Worship

“We could take a cue from Orthodoxy, whose priests stand with their backs to their congregation, leading a liturgy that is neither clever nor impassioned, but simply beautiful, like stone smoothed by centuries of rhythmic tides. It’s an austere ritual, in the sense of – there’s nothing new here; it’s sublime, in the sense of – creating a clearer view into Heaven. The priest can be any priest. Who he is, what he looks like, how he speaks, and what he thinks matter little. He hasn’t written the service that he officiates. It isn’t about him or his prowess. He’s an interchangeable functionary draped in brocaded robes, obscured by incense, and, as such, never points to himself, a flawed human, pointing ever and only to the Perfection of the Mysterious Divine. That is the role of every priest or preacher – invisibility, while making God seen.”

(Quoted from dailydevotions.org)

Central to worship in the Early Church was the Eucharist

Orthodox worship exists in living continuity with the synagogue, the Temple and the Early Church.  It is organically patterned after worship in heaven.  Cf Heb. 8:4; Ex 25:40)

Ancient Christian worship was liturgical.  Unfortunately this is not made not made clear in English translations of the Bible.  In the NKJV we read “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted”,(Acts 13:2a).  The same verse in the RSV is rendered: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting,”   The word translated ministered (NKJV) or worshiping (RSV) in the original Greek is leitorgeo.  The obvious correct translation of leitourgeo is “liturgized.”  Leitourgeo means to perform a liturgical act.  The better rendering of Acts 13:2 is “As they liturgized to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Notice is it in the act of liturgizing that the Holy Spirit called out Barnabas and Saul.

We see a similar problem with translation regarding worship in the book of Hebrews.  In English translations of the Bible, Jesus is called “a minister in the sanctuary (Heb 8:2a-RSV, NKJV, ASV, KJV).  The word rendered minister in Greek is leitourgos.  The correct translation of leitourgos is liturgist.  Jesus is “a Liturgist in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord.”

Biblically Jesus is liturgical.  Biblically the apostles liturgized.  Liturgical worship is the worship of the early Church.

Orthodox worship exists is in living continuity with the synagogue, the Temple and the Early Church.  It is organically patterned after worship in heaven. Cf Heb. 8:4; Ex 25:40)

In 987 when emissaries sent by Prince Vladimir of Kiev to learn about the faiths of the world reported their experience of worship in the cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, modern day Istanbul in Turkey they said:

We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty.”

Praying in Church

Many people are surprised to learn that the focus of Early Christian worship was the Eucharist (aka the Lord’s Supper) and not the sermon.  The people were exhorted in the Word of God and then reverently took partook of the precious Body and Blood of our Lord.

In the year 155 a martyr named Justin the Philosopher composed a document addressed to the Roman Emperor defending the Christian faith.  In it he described how the Christians celebrated the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.  In Jerusalem in 1873 a lost first century book called the Teachings of the Twelve Apostles was rediscovered.  Scholars believe it was written no later than the year 100.  Included in it is a manual on how to do worship.  It describes the proper way to do a baptism and celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Today’s Sunday morning service, called the Divine Liturgy dates from the third century.

One’s first experience of Orthodox worship can be overwhelming.  Orthodox worship is entered into and it takes a few visits to be able to do this.  Once one enters into and experiences Orthodox worship it is said there is no turning back.


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