Worship in the Beauty of Holiness: The Liturgy


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Worship in the Beauty of Holiness: The Liturgy

Fr. Patrick Fodor

I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day… And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. (Apocalypse 1:10; 21:2-3)
What is the liturgy? While in recent years it has become popular to define liturgy as “the work of the people,” this is a little misleading. Originally, one’s leiturgia was a person’s “work done for the public good” of “work done for the benefit of the whole.” For example, if you were a landowner in the Roman Empire, and a Roman road went through or next to your property, it was your leiturgia to keep that road up- so that the army, the postal carriers, commerce and so on could use it effectively.
The Church picked up this word to describe the work done for the whole people of God (the “catholic Church”) and for the whole world, in the assembly around God’s altar. The work for the good of all has two directions. First, it is God’s service for mankind. God gives us Himself in His gifts of Word and Sacraments. Without this, we can do nothing. God makes us His Own and fills us with Himself, applying His work to us and for us and in us through the Means of Grace (literally, the Media Salutis, “Instruments” or “Tools of Salvation”). Then we respond, with God’s help and through His life active in us, by giving ourselves to Him and to one another. God’s love provokes and acts out in us, making us instruments of His loving grace, too.

This pattern is what the Divine Liturgy, the Service, the Mass (we are “dismissed” or “sent” to live in His wholeness), or the Eucharist (“Thanksgiving”) is all about. The Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit gives Himself to us. He also gives us every good thing, including bread to eat, and wine and water to drink, blessing the ground to provide for us, as we cooperate with Him by our labor. We respond further by giving ourselves to Him, and giving back to Him and His service what He has first given us. Our Lord takes what we have returned to Him and transforms it to make it a tool for giving Himself to us again- even physically in His Own Body and Blood. And then He sends us out filled with Himself. Pouring Himself into our ears, and our mouths, He now will use our minds, our mouths, and our hands to continue to call all people to Himself.

All the historic liturgies of the Church express this following the same basic pattern, whether in the Sarum or Anglican use, the Roman use, the Byzantine or Oriental usages. The first part of the Liturgy is focused on the Word, with the climax being the Gospel reading. The second part is focused on the Sacrament, the Holy Communion, with the Words of Christ at the center of the canon being the climax.

This pattern was not of human origin, but comes from God Himself. In reality, there is only one Liturgy. It was revealed to Moses on Sinai, and to David again with the pattern for the Temple. Exodus 25 repeats the command that everything be done “according to the pattern” which was shown to Moses “on the mountain.” Christian worship is nothing more or less than this same Liturgy. The only difference is that what was before implied and vague is now explicit and specific: everything being fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Ancient of Days.

We now join in this one, heavenly Liturgy. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, with all our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). Even though we cannot see it with our physical eyes now, we are surrounded by an innumerable number of saints and angels (Apoc. 5:11), with “angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven.” The angels and departed saints celebrate with us- everyone from the redeemed Adam and Eve, to our beloved Christian relatives and friends, is with us at the altar rail. They are with Christ, and so are we, one Church through all space and time. Christ grant us to know, to experience, and to live in His Liturgy all the days of our lives!

Worship in the Beaut of Holiness:

The Sign of the Cross
Fr. Patrick Fodor

 Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. (Matt. 28:19)

Why do we make the sign of the cross? What does it mean? The sign of the cross is the Mystery of the Gospel expressed in a moment, and a summary of the whole Christian Faith in a single gesture. The sign of the cross is baptismal. It uses the words of Baptism, through which God gave us spiritual life, and adopted as members of His Family by placing His proper covenant (i.e., family) Name- as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost- on us. By word and gesture we are reminded that our Baptism unites us to Jesus’ Baptism into death, and applies to us His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-10).
This means that all of life is now baptismal. Everything which we do as His people is done in reliance on Him and His Self-giving love (His grace). We are Christians, bearers of His Name. We reiterate our baptismal covenant relationship with Him each time we make the sign of the cross, and every time we say our oath, our amen, to Him and to His work to, in, and for us. Making the sign of the cross also points to God as Trinity, the crucifixion of the Incarnate God the Son, and the two natures in Christ- confessing these truths before the world and reminding ourselves of their importance.

Where did the practice of making this sign come from, and how is it done? In the second century, Tertullian wrote: "In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting of our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross" (De Corona Militis [On the Military Garland] iii). In the Latin tradition, this is usually done with the open hand, which is then an expression of humility and also reflects the gesture used when taking an oath (one word for oath in Latin is sacramentum). In the Eastern tradition this is usually done with the thumb and first two fingers joined, and the last two fingers pressed down upon the palm. This emphasizes the two primary dogmas of Christianity: the Trinity (three Persons in one God) and the Incarnation (the two natures, divine and human, in the one Person of Jesus Christ).

Through the 13th century, the universal usage (including in the York Missal) seems to have been to move the hand from the forehead to the lower chest, and then from the right shoulder to the left. This reminds us that Christ came down from heaven and resides in our hearts. The symbolism in the usual Western usage, which now moves from left to right, is “in this blessing you begin with your hand at the head downward, and then to the left side and believe that our Lord Jesus Christ came down from the head, that is from the Father, to earth by his holy Incarnation, and from the earth into the left side, that is hell, by his bitter Passion, and from thence into his Father's right side by his glorious Ascension" (Myroure of our Ladye, p. 80) Whichever way the sign is made, it is a powerful reminder of the Faith that we confess!
When should we make the sign of the cross? There are some common times in the Eucharist and other services when we are directed to make the sign of the cross. These include especially at the confession of the resurrection of the dead in the Creeds, at the elevation of the Body and Blood of Christ, after the reception of Christ’s body and blood, and when the sign of the cross is made over us at the Absolution. Places where the sign of the cross should be made are often printed out in texts used for worship- a cross being marked in those places. A variation also occurs at the announcement of the Gospel, when the thumb is used to trace a small cross on the forehead, lips, and over the heart. In some places, the sign of the cross is also made at the words of the creed “and was made man.” At the same time, there is no wrong time for the expression of our Faith!

reflects the gesture used when taking an oath (one word for oath in Latin is sacramentum). In the Eastern tradition this is usually done

with the thumb and first two fingers joined, and the last two fingers

Worship in the Beauty of Holiness: The Introit

Fr. Patrick Fodor
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His Name. (Psalm 100:4)
What is the “Introit”? The word introit means “entrance.” The introits as we have them now are abbreviated summary forms of the entrance songs which developed in the early Church period.

