Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Divine Liturgy Project

A Greek Orthodox layman and NLM reader, Emmanuel M., sent in the following letter to announce The Divine Liturgy Project, an "open source" effort to create a lay liturgy book for the Divine Liturgy of the Greek Orthodox Church. He invites participation from interested clergy and laity, Orthodox and Eastern Catholic alike:
The Divine Liturgy Project

Statement of Purpose

The Divine Liturgy Project was conceived after extensive conversations with laity and clergy in the Greek Orthodox Church for a resource readily available to the congregation that is able to communicate the transcendent beauty, deep symbolism, and theological meaning behind the Holy Mysteries.  In recent years, many Orthodox have a renewed interest in the Liturgical Life of the Church and wish to understand and participate more fully in the Divine Services at their parish.   The Divine Liturgy Pew books now in use are well intentioned, but include only the text of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom along with musical notation and common hymns for different feasts of the year.

After careful analysis, we concluded that the vast majority of faithful are interested in learning more about the Liturgical Services of the Greek Orthodox Church, but the resources readily accessible to the parishioner in the English Language are few and far between. Those that are in English are often times not available in Parish bookstores and are suited for intellectual study of the liturgy rather than weekly devotional use at Divine Liturgy. To answer this need, The Divine Liturgy Project will provide a hybrid text that contains the vast majority of Divine Services celebrated at the parish level during the year along with Biblical, Patristic, and Devotional commentary to aid conscious and active participation during the Divine Liturgy.

At this time, no such text exists in a “pew format.” The private prayers and actions of the priest, deacons, and altar servers behind the iconostasis at the side altars during the vesting  and proskomedia (or preparation of the gifts) remain a mystery as they are neither seen nor heard by the congregation and are absent in the service books available to the laity. As a result, many are unaware of the some of the most beautiful, spiritually moving prose and rubrics of the Liturgy which convey deep theological meaning and have Apostolic Origins.

The Divine Liturgy Project will address these concerns by presenting the faithful with a resource that will encompass the vast majority of the liturgical year in a typical parish setting for the first time. The propers of Saturday Vespers and Sunday Orthros along with the vesting prayers of the clergy and Proskomedia with all of its rich symbolism will be in our new text.  The Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil, and the Presanctified will be included along with hymns for particular feast days.  Additional services, such as the memorial service of the dead, the Great Blessing of Water on Theophany, and Artoklasia are just a few of the other services that will be included in the final printed version.

What will set this project apart from other liturgy books, however, is the commitment to a text that pays homage to the beauty and majesty of the Divine Liturgy.  Scriptural quotes and quotes from Church Fathers will be interwoven in the margins of the services describing the theological basis for the different actions of the Liturgy and what is occurring on the altar.  Beautiful, high resolution images of the actions of the priest during the Divine Services and high quality iconographic depictions and paintings depicting Eastern Liturgical history will be included as well.  A section devoted to popular saints of the Greek Orthodox tradition will be included to encourage popular piety.

In short, this will be a resource for the pew that will inspire Faith. This is a project that will involve collaboration between faithful Orthodox Christians, the clergy, and the hierarchy to produce a volume that is worthy of our tradition. This may seem to be to be an ambitious project however the need for such a volume has never been greater.  Providing a text with commentary to the faithful will serve to educate and edify the faithful so that they might know more fully the beauty and truth of our Orthodox Faith.

The first edition of this book according will be geared toward Greek Orthodox faithful with parallel translations of Greek and English.    The Divine Liturgy Project will provide a resource for the faithful in the Eastern Orthodox Church to foster active and conscious participation within the liturgy and encourage devotion. 

Although ambitious, the goal of the Divine Liturgy Project is very achievable. All of the liturgical texts are readily available and simply need to be compiled.  We will be using existing translations from current liturgical service books.

Your help is needed! Please contact us if you are a member of the Orthodox hierarchy, clergy, or a seminarian with a love of the Liturgy willing to add your expertise to this project.  This will be especially helpful as we will be adding edifying theological, scriptural, and patristic quotes to the texts of the Divine Services both to educate and encourage devotion.

The guidance of Bishops and Priests of the Orthodox Church will be a necessary for all parts of the project. A tentative outline for the Divine Liturgy Project is already available. As per the Orthodox tradition, the blessing of the Orthodox Hierarchy will be sought before any final printing.  The dedication of the current Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomew I, to promoting a deeper love and understanding of the Liturgy among the Orthodox faithful continues to inspire the faithful in the United States and beyond.

All Christians who volunteer time, talent, or resources for the creation of this volume will be acknowledged by name in the final printed text. As the finished volume will include illustrations and photos, high resolution images of the actions of the priest during the Divine Services will have to be donated from those who are photographically inclined.  If you are skilled at Adobe Acrobat or are well versed in publishing or copy editing that would greatly beneficial. All funds donated to the Project will go toward the production and subsequent distribution of the text.

We are operating without any full time staff. This is a labor of love for the Church for the salvation of souls.  We look forward to your help and prayers. We have set up a “blog” for the time being to keep you abreast of new developments located at   Please contact us for more information.

In closing we, like so many others in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, are heartened to see the liturgical trend taking place in the Roman Rite in particular with the adoption of the Vetus Ordo by so many communities and a renewal in the sense of the Sacred. The scholarship of the Latin Church in the recent past confirms the Apostolic origin of the Traditional Liturgy in both East and West.   This was made possible by those who ensured that the Divine Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great was understood, venerated, and appreciated. In no small way we believe that The New Liturgical Movement Website was instrumental in that paradigm shift. The Divine Liturgy Project seeks to bring a similar renewal to the Faithful of the Orthodox Churches. 

Through the Prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ Our God, have Mercy on us and save us

The Staff of the Divine Liturgy Project

The letter doesn't mention it, but this new project seems to be following in the footsteps of Abp. Joseph Raya and Baron Jose de Vinck, who undertook nearly fifty years ago to produce the acclaimed "Byzantine Daily Worship" (1968), which bore letters of endorsement from Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople and from Patriarch Maximos V Hakim.

The book's lack of music was an unavoidable limitation, since the various Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches have varying musical traditions. This new project could, in theory, be different, since it is aimed at serving the needs of the Greek Orthodox faithful.  In any case, we wish all the best to the Divine Liturgy Project and hope that the team will keep us informed of progress as the design and development work for the book gets underway.

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