Liturgy as catechesis

Archbishop Hilarion:

Orthodox divine services are characterized by inner integrity and astounding beauty. From the priest’s exclamation at the very beginning of the service we are immersed in an atmosphere of uninterrupted prayer, in which psalms, litanies, hymns, prayers and the celebrating priest’s invocations follow one another in a continuous stream. The entire service is conducted as if in one breath, in one rhythm, like an ever unfolding mystery in which nothing distracts one from prayer.

Orthodox liturgical texts have, for Orthodox Christians, an incontestable doctrinal authority, whose theological irreproachability is second only to Scripture. Liturgical texts are a school of theology by virtue of being not simply the works of outstanding theologians and poets, but also the fruits of the prayerful experience of those who have attained sanctity and theosis …

If we can call the services of the Orthodox Church a school of theology, then the Divine Liturgy is this school par excellence. It teaches us about the mysteries of the Heavenly Kingdom because it itself is an icon of this Kingdom, the most complete, perfect reflection of the heavenly reality in our earthly conditions, a revelation of the transcendent through the immanent. In the Kingdom of God all symbols shall pass away, and only the heavenly reality will remain. There we will not commune of the Body and Blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine, but in a more perfect way we shall be united with Christ Himself, the Source of life and immortality. If the manner of our communion with God will change, its essence will remain the same – always a personal encounter with God, not of isolated people, but of people in communion with each other. In this sense it is correctly said that the Liturgy served on earth is but a part of the incessant Liturgy celebrated by people and angels in the Heavenly Kingdom.

It is evident that the Church must develop a strategy for its educational, catechetical and missionary work, making the treasures of Orthodox worship fully accessible to all. I believe, it is precisely the development of such missionary strategy whish is among the most essential tasks of the Orthodox Church worldwide in the 21st century.

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3 Responses to Liturgy as catechesis

  1. Carolina says:

    I read with interest the above article and noted that the good Archbishop has said that the Orthodox Church must develop a strategy for it educational, catechetical and missionary work. And yet as I scan various church calenders I see very few Bible studies. How does a church survive without reading the instruction manual?

    • rwp says:

      I read with interest the above article and noted that the good Archbishop has said that the Orthodox Church must develop a strategy for it educational, catechetical and missionary work. And yet as I scan various church calenders I see very few Bible studies. How does a church survive without reading the instruction manual?

      Bible studies are the sort of thing that would be taken care of at the parish level, and often, Bible study is an integral part of another ministry in the parish, so it may not be identified as Bible study.

      Possibly the most underdiscussed (and I suspect as a result, unknown) difference between the Orthodox and Catholics is ecclesiology. I intend to address this when I can get around to it.

  2. […] It is evident that the Church must develop a strategy for its educational, catechetical and missionary work, making the treasures of Orthodox worship fully accessible to all. I believe, it is precisely the development of such missionary strategy whish is among the most essential tasks of the Orthodox Church worldwide in the 21st century. (h/t Central Pennsylvania Orthodox) […]

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