Liturgy and Worship

— small stuff that I have to delete from my dissertation because it’s too general.

 

Encyclopedia of Christianity notes that liturgy, (leitourgia, from leïtos, “concerning the public”, plus ergon, “work”) originally had an entirely secular use, “service for the people.” Liturgy also has a cultic meaning. At the beginning of Christianity, the term is understood in Jewish community as “service to God for the good of the people.”  The New Testament reflects all of these uses, with additional emphasis placed on the sacrificial significance of Christ’s death. In postapostolic era the term leitourgia routinely applied to worship, with clergy as leitourgos (person who performed the leitourgy). While in medieval West it indicated the whole system of worship, classic Protestantism sees “liturgy” as public worship of all kinds. Thus, liturgy and worship are inter-exchangeable.[1] Unfortunately the understanding of liturgy and worship are the same is not correct.

The more accurate understanding of liturgy in christianity is the order of the celebration of eucharist. Some churches, like the Orthodox Church, Catholic Church, and others understands “liturgy” exclusively as the celebration of the Eucharist. Because it started from the institution that Jesus said in the event of the Last Supper, the attempt to recreate and celebrate this memory is considered as liturgy.[2] Chrichton summarizes liturgy as “the communal celebration by the Church, which is Christ’s body and in which he with the Holy Spirit is active, of the paschal mystery. Through this celebration, which is by nature sacramental, Christ, the high priest of the community makes present and available to men and women of today the reality of his salvation.” [3] This is arguably an accurate understanding of liturgy in Christianity.

Worship has a broader meaning than liturgy. Christian worship is considered as a response of God’s initiative. “In worship we respond to God and this is true of the whole liturgy, whether it be Eucharist or baptism, or liturgical prayer or the celebration of the Church’s year.”[4] God is seen as the initiator of the act and we worship God as an act of response. In worship, “God is adored simply as God, God’s character is praised, thanks are given for God’s acts, and conformity to God’s will is sought.”[5] Therefore God is the initiator of worship and we are responding to it.

Worship is always connected with the community because it is indeed a communal act. Early Christian worship was a gathering of the believers. The community is consisted of persons “bound together by faith and love.”[6] Paul’s teaching that pictures the Church as members of a body of Christ also shows how close the community was (1 Cor. 12:12ff). The close relationship between believers as body of Christ is strengthened in the Eucharist where the sign of a community is portrayed through the feast of the bread and wine.

Worship and liturgy in Christianity are basically focused and based on the remembrance of God’s saving action in Jesus Christ. This memory is remembered in such a way that it is not only a recalling of a past event into the mind; it encourages action from the community.


[1] Paul V. Marshall, “Liturgy” in Erwin Fahlbusch (eds.) (et al.)The Encyclopedia of Christianity Vol. 3, (Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmands, 2003), 324.

[2] See “Liturgies”, in J.G. Davies, The New Westminster Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship (Pennsylvania: The Westminster Press, 1986), 314-339. Here we can see a concise picture of how different church denominations celebrate the Eucharist in their liturgy.

[3] J. D. Chrichton gives, “A Theology of Worship” in Cheslyn Jones (et.al.) (eds.), The Study of Liturgy (New York: Oxford University Press, (1978) Revised Edition: 1992), 28.

[4] Crichton, “A Theology of Worship”, 9.

[5] Geoffrey Wainwright, “Theology of Worship” in J.G. Davies, The New Westminster Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship (Pennsylvania: The Westminster Press, 1986), 505.

[6] Crichton, “A Theology of Worship”, 20.

 

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