A public duty given in the service of God in Churches is commonly described in Bible as Liturgy. It originated from the Greek word Leitourgia-Leitos where Leos means people and ergo means to perform and the person who performs Liturgy is known as leitourgos. The Christian Liturgy is divided into two sections, the first section is service of the Word, and second is the service of Lord’s Supper. But these two liturgies in real term are same service.
Liturgy is a paramount duty of the Church and baptized children of God, “Devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the community, to the breaking of the bread, and to prayer.
” (Acts 2:42) In early days, Churches had made practice of performing the prayers at fixed hours.
Then it became a practice to perform prayer at specific time and as the time passed, other hours were fixed for performing common prayers in the service of God and often disciples gathered together at the third hour.
The Prince of the Apostles “went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour” (10:9); “Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour” (3:1); “about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” (16:25). Gradually these prayers began to be performed in a set cycle of hours. This began to be known as Liturgy- a prayer towards Christ and seeking petition from Christ.
The basic meaning of theology of Liturgy is that every action of God is revealed through Christ and it is not possible for a man to make his way to God because it is God that makes the way towards us.
Thus any action of man that does not lead towards God is not an action at all. Basic essence of Liturgy lies in the fact that through Liturgy, you are united with God. The God himself speaks to us through signs, and even takes the form of body, enters the soul, flesh and blood with only one purpose and that is too unite us with him.
Your salvation is with your connection to God and Christian liturgy does this only. Your whole life is spent in search of God and if you join the Liturgy, you have entered doors of the creator itself. Liturgy makes us realize that human soul, the over soul and the super soul are integral to each other. Since the over soul is pure most, the human soul also retains its inherent purity. It can steer us clear of all the difficulties, uncertainties, shams, and imperfections of the worldly life in the same way as the pure-most “Whole”- The Almighty can. Man is therefore an equal status and importance to God.
According to The Second Vatican Council “Liturgy is through which the work of our redemption is accomplished, most of all in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.”1
Eucharist is a pinnacle of the Christian life. They believe that if bread and wine are brought to the altar, the holy spirit with its power will transfer it into the true body and blood of Christ.
Lot of research has been undertaken regarding various aspects of Liturgical practices since centuries and their repercussions and effects. The New Testament reveals the fact that the Liturgical practices have seen number of changes, but according to Bradshaw many New Testament books have provided the allusionary account of practices Christians have been adopting in their Liturgical prayers rather than an accurate account.
What ever has been interpreted from the New Testament is that Liturgical practices happening in later centuries had its roots in the first century. But there has been no concrete proof regarding the same and they are mere allusions. Further he said that it could be possible that some practices might have been followed from ancient times but there is enough scholarly proof to suggest that these assumptions are impractical and even to make such speculations is highly risky. Abundant illustrations could be offered of such an apprach, but Massey
Shephard theory, that explains about the link between the Book of Revelation and the Paschal Liturgy can be a good example to present link between the present practices and the past.1
Some reveal that many of the imageries of heavenly worship found in the Book of Revelation are a clear sign of Liturgical practices. For eg. Oscar Cullman could have said, “the whole Book of Revelation from the Greeting of the Grace and Peace in Chapter 1.4 to the closing prayer: Come Lord Jesus, In Chapter 22.20, and the benediction in the last verse, is full of allusions to the Liturgical usages of the earlier community.”2 Besides many of other scholars have also questioned about the assumptions of the existence of parallels between heavenly and earthly worship and it has been presumed that the early Christians did not use any order in the ceremony.
Inspite of several controversies and debates regarding the actual Liturgical practices, hymns and prayers have been solmenly considered as legitimate and proved versions reflecting the liturgical materials been in use in those times.3
Many research studies have pointed out the connection between the Liturgical practices to the earlier Judaism and the first one to suggest this relation was Dutch protestent theologian, Campegius Vitringa (1659-1722). It had also been stated that Gospels were used as public reading in Chruches and therefore they would have been influenced to some extent by the Jewish Lectionary.
Thus attempts were being made to show that the lactionary material was behind the worship process and the first one to follow this theory was RG. Finch in 1939 who found that Jesus teaching did not just found in synagogue but affected that what was found there. And even G.D. Kilpatrick mentioned that Mathew was also used for public reading during worhsip but he did not think that there was any lectionary process. 4
The early Christians were all following the Jewish form of worship-which was also considered to be the worship practices of Jesus Christ and was in sense liturgical. The New Testament is a proven record of this fact that even though earlier Christians had added some new components like Eucharist or in other words Communion, which Christ himself had bestowed on his followers during last Supper, their basic worshiping practice was of Jews. But during the ceremonies of the early Church, Eucharist was being celebrated as different services since last many years.
The continuous worship procedure that had taken place from Temple to Synagogue and then its finally entry into the early Christian Church was the reason for the start of the Christian Liturgical order since the end of the first century, sixty years after Christ’s resurrection.
Paul F. Bradshaw is a professor of Liturgy at the University of Notre Dame and Director of Undergraduate Studies at the University’s London Center. In his book, he evaluated the various difficulties being posed by various researchers while interpreting the earlier documents on Liturgy and made critical reevaluation of the various theories of the origination of Christian worship.
He brought before us the notion that primitive form of Christian worship was considered to be diverse in nature. They were pluriform and this pluriformity was not just seen in the theological part of worship in different traditions, but in very basic methods of rites and rituals and despite of the fact that churches have been trying to maintain uniformity in the rites and rituals over the centuries, the churches began to adopt the liturgical way of worshiping. On one hand, there has been adequate evidence to point out that even though liturgical practices of one group might have created influence on the other but there had been variations in their rites and rituals.
Bradshaw even stated that there is lack of evidence in the New Testament about the First Century Christian Worship. As there is a tendency among the scholars to gather the bits of information from whereever they are available and join them to give a unique and single piece of information and give a historical verdict to it. For example, scholars might have combined references of liturgical activities that might had been performed by our ancestors, from the act of Apostotle or from the Pauline letters and joined with certain illusory signs termed as means of worship from the Johannine literature or from Synoptic Gospels and presented before us the ways of worship by the first Christians.1
Bradshaw emphasised that there never had been any concrete evidence to prove the validity of how first Christians worshiped or what were their ways. But this is a fact that the present Liturgy has at some point or the other roots in our past. It is true that Jesus himself told the woman at the well, “the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23). Liturgy reflects the true spirit of worship in what way it is performed.
Catholic liturgy makes use of signs and symbols whose significance lies in the fact that they reveal the sign of Christ. These signs and symbols come from the world of creation- light, water, fire, bread, wine, oil, others from life in society -washing, anointing, breaking bread and others from Old Testament sacred history -the Passover rite, sacrifices, laying on of hands, consecrating persons and objects. These signs speak volume of the intensity of the life that Christ has given to us, but these signs are accompanied by spoken words, which together create the serene effect and reflect the significance of this ritual.
Bradshaw, Paul F. The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Method for the Study of Early Liturgy. US: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Dix, Gregory. The Shape of the Liturgy. London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005.
Pope Paul VI. “Sacrosanctum Concilium”. 4 December1963. <> (19 January 2008).