Divine Liturgy

Divine Liturgy

The Divine Liturgy is the common term for the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine tradition of Christian liturgy. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, use the same term. Some Oriental Orthodox employ the term "holy offering" (Syriac: qurbono qadisho, Armenian: surb badarak) for their Eucharistic liturgies instead. The term is sometimes applied also to Latin Rite Eucharistic liturgies, though the term Mass is more commonly used there.

Types of Liturgies

There are three Divine Liturgies that are in common use in the Eastern Orthodox Church:

The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is traditionally thought to be a shortened form of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil. Both are related to the earlier Divine Liturgy of St. James of Jerusalem, which is traditionally attributed to the first bishop of Jerusalem, James the Just (not to be confused with James, brother of Saint John the Evangelist). It is celebrated once a year on his feast day, traditionally only in Jerusalem, but now in other places as well.


Note: Psalms are numbered according to the Greek Septuagint. For the Hebrew Masoretic numbering that is more familiar in the West, usually add '1'. (See the main Psalms article for an exact correspondence table.)

The format of Divine Liturgy is fixed, although the specific readings and hymns vary with season and feast.

While arrangements may vary from liturgy to liturgy, the Divine Liturgy always consists of three interrelated parts:

  • the Liturgy of Preparation, which includes the entry and vesting prayers of the clergy and the Prothesis;
  • the Liturgy of the Catechumens, so called because in ancient times catechumens were allowed to attend, also called the Liturgy of the Word;
  • and the Liturgy of the Faithful, so called because in ancient times only faithful members in good standing were allowed to participate. In modern times, this restriction applies only to communication — reception of the sacrament of holy communion.

A typical celebration of the Byzantine Liturgy consists of:

Liturgy of Preparation

This part of the Liturgy is private, said only by the priest and deacon. It symbolizes the hidden years of Christ's earthly life.

Liturgy of the Catechumens

This is the public part of the Liturgy:

with the Refrain (in the Greek rubrics) "Through the Prayers of the Theotokos, O Savior Save us."

  • Little Litany
  • Second Antiphon (usually Psalm 145; in the Greek rubrics Psalm 92)

with the Refrain (in the Greek rubrics) on Sundays: "Save us O Son of God who art Risen from the dead, Save us who sing unto you, Alleluia" and on Weekdays: "Save us O son of God who art Wondrous in your Saints..."°

with the Refrain (in the Greek rubrics) on Weekdays: O Son of God who art wonderful in Thy saints, Save us who sing to thee, alleluia. On Sundays: the Troparion of the Day, Saint or Sunday Resurrection

  • Small Entrance—procession with the Gospel Book
  • Introit°
  • Troparia° and Kontakia°—hymns commemorating specific saints and Scriptural events, as appropriate to the liturgical calendar and local custom
  • Trisagion°—the "Thrice-Holy" hymn
  • Prokeimenon°
  • Epistle Reading°
  • Alleluia°
  • Gospel Reading°
  • Homily (homilies may also be preached while Communion is being prepared for distribution to the people, and before the Dismissal)
  • Litany of Fervent Supplication—"Let us all say with our whole soul and with our whole mind…"
  • Litany for the Departed—this is not said on Sundays, Great Feasts or during the Paschal season
  • Litany of the Catechumens, and Dismissal of the Catechumens

Liturgy of the Faithful

In the early Church, only Baptized members in good standing were allowed to attend this portion of the Liturgy.

  • First Litany of the Faithful
  • Second Litany of the Faithful
  • Cherubic Hymn°—chanted by the Choir as spiritual representatives (or icons) of the angels
  • Great Entrance—procession taking the chalice and diskos (paten) from the Table of Oblation to the altar
  • Litany of Fervent Supplication—"Let us complete our prayer to the Lord"
  • Symbol of Faith—the Nicene Creed
  • Sursum Corda ("Lift up your hearts…"), followed by the Sanctus ("Holy, Holy, Holy…")
  • Anaphora—the Eucharistic Canon, containing the Anamnesis (memorial of Christ's Incarnation, death, and Resurrection, and the Words of Institution)
  • Epiklesis—calling down the Holy Spirit upon the Holy Gifts (bread and wine) to change them into the Body and Blood of Christ
  • Commemoration of Saints and Axion Estin (hymn to the Theotokos
  • Commemoration of bishop and civil authorities—"Remember, O Lord…"
  • Litany of Supplication—"Having called to remembrance all the saints…"
  • Lord's Prayer
  • Bowing of Heads
  • "Holy Things are for the Holy"
  • Communion Hymn
  • Holy Communion
  • "We have seen the true light"°
  • "Let our mouths be filled with Thy praise, O Lord…"°
  • Litany of Thanksgiving
  • Prayer behind the Ambon
  • Dismissal°

Parts marked ° indicate portions that can change according to the day or liturgical season of the year. Some parts change at every Divine Liturgy, some parts only change at Pascha (Easter).

Note that almost all texts are chanted throughout the Divine Liturgy, not only hymns but litanies, prayers, creed confession and even readings from the Bible. The sole exception is the sermon.

Oriental Orthodox

The Coptic Orthodox have 3 principal Divine Liturgies:

  • The Liturgy of St. Basil
  • The Liturgy of St. Cyril
  • The Liturgy of St. Gregory

The Liturgy of St. Basil is celebrated on most Sundays.


External links

Eastern Christian

Oriental Christian

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