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I've noticed in most Christian gatherings, such as Mass, "Worship Service", etc., the arrangement of the participants follows a general pattern, regardless of denomination:
1) The congregants, or laity, are arranged parallel lines, or pews, facing the same direction
2) There is a divide in the congregants, or aisle through the pews, perpendicular to the lines of congregants, extending from the back to the front of the space
3) The Priest/clergy/minister is at the front and center of the congregants, facing them, sometimes elevated, sometimes at or in front of an altar.
What is the historical origin of this format of Christian worship? Is it from Roman or Jewish religious traditions? I also note it is similar to the format for traditional educational settings (classroom), political/military addresses, and theatrical productions. Is the origin in one of these? Is the format of gathering significantly different in non-Western religions and cultures?
The arrangement of modern Christian gatherings is the result of the development of early church architecture.
In the early days, up to the fourth century, Christians worshipped along with Jews in synagogues and private houses. After Jewish and Christian worship separated, Christians continued to worship in people's houses (known as house churches), often the homes of the wealthier members of the community in a particular town.
In the smaller gatherings, the evidence (for example the testimony of the apologist Justin Martyr) suggests that everyone participated in the act of worship. This changed as the church became increasingly "clericalised". Clerics carried out the act of worship at the alter, the congregation observed from a distance.
This gave rise to the "two-room" church, with the mass being celebrated in the Sanctuary and the congregation in the Nave observing through the arched "doorway" between the rooms. In the medieval period, the doorway was partially blocked by a wooden "rood screen" with holes to allow the congregation to observe.
The congregation was arranged in rows. Initially, people seem to have stood to observe the ceremonies before backless stone benches were introduced for the congregation (from about the 13th century in England. Some on the continent were earlier). These were often subsequently replaced with wooden pews. Wealthier members were often seated in private "family pews" (which they paid for).
Rood screens went out of fashion with the Reformation, but the basic layout - with the clerics at the front being observed by the congregation in rows - remained. Aisles allowed processions to run the length of the church and also easier access to the seating. As an architectural feature in churches, aisles were inherited (together with much else) from the design of the Roman basilica (e.g. Trajan's Basilica in Rome).
The issue of "clericalisation" of Christian worship actually remains a subject for debate. Some reformers are still calling for wholesale changes to the current "medieval" form of Christian worship characterised by the layout you described.
The structure and meaning of the Mass
The Mass begins with the entrance song. The celebrant and other ministers enter in procession and reverence the altar with a bow and/or a kiss. The altar is a symbol of Christ at the heart of the assembly and so deserves this special reverence.
All make the Sign of the Cross and the celebrant extends a greeting to the gathered people in words taken from Scripture.
The Act of Penitence follows the greeting. At the very beginning of the Mass, the faithful recall their sins and place their trust in God's abiding mercy. The Act of Penitence includes the Kyrie Eleison, a Greek phrase meaning, "Lord, have mercy." This litany recalls God's merciful actions throughout history. On Sundays, especially in the Season of Easter, in place of the customary Act of Penitence, from time to time the blessing and sprinkling of water to recall Baptism may take place.
On Sundays and solemnities, the Gloria follows the Act of Penitence. The Gloria begins by echoing the song of the angels at the birth of Christ: "Glory to God in the highest!" In this ancient hymn, the gathered assembly joins the heavenly choirs in offering praise and adoration to the Father and Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
The Introductory Rites conclude with the Opening Prayer, also called the Collect. The celebrant invites the gathered assembly to pray and, after a brief silence, proclaims the prayer of the day. The Opening Prayer gives a context for the celebration.
Liturgy of the Word
Most of the Liturgy of the Word is made up of readings from Scripture. On Sundays and solemnities, there are three Scripture readings. During most of the year, the first reading is from the Old Testament and the second reading is from one of the New Testament letters. During the Easter season, the first reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles which tells the story of the Church in its earliest days. The last reading is always taken from one of the four Gospels.
In the Liturgy of the Word, the Church feeds the people of God from the table of his Word (cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 51). The Scriptures are the word of God, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In the Scriptures, God speaks to us, leading us along the path to salvation.
The Responsorial Psalm is sung between the readings. The psalm helps us to meditate on the word of God.
The high point of the Liturgy of the Word is the reading of the Gospel. Because the Gospels tell of the life, ministry, and preaching of Christ, it receives several special signs of honor and reverence. The gathered assembly stands to hear the Gospel and it is introduced by an acclamation of praise. During most of the year, that acclamation is "Alleluia!" derived from a Hebrew phrase meaning "Praise the Lord!" A deacon (or, if no deacon is present, a priest) reads the Gospel.
After the Scripture readings, the celebrant preaches the homily. In the homily, the preacher focuses on the Scripture texts or some other texts from the liturgy, drawing from them lessons that may help us to live better lives, more faithful to Christ's call to grow in holiness.
In many Masses, the Nicene Creed follows the homily. The Nicene Creed is a statement of faith dating from the fourth century. In certain instances, the Nicene Creed may be replaced by the Apostles' Creed (the ancient baptismal creed of the Church in Rome) or by a renewal of baptismal promises, based on the Apostles' Creed.
The Liturgy of the Word concludes with the Prayer of the Faithful or the General Intercessions. The gathered assembly intercedes with God on behalf of the Church, the world, and themselves, entrusting their needs to the faithful and loving God.
Liturgy of the Eucharist
The Liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the preparation of the gifts and the altar. As the ministers prepare the altar, representatives of the people bring forward the bread and wine that will become the Body and Blood of Christ. The celebrant blesses and praises God for these gifts and places them on the altar. In addition to the bread and wine, monetary gifts for the support of the Church and the care of the poor may be brought forward.
After the gifts and altar are prepared, the Eucharistic Prayer begins. This prayer of thanksgiving is the heart of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In this prayer, the celebrant acts in the person of Christ as head of his body, the Church. He gathers not only the bread and the wine, but the substance of our lives and joins them to Christ's perfect sacrifice, offering them to the Father.
After a brief introductory dialogue, the celebrant begins the Preface. The Preface tells of the wonderful actions of God, both throughout history and in our lives, giving thanks to God for all these things. The Preface concludes with the Sanctus in which the whole assembly joins the song of the angels giving praise to the Father in heaven (cf. Is 6:3).
The next major part of the Eucharistic Prayer is the epiclesis. In the epiclesis, the priest asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit on the gifts of bread and wine so that, through the power of the Spirit, they may become the Body and Blood of Christ. This same Spirit will transform those attending the liturgy that they may grow in their unity with each other, with the whole Church, and with Christ.
The prayer continues with the institution narrative and consecration. This part of the prayer recalls the action of Jesus Christ on the night before his death. He gathered with his closest disciples to share a final meal. In the course of this meal, he took the simple bread and wine, blessed them, and gave them to his friends as his Body and Blood. In our Eucharistic celebration, through the words of the priest and the action of the Holy Spirit, simple bread and wine once again become the Body and Blood of Christ.
The Eucharistic Prayer continues with the anamnesis, literally, the "not forgetting." The people proclaim the memorial acclamation, recalling the saving death and resurrection of the Lord. The prayer continues as the celebrant recalls the saving actions of God in Christ.
The next part of the prayer is the offering. In this part of the prayer, the priest joins the offering of this Mass to the perfect sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. The priest offers this sacrifice back to God the Father in thanksgiving for God's abundant gifts, particularly the gift of salvation in Christ. The priest also prays that the Holy Spirit may come upon the faithful and by receiving the body and blood of Christ, they themselves may become a living offering to God.
The intercessions follow. Confident in God's loving care, the gathered assembly makes this sacrifice on behalf of the living and the dead, for the leaders of the Church and for all the faithful.
The Eucharistic Prayer concludes with the Final Doxology. The celebrant makes the prayer through, in, and with Jesus, in union with the Holy Spirit, and presents it to God the Father. The people respond with the Great Amen a joyous affirmation of their faith and participation in this great sacrifice of praise.
The Communion Rite follows the Eucharistic Prayer, leading the faithful to the Eucharistic table.
The rite begins with the Lord's Prayer. Jesus taught this prayer to his disciples when they asked how to pray (cf. Mt 6:9-13, Lk 11:2-4). In this prayer, the people join their voices to pray for the coming of God's kingdom and to ask God to provide for our needs, forgive our sins, and bring us to the joy of heaven.
The Rite of Peace follows. The celebrant prays that the peace of Christ will fill our hearts, our families, our Church, our communities, and our world. As a sign of hope, the people extend to those around them a sign of peace, typically by shaking hands.
In the Fraction Rite, the celebrant breaks the consecrated bread as the people sing the Agnus Dei or "Lamb of God." John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29). The action of breaking the bread recalls the actions of Jesus at the Last Supper, when he broke the bread before giving it to his disciples. One of the earliest names for the Eucharistic celebration is the breaking of the bread.
Before receiving Communion, the celebrant and assembly acknowledge that we are unworthy to receive so great a gift. The celebrant receives Communion first and then the people come forward.
Those who receive Communion should be prepared to receive so great a gift. They should fast (except for medicines) for one hour before receiving the Eucharist and should not be conscious of having committed serious sin.
Because sharing at the Eucharistic Table is a sign of unity in the Body of Christ, only Catholics may receive Communion. To invite all present to receive Communion implies a unity which does not exist.
Those who do not receive Communion still participate in this rite by praying for unity with Christ and with each other.
