Dressing for Church

Proper attire in the House of God

The Church is our home, a place where we should feel comfortable, and at ease. It is also God’s house and is a temple set aside for worship of the Holy Trinity. Although times have changed and we have become a very casual society, this attitude can not be allowed to influence how we dress to worship God. Our way of dressing for church should reflect our desire to offer our very best to Christ. Just as we want to act in ways that demonstrate the centrality of Christ in our lives, our dress should show forth the modesty that is befitting a Christian.

Just as we take special care to dress for formal social occasions, or job interviews, how much more important it is to show our respect for God’s house. If we were invited to the wedding of our boss’s daughter, we’d make sure to show respect to our employer by dressing our best. Does God deserve anything less?

We should wear clothes that are modest and befitting a Christian, especially when worshiping in God’s house. In our monastery’s temple, we keep the ancient practice of removing our shoes before entering, recalling God’s direction to Moses “ … take off your shoes from your feet, for the place where you are is holy ground”. We ask that no one wear shorts or tee shirts when entering the holy grounds of the monastery, and, as is proper in all Orthodox churches, ask visitors to avoid the distractions that come with slogans on clothing, or “showy” clothing that is best reserved for elegant events.

Both men and women should avoid wearing clothing that can be distracting to other worshipers. Just as we want to keep our focus on the divine services, so too we must not be the cause of the distraction for our fellow Christians. Christ should be the focus of our worship, not our personal outfits. Church is not the place to show off the latest fashion, nor the results of the fitness center.

Just as it is Orthodox custom that men remove their hats upon entering the Church, women, throughout the history of the Church, have worn head coverings. The idea that this pious, biblical custom be seen as an antiquated or sexist practice, should be foreign to our Orthodox mindset. This tradition is not intended as an insult to women but as a great compliment. The scriptures refer to a woman’s hair as her “crowning glory”, and the covering of her head as an act of humility. Throughout Christian history, modest believing women chose not to allow their beauty to distract others from the glory of God and the beauty of His house.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Photos: The Monastery hosted a meeting of the Washington Orthodox Clergy Association on Tuesday.

Wednesday September 12, 2018 / August 30, 2018
16th Week after Pentecost. Tone six.
Fast. Food with Oil
Sts. Alexander (340), John (595), and Paul the New (784), patriarchs of Constantinople.
Repose of Venerable Alexander, abbot of Svir (1533).
Translation of the relics (1724) of St. Alexander Nevsky (1263).
Uncovering of the relics of St. Daniel, prince of Moscow (1652).
New Hieromartyr Peter priest (1918).
New Hieromartyr Apollinaris (1918).
New Hieromartyr Paul priest and Virgin-martyr Elizaveta and Martyr Theodore (1937).
New Hieromartyr Schema-archimandrite Ignatius (Lebedev) of St. Peter’s Monastery (1938).
Hiero-confessor Archpriest Peter Cheltsov of Smolensk (1972).
Venerable Christopher of Palestine (6th c.).
Venerable Fantinus of Calabria (9th c.).
Synaxis of the Serbian Hierarchs: Sts. Sava I (1235), Arsenius (1266), Sava II (1271), Eustathius I (1285), James (1292), Nicodemus (1325), and Daniel II (1338), archbishops; Sts. Ioannicius II (1354), Spyridon (1388), Ephraim II (1395), Cyril (1419), Nicon (ca. 1439), Macarius (1574), Gabriel I (1659), patriarchs; and St. Gregory (1012), bishop.
Venerable Bryaene of Nisibis (318).
St. Eulalius, bishop of Caesarea (4th c.).
Sixteen Monk-martyrs of Thebes (Greek).
Six Martyrs of Melitene (Greek).
St. Sarmata of The Paradise (Greek).
Hieromartyr Felix and Martyrs Fortunatus, Septimius and Januarius (Greek).
St. Fiacrius of Brogillum (670) (Gaul).
Translation of the relics of St. Guthlac. Hieromonk of Crowland.

The Scripture Readings

Matthew 11:27-30

27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Galatians 6:2-10

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load.

Be Generous and Do Good

6 Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Mark 7:14-24

14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”

17 When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. 18 So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” 20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts,covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

A Gentile Shows Her Faith

24 From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden.

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. The Monastery is under the omophore of The Most Rev. Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.