The practical purpose of the introit was to give the people opportunity to meditate on the Holy Scriptures as they were gathering for worship. In the earliest times, the sacred vessels were not kept in the places where the Church gathered, but were brought by the clergy. People in the ancient Roman Empire were very fond of parades, and the procession of the people to the church building was an excellent opportunity for a procession connected with the praise of God.

The full expression of praise, down through the centuries, has always been understood to involve not just the mind, but all parts of the human experience and personality, including all the senses. Celebration involves singing. (Even today, think of how non-celebratory a birthday party would be if everyone spoke the “Happy Birthday to you…” instead of singing it!)

Originally this movement of the clergy and people to the Church gathering place took some time, and whole psalms were sung, along with various responses (called antiphons) made up of other pieces of Scripture. The texts of Scripture chosen eventually came to reflect the themes of the various readings in the lectionary (the main readings from the Scripture for that day). The message of the Psalms was thought to be so well known, that even a short portion of these would be enough to bring the whole psalm to mind when a small part was heard. This was a common literary device in antiquity, including in the Gospels and writings of Paul. When the selections from the Psalms were shortened later, it was assumed that everyone would still know the full texts and their meaning, and their application to the themes of the day. The texts were shortened because the time required was less- since everyone gathered in the building in the first place.

Originally, the introit was sung by a special choir. It included what were called “antiphons.” Antiphon means “voice answering voice.” This involves some parts of the song being chanted by one person or group, and other parts being a reply to it. In its earliest form, parts of the Psalms were sung by one group and parts by another. Later, in many cases, the antiphons became responses which were easily memorized, and could be sung by a wider group, and perhaps even by the whole people.
Once the clergy reached their places in the building, the sign was given to those leading the music, and the so-called “lesser Gloria” (to distinguish it from the Gloria in Excelsis), or Gloria Patri (“Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.”) while the clergy kissed and censed the altar. The antiphon was then repeated.
The developed form of the introit thus includes:

  1. The opening antiphon, made up of psalm verses or other verses of Scripture, or summaries of them.

  2. A response, made of similar material, almost always from the Psalms, in abbreviated form.

  3. The Gloria Patri.

  4. The concluding verse- the repetition of the opening antiphon.

In some liturgical rites, especially in the Middle Ages, the antiphon, or the whole portion of the Introit before the Gloria, was repeated, perhaps three times.
During Passiontide, the sobriety of the season has been expressed by the omission of the Gloria, which is then restored at the Easter Feast.

Worship in the Beauty of Holiness: The Summary of the Law and Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments show us what is good. They call us to live in God’s love and goodness. They warn us about ways of thinking and acting which will hurt us, or hurt other people. Given in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deut. 5:6-21, they are summarized by Jesus in the words used in our Liturgy, quoting Matthew 22:37-40. But this was not new: it is found in Deut. 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. (Note: The Scriptures do not give the numbers for each Commandment, and different groups number them differently, Jews one way, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, and most Protestants another way, and Roman Catholics and Lutherans yet another).

God gives us these commands out of love, so that we will be whole and healthy in body, mind, and soul. This means that we will:

  • Have reverence, love, and trust for God above all things, which also means that:

  • We will not use images of false gods.

  • We will not misuse God’s Name, but it to pray, praise, and thank Him.

  • We will love to worship Him, receiving Him in His Words and Sacraments.

  • We will love and respect our parents and other legitimate authorities.

  • We will not murder anyone, or hate or harm them, since they are made in God’s image.

  • We will not tell lies with our bodies, but use them to worship God and to respect holy Matrimony, the joining of a man and woman as husband and wife, father and mother.

  • We will not take what belongs to others, but help others to keep and enjoy what is theirs.

  • We will not tell lies about other people, or listen to gossip, but treat what others do and say with understanding, charity, and forgiveness.

  • We will be thankful for what God gives us, and not belong what belongs to others in a way that leads us to do wrong, or makes us unhappy with God.

These Commandments summarize the whole Moral Law. One major clarification which must be made, however: the Church does not literally follow the 4th Commandment in its original form. The Sabbath Day (Saturday), a reminder of Creation and the first seven day week, was a type, an institution which pointed forward to Christ, Who is our true Sabbath (which means “rest”). The old Sabbath is now abrogated, because it has been fulfilled by Christ, including by His rest in the tomb on Holy Saturday. (See Matt. 28:1 and Luke 24:1, where the “first day of the week is μία σάββατον mia sabbaton, the day after the Sabbath, the term for which is also used to refer to the week itself. Mark 16:1 simply says: “When the Sabbath was over…”). St. Paul says this quite expressly in Colossians 2:16-17, precisely in this context of the elimination of the Jewish ceremonial law: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” The Church observes her main day of celebration and worship as “The Lord’s Day” (Rev.1:10), Sunday, the Day of His Resurrection, when a New Creation was inaugurated by His completion of Judgment on sin and death, a Judgment executed in His rising from death in glory. In this observation of Sunday, the Church keeps the moral content of the Commandment, which is that we need rest: both a time for physical refreshment and rest from labor, and a refreshment of mind and soul, which is given to us in Christ Himself, Who is our Sabbath (See Hebrews 3-4), which also means that we need, as a matter of our spiritual health, to come together to pray, worship, praise God, and to receive Him in His Words and Sacraments. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Understanding the Commandments shows us both:

  • Our need for God’s forgiveness and healing, because if we understand these Commandments rightly, and evaluate our own lives honestly, we violate these standards of goodness frequently in many ways, beginning with the first Commandment.

  • God’s character and goodness. Each of these Commandments stems, not from some arbitrary standard, but from the life of God Himself, and shows us what it means to be good and to live as those made in His image.

