The DIVINE LITURGY HISTORY

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The DIVINE LITURGY HISTORY



"Liturgy" is a Greek word indicating, in general, public service. In the church language it signifies the Divine Service in which is offered the Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament of Communion or the Eucharist.

"Eucharist" in Greek means "Thanksgiving." It is a New Testament Sacrament instituted by Christ before His passion. The Holy Apostles and Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, thus in detail describe the institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist in the Lord's Supper on Good Thursday: Mat. 26, 26-29; Mark 14, 22-24; Luke 22, 19-23. Christ took the bread in His Holy hands and looking up to heaven, gave glory and thanks to the Father, broke it into parts and gave it to the disciples saying: "Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you". The disciples took the bread from His hands, and divided it among themselves. After, He took the cup of wine mixed with water, gave thanks to God the Father, and said to the disciples: "Drink ye all of it, for this is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for you and many for the remission of sins". And they all drank of it. After, He commanded them: "This do in remembrance of me". The Holy Apostles strictly fulfilled this command of Christ and celebrated the Sacrament of Communion. So also did the Bishops and Presbyters of the church which the Apostles founded and ordained, making use of an unwritten tradition until the 4th Century.

St. Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea of Cappadocia (died 379) on the basis of ancient church tradition, wrote the Divine Liturgy which now is celebrated 10 times a year by the Orthodox Church.

St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinopole (died 404) while not changing the essence of the Liturgy, shortened it, and in this form it is now celebrated in our churches on Sundays and week days throughout the year. St. Cyril translated the Liturgy from the original Greek into Slavonic, the language of the Russian Church, in the middle of the 9th century.

ORDER OF THE LITURGY.



The Liturgy consists of three parts: 1. The Office of Oblation. 2. The Liturgy of the Catechumens. 3. The Liturgy of the Faithful.

The Priest celebrates the Office of Oblation in the Altar (sanctuary) on the Table of Oblation, a separate table standing on the north or left side of the Altar. Five Altar-breads are brought to the church for the celebration of the Liturgy, special wheat breads with the seal of the Cross, and pure grape red wine. In this Office of Oblation one of the breads, and the wine diluted with water, are prepared for the Sacrament of Communion. A part is cut out of this bread and placed on the paten, a special plate with a stand, and covered with the Star. The wine is poured into the chalice, (Potir in Greek). The chalice and paten are covered with airs, special cloths embroidered with Cherubims. The Service of Oblation is not included in this book as the people do not participate in it. The service in which the people take part, as in this book, begins with the Liturgy of the Cathechumens. In ancient times, unbaptised persons were allowed to be present at this Service, providing however, they were instructed in the truths of the Christian Faith, and were preparing to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. They were the so-called Catechumens. This part of the Liturgy closes with the invitation to the Catechumens to leave the church: "Depart, all ye Cathechumens."

After this, begins the Liturgy of the Faithful, in which the Sacrament of Communion or the Eucharist is celebrated. Only baptised Orthodox Christians participate in this Service. The Cherubim hymn is sung: "Let us the Cherubim", during which the Holy Gifts are carried from the table of Oblation to the Altar proper.

During the rernoval of the Holy Gifts, the Priest prays that the Lord God may remember in His Heavenly Kingdom all those in authority, all laborers in the Holy Temple, all members of the Brotherhoods and Sisterhood, all those present at this Service, and all Orthodox Christians.

Before the consecration of the Eucharist the Creed is sung, and after this the principle part of the Liturgy begins with the words: "Let us give thanks unto the Lord."

In the prayer following, all of God's favours to mankind are recalled, the glory of God is sung with the words of the Seraphim song: "Holy, Holy, Holy" and the institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist by the Saviour at the Lord's Supper is remembered.

During the time when the Sacrament is consecrated, the song: "We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, and we pray unto Thee, O our God", is sung. After the consecration of the Holy Gifts, a song of praise is sung to the Mother of God: "Meet it is" and the Saints and living and dead Orthodox Christians are mentioned. Before the Holy Communion is administered, the "Our Father" is sung and after this the clergy in the sanctuary receive Communion. Now the Holy Doors are opened, and on the Tribune the faithful receive Communion.

After the Holy Communion is received by all, the Gifts are taken back to the Table of Oblation from the Altar and a prayer before the Tribune is said. The Liturgy is then concluded with a blessing by the Priest and the kissing of the Cross.

THE SIGNIFICANCE AND MEANING OF THE LITURGY.



The Liturgy is for the Christian, the meeting place of Heaven and Earth. In it the earthly gifts of bread and wine, symbolic of earthly life, become the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and those who partake of this food for the soul are joined in a mystical life with Christ. So through the Liturgy, the Life of Christ is extended into the every-day lives of His children.

When an Orthodox Christian is preparing to partake of the Holy Communion, he must first of all cleanse his soul through repentance and confession. Without these the Orthodox Church will not allow the faithful to Commune. Confession is a whole- hearted acknowledgement of all our sins, errors, and faults, together with a determination to be good and to live according to the commandments of Christ. At confession, absolution is received, which is the Church's assurance of God's forgiveness. Repentance is joined with fasting, and on the day that we receive the Sacrament we must abstain from food until we have communed.

During the Liturgy all present must stand with reverence and join in the common prayer. Prayer in the church elevates the soul, diverts the mind from worldly things, and gives the soul peace and contentment. Prayer must be taught in childhood. One who does not know how to pray, cannot be a real Christian. The Apostles command us to pray continually, everyday, at home and in traveling, working or resting. In church, prayer has a special significance because a person here prays not alone but with many others. A public prayer is a very important part in the Liturgy as well as at all Divine Services, which are celebrated in the Church. Common prayer of the faithful in the church is offered in the "ekteniyas" (Litanies). Common prayer cultivates Christian sentiments of love, faith and hope.

A Christian upbringing is of the greatest importance. It elevates the mind and heart towards a truly Christian existence and directs all actions and deeds of a person to the way ordained by the Founder of Christianity, the God-Man Jesus Christ and His Holy Apostles.

Therefore, hold fast to the Orthodox Apostolic Faith, be true sons of the Church as your forefathers have been before you, both here and in their fatherland. Orthodoxy is our spiritual wealth, which we are obliged to develop while increasing in Faith and Love of Jesus Christ.

Archbishop Benjamin of Pittsburgh, 1948.