Greek Orthodox Liturgies Essay

The Nature of Salvation in the Orthodox Theology and the Role of the Divine Liturgy            Salvation can generally mean three related things.

The first is deliverance. It is being saved from events like suffering or sin. The second is redemption. It is being saved for something such as the afterlife. Last, it is the process of healing or the transformation of the individual to wholeness and being deified or becoming like Jesus Christ. This is also known as the application of salve. In Orthodox theology, incarnation itself unites the whole human race with God. Thus, salvation can not be possessed by anybody automatically or is presented to him in an instant.

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In the belief of the Orthodox Church, incarnation provides the blessings of salvation for in which people can enjoy with correct and adequate responses. The fulfillment of salvation comes with the person’s realization of how important it is and how it must be done. Salvation is a process, in which people must do things to be able to enjoy what salvation has to offer. The concept that must be defined first is the process of salvation. Theosis, also known as deification or divinization is the process that human beings become “god”.

As Athanasius exclaimed, “For He (Christ) became man that we might become divine”. The aspiration of becoming like God is taken by Orthodox followers. But this does not mean being God. The process aims to be in the likeness and image of God. As explained by theologians, salvation is a process that reestablishes mankind’s communion with God. it is a process that is not characterized with justification of sins or legal pardon but a process in which humans join in the fullness of God’s divine life. This means that intimate fellowship and relationship with God must be established. To be fully human is to enjoy God in the closest conceivable communion.

The relationship and union with God is stressed in the theology as the union of human nature with the divine in Jesus incarnation is referred to as salvation.            Theosis, as the process of salvation is the revelation of the triune God. Human beings undergo the process of salvation to know and experience how to be fully human. Theosis is beyond simply the restoration of people in their natural state before the fall of Adam and Eve. Salvation allows the holy God and the sinful humanity to be reconciled in principle and be considered as one sinless human being.

Orthodox theologians describe theosis of man as the perfect union with God made possible by grace and will be realized entirely in the future after the resurrection period. However, the beginning of life is the start of human divinization process and will be realized eventually. In Orthodox religion, salvation is something achieved in the past, continuously achieved in the present, and will be finalized in the future.

            Salvation will be attained through grace. It is not done only through human works. Faith is still regarded as very essential in attaining salvation. Simple things are said by theologians in order to become like God; go to church, receive the sacraments regularly, pray to God in spirit and in truth, read the Gospels, and  follow the commandments. The Orthodox doctrine is also very important in the process of theosis.

Before the fall of mankind, Adam was created in the image and likeness of God and called to grow in communion with God. Both Adam and Eve had sinned and this caused the image of God in them to be damaged. The sin committed disabled Adam to progress as human being commanded by God. Then the idea of Satan and Death became evident with mankind’s sins. When Christ came and assumed flesh, the image of God damaged by the Fall of Mankind was restored.

Good triumphs over evil and enables human nature to be renewed. Mankind to that point holds the task in which Adam failed, to be in fellowship with God. With this event, the steady progress of mankind is “deified” until the fullness of heaven is realized by each individual. The fall of mankind established the idea of death, Satan, and the estrangement of human nature from God. Jesus Christ came and conquered these ideas and reunites human kind with God and enables the calling of communion with the divine.

            The Divine Liturgy is the primary worship service of the Orthodox Church and is the Eucharistic service that contains two parts. The Liturgy of the Catechumens also referred to as the Liturgy of the Word is at which the scriptures are clarified and expounded. The Liturgy of the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Faithful is at which the gifts, bread and wine is offered and consecrated. The first part of the liturgy explains how mankind values the word of God and allows full knowledge and understanding of it. The scriptures, as a way to know and be with God provides as chance for people to get to know the word of God in full context and knows His way in which he saved mankind and all the things he did. The second part in which communion is practiced is where mankind allows himself to be in fullness of worship and communion with God. As mentioned, Orthodox theologians advised mankind to follow steps in the process of salvation.

