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 preparation for the Divine Liturgy reaches its peak when the Great Doxology is chanted in majesty at the end of the Matins service, with the priest and the deacon quietly joining in. Starting with the hymn of the angels from the beginning of the Gospel, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and good will among men,”91 the Great Doxology is among the most beautiful hymns of the Orthodox Church. Since the Great Doxology cannot be found before the fourteenth century, liturgists have concluded that it was introduced after the Proskomide began to be interpreted as symbolizing the Nativity of Christ.
There is a basic structure to the Liturgy which provides points of reference to help us understand and participate in what is occurring. Throughout its two thousand year history, different liturgical traditions have appeared in the Orthodox world which eventually gave the Divine Liturgy its present structure. Liturgical traditions from Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem have been especially prominent in the evolution of the Liturgy. These changes, additions and subtractions have been due to various local, cultural and historical circumstances.
Our present Liturgy is customarily ascribed to Saint John Chrysostom, who reformed the Liturgy in Constantinople at the end of the fourth century. There is a tradition that around 397, when John Chrysostom came from Antioch to Constantinople to be its patriarch, Chrysostom simply took the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great and shortened it.
The period after the death of John Chrysostom, the fifth and sixth centuries, was a time of especially profound liturgical development in the Church and shaped the Liturgy even further. As a result of this rich development, things were very different in the ancient Church than they are today. For example: The Liturgy at one time started at the back of the church in the vestibule (narthex). After 528, the solemn entrance of the congregation began to be accompanied by the singing of the hymn, “Only-begotten Son.” There was also a reading from the Old Testament before the Epistle. The Scripture readings were eventually reduced to two, an Epistle and a Gospel, preceded by the Trisagion. Around 574, the Cherubic Hymn was introduced during the Great Entrance. Originally after the Great Entrance, the catechumens were supposed to leave and the doors were locked. Yet, despite these and other major changes, we find that the essence of the Liturgy has remained stable through the centuries, having been firmly established in the early years of the Church.
As in antiquity, the Liturgy is still divided into two basic parts: the Liturgy of the Catechumens (also called the Synaxis, literally “the gathering”), and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
91 Luke 2:14.
Page created: 24-12-2012.
Last update: 24-12-2012.