Participating in the Divine Liturgy

The Divine Liturgy is an experience that invites us to participate with every level of our being—not one that merely asks us to observe.

Indeed, the word “liturgy” literally means the common work, or common service, of the people. As Father Thomas Hopko wrote in his book, “The Orthodox Faith: Volume 2 Worship”, the Divine Liturgy is the joint activity of Orthodox Christians worshipping, praying, singing, hearing God’s Word, being instructed in God’s commandments, and knowing “the living experience of God’s eternal kingdom through communion with . . . Christ.”

As Father Hopko writes, we bring the entire community together—“Always everyone, always together”—and offer only one Divine Liturgy per day. It is never the priest alone. We are his “Amen.” As my own priest recently reminded Me, “It’s not the priest’s job to pray; it’s all of us. It’s not the choir’s job to sing; the entire congregation should join in. We all pray; we all sing; we all commune. Together, we are the Church, the People of God.”

Unlike football games or the Olympics, there is no sitting home and watching the athleticism of ascetic struggle from our couches. We are all enjoined to participate. In a common expression, I’ll admit I do not yet fully understand, “We are saved together, but damned alone.” Together: we have our godparents and our patron saints; we are surrounded by icons of the saints in our churches and hopefully our homes; our Guardian Angel watches beside us to protect and strengthen us.

Part of the gift of the Liturgy is that it is never a spectator sport or an individual sport, but instead it is a team sport, all of us together.

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Cynthia Long is an M.F.A. student in fiction at Rosemont…
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