The people approach the altar and, bowing with reverence, receive Communion. People may receive the Body of Christ either on the tongue or in the hand. The priest or other minister offers the Eucharist to each person saying, "The Body of Christ. The person receiving responds by saying, "Amen," a Hebrew word meaning, "So be it" ( Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2856).
As the people receive Communion, the communion song is sung. The unity of voices echoes the unity the Eucharist brings. All may spend some time in silent prayer of thanksgiving as well.
The Communion Rite ends with the Prayer after Communion which asks that the benefits of the Eucharist will remain active in our daily lives.
When it is necessary, announcements may be made. The celebrant then blesses the people assembled. Sometimes, the blessing is very simple. On special days, the blessing may be more extensive. In every case, the blessing always concludes "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." It is in the triune God and in the sign of the cross that we find our blessing.
After the blessing, the deacon dismisses the people. In fact, the dismissal gives the liturgy its name. The word "Mass" comes from the Latin word, " Missa." At one time, the people were dismissed with the words " Ite, missa est," meaning "Go, you are sent. The word " Missa" comes from the word " missio," the root of the English word "mission." The liturgy does not simply come to an end. Those assembled are sent forth to bring the fruits of the Eucharist to the world.
What Worship Looked Like in the Early Church
There were many times during first ten years of my Christian life where I entertained a very popular notion (for Christians, that is) that the only real way to “do church” was to do so just like the believers did in the first three hundred years of Christianity. I, along with my peers, believed that meant coming together as Christians in the home for spontaneous prayer, singing, fellowship and a time to talk about what the Bible said. The assumption was any church order was unspiritual. It was also assumed that since around 325 AD, when the Roman Emperor Constantine became a Christian, the Church had compromised, became like the world, and perverted Christian worship. I could make those assumptions because I was woefully ignorant of history.
Nevertheless, I was pretty faithful to either a local church or a parachurch and their worship services that is until 1976 when I was invited to a new church touting to be very biblical, and very much like the early Church. They met in a home. They had a very simple order of service, trying to preserve the leading of the supposed serendipitous and random Spirit of God. Any man who had something to say could “preach.” Anyone could pray or chose hymns (using a hymnal, though I’m pretty sure the early church did not have hymnals), which would be played by a very technical, but fairly competent pianist. The meeting could last twenty minutes or go as long as ninety minutes. Afterwards, real unleavened bread and cheap wine was served. I was convinced that I had finally arrived at a place where worship was just like the early church!
A few years later I decided to purchase and read Philip Schaff’s multi-volume The History of the Christian Church. That’s what you do when you are a history major and have an interest in all things Christian, right? I’ll never forget that night – while lying in bed and coming upon Schaff’s accounts of worship in the early church. Stunned would be the descriptive term for my emotional reaction. I had to read it several times before it would sink in. My understanding for how the pure, real, untainted Christians of the first couple centuries worshiped was shattered. From that night on the study of Christian worship has been a serious interest for me.
So what did worship look like in the early church? During the first several decades, most of the Jews who had come to believe in Jesus Christ as their messiah and savior, when possible, continued to worship in their local synagogue and at the Temple. This is what we see in the book of Acts. However, first generation Christians easily realized that since synagogue worship neither practiced the two main rites or sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper established by Jesus, nor taught the story and words of Jesus, they had to have another day to do so. Sunday was the obvious day, since it commemorated the light and life of Jesus Christ. These early Jewish Christians would meet on the “day of the Lord” to pray, read Scripture, be taught by the apostles or elders, sing psalms and new hymns, and have the agape meal or “love feast”. This meal was a regular meal that included bread and wine with the spiritual symbols invested in them, much like the Jewish Passover Meal.
For centuries there was debate about the order of a typical Jewish synagogue worship. Historians and students of worship had accepted some basic facts about their worship based upon extra-biblical materials. As historians and archaeologists have uncovered ancient synagogues in recent years, they have learned more about the buildings and all that was connected to them.
The synagogue, which faced east toward the rising of the sun and Jerusalem, was considered a place for the assembly hence the name. It was a multi-purpose center for Jews and God-fearers (people wanting to convert to Judaism). Hence, it would function much like old American town halls where court would take place, the city leaders or elders would conduct business, town meetings would be held, a school for boys would use it during the week, etc.
For some Jewish communities this multipurpose facility also served as a community food bank, a treasury (an early banking system), a hostel with a room or two for traveling guests, and/or a place for the wounded or infirm.
If the community did not build another facility, as some did, then the place would be turned into “the house of prayer” on the Sabbath. For the Jewish people, the concept of prayer was much broader than merely petitioning God for things. Prayer, especially in the context of the community, was a time for communion with God, which meant it was a time of worship.
We now know that the house of prayer was a place arranged to host the rabbis, elders and the congregation on their Sabbath days. Often the exterior of the building itself was basic and bland, but the interior of the meeting hall was well decorated and furnished with items that reminded the worshipers of God’s holy Temple. Therefore, they would have a special box for the scrolls of Scripture, a menorah or lampstand, baskets of grains and fruit to represent firstfruit offerings, a table with a basket or bowl of twelve loaves of bread, and so forth.
During the Sabbath, this house of prayer was a place that held prayer services morning, noon and night. Then there was a time when the general community would gather to engage God with praise, prayers, with the reading and the teaching of the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament), and then be dismissed by God with a closing blessing. Interestingly enough, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is written in that order.
We also know that some synagogues allowed women, but they had to stand in the back or off to the side, while the boys and men sat in the front. They used a liturgical calendar systematically reading pre-selected Scriptures from the Law and the Prophets. It is quite probable that when Jesus read and then interpreted the Scriptures, as we find him doing in the Gospels, he did so based upon those preselected passages.
The Scriptures, housed in a special box, were ceremoniously carried to the reading lectern. The official, sometimes called the president (since he presided over the service), would read the selected portions of God’s Word. All would stand during the reading out of reverence for God’s Word. Other men, who were of age and recognized as priests or rabbis could also read Scripture and then explain what was meant. Evidence suggests that the readers and teachers would sit while teaching while the audience stood. We see this practice in Ezra and Nehemiah.
From the research we can see what the order of worship looked like. This order of worship was adopted and practiced by the early church:
The Greeting – a more formal, biblical greeting or salutation.
A Response – the attendees would respond, often with a Scripture that was recited in unison or chanted.
Readings and Psalmody – Several passages of Scriptures would be read or chanted, interspersed with a responsive singing or chanting of a Psalm
Psalms – the Psalms, considered God’s hymnal, were sung or chanted, most of the time without instruments.
Message – an elder, rabbi or teacher would interpret and explain the relevant meaning of the Scripture(s) that were read.
Prayer – prayers would be offered on behalf of the people. The Jews considered prayer as an act of sacrifice, and therefore pleasing to God. It was common to weave various portions of Scripture into the prayers.
Benediction – this was a formal blessing from God by his Word upon his people.
As the membership of the early Church grew, more and more non-Jewish converts were swelling the ranks and outnumbering the Jewish believers. At the same time, Jewish people and leadership were becoming hostile toward Christians, declaring them to be a blasphemous sect. The opportunities for Christians to worship and to witness in the synagogues quickly diminished.
Believers understood the biblical mandate and the need to worship God in Christ on a weekly basis. The first generation Christians in Jerusalem and other Jewish epicenters naturally worshiped in synagogues on the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) and on Christ’s resurrection day (Sunday). God communicated through the apostles and prophets that Christ’s church was God’s new covenant people who lived in God’s new covenant era. The old covenant, filled with the old biblical ceremonies and Sabbaths were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He brought a revolutionary new day. Worship would be rightly observed on Christ’s day (Sunday), in the Spirit and Truth.
Jewish believers practiced family worship, while their communities would gather for corporate worship in a public place, such as the synagogue. Gentiles, influenced by Roman culture, worshiped in various settings and on a daily basis. There were plenty of gods and goddesses to appease and pay tribute. The gods Roma (goddess of the culture of Rome) and Caesar (recognized as a man-god) were deities whom the all people had to pay tribute. But, local villages, towns and cities had their own gods and each family, (called “households,” who were composed of the patriarch-grandfather, his sons and families, and slaves) also worshiped at given times and places. It was common for the households to pay tribute to their god or goddess in their homes during a mealtime. In the absence of the patriarch, the matriarch would preside over the obligatory ceremony in the home.
In the first hundred years after Jesus’ resurrection, the Church added more former gentiles than former Jews. It was natural, being influenced by their cultural practices, to hold worship in the homes. The common notion that Christians worshiping in homes is the God-ordained practice for worship is just plain silly. Worshiping in houses was a cultural act, not a holy act. It was an ingrained tradition, that Jesus neither condemned nor required. As the body of believers grew in a town or city, they would seek out homes of believers that could accommodate as many people as they could. Much like today, necessity or convenience would often drive the decision as to where to meet. Archaeologists have uncovered large house compounds that had dedicated room(s) for corporate worship. They have also discovered former public buildings that were converted for worship and used as Christian teaching centers. The idea that places of worship were sanctified by God, also grew out of the gentile and Jewish cultures but the idea was never sanctioned by Christ and his New Testament.
Like the Jews who had a very special annual feast that a Hebrew family would observe (the Passover), and like the gentiles who worshiped while having their feasts or meals, it was natural for the first generation of Christians to celebrate Jesus during a common feast that incorporated Christ’s new Supper. Whenever believers did so, it was called the Love (Agape) Feast. With the understanding that believers were members of a new family in Christ, these feasts were not merely restricted to those related by blood, but to those related by faith in Jesus Christ.
