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Understanding the Divine Liturgy - Session 1 of 6

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Session 1 of 6 - Why do we come to Church?

A study course by Fr. George Shalhoub, based on the books: "The Heavenly Banquet: Understanding the Divine Liturgy" by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis, and The Orthodox Faith vol. II (Worship) by Fr. Thomas Hopko

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Understanding the Divine Liturgy - Session 1 of 6

  1. 1. Understanding the Divine Liturgy Session #1 Introduction Why do we come to Church? A study based on the book “The Heavenly Banquet,” by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis and The Orthodox Faith vol. II (Worship) by Fr. Thomas Hopko Celebrating: The Year of the Holy Eucharist
  2. 2. Terms Defined • “Leitourgia” Defn. = public or common work • “Ekklesia” or Church Defn. = A gathering or assembly of people specifically chosen and called apart to perform a particular task. • “Divine Liturgy” Defn. = Orthodox Christians officially gathered together as one community to worship, pray, sing, hear God’s word, be instructed, give thanks, and experience God’s Heavenly Kingdom through communion with Christ.
  3. 3. What is the Divine Liturgy? • Roots of the Divine Liturgy 1. Origins are traced back to the “mystical supper” the Lord had with His disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem before His betrayal. 2. The disciples carried on the tradition of temple worship and added the Eucharist at Christ’s command. • Always celebrated on Sunday 1. This is the day that Christ was risen from the dead and is referred to by the Church as the first day of the week, because it followed the Sabboth day. 2. The Divine Liturgy is also referred to as the Lord’s Day or the Eighth Day or the unending day This is the day we remember Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and the day we anticipate Christ’s second coming (God’s judgment), by receiving a foretaste of that day today. • Also celebrated on special feast days in the church • Monasteries celebrate the Divine Liturgy daily (Except during Great Lent) • Can only be celebrated once per day and never alone “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:20) “Thine own of thine own, we offer unto thee, in behalf of all and for all.” (Said by the priest before the consecration of the gifts.) • The Divine Liturgy is resurrectional in spirit 1. It is the manifestation of the Risen Christ to His people. 2. It is an outpouring of the life-creating Spirit 3. It is communion with God 4. It is the experience of eternal life and a foretaste of Heaven.
  4. 4. A Brief History • In the early church, the Lord’s supper was celebrated at the end of a fellowship meal, called the Agape (love) supper. • Early liturgical structure can be found in the epistles of St. Paul and in first century documentation. 1. It included prayers, readings, a sermon, the kiss of peace, the anaphora (offering) prayer, and communion. 2. The Orthodox liturgy service today is essentially the same Eucharistic service of the first Christians. • The Divine Liturgy has two main parts. (Both have their roots in synagogue worship) 1. The Synaxis or “Coming Together. Also known as the Liturgy of the Word or Liturgy of the catechumens. 2. The Eucharist (Thanksgiving). Also known as the Liturgy of the Faithful or communion. • Early practice allowed everyone for the Synaxis, but reserved the Eucharist only for those baptized and confirmed. 1. Catechumens were asked to leave after the gospel and sermon, before the anaphora prayer 2. Today, communion is still reserved only for those baptized and chrismated.
  5. 5. Purpose of the Divine Liturgy • To change the sacramental elements (Bread and Wine) into the Body and Blood of the Lord, through the work of the Holy Spirit. “The essential act in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries is the transformation of the elements into the divine Body and Blood; it’s aim is the sanctificaiton of the faithful, who through these Mysteries receive the remission of their sins and the inheritance of the Kingdom of heaven.” St. Nicholas Cavasilas, 14th cent. “On the Divine Liturgy” • To gather together in obedience to Christ’s command (“do this”) • To offer our “sacrifice of praise,” in thanksgiving • To commune the Sacred Mysteries. • To partake of Christ’s life NOW, in anticipation of the eighth day (unending day) of His Kingdom. The purpose of the Divine Liturgy Summarized To lead the faithful to a transformation of their lives after the likeness of God – to salvation.of their lives after the likeness of God – to salvation. The Divine Liturgy unites us to God in this life as we wait for His fulfillment in the life to come.The Divine Liturgy unites us to God in this life as we wait for His fulfillment in the life to come.
  6. 6. The Eight Dimensions of the Divine Eucharist 1. Consists of the real, “living presence of God with His people in Christ and the Holy Spirit. 2. A memorial of God’s love for us. “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19) 3. Our thanksgiving to the Father. “And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them. (Matt. 26:27) “We praise thee, we bless thee, we give thanks unto thee, and we pray unto thee, O our God. (Hymn before the consecration of the gifts.) 4. A memorial of the Mystical (Last) Supper 5. A commemoration of the Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross, which is the price He was willing to pay for our salvation. 6. Communion with both God and with each other. “Let us love one another that with one accord we may confess F/S/HS; the Trinity, one in essence and undivided. (During the Liturgy before the Creed) “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loves I born of God (I John 4:7) 7. A continuous Pentecost. The Divine Liturgy is a constant reminder of God’s economy in the world that enables us to live life itself. 8. A joyous, spiritual meal and foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet prepared for us in the Kingdom of Heaven. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” (psalm 34:8) The Eucharist is the medicine of immortality – St. Ignatius of Antioch (1st century)
  7. 7. The Eight Dimensions of the Divine Eucharist 1. Consists of the real, “living presence of God with His people in Christ and the Holy Spirit. 2. A memorial of God’s love for us. “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19) 3. Our thanksgiving to the Father. “And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them. (Matt. 26:27) “We praise thee, we bless thee, we give thanks unto thee, and we pray unto thee, O our God. (Hymn before the consecration of the gifts.) 4. A memorial of the Mystical (Last) Supper 5. A commemoration of the Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross, which is the price He was willing to pay for our salvation. 6. Communion with both God and with each other. “Let us love one another that with one accord we may confess F/S/HS; the Trinity, one in essence and undivided. (During the Liturgy before the Creed) “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loves I born of God (I John 4:7) 7. A continuous Pentecost. The Divine Liturgy is a constant reminder of God’s economy in the world that enables us to live life itself. 8. A joyous, spiritual meal and foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet prepared for us in the Kingdom of Heaven. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” (psalm 34:8) The Eucharist is the medicine of immortality – St. Ignatius of Antioch (1st century)

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