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May 31, 2012

(9) Orthodoxy's Worship: The Liturgy After the Liturgy

By Protopresbyter George Metallinos

9. The Liturgy After the Liturgy

Ecclesiastical worship is the “Time-Space” in which the Christian ethos is shaped. During worship, the faithful rediscovers the proper meaning of a moral lifestyle, which cannot be shaped on the basis of a certain juridical relationship with God, but through the metamorphosis and the renovation of Creation and Man, in Christ. The Christian ethos is a liturgical one and it springs from one’s personal relationship with the Lord of the Church, Who offers Himself voluntarily “for the nourishment of the entire world”. This relationship, with its triple reference (Man-God-World) is realized during worship, according to the words of the Apostle Paul: “For, if you have also risen in Christ […] make dead your members on earth […] divesting yourselves of the old self […] and putting on the new …” (i.e.: So, if you have been resurrected along with Christ, then deaden everything earthen that is inside you, rejecting the old persona and donning the new one) (Colossians 3:1). This is the continuous “baptism” of the faithful within the new life of the mystery of faith.

In the Church’s worship, a person’s entire life is re-defined, now becoming Christ-centered. “Now everything is filled with light.” The faithful, having been flooded by this light, are invited to become a spiritual river – one that flows from the Holy Altar to irrigate the world salvifically. Ecclesiastical worship thus substantiates that which constitutes the Church’s offer in History. It does not provide any code of moral behavior or a system of moral rules; only a life and a society that can function as “yeast” that will leaven the world with its sanctifying presence, beginning from the micro-society. Participation in worship – if it is genuine – is a participation in the death of self-seeking and individualistic demands and a resurrection into the “in-Christ” reality, which is the purpose of the Church. The eschatological conscience that is inspired by Orthodox worship is oriented towards eschatological behaviors, by transcending the danger of secularization and any other compromises and configurations.

It is therefore understood that any alienation from the liturgical experience will, beyond other things, alter one’s beliefs and decompose one’s life, by transforming the ecclesiastical BEING into various anti-Christian substitutes (moralism, pietism, ritualism, etc.). Besides, we must not forget that the community ethos of Hellenism’s Orthodoxy and the free-spirited stance during the oppressive period of slavery had been shaped within Church worship: the only assembling of the population that never fell into decline. And this is a real blessing, thanks to which, by the Grace of God, in our difficult times, both our People and our Youth are once again finding the path that leads to the Church and Her worship.

At the end of the Divine Liturgy (this was its ancient ending), the Officiator would say to the laity: “Let us depart in peace”. This was not merely a formal announcement of the ending of a “religious duty”, but a motivational expression to relay the light of divine peace into the darkness of our world. The Church and Her Worship exist for the world – for its salvation. The Liturgy of the Church prepares the exit of the faithful into the world, both for testimony of the “Grandeurs of God”, as well as for the missionary calling for salvation in Christ. Christ’s sacrifice and His Resurrection, mysteries that are perpetually ever-present and experienced during worship, perpetually irrigate the world in a salvific manner. The faithful are those channels of Divine Grace that lead to the parched land of our societies – through which channels the “Light of Christ” can “shine on everyone” – shed its light on everything!

Bibliographical Notes:

Fr. G. D. Metallinos, The Theological Witness of Ecclesiastical Worship, Athens 1996.

Chr. Yannaras, The Freedom of Morality, Athens 1979.

Fr. John Zizioulas (Metropolitan of Pergamus), Creation as Thanksgiving: A Theological Approach to the Problem of Ecology, Athens 1992.

Fr. John Zizioulas (Metropolitan of Pergamus), "Eucharist and Kingdom of God", Synaxis, vol.49 (1994) – 51 (1994).

Evangelos G. Theodorou, Liturgical Lessons, Athens, 1986.

Fr. Al. Schmemann, Liturgical Rebirth and the Orthodox Church (Greek transl. by N. Christodoulou), Larnaca, Cyprus, 1989.

Fr. Al. Schmemann, The Church in Prayer – An Introduction to Liturgical Theology (Greek transl. by D. Tzerpos), Athens 1991.

P. N. Trembelas, The Principles and the Character of Christian Worship, Athens 19932.

Fr. Vlassis Feidas, see “Ecclesiastic History”, vol. Α’ – Β’ Athens 1992 and 1994.

Hans-Joachim Schultz, The Byzantine Liturgy – A Testimony of Faith and Symbolic Expression (Η Βυζαντινή Λειτουργία–Μαρτυρίa πίστεως και συμβολική έκφραση) (Greek transl. by D. Tzerpos), Athens 1998.