Primer 2 D

A Basic Primer of Orthodox Catholicism and its difference with the Roman Jurisdiction of the Catholic Church


Lastly, an Introduction to the Divine Liturgy - The Most Ancient Service:

THE DIVINE LITURGY is considered the most significant ancient Christian service, not so much for its phrasing and words as for its meaning. In fact, the Divine Liturgy was in practice right after the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Disciples of Christ on the 50th day after His Resurrection, as the sacred writer of the Acts of the Apostles records (Acts 2:46 ff). The Divine Liturgy in its infancy at the beginning of the Christian era consisted of free hymns and prayers for the officiating of a certain framework of faith. It was officiated long before the beginning of the writings of the New Testament. The Divine Liturgy as such was the center of the inspiration of the first Christians in their communion with God and with one another.


In upper rooms and catacombs the Apostles and later the Presbyters and Bishops of the primitive Christian Church offered the Divine Liturgy for its sacred Mysteries. It seems that relics and reminiscences of that time were preserved in the Divine Liturgies of the 2nd century and especially of the 4th century when the Liturgies took their final form. But whatever were the various forms of the Divine Liturgy of the primitive Church, as well as of the Church of the final formation of the Divine Liturgy, the meaning given to it by both the celebrants and the communicants was one and the same; that is, the belief of the awesome change of the sacred Species of the Bread and Wine into the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Lord.


The Apostle Paul refers to the meaning of the Divine Liturgy (1 Cor. 11: 23-30) quoting the words of the Lord, saying, "This cup is the new testament in my blood; this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me." And the Apostle admonishes, saying, "For as often as ye eat this Bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come" (v. 25, 26). He also stresses the point that he who draws near the cup "unworthily" will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord (v. 27), and orders a thorough examination before receiving Holy Communion because otherwise the Holy Communion will be "damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" (v. 29).


THE MOST ANCIENT DESCRIPTION of the order and time of the Holy Eucharist (Divine Liturgy) is preserved in the 1st Apology by Justin the Martyr, Ch. 67, written in 138 A.D. (Migne 6, 429-432). In brief, he refers to the day, which he calls the day of the sun (the Lord's Day, the day of Kyrios that is Kyriake, Sunday, the first day of the week, in memory of the Resurrection of the Lord.) On this day the Christians gathered together to participate in the Divine Liturgy. As to the order of the diagram of the Liturgy, Justin refers to:


1. The reading of the Scriptures,


2. The exhortation by the Notable, Proestos,


3. The offering of prayers,


4. The offering of bread, wine and water,


5. The long thanksgiving, Eucharistic, prayer of sanctification by the Notable,


6. The partaking of Holy Communion, and


7. The collection for charity.


It is the same order that St. Gregory used, which was the basis of all liturgies in those early times followed by St. Basil which St. John Chrysostom created the Liturgy bearing his name as used today by the Eastern Orthodox Churches.


There are various Liturgies used in the Orthodox Church today, some of them were created in the East, others in the West. But there are similarities which reflect one original source, the Apostles. There are the Syriac, Egyptian, Persian, Byzantine, Spanish and Roman types of Liturgies. Among them are those which are ascribed to Clement, and St. Jacob (James, very ancient), both in Greek.


Another, ascribed to St. Mark, is that of the Presanctified Gifts by St. Mark. Of the Byzantine type are those of Basil the Great, of St. Chrysostom, and that of the Presanctified Gifts. In Alexandria, the Liturgy of Mark was used yet in the 12th century as Theodore Balsomon instructed in the 32nd canon of the Synod in Troulo.


The Liturgy of the "Brother of God," James, is very ancient. The Penthecte Synod (Quinisext 692 A.D.) decreed that James handed down the mystic service (Divine Liturgy). It is true least in its basic prayers and diagram, which are in line with the same thoughts the 5th catechism of Cyril of Jerusalem. In the Eastern Orthodox Church this Liturgy of James is seldom officiated.


St. Basil's Liturgy is attested to not only by the Penthecte Synod (692 A.D.) but also by his friend Gregory of Nazianzus, who in his Funeral Oration said that Basil wrote "provisions of prayers, decencies of the Altar;" also by Leontios the Byzantine who put the Prayer of Oblation of Basil together with that of the Apostles; thirdly by the letter of the Monks of Skythia to the African Bishops (520 A.D.) reporting that almost the entire East repeated the Liturgy of St. Basil. Those are a few documents, among many others, establishing St. Basil's Liturgy as a genuine work. St. Basil's Liturgy is celebrated about 10 times a year, including the Sundays of Lent.


