My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
"The woman said to Him, 'Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain; and Thou sayest that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.' Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
Worship in the Orthodox Christian Church is understood to be the highest calling of mankind, to fall down at the feet of the Almighty God, the Holy Trinity, and to be given over entirely to Him, becoming united mystically with Him in the Holy Mysteries. To worship God is to fulfill the purpose for which we were created for.
O Come, Let us Worship and bow down before our King and God. O Come, Let us Worship and bow down before Christ, our King and God. O Come, let us Worship and bow down to Christ Himself, our King and God.
This invitation marks the beginning of each day for the Orthodox Church. It comes from the office of Vespers, and it expresses the attitude which is at the heart of Orthodox Christianity. The Worship of God-the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-is fundamental to the life and spirit of the Holy Orthodox Christian Church.
Since Worship is so important to Orthodoxy, the best introduction to the Orthodox Church is for the non-Orthodox to attend the Divine Liturgy or the celebration of one of the major Sacraments. At first, the visitor may be overwhelmed by the music and the ceremonies, but it is in Worship that the distinctive flavor, rich traditions, and living faith of Orthodox Christianity are truly experienced.
DIMENSIONS OF WORSHIP
Worship is an experience which involves the entire Church. When each of us comes together for Worship, we do so as members of a Church which transcends the boundaries of society, of time and of space. Although we gather at a particular moment and at a particular place, our actions reach beyond the parish, into the very Kingdom of God. We worship in the company of both the living and the departed faithful.
There are two dimensions to Orthodox Christian Worship which are reflected throughout the many Services of the Church. First, Worship is a manifestation of God's presence and action in the midst of His people. It is God who gathers His scattered people together, and it is He who reveals Himself as we enter into His presence. The Worship of the Orthodox Church very vividly expresses the Truth that God dwells among His people and that we are created to share in His Life.
Second, Worship is our corporate response of thanksgiving to the presence of God and a remembrance of His saving actions-especially the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Orthodox Worship is centered upon God. He has acted in history, and He continues to act through the Holy Spirit. We are mindful of His actions and we respond to His love with praise and thanksgiving. In so doing we come closer to God.
Worship in the Orthodox Church is expressed in four principal ways:
Although Orthodox Services can very often be elaborate, solemn, and lengthy, they express a deep and pervasive sense of joy. This mood is an expression of our belief in the Resurrection of Christ and the deification (theosis) of humanity, which are dominant themes of Orthodox Worship. In order to enhance this feeling and to encourage full participation, Services are always sung or chanted.
Worship is not simply expressed in words. In addition to prayers, hymns, and scripture readings, there are a number of ceremonies, gestures, and processions. The Church makes rich use of non verbal symbols to express God's presence and our relationship to Him. Orthodox worship involves the whole person, one's intellect, feelings and senses.
Services in the Orthodox Church follow a prescribed order. There is a framework and design to our Worship. This is valuable in order to preserve its corporate dimension and maintain continuity with the past. The content of the Services is also set. There are unchanging elements; and there are parts which change according to the Feast, season, or particular circumstance. The regulating of the Services by the whole Church emphasizes the fact that Worship is an expression of the entire church, and not the composition on a particular priest and congregation.
An important secondary purpose of Worship is the teaching of the Faith. There is a very close relationship between the Worship and the teachings of the Church. Faith is expressed in Worship, and Worship serves to strengthen and communicate Faith. As a consequence, the prayers, hymns, and liturgical gestures of Orthodoxy are important mediums of teaching. The regulating of the Services also serves to preserve the True Faith and to guard it against error (heresy).
The celebration of the Divine Liturgy and the Sacraments (Mysteries) is always led by an ordained clergyman. In the local parish, this will generally be a priest who acts in the name of the Bishop, and who is sometimes assisted by a deacon. When the bishop is present, he presides at the Services. The vestments of the clergy express their special calling to the ministry as well as their particular office.
Since Worship in Orthodoxy is an expression of the entire Church the active participation and involvement of the congregation is required. There are no "private" or "said" Services in the Orthodox Church and none may take place without a congregation. This strong sense of community is expressed in the prayers and exhortations which are in the plural tense. The congregation is expected to participate actively in the Service in every way such as singing the hymns, concluding the prayers with "Amen," responding to the petitions; making the sign of the Cross; bowing, prostrating; and especially, by receiving Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy. Standing is the preferred posture of prayer in the Orthodox Church. The faithful kneel only at particularly solemn moments, such as the Invocation of the Holy Spirit during the Divine Liturgy.
The Litany is an important part of Orthodox Services. A litany is a dialogue between the priest or deacon and the faithful, which consists of a number of prayer-petitions, followed by the response "Kyrie eleison" ("Lord, have mercy") or "Paraschou Kyrie" ("Grant this, O Lord"). Litanies occur frequently throughout the Services and often serve to distinguish particular sections.
(Source: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Fr. Thomas Fitzgerald)
Please note: There are many different and unique ways that people of other religions and traditions worship God. Christians of various denominations do not accept the "formal" type of worship. The tradition from which they come from is what we in the Orthodox Church call "man centered" tradition. The focus is on how God affects "my life", what "I get out of worship," etc. In this mindset, worship must be "appealing to me," "to fit my needs," and so on. Worship in more contemporary groups is no more than "a feel good experience" and entertainment of sorts.
The Orthodox Tradition approaches such things from the exact opposite position, understanding as well that how one worships is not a matter of "persona taste." Rather than being "man centered", Orthodox Christian worship is "God centered." Worship, as we read in Holy Scripture, must be offered "in Spirit and Truth" and must be "well pleasing unto God," Who is the only One we strive to "please" by our worship.
Our primary example how to worship God is the Son of God Himself, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Who constantly worshiped the Father. Also, the Mother of God, the Holy Prophets, Holy Apostles, Holy Fathers, Saints, and of course the Holy Angelic and Heavenly Powers. In order to pray and worship the Almighty God properly one needs the guidance and grace of the Holy Spirit.
MY PERSONAL BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God