Let Us Attend: A Journey Through the Orthodox Divine Liturgy

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Is this what is meant by the word "wisdom" so often used in the church? In part it is, as man's reason, enlightened by the light of Christ, can be contained within the sphere of the Divine Wisdom representing, at the very best, a mere drop in the ocean of that Wisdom. We could repeat here the dying words of that great scholar: "All I know is that I know nothing. Divine Wisdom is the basis of all creative endeavor in this world.

All that cannot be contained therein, does not draw nourishment therefrom, is not enlightened thereby, consciously or unconsciously, is repelled by true knowledge and becomes a victim of destructive forces. As everything is polarized in the world, the Divine Wisdom can be opposed only by absolute folly, diabolical folly, mindlessness. It is that folly of which King David said: "The fool hath said in his heart: there is no God. In the first place it reminds us that true wisdom is inherent in God alone; that man can approach the Divine Wisdom only in direct proportion of his spiritual enlightenment which he derives through the Church and in the Church; that the approximation of the Divine Wisdom is predicated on humility and recognition of one's own insignificance - intellectual and spiritual - before the greatness of God.

Also, through the repetition of this word the Church confirms that it, which as the Body of Christ is one, holy, catholic and apostolic, is the repository and the fountain of the only true wisdom. In their basic meaning, these words are a call to, and a reminder for, the supplicants to stand straight, to adopt that physical attitude which is conducive to the attentiveness and testifies to the reverence of those who pray to God. Sometimes it is not easy, it can be even tiring, to stand straight for a long time.

That very fatigue, however, is a sacrifice we offer to God during the divine service and during prayers. That is why this fatigue is blessed and beneficial. However, the reminder to stand straight is not limited to its physical meaning. Undoubtedly, this Slavonic word prosti is derived from the word prostoi meaning "simple". This word, then, urges upon us inner "straightness", simplicity, collectedness. The words of the Cherubic Hymn call upon us to "put away all worldly care.

This "worldly care", our vanity, our distraction must be left outside the doors of the church; inside the church everything must be directed towards one goal only: the glorification of the Lord and our immersion in the fullness of our communion with Him. In general, simplicity is one of the basic assumptions of spiritual life. It is not without reason that an Optino elder used to take pleasure in saying: 'Where there is simplicity there are angels aplenty.

They call us to subject our behavior in the church to a specific spiritual and physical order. Every divine service is a movement - our movement and the movement of the entire Church - towards God. In this movement we are like a spiritual army. In the words of the hymn we "mystically represent the Cherubim", and Cherubims and Seraphims are called by the Church "the heavenly host. In this particular case, it is an order which unites our spiritual being with our physical being. For this reason, as we participate in the divine service we shall stand sober, we shall stand tall," we shall attain that state of physical collectedness which will reveal the way to the collectedness and the sobriety of the spirit.

In ordinary language we might say "let us pay attention", "let us be attentive. Strange, is it not, that the very words which urge us to be attentive should escape our attention. These are minor words but words of great meaning and responsibility.


Conclusion: “The Doors! The Doors! In Wisdom Let Us Attend”

Attentiveness is one of the important qualities even in our everyday life. From childhood we have been taught to pay attention - by parents, by teachers, by superiors. Yet it is not always easy to pay attention. Our minds tend to wander, to be forgetful. It is difficult to force oneself to be attentive. To be attentive means to make our minds and memories concentrate on and be in harmony with what we hear. And more importantly, to attune our hearts so that nothing that happens in the church can slip by them.

To pay attention means to listen and to hear, to look and to see. To pay attention means to free oneself from all thoughts and considerations, "all worldly cares. It also means to pay attention to everything in which the Church lovingly submerges us, but also to each other, to our neighbors, to their needs, so that we may indeed "with one mouth and one heart" glorify God in Holy Trinity. Christ has said "wherever two or three gather together in My name, I am among them.

Let Us Attend : A Journey Through the Orthodox Divine Liturgy by Lawrence Farley (2007, Paperback)

A very minor word, "Amen", is so often repeated during our services and in our private prayers. Usually, it marks the end of prayers or important texts of religious content and it is like a seal placed on everything of particular importance. And that is exactly what it is. One of the earliest meanings of the ancient Hebrew word 'amen" was "to be worthy of trust".