So the Ten Commandments, or their summary, segue into the rest of the Liturgy. Sin makes us weak. Therefore the Commandments also show us our need for Jesus’ work. He brings us forgiveness and new life. This work of God is shown to us, and given to and into us, in the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Eucharist. Our response in prayer includes asking for God’s healing forgiveness and life, interceding for others, and expressing to God our praise and thanksgiving for Him and what He does for us.

Lord, have mercy upon us, incline our hearts to keep this law, and write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee.

Worship in the Beauty of Holiness: The Kyrie

And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David. (Matthew 30:31)
Why do we say “Lord have mercy?” What does this mean? The prayer for God to have mercy on us is frequently repeated in the services of the Church. The meaning and background of this is very important if we are to understand why we say this so often. There are two major pieces of background for the Christian use.

One source, which is found in the Hebrew texts, is that the cry for mercy is primarily a request for healing and wholeness. We find this in verses like Psalm 30:10, and in the Gospels where people call out to our Lord for physical healing or deliverance from demonic possession.

The other source is in the Greco-Roman use of the phrase in victory parades. The king, with the leading general, would lead victory parades after successful campaigns. The people would cry out for the king to share the captured loot, and many times coins or other small items were thrown out to the crowds. The meaning of “Kyrie, eleison,” “Lord, have mercy,” was essentially “Lord, share with us the fruit of your victory!”
Christians applied this to Jesus, and understood His resurrection as the ultimate victory of all time over sin, death, and the power of the devil. Lord, share the experience of this victory with us!
Our prayer- “Lord, have mercy” - includes both these elements. The fruits, or results, of Christ’s victory make us healthy and whole.
Why, then do we say “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, lord have mercy” or even repeat each three times?
First of all, saying things three times is Trinitarian, with the reference to Christ in the middle, to correspond to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Second, the structure of Semitic languages expresses ultimate things by saying them three times. So in English, we have a comparative (bigger) and a superlative (biggest). In Hebrew, the comparative is expressed by saying something twice (big big) and the superlative three times (big big big). For example in the liturgy, God is also Holy, Holy, Holy (the Holiest of all). Also, all root words in Semitic languages are made up of three consonants. The structure of the Hebrew language itself points to God, the Ultimate, as Trinity.

Finally, the expression is also a kind of chiasm. A chiasm is the most common literary structure in the Bible. It looks like this:



The focus of the attention is in the middle, like matting a picture inside a frame. So the whole thing is Christocentric, since Christ is the Lord.

It was done this way simply because of the order: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Of course, all three Persons in the Trinity are addressed as Lord (both in Scripture and in the different families of the historic liturgy), which is to say that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. The Athanasian Creed sets this out in detail. This matches the dynamic order of the proclamation of the Gospel (from the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit) and then our response (back again, in the Spirit, through the Son, to the Father). 

The thing about the Kyrie is that it is not only a threefold Trinitarian structure used in the liturgy, but that the emphatic form is used in the most ancient texts, with three threes, the “ultimate ultimate.” This is what is thus used for a sung Mass. Lord, from Whom all Blessings flow, heal us by sharing Your victory with us!

Worship in the Beauty of Holiness: The Gloria in Excelsis
Fr. Patrick Fodor
The Gloria in Excelsis, also called the Greater Doxology, to distinguish it from the Lesser Doxology, the Gloria Patri at the end of collects and other prayers) is the major canticle sung after the Kyrie in the Western liturgies. The opening line is, quite clearly, the song of the angels at Our Lord’s Nativity (Luke 2:8-9, 14): “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” As the song of the angels, it was sometimes also called Laus angelorum, “Song of the Angels” in ancient manuscripts. But it is not merely the song of the angels- it is the song of the whole Church, gathered around Christ in the one Liturgy, into which heaven and earth are now joined. (This is a theme expressly picked up later in the Liturgy with the Sanctus.)
After the initial statement of praise, this canticle (song) gives five statements of praise for God’s “great [ultimate] glory,” His revealing of Himself to mankind in the appearance of God in human flesh at Jesus’ birth: “We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship [or “adore”] Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory.

This fivefold praise follows an ancient pattern, in which series of five are expressions of joy in the adoration of God, and God’s revealing of Himself. This is connected to the five books of Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy), as well as the five human senses by which God’s testimony is received and experienced. It is emphasized, for example, in the details connected with the construction of the Tabernacle in Exodus 26-38, the place of man’s encounter with God (for example, there are five curtains, bars, pillars, boards, sockets, the altar is five cubits, there are five ingredients to the incense- pure myrrh, sweet cinnamon, sweet calamus, cassia, and olive oil- etc.). The emphasis with five is the real, though only partially experienced, joining of heaven and earth.

The next section speaks specifically of the Father, and then goes on to highlight God the Son. We should notice the threefold repetition of the

term “Lord,” (in Latin, Domine) matches the threefold use of the Covenant name of God, Yahweh, in the Aaronic Benediction used by the Old Testament priests (Numb. 6:24-26). The emphasis, in terms of length, is on God the Son, Who makes God visible and reveals the Father. He is praised as the “Only-begotten,” the “Son of the Father,” and the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.” As the Paschal (Passover) Lamb He has completed the acts for our objective redemption, carrying away the sins of the world, and He is now raised up in glory as our Mediator and Advocate, Who receives our prayers. The language of “have mercy on us” is, as in the Kyrie, an appeal for Christ to apply to us the benefits of His victory over our sins, our death and the power of the devil.

This is followed by a threefold “Thou alone” (tu solus), which shifts into a Trinitarian doxology, or praise to God as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: “For Thou only art holy; Thou only art the Lord; Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.” The structure of this is clearer in the Latin, which does not put the clause about the Holy Ghost in the middle. Most literally, “Thou only are Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.” [The Greek text simply reads: “For Thou only art holy, Thou only art the Lord, O Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.”] Putting things in groups of three is, in any case, always an expression of ultimate things, connected to God most of all, in the Hebrew language.
In the earliest period, it seems that this canticle, found in the fourth century in Greek, was connected with the Daily Office. In the West it was used in Lauds (part of Morning Prayer). According to the Liber Pontificalis (a series of writings, starting in the third century, that recorded events connected with the bishops of Rome), it was moved to the Divine Liturgy by pope Symmachus at the end of the fifth century. In the Eastern Rites, it is still used only in Orthros (Matins).

