is King of all, and so one would naturally fold one's arms in the same fashion in church.
Thanks! This sounds like a plausible explanation.

Is it hands or arms?  Crossing your arms does little to show that you have no weapons.  For fun, try folding/crossing your arms when talking to a cop.

From my understanding, the hands should obviously be resting flat, either against the arms (and visible, like the Muslims above), against the breasts or at the waist (as the Old Believer women above) not tucked away and hidden like the modern "cross your arms" stance, which would not be a good idea.
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Offline Orthodox11

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #28 on: August 25, 2011, 09:32:52 PM »
Come to think of it:

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #29 on: August 25, 2011, 09:50:54 PM »
Thankfully our parish ain't beholden to such nonsense, as I have come to find out ww are without hardly any politics compared to other places. Evidently to the good from what I gather from others' comments.

And you don't think your Priest notices anything during the DL? Please.

When the seasons change we gives out an email suggesting appropriate conduct within the parish: no shorts, baseball hats, where to place umbrellas, jackets etc. and he takes those times to also go over about how to comport oneself while in the parish.

No he doesn't send out emails: I saw x last Sunday. Rather pastoral emails regarding the above on a seasonal basis.

That is called being a pastor, especially when we have an influx of converts and inquirers coming in.

Exactly.
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Offline Melodist

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #30 on: August 25, 2011, 09:58:22 PM »
That may have been true in Byzantine times, but, today it just smacks of boredom.

It is typically understood, at least in the US, as a body gesture that suggests the imposition of authority onto another, definitely not the way one should stand when addressing God in prayer. But as I said, that is the cultural context in which I understand that position.

Quote
We do cross our arms when going up for Holy Communion - right over left.

That is the only time I see anyone with their arms crossed, and it is quite different than the usual "arms crossed" stance.
And FWIW, these are our Fathers too, you know.

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Offline Marc1152

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #31 on: August 25, 2011, 10:17:50 PM »


Really?

If my hands aren't busy making the sign of the cross, lighting candles, etc. they usually hang straight down at my sides.

I would never cross my arms in church.  I, personally, would think it inappropriate....almost seeming careless, just like I would never cross my legs in church.

Not judging anyone who does, I just never would.



I've noticed some Russians stand very stiffly at Military Attention, arms straight down.. I personally think arms folded is better but I am an Old Believer poser.
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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #32 on: August 26, 2011, 04:16:21 AM »
I've noticed some Russians stand very stiffly at Military Attention, arms straight down.. I personally think arms folded is better but I am an Old Believer poser.

Agreed. I've never felt the army-parade posture of many Russians to be particularly prayerful.

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #33 on: August 26, 2011, 06:54:53 AM »
I've noticed some Russians stand very stiffly at Military Attention, arms straight down.. I personally think arms folded is better but I am an Old Believer poser.

Agreed. I've never felt the army-parade posture of many Russians to be particularly prayerful.

I like the Russian style. I helps me to concentrate in prayer far better than the folded position.

But to each of his/her own.

Offline mabsoota

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #34 on: August 26, 2011, 07:27:48 AM »
i fold my arms when i am cold in church. which is quite often!
i expect the coptic guys in orthodox 11's photo are cold too, as most countries are colder than egypt!
 ;)

seriously though, the thing about body language is totally culture-related.
what is good in one culture is offensive in another.
for example, did u know that the thumbs up sign is very offensive in iran?
(it means like giving the finger).
also in the uk, you must not make the 'victory' 2 fingers sign with the back of your hand towards the other person.
this is also like giving the finger, and is much more commonly used (in order to give offense) than giving the finger.

Offline orthonorm

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #35 on: August 26, 2011, 07:42:44 AM »
i fold my arms when i am cold in church. which is quite often!
i expect the coptic guys in orthodox 11's photo are cold too, as most countries are colder than egypt!
 ;)

seriously though, the thing about body language is totally culture-related.
what is good in one culture is offensive in another.
for example, did u know that the thumbs up sign is very offensive in iran?
(it means like giving the finger).
also in the uk, you must not make the 'victory' 2 fingers sign with the back of your hand towards the other person.
this is also like giving the finger, and is much more commonly used (in order to give offense) than giving the finger.

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Offline IsmiLiora

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #36 on: August 26, 2011, 07:51:57 AM »
i fold my arms when i am cold in church. which is quite often!
i expect the coptic guys in orthodox 11's photo are cold too, as most countries are colder than egypt!
 ;)

seriously though, the thing about body language is totally culture-related.
what is good in one culture is offensive in another.
for example, did u know that the thumbs up sign is very offensive in iran?
(it means like giving the finger).
also in the uk, you must not make the 'victory' 2 fingers sign with the back of your hand towards the other person.
this is also like giving the finger, and is much more commonly used (in order to give offense) than giving the finger.
I'm always paranoid around Arab friends, with showing the soles of my feet, because I like sitting Indian-style a lot. (Or should I say American-Indian-style? Too long.) I don't even know if they care, but I still feel self conscious.