Going to church is one important step that must be taken as the church is the venue in which God provides the full presence of mankind in Hid word. Reading the scriptures, the Gospels and understanding them is also important. The knowledge of the works of God is part of the process of salvation. This way step is taken to get to know Him better.            The priest of the Eucharist offers the fullness of creation and receives the blessing in the form of the consecrated bread and wine. The sharing of creation and blessing is done in the Liturgical services of the Orthodox Church. The theology of the Liturgies is not to exploit the nature of being one with God, it is to transfigure and hallow human kind to salvation. The role of the celebration done during the Eucharist is an expression of gratitude and deliverance of men in the praise of God.

the Eucharist signifies what we offer back to God and His blessings. From whatever the earth and his creation produced, we turned it and reshaped it with our abilities and skills. This recognizes the transformation of His blessings through salvation and glorification of humanity. Being thankful being blessed by God is celebrated in the Divine Liturgy. It is a way for human kind to be capable in seeing God’s creations, the world and His sacraments as a way of communion with Him. In the Divine Liturgy, the realization and understanding between the creation and the Creator is developed.The Nature and Role of Icons in the Liturgy            The Orthodox Liturgy services appeals the senses of worshippers.

Part of its central actions is to consecrate and distribute the bread and wine that constitutes the body and blood of Christ. It is characterized with the whole event as integral aspects that divulges and celebrates the purpose of the ceremony. The involvement of the senses is emphasized through Biblical convictions. The Liturgy not only anticipates and makes the people realize of the promised end, but denies material creation and sanctifies it.  Beauty exuded by the Orthodox Church architecture and icons depicts the beauty of the Kingdom of God.  art and architecture of the Orthodox Church is attributed through the Christian Roman, or Byzantine Empire influence in spreading the faith. Generally, art in Orthodox Church adopted several styles such as the Greek, Russian, Bulgarian, Rumanian and Arabic styles, and included gradual influence from the Renaissance and Baroque artistic styles.

Senses are a dominant part in celebration the Orthodox worship. Sight, sound, smell is used to appreciate the different materials used in the worship. Whether it may be wood and painting, or the bread and wine, the ceremony entices the senses as it does the mind, body and soul in communion with God.            The Orthodox Church has unique features and differences with other traditional churches in Christianity.

There are rich colors in the architecture, distinct iconographies and interior beauty of the churches’ structure. It does not entail the distinct atmosphere of worship, but also reflects the fundamental insights and beliefs of the Orthodox Church. The material world is regarded as the reflection of God’s expressions. The Orthodox architecture and icons are not just for embellishments, but sacramental mysteries and services. These are symbolic offerings to God the Creator of all material things. The iconostasion is the panel of icons that separates the sanctuary of the Orthodox Church to the nave.

Icons are holy images in the Orthodox faith. It depicts figures such as Christ, Mary and John the Baptist. Saints are also depicted in icons. In the Orthodox faith, icons are not just embellishments.

They signify the presence of the individual depicted. It is considered as the window that links earth to heaven and gives us the glimpse of the souls in heaven. Veneration of icon or the placing of candles before it signifies the commemoration and gratefulness for blessings receive from the Creator.

Icons portray Christ as the Lord of Heaven and earth who gazes down to human kind. The symbols Alpha and Omega is also displayed as the Orthodox faith believes that God is the beginning and the end of all things.            The nature and role of icons in the Orthodox Church is challenged by different groups for the past years.

Many regard it as iconoclasm or a dismaying of the Exodus commandment not to make any graven image of God. But in the Orthodox faith, icons are regarded as a way to express gratefulness to whatever God had made. Icons are unique in the Orthodox faith. The Orthodox Church and homes display icons, kiss them, venerate them and carry them in processions. The scriptures reveal that generation of icons is permitted by God as He instructed the Jews to create images of heaven and earth and the Kingdom of Heaven. This allows the contemplation of God through the different icons displayed. The icons in the Orthodox Church are a celebration of the incarnation as material man.