The movement of the Gloria to after Communion was an idiosyncratic act of Thomas Cranmer, with no real precedent in any historic Liturgy. The Gloria was in its traditional place in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, but was changed in the 1552 book.

Worship in the Beauty of Holiness: The Collects
What Thou givest them they gather: thou openest Thine hand, they are filled with good. (Psalm 104:28)

What is a “collect?” What is its purpose?

The “collect” is a kind of prayer which collects together the main elements of the theme for the day, and expresses them in a short summarized way. The structure of the collects is taken from the ancient berekah (or “blessing”) prayers of Israel- from Temple and synagogue. The Christian collects keep the same basic form as these ancient prayers, but make them explicitly Christian by addressing them to the Trinity. Usually, they are addressed to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Ghost.

The design of the collect:

Not all collects always have all the parts, but here are the main sections, followed by all illustration, using the example of the collect for the Third Sunday in Advent.

  • The address: As at the beginning of a letter, the prayer begins by indicating to Whom it is being spoken. O LORD Jesus Christ,

  • The motive: collects often indicate why God is being addressed. They express some aspect of God’s action or character which is the reason why we pray to Him as we do. who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee;

  • The petition: This part is the main request that is being made. Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,

  • The reason, or purpose, is the goal which will be brought about by God’s granting of our request. that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight,

  • The closing doxology expresses the final movement of Christian prayer, either with the longer forms praise, or an abbreviated form (“through Jesus Christ, our Lord”). who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

The collects, like most Christian prayers, end with the “Amen.” It isn’t just a way of saying “okay, we are done now”! In fact, “Amen” is a Hebrew oath word. By it we are swearing that what God has revealed to us is true, and that we are therefore willing to stake our lives- our bodies and souls- on the absolute truthfulness of what He has said and promised and sworn to us in His oral and sacramental Gospel.

Our Lord, in fact, uses the most emphatic form of this Hebrew oath word as a preface to important statements in the Gospels. In the Authorized (King James) Version, this is translated, “Verily, verily I say unto thee…” Literally, it is “Amen, amen, I say unto thee.” Jesus makes His oath more emphatic by repetition, so that the meaning is “I swear to you the absolute truth: …”
As always, our prayers are established on the “pattern of sound words,” which we have heard from Him (2 Tim. 1:13). When we pray back to him what he has first said to us, we are saying what is most faithful and true. Christ Himself forms our thinking. He teaches us both how and what to think, sharing His mind with us to make us whole.

Worship in the Beauty of Holiness: The Lectionary

Fr. Patrick Fodor
And [Jesus] closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him. And He began to say unto them, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (Luke 4:20-21)
Why does the Church use prescribed Scripture texts as the lessons for specific days? Why not have the clergy just pick what they want? The assigned Scripture texts, designated in what is known as the “lectionary” (list of readings), are one way that the Church prevents individuals from acting out their own agendas and ideas. The lectionaries are balanced, treating the essential themes of the Christian Faith in the cycles of the Church’s year. They give a balanced spiritual diet, which is even more important than a balanced physical diet!

Where did the Lectionary come from? A number of somewhat different lectionaries have been used in Christian church, including both one year and three year series. Differences were determined by A) the availability of texts (especially in the earliest period), B) different physical locations (Byzantine lectionaries were somewhat different from Alexandrian and Roman ones, and so on), and C) the development of the Liturgical Year (for example, the addition of Trinity Sunday). The one year “Historic Lectionary” used for Sundays and Holy Days was basically uniform (with slight differences) in the West until Vatican II. The sections for Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter are traceable to the Comes Hieronymi of St. Jerome (4th century). Some changes were made in the 13th century, and a few minor elements are more recent (such as the Feast of Christ the King).

How was the Lectionary constructed? The lessons work together. The center place, or place of honor goes always to the Gospel, in which we hear Christ speak, as present among us and bringing the events in the texts into our present experience, so that they happen, in a very real sense, as we are hearing them (as we noted when we talked about “remembrance”).

The first lectionary was that of the ancient Temple and synagogues. In these ancient lists there seems to have been a three year series, focused on the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy), which was read first. The Torah was broken into 150 lessons, read over a course of three years. After the Torah reading, which took pride of place, there were Psalms sung, then a reading from the Prophets (Joshua through 2 Kings, as well as Isaiah through Malachi) which was chosen to match the theme of the Torah reading for the day. Then another psalm or psalms were used before a reading from the Writings (from the books of Chronicles, Proverbs, Job, etc.) on the same theme. The Christian Church kept this basic structure. In fact, this is hinted at in 1 Tim. 4:13, where Paul uses the word from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament made well before the birth of Christ) for a “designated reading:” anagnosis. We could translate: "Until I come, give attention to the selected reading of the day."

The Church, however, put the most important reading last, with an Old Testament and Epistle (“Letter” or from another New Testament book) with the Psalms, Gradual and Alleluia Verses after each respectively, leading finally to the Gospel. The reading of the Gospel is the climax of the Service of the Word, the first half of the Mass or Divine Liturgy.

In the first century, synagogue readings matched the readings used the same day in the Jerusalem Temple, This was a powerful reminder that there was really only one Heavenly Liturgy, brought to earth and shared by all God’s people wherever they were gathered. All the places where the historic lectionary is used today are still joined in this same way. And when we hear the Scriptures read, the events they describe are made present to us. This is an essential principle of Christian theology and liturgy: when God speaks, what He says happens. God is in our midst, and as He speaks His Word works in and among us! As God says through Isaiah:
So shall My Word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper [in the thing] whereto I sent it.

Worship in the Beauty of Holiness: The Psalms

Fr. Patrick Fodor
 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. (Psalm 95:2)
Why do we use the Psalm or Psalms after the reading of the Old Testament? The Psalter, the collection of the five books which make up what we know as the book of Psalms, have always been understood by the Christian Church as speaking specifically of Christ and His Church.

