The Divine Liturgy FAQ
What is the Divine Liturgy?
The Divine Liturgy is the highest act of worship by the Church, whereby the mystery of Christ becomes present among us, especially the Sacrifice of His human life on the Cross. The saving power (grace) from that act is made available to us.
What does the name "Divine Liturgy" mean?
It is an English translation of the Greek, "Thia Liturgia". Liturgy was the most important public act in the Ancient Greek world. We call the Liturgy Divine (or God's) because, through it, we partake of the Divine Nature; it is God's supreme act for humanity.
What is the difference between the Divine Liturgy and holy Mass?
None. In the Latin Rite, the Eucharistic Sacrifice became popularly known as Missa (Mass); a word spoken by the priest at the end of the Liturgy, "Ite, missa est" Go, you are sent forth (the Mass is finished).
Why do we refer to the Divine Liturgy as a sacrifice?
In the Divine Liturgy, the Sacrifice of Jesus' Body and Blood is re-enacted and re-presented to the Church by the Lord Himself, Who is our Eternal High Priest. He uses the ordained priesthood as his instrument, as he uses bread and wine, to enable us to approach Him. The Sacrifice of Calvary is the act
that redeemed the world from the slavery of sin.
Is the Divine Liturgy also a banquet?
Yes. In the ancient world, after sacrificing animals in the temples, some of the meat would be served at sacrificial banquets. The lambs blood saved Israel from death in Egypt. So too, Christ commanded His followers to feed on His Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine.
What is the relationship of the Last Supper to the Divine Liturgy?
The Last Supper was the ancient Passover Meal, whereby God¹s people re-presented the wonders of his saving acts. This meal was the venue chosen by Christ to give us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink, except he performed this act on the day before His death. The Divine Liturgy follows the form of Last Supper (sacrificial banquet), and makes present the Sacrifice of the Cross. By Christ's passion and death, we pass-over from death to life.
Didn't Jesus die once, for the salvation of all?
Yes, on the cross. The Divine Liturgy is not a rival sacrifice to that unique act, but the very same Sacrifice of Jesus, made-present for us today. Jesus intends His supreme act of redemption to be for every person in every age, not just for those of the First Century A.D.
Who offers the Sacrifice of the Divine Liturgy?
Christ the Lord Himself, Who Saint Paul the Apostle calls our Eternal High Priest. In the words of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom: "It is You who offer and who are offered" Christ is both priest (who offers) and victim (who is offered). The human priest merely participates in the priesthood of Christ, as human instrument.
Are there different aspects of the Divine Liturgy?
Yes. The Divine Liturgy consists in the prayers of praise and worship of God, thanksgiving the offering-up the Sacrifice of Christ and receiving Him in the Eucharistic banquet.
What are the principle parts of the Divine Liturgy?
The Liturgy of the Word (of the Catechumens) and the Liturgy of the Eucharist (of the faithful). The Liturgy of the Word follows in the tradition of synagogue worship: God- the-Word becomes present among us in His Divine Word (Antiphons, Epistle, Gospel). Jesus is the Word of God. The Gospel is the high point of this section.
Where does the Liturgy of the Faithful (of the Eucharist) begin?
The Liturgy of the faitful begins shortly after the reading of the Holy Gospel, with the words: "Til'ky virni" or "Again and again, in peace let [only] the faithful pray to the Lord". (Liturgy Book, page 41). The priest places the gospel-book in front of the tabernacle and unfolds the iliton (corporal cloth) where the eucharistic offerings will be placed.
What is the central core of the Divine Liturgy?
The Anafora or Eucharistic Prayer. Through this prayer, Christ, by the ministry of the ordained, transforms the offerings of bread and wine into His own Body and Blood. All of the other parts of the Divine Liturgy are built-around this prayer.
Is there more than one version of the Anafora?
Yes, several were composed; in the Byzantine Church, we use the Anafora of Saint John Chrysostom and of Saint Basil the Great. Over centuries, Saint John Chrysostom's shorter anafora became the ordinary Eucharistic prayer and Saint Basil's longer anafora was reserved for ten special days during the year. Since the 1960s, the Latin Rite has also restored several different Eucharistic Prayers.
What is the difference between the two Eucharistic prayers?
