by the Very Reverend Michel Najim & T.L. Frazier"UNDERSTANDING THE DIVINE LITURGY"(A Guide For Participating In The Divine Liturgy Of St. John Chrysostom)
The Scripture readings are not only for instructional purposes; they also purify and prepare us for the holy eucharistic Mystery. Since they are divinely inspired, the lessons sanctify those who read and those who hear them:
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”128 The readings proclaim the goodness of God and His love for humanity as well as reveal His justice. They enkindle in us a powerful love for the God who loved us so much that He gave us His only-begotten Son. Encountering this divine love arouses in us a great zeal for the observance of the divine commandments.
All this makes us fit for the reception and preservation of the eucharistic Mystery, which is the primary aim of the Liturgy.
Because of the particular biblical selections and the order in which they occur during the liturgical year, the readings fittingly present the coming of Christ and His work. The practice of having Scripture readings during the Liturgy followed by a homily reaches back to the Old Testament Church, particularly the synagogue. In fact, Jesus started His public ministry in a synagogue by reading a prophecy from Isaiah, after which He declared, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”129 The apostle Paul preached the Gospel in synagogues when invited to give the homily after the Scripture reading.130
In the mid-second century, Justin Martyr relates that the Christians would, “On the day which is called Sunday, have a common assembly of all who live in the cities or in the outlying districts, and the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the Prophets are read, as long as there is time. Then, when the reader has finished, the president of the assembly verbally admonishes and invites all to imitate such examples of virtue.”131 As the liturgical calendar evolved, passages of Scripture of roughly uniform length were assigned to the various feast days.
128 Revelation 1:3. 129 Luke 4:21.
130 E.g., Acts 13:15.
131 Justin Martyr, The First Apology, 67.
Page created: 24-12-2012.
Last update: 24-12-2012.