  1. Thankyou so much for this reminder and lesson about dressing properly in the Temple; a House of Prayer. I would like to see your article posted on bulletin boards in many places I can think of! God bless you!

  2. Twenty years ago, I restarted my journey by returning to the RC church. That first Sunday I felt good in my clean jeans and plain T-shirt. Until I passed my Baptist, Congregationalist, and Jehovah’s neighbors, most of whom wore suits. I felt like a bum.

    It was even worse in the beach town where my sister lived. Shorts, flip-flops, and Corona beer t-shirts. As for the time I visited a town where the high school football team is nicknamed “the Blue Devils”, well, you get the picture.

    I remember when men put on button shirts just to go to the bank or barber. Now we wear pajamas to Walmart!

  3. Let me add just one thing. It is not our job as parishioners to mind the fashion of others or to judge them for what they wear! The church I attend has folks who often wear jeans – but they are there every Sunday. A young woman in our church was once admonished for her dress by an older gentleman, and it really upset her – yet what is really important is that she is in church every Sunday and has a character that we should all strive to emulate. Just as we are not to pay attention to how others fast but keep our eyes on our own plates, so should we mind our own clothing.

    1. My article it addressed to all Orthodox Christians. That said, I do NOT allow anyone who regularly attends the Sunday Liturgy in our monastery, to address the clothing attire of another visitor. It has been my observation that someone who is not properly attired, will, after seeing the pious example of others, return with appropriate attire. And, Susan, you are correct in your observation that no one should ever judge another.

  4. Thank you for this important reminder, Father Tryphon.
    Would you please tell us, your readers, your thoughts on men wearing suits and ties to services?
    I notice that in my Parish, many of the older men still wear suits, as opposed to a simple long sleeved shirt.
    Also, if a man is wearing only a shirt, should the top collar button be fastened?
    Do Monasteries keep a stricter rule in this regard, or should dress customs be universal, Church wide?
    Pardon these many questions, Dear Abbot, my OCD is kicking in. lol

    1. Well, Gideon, the practices of monasteries should be standard for every parish. Monasteries, wanting to image the ancient practices of the Church, keep to these strict practices, not because they are monasteries, but because it is the tradition of the Church. Regarding the wearing of suites, I’m all for it. Men, just as women, should always practice modesty while in the temple.

  5. Margaret Maines is spot on, but Susan also brings up valid points…..
    not to detract from my being baptized into the Orthodox faith as a child, I often find myself quoting Pope Francis who at one point said…

    Who am I to Judge ?

  6. It has been so long since I have attended vespers or liturgy in something other than my scrubs since I am either leaving the field or heading to it. I always have a head covering though. I enjoy wearing it.

  7. I did think the same, till I met an young woman who told me about her first visit to the Church. She found the priest and many others glaring at her. She only realised later it was because she was wearing miniskirt. So she never went back again.
    Then I thought about Jesus and the prostitutes. We don’t see him asking them to change their dress before coming to him. On the other hand, he called the well dressed Pharisees – whitewashed tombs. I feel we should also focus on change of hearts not attire.
    In one of the movie of St Francis of Assisi, it shows the first worship in the Church he built. The poor, the lame, messy and noisy children, and animals. It’s noisy and without order, but I believe there’s a beauty and honesty when the creation comes in all it’s messiness to Lord. I feel our churches are more looking like 5 star lounges, than hospital for sinners.
    I know Abbott, you’re just asking for each Christian to dress better for the Lord. But, I feel the focus on external may takeaway the focus on the internal. My humble opinion is to focus on change of heart alone.. If the changed heart leads to changed attire, let it be. If not let each one be as he or she is comfortable.

    1. We never turn away anyone because of their appearance or dress. Again, I am talking about the individual Orthodox Christian’s dress for Church, not the visitor’s. Our desire to make every visitor welcome in our temples must not be an excuse for our dressing like we have no knowledge of the sacredness of God’s temple.

  8. I just want to clarify that I agree with your post, Father, and we should all definitely strive to dress well yet modestly when in church. All I was trying to point out in my earlier comment was that we as PARISHIONERS shouldn’t be commenting on or judging the dress of others – only that of ourselves. As you said, we should just strive to be good examples. You and your fellow clergy members are the ones to educate us on proper attire and not our fellow parishioners.

    You have often commented on the fact that you look past the externals when you meet people and that is something we should ALL be emulating!

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