THE DIVINE LITURGY A COMMENTARY IN THE LIGHT OF THE FATHERS
The Divine Liturgy was first published in Greece in 1982 (by the theological journal ‘Synaxi’) since when it has been continuously in print and there have been four new editions. From 1993 it has been published by the Cell of St John the Theologian, Koutloumousiou Monastery, Mount Athos. This translation into English has been made from the most recent 2006 edition. The commentary is addressed to anyone who wishes to learn about the Orthodox Divine Liturgy in an esoteric rather than scholastic manner and draws widely on the words and meditations of holy people through the ages who themselves have celebrated, participated in, and experienced it.
From the Publisher: This important commentary on the Divine Liturgy by Hieromonk Gregorios of the Holy Mountain offers a clear and understandable commentary on the entire Divine Liturgy, including the preparation of the celebrant (Kairos), the preparation of Holy Gifts (Proskomidi), and the service itself. The entire text of all services discussed are included in the commentary itself.
Rather than approach the Great Mystery of the Bloodless Sacrifice as a product of historical cause and effect, Father Gregorios leads the reader into a symphony of the Holy Spirit, a product of divine inspiration and guidance, explained to the reader through the writings of Holy Scripture and the revered Fathers of the Church. For this, he stands in contradistinction to most modern commentaries which reduce liturgical practice to the exigencies of history. Such commentaries often speak of the need to reform, recover, replace, renew, and by that imply there are defects in what we have received. Father Gregorios humbly rejects such views, stating his role as author in the following way:
Some may say that a contemporary commentary on the Divine Liturgy should reflect how a contemporary Christian sees, hears and touches Christ, but on account of the present author's spiritual blindness, deafness and insensibility he has turned to those who have seen the true Light, who have heard the Word and 'touched the immaculate head of the Master,' and who are eternally contemporary." (Foreword) It is not the Holy Liturgy which must be transformed to establish relevancy for the modern man, but we whose prayer is weak and heart somewhat yet hard, who must be transformed and softened by the glorious Living Faith "to come close to Christ," for the Liturgy is "Christ with us." Therefore, our gateway to understanding the cornerstone of Orthodox worship is to recognize "the totality of the wondrous events performed by God, in order to bring man after his disobedience back to His house and make him His own once more…the reality of our salvation in Christ is what we experience at every Divine Liturgy…
From the Foreword: ‘When Christ first spoke about the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist, He called Himself the “Bread of life” which came down at the moment of the Eucharistic annunciation into the virgin Church, and the holy Church becomes the “good earth and blessed” which brings forth the Bread of life. It is this reality of Christ's descent and His presence within the Church that we experience in the Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy is Christ in our midst. The holy Evangelists and the God-bearing Fathers spoke to us of Christ as they experienced Him when He was with them and as they experienced Him as a living reality in the Divine Liturgy: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life (John 1 : 1). It is from the writings and eucharistic experiences of these saints, who have seen the true Light, who have heard the Word and “touched the immaculate head of the Master”, and who are eternally contemporary, that the present commentary is compiled.’
The Divine Liturgy: A Commentary in the Light of the Fathers should be considered an essential resource for every Orthodox Christian, clergy and laity alike, both for devotion and instruction.
There are, of course, lots of commentaries on the Divine Liturgy, but whereas some of them give the impression of having been written by someone who has never attended it, this one has the clear purpose of deepening our experience of participating in the Divine Liturgy. This is mainly achieved by Fr Gregorios sharing with us his own profound experience of praying (at) the liturgy, an experience that has been seasoned by his wide and wise knowledge of the commentaries and comments of the Fathers from St Cyril of Jerusalem to St Nikodimos the Hagiorite and St Symeon of Thessaloniki, by way of Dionysios the Areopagite, St Maximos the Confessor, St Germanos of Constantinople, Theodore of Andida, to mention those most quoted, as well as some comments from recent Athonite elders.
I. Preparation for the Liturgy: The Rite of the Kairos, The Vesting of the Celebrants, The Service of Preparation of the Eucharistic Gifts
II. The Divine Liturgy: The Litany of Peace and the Antiphons, The Entrance with the Gospel Book and the Sacred Readings, The Litany and the Great Entrance, The Litany of the Proskomide and the Creed, The Holy Anaphora, Diptychs and Prayers, Holy Communion, Dismissal
III. Thanksgiving after Holy Communion
Glossary and Indexes.
I highly recommend this book to any devout Christian, Orthodox or not, and to those interested in the worship of the Orthodox Church, and to theologians of any tradition, who will find in its pages a wonderful exposition of Christian worship that brings together Scripture and the Patristic tradition in a cogent, compelling, and inspiring manner. . . . No Orthodox library could be complete without this classic text, in my humble view.’
Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna, in Orthodox Tradition
This is a book that deserves a warm welcome and a wide readership. In taking us ever more deeply into the wealth of meaning of the Divine Liturgy, it is a wonderful gift to the Church.’
Fr Andrew Louth, in Friends of Mount Athos Annual Report, 2010
This book resolves all the questions that each Christian might have concerning the Divine Liturgy. ... No detail is left unanswered. Each moment, each step, each action. Of value to the priest, the teacher, the student, or anyone who wishes to learn and profit from it.’
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