Divine Liturgy

Icon of Ss. Basil the Great (left) and John Chrysostom, ascribed authors of the two most frequently used Eastern Orthodox Divine Liturgies, c. 1150 (mosaic in the Palatine Chapel, Palermo).

Divine Liturgy (Greek: Θεία Λειτουργία Theia Leitourgia; Bulgarian: Божествена литургия, translit. Bozhestvena liturgiya; Georgian: საღმრთო ლიტურგია; Romanian: Sfânta Liturghie; Russian: Божественная литургия, tr. 'Bozhestvennaya liturgiya; Serbian: Света Литургија, translit. Sveta Liturgija; Armenian: Սուրբ Պատարագ, translit. Surb Patarag;,[1] and Polish: Boska Liturgia Świętego, Czech: Božská liturgie) is the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine Rite which is the Rite of The Great Church of Christ and was developed from the Antiochene Rite of Christian liturgy. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church[2] and of the Armenian Catholic Church,[3] use the same term, as does the Ukrainian Lutheran Church of Byzantine Rite Lutheranism.[4] Some Oriental Orthodox employ the term "holy offering" (Syriac: qurbana qadisha) for their Eucharistic liturgies instead. The term is sometimes applied also to Roman Rite Eucharistic liturgies, though the term Mass is more commonly used there.

In Eastern traditions, those of the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the Divine Liturgy is seen as transcending time, and the world. All believers are believed to be united in worship in the Kingdom of God along with departed Saints and the celestial Angels. To this end, everything in the Liturgy is seen as symbolic, yet also not just merely symbolic, but making the unseen reality manifest. According to Eastern tradition and belief, the Liturgy's roots go back to Jewish worship and the adaptation of Jewish worship by Early Christians. This can be seen in the first parts of the Liturgy termed the "Liturgy of the Catechumens" that includes reading of scriptures and, in some places, sometimes the Sermon/Homily. The latter half was added based on the Last Supper and the first Eucharistic celebrations by Early Christians. Eastern Christians participating in the Liturgy also believe that the Eucharist is the central part of the service, as they believe it truly becomes the real Body and Blood of Christ, and through their partaking of it, they see themselves as together becoming the Body of Christ (that is, the Church). Each Liturgy has its differences from others, but most are very similar to each other with adaptations based on tradition, purpose, culture and theology.[5][6]

Byzantine Rite

There are three Divine Liturgies in the Byzantine Rite that are in common use:

As well as these, there are two others that are used locally and rarely, the Liturgy of St. James and the Liturgy of Saint Mark.

The Hierarchical Liturgy

As numbers in a diocese increased dramatically the bishop as presiding over the Eucharistic assembly appointed presbyters as celebrant in the local community (the parish). Still, the Church is understood in Eastern Orthodoxy not in terms of the presbyter, but the diocesan bishop. When the latter personally performs the liturgy, the service is rather more complicated and festive. Demonstrating unity with the greater Orthodox community, the hierarch commemorates the hierarch whom he is subordinate to or, if the hierarch of an autocephalous church, then all his peers which he reads from a diptych.

Typical structure

Note: Psalms are numbered according to the Greek Septuagint. For the Hebrew Masoretic numbering that is more familiar in the West, usually add '1'. (See the main Psalms article for an exact correspondence table.)

The format of Divine Liturgy is fixed, although the specific readings and hymns vary with season and feast.

The Divine Liturgy consists of three interrelated parts; when not in conjunction with vespers, the liturgies of John Chrysostom and Basil the Great are structured thus:

  • the Liturgy of Preparation, which includes the entry and vesting prayers of the priests and deacons and the Prothesis;
  • the Liturgy of the Catechumens, so called because traditionally this is the only part catechumens may attend;
  • the Liturgy of the Faithful, so called because in ancient times only faithful members in good standing were allowed to participate. In modern times, this restriction applies only to Holy Communion — reception of the sacrament of holy communion.

A typical celebration of the Byzantine Liturgy consists of:

Liturgy of Preparation

This part of the Liturgy is private, performed only by the priest and deacon. It symbolizes the hidden years of Christ's earthly life.

Liturgy of the Catechumens

This is the public part of the Liturgy, where both catechumens and baptized faithful would be in the nave:

Liturgy of the Faithful

In the early Church, only baptised members who could receive Holy Communion were allowed to attend this portion of the Liturgy. In common contemporary practice, with very few local exceptions (e.g., Mount Athos), all may stay. However, in most places, catechumens are formally dismissed for further study.

  • First Litany of the Faithful
  • Second Litany of the Faithful
  • Cherubikon chanted as spiritual representatives (or icons) of the angels
  • Great Entrance—procession taking the chalice and diskos (paten) from the Table of Oblation to the altar
  • Litany of Fervent Supplication—"Let us complete our prayer to the Lord"
  • The Kiss of Peace
  • Symbol of Faith (the Nicene Creed)
  • Sursum Corda ("Let us lift up our hearts..." (Greek: "Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὰς καρδίας")
  • Anaphora (Eucharistic Prayer)
    • The Sanctus ("Holy, Holy, Holy…")
    • The Eucharistic Canon, containing the Anamnesis (memorial of Christ's Incarnation, death, and Resurrection, and the Words of Institution)
    • EpiklesisCalling down the Holy Spirit upon the Holy Gifts (bread and wine) to change them into the Body and Blood of Christ
    • Commemoration of Saints and Theotokion (hymn to the Theotokos)
    • It is Truly Meet (Αξιον Εστιν) (on certain days replaced with various hymns in honor of the Mother of God)
    • Commemoration of bishop and civil authorities—"Remember, O Lord…"
  • Litany of Supplication—"Having called to remembrance all the saints…"
  • Lord's Prayer
  • Bowing of Heads
  • "Holy Things are for the Holy"
  • Communion Hymn
  • Holy Communion
  • "We have seen the true light"
  • "Let our mouths be filled with Thy praise, O Lord…"
  • Litany of Thanksgiving
  • Prayer behind the Ambon
  • Psalm 33
  • Dismissal

Note that almost all texts are chanted throughout the Divine Liturgy, not only hymns but litanies, prayers, creed confession and even readings from the Bible depending on tradition. In ancient rubrics, and contemporary Greek practice, the sermon, Nicene Creed and the Lord's Prayer are spoken/read, rather than chanted. Slavic traditions will chant or sing everything except for the sermon.[7]

Gallery of parts of the Eastern Orthodox liturgy

Other Languages
español: Divina Liturgia
Esperanto: Dia liturgio
français: Divine Liturgie
Bahasa Indonesia: Liturgi Ilahi
italiano: Divina liturgia
日本語: 聖体礼儀
português: Divina Liturgia
slovenčina: Božská liturgia
Türkçe: Kutsal Liturji