Children, youth and slaves of their father or patriarch were obliged to have at least a formal commitment to the deity(ies) of the patriarch, so they also participated in the religious practices of the family. This practice did not change when heads of households became Christians. However, when an individual became a believer in Jesus Christ, sometimes they would continue their own family’s religious tradition, but also participate in the weekly worship with their new family in Christ. The dynamics or conflicts that came about were different for each family.
As we have seen, when the Church gathered on Sundays for worship, they learned from the apostles and prophets an order of worship that was adopted from the Synagogue liturgy. Yet, that worship, while focusing on God the Father, did not take into consideration Jesus Christ. The Love Feast ceremony (very simple and with a meal) fulfilled the need and obligation to worship Jesus. When believers moved from two days of worship to one day of worship on Sunday, they blended the two services. Worship then was done in two parts.
For many reasons, Christians allowed anyone to participate with them during the first part of the service. This was known as “the assembly” and “the Service of the Word.” However, because the second part was a special time and a religious feast reserved only for those who were confirmed members (catechized and baptized) of Christ’s family, the Church excluded non-members from participating. An opportunity was given during the first part, often before the sermon, for inquirers and unbaptized new disciples (called catechumens) to leave.
It is said that sometime in the middle of the 200s that churches added a formal part of the liturgy called “The Peace.” It followed the Service of the Word and prefaced the Service of Thanksgiving. To some it appeared to be a time of intermission. Yet it was more than that. It was a brief period for people to greet one another, and for believers to reconcile with fellow believers if there had been some conflict between them. They did so in obedience to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 and Paul’s admonitions in 1 Corinthians 10-14.
The believers would then give each other a “holy kiss,” from which the cultural practice of a brief hug with a quick kiss on both cheeks came. You find this “holy kiss” mentioned in the New Testament (Romans 16:16 1 Corinthians 16:20 2 Corinthians 13:12 1 Thessalonians 5:26). It is also mentioned many times by the early church fathers. A time was given for all God’s people to kiss each other (even on the lips). It was to convey the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing strangers together into a holy family, in the bonds of grace, love and unity. It symbolized the breaking down of those cultural barriers of race, nationality, culture, former religion, class, etc. and uniting a people as equal ones in Christ. One can only imagine how counter-cultural and revolutionary this was.
So important was this that the ceremonies of baptism and the Lord’s Supper was considered incomplete without the exchange of the holy kiss.
During The Peace those who were not formally part of the church were greeted and then escorted out by the deacons. Sadly, because of a misunderstanding or because people were offended by their exclusion, this gave rise to the rumor that Christians were eating literal flesh and drinking literal blood. Many times leaders of churches were arrested by local authorities for supposedly performing cannibalistic rites.
The second part of the worship was called the eucharist, which meant “the thanksgiving.” One could rightly say the early church (and the Church for centuries) celebrated a weekly thanksgiving. The simple order of this part of worship often looked like this:
A greeting – Normally a salutation taken from Scripture
Response – The congregation would recite a biblical verse they had memorized that acknowledged the wonders and works of an awesome God.
Offering – Sometimes a special time during worship was taken to collect funds in order to support the pastors, teachers and/or evangelists, widows, orphans, and the poor of God’s people. Priority was given to Christians who were members of the local church but money was also collected to support other churches in different cities. Any additional funds were occasionally used to serve the needy within the local community.
Eucharist Prayer – The president (the elder who presided over the worship) would offer thanks to God for Jesus Christ, and ask God to bless the bread and wine in order to spiritually nourish God’s people in the faith.
Communion – This would begin by offering prayers and then offering the elements to God, and ceremoniously breaking the bread. The people would then receive the bread and wine.
Benediction – When all had eaten the bread and drunk the wine, an elder (more often the president) would pronounce a biblical blessing upon God’s people.
As time went on the worship service became more and more elaborate and sophisticated. Trying to teach (usually illiterate) believers about the life and work of Jesus Christ, and about true worship, many church leaders incorporated symbols borrowed from culture and/or from the Old Testament.
The point of this little history lesson on church worship is that from the founding of the New Testament Church, worship has been structured, orderly and sensible. Reading from the early church fathers one gets the clear sense that, for the most part, worship in the first couple generations had a complete and formal liturgy that was filled with reverence and affection for God in Christ. Ideally, it was also an expression of who this new people of God were: Christ-worshipers united together in Spirit and Truth, expressed through grace, love, peace and joy.
The Mass Explained
The following commentaries on the Holy Mass one for each day of the month were first prepared for school use. They can easily be adapted for other uses.
To judge the "quality" of the Christian life of a community is always a difficult task, and perhaps a foolhardy one. There are so many factors that should be taken into account. And the most important of them are hidden!
Nevertheless, if the Holy Mass is the central act of our Catholic life, then Mass-going must surely remain one of the most indicative of these factors. With good reason therefore we consider the number of people coming to Mass, not only on Sundays but also very specially on weekdays. With even better reason we try to assess the "quality" of their participation in the Mass their understanding of its nature and their application to their own lives of what it should mean for them. And we often think of the ways in which we can help them.
This is where our catechists on the Mass must come in: a constant catechesis, with big groups and small groups, with Sundays congregations and very particularly with the weekday ones a constant and simple catechesis that is not afraid to drive home the basic points by dint of repetition.
The following commentaries one for each day of the month were first prepared for school use, with the idea of repeating them once every two or three months. They can easily be adapted for use on a different basis. The person-to-person style is no doubt more suited to the spoken word or to be put down in writing, but it seemed preferable not to change it.
The Holy Mass is the holiest thing we have here on earth. Why? Because it is the action of Christ. The main thing in the Mass is not what is read from the Holy Scriptures, even though this is the word of God and should be listened to as such. The main thing in the Mass is not what the priest preaches in his sermon nor what the people do or sing. The main thing is what Christ does. And what does Christ do in the Holy Mass? He offers himself for us, as he offered himself on the Cross. He sacrifices himself for us. That is why we say that the Mass is the same Sacrifice as that of the Cross renewed in an unbloody manner on the altar. On the altar just on the Cross, Christ offers his body and blood for us. The difference is that on the Cross his body and blood were visible to the eyes of those who were present, while in the Mass they are hidden under the appearances of bread and wine. But they are really present. This is the great fact. In each Mass, Christ is really present and renews the Sacrifice of the Cross.
"A man who fails to love the Mass fails to love Christ." 1 To love the Mass is a guarantee for salvation. But to love the Mass does not mean just being present and no more. It means to be present with faith and devotion. It means to take part in the Mass, realizing what it is: the Sacrifice of the Cross renewed on the altar and realizing that when we go to Mass, we go, as it were, to Calvary. And that we should be present there, like our Blessed Lady beside the Cross, in loving contemplation of Christ who offers himself lovingly for each one of us.
The holy Eucharist is the "mystery of faith." Without faith, all you would see is bread and wine being offered, no more. Without faith, the most you could see in this is a gesture, a symbol, nothing more. With faith you know that at the moment of the Consecration which is when the priest says, "This is my body," "This is the cup of my blood" the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ who is then really present as God and as Man sacrificing himself for us on the altar as he sacrificed himself on the cross. If you come to Mass without faith, or with little faith you will easily get distracted and perhaps even bored. What a sad thing to get bored with Christ's sacrifice! Would we have been bored if we had been present at Calvary? If we hadn't faith, perhaps we would. Or at least we would have completely failed to understand what the death of that Man nailed to the cross really meant. You will only begin to understand the greatness of the Mass if you have faith. Stir up your faith. And then you will always be amazed at the Mass, you will realize that it is the greatest thing we possess here on earth.
The purposes of the Mass
What else should you do, besides having a lot of faith, if you want to attend Holy Mass well? You should identify yourself with Christ. You should remember the Scriptures and have "the same mind" "that he had on the cross (cf. Phil 2:5). The same mind which means the same purposes. What purposes did Jesus have on the cross? What was he concerned about? We can sum up his ends or purposes as four: to give glory to God the Father to thank him to make up for the sins of men and to ask him for graces for us. If each time you go to Mass, you try to live at least one of these four purposes, you will attend Holy Mass well.
The first purpose: adoration
God is our Creator. He is the Lord of the whole world. We depend on him for everything. He is infinite, eternal, all-powerful. His infinite greatness and goodness ought to fill us with amazement and enthusiasm. When people get enthused about God, they want to praise him, they want to adore him. Jesus Christ, with his humanity, gave perfect glory to God the Father from the cross, and he continues to do so from the altar. If you unite yourself to him, you will be offering a perfect sacrifice of adoration and praise. Pay special attention to the Gloria and the Sanctus.
The second purpose: to give thanks
God is infinitely good. And all the good things we have, have come from him: life, family, sanctifying grace, faith, the sacraments, the gift of his Mother. And so many other natural and supernatural gifts. It is good to give thanks. The person who is too proud to say "Thank You" is not only ungrateful but is bound to end up being unhappy. Unite yourself to our Lord in the Mass, giving thanks, and you will see how you also become more optimistic as a result, because you will become more and more convinced of the goodness of God.
