Poyasny ("little bow", literally belt bow) and zemnoy poklon ("great bow", literally ground bow) are different kinds of bows used in an Eastern Orthodox worship service.

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The different kinds of bows one could encounter at an Eastern Orthodox service are shown in the picture on the right. Only types 2, 5 and 6 have their own independent meaning and rules of usage; the other types are either "lightened" or "weighted" versions of these three "basic" versions. Strict rules exist as to which type of a bow should be used at any particular time. These rules are very complicated, and are not always carried out in most parishes. Old Believers are generally much more punctillious about bows in comparison with the official Orthodoxy.

  1. The first type is a 'head-only bow'. This type of bow does not have its own assigned usage, but can be used only instead of a 'belt-low bow' (2) in some situations, such as when one cannot make a lower bow since there are too many people in the church, or due to back problems. People also should keep standing in this position during reading of Gospels and some other important periods of the service.
  2. 'Belt-low bow' (поясной поклон) can also be called an 'ordinary bow', since it's the most widespread type of bow. Most bows during the Eastern Orthodox service are of this kind. However sometimes, for example, during the Lent, the bows became lower and 'earth-low bows' (5) should be used instead.
  3. 'Belt-low bow with touching earth by a hand'. This type of a bow could be treated in two ways: sometimes it's only the 'very thoroughly done type 2 bow'. Sometimes, on the other hand, it's a 'lightened' version of an 'earth-low bow' (5). For example, when Popovtsy Old Believers ask their priests for a blessing, they should, theoretically, perform a 'earth-low bow'. But since one could ask a priest for a blessing during an occasional meeting on a street, where it is rather uncomfortable to make a full 'earth-low bow', usually one only touches the earth with one's right hand (usually the back side of a hand).
  4. Metanoia (метание , 'metanie) is also a 'lightened' version of a 'earth-low bow' that is used in Old Believers services sometimes.[dubious ]
  5. Zemnoy poklon (земной поклон, full earth-low bow) is a special type of bow which is especially important for Old Believers.
  6. Prostration is used only during the service of imposition of holy orders.

It is also important to note that traditionally, the Eastern Orthodox service has no kneeling in the Western sense of standing on one's knees, but nowadays many churches of mainstream Eastern Orthodoxy have begun to use pews and kneelers, and thus have begun kneeling in some parts of the service. This is a custom borrowed from Roman Catholics. Traditional Orthodox and Old Believers reject kneeling and keep themselves in the zemnoy poklon (5) position during these parts of the service.

Orthodox tradition specifes that the faithful are not to prostrate themselves in prayer from Pascha (Easter) until Pentecost, or on any Sundays throughout the year. There is some variation in interpretation of this tradition. Old Believers tend to limit the prohibition to only those portions of worship which are specifically "prayer"; whereas mainstream Orthodox do not prostrate themselves at all on these days (with certain exceptions, such as when the Exaltation of the Cross falls on a Sunday).

See also

External links

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