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Worship, Prayer and Liturgy in the Orthodox Point of View


To begin with, worship, prayer and liturgy mean not mere an intellectual exercise for the Orthodox, rather actions or activity where the body, soul and spirit are deeply involved in and totally engaged with. In other words, it is the total human being, as creation of God, involving him/herself in praising the mercy of God and sharing in the metaphysical experience in a mystical but truly physical surrounding and with each other.


Worship in the Orthodox perceptive does not simply mean prayer alone. It is beyond prayer. Prayer means communion with God in a rather personal way. Worship means doing prayer collective. When two or more people join together in prayer (cf. St. Matthew 18:20) under the same well defined framework and structure, it is worship in the Orthodox understanding. Liturgy means worship elevated to the Holy Eucharistic service or services on special feast days like, for instance, Christmas, Palm Sunday, Holy Friday or Easter. Holy mysteries like baptism, matrimony or ordination can only be administered in a liturgical setting as well. Culmination of all prayers, worship and liturgy is in the Holy Eucharist.


For the Orthodox worship and liturgy include some or all the five senses, namely, the sight, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting. One sees the worship going on, one hears the prayers, jingling of bells, melodious music etc., one smells the incense, one touches each other at the kiss of peace, and tastes the eternal food at receiving the Holy Eucharist.


However, in the Orthodox point of view worship does not limit itself to the five physical senses, rather goes on to the five spiritual senses as well. Wherefrom do we get the concept of five spiritual senses? Nowhere, but from the Holy Bible itself! David in Psalms repeatedly speaks about it (cf. Ps. 33:2; 92:3; and 144:9) that he will sing with the ten-stringed lyre to the Lord. Fathers have always interpreted the ten-stringed lyre as ten senses, the five physical and five spiritual senses. The five spiritual senses are the ‘mind, intellect, reason, discernment and will’. When the priest exhorts the congregation during the Holy Eucharistic service to lift up their minds, thoughts and hearts to the high place, where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father’, nothing but this very concept of ten senses resonates. Said more precise, intellect and reason are alluded with thought and discernment and will are referred to with heart.


Burning candles, various shades of lights, incensing, singing and reciting prayers loudly and quietly, jingling of bells, shuddering of Marbahsa to symbolize the fluttering Angels, processions, kiss of peace and wishing of peace, elevation of mysteries, and disbursal to go into the world with divine power to face with forces of dark are mystically embedded in the Orthodox worship and liturgy.


In short, the Orthodox perceive a total communion with God and seek the best from God for the whole creation, especially for their fellow beings with actions of worship, prayer and liturgy.