Thoughts on the Divine Liturgy
by Fr. Rodney Torbic
We come to the Divine Liturgy to pray and worship God. We bring with us our individual concerns and hopes. We bring our prayers for the wellness of loved ones. We remember our departed.
The worship experience offers us an opportunity to be renewed. Through prayer we enter into our relationship with God and we are replenished. The Divine Liturgy brings together the human and the divine. The Holy Scriptures serve to feed us. The music lifts our hearts and souls.
We come together as the Body of Christ, Serbian Orthodox Christians united with Orthodox Christians around the world. The worshipping body around the world varies in age, national origin and color. The differences among Orthodox Christians are transcended by the common unity expressed in The Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed. We share common beliefs and drink from the Life-giving Cup of our Lord.
As we enter the worship experience, we witness to the belief that value exists in worshipping God. Moreover, we are reaching beyond ourselves to the divine. We seek the direction, the healing, love and care which are uniquely Godís
When people have no place to turn, they have God. God is available always. The church door is open for the broken hearted, the sick, those in mourning and those devastated by tragedy. In the stillness of the church, the searching can seek answers...the hurt can find healing.
The Divine Liturgy takes place in time but it helps the worshipper to escape the cares of the world and to enter a different experience. The Kingdom of God with the accompanying blessings is revealed in the worship experience.
For some people, the first Divine Liturgy opens the door of enrichment. Each subsequent liturgy builds on the first. For others, many experiences are necessary for the heart to be opened and the richness to be let in.
Language is a barrier for certain people. For others, the divine experience is sensed without notice of language. The Divine Liturgy is served in cathedrals, country churches, camp grounds, prisons and hospitals. The Divine Liturgy is served on all continents. A common bond unites the worshippers in all these locations. Authenticity is present at each Divine Liturgy. The fullness of God is manifested in each Eucharistic experience.
The Divine Liturgy stands as the crowning jewel in the worship experience. The Divine Liturgy holds a special place in the Orthodox view. Attending the Divine Liturgy requires preparation. We sometimes build on our worship experience by Vesper and Matins services which precede the Divine Liturgy.
Regular worship can lead to the Divine Liturgy being part of our beings. Attentive participation will serve to reveal new insights and enrichment. We seek to enter the Kingdom of God, to unite with our Creator and Redeemer. also served during the week. We should not deny ourselves the treasure of this worship experience when it is offered on weekdays. Attending the Divine Liturgy can transform the day. It can brighten the outlook. It can restore the order to life.
The bishop or priest presides at the Divine Liturgy and normally the choir sings the responses. The prayers offered include remembrance of the living and the departed, the church and civil authorities. We pray for the sick, the suffering, the imprisoned...for travelers, for those who hate us and those who love us. We pray for peace, for unity of heart and mind. We lift up our hearts.
We are not stationary in prayer. We cross ourselves. At times we kneel. At times we make prostrations. Our senses are involved and are affected by the worship experience. Icons capture our attention and serve to summon our inner thoughts and reverence. Incense is linked inextricably with our prayers.
The Mother of God and all the saints figure prominently throughout the Divine Liturgy. We move as a worshipping body from the opening "Blessed is the Kingdom" to the final "Amen." The time of day for serving the Divine Liturgy is relatively constant.
When we participate in Holy Confession and Communion, we move about the church. We respond to the invitation: "In the fear of God and with faith, draw near!"
As we recite The Creed and prayers before and after Communion, we witness to our Faith. We are investing in our spiritual wellness.
The Divine Liturgy is not for the stagnant Christian. The Epistle and Gospel, the sermon, the whole worship experience is intended to bring about change in the worshipper. Ideally, we leave the Divine Liturgy better Christians than when we arrived.
There is comfort in knowing that the Divine Liturgy is to be served in a certain way. We can develop confidence in understanding the universality of this focus on God.
Orthodox Christians throughout the world are linked in the experience of the Divine Liturgy. The church militant and the church triumphant come together.
The Divine Liturgy enables the believer to partake of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Centuries are transcended as we mark the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The remission of sins becomes a focal point.
When we enter the experience of the Divine Liturgy, we reach a point where we set aside earthly cares. Our focus changes. We change our concentration. We enter a state with God which is peaceful. Peace is a prevalent theme in the Divine Liturgy. From the beginning, we seek to start out in peace as we pray. More than once, the priest says: "Peace be unto all!"
The Divine Liturgy makes clear we are a Trinitarian Church. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit permeate the complete service. The Creed sets forth in succinct form, the basic tenets of the Faith.
Time has not diminished the value of the Divine Liturgy. Believers are ever-renewed. Each Divine Liturgy takes on a newness, like a new day dawning.
We come together from different communities to worship God. We come from different educational and economic backgrounds. Children and parents, single and married adults, widows and widowers, all find nourishment in the Divine Liturgy.
We may take the Divine Liturgy for granted because it is so accessible to us. Consider how many people may yearn for the opportunity to be a part of the liturgy but cannot. Remember the shut-ins who cannot come to church. Think about the incarcerated and hospitalized for whom the Divine Liturgy is not available. Keep in mind those who live far from Orthodox churches where there are no priests to come and serve.
The Divine Liturgy is a treasure. But it is more than a treasure. The Divine Liturgy brings us together with each other, with Orthodox Christians around the world and it brings all of us closer to God. Through the Divine Liturgy we enter into the unity of creation. The bond of the Creator and the created is renewed and manifested. Let us ever be sensitive to the Divine Liturgy. Let us ever be sensitive to the presence of God in our lives and let us give thanks.