The Timeless Gift of the Divine Liturg
Fr. Hector Firoglanis
Periodically, parishioners inquire about the contemporary styles of worship at other evangelical type churches such as the LCBC. Such churches boast intricate sound and light systems, stadium seating, and concert style music that attempts to elicit intense emotional responses and connections. These worship services, one may argue, evolve with the times and cater to the musical tastes of young people in the 21st Century, while the Orthodox Divine Liturgy is so... Fourth Century!
Why is the Divine Liturgy so sacred and unchanging to us Orthodox Christians? The first Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Jesus Christ. It was the last Passover that Christ celebrated with His disciples in His earthly life, what we refer to today as the Last or Mystical Supper (Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:15-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26). The Divine Liturgy as we know it today took shape when Christianity first began to escape widespread and systematic persecution at the beginning of the fourth century... when the liturgies of St. Mark the Apostle, St. James the Brother of the Lord, St. Clement, St. Basil the Great, and St. John Chrysostom began to flourish.
However, as early as the first and second century the basic structure of the Liturgy was already in place. During the last years of the first century, the Triumphant Hymn was added to the Liturgy – "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth..." (Clement of Rome, First Epistle to the Corinthians). The Didache – written around 100AD – records some of the prayers and order of the earliest liturgies that we use today. By the year 150, Saint Justin the Martyr writes his First Apology which gives us a general outline of the Divine Liturgy of his time:
Prayers of Communion
Kiss of Peace
Thanksgiving and Dismissal
This is the basic structure from which the Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great that we use today took their form. Nothing flashy, but faithful to the worship of the earliest Christians. To many Christians in the 21st century, this connection with the past is very comforting.
For me personally, it is the same Divine Liturgy that has nourished my soul while living in Lancaster and wherever I have lived and visited throughout my life: State College, Boston, and Thessaloniki as a student; and Mexico, Alaska, Kenya, and Albania while serving in the mission field. With the Divine Liturgy providing such a deep and powerful connection with the past, the present, and eternity, it's highly unlikely the Orthodox Church will be joining the movement to "modernize" its worship any time soon.