The Orthodox Christian respects and loves the clergy. Knowing that the clergy are servants of God and man, devoting their life to the salvation of their flock, the Orthodox Christian expresses his/her gratitude and respect to them on every occasion.
When speaking with the Clergy the following terms are proper:
- To the Patriarch of Constantinople: “Your All-Holiness”;
- To all other Patriarchs: “Your Beatitude”;
- To the Archbishop/Metropolitan: “Your Eminence”;
- To the Bishop: “Your Grace”;
- To a Priest: “Father”;
- To a Deacon: “Deacon”.
Orthodox Christians address the Priest as “Father,” for he is the spiritual father of his flock; he is their teacher, confessor, sanctifier, and healer. There are people that belong to Christian denominations that do not call their clergy, “Father”. But let us consider the words of St. Paul, “For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15). When we also read the gospel according to St. Luke, we find the rich man calling up to Abraham in heaven with Lazarus in his bosom and addressing him as “Father Abraham” (See Luke 16:20-31). Abraham’s response was not, “Do you not realize that only God the Father is to be called Father?” Rather, he replied, “Son, remember.”
When people greet a Hierarch or a Priest they kiss his hand as an expression of respect, as recognition of his Priesthood, and as a veneration to the holiness of his sacred office and duties. The proper way to do this is to approach the Clergyman with the right hand over the left, palms facing up and then bow slightly while saying, “Master, bless” to a Hierarch; “Father, bless” to the Priest.
The fact that the Hierarch/Priest handles the Holy of Holies, that is, the Body and Blood of Christ when he offers the Divine Liturgy, is recognized by Orthodox people, at all times throughout the world, as a great and awesome privilege. The hands that touch and offer the Bloodless Sacrifice on the Holy Altar; the hands that give to us the Body and Blood of Christ; the hands that baptize and anoint us with Holy Chrism; the hands that absolve us in the Sacrament of Penance; the hands that bless our wedlock in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and anoint our bodies with the healing oil of the Sacrament of Holy Unction; the hands that sprinkle upon us the Holy Water of Sanctification; the hands that bless us, alive and dead, these hands are the instruments of salvation. For this reason, Orthodox Christians through the centuries have kissed the hand of the Hierarch/Priest when he is greeted either in church when he distributes the “Antidoron” at the end of the Divine Liturgy or outside the church whenever he is present.