Our Orthodox Typikon knows or recognizes two kinds of reverences, reverence being defined as the customary posture of an Orthodox Church member when adoring God in Church. One of them is a "reverence down to the ground" (Slavonic: zemnoy poklon). The other is a "waist reverence" (Slavonic: poiasnyi poklon). In English, it's become quite usual to refer to the first as a "prostration,"
though it is not a prostration. A prostration is when one lies stretched out on the ground, face down, while our zemnoy poklon or "Reverence down to the ground" is a posture whereby the forehead touches the ground while the body is in a kneeling, not a Iying position. A better term for "reverence down to the ground," or "prostration," is "full reverence. " The other reverence, the "waist reverence," is a substitute for the full reverence. A "waist reverence" is described this way in the Typikon: (this is taken from the section giving directions on how to venerate the Gospel at a Resutrection Vigil): "And the Superior comes alone and makes two reverences, then kisses the Gospel, and again makes one reverence (not to the earth does he make reverences, but little (ones), bowing down his head, until he reaches the ground with his hand)." A better name for the waist reverence is "little reverence."
Reverences are prescribed at various points and during certain times in our services. Whether or not the words "full" or "earthly" precede the word "reverence," a full reverence is meant. The waist reverence is the substitute, prescribed for use when full reverences are not permitted by the Canons of the Church.
One may see from the above that neither those that bend their knees, in a kind of curtsy, looking straight ahead, then reach down to touch the ground, nor those that make a perfunctory bow while stretching out their right hand momentarily towards the ground, would seem to know how to indicate reverence as the Church finds to be appropriate. That's why these paragraphs are now being written.
[Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco and the West, Orthodox Church in America. Originally published in Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral Parish Leaflet, January 1996.]
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