The third purpose: to make up for our sins
Jesus is perfect God and perfect Man. He is all-holy. Therefore he has not and could not have been guilty of any sin. But, as the Holy Scriptures says, he took our sins on himself and made up for them. He did penance for us by dying on the cross. If we want to take part properly in the Holy Mass, we must be sorry for our sins. The person who is not sorry for his sins will never understand or love the Mass, nor will he ever really take part in it. But the person who comes to Mass with real sorrow for his sins, will draw from it great strength to fight against temptations and to realize that, despite his weaknesses, God loves him very much.
The penitential act the "I confess" that we all say together at the start of the Mass does not pardon mortal sins. Forgiveness of mortal sins has to be obtained in the sacrament of penance. It is also important to remember that a person who has committed a mortal sin cannot go to communion unless he goes to confession beforehand. But the penitential act, if it is said well, certainly helps to obtain pardon for present venial sins as well as to stir up new sorrow for past sins that have already been forgiven. In this way it helps us to purify ourselves and so to take better part in the Holy Mass.
The fourth purpose: petition
Our God is a merciful and a very generous God. He longs to give. He wants to give us what is absolutely the best, what is the greatest gift imaginable: eternal life and all the help we need to make it ours. God wants to give. But he also wants to be asked: "Ask and you shall receive." That is why we ask with a prayer for petition. However, it is wise, when asking, to be able to back up our petition with some proof of special merit on our part. This is where we seem to run into a big difficulty. For when we look at ourselves, we see ourselves so full of defects and so lacking in merits that there seems to be no reason why God should ever heed our petitions. That is why we look to the merits of Christ, and to those of our Lady and the saints. That is why, if we are sensible, we unite our prayer to the prayer of Christ.
Christ's prayer is always effective because it is simply impossible that God the Father should not listen to the prayer of his beloved Son. Jesus prayed for us on the cross. He continues praying for us on the altar. When we pray in the Holy Mass, therefore, and unite our prayers to that of Jesus, we can be sure that our requests will be heard by God the Father.
Holy Scripture is God's word. God speaks to us in the inspired books, so that we can know what we have to believe and what we have to do, in order to get to heaven. After each reading we say, "Thanks be to God." Why do we say this? Because it is a wonderful thing that God speaks to us, that he addresses his words to us in these holy books, pointing out to us the way to heaven. It is another marvelous proof of his love for us. That is why we thank him.
The Gospel tell us of the life of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man. They tell us of the things he did and the words he spoke during his life here on earth. We stand at attention, as it were in order to listen to the Gospel. This should be a sign to others and a reminder to ourselves that we are ready and determined to put into practice what we are listening to. You will have noticed how, just before the priest begins to read the Gospel, he turns towards the altar or the tabernacle, bows down and prays. What he is doing is to ask God for grace to be able to proclaim the good news of the Gospel well. At that moment you too would do well to ask for grace to be able to listen to the Gospel joyfully, to understand it and to put it into practice.
This is said on Sundays and the bigger feasts. We declare our faith. Do we really believe in the things we say in the Creed? Of course! But do we realize how big these things are? We believe in God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who is One and Three, who created us, who redeemed us by means of his Son, Jesus Christ, who sanctifies us, giving us a share in his own life by means of grace, through the work of the Holy Spirit and that of the holy Church who forgives us always (always provided we are sorry and ask for his pardon), and who is determined to bring us to heaven. There are some people who live in a closed world, as if they were inside a tunnel. 2
Faith brings us out of the tunnel and let us live in the wonderful world of God. To declare our faith, as we do in the Creed, is something that should fill its with wonder, thanks and joy.
Presentation of the gifts
We have ended the liturgy of the word. Now we start the eucharistic liturgy in which the main actions of the Mass take place. The eucharistic liturgy is made up of three main parts: the presentation of the gifts, the eucharistic prayer or Canon (with the consecration), and the communion. In the presentation of the gifts (or the offertory) the priest (and we with him) offers the hosts some small particles of unleavened bread and small quantity of wine. What he offers is really very little. We could say that it has practically no value. But, it should represent us. If you want to learn to take proper part in the Holy Mass, it is important that you learn to offer yourself and to offer all that is yours in this moment of the Mass. 3 Take your work, your studies, your needs, your struggle, and even your weaknesses. Take all of that and put it on the paten beside the hosts, those small pieces of bread. Put it on the chalice with the wine.
Jesus Christ is going to come to this altar within a few minutes. There are many ways in which he could have chosen to come. But he has wished to come by marvelously turning the bread and the wine into his own body and blood. He has wished to come by means of transubstantiation, by which something that we offer him, something that is ours, is changed into his body and blood, while of the bread and wine only the appearances remain. The bread and the wine are our gifts, our offering to God. They will be your gift and your offering if you make them yours, if you put yourself there, on the paten with the bread, in the chalice with the wine. If you let yourself get distracted at the moment when the priest is offering the gifts, then the bread and the wine will be other people's gifts, something that other people offer to God. But they won't be your gifts, because you have not offered them, you have not offered yourself with them. Now do you see how important it is not to get distracted at the moment of the offertory?
Presentation of the gifts
We have seen how in the presentation of the gifts, we offer to God a little bread and wine. We have seen too that these offerings ought to represent us. In themselves they are things of little value, but our affection accompanies them. Now think of what is going to happen to these gifts of ours. At the moment of the consecration, God is going to change them into something divine: into himself. From bread and wine they become the body and blood of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man! Up to the moment of the consecration our offering to God has practically no value. From the moment on, it has infinite value! Doesn't this help you see the importance of offering yourself with the bread and the wine so that they represent your day, your life? If you do this you are participating in the Mass, and God will gradually do with your life what he does with the bread and wine. He will gradually turn your life your ordinary everyday life into something with divine value in his eyes. Your life your work, your rest, your sports, your friendships if you associate it closely to the Holy Mass, will be a sanctified life, which means sanctified work, sanctified rest, sanctified sports, sanctified friendships. Unite yourself well to the Holy Mass.
We have spoken of how we ought to offer ourselves on the paten with the bread, and in the chalice with the wine. You have probably noticed how the priest, before he offers the chalice, adds a few drops of water to the wine, the wine that will soon be turned into the blood of our Lord. These drops of water which are dissolved in the wine and therefore also turn into the Blood of Christ represent us and all that we offer to God with Christ. Consider what happens next. After offering the bread and wine, the priest turns to the people and invites them to pray "so that our sacrifice," he says my sacrifice and yours "may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty," Don't pass over this too lightly: the sacrifice of the Mass is Christ's action, Christ's sacrifice. But it is also the sacrifice of the priest and of the people. It is your sacrifice if you have made it yours, if you have really put some part of yourself into this sacrifice.
The Preface introduces the Canon which is the central and most solemn part of the Holy Mass. At the end of the Preface we say the Sanctus: "Holy, holy, holy Lord God. " It is like a song or a shout of enthusiasm. Let us think for a moment what our God is like. He is all powerful (he can do anything). He is infinite Love (he loves us as no one else could ever love us). He is all goodness and truth and greatness (he became Man out of love for us he died on the cross to redeem us and then he overcame death by rising again).
All of this should fill us with gratitude and joy. And then, like the saints and the angels in heaven, we will grow really enthusiastic about our God, we will want to praise him, and we will repeat the "Holy, holy, holy" with faith and fervor.
The most solemn moment of the Holy Mass is the consecration. Up to that moment what is on the altar is bread and wine. From the moment when the priest pronounces the words of the consecration" This is my body" "This is the cup of my blood" what is in the altar is the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Of the bread and wine nothing remains except the appearances. But, under those appearances, God is really present. All of this is done by the power of God. Jesus Christ is God become Man and he can do anything. He can even change a little bread and wine into his own body and blood so that it can be our offering and sacrifice: and also, if we are fit to receive him, so that it can be our food.
The priest raises the host and the chalice. And we adore Appearances will not deceive us if we have faith. With the eyes of our body we only see bread. But with the eyes of faith which is how the Christian soul sees we see and recognize our Lord himself. Let us express our faith. You remember those words of Saint Thomas, "My Lord and my God." Many people repeat them quietly to themselves at the moment of the elevation. Thomas wished to see the glorious Body of the risen Jesus. Then he proclaimed his divinity. Our Lord said to him, "Thomas, you believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe." Let us proclaim our faith in the real presence of Jesus in the host, relying for proof on his infallible word.
This is the moment of the Mass when we have to be most awake, putting heart and soul into many acts of faith and love and adoration. Because Christ is at last on the altar. There is no longer any bread or wine. By the miraculous process of transubstantiation all of it has been changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, God become Man. Our Lord is really present with his humanity and his divinity, offering himself for us on the altar just as he offered himself for us on the cross.
We are on Calvary. This is the "composition of place" that we should make in these moments. Christ is offering himself for us. We too should want to be beside him, like our Lady and Saint John who were beside him and kept him company on Calvary. Let us ask them to help us not to get distracted, to be present with faith, to realize what Jesus is doing as he offers himself on the altar for the whole humanity to adore him, to thank him.
The Mass is never a private action. Even if very few people or only a single person accompanies the priest, the whole Church is present. "Priests fulfill their chief duty in the mystery of the Eucharistic sacrifice. In it the work of our redemption continues to be carried out. For this reason, priests are strongly urged to celebrate Mass every day, for even if the faithful are unable to be present, it is an act of Christ and the Church." 4 Let us be conscious of this presence of the whole Church which, of course, also includes the angels and the saints. They are present and adoring from the moment of the consecration. If we ask them, they will help us too, to be present in a spirit of reverence and adoration.
