Divine Liturgy


    Saturday Great Vespers

4:00 pm

Divine Liturgy
 5:00 pm
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9:00 am
Divine Liturgy
 10:00 am
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 8:30 am
Daily Liturgy
 8:30 am












Question: What should I say when someone says that as a Catholic I am "not saved".

Answer: This is a very challenging question and entire books have been written of this very topic. This will be a very brief view of this question. The difficulty comes from a different understanding of what is meant by "saved". All Christians agree that Jesus Christ died on the Cross to save us from our sins. The difference is the understanding of salvation. Some non Catholic/non Orthodox christians understand salvation as a one time act. That is say that Jesus died once on the cross and we gain salvation at the moment when we accept Him as our personal savior. The view is that there is nothing that we can do to earn salvation, it is a free gift from God. Since there is nothing that we can do to earn salvation there is nothing we can do to lose it. This is not the understanding of the Catholic/Orthodox Churches. The teaching is that we as Christians become fully part of the body of Christ through Baptism, Chrismation and the Eucharist. God is giving us the gift of salvation (which we cannot earn) through His love, not because of anything we have done. The difference is that we view salvation as a process not as a one time event. This is the position seen in Phl 2:12-13, "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." This being the case, possibly on way of answering the question "Are you saved?" is to say that" I have been, am being and God willing, will be saved and like St. Paul , I am work out my salvation in fear and trembling".

Question: Why do you worship Mary?

Answer: The short answer to this question is that we do not worship the Mary, the Most Holy Theotokos. The problem comes a different view of what Catholics and Orthodox are doing when they direct prayers to Mary. Worship (latria in Greek) is our prayer to God, the Holy Trinity. It is God who created us and God alone who saves us. Prayers that we offer to the saints in heaven are those of veneration (dulia). The prayers we offer to the Blessed Virgin are special prayers of veneration and intercession. We venerate (hyperdulia in Greek) Mary as having a very special role in salvation history. She was chosen among all women for the singular honor of being the mother of our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ and to bear him without loss of her virginity. Because of this she is given great honor, what is called veneration. We also ask her to intercede for us with her beloved son, Jesus Christ. No christian believes that Mary can save our souls; only Jesus Christ can save us. What Mary can do in a very special way is what we can do for one another. Mary can pray for us. As the prefect image of what it is to be a loving mother, Mary can present our petitions to her son, Jesus Christ. This is the same as asking a friend to pray for you. Yes, we can and should pray to God and present our worship and our needs to him. At the same time, there is no reason why we should not ask those who love us to pray for us.

Question: Why don’t we do Old Testament readings? (or not very often?)

Answer: The Byzantine Tradition actually uses readings from the Old Testament in its worship quite a lot. The reason we do not hear them all the time is because we do not have the full liturgical services in most of our parishes.

The Old Testament readings are chanted during Vespers. That is why we are hearing them during the season of the Great Fast at the Presanctified Liturgies. The Presanctified Liturgy is the service of Great Vespers with Holy Communion with reading specifically for the Great Fast. It should also be noted that all of the psalms that we chant during the various liturgies of the Church are Old Testament readings. The reason we do not have the Old Testament readings at the Divine Liturgy is two fold. the First is that the Divine Liturgy is a special service in honor of Our Lord's life death and especially His resurrection. The readings are all centered around the life of Jesus. The other reason why the reading are set the way that they are is because the tradition was that when a person was going to receive Jesus in Holy Eucharist, that person would have received confession and would attend vespers, matins and finally receive Our Lord at the Divine Liturgy. This was viewed as be properly prepared for receiving communion. As our church continues to regain it's traditions people should have more opportunities to hear the readings from the Old Testament.

Question: Why does the priest wave the chalice cover while the creed is being chanted? And what does the priest pray then also?

Answer: Waving the chalice cover over the Holy Gifts had a practical origin before any spiritual significance which developed over the years. We have to understand that the Divine Liturgy at the Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) Church in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) was attended by thousands of people (the practice was to have only one Liturgy on Sunday). In this case, because they used to use only one chalice and one diskos, the bread was a huge size. So was the amount of wine in the chalice so that it would be enough for people present. This had to be of larger size as well. After removing the cover from the Holy Gifts they wanted to make sure that all the bread crumbs, debris and insects are shaken off before they put the cover aside. That is why we see the priest waving the cover over the Holy Gifts. Later on the spiritual significance developed such as the Holy Spirit hovering over the Gifts or another monastic source says that the priest is supposed to remind himself of his own death since his face will be covered with the that cover at the priest’s funeral. During the Divine Liturgy at that particular time the priest is praying the Creed along with the parishioners. The Old Believer practice is that at the end of the Creed the priest says three times "Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us."

Question: What is the incense for and why are the icons incensed?