The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is very ancient, "known to the Church before the initiators Basil and Chrysostom" as Patriarch Michael (12th century) infers. It is ascribed rather to Apostle James or Peter. The information that Pope (Saint) Gregory, the Dialogos, wrote this Liturgy is untrue for many reasons, among them that he did not know the Greek language. As for the use of this Liturgy the 52nd canon of the 6th Ecumenical Synod refers to it, decreeing that "in all the fasting days of Lent, save Saturday, Sunday and the day of Annunciation, the sacred celebration of the Presanctified Gifts should take place." This Liturgy is celebrated in connection with the vesper service during the evenings. It keeps its venerable character even now when it is officiated during the mornings. It is called that of the Presanctified Gifts because the Sacred Gifts have been sanctified previously in the Liturgy of St. Basil or St. Chrysostom. This Liturgy is not celebrated for the awesome change of the Gifts, but rather for the partaking of the Presanctified Gifts by the faithful Christians.


Pope St. Gregory did, in fact initiate the Divine Liturgy known in the American Orthodox Church and the North American Orthodox Church as the "Agape Liturgy of St. Hippolytus" which is the basis for all other liturgies in the Roman Jurisdiction of the Catholic Church.

St. Hippolytus came from Alexandria to Rome. He brought the liturgy with him to Rome from Alexandria. While many believe this is a Western Rite Liturgy, it really is not!  The only reason many believe (the horrendous error) that it is a Western Rite Liturgy is because it was adopted by the Roman Jurisdiction of the Catholic Church and most all of the Roman Liturgies are based from this one. 

Meanwhile, in time, St. Chrysostom began standardizing a liturgy based on St. Basil.  In essence, the St. Hippolytus liturgy was the beginning of standardized liturgy in the Eastern church and it was later changed which some believe made it different by adoption later in the Eastern Orthodox (Catholic) church history.

In reality, the St. Hippolytus liturgy is not a Western Rite Liturgy at all except and only based on the fact that the East adopted a different liturgy later and the Roman Jurisdiction of the Catholic Church based all other liturgies on this one.

The point to all of this is that many seminaries, including some of our own WOTI material may be a bit misleading and definitely slanted to the Eastern Orthodox  teaching of the history regarding church liturgy, it is only dealing with the St. Chrysostom liturgy and it's history as if it was from the beginning and none other ever existed. This is a biased history teaching which will, in due time, be corrected to reflect a more accurate understanding..

Let it be understood that We (all of us in this jurisdiction who are Orthodox) - - -  that we have understood the truth of Christianity being established in that which is today called and known as Orthodoxy.

Many of us came over and have thrown ourselves into Orthodox Catholic Christianity, not for the sake of the Orthodox Church itself as an entity or institutionalized church, but for the sake of Jesus Christ Himself and the relationship of all who come to the church, come to Him and in turn by Him, in Him and through Him we are in communion with the Father in spirit and in truth. 

All of us are clergy, are members, along with the faithful, for one important (life and death) purpose... we are here to bring lost souls to the truth of Christ, to serve the church and by serving the church we are serving the church on earth and in Heaven which is to serve Jesus Christ Himself!  Because of, and for the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ - - - we cannot tolerate a schism except for heresy and heresy alone.


St. John Chrysostom's Liturgy is well known and very common in the Eastern Orthodox Church. It may be celebrated every day of the year except the ones of St. Basil and those of the Presanctified Gifts, and on Good Friday. It is shorter than that of St. Basil and much reduced compared to St. James'. St. Chrysostom's Liturgy put an end to the free prayers and hymns in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. This Liturgy placed a seal on the free forms of the re-enactment of the Mystic Supper of the Lord, depicting it in its finest form with a destiny of enduring far into the future. Despite the addition of hymns at later times, the St. Chrysostom Liturgy remains the same majestic religious masterpiece with grandeur and dramatic appeal matching the human expression and the divine act. St. Chrysostom (345-407A.D.) was an eloquent preacher, writer and one of the Fathers of the Orthodox Church, whose writings have been translated into many languages and have nourished the Christian Church throughout the centuries.


The Celebrant and Communicants during the Liturgy are bound to participate and respond to each other and among them selves in the name of the Lord. It is not a scene of a vigorous actor with an inactive audience. All of them have an important part in the Divine Liturgy, both for its celebration and for their participation in it. It is a corporal worship of the whole body of Christ - His Church. Each member has an active part in it. The faithful should be there prepared to act. Self-examination and purity of the body and soul constitute the good "soil" of the parable for accepting the seed of the word and the communion, and for giving hundredfold in one's response. The Divine Liturgy is not a mere prayer offered to God; it is a real communion with God. At this moment takes place an exchange of human and divine personalities, whatever the great difference between them.


THE SPOKEN WORDS of the Divine Liturgy are 15 minutes of reading material which perpetuate the most cherished thoughts of our Christian heritage. They should be studied literally once and for all in the life of the faithful. There are books with the Divine Liturgy in the ecclesiastical languages - Greek, Slavonic, etc., and with translations into English to help the English-speaking people learn and follow the Divine Liturgy in its ecclesiastical language. There is no dogma forbidding the translation of the Divine Liturgy or even the Bible into vernacular language; for many centuries, however, the ecclesiastical language carried on the traditional thoughts and meanings of the Divine Liturgy to the extent that a translation into English may not render the full meaning and grandeur of the ecclesiastical language.




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