The Eucharistic Prayer or Canon is the central part of the Mass. Now the moment for communion is approaching. As we end the Canon we begin our more immediate preparation for communion. And first of all we say the prayer that our Lord himself taught his disciples: "Taught by him, we dare to call God our Father he is the Almighty who created heaven and earth, and he is a loving Father who waits for us to come back to him again and again, as the story of the prodigal son repeats itself in our lives." 5 The Our Father contains seven petitions. We would do well to meditate on each one of them as they cover all of our most important needs.
Preparation for Communion
"This is the Lamb of God. Lord, I aim not worthy.. We are going to receive our Lord. On this earth, when we receive an important person, we bring out the best lights, music, formal dress. How should we prepare to receive Christ into our soul? Have we ever thought about how we would behave if we could only receive him once in a lifetime?" 6 We are not worthy to have him enter even once into our house, into our poor soul. Yet he is so eager to enter there very often. What we can and ought to do is to ensure that however poor the house of our soul is, it is clean. We cannot receive our Lord with a dirty soul, with a soul dirtied by sin. If we ever stain ourselves with a serious sin, then we have to get cleaned in the sacrament of penance before going to communion. We are not worthy to receive our Lord. But we must never receive him unworthily with a mortal sin on our soul that has not been confessed. It would be like the kiss of Judas. It would mean betraying Christ, striking him, crucifying him all over again.
"Happy are those who are called to his supper." "If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man, you will not have life in you." "Anyone who eats this bread will live forever. " We come to Mass because we have felt ourselves invited to accompany our Lord in his sacrifice while he offers himself for us and to offer ourselves with him. We come to Holy Mass, therefore, to take part in the sacrifice of Christ. When the moment of communion comes, we feel that our Lord continues to invite us. Now he is calling us to his supper where he offers himself to us to be the food of our souls. How hungry we should be to receive him!
The soul needs its nourishment even much more than the body. But we should not forget that while the appetite of the body is generally spontaneous (three or four times a day we feel like eating), the appetite of the soul is rather reflexive and voluntary: it is a consequence of faith. Stir up your faith in him who is hidden beneath the appearances of bread: "Lord, I recognize you." Stir up your faith in his promises: "Anyone who eats this bread will live forever." And your hunger for communion will increase from day to day.
We should be so eager to receive him! Holy Communion is the greatest gift we could be offered. And yet some people are not interested! They could go to communion frequently but they don't. And there are others who don't go to communion because their weaknesses get the better of them. But why don't they go to confession first, and then to communion? And then they will get strength, precisely to resist those weaknesses! But since God not only knows this but loves us, he has given us a source of special strength, of divine strength, in the sacrament. How eager we ought to be to receive them, especially those two which we can receive often, confession and communion.
We should put so much love into how we receive him! Always with faith, and always with love. If you really have faith, if you realize what it is you receive, you will receive him with love, just as it is with love that he comes to you. He comes to you with love, and you ought to receive him with love. There is no obligation to go to communion frequently. But if you do go to communion, then there is an obligation to receive him with love and affection. It would be such a lack of reverence to receive our Lord in a routine way, without trying to make many acts of faith and of love.
In the Mass, Christ offers himself for us. And in Holy Communion he offers himself to us. Think what this offering costs our Lord his whole passion! The Mass asks us also for correspondence and self-giving. If we attend Mass with faith, it will be easier for us to give ourselves to God each day trying to fulfill his commandments with love. And it will also be easier for us to give ourselves generously to other people, in a constant effort to love them, to understand them, to make their lives happier.
Opening prayer, prayer over the gifts, prayer after communion
In the Holy Mass we are praying constantly with Jesus and through Jesus. Remember, for instance, the prayer that we say before the readings, and those that come after the offertory and the communion. We ask for different things. But what matters most is that we always ask "through Jesus Christ our Lord." It has been said that the only prayer which reaches heaven with full effect is that of Jesus. Therefore when we pray through him in the Mass, we can be sure that our prayers reach God the Father and that he listens to them.
There are so many other small details in the Mass that we can learn from. One is the fact that time and again throughout the Mass the priest says to the people he wishes them "the Lord be with you," and the people return him the same wish. Could we wish someone anything better? The Lord is going to be with us during the whole of the Mass, and we should try to be with him. And then he will also be more with us and we more with him during the rest of the day.
The Mass is a sacrifice offered for the forgiveness of sins. We would not have proper dispositions for taking part in the Mass if we were not aware of our sins and sorry for them. That is why, as soon as the Mass has begun, the priest invites each one of us to call our sins to mind. And all of us pray together, acknowledging that we have sinned through our own fault in our thoughts and words, in what have done and failed to do. If you are not sorry for your sins you will never attend Mass well. Think at the moment therefore about your sins and your acts of selfishness, and ask Blessed Mary ever Virgin, and all the angels and saints, to pray for you and help you to be very sorry for those faults of yours which, even if they are not very grave, nevertheless disfigure the soul.
Christ offers himself for us in the Holy Mass, and he offers himself to us in Holy Communion. To be present at Mass, and receive Holy Communion, is the greatest thing we can do here on earth. Here, on the altar, we receive the greatest benefits that God gives us on earth. Once Mass has ended it is only logical that we remain for a few minutes giving thanks to our Lord. To leave without giving thanks would be a sign of little consideration or little faith. "The fact that the sacred function. has come to an end, does not dispense him who has communicated from making his thanksgiving. On the contrary it is most fitting that after he has received Holy Communion and after the Mass is over he should collect his thoughts and, in close union with his Divine Master, pass such time as circumstances allow in devout and salutary conversation with him." 7
Those moments, when one has received communion and the Mass has just ended, are the best moments to ask graces and favors from our Lord. He is so eager to give, but at the same time he wants us to ask. "Ask and you shall receive." Can there be any better moment for asking than when we are united with him, when he is inside us, brought there by his immense love towards each one of us? Don't waste those moments. Use them to pray for many things, for yourself, for your loved ones, for the Church, for the Pope, for souls everywhere, for the whole world.
- J. M. Escriva, Christ is Passing By, no. 92.
- J. M. Escriva, The Way, no. 575.
- Cf. Vatican 11, Presbyterorum Ordinis, no. 5 Lumen Gentium, nos. 11 and 34.
- Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, no. 13.
- Christ is Passing By, no. 91.
- Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, no. 130.
Cormac Burke. "The Mass Explained." (Manila: Sinag-Tala Publishers, 1981).
Reprinted by permission of Sinag-Tala Publishers. All rights reserved.
ISBN 971 554 014 7. The Mass Explained is currently out of print.
Theological Reflections on the Role of Music in Worship
Music and song continue to play a vital role in the life of God’s people today. Contemporary culture and modern technology bring new possibilities and new challenges to the music ministry of the church. People’s lives are surrounded with music—television and radio, the background music of video games, the muzak of shopping malls, CDs, and synthesizers. Yet much of the time music functions as “background” rather than as an opportunity for serious listening, much less participation. Outside the church there are few occasions or opportunities in North American culture for people to sing together. Much of the popular music (including popular Christian music) composed today is for performance rather than for participation.
The church also has greater access and has shown greater openness to a greater variety of music—from classical hymnody to Christian rock, from European cantatas to South African choruses. Such diversity is to be welcomed and celebrated it reflects the diversity and richness of God’s creation. But greater variety and options in music call for greater discernment and care in planning and implementing the music ministry of the church. The people of God sing what they sing and how they sing are important issues.
Most worship services include a time when worshipers can give an offering. The receiving of gifts, tithes, and offerings is another practice that can differ widely from church to church.
Some churches pass around an "offering plate" or "offering basket," while others ask you to bring your offering forward to the altar as an act of worship. Still, others make no mention of the offering, allowing members to give their gifts and contributions privately and discreetly. Written information is usually provided to explain where offering boxes are located.
The Origin of Sun Worship, Trinity, Babylon and Sunday Worship
Satan's church had its beginning at Babylon with the construction of the Tower of Babel on the plain of Shinar by the River Euphrates many generations after the deluge. At the time of the construction of Babylon at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-4), mankind had multiplied and spoken one language. Cush who was the son of Ham and grandson of Noah (Genesis 10:1, 6), helped to plan with his son Nimrod, a blueprint by which to rule the world of humanity through a wicked counterfeit religion. Nimrod was the originator of sun worship and founder of Babylon. A Bible translation called the Targum says, &ldquoNimrod became a mighty man of sin, a murderer of innocent men, and a rebel before the Lord.&rdquo
The beginning of Nimrod's evil plan had its origin at Babel which was later known as Babylon. This city of Babylon with a tower &ldquowhose top may reach unto heaven&rdquo was built by Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-10 11:4). They called the tower &ldquoBabel, the gate to heaven,&rdquo but God called it what it was which was, &ldquoBabel, confusion,&rdquo for there God confused the language of the people which forced them to scatter. This heaven defying group of people wanted one government to rule the world and one religion to sway the hearts of mankind. This was Satan's attempt to defy God and His authority and the ring leader of his scheme was Nimrod. But God came down and stopped this world wide rebellion at Babel, in defiance of His command for mankind to replenish the earth (Genesis 9:1) by confusing their language into many languages so they could not understand one another's speech. Mankind discontinued the building of Babel and were scattered to different parts of the world (Genesis 11:8-9).