Answer: Incense was used in the Temple in Jerusalem to symbolize the prayers of the people rising up to God as in Psalm 140:2 - "Let my prayers be set forth before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice". In the New Testament incense appears in the Book of Revelation 5:8 "Now when He has taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints". When we offer incense during the Liturgies of the Church it symbolizes our prayers rising up to Heaven. Incense was also used in the Temple to indicate a sacred space, one set aside for worship. The Holy Icons, the Holy Table, the four walls of the church, the clergy and the people are all incensed to represent our prayers to God asking for His blessings on all His creation, on the Holy Saints and on all of us present. Another reason for the use of incense is the view that God created us as complete beings. We are not just souls any more than we are just bodies. When we worship we are to use our complete person; soul and body. That is why we use all of our senses. We taste the bread and wine when we receive Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. We see the vivid colors of the Holy Icons and the clergy's vestments. We feel the Cross and the Icons when we venerate them. We hear the chants of the people worshipping God. And we smell the sweet odor of incense as we offer our prayers to God.

Question: Why don’t we have holy water to bless ourselves at the entrances?

Answer: Holy Water is a wonderful gift that God gives us to bless ourselves in the course of our lives. The Church Fathers teach that since Jesus Christ is without sin, He did not need to be baptized in the Jordan to forgive His sins. By being baptized Our Lord sanctified the waters of the Jordan. This is why the priest blesses Holy Water at the Feast of the Theophany (January 6) to commemorate this great blessing of the waters by Our Lord. Holy water is used quite often in the Eastern tradition. It is used by some parents to bless their children before they go to school and when they travel. Holy water is sometimes drunk by Eastern Christians as part of their morning prayers and some even add small amounts of it to their cooking as a way to ask God's blessings. The reason that we do not have Holy Water fonts at the entrances of the church is that that tradition never developed in the East. In some ways it is like asking why in the Latin Church tradition they do not have a tetrapod and why they do not venerate the Holy Icons when they enter the church. These are all pious and worthwhile acts, but it is not part of their tradition.

Question: What does the phrase "the doors, the doors ..." refer to during the Divine Liturgy?

Answer: In the ancient Church both the faithful who had entered into the Body of Christ by receiving the Holy Mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation and Eucharist and those who were preparing to enter fully into the Church would attend the early portion of the Divine Liturgy. Those who were preparing to receive the Holy Mysteries were called Catechumens. The Catechumens would stay in the Divine Liturgy until the Litany of the Catechumens. After this Litany (which is no longer included in the current Divine Liturgy since we do not have an active catechumenate) the Catechumens would leave the nave of the church and go into the narthex (often called the vestibule). The remaining portions of the Divine Liturgy were only for those who were fully part of the Church. After the Catechumens had left the Deacon would proclaim the prayer "the doors, the doors in Wisdom be attentive! The doors that are being referred to are between the nave and the narthex.

Question: What is the significance of the separate times the altar boy brings the "three candle holder"?

Answer: The three branch candle called the trikirion in Greek or the trikiri (trojica) in Slavonic, is the candle used in the Liturgies of the Church to represent both the light of Christ and the presence of the Holy Trinity. It is carried in the Little and Great Entrances and brought forward to the tetrapod for the Gospel. This symbolizes part of the Divine Liturgy where God is making Himself present to us. The use of the trikiri is part of the liturgical heritage of Trans Carpathian region and is not universal in the other Eastern Churches of the Byzantine tradition.

Question: What is the symbolism behind a priest wearing a hat during the Liturgy because all other men remove their hats when entering the church?

Answer: The hat worn by a priest or deacon when serving in the Liturgies of the Church is called a kamilavka. This is the slightly flared hat with the flat, hard top. This is considered the formal head covering for clergy. The straight sided hat with the soft top is called a skufia. It is not to be worn while serving at the Altar but is considered correct for attending the Holy Mysteries. It is basically considered semi-formal. The purpose of liturgical hats is the same as why clergy wear the cassock (podryasnik in Slavonic). It is to identify the members of the clergy as a mark of service. It does not mean that the clergy are a higher rank than the laity, since after all the clergy are drawn from the laity to serve the entire Body of Christ, His Church. It is much the same way a waiter may have a more formal attire than the customers at a restaurant. It marks a person for service to the community. The wearing of liturgical hats is an option granted to the clergy by the Bishop. The priest or deacon may choose whether to wear one or not. Both are correct and are part of our liturgical tradition.

Question: What are Ripidia and why do we use them?

Answer: Ripidia means "fans" in Slavonic. They are commonly called exapterigia, meaning "six winged" in Greek usage. Ripidia are the large metal fans used during the Divine Liturgy. They are a pair of discs made of metal and made to represent the seraphim, the highest form of angel. Ours have icons of the seraphim painted on them; others may have seraphim embossed on them. The ripidia are mounted on the ends of poles that are carried in processions and are held and gently waved during the reading of the Gospel and the praying of the Anaphora. When they are not being carried, the ripidia are placed so that they flank the artophorian (tabernacle). The theological reason that we use the ripidia is to represent the holy angels that constantly surround the throne of God. In Isaiah 6:3 the seraphim call out to each other, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory". In the Book of Revelation 4:8 four living creatures day and night never stop saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; who was, and is, and is to come". At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist we are reminded that we "mystically represent the cherubim and sing the thrice holy hymn". In the Anaphora, after the priest chants of the archangels, angels, cherubim and seraphim surrounding the throne, we join in to sing "Holy, holy, holy" along with them. When we see the ripidia used during the Divine Liturgy it should remind us of St. Paul's call for us to "Pray always" just as the seraphim constantly worship around the throne of God.

