The Byzantine Liturgy as Missionary

Fr. George Morelli

This article is based on the President’s Message column featured in the Society of St. John Chrysostom- Western Region (SSJC-WR) Newsletter: The Light of the East, Spring, 2010.

fr-george-morelli

Fr. George Morelli

One of the major developments in the modern age is the marginalization and indifference toward Christianity in society.  (Jacobse, 2010; Morelli, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010). The disunion among Christian communities has not been a beneficent witness to the unity prayed for by Christ Himself “that they may be one” (Jn 17:11). Secular and politically correct values have shaped doctrinal and moral teaching and practice among some groups calling themselves Christian: abortion, euthanasia, female ordination, same sex marriage, are but a few examples that are obvious departures from the teaching of Christ. Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyevi, Chairman of the Department of External Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, has suggested an alliance between Catholics and Orthodox be advanced because these apostolic churches have held fast to the essentials of Christ’s teachings. This suggestion certainly conforms to the goals of the Society of St. John Chrysostom which has as one of its goals: to make known the history, worship, spirituality, discipline and theology of Eastern Christendom.ii

It should be noted that the Byzantine Liturgy is an outstanding missionary out-reach to fulfill Christ’s command to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations. . . .” (Mt 28: 19) and stands as a witness to the fullness of the truth of Christ’s teaching. The Liturgy could stand as a model for the suggested Catholic-Orthodox alliance. Archbishop Hilarion points out that the Byzantine Liturgy contains “psalms, litanies, hymns, prayers and the celebrating priest’s invocations follow one another in a continuous stream. The entire service is conducted as if in one breath, in one rhythm, like an ever unfolding mystery in which nothing distracts one from prayer. Byzantine liturgical texts [are] filled with profound theological and mystical content….” The Liturgy has doctrinal authority: “as solemn entries and exits, prostrations and censing, are not intended to distract the faithful from prayer but, on the contrary, to put them in a prayerful disposition and draw them into the theourgia in which, according to the teaching of the Fathers, not only the Church on earth, but also the heavenly Church, including the angels and the saints, participates.” iii

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