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Liturgical Singing 7

Meaning of Divine Liturgy


We often hear the word “litourghia” used to emphasize the notion that corporate prayer in a Divine Service means “the work of the people.” We want, of course, members of the congregation to pray actively during Divine Worship, that the laity takes an active role in doing the work of the Liturgy. The word “litourghia” (λειτουργία in Greek), however, means – a public work, a work for the people, offered by the authorities or local government or, in this context, the Church, to the public, or to the Christian community; the Church is literally open for business.  The change of preposition from “of” to “for” may seem like a subtle nuance, but it transforms the meaning of the public work. John  Michael Boyer addresses this shift of meaning as follows: “continuing to say [liturgy as meaning the work  of  the people] obscures its true meaning, and ends up distracting from the more important word in the phrase: “Divine.” In other words, there are many liturgies in life, this is the Divine Liturgy, the operation of God.” To sum up, the Divine Liturgy is an offering by the Holy Church for the Faithful, an invitation to enter the “Blessed Kingdom,” by doing the work, by participating as fully as possible. This work is not a requirement, it is a free-will choice, and the degree and quality of participation is a matter of personal readiness and desire. The work may be silent (inner) prayer, or it may be vocalized (sung), but however it manifests, it requires understanding, connection to the liturgical content, and effort.

Dr. Peter Jermihov 

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