The Orthodox Way of Worship
The worship of the Orthodox Church follows ancient patterns inherited from our Jewish origins. In our worship the day begins at Sundown and goes overnight to the next Sundown, because in Genesis we read: “there was evening and there was morning, first day.”
Thus, Vespers on Saturday is part of Sunday worship and heralds the notes that are sounded at the Divine Liturgy. The Sunday Liturgy (“liturgy” means “the work of the people”) is an ancient pattern attributed to St John Chrysostom (347-407), who adapted patterns attributed to St Basil of Caesarea (329-379), who codified worship at Antioch.
These patterns are thus Syrian in background, and the originated with the very first developments of Christian worship already visible in the Book of Acts (chapters 2, 4, 11).
These early formats, in turn, rest upon patterns developed in the synagogue or beit midrash (house of interpretation/study) of the Jews, with the addition of some elements of Temple worship and, of course, the Upper Room with its recounting of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, called among us Eucharist (a Greek word meaning “thanksgiving”).
Orthodox worship is repetitive, no doubt because all early worship patterns had to be memorized. It is also beautiful. Legend has it that Prince Vladimir of Kievan Rus searched for a religion that would unify his people and sent emissaries to numerous places to experience various religions. They are reputed to have returned, urging him to adopt Orthodox Christianity because when they had experienced worship at the great church, Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, they said “we did not know if we were on earth or in heaven” due to the beauty of the worship.
As we often say, in order to understand Orthodoxy, you must “come and see.” We invite you!