Just as we do with other Psalm portions, like the Introit, the Gloria Patri is added to the end of each Psalm. The Old Testament Psalms become New Testament hymns by adding the Gloria Patri to them. The Church understands every verse of the Old Testament to be fulfilled by Christ and His Mystical body, the Church. The Church always hears the Psalms as being spoken by Jesus Himself, God incarnate. The Church does so because we believe what Christ said about this: that everything in the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy), the Prophets (which included, in the ancient classification of the Jews, the books of Joshua through 2 Kings), and the Psalms (the broad title for the remaining books, also designated the “Writings”) - in other words, the whole Old Testament- was written, as Jesus says, “about Me.” See Luke 24:25-27, 32, and 44-47, and John 5:39. What Jesus says, we believe: “all that the prophets have spoken,” and everything in “the Scriptures” has to do with Him. It is ALL about Him and His Church.

How can this be so, when so often the Psalm speaks of not only being in misery and suffering, asking for deliverance, but even asking for forgiveness? Jesus had no sins! Of course, Christ had no sins of His Own (2 Cor. 5:21; Hebrews 4:15), but He took our sins upon Himself, and entered into our suffering in order to overcome and destroy it by the power of His Self-giving love.
It was in this very way also that Christ must have understood the Psalms, which He sang in Temple and synagogue in the time between His birth and death. We always take the lead from Christ Himself in interpreting the Scriptures He Himself inspired and gave to us.
The pattern of selecting and using the Psalms to unpack the other Scripture lessons for the day goes itself back into the Old Testament period. In Temple and synagogue, there were three Scripture lessons for each service: from the Torah, from the Prophets, and from the Writings. In between each of these, psalms were sung. The chief reading was from the Torah, and the other readings were chosen to unpack the main themes of that Torah reading. The psalms between the readings allowed everyone to celebrate and meditate on these themes. As the collect from the second Sunday in Advent says:

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.  

Today, psalm selections still come between three readings: Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel (about which we will say more another time). The fullest psalm use comes after the Old Testament lesson. We are reminded that in all of these texts, Christ speaks, both of Himself and His Church, and we, as His Church, speak and understand ourselves and our lives properly only when we see ourselves and our prayers in union with Him.

To unpack individual psalms, see the four volume A Commentary on the Psalms by 19th century Anglo-Catholic scholars, J. M. Neale and F. Littledale. For short two page meditations see Christ in the Psalms by Fr. Patrick H. Reardon.

Worship in the Beauty of Holiness: The Minor Propers

What are the “Minor Propers?” These parts of the historic Western Liturgy are the parts of the Liturgy which change, but are not the primarty propers of the day: the collect(s), secret (done only be the celebrant and not heard by the people, omitted by the BCP), and postcommunion [or “post-Copmmunion collect(s), which are also omitted by the BCP, and replaced with the common Post-Commuion prayer: “Alimighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us…”, which is made a kind of non-variable part of the Liturgy instead.
So the minor propers are those variable parts o fthe Mass which can be spoken or sung/chanted by the people, the choir, or anyone appointed to do it. These are: the Introit, the Gradual, Alleluia or Tract, the Sequence, the Offertory, and the Communion (after distribution). These portions are omoitted from the book of Common Prayer, hymns being substituted for some of them (especially the Introit and Offertory, though the BCP also has a list of Offertory verses which can be used, but are not assigned to specific days), and the Psalm or Psalms being put in place of others (the Gradual especially).

These minor propers allow for the distinctive elements of the day and the season to be reflected in verses taken from the Scriptures, as well as from some other important Christian texts. These include some very famous hymns which are used on special days. For example, for the Octave of Easter the hymn is chanted: “Christians, to the Paschal Victim.” It is included in a chant setting in the Hymnal 1940. Or the sequence hymn for requiem Masses or for All Soul’s Day, the famous “Dies Iræ,” translated into English as “day of Wrath, Day of Mourning,” or Thomas Aquinas’ famous hymn, the Pange Lingua, or hymns by Venantius Fortunatus Fortunatus (c.530–c.600 or 609), such as “Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle” (in Hymnal 1940, # 66), and Vexilla Regis, “The Royal Banners Forward Go.”

Whether use from one of the Missals, or simply inserted into the BCP service, these propers enrich the depth and texture of our worship with material of great power and beauty.

Worship in the Beauty of Holiness: The Holy Gospel

The proclamation, by speaking or chanting, of the Holy Gospel is the highpoint of the first portion of the Divine Liturgy or Mass. It is surrounded by various rites and ceremonies to highlight its importance. These include:

  1. A procession down into the Nave, the Gospel Book being taken from the Gospel horn o fthe later, following the processional cross and an attendant who will hold the open book for the deacon or priest during the reading. The Gospel comes down to us from heaven, and is in our midst.

  2. More than this, the Gospel reading is acknowldeged as an act of Jesus, Who is presnt and speaking to us. This is why we speak to Him as the One Who is presnt and really speaking through the mouth of the minister. We don’t speak about Him, but to Him: “Glory be to Thee, O Lord” and “Praise be to Thee, O Christ.” The proclamation of the Gospel is an anamnetic moment: the things which are described are made mystically present and contemporary with us.
  3. Just before the Gospel reading, the celebrant leads us in a gesture with our right thumb, with palm flat. He signs the opening of the Gospel reading, and then himself, making the sign of the cross on his forehead, lips and heart. The people are encouraged to do this at the same time. This practice, which was standard by the ninth century (Regimius of Auxerre, who died about 908, recorded in his Expositio how the people would do this). The practice seems to have most likely originated in connection with the text of Mark 4 about the devil coming and taking away the Word from the hearts of the hearers. This signing was a rejection of this, and an act of faith, which was also Trinitarian in nature (being threefold) reiterating the baptismal identity of God’s people, Who have hears to hear the Word of Christ, Whose voice they know and follow.

