Sunday, September 2, 2012

Before the New Testament, Was the Divine Liturgy


By Elder Sophrony of Essex

We Orthodox live Christ in the Divine Liturgy, or rather Christ lives within us during the duration of the Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy is the work of God. We say: "It is time for the Lord to act." Among other things, this means that now is the time for the Lord to act. Christ liturgizes, and we live with Christ.

The Divine Liturgy is the way we know God and the way God becomes known to us.

Christ celebrated the Divine Liturgy once and this passed into eternity. His divinized human nature came to the Divine Liturgy. We know Christ specifically in the Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy we celebrate is the same Divine Liturgy which was done by Christ on Great Thursday in the Mystical Supper.

The 14th through the 16th chapters of the Gospel according to John is one Divine Liturgy. So in the Divine Liturgy we understand Holy Scripture.

The early Church lived without a New Testament, but not without the Divine Liturgy. The first records, the written hymns, exist in the Divine Liturgy.

In the Divine Liturgy we live Christ and understand His word.

As Christ cleansed His Disciples with his word and said to them: "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3) and He washed the feet of His Disciples with water, during the Sacred Washing, so also in the first section of the Divine Liturgy He cleanses us that we might attend later His Table of love. The purpose of the Divine Liturgy is to convey Christ to us.

The Divine Liturgy teaches us an ethos, the ethos of humility. As Christ sacrificed Himself, so also should we sacrifice ourselves. The type of the Divine Liturgy is the type of impoverishment for us. In the Divine Liturgy we try to be humbled, because we have the sense that there is the humble God.

Every Divine Liturgy is a Theophany. The Body of Christ appears. Every member of the Church is an icon of the Kingdom of God.

After the Divine Liturgy we must continue to iconify the Kingdom of God, keeping His commandments. The glory of Christ is to bear His fruit in every member. This explains His word: "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:8).

The Divine Liturgy took place once and forever. It has eternality. Every time the Divine Liturgy is performed, we ascend to its height. If we experience some aspects of the Divine Liturgy, then we will understand its grandeur, as happened with Saint Seraphim of Sarov who saw angels entering the church during the Small Entrance.

We follow the Divine Liturgy because we do not experience it, or until we do experience it.

When one observes the commandments of Christ, they are not just doing obedience, but they become united with Christ and acquire the mind of Christ.

Source: I Knew A Man In Christ: The Life and Conduct of Elder Sophrony, the Hesychast and Theologian (Οίδα άνθρωπον εν Χριστώ: Βίος και πολιτεία του Γέροντος Σωφρονίου του ησυχαστού και θεολόγου) by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou. Translation by John Sanidopoulos.

Read also:

Elder Sophrony: The Basics of the Divine Liturgy

The Divine Liturgy is the Greatest Mission of the Church

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