Nimrod had a plan to weld together and strengthen this evil religious system and so he married his own mother who was Semiramis. She was the first deified queen of Babylon and Nimrod was the first deified king. Semiramis was as wicked as her son Nimrod, and as much sold out to Satan and devil worship as did he. Incest was used here as a basis to unite this newly false religious system. Nimrod and his mother/wife would be greatly used by Satan in the following centuries to send countless millions and even billions of souls to hell.
Satan's plan was to develop a counterfeit, opposition system of religion to attract worship away from the true God of Heaven. This false system had its sacrificial plan just as God had a plan of sacrifice. But Satan's pagan worship required the offering up of human beings, which was often the sons and daughters of the worshipers. A counterfeit holy day was instituted in honor of the sun god, (Sun-day) and this was designed by Satan to rob God of his peculiar authority as the Creator of the universe as designated by His Holy day the Sabbath.
Have you noticed how occult symbols are typically reversed? Example: The occult symbol for a cross is an inverted cross. Most have never noticed that God uses the 6:1 principle. That is, you have 6 of something normal and then on the 7th something special happens. Example: God created the world in 6 days and the 7th is a special day of rest and worship. Crops were grown for 6 years and the 7th year the land was rested. Slaves were kept for 6 years and were to be set free on the 7th year. There are 6 weeks from Passover to the 7th week being Pentecost. There are 6 months from Passover to the 7th month being the Day of Atonement. Bible chronologists say we are currently approaching the end of 6000 years since creation and if Christ returns at the end of 6000 years, we will then have the 7000th year being the 1000 year millennial reign. (See Revelation 20:1-15) So 6000 years + 1000 years (millennium) = 7000 years. None of this is by chance and is God's plan. Observe the days of the week below.
7th Day Sabbath
The first six days are normal but the 7th day is the &ldquoSabbath of the Lord thy God.&rdquo Remember that the occult uses the reverse symbol or is the opposite (in opposition) to God. So if Sunday was Satan's plan for a day of worship, and we have seen historically that it is, then his week would be the reverse of God's week. Instead of being the 6:1 principle it would be 1:6. As seen from the table below, this is the case and so it is not just two days side by side. It is the occult equivalent and this is not by chance but Satan's choice.
We are fast approaching 6000 years (last generation now) and if Jesus comes at the end of 6000 years we would then have a 1000 year Sabbath. A thousands years a day just as God said. 2 Peter 3:8 &ldquoBut, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.&rdquo Six days work and the Seventh day rest. This Earth's history may end up being a mirror image of the creation week but with a thousand years to a day. That would put a whole new perspective on the meaning of the Sabbath now that is for sure. 6000 years of working and a 1000 years of rest. God does love doing things in numbers!
Nimrod's and Semiramis' followers plunged so deeply into sin and the occult that they even sacrificed babies to Satan in their worship of him. This became a common practice until Shem who was one of Noah's three sons and the great uncle of Nimrod, in his anger and wrath killed Nimrod and cut him up into small pieces as an example to others not to commit such abominable sins and not to follow such evil religious practices. (Shem was a godly man and it was through his seed the Messiah would come.)
Alexander Hislop in his book The Two Babylons said, , &ldquothe Tower of Babel was actually the worship of Satan in the form of fire, the sun and the serpent. However, Satan worship could not be done openly because of the many who still believed in the true God of Noah. So a mystery religion began at Babel where Satan could be worshipped in secret.&rdquo &ndash Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, 2nd American ed.(Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1959)
Because of Nimrod's death, the followers of Nimrod and Semiramis were stunned and experienced much grief. Their religious hero was dead. They were afraid to continue in their worship of Satan for fear that what happened to Nimrod would also happen to them, so a mystery religion developed at Babel where Satan could be worshipped in secret. This is exactly what is happening in these last days. Satan is using mysteries and deceptions to deceive people into thinking that they are worshipping God when they are actually worshipping Satan.
For a short time the practices of this counterfeit religion ceased but Semiramis, the wife of Nimrod, had a brilliant idea of how she could successfully revive her and Nimrod's pagan religion and give it a new form. It was not long after the death of her husband that Semiramis became pregnant. She said that when Nimrod died that he went up to the sun, and the sun then became a symbol of Nimrod. She told the people that a ray of the sun had come to her and impregnated her with a child and that it was actually Nimrod coming back in a reincarnation of the sun god. The child was called Tammuz and these three were worshipped as the personification of the sun god, and this is where we find the three in one trinity doctrine originated and is where the first three came into existence. This mystery religion was nothing more than Satan worship. Read the pagan origins of the trinity doctrine for more.
&ldquoThe trinity got its start in Ancient Babylon with Nimrod - Tammuz - and Semiramis. Semiramis demanded worship for both her husband and her son as well as herself. She claimed that her son, was both the father and the son. Yes, he was &ldquogod the father&rdquo and &ldquogod the son&rdquo - The first divine incomprehensible trinity.&rdquo &ndash The Two Babylons Alexander Hislop, p.51
So Semiramis proclaimed that her husband Nimrod was a god, and she as the wife of Nimrod was a goddess. She then announced herself to be &ldquoThe Queen of Heaven&rdquo and that she should be worshiped as such. She claimed that her spirit was the moon and when she died she would dwell in the moon, even as Nimrod was already in the sun. What a devilish brainstorm inspired by Satan!
Satan was laying the foundation for every system of falsehood and error the world has ever known. They took the truth of God and turned it into a lie and &ldquoworshipped and served the creature (on a wider application also includes Satan) more than the Creator.&rdquo Romans 1:25 . This system of paganism, while professing to be the true religion, is actually devil worship. It professes and claims to be the truth of God but in reality it is Satan's masterpiece, the &ldquomystery of iniquity.&rdquo
As Satan's church gained momentum, Semiramis pushed this satanic religious order underground. The followers of this counterfeit religion had to take secret oaths. The secret societies (some unscriptural lodges of today) thus had their beginning. The confessionals and priesthood were set up. The followers of this pagan religion confessed their sins to their priests. (what church continued this unbiblical pagan tradition?) See also 1 Timothy 2:5, Luke 5:20-21. By so doing, Semiramis could control her followers and exercise lordship over them. She boldly and brazenly proclaimed that she and her priests were the only ones who understood the mysteries of God and that they were the only possible way to God. Because of dedication to and fear of this false religious system, the followers of this religion fearfully complied.
Semiramis and her priests of Satan were deep into the occult, magic and illusion. They were masters of lies and deception. Everywhere there were statues or idols of this mother/child cult. Semiramis was soon hailed as &ldquoThe Queen of Heaven&rdquo (Ashtarte). Her symbol became the moon and her husband Nimrod, was called &ldquoBaal&rdquo (the &ldquosun god&rdquo) and his symbol became the sun. The city of Babylon was the seat of Satan worship until its fall to the Medes and the Persians in 539 BC. At this time the Babylonian pagan priests left Babylon and went to Alexandria and Pergamos. See who is the beast that has the number 666 or the origin of 666 for more.
It should be noted that the majority of the Babylonian pagan priests went to Pergamos more so than Alexandria, so for many centuries after the fall of Babylon, Pergamos became the new seat of Satan (Revelation 2:12-13), but around 129 BC, opportunity arose for them to leave Pergamos and go to Rome and thus Rome became the final seat of Satan where he set up his church, and hence sun worship, which was practised on Sunday, was most prevalent in Alexandria and Rome by the time of Christ.
Church historian Socrates Scholasticus (5th century) wrote: &ldquoFor although almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries [of the Lord's Supper] on the Sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, have ceased to do this.&rdquo &ndash Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, ch. 22.
So Baal worship was in full swing. It caught on fast and spread to many parts of the world. In Egypt, Semiramis became known as &ldquoIsis&rdquo, &ldquoThe Queen of Heaven.&rdquo Nimrod became known as &ldquoOsiris&rdquo, the husband/son, and frequently called &ldquoHorus&rdquo (the sun god). In Phoenicia, Semiramis and Nimrod were worshipped as or known as Ashterath and Tammuz in Greece, Aphrodite and Eros in Rome, Venus and Cupid, and in China, Mother Shing Moo and her child.
When the cold season began every year, they believed their sun god was leaving them. It was on December 25th that they noticed the gradual return of the sun god. So they called this day the birth of the sun. Tammuz was hailed as the son of the sun. He was idolized and even worshipped and the first letter of his name became the symbol of sun worship. Human sacrifices to the sun god were offered on this initial letter made of wood, known as the cross &ldquoT&rdquo and this &ldquoT&rdquo for Tammuz is also the true origin of Catholics crossing themselves. His birthday of December 25 was honored more and more. Satan worked many years before the conception and birth of the true Messiah to counterfeit through sun worship His miraculous conception and birth. Satan succeeded many times in leading God's people into sin and pagan sun worship.
The true date of the birth of Christ is most likely between July and September but since the exact date of Christ's birthday was unknown, it was suggested, &ldquoWhy not call it the same date as the birth of Tammuz, which was December 25?&rdquo This was the time when the sun had reached its lowest point on the horizon and started back up into the heavens and so the sun god had come to life, so to speak. So gradually December 25 came to be known as the birthday of Christ. The Papal Church finally instituted a special mass on that day, &ldquoChrist's Mass,&rdquo and so December 25 became &ldquoChristmas.&rdquo The yule log burning in the fire followed by the green tree lit with candles all came from the pagan worship representing Nimrod being dead, while his spirit still lived on in the sun and was alive again in Tammuz his son.