  4. The censing of the Gospel by the deacon or priest both reflects the central importance of the Gospel, and also the connection with Christ’s presence. Incense is not used except as an indication of God’s Presence, whether in blessing objects, or indicating a place of God’s special Presence in the tabernacle, or in greeting persons- whether the priest acting “in persona Christi” to consecrate the Eucharist, or the faithful as living Temples of the Holy Spirit, in Whom God dwells.

  5. The lifting up of the Gospel Book at the end of the reading, which mirrors how Chirst, after giving direction to His apostles, including teaching them to observe all things about which he had instructed them, rose into heaven at the Ascension. It also mirrors the elevation at the Eucharist, an act of adoration for the one who is Present, as we praise Him with the resposne.

  6. The kissing of the Gospel Book by the celebrant is an act of devotion and adoration addressed to Christ Himself.
  7. The celebrant’s quiet prayer: “By the Word of the Holy Gospel may our sins be taken away” is another indication of the inherent power of God’s Word to perform God’s will, a theme seen repeatedly in Scripture. For example, from Isaiah 55: “Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; …Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. …"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Or again in Luke 7:6-9, where the centurian truist that whatever Jesus says will happen: “Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, "Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." 9 When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, "I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!"”

May we, by our attention to Christ in His Holy Words, be healed and made whole by Him, Who pours himself into our ears that he may fill us up with Himself.

Worship in the Beauty of Holiness: “Credo”
For by Him [the Son] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him… (Colossians 1:16)
Why do we say the Nicene Creed in every Eucharist? This creed, one of the three Catholic or Ecumenical Creeds (along with the Apostle’s and Athanasian Creeds), was composed at the Ecumenical Council of Nicea I (325), and slightly expanded at the Council of Constantinople I (381).
The word “creed” comes from the Latin “credo,” which means “I believe.” All the words and expressions used in this creed, except for twoi, come directly from the Scripture. Here is a copy of the Nicene Creed, with endnotes indicating the Scripture sources:
I believe in One God,ii the Father Almighty,iii Maker of heaven and earth,iv And of all things visible and invisible:v

    And in one Lordvi Jesus Christ,vii the only-begotten Son of God;viii Begotten of his Father before all worlds,ix God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God;x Begotten, not made;xi Being of one substance with the Father;xii By whom all things were made:xiii Who for us men and for our salvationxiv came down from heaven,xv And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man:xvi And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried:xvii And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures:xviii And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father:xix And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead;xx Whose kingdom shall have no end.xxi

    And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord, and Giver of Life,xxii Who proceedeth from the Fatherxxiii [and the Son;] Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified;xxiv Who spake by the Prophets:xxv And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church:xxvi I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins:xxvii And I look for the Resurrection of the dead: And the Life of the world to come.xxviii Amen.

Having heard Jesus speak to us in the Gospel reading, we, as God’s people, again confess back to Him what He has first said to us. That is why we know that is it absolutely true, and that we can stake out lives on it- saying Amen!

  1. The first word summarizes a Scriptural idea, but invents a new word, meaning “of one substance. The other word, “filioque” (which means “and the Son”), was added later in the West to combat Arianism.

  2. Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; Ephesians 4:6

  3. 2 Corinthians 6:18; Genesis 35:11

  4. Genesis 1:1

  5. Colossians 1:16: Romans 1:20.

  6. Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Corinthians 8:6.

  7. 2 Corinthians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:1

  8. John 1:14, 18; 3:16.

  9. John 1:18; 3:18; 1:9; John 1:1-3; 10:30

  10. John 1:1, 5; 8:12

  11. John 1:14 and 18; Hebrews 1:5

  12. John 10:30, 38
  13. John 1:1-3, 10, 14; 17:5; Eph. 3:9; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:1-2. Note that we here confess that God the Son acted to create the world. The phrase is a confession of the full deity of the Son.

  14. 1 Tim. 2:4; Titus 2;11

  15. John 3:16-18 and 6:38.

  16. Matthew 1:18 and 20; Luke 1:27, 31, 35, 43; Phil. 2:8.

  17. John 19:15-16, 28-42; Matt. 27:57-66; Luke 24:5-7; 1 Cor. 15:3-4

  18. 1 Cor. 15:3-4

  19. Colossians 3:1; Acts 1:9-11; 1 Peter 3:21-22; Mark 16:19

  20. Acts 10:42; John 5:22, 27

  21. Luke 1:33. That is,, Christ’s Kingdom will not end. Cf. 2 Sam. 7

  22. Jn. 14:17, 26: 15:26; Acts 5:3-4; Gen. 2:7 (breath and spirit are the same word in Hebrew); Job 33:4; Jn. 6:53; Rom. 8:2, 10: Rev. 11:11.

  23. John 15:26;

  24. John 17:1-2

  25. Hebrews 1:1; 2 Peter 1:20-21

  26. 1 Timothy 3:15; Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 11:2, 23; Jn. 17:20-23; Eph. 2:20; 4:5.

  27. Ephesians 4:5; Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38

  28. John 6:39-40; Acts 24:15; Luke 18:30; 1 Cor. 15:20-28, 35-58

Worship in the Beauty of Holiness: Filioque?

Fr. Patrick Fodor

Some Traditional Anglicans now use the Liturgy in the Lancelot Andrewes Press editions of the American Missal and Prayer Book, the Liturgy of St. Tikhon. It is essentially the same Liturgy, with a few changes in wording here and there. The most noticeable change is the omission of a phrase in English from the Nicene Creed, so that the Creed matches the original form of the Creed, as adopted by the Second Ecumenical Council, the Council of Constantinople in 381. There the whole Church of Christ agreed on the final wording of the text of what we call the Nicene Creed. It also indicated that any changes or additions to this Creed without the authority of another Ecumenical Council were forbidden. [An Ecumenical Council, of which there have only been seven in the history of the Church, is a meeting of representatives of the whole Church, where the decisions reached are also afterwards accepted by the whole Church.] The original text of the Creed uses the language of John 15:26, and says that the Holy Ghost “proceeds from the Father.”

