Praying The Bible In The Divine Liturgy
My beloved in the Lord:
Orthodox Christians are not merely to read the Holy Bible; we are also to pray the Bible. This takes place most clearly and completely in the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom on a Sunday to Sunday basis. There are two readings from the New Testament during the Divine Liturgy. An Epistle reading from one of the Letters of the Apostles Paul, Peter, James and John or other apostolic writings; and a Gospel reading from one of the four Evangelists.
We also pray the Lord’s Prayer and chant verses from the Book of Psalms. In the following blessing of the Priest, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all,” we hear Saint Paul’s final farewell to the Church in Corinth (II Corinthians 13:13). In the choir’s chanting of “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of Your glory,” we hear the chant of the angelic Cherubim first heard by the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah in the Temple in Jerusalem (Isaiah 6:1-5). The prayers of the Divine Liturgy are full of biblical imagery and with hundreds of Biblical quotes. In fact, the late French Orthodox theologian, Paul Evdokimov, once calculated that there are 98 quotations from the Old Testament and 114 quotations from the New Testament woven into the prayers of the Divine Liturgy.
The language of the Divine Liturgy is the language of the Holy Bible. To come to the Divine Liturgy attentively is to learn to pray the Holy Bible. But more than this is the Priesthood, the vestments, the Altar, the Tabernacle, the oil lamps, the incense and so much more of the Church’s structures for worship are taken directly from the Old Testament, particularly from the Books of Exodus, Leviticus and Psalms. In the New Testament, the Letter to the Hebrews teaches all of these ancient elements of worship in the Temple and the synagogue which we still use to this day in the Divine Liturgy being brought to fulfillment in the life and teaching, Crucifixion and Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour and God Jesus Christ.
Praying that the abundant grace and rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ dwell in your hearts and minds, directing your steps to every good deed that is well pleasing to God, I humbly remain,
With love and blessings in the Lord,