Our Divine Liturgy
The most important element of an Eastern Christian’s worship life is the Divine Liturgy (Mass in the Roman Church). The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is used on most Sundays and weekdays of the year. Dating back to the 4th Century, this Liturgy is based upon Liturgical practices reaching back to the very infancy of the Church. The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great is used on special days of the year, and features an elaborate and more poetic Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer). The most important element of an Eastern Christian’s worship life is the Divine Liturgy (Mass in the Roman Church). The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is used on most Sundays and weekdays of the year. Dating back to the 4th Century, this Liturgy is based upon Liturgical practices reaching back to the very infancy of the Church. The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great is used on special days of the year, and features an elaborate and more poetic Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer).
The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom & The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great
consists of three main parts:
1. The Preparation, during which the priest prepares the bread and chalice for Communion. Prior to Divine Liturgy the priest prepares the bread and wine which will be consecrated during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Reciting Scripture passages from the Prophets and the Gospels which speak of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, he cuts small loaves of leavened bread into smaller pieces which will be distributed as Holy Communion. He remembers and prays for the needs of the living and the deceased.
2. The Liturgy of the Word, which includes particular readings, prayers and a homily. During the Liturgy of the Word the focus is on the proclamation of the Gospel -the Good News of Jesus Christ -as recorded in the Scriptures. The major portions are as follows:
Opening Doxology: "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Our worship, which is a participation in the Kingdom of God, is always focused on the One God who is Three Persons.
Great Litany: Here we pray for our various needs, asking the Lord to have mercy on us.
The Antiphons: These Psalm verses are joyful expressions of praise in which we thank God for His gracious works of love, mercy, and salvation.
Hymn to Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God: We proclaim that Jesus, the Incarnate Second Person of the Trinity, is true God and true man.
The Little Entrance: All are solemnly invited to worship the risen Christ as we pay homage to his presence in the Holy Gospel.
The Troparia and Kontakia: In which we hear the theme of the day's Liturgy.
The Trisagion: We glorify the Holy Trinity with these words: "Holy God, Holy and Mighty, holy and Immortal, have mercy on us." Following these introductory hymns, the Scriptures for the day are read in this order:
The Prokimenon: A responsorial Psalm.
The Epistle: Taken from the New Testament, this usually addresses a particular aspect of the Christian life.
The Alleluia: Two Psalm verses separated by the singing of "Alleluia," which means "Praise the Lord."
The Gospel: The public proclamation of the Word of God, taken from one of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. We always stand during the reading of the Gospel.
The Homily: The sermon in which the priest proclaims the Good News of Christ while applying it to our daily lives.
3.The Liturgy of Sacrifice, the main part of Divine Liturgy when the Creed is recited, the Holy Gifts are Consecrated and Communion is received. "In the Liturgy of the Church, it is principally his own Paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present."
Having been fed by the Word of God, we now turn to the central mystery of our faith - participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist. "Eucharist" refers to the Body and Blood of Christ; it literally means "thanksgiving," and it expresses our gratitude for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life we receive in Holy Communion. "Primarily in the Eucharist . . . the Liturgy is the memorial of the mystery of salvation."
The Liturgy of the Sacrifice is as follows:
• The Great Entrance: While the Cherubic Hymn is sung, the bread and wine are brought to the altar. We are invited to unite ourselves with the angels in worship and to "lay aside all earthly cares so that we may receive the King of All."
• The Creed: A declaration of our common faith in the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and other tenets of the Catholic Church.
• The Eucharistic Prayer: Recalls the institution of the Eucharist by Christ at the Last Supper and proclaims the holiness and love of God through the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Saviour.
• The Consecration: The gifts of bread and wine are changed, by the power of the Holy Spirit, into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
• The Commemorations: These help us to recall all those for whom our sacrifice is offered.
• The Lord's Prayer: Our acknowledgement that God is our Heavenly Father.
• Prayer Before Communion: We profess our faith in ChristÕs real presence in the Eucharist, and ask Him to make us worthy to receive Him in the sacrament.
• Reception of Holy Communion: The climax of the Liturgy, when we partake of the Eucharist, "the source and summit of the Christian life." [CCC 1324] By partaking of Holy Communion we fulfill the purpose of our worship by uniting ourselves with Christ "for the forgiveness of sins and unto life everlasting." After receiving the Eucharist, we express our thanks by worshipping the Trinity who saves us:
• We pray to depart in peace, in the name of the Lord, in order to bear witness to Christ, our Saviour and Lord.
• We pray for salvation and guidance during the closing prayer recited by the priest in the center of the Church.
• We receive the Lord's blessing, proclaimed by the priest through the veneration of the Cross, and take a piece of the Antidor (blessed bread). Pieces of this bread, which is not the Eucharist, are especially for those who could not receive Communion and for those who could not come to Liturgy.
"In the earthly Liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly Liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with him in glory."
St. Basil the Great
St. John Chrysostom