Question: Why is hot water added to the chalice?

Answer: The hot water is added into the chalice during the Divine Liturgy right before the faithful say the prayer before Holy Communion “O Lord, I believe and profess…” (Notice that at that point the Royal Doors and Curtain of the Sanctuary are shut). The hot water that is poured into the chalice is called the "zeon" (which translates from Greek language as “boiling” or “fervor”). As with other parts of the Divine Liturgy, it is full of deeply spiritual meaning. First of all, the hot water symbolizes the Holy Spirit who is referred to in Scripture as "Fire" and "Rivers of Water." It is by the Holy Spirit via the Epiclesis that the bread and wine on the altar are changed into the Most Holy and Most Pure Body and Blood of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. In receiving Holy Communion, we too are brought into union with the Holy Spirit and the entire Holy and Divine Trinity. The historical beginnings of the ritual are unknown; however, it is clearly of ancient origin. Symbolically, the warm water represents the water which flowed from the side of Jesus at the time of the Crucifixion; and also the Christian belief that the Body of Christ is life-giving. Eastern Christians believe that they partake of the Resurrected Body and Blood of Christ, and the warmth of the chalice is a reminder of that doctrine.

Question: Why do the Byzantines not observe Advent as the Romans do? Or the feast of the Immaculate Conception?

Answer: The traditions of the Eastern and Western churches in preparation for the Feast of the Birth of Our Lord are both of ancient origin. In the Latin church Advent (from the Latin "Ad venio" meaning 'To come to') is the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. In the Byzantine tradition the Philipovka or St. Philip's Fast is the forty day period starting on November 15, the day after St. Philip's feast day. Both of these periods developed over time as preparation for the Feast of Our Lord's Incarnation. The Byzantine tradition is based more on a personal preparation for Christmas through prayer and fasting. The Latin form is a more liturgically centered preparation. Both are based on the concept that we must prepare for the coming of Christ as a man.

The Western feast of the Immaculate Conception and the Eastern feast of the Maternity of St. Anna are an example of different views of the same spiritual event. The Latin and Byzantine views of Adam and Eve's sin are different but not in contradiction. The Western concept of original sin is that all people inherit the stain of the sin of Adam and Eve. The Eastern concept is that we inherit the result of their sin, which is death, but not the punishment of their sin. This may be compared to parents who squander all their money; their children do not inherit any of the parents' guilt in squandering their wealth but they do inherit the result, namely lack of money. Both West and East consider Mary's conception to be a special event. The East celebrates Saint Anna receiving the gift of a child in her old age, and that Mary was filled with God's grace so that she always lived up to what God asked of her through her heroic virtue. That is why Mary is considered the model for all Christians in her example in following Christ with her whole heart, mind and soul.

Question: What is the significance of the two side doors and why exit one and enter the other?

Answer: The two doors that flank the Holy doors, one on the north and one on the south, are called the Deacon Doors. The Holy Doors are used only during the Liturgies of the Church (Divine Liturgy, Matins, Vespers, etc.) They are never used except in worship and only when carrying the Gospel, the Holy Gifts or a blessing to the people. The Deacon Doors are used for all of the other entrances such as the incensations by the Deacon or the litanies. The reason that the Deacon or Priest leaves the Altar by the northern door and re-enters by the south is to symbolize the natural seasonal movement of the sun and moon through the sky as God designed the Universe.

Question: On the icon where Jesus is descending into Hades – why are there keys and locks at His feet? (and other symbols and what do they mean?)

Answer: The Icon of Resurrection of Our Lord also called Descending into Hades depicts Christ pulling up Adam and Eve out of their sepulchers while trampling upon the gates of Hades (death). In the background there usually stand the Old Testament patriarchs, prophets, and other figures, including John the Forerunner, who announced Jesus' coming. On some of the icons of Resurrection Christ is surrounded by a radiant glory; He is trampling upon the demolished gates of Hell, where we can see also some broken locks and keys along with the small figure bind up representing the devil, and bears in His left hand the Cross of the Resurrection, while with His right hand He raises from a sarcophagus Adam, who represents the human race. The Orthodox Icon of the Resurrection is a dogmatic Icon, that is, it expresses a dogmatic truth, the real meaning of the event and, as such, transcends the historical place and the temporal moment at which it occurred. This dogmatic Icon of the Resurrection highlights, with truly exceptional emphasis, not an individual historical event (the bodily Resurrection of the Savior), nor an historical moment (the Savior’s exit from the Tomb), but, rather, the dogma of the abolition of Hades and death as well as the Resurrection of humanity. The Resurrection of Christ is simultaneously also the Resurrection of humanity; the Resurrection is not only the Resurrection of Christ, but a majestic universal event, a cosmic event; Christ does not come out of the tomb but out from “among the dead” (ek nekron in greek), coming up out of devastated Hades as from a nuptial palace.Welcome to stmarybyz.com.  This site is currently under construction.  Please stop back soon.




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