The Divine Liturgy is considered the most significant ancient Christian service, not so much for its phrasing and words as for its meaning. In fact, the Divine Liturgy was in practice right after the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Disciples of Christ on the 50th day after His Resurrection, as the sacred writer of the Acts of the Apostles records (Acts 2:46 ff). The Divine Liturgy in its swaddlings at the beginning of the Christian era consisted of free hymns and prayers for the officiating of a certain framework of faith. It was officiated long before the beginning of the writings of the New Testament. The Divine Liturgy as such was the center of the inspiration of the first Christians in their communion with God and with one another.
In upper rooms and catacombs the Apostles and later the Presbyters and Bishops of the primitive Christian Church offered the Divine Liturgy for its sacred Mysteries. It seems that relics and reminiscences of that time were preserved in the Divine Liturgies of the 2nd century and especially of the 4th century when the Liturgies took their final form. But whatever were the various forms of the Divine Liturgy of the primitive Church, as well as of the Church of the final formation of the Divine Liturgy, the meaning given to it by both the celebrants and the communi cants was one and the same; that is, the belief of the awesome change of the sacred Species of the Bread and Wine into the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Lord.
The Apostle Paul refers to the meaning of the Divine Liturgy (1 Cor. 11: 23-30) quoting the words of the Lord, saying, "This cup is the new testament in my blood; this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me." And the Apostle admonishes, saying, "For as often as ye eat this Bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come" (v. 25, 26). He also stresses the point that he who draws near the cup "unworthily" will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord (v. 27), and orders a thorough examination before receiving Holy Communion because otherwise the Holy Communion will be "damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" (v. 29). It leaves not the slightest doubt that the Apostle Paul stated in his writings that the strongest belief of the primitive Church was that of the awesome change of the Species, which initiated new members into the sacred Mysterion of the Christian religion, that is, the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
It is not our purpose in this pamphlet to refer to all the witnesses and practices of the Apostles and the Church in order to prove this great truth of the Church. It is inscribed in stone, and it is written on sheepskins and papyri so as to leave no doubt as to the meaning of the belief of the Church. Our purpose in this pamphlet is to introduce the faithful reader into the Divine Liturgy consisting of:
- the original Act of the Holy Eucharist,
- its enactment by the Church which formulated the words and order of the Divine Liturgies, and
- the established Divine Liturgies of today, and the full participation of the faithful ones.
Thank you to Rev. George Mastrantonis