Other meanings are: "it is verily so", "let it be so", 'let it be accordingly'. In the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy, Moses instructs the people of Israel to build an alter, gives them the order of sacrificial offerings and commands them to obey God and submit to him: "This day thou art become the people of the Lord thy God.

Thus the word "Amen" is used in the Old Testament to signify the concurrence with the pledge given and, by the same token, the acceptance of all consequences arising therefrom. Furthermore, in order to bear witness to this concurrence and at the same time praise the Lord, this word is repeated twice: "Amen, Amen" In the New Testament this word is used even more frequently.

In the Christian Church, the believers, even Greek speaking believers, started using this ancient Hebrew word at the end of each eucharistic prayer spoken by the priest. But even private prayers and hymns of praise of early as well as present day Christians end with this word. Christ used this word at the beginning of particularly important words of witness: "verily, verily I say unto you," or "amen, amen I say unto you.

As Apostle Paul says in his epistle to the Corinthians: "..

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And so, as we utter the word "Amen" we give ourselves to God, we submit to His will. In the Psalms of King David we frequently find the word of praise -- "Alleluiah". Apart from the Psalms, this word appears only twice in the Bible. Once, in the Old Testament, in the prophetic vision of the New Jerusalem in the Book of Tobit it is said that its streets will echo with alleluias.

Then in his Revelation St. John says: " I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power unto the Lord our God. The word "Alleluiah", which appears with such frequency in the hymns and prayers of our Liturgy, is of Hebrew origin. The preceding syllables mean praise.

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The Christian Church began early using this word of praise in the liturgical texts. The word became an expression of joy and triumph, a hymn to triumphant faith. In our Church, it is a part of all services, including the services of repentance during Great Lent and the services for the dead. The entire life of the Church is built on the unwavering faith in Christ's Resurrection.

Let Us Attend: A Journey Through the Orthodox Divine Liturgy — Book Review

The attitude of the Church even to death is permeated with the joyous expectation of the forthcoming meeting with Christ and the life everlasting in the Kingdom of God. During the Divine Liturgy, the word "Alleluiah" is sung before the reading of the Gospel; at the end of the Cherubim hymn, it marks the translation of the Sacraments from the table of ablations to the Holy Throne; it is sung after the Communion and at the end of the liturgy.

It is heard on many occasions during the vigil. So it is present throughout our church services and, for all its brevity, It expresses that to which all divine services are dedicated -- the praise of God. So there we have yet another minor word which does not always hold our attention. And yet, its content is so inexhaustible that the just will use it to express the praise of God in the New Heaven and the New Earth, in the everlasting Kingdom of God.

For there is no better way of proclaiming the Divine dominion over the world and over mankind than by praising and glorifying Him, by singing praises to Him -- the King and the Lord. They are repeated in litanies which consist of short petitions, each of which ends with the words "Lord have mercy.

How marvelous is the score of the Russian composer Lvovsky for the multiple "Lord have mercy" sung at the Elevation of the Cross. And there are many other services during which "Lord have mercy" is repeated many times, insistently, repentantly Let us not be disturbed by such frequent repetition of some of our short prayers, in particular the prayer "Lord have mercy.

The aim is to focus our attention on the topic of the prayer which the Church considers of particular importance for our spiritual growth. This repetition, as leithmotif in music, penetrates our consciousness and remains long in our memory, staying with us even as we leave the church for our everyday existences. First, by calling God "Lord", we confirm His rule over the world, the mankind and, most importantly, over ourselves, over those who speak these words.

This is why we call ourselves the "servants" of God. This appellation has nothing offensive about it, as is readily suspected by some of those who would fight the Lord.

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Servitude by itself is negative as it deprives the human being of the original gift - the gift of freedom. While many books have been written on the Liturgy, this book is unique. In 98 pages, Fr Farley analyses the structure, content and historical context of the Orthodox Liturgy, all the while developing the spiritual mystery of the Liturgy. The role of the priest, worshipers and chanters are explained for each section of the Liturgy.

Where relevant, Fr Farley explains how different practices entered the Liturgy at different points in history, such as the Small Entrance echoing the ancient practice of the priest bringing the Holy Bible from his home and placing it on the Holy Altar. The book is full of practical information. There are footnotes explaining terms such as antiphon, epiclesis and typika. A particularly interesting aspect of the book is the appendix, which compares the form of the Liturgy at different historical time points.