In the West, in the region ruled by the Franks, a single Latin word, filioque, was later inserted into the Creed. In English this is the phrase “and the Son.” This was intended to combat the heresy of Arianism (the false idea that Jesus was not fully God). This use of the filioque is first documented in 681, at the 12th Council of Toledo, a local council. Yet this was a violation of the decree of the Second Ecumenical Council, as well as the canon (“rule”) of the Third Ecumenical Council in 431 AD. This use was therefore rejected by Pope Leo III, who even had the original text engraved on two silver tablets, and mounted over the tomb of St. Peter. But in the 9th century, under pressure from Frankish rulers, Rome started to use the filioque, too. This, along with the pope’s claim to have jurisdiction over the whole Church, became the cause of the Great Schism. The Great Schism was the tearing asunder of the visible Church in the 13th century: the Patriarch of Rome (the pope) broke communion with the other four ancient Patriarchs of the Undivided Church (Jerusalem, Constantinople, Antioch and Alexandria). This division has never yet been healed.

So what was all the fuss about? There are two issues. The first is doctrinal. Can the filioque be understood in a way which includes false teaching? It can be understood in a heretical way, if it is taken to mean that there are two sources in the Godhead (though this would take a while to explain). At the same time, it doesn’t have to be understood that way. It can be understood in a way in harmony with what the Church has always understood and taught. Some have suggested using the clearer language “through the Son.” In addition, there is a difference between the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit and the procession in time. Again, we cannot get into all of that here. But there is, in any event, a second (and main) issue: who can alter the Creed? None but a true Ecumenical Council can do this. The results of papal abuse of authority should not be enshrined in the Church’s Liturgy. No one has the authority to change an Ecumenical Creed which the Church as a whole has said cannot be changed without another Ecumenical Council. One cannot be catholic (expressing what is whole, not leaving out anything essential) in an uncatholic way- a way not concerned for the whole Church.

In later times, many have said that the filioque should, for reasons of love, and of faithfulness to the Ecumenical Councils, be omitted. Parts of the Roman Church omit it today, as do the Old Catholics and various other Christian bodies. Numerous Anglicans have said it should be removed, including many Anglican writers and theologians (including H. P Liddon, C. B. Moss, Darwell Stone, etc.). Here is part of a short summary by Mark Haverland, the presiding bishop of the Anglican Catholic Church, from his book, Anglican Catholic Faith and Practice:

“[t]his addition…asserts the Double Procession of the Holy Spirit, which can easily be understood in misleading and erroneous ways. Many theologians in this Church would agree with the Eastern Church…that i. In human history the Holy Spirit does come from both the Father and the Son. This ‘temporal mission’ of the Spirit, referred to in, for instance, St. John 15:26 and 16:7 does have a double source, which can explain such passages as Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:9. ii. In the internal inner life of the trinity God the Father is the unique, unoriginated source or principle. iii. The Double Procession is found in some of the fathers and can be understood I an orthodox manner, but should not be accepted in a manner that implies rejection of the preceding point. The filioque should not remain in the authorized text of the Creed, because it was added unlawfully, is patent of misinterpretation, and is a grave obstacle to reunion between Anglican Catholics and Eastern Orthodox” (pp. 142-3).

Omitting the filioque may seem strange, yet it is an expression of love and mutual submission to one another. It is also an act to match our desire to that of Christ, Who prayed in John 17 that His Church might have fullest unity. May we find this an opportunity for learning more about the Triune God, Who desires to share His life with us, for expressing God’s love to one another, so that we may “lift up our voice to God with one accord” (Acts 4:24).

Worship in the Beauty of Holiness: Filioque? II

Fr. Patrick Fodor
To help make the discussion about the filioque clearer, we can look at the Church’s historic categories and terms, drawn from the New Testament, about the Trinity. Two very important words are “Person” and “Nature.” A Person is a Who, while a NATURE is a WHAT.
Persons are relational. That is what the term prosopon in Greek means. The Latin word persona comes from that Greek word, and then we get the English word “person” from it. A prosopon or “person,” always exists in relationship to another person.
We can take an example. WHAT are you? What you are is a human being. You have a common nature which you share with other human beings. But Who are you? A father, mother, son, daughter, etc. But there is no such thing as a father where there is no child. By definition a father has a child, otherwise he is not a father at all. And the two are not interchangeable. Each relational characteristic is different. To be a father requires having a child, but fatherhood is not the same as being a son.

WHAT God is describes all His actions outside of Himself. The axiom in theology is opera ad extra indivisa sunt: the works outside of God are indivisible. They are all functions of His common NATURE, or WHAT God is. The external operations of the Trinity are the work of the entire Trinity. For external acts of God, there is nothing that only one Person of the Godhead does or is involved in doing. All the works of God outside Himself, which are expressions of His common nature (WHAT He is) are held and act in common. The Father created the cosmos and sustains it, yet this is also the action of Christ (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:1) and the Spirit (Gen 1:2 and Psalm 104:30). The Spirit was active in the conception and Nativity of Christ (Luke 1:35). The Spirit empowered Christ (Isaiah 11:1-3); Christ was led by the Spirit (Mark 1:12). All three Persons of the Trinity are involved in justification (1 Cor. 6:11; Hebrews 9:13-14), and our sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2). Christ committed Himself to His Father when He died (Luke 23:46); God the Father raised Christ from the dead (Galatians 1:1), but at the same time God the Son raised Himself from the dead (John 10:18; 1 Tim. 3:16), and the Holy Spirit raised Christ from the dead (Romans 1:4). Christ is the source of the Spirit’s ministry to us (John 14:16-17) but the Spirit is sent by and from the Father. The Holy Spirit will glorify Christ by taking what is Christ’s and communicating it to us, but what is Christ’s is precisely what is the Father’s (John 16:14). The Spirit comes to conform us to Christlikeness (2 Corinthians 3:18). The ONLY distinction made here at all is that only God the Son has become incarnate.