Jesus was crucified and resurrected in the spring of the year near the time of the moon festival. The devil was at work once again to bring the idea of having a celebration at the same time as the heathen but calling it &ldquoin honor of the resurrection.&rdquo And in regards to the worship of the moon goddess Semiramis, the so called queen of heaven. The cakes to the QUEEN OF HEAVEN were round and on them was cut a cross in honor of the sun god, and they were offered to the queen of heaven and today we call them &ldquohot cross buns.&rdquo (Read Jeremiah 7:16-18). The forty days of &ldquoweeping for Tammuz&rdquo became Lent and at the close of Lent came Easter Sunday. The prophet Ezekiel was shown even greater abominations. (Read Ezekiel 8:12-18). This goddess Ishtar (Easter) came to be known as the goddess of springtime as in &ldquonew life,&rdquo or as history records it, the &ldquogoddess of reproduction.&rdquo The pagans would go to some mountain side early Sunday morning and worship this goddess as the sun was rising in the east. They gave themselves to immorality and indecency of every description. The eggs and rabbits were used as symbols of fertility and germination and hence &ldquonew life.&rdquo It all came into the Church gradually and was all blessed by the Catholic Church and given to the world. And some people wonder why God calls the Catholic Church Babylon!
&ldquoThe use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, and ornamented on occasions with branches of trees incense, lamps, and candles votive offerings on recovery from illness holy water asylums holydays and seasons, use of calendars, processions, blessings on the fields sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure, the ring in marriage, turning to the East, images at a later date, perhaps the ecclesiastical chant, and the Kyrie Eleison are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church.&rdquo &mdash An Essay on The Development of the Christian Doctrine John Henry &ldquoCardinal Newman&rdquo p.373.
&ldquoIt has often been charged&hellip that Catholicism is overlaid with many pagan incrustations. Catholicism is ready to accept that accusation and even to make it her boast&hellip the great god Pan is not really dead, he is baptized&rdquo &mdash The Story of Catholicism p 37.
As time elapsed, stories spread worldwide about Semiramis and Nimrod as Baal worship was everywhere. (The above information on the beginning of Satan's church and its unscriptural practices is found in The Two Babylons, by Rev. Alexander Hislop) In his book he has composed a list of names adopted in other parts of the world that can be traced back to Semiramis and Nimrod in one way or another. The list of names are as follows:
|SEMIRAMIS or Ashtarte||NIMROD or Baal the sun god|
|Cybele (Goddess Mother) Asia||Deoius (Asia)|
|Fortuna (Pagan Rome)||The Boy Jupiter (Pagan Rome)|
|Isis (The Queen of Heaven) Egypt||Osiris or Horus (Egypt)|
|Isi (Goddess Mother) India||Iswara (India)|
|Venus (Rome)||Cupid (Rome)|
|Ashterath (Phoenicia)||Tammuz (Phoenicia)|
|Aphrodite (Greece)||Eros (Greece)|
|Irene (Goddess of Peace) Greece||The Boy Plutus (Greece)|
|Ishtar (Babylon)||The Winged One (Babylon)|
|Rhea (Mother of Gods)||Orion (Constellation)|
|Diana (Ephesian)||Bacchus (God of Party going) of Ancient Greece|
|Shing Moo (Holy Mother of China)||The Centaur (Greece)|
Satan pulled it off well as he had the whole world trapped into some form of Baal worship. The entire world had lapsed into polytheism (worship of many gods or idols). Mankind no longer desired to serve the true and living God and to accept His scriptural plan of salvation. (Romans 1:18-32).
Around 2000 BC in Abraham's day, Baal worship and its pagan rites had so permeated the human race that God called Abraham out from it to be the progenitor of a nation of people (the Israelites or Jews) who would be instructed by God through Moses and the prophets to be a shining light and an example of godliness to the heathen nations and reveal to them God's scriptural plan of salvation (Genesis 11:26-12: 1-5 Exodus 19:5-6 Hebrews 11:8).
The Jews were greatly blessed by God as His chosen people, who were to serve as His representatives of godliness to those heathen nations who had become entrapped by paganism, to evangelize those godless nations and to show them God's love. The Jews were repeatedly told that if they were to sin by serving other gods, to depart from the Lord and fail God in their mission as His representatives to those nations trapped in Baal worship, the Jews would suffer terribly at the hand of God and be dispersed into all the nations of the earth. (See Deuteronomy 4:1-40 6:14-18 7:6-26 8:6-20 10:12-20 11:1-28 12:28-32 29:16-29 30:11-20).
Before his death, Moses foretold that after his death the Jews would disobey and turn to other &ldquogods&rdquo to worship and serve them (Deuteronomy 31:27, 29 32:16-29). After Moses' death, Joshua took command and led the children of Israel across the River Jordan into Palestine. The Jews were ordered to exterminate the Canaanites of the land because they were so wicked and so deeply involved in the evil practices of Baal worship, and to take the land as their dwelling to be used for the glory of God in leading the ungodly nations to God and His plan of redemption. The Jews took the land and exterminated some of the inhabitants of the land but not all. The Jews here had already begun to disobey God. They soon became weary in their conquests of Palestine and stopped fighting. Soon afterwards the Israelites departed from their worship of the Lord and started to worship and serve other gods as Moses had predicted. The Jews soon became so involved in Baal worship and its pagan practices that some of them even sacrificed their children to Satan.
Because of their disobedience to God's command to be faithful in their worship of and service to the true and living God, the Jews would have to suffer. On many occasions God allowed the children of Israel to be captured by their enemies and to be persecuted. When the Jews cried out to God in sorrow for their sins, the Lord delivered them. The Lord raised up Judges to secure their deliverances. After each time the Lord brought about the deliverance of the captured, suffering children of Israel, the Jews would plunge back into sin and Baal worship. As time passed the Jews became even more involved in pagan worship in spite of God's warnings and chastisements. God raised up prophets to warn the Israelites to repent or suffer more. Prophet after prophet was raised up for that purpose and many of them were executed by the Jews. In 722 BC the ten Northern tribes were captured by the Assyrians and scattered never to return, and in 586 BC the Babylonians captured Judah and Jerusalem. This was the third time Babylon came up against them but this time brought about their total destruction as everything was torn down. After the Babylonian captivity in 539 BC at which time Babylon had fallen to the Persians, the Persians granted the Jews in Babylon permission to return to Jerusalem.
Many Jews did return to Palestine during the years 539 BC, 457 BC and 445 BC. Others doubtless returned between those years and after 445 BC. Read also Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy. In 70 AD the Romans under General Titus captured Jerusalem and persecuted the Jews. The Jews final dispersion took place at this time. After 70 AD, the Jews had been dispersed into all the nations of the world to suffer. Nearly all nations who had received Jews eventually turned on them and persecuted them. The Jews have been the most hated and persecuted people in history and have suffered more than any other people. They disobeyed God and they had to suffer as God said they would.
When the Roman Empire was in power during the earthly life of Jesus and during the early Church period, the Roman Caesars were to be worshipped as gods. The early Christians were persecuted by the Romans because they would not bow down to the pagan Caesars. Satan directed this persecution of the early believers in an effort to stamp out Christianity. But instead of wiping out Christianity, persecution resulted in its growth! As more Christians were put to death, more and more Christians rose up to replace them. Satan saw that his directed persecution of the early believers would not obliterate Christianity so he moved to attack the Church from within instead of from without.
Satan devised a plan by which he would lay the foundation for and establish his own counterfeit church. Under Satan's direction paganism would get a new face. Satan would introduce to the world his own version of a &ldquoChristian Church.&rdquo As was indicated earlier, the Caesars were worshipped as gods. As the Roman Empire was near disintegration, the pagan Caesars did not want to lose their power in controlling the world, so they decided on a plan by which to keep their power and influence in the world. The Roman Caesars simply exchanged their Roman togas for religious costumes. Thus they could control the world's governments and their economies through religion.
After Constantine defeated Maxentius in 312 AD in a battle for the throne of Rome, Satan continued in his clever plan to build his own version of a &ldquoChristian Church.&rdquo After his ascension to the Roman Throne, Constantine issued his Edict of Toleration in 313 AD to stop the persecution of the true believers in Christ. Under Constantine the Christian Church for a time found relief from persecution. Satan had now temporarily stopped his persecution of the Christian Church from without, but he would now proceed to attack the Church from within.
Under Satan's direction, Constantine set up the &ldquoCouncil of Nicaea&rdquo and presided as &ldquoSummus Pontifex&rdquo, the official title of a Pope. Constantine's job was to mix paganism with a perverted form of Christianity to make his new religious organization look respectable. This mixture of paganism with some of the teaching of Christ was Satan's version of a &ldquoChristian Church.&rdquo This powerful religious institution would be later used by Satan to send millions of souls to hell and to cause the deaths of many Bible believing Christians.
