UOL Retreat on Divine Liturgy – Lecture Notes

2017 UOL Lenten Retreat

Divine Liturgy

Why is it useful to study the Divine Liturgy?

  • Practical reason: it’ll make more sense
    • We were made to be liturgical beings, but that is no longer true
    • The main part of the Divine Liturgy is intuitive, but much is not
    • Parts of it are down right incomprehesible
  • Practical reason: you’ll enjoy it more.
    • Compare to going to a soccer match with seminarians.
    • Both enjoy it; but different levels.
  • Spiritual reason: it’ll make the liturgy more effective
    • Purpose of the liturgy?
      • Trains and perfects our instincts through repetition
      • Trains and perfects our minds through the words
      • Trains and perfects our minds through the Mystery
    • Transform our lives. Not magic.


Plan for today’s study of the Divine Liturgy

  • I will take you through the first half of the Divine Liturgy (Catachumen/Word)
  • Fr. Michael will take you through the second half of the liturgy
  • This afternoon, I will talk about Living the Liturgy; Q&A
  • We will also leave time for Q&A at the end of each section; please keep questions during the talk germane (i.e. directly related to what is being presented)


We’ll use three approaches today:

  • Practical. What is being done? Why?
  • Historical. How did this part of the liturgy get here? DON’T PANIC!!! (Carpatho-Rusyn)
  • Theological/mystical. What is this designed to accomplish?

Some resources (for when you fall in love with this and want to know more):

  • Practical. Prayer Book. Fr. Gregory Woolfenden A Practical Handbook for Divine Services.
  • Historical. Robert Taft. “The Evolution of the Byzantine “Divine Liturgy”. Hugh Wybrew. The Orthodox Liturgy: The Development of the Eucharistic Liturgy.
  • Theological/mystical. Fr. Alexander Schmemann The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom.

Liturgical Items

The space: —-> Narthex/Vestibule; Nave/Sanctuary; Altar (two ables)

Table of Preparation: Practical (early). Historical (skufel.). Theological (Nativity).

  • Discos. Throne (prayers). Theotokos, Cave, Cross/Tomb (engraving). Shield. Manger. Tomb.
  • Chalice. Cup of Christ. Theotokos.
  • Covers
  • Bread & wine

Order of the Service (for the priest) – preparation

  • Reconciliation. Confession? Prayer. Vespers. Fasting. Priesting (24/7).
  • Baking the bread and procuring the wine.
  • Prayers before. Vesting prayers.

Proskomedia (preparation; sounds better in Greek)

  • Practical. Get everything ready for the service.
  • Historical. Only after the 8th century (monastic influence). Gilding the lily?
  • Theological. Sacrifice.
    • “By Your precious Blood You have redeemed us from the curse of the law. By being nailed to the Cross and pierced with a spear, You have poured immortality upon men. O our Savior, glory to You!”
    • As a sheep led to the slaughter, or a spotless lamb before its shearers is dumb, so He opens not His mouth. In His humiliation justice was denied Him. Who will explain His generation? For His life is taken up from the earth. 53:7-8 (also in Acts 8:32)
      Sacrificed is the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world, for the life of the world and its salvation. (John 1:29; St. John the Baptist)
    • One of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness, and his witness is true. John 19:34-35.
  • In the Chalice: wine and water (as above)
  • On the Paten:
    • Christ (Lamb). Theotokos. 9 classes of saints… and YOU!
    • Star. Covers. Swaddling clothes. Becomes the wrappings of the tomb (the noble Joseph…)
    • Censing.
      • Practical. prepare a place or people for something
      • Historical. Very biblical (Old AND New Testament)
      • Theological. Prayer. Cloud of God. Especially in altar.

Altar Table.

  • Practical. Holy place to hold holy things.
  • History. Combination of Old Testament altar and New Testament dinner table. Items!!!
  • Theology. Table of sacrifice. Table of offering. Throne where GOD IS. GRAVITY.
  • Antimens. Relics and authority.

Dressed. Things are ready. All has been censed. It’s time to start the service!

Liturgy of the Word; Liturgy of the Catechumen (same thing?)

Blessed is the Kingdom…

  • Practical: it’s time to start something really important (eaucharistic/sacramental)!
  • History. Added later (9th century, per Taft). “Blessed” through the hymns were NOT a part of the Byzantine (much less the earlier) liturgy.
  • Theology. How is it the Kingdom of God? How do we “bless” it (“To bless the Kingdom of God means to love it as one’s most precious possession. The response of the people to the proclamation of blessing by the priest is with the word Amen, which means so be it. This is the solemn affirmation that indeed the blessing of God’s Kingdom is fitting and proper. It is the official confirmation that this Kingdom is indeed the “pearl of great price” for the faithful, which once having found it, they will love it and serve it and desire to have it forever (Lk 13.14).” Hopko.

Great Litany.

  • Practical. Unite home prayer to corporate prayer. Intercession. Connect the Divine Liturgy to the broader Church (authority!). Repetition. Participation.
  • History. Moved from the “Liturgy of the Faithful” between the 9th and 13th centuries.
  • Theology. Reinforces our calling to pray and the expectation that God listens.

