Liturgy – The Place of Scripture in Orthodox Life & Worship

8th Sunday after Pentecost
The Sunday of Saint Olympia, deaconess of Constantinople
Gospel:  St. Matthew 14:14-22 (The Feeding of the Five Thousand)

What a beautiful day to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ!  Today’s Gospel reading is an affirmation of our faith, of our worship, and especially of the holy Eucharist which we celebrate today.  It is at the very core of what it means to be Orthodox and demonstrates the relationship between Scripture and the way we live and worship.

Today I would like to continue our series on the Divine Liturgy by focusing on three ways that the Holy Scripture informs and itself informed by this liturgical Eucharistic celebration. 

Prelude:  some Christians accuse Orthodox Christians of not taking scripture seriously enough.  They think we should spend less time kissing the Bible and more time reading it.  We can all certainly spend more time reading and studying Scripture, but the accusation is way off mark.  Scripture is the very air we breath, the language of every thought.  Accusing us of ignoring Scripture is like accusing fish of ignoring water.

First: Everything we say during the Divine Liturgy is either a quote from Scripture or a paraphrase of it.  One of the things that I really like about our UOC-USA Prayer Book is that it lists the Scriptures referenced throughout the service.  Attending the Divine Liturgy is a lesson in Scripture par excellence.    Evangelicals have their children memorize scripture.  Each week they will have an important verse or two to memorize.  This is a good practice that can only help them.  Our approach is different.  Rather than focusing on a verse or two, we essentially have them start with “Blessed is the Kingdom” and internalize everything from there until the last “Amen.”  And then, just to make sure they get it, we repeat this lesson with them every Sunday throughout their lives. 

Second:  The central act of the Divine Liturgy – partaking of Christ’s body and blood – is Scriptural.  Everything from the letters of St. Paul to the Gospels makes it clear that the Eucharist has been the focus of Christian worship from the very beginning.  It is so central that it helps us understand the full meaning of passages like the one we heard today.  Christ took the five loaves, blessed them, broke them, then gave them to His disciples to share with the people.  What else is this but an echo, prefiguring, and conceptual preparation for the Eucharist?  So many passages fall into place when considered in this way.  It isn’t really that we celebrate the Eucharist because the Bible says we should. That correlation is true, but the causal arrow is exactly backwards: Communion is in the New Testament because the Orthodox have always done it and they were the ones who wrote the New Testament describing it, what it means, and how it started.

Third:  Scripture describes the economy of salvation – we are participating in this economy through the Divine Liturgy.  (expound)


  1. Thanks for the sermon, but unless i have missed something I don't see any mention of Saint Olympia, deaconess of Constantinople. It is important for all Orthodox to know that until the 12th centruy we had ordained deaconesses in the Orthodox Church.
    Even mentioned in the New Testament. Here is a change to mention how important women & women's gifts are in the ministry of the church.

  2. Thank you for your recommendation. You are right, there was nothing in these notes (or even the sermons itself, which was longer) about St. Olympia. I love her, thank her for her intercession, and recognize the historical role deaconesses played in Christ's Church. I also appreciate the additional gifts that restoring that order might bring to Orthodoxy today. BUT, this series is on the Divine Liturgy, and the issue of deaconesses does not even crack my “Top 100 Things Everyone Should Know about the Divine Liturgy”. Rest assured that I have discussed the topic here and elsewhere, but every homily cannot cover every thing.