And at church, I just place my hands on the back of the pews -- wait --

She's touring the facility/and picking up slack.
--
"For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow." Ecclesiastes 1:18
--
I once believed in causes too, I had my pointless point of view --
Life went on no matter who was wrong or right

Offline Jonathan

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #37 on: September 02, 2011, 02:14:22 PM »
i fold my arms when i am cold in church. which is quite often!
i expect the coptic guys in orthodox 11's photo are cold too, as most countries are colder than egypt!
 ;)

I've often seen rows of people with arms crossed during the Liturgy even in the middle of summer. It's just how many in the Coptic Church are accustomed to standing. It is not in any way disrespectful in that culture. I've seen pictures of the choir at the Cathedral for liturgies with H.H. on the principle feasts and they're all standing there during the hymns with their arms folded.

While this is disrespectful in my culture I have never once thought to judge any of them for standing how it is natural for them in their culture in their church in which I am a guest, and I have become completely accustomed to it now so that it does not look out of place to me at all.

Offline mabsoota

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #38 on: September 02, 2011, 06:00:37 PM »
well, that's good news then.
 :)
it took my ages to stop sitting with my legs crossed during the sermon, i was brought up to believe that crossing one's legs is polite and a little bit posh. i now realise this is not universal!

which church is it where i shouldn't fold my arms?
is it just european culture churches like in usa?

Offline Jonathan

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #39 on: September 02, 2011, 06:36:21 PM »
well, that's good news then.
 :)
it took my ages to stop sitting with my legs crossed during the sermon, i was brought up to believe that crossing one's legs is polite and a little bit posh. i now realise this is not universal!

which church is it where i shouldn't fold my arms?
is it just european culture churches like in usa?

Yes. Once during Pascha week with the very long services my back was very sore and I crossed my leg. An old man went and yelled at a 'deacon' for allowing it, who promptly came and yelled at me. All this while our priest, who is Egyptian, commonly sits in the Sanctuary with his legs crossed. While most people are very accepting of people's cultural differences, there are always a few who feel it is their duty to correct the world to their way of thinking. This really bothers me. As Christians, shouldn't we strive not to be an offence to our brothers? In terms both of accommodating other cultures and what they consider rude, and also accepting other people's cultures and not imposing our norms on each other either way? I'm not going to leave the church no matter how much a few people want to case trouble over irrelevant things, but I see their own children and grand children, who are not culturally Egyptian since they were raised here, being offended, sometimes nearly to tears, over the stupidest of things by a very small minority. If we drive people out of the church for our culture, we'll surely be judged. Why can't we just accept one another in love?

When non-Christians are there for a wedding, you can tell very clearly if they have no respect for the church, and that disrespect is expressed through motions like crossing legs, slouching, chewing gum, looking disinterested. But you can also see sincere Orthodox Christians make these same motions with no disrespect in their hearts. Why do we all want to remake the Church in the image we have in our minds of how it should be, instead of allowing people with different cultures and practices to be an exercise to defeat our self will and accept our brothers in love? Sorry for the rant, not in any way directed at you, just this topic bothers me.

Offline Ortho_cat

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #40 on: September 03, 2011, 12:45:05 AM »
i most often see women with their hands at their sides and men with arms in front of them, hanging, one hand over the other. I don't think its appropriate to lean on the pews in front of you. Our posture and body language affects those around us. If we look tired or disinterested, others will get that feedback from us and might feel the same way.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2011, 12:46:31 AM by Ortho_cat »

Offline Alveus Lacuna

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #41 on: September 03, 2011, 02:22:37 AM »
I don't think its appropriate to lean on the pews in front of you.

PEWS!?!?!?!?!

Offline Cognomen

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #42 on: September 03, 2011, 03:31:32 AM »
I'm always paranoid around Arab friends, with showing the soles of my feet, because I like sitting Indian-style a lot.

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Offline Ortho_cat

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #43 on: September 04, 2011, 01:07:44 AM »
I don't think its appropriate to lean on the pews in front of you.

PEWS!?!?!?!?!

where applicable... ;)

Offline mabsoota

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #44 on: September 04, 2011, 12:51:54 PM »
in my church there are pews.

... pause for great chorus of disapproval...

no, it was not my idea actually!
 ;)

and (if u have recovered from the shock and i may continue)...
when i am doing a deep bow (waist bow, coz we can't prostrate on sundays), i lean on the pew in front coz my back is not as young as it used to be!

Offline Knee V

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Re: Arms folded during prayer
« Reply #45 on: September 16, 2011, 12:36:49 AM »
Usually my hands are down, one way or another. Sometimes, it's considerably more comfortable for my to cross my arms at my abdomen or chest, but that's normally only during the homily. For me, crossing my arms is my "concentrating" posture.

Either way - posture, shmosture! I think that people make a considerably bigger deal about this than need be. Different postures can mean different things under different circumstances for different people. If a person has a problem with someone else's posture when it's not being a distraction to anyone, then that person needs to get over him/herself. I spent ten years in the Navy, and "parade rest" (i.e., having my hands behind behind my back) is very natural to me, and, to me, is a very appropriate stance. I've heard that Russians say that having hands behind my back is "reaching for the Devil". That's ludicrous! No one's reaching for the Devil. Having my arms crossed helps me concentrate on the homily. Plenty of other people sit/stand with their respective postures for their own reasons. If someone stands or sits in a way that helps them pray, how is it anyone's business?