A Note on the “Altar Liturgy”. Did you ever wonder about those random things the priest yells out? They aren’t really random:

Lord our God, Your Power is beyond compare, and Your Glory beyond understanding; Your Mercy is boundless, and Your Love for us beyond words, look with compassion, Master, on us and on this holy temple, and show us, and those who pray with us, the riches of Your tender mercy. For to You are due all glory, honor and worship: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages.

First Antiphon. (sing them!)

  • Practical. Pedagogical. Repetition. Sung.
  • History. Notice that it is shortened. Why does this work?
  • Theology. This is a Psalm about us, about Christ, and about what He does for us. (Reardon)

Little Litany. Practical? Breathing and pace. History. Theology:

Second litany prayer: Lord our God, save Your People, and bless Your Inheritance; protect the fullness of Your Church. Sanctify those who love the beauty of Your house, glorifying them in return by Your divine Power and do not forsake us who hope in You. For Yours is the Majesty and Yours the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages.

Second Antiphon.

  • Practical. The preparatory material is getting us ready to encounter the Word.
  • History. Psalm is often shortened. Second part “Only begotten” is from Justinian I in the 6th century. Was composed for the liturgy.
  • Theology. Us – praisers who are saved!; God – awesome (unlike men); Work: set free!

Little Litany prayer. Lord, You have given us grace to offer You with one heart these our common prayers and have promised that where two or three are of one accord in Your Name You will grant their requests: fulfill now the petitions of Your servants as is best for us, granting us in this world knowledge of Your Truth, and in the world to come life everlasting. PRIEST: For You are a Good and Loving God and to You we give glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages.

Third Antiphon. Little Entrance.

  • Practical. None. Vestigial movement… now given a new meaning. Like a fertile soil!
  • History. Some churches still sing the hymns in between the verses. Would have been the entrance into the sanctuary to start the service. Evocative of when the books were kept somewhere else.
  • Theology. Christ starting his public ministry. Kiss. Christ is in our midst! He is!

Sovereign Master, Lord our God, You have established in Heaven the Orders and Hosts of Angels and Archangels to minister to Your Glory. Grant that with this our entrance there may also be an entrance of holy angels serving with us and glorifying Your Goodness. or to You are due all glory, honor and worship: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Come let us worship!

  • Practical. Between the anitiphons and the hymns.
  • History. Not always used (e.g. feasts)
  • Theology. Built around Psalm 94/95. Call to worship and obedience.

Hymns. You know this.


Holy God, dwelling in Your heavenly sanctuary, praised by the Seraphim with the Thrice-Holy hymn, glorified by the Cherubim, and adored by all the Heavenly Powers: You have brought all things into being out of nothing. You created us in Your image and likeness, and adorned us with all Your gifts. To those who seek, You grant wisdom and understanding. You do not despise the sinner, but have set repentance as the way of salvation. You have deemed us worthy, Your lowly and undeserving servants, to stand at this very hour before the Glory of Your Holy Altar, and to offer You due worship and praise, Master, accept even from the lips of us sinners the Thrice-Holy Hymn, and graciously visit us in Your Goodness. Forgive us our every offense whether voluntary or involuntary. Sanctify us, soul and body, and grant that we may worship You in holiness all the days of our life: through the intercessions of the Holy Birth-Giver of God and of all the saints who have well pleased You throughout the ages.

For You are Holy, our God, and to You we give glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever.

  • Practical. People loved it, to include its history.
  • History. used (along with songs) to greet the Emperor. The verses 79:15 & 16 are remnants of the larger celebration. Was the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word.
  • Theology. Refers to the Trinity.

Prokimen. Epistle. Alleluia. Gospel.

  • Practical. Pedagogical. Should NOT be the first time this week you hear the readings!
  • History. Lectionary well established by 4th century. In the 8th century the Old Testament reading was taken out. There were responsive Psalm readings between the Old Testament reading and the Epistle. For centuries the entire Psalms remained. All that is left now is the this little bit.
  • Theology. God’s word proclaimed among His people!

Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things well-pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.


  • Practical. Preach the Gospel. Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
  • History. Patristic homilies are available! Best when the people and the priest both prepared properly.
  • Theology. The homily is the continuation of the Gospel. It is a variable part of the liturgy. The priest prepares and presents part of the liturgy! Sacramental.

The old ending of the Liturgy of the Word was to have a prayer for the penitents, the prayer for the catachumen, the kiss of peace, and the blessing at the end of the Liturgy of the Word. These were gone by the 8th century.

Fervent Supplication.

  • Practical. The antimens is partially unfolded on the line about bishops (kiss)
  • History. Taft claims that this was added late (starts appearing in the 8th century; from stational services); no such prayers would have been conducted with the catachumen present.
  • Theology. Lord our God, accept this fervent supplication of Your servants, have mercy on us according to the multitude of Your mercies and send down Your bounties on us and on all your people who await the rich mercy that comes from You.