The opera ad intra on the other hand, are distinct and unique to Whos, to each divine Person. The full axiom is “opera trinitatis ad intra sunt divisa" the internal works of the Trinity are divided. This refers not to anything created, but to God’s internal relations, which have always existed. God always was. He existed apart from time, and before He created the things called time and space (the time-space continuum). The internal acts are expressed in the Creed, in the language taken from Scripture. The Father begets and spirates (or causes to proceed). The Son is begotten. The Holy Spirit proceeds (or is spirated). These are not interchangeable. The Son doesn’t beget or spirate, nor does the Spirit. The Father is not begotten or spirated (caused to proceed).
Again, all the works of a WHAT are, by definition, shared in common. All the works of a Who cannot be communicated or shared. The question here is, is the work of spirating or causing to proceed a work of God’s NATURE (WHAT He is), or a work of a Person (Who God is, in some specific relation).

If it is the work of God’s NATURE (the work of a WHAT), then all three Persons do it. The Spirit then proceeds not only form the Father, but also from the son and, by definition, from the Spirit. The Spirit then proceeds from the Spirit Himself. He causes Himself, is the source of Himself, etc. But this makes no sense. If the procession of the Holy Spirit could be a feature of the essence or nature, then so could the Son’s begottenness. But this means that the Spirit and the son both also beget the Son, including the same contradiction that the Son eternally begets Himself! As Photius wrote: “since the Father is the principle and source, not because of the nature of the divinity, but because of the property of the hypostasis (and the hypostasis of the Father does not include the hypostasis of the Son), the Son cannot be a principle or source. The Filioque actually divides the hypostasis of the Father into two parts, or else the hypostasis of the Son becomes a part of the hypostasis of the Father.”

But if the work of spirating or causing to proceed is a Personal act, an act of a Who, then only one Person can do it. It is the act of the Father only, since it is the acts of begetting and spiration (or causing to proceed) which make the Father the Father. This is the teaching we protect by using the original form of the Creed.

Worship in the Beauty of Holiness: The Sermon

Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).

What is the Sermon? The word sermon means “discourse” or “speech,” from the Latin sermō. In application, it is a proclamation by a member of the clergy to God’s assembled people. The word “homily” is also sometimes used. This comes from the Greek homilein (ὁμιλεῖν). The word means to speak to share something with the assembled hearer(s) (literally to have communion or common participation in something. See 1 Cor. 15:33; Acts 24:26). The main idea is that of the meaning and practical application of a specific text of Scripture to the immediate hearers. We also find the special connection of the term with proclamation in preparation for receiving the Eucharist (as in 20:11). The study of the oral preaching of the Word is called “homiletics, which comes from the same basic root. The distinction between the homily and sermon is traceable to Origen, though he used the Greek term logos, rational discourse or communication to contrast with homilia (tractus). The type known as the sermon is connected to, and originally patterned after, the example of Jesus’ Discourses in the Gospels. While the homily is characterized by being expository, unpacking and applying a specific text of Scripture, the sermon includes other elements, and is broader in content, including moral instruction, as well as exhortation or encouragement to the hearers, whether in matters of faith, morals or both. It may also include catechetical presentations. In recent years the words sermon and homily have frequently been used as synonyms, or are used in a way which suggests that a homily is simply different from a sermon by being shorter, though this is imprecise. We should be aware, too, that the sense of “long” and “shorter” has varied considerably, but has never been as abbreviated as today. While not usually as extreme as in Acts 20 (when Paul preaches so long that a man sitting in the window falls asleep, falls and dies, and then is resurrected!), material from the early Church suggests proclamation longer than an hour. In the American colonial period, we find published guidelines suggesting that the sermon usually last no longer than an hour. By the end of the 19th century, this had been pushed down to about half an hour, and then about twenty minutes by 1940. The latter half of the 20th century seems to have pushed this to 12-15 minutes. Our attention spans are not what they were.

Two important words used in the New Testament are euaggelizō (εὐαγγελίζω where the two ggs are pronounced as “ng”), which means to proclaim the official good news declared by the ruler, and kēryssō (κηρύσσω, to proclaim as an official herald, and the related form kērugma κήρυγμα, usually translated in English as “preach” and “preaching”). See Luke 4:18-19.
Historically, the text of the Gospel has been the primary focus of attention, especially on Sundays and Feast days. This doesn’t mean other Scriptures were ignored, but simply that they were usually seen through the prism of the Gospel, as the central reading. Four primary methods of proclamation are usually identified:

  1. Explanation, comment and application of sentences or clauses of the day’s Gospel, done in order.

  2. Focus on one element or theme from the Gospel, and applying it to the hearers.

  3. Application of some specific virtue, vice, of virtue/vice pair from the Gospel. This is more difficult to do without falling into moralism. This kind of homily is known as a ‘prone.

  4. The explanation and application of the Gospel by giving a summary or paraphrase of it in easily understood terms, followed by an application to the hearers. This is the most common form today, and, when well done, allows for a central guidance image and more holistic treatment, often referencing the other propers of the day (the collect, introit, Old Testament and Epistle, etc.

The focal points of the proclamation of the Word are, historically, Christ and His Church, and the Holy Trinity. These are connected both to the Church’s two primary dogmas, and to the clear statements of Jesus about the central content of the Scriptures, in places like Luke 24. The goal of the proclamation depends on the hearers. For catechumens, the emphasis is on basic instruction on the Faith. For the Body of Christ as a whole, the emphasis is on the preaching of the life of God into the ears, hearts, minds, and souls of God’s people. The language of sacraments and sacraments has often been associated with this preaching, since the clergyman is, as in the sacraments, acting in persona Christi, and the proclamation is itself a Means of Grace, or tool for administering salvation and communion with Christ. The Church has never developed this language in a more formal way, though what is confessed is the inherent power of God’s Word, always accompanied by the working of the Holy Spirit, Who directs us to Christ, through Whom we have communion with the Father. God’s ultimate goal, here as elsewhere, is that we be freed from our sins and made participants in His life, so that God’s image in us is fully restored, and we grow up into the full stature of His likeness (Eph. 4:13), being made full of Him (Eph. 3:19), and so made icons of His glory, reflecting His life back to him and to one another.

Worship in the Beauty of Holiness:

Offering Wine and Water
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three are one.” (1 Jn. 5:7-8)

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