The faith commemorates His image and likeness of the saints in the Church and the prototypes of His sanctification. Non- Orthodox sees the icons as the Hellenizing and paganising of faith, but it is not. In one Council, the Orthodox theology banned the use of lamb or fish as symbols of Christ as it is included during the Old Testament period and thus is not part of the full revelation of Christ. In 8th century, icons were banned and destroyed, believers were also persecuted.The Role of the Holy Meal in the Liturgy            The Holy Eucharist being the “sacraments of sacraments” of the Orthodox religion is the considered as the center of the Church’s life and tradition.

The holy meal as a ritual existed in the Old Testament and is a symbolic event in human life. The Christian Eucharistic meal is connected with the Passover meal. Before Christ’s death, the last supper with His disciples is called the Passover meal. It was originally the celebration of the Israelites liberation from the Egyptians.

In time, the Passover meal is transformed as a remembrance of and for Christ. In the last supper, bread and wine was shared by Christ and His disciples. The Eucharist is thanksgiving and is given as a sacred meal not just through the bread and wine, but also the gathering of men in communion with Christ. The meal includes reading the Holy Scriptures and proclaiming the word of God. The sacrament of the Eucharist is also called as the Holy Communion since it serves as a way for man to be with God.

            The participation in the holy meal is important for the Orthodox faith. The Eucharist consecrates the blessings of God and men receive this through communion. Communion, with prayer and understanding of the Holy Scriptures is the essence of Orthodox worship. Although, the orthodox faith is challenged with questions regarding how bread and wine became symbols of Christ body and blood, it firmly believes that the ceremony is true to the celebration of life and God’s blessing, and a memorial for Christ’s sacrifices for human kind.Personal Experience in the Orthodox FaithWhen I attended the Liturgy service held at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Anaheim, California, I regarded it as an overwhelming and a personal experience I wish everybody will experience. When I entered the church, the first thing I noticed was the elaborate, colorful and sophisticated display of architecture and art works.

It is true, as described and explained by Orthodox theologians, the Orthodox Church appeals to the senses of the community attending the community. One can notice the great structure of the whole church; with pillars, walls and the interior structure being magnificent. The dome can be appreciated from any angles and can be considered as the prestige of the Church’s structure. Inside was even more beautiful with the decors and artworks of saints and icons including Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. One can see the liveliness depicted in canvass painting and the meticulous creations of these icons in material form.            More than anything than the mere attraction of the physical attributes of the church, its structure and form, one can appreciate the solemnest and deep understanding of the Orthodox faith. Before the formal Liturgy started, I observed the solemn and peaceful prayer of the people around me.

Then the priest, deacons and his aides entered and walked towards the magnificent altar that served as the focal point inside the church. Smelling the incense brought a different experience in my senses. The choir singing was almost as if I am hearing the voices of angels. The priest then called our attention. Patiently and intently I listen to the Holy Scriptures discussed by the priest. He gave an in-depth discussion of the Scripture chosen for the Liturgy.

Personally, I consider it as a learning experience as my understanding of the Holy Scripture is taken with a different view and was explained differently.            I have to say that the most wonderful part for me was the second part of the Liturgy service. The part of the Eucharist had given me another experience and way to be with God. Along with prayer, the community which attended the Liturgy that Sunday experienced oneness, and full communion with God.

I took advantage of the solemn and peaceful environment set during the Liturgy to thank for the blessings I have received and ask for forgiveness for the sins I have committed. I realize the value of salvation and its importance by attending the Liturgy that day. I guess it is to say that my view regarding the need for salvation strengthened on that Sunday. I believe it is not just mere attending the Liturgy every Sunday. One has to “live in communion” with God. To learn His Words, understand them, and be the child of His that carry outs His fulfillment in mankind. It is not just mere religion that one should realize the importance of practicing the religion, but rather through works, we understand faith as well.

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