Many changes took place in this Babylonian pagan church. Under Constantine, the pagans were permitted to bring their statues and idols of Semiramis, &ldquoThe Queen of Heaven&rdquo, and Nimrod, &ldquoBaal&rdquo, &ldquoThe Sun God', into the Church. The names were changed to the Virgin Mary, &ldquoQueen of Heaven&rdquo and little Jesus, &ldquoThe Sun God.&rdquo For example: Is this Catholic image Mary and baby Jesus or is it Semiramis, &ldquoThe Queen of Heaven&rdquo and son Nimrod/Tammuz? Note the pagan trident symbol from the head of what is supposedly baby Jesus and that the hand is displayed with two fingers and a thumb prominent, being another way of symbolizing the trident and is a Satanic hand sign symbolic of occult powers. This is also used by high Church officials and priests in blessings invoking the sign of the cross by motioning their right hand with two fingers and thumb casually extended. It is also found in freemasonry of which origins can be found in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church erroneously say that Peter was the first so called Pope of this Papal system but in fact it was really Constantine. So under Constantine as its first Pope, the Roman Catholic Institution as we know it today had its beginning. See also paganism in the Catholic Church and Catholic Church error and was Peter the first Pope.
The Roman Catholic Church grew in power as the people in Rome were again under the priests and each succeeding Pope. Constantine had fifty Bibles made of perverted manuscripts composed by pagan worshippers of Baal from Alexandria. Alexandria was not only the seat of Baal worship but was also the headquarters of the most liberal philosophers. Those wicked philosophers produced their own perverted version of a Bible, and fifty such copies were made for Constantine to be given to the new &ldquoChurch&rdquo over which he presided. The Latin Vulgate, authored by Jerome and based on the above fifty Bibles, later became the Roman Catholic Bible, which was kept from the people so that unscriptural traditions would have greater emphasis in the minds of the followers of the Pope.
The above information can be found in the books, The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop and the Angel of Light by Jack Chick. Alexander Hislop in his book also traces Roman Catholic sacraments, ceremonies, doctrines, confessionals, priesthood, etc. back to ancient Babylonian Baal worship. Roman Catholicism is based on ancient Babylonian Baal worship and on the man made traditions of the Church fathers. Catholicism is not based on the teachings of God's Word or on the Scriptural plan of salvation. So we find Satan had a long term plan for his church and sun worship, which was practiced on Sunday, and was initially most prevalent in Alexandria and Rome. From this pagan sun worship came both the trinity doctrine and Sunday worship. Too many people are too quick to write off the fourth Commandment as unimportant when it obviously is. Please read who is the Antichrist for the evidence and watch The god's of Babylon for the pagan origins of the trinity doctrine.
The Origin of Church Bells
The use of bells in churches dates back to 400 AD when an Italian bishop named Paulinus of Nola introduced bells as part of Catholic church services. In 604 AD, Pope Sabinian officially sanctioned the ringing of church bells during worship. Specifically, Pope Sabinian introduced the custom of ringing church bells during the celebration of the Eucharist and to announce times of daily prayer called the canonical hours. By the early Middle Ages, church bells were common in Europe.
As church bells became more common elsewhere in the world, their importance grew as church bells became used as a form of mass communication to convey religious and secular information or to summon people across large areas.
For example, in 18 th century America, church bells rang not only as a part of worship, but also to alert communities of important events such as the end of a war, of emergencies such as a fire, or of an important community gathering.
In small villages, church bells also rang to announce deaths to solicit prayers for the deceased’s soul, and rang in a kind of Morse code that the hearers knew how to decipher. When a death was announced by church bells, the age of the deceased was sometimes rung as well. In sparsely populated villages, such death knell rings could effectively identify who had just died.
God’s Call To Us
In his book, “Christ-Centered Worship,” author Bryan Chappell explains that the call to worship actually begins with God calling us to worship Him. The Greek word ekklesia is used in the New Testament and commonly refers to a called out assembly or congregation. In this, the church consists of people who are called out by God into the perfect salvation He offers through the atoning work of Christ. We are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people for His own possession” that God has purchased, redeemed, and secured.
Only through this invitation are we able to respond as His people and “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Through this realization, when we worship we are doing what God has ultimately called us to do as His people.
The Divine Liturgy
The word liturgy means common work or common action. The Divine Liturgy is the common work of the Orthodox Church. It is the official action of the Church formally gathered together as the chosen People of God. The word church, as we remember, means a gathering or assembly of people specifically chosen and called apart to perform a particular task.
The Divine Liturgy is the common action of Orthodox Christians officially gathered to constitute the Orthodox Church. It is the action of the Church assembled by God in order to be together in one community to worship, to pray, to sing, to hear God&rsquos Word, to be instructed in God&rsquos commandments, to offer itself with thanksgiving in Christ to God the Father, and to have the living experience of God&rsquos eternal kingdom through communion with the same Christ Who is present in his people by the Holy Spirit.
The Divine Liturgy is always done by Orthodox Christians on the Lord’s Day which is Sunday, the &ldquoday after Sabbath&rdquo which is symbolic of the first day of creation and the last day—or as it is called in Holy Tradition, the eighth day—of the Kingdom of God. This is the day of Christ&rsquos resurrection from the dead, the day of God’s judgment and victory predicted by the prophets, the Day of the Lord which inaugurates the presence and the power of the &ldquokingdom to come&rdquo already now within the life of this present world.
The Divine Liturgy is also celebrated by the Church on special feast days. It is usually celebrated daily in monasteries, and in some large cathedrals and parish churches, with the exception of the week days of Great Lent when it is not served because of its paschal character.
As the common action of the People of God, the Divine Liturgy may be celebrated only once on any given day in an Orthodox Christian community. All of the members of the Church must be gathered together with their pastor in one place at one time. This includes even small children and infants who participate fully in the communion of the liturgy from the day of their entrance into the Church through baptism and chrismation. Always everyone, always together. This is the traditional expression of the Orthodox Church about the Divine Liturgy.
Because of its common character, the Divine Liturgy may never be celebrated privately by the clergy alone. It may never be served just for some and not for others, but for all. It may never be served merely for some private purposes or some specific or exclusive intentions. Thus there may be, and usually are, special petitions at the Divine Liturgy for the sick or the departed, or for some very particular purposes or projects, but there is never a Divine Liturgy which is done exclusively for private individuals or specific isolated purposes or intentions. The Divine Liturgy is always &ldquoon behalf of all and for all.&rdquo
Because the Divine Liturgy exists for no other reason than to be the official all-inclusive act of prayer, worship, teaching, and communion of the entire Church in heaven and on earth, it may not be considered merely as one devotion among many, not even the highest or the greatest. The Divine Liturgy is not an act of personal piety. It is not a prayer service. It is not merely one of the sacraments. The Divine Liturgy is the one common sacrament of the very being of the Church itself. It is the one sacramental manifestation of the essence of the Church as the Community of God in heaven and on earth. It is the one unique sacramental revelation of the Church as the mystical Body and Bride of Christ.
As the central mystical action of the whole church, the Divine Liturgy is always resurrectional in spirit. It is always the manifestation to his people of the Risen Christ. It is always an outpouring of the life-creating Spirit. It is always communion with God the Father. The Divine Liturgy, therefore, is never mournful or penitential. It is never the expression of the darkness and death of this world. It is always the expression and the experience of the eternal life of the Kingdom of the Blessed Trinity.
Saint Basil the Great
The Divine Liturgy celebrated by the Orthodox Church is called the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. It is a shorter liturgy than the so-called Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great that is used only ten times during the Church Year. These two liturgies probably received their present form after the ninth century. It is not the case that they were written exactly as they now stand by the saints whose names they carry. It is quite certain, however, that the eucharistic prayers of each of these liturgies were formulated as early as the fourth and fifth centuries when these saints lived and worked in the Church.
Saint John Chrysostom
The Divine Liturgy has two main parts. The first part is the gathering, called the synaxis. It has its origin in the synagogue gatherings of the Old Testament, and is centered in the proclamation and meditation of the Word of God. The second part of the Divine Liturgy is the eucharistic sacrifice. It has its origin in the Old Testament temple worship, the priestly sacrifices of the People of God and in the central saving event of the Old Testament, the Passover (Pascha).
In the New Testament Church Jesus Christ is the Living Word of God, and it is the Christian gospels and apostolic writings which are proclaimed and meditated at the first part of the Divine Liturgy. And in the New Testament Church, the central saving event is the one perfect, eternal and all-sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the one great High Priest who is also the Lamb of God slain for the salvation of the world, the New Passover. At the Divine Liturgy the faithful Christians participate in the voluntary self-offering of Christ to the Father, accomplished once and for all upon the Cross by the power of the Holy Spirit. In and through this unique sacrifice of Christ, the faithful Christians receive Holy Communion with God.
For centuries it was the practice of the Church to admit all persons to the first part of the Divine Liturgy, while reserving the second part strictly for those who were formally committed to Christ through baptism and chrismation in the Church. Non-baptized persons were not permitted even to witness the offering and receiving of Holy Communion by the faithful Christians. Thus the first part of the Divine Liturgy came to be called the Liturgy of the Catechumens, that is, the liturgy of those who were receiving instructions in the Christian Faith in order to become members of the Church through baptism and chrismation. It also came to be called, for obvious reasons, the Liturgy of the Word. The second part of the Divine Liturgy came to be called the Liturgy of the Faithful.
Although it is generally the practice in the Orthodox Church today to allow non-Orthodox Christians, and even non-Christians, to witness the Liturgy of the Faithful, it is still the practice to reserve actual participation in the sacrament of Holy Communion only to members of the Orthodox Church who are fully committed to the life and teachings of the Orthodox Faith as preserved, proclaimed and practiced by the Church throughout its history.