“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 that is at the heart of Orthodoxy. The Worship of God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, – is fundamental to the life and spirit of the Orthodox Church. Since Worship is so important to Orthodoxy, the best introduction to the Orthodox Church is the celebration of the Divine Liturgy for it is in Worship that the distinctive flavor, rich traditions, and living faith of Orthodoxy are truly experienced.
DIMENSIONS OF WORSHIP
Worship is an experience that involves the entire Church. When each of us comes together for Worship, we do so as members of a Church that 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 Worship that 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.
EXPRESSIONS OF WORSHIP
Worship in the Orthodox Church is expressed in four principal ways:
1. The Eucharist, which is the most important worship experience of Orthodoxy. Eucharist means thanksgiving and is known in the Orthodox Church as the Divine Liturgy.
2. The Sacraments, which affirm God’s presence and action in the important events of our Christian lives. All the major Sacraments are closely related to the Eucharist. These are: Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the sick.
3. Special Services and Blessings, which also affirm God’s presence and action in all the events, needs and tasks of our life.
4. The Daily Offices, which are the services of public prayer which occur throughout the day. The most important are Matins, which is the morning prayer of the Church, and Vespers, which is the evening prayer of the Church.
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 Services in ways such as: singing the hymns; concluding the prayers with “Amen”; responding to the petitions; making the sign of the Cross; bowing; and, especially, by receiving Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy. Standing is the preferred posture of prayer in the Orthodox Church; although pews are available for parishioners to sit during various parts of the service and for those for whom standing is difficult. The congregation traditionally kneels only at particularly solemn moments, such as the Invocation of the Holy Spirit during the Divine Liturgy.