Thursday, July 4, 2013

A history of the readings in the Divine Liturgy

(SOC-WAD) - Up until the eighth century, the daily readings commenced with Old Testament readings, both from the Torah (first five books of the Bible) and from the Prophets. The Church, in creating a liturgical calendar of readings from Scripture, followed the Jewish Temple practice. We can witness Christ participating in this liturgical cycle of readings in the Gospel of Luke: “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and He entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Isaiah” (Luke 3:16-17). When Christ simultaneously read and fulfilled this prophecy of Isaiah, He was reading the Prophecy that was appointed for the day. As the Church came to recognize the four different Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as well as the Apostolic epistles also as Scripture, those readings were integrated into the cycle of readings, with the exception of The Revelation (or Apocalypse) of St. John, which was finally accepted into the New Testament canon only after the cycle of what we now call the New Testament readings was established.

We no longer read the Old Testament in the Divine Liturgy, except for in Holy Week and in Presanctified Liturgies in Great Lent, but a remnant of that reading remains in the antiphonal chanting and singing of the Prokeimenon, which consists of selections from King David’s Psalms that previously followed the Old Testament readings. The reader, one of the ranks of minor clergy of the Church, follows the Prokeimenon with the reading of the Epistle, during which the deacon censes the Altar, the clergy, the reader, and the faithful. The worship of the Lord is prophesied by Malachi (“in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the Gentiles, saith Jehovah of hosts” [1:11]) and, in the future Kingdom, by St. John (“And another angel came and stood over the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should add it unto the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne” [Rev. 8:3]). As a Liturgical action, the censing of the Altar and the people before the Gospel reading, the priest’s bestowal of Christ’s peace on all, and the deacon’s call to attention all purify and prepare the church and the faithful in a complimentary fashion so that God’s Word may be received. In the Greek practice, only the Gospel, resting on the Altar Table, is censed. As the deacon concludes his censing, the reader finishes his reading and leads the faithful in the singing of the Alleluia verses, also drawn from the Psalms. Alleluia is Hebrew for ‘praise God’: “For in Hebrew AL means ‘He comes, He appears;’ EL means ‘God;’ and OUIA means ‘Praise and sing hymns,’ to the Living God” (St. Germanos’s Ecclesiastical History qtd. in Hatzidakis 140)...
Complete article here.

1 comment:

  1. Why is the OT no longer read? Is there any impetus towards restoring the OT readings?