Some historians believe that the Liturgy of St. Basil was, until the twelfth century, the principle liturgy of the Byzantine Churches. Full of biblical imagery and theological depth, its Eucharistic Prayer is very beautiful. The Eucharistic prayer of St. John Chrysostom is shorter and not as rhetorical. It originated perhaps as a weekday anafora, and gradually replaced the Anafora of St. Basil.
On which days of the year is the Liturgy of Saint Basil prescribed?
Our Church prescribes that the Liturgy (Eucharistic Prayer) of Saint Basil be celebrated on the five Sundays of Great Lent, on the vigils of Easter, Christmas and Epiphany, on Holy Thursday and on the Feast of St. Basil.
Why is the Eucharistic Prayer of St. Basil not familiar to many?
Until recent times, the Eucharistic Prayer was prayed inaudibly. Before the introduction of Liturgy Books, the faithful would not have been very aware of the difference between the two Liturgies. In recent years, the public celebration of the Liturgy of Saint Basil has been somewhat neglected, because of lack of available translations.
Is the Presanctified Liturgy another version of the Divine Liturgy?
No. An essential element of a proper Divine Liturgy is the sacrifice of Jesus' life; this sacrifice only occurs during the Eucharistic prayer. The Presanctified Liturgy was used on fast-days, when the Eucharistic Liturgy was considered too festive to celebrate. This service is basically a Liturgy of the Word (its first half is a Vespers), at which pre-consecrated Eucharist is distributed. Today our Church celebrates the Presanctified Liturgy in Lent; in the Latin Church it is celebrated only on Good Friday.
Can deacons celebrate the Divine Liturgy?
No. Deacons in the Eastern Churches do not celebrate the Sacraments, but assist at the Liturgical services. During the Divine Liturgy, they proclaim the Gospel of the Lord. In recent years, where no priest was available, deacons have been authorized to celebrate a kind of presanctified liturgy. Due to lack of available texts, the faithful used the ordinary text of the Divine Liturgy, with the deacon omitting the Eucharistic Prayers of consecration.
Why is there so much ritual at the Liturgy?
Jesus Christ established a Visible Church on earth as a sign of salvation to all mankind. Because we are spiritual and material beings, the material-visible element of the Sacraments is essential. Jesus mediates His Divinity to us through His humanity. The expression of our humanity is our culture, which includes symbols, music, furnishings, and gestures. Over the centuries, some of the highest expressions of culture have been incorporated in sacred worship.
Are their rules for the correct celebration of the Liturgy?
Yes. The Apostles and their successors were given the authority to bind and loose, to keep order in the faith-community. Thus, the rules for the celebration of the Eucharist are the competency of the Church hierarchy and are contained in the Liturgical books and instructions, such as the Ordo Celebrationis.
Why does the priest face the altar and not the people?
Early christian churches were built with the altar at the east end. The priest, together with the congregation, faced east, towards the Lord. The priest leads his flock towards the rising sun, symbol of the coming of the Lord. Pope Benedict XVI has written about the importance of the priest and congregation facing the same direction. See a further explanation from the Pope's book Spirit of the Liturgy.
Can the priest alter the text and ceremonies of the Liturgy?
No, as they do not belong to him. The priest is the servant of the Liturgy and not vice-versa. Altering the Liturgy is similar to the violation of copyright, the misuse of someone else¹s words. In the Ukrainian Catholic Church, liturgical changes are the competency of the Major-Archbishop together with the Synod of Bishops, with the approval of the Apostolic See.
What are the principle liturgical books in our Church?
The Liturgicon (Sluzhebnyk), which contains the text and rubrics of the Divine Liturgy. The Archiratikon which contains texts and rubrics for the solemn pontifical celebration by a bishop; it also contains the Sacrament of Holy Orders (ordinations) and special blessings. The Euchologian (Trebnyk) containing the texts for the celebration of the other Sacraments (Baptism & Chrysmation, Confession, Matrimony, Anointing of the Sick) and other prayers and blessings.
The Horlogion (Chasoslov), Menaion (parts for the Chrtistmas cycle), Triodion (parts for the Easter cycle), Irmologion (music) and other books are used in the celebration of the Divine Office. Ukrainian segments of these books are contained in the 1990 Basilian Molytvoslov.