God of spirits and of all flesh, You have trampled down Death; You have overthrown the Devil and have given life to Your world; Now give rest to the soul(s) of Your departed servant(s), (name(s)), in a place of light, a place of refreshment, and a place of repose where there is no sickness, sighing, nor sorrow. As You are a Good God Who loves mankind, pardon every sin, which he (she, they) has (have) committed, whether by word, deed, or thought, for there is no man who has not sinned. You alone are sinless, Your Righteousness is eternal and Your Word is Truth. For You are the Resurrection, the Life and the Repose of Your departed servant(s), (names), Christ our God and to You we give glory, together with Your Father Who is without beginning and Your All-Holy, Good and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages.

Catechumen: Practical (unfold.)

Practical. Awesome reminder (Gogol). We don’t deserve this! Finish opening the antimens.

Historical. Perhaps part of dismissal of penitents, too. End of the Liturgy of the Word.

Theological. Our church is evangelical! Dismissal? Is that appropriate?

St. John Chrysostom. Lord, our God, You dwell on high and regard the humble of heart, You have sent forth Your Only-Begotten Son and God, our Lord Jesus Christ as the salvation of the human race: look favorably upon Your servants, the catechumens, who have bowed their necks before You and make them worthy in due time of the water of regeneration, the forgiveness of sins, and the robe of incorruption. Unite them to Your Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and number them among Your Chosen Flock.

St. Basil the Great. Lord our God, You dwell in the heavens and look upon all Your Works: Behold Your servants, the catechumens, who have bowed their necks before You, and grant them a light yoke. Make them honorable members of Your Holy Church deeming them worthy of the bath of regeneration, the forgiveness of sins, and the robe of incorruption, so that they may come to know You, our true God.

That with us they may also glorify Your most honorable and majestic Name, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit now and ever, and to the ages of ages.

*** Actual beginning of the Litany of the Faithful ***

Litany of the Faithful 1.

LITURGY OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM We give thanks to You, Lord God of Hosts, for You have made us worthy to stand even now before Your Holy Altar and to bow down before Your compassion on account of our sins and the failings of the people. Accept our prayer, God, and make us worthy to offer You prayers and supplications and sacrifices without the shedding of blood for all Your people. Enable us, whom You have placed in this Your ministry by the power of Your Holy Spirit, to call upon You at all times and in all places without condemnation or offense but with a clear conscience, that hearing us, You may, in Your Great Goodness, be merciful to us.

LITURGY OF ST. BASIL THE GREAT-Lord, You have shown us this great mystery of salvation. You have counted us, Your humble and undeserving servants, worthy to be ministers of Your Holy Altar. Through the Power of Your Holy Spirit, make us worthy for this service, so that standing without condemnation before Your Holy Glory, we may offer You a sacrifice of praise, for You are the One Who works all things in everyone. Lord, grant that our sacrifice for our own sins and for the failings of Your people may be acceptable and well-pleasing to You.

For to You are due all glory, honor and worship; to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages.

Litany of the Faithful II.

LITURGY OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM Again and again, we bow down before You, our Good and Loving God, and we pray to You: hear our prayer, cleanse our souls and bodies from every defilement of flesh and spirit, and enable us to stand before Your Holy Altar free of guilt and judgment. Grant also, God, to those who pray with us progress in life, faith and spiritual understanding, so that they may always worship You with fear and love, may partake of Your Holy Mysteries without blame or condemnation and may be worthy of Your Heavenly Kingdom.

LITURGY OF ST. BASIL THE GREAT O God, You behold our humble state with mercy and compassion. You have set us, Your humble, sinful, and unworthy servants, before Your Holy Altar. Strengthen us through the Power of Your Holy Spirit for this service granting that we may open our mouths to express the invocation of the grace of Your Holy Spirit upon the gifts which we are about to set before You. That ever guarded by Your Might, we may give You Glory: to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages.

Know dogma? From the experience of God. Divine Liturgy and Prayer.

Spoon. Not well established until 11th century.

Pre-Communion Prayers

Three things: You/us/mankind; GOD;

His workApproaching therefore come not with your wrists extended or your fingers open: but make your left hand as if a throne for your right, which is on the eve of receiving the king. And having hallowed your palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying after it, Amen. Then after you have with carefulness hallowed your eyes by the touch of the holy Body, partake thereof, giving heed lest you lose any of it; for what you lose is a loss to you as it were from one of your own members. For tell me, if any one gave you gold dust, would you not with all precaution keep it fast, being on your guard against losing any of it, and suffering loss? How much more cautiously then will you observe that not a crumb falls from you of what is more precious than gold and precious stones? Then, after having partaken of the Body of Christ, approach also to the cup of his Blood; not stretching forth your hands, but bending and saying in the way of worship and reverence, Amen, be hallowed by partaking also of the Blood of Christ. And while the moisture is still upon your lips, touching it with your hands, hallow both your eyes and brow and other senses. Then wait for the prayer, and give thanks unto God, who has accounted you worthy of so great mysteries (Mystagogical Catachesis 5.21, 22).

Wybrew, H. (1989). The Orthodox Liturgy: The Development of the Eucharistic Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite (p. 36). London: SPCK.

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