What is Liturgy?
The purpose of the Divine Liturgy is within the word “Liturgy” itself. The word “Liturgy” comes from the combination of two Greek words: “Laos” meaning “people”, and “ergia” which means “work”. Together, these words mean “The work of the people.” Thus, the people’s participation is necessary for worship.
The Divine Liturgy is the main service we celebrate throughout the year. We remember God’s plan of salvation for us through the Word becoming Incarnate, the Passion, and the Resurrection. We offer, sanctify, and partake of the precious Body and Blood of Christ, being intimately connected with Christ and each other.
The Melkite church celebrates according to the Byzantine rite, which originated in Constantinople (Istanbul). While originally Syrian in origin, the Byzantine Empire had a vast influence on the Melkites and adopted many of their practices.
What are the Main Liturgies of the Melkite Church?
In the Melkite church, we have two liturgies that are celebrated throughout the calendar. Depending on the Sunday or Feast, we use the Divine Liturgies of these two authors. These great spiritual masters are:
St. John Chrysostom: This Divine Liturgy is commonly celebrated throughout the year, on normal Sundays and weekdays.
St. Basil the Great: There are 10 times in the liturgical year we celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. These are: the first 5 Sundays of the Great Fast; The Vigil-Divine Liturgy for the Nativity of our Lord, Theophany, Holy Thursday, and Holy Saturday; and January 1st.
One of characteristics of the Byzantine church is a cantor or a choir leading the congregation, without musical instruments. The reason is two-fold:
First, the voice is the only natural instrument in our inherent creation, whereas musical instruments are created by the hand of man. For example, a violin cannot praise God in itself, but needs the violinist. This is not the case for the human being, where everyone is given a voice to praise God. A human being only needs good training to master the natural instrument of the voice.
Second, instruments never played a major role in the Judeo-Christian liturgical services. If it was, it would supplement the musicians to maintain the key or keep the rhythm of the hymn being sung, as indicated in the Psalms. As of today, there is no place for them in the current form of our liturgy. When everyone sings on key and the right tempo, then no instrument is needed for any purpose.