Liturgy and Sacarments


The Divine Liturgy—the Foundation and Summit of the Christian Community’s Life

343 “Do this in memory of me; for as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim my death and confess my Resurrection.”287 In Christ, human nature partakes of the divine nature (see 2 Pt 1:4). Christ grants to everyone who believes in him communion in divine life. Christ accomplished this mystery of Communion at the Mystical Supper, manifested it in his Paschal Mystery, and continues to actualize it in the Divine Services of the Church “now and for ever and ever.” The unity of the Church is founded on the one common faith in the Most Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and in one baptism: “one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4:5). By one faith and one baptism, those who have believed become members of the one Body of Christ: “So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another” (Rom 12:5). The one Church is the prefigurement of a unified People of God, which will become perfectly manifest in the kingdom of God.


344 The summit of the Church’s liturgical life is the Divine Liturgy (from the Greek leitourgia, meaning a common work). It is the service of God to his people and of God’s people to him. In the Divine Liturgy the Father leads us into the fullness of his life by giving us his Son. The Son then gives himself to us as nourishment, in the banquet of the Word, and in the banquet of the Body and Blood. He does so in order that we might become one body and blood with him288 and partake of his Divin-ity. Receiving Christ’s gift in the Holy Spirit, the Church responds to him by offering herself. She does so in order that he might live and act in her as in his Body. And so, Christ, the head of the Church, together with the Church, which is his Body, brings to the Father in the Holy Spirit praise and thanksgiving for the salvation that has already been accomplished.


345 The Divine Liturgy consists of (a) the Proskomide (from the Greek, meaning offering) or Prothesis (from the Greek, meaning setting forth), that is, the preparation of the gifts; (b) the Liturgy of the Word; and (c) the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the Divine Liturgy the mystery of sal-vation is accomplished. This salvation is the bringing together of God and humankind in Christ (see Eph 1:10), the “building up of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). Just as at the Mystical Supper [Last Supper] Christ first taught the apostles by his word and then led them into the mystery of his Body and Blood, so in the Divine Liturgy Christ teaches the community of the faithful, nourishes it by his Word, and then makes its members partakers of the Eucharistic banquet. The Christian enters into this mystery through listening to the Word of God and partaking of the Lord’s Body and Blood.


The Three Orders of the Divine Liturgy

393 In our Church, the Divine Liturgy is served according to three orders, those of the bishops, Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil the Great, and that of the Presanctified Gifts. Ordinarily it is the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom that is celebrated. The Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great is celebrated ten times a year, namely: on all five Sundays of Great Lent, on Great and Holy Thursday, on Great and Holy Saturday, on the eves of Christmas and Theophany, and on the feast of Saint Basil the Great. From Monday to Friday during Great Lent, as a sign of the anticipation of Christ’s Pascha and glorious second coming, the Church does not offer the Eucharistic oblation, that is, the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom or Saint Basil the Great.


394 In order to sustain the faithful in the spiritual effort of fasting during Lent, the Church celebrates the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. At this Liturgy, the faithful partake of the Holy Gifts that were conse-crated the previous Sunday. No Divine Liturgy is celebrated on the Wednesday and Friday of Cheesefare Week, the Monday and Tuesday of the first week of Lent, or on Good Friday,301 which is why according to tradition these are non-liturgical days. It is customary to celebrate the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts on the Wednesdays and Fridays of Great Lent, which is why we call all the Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays of Lent non-liturgical. The Church maintains the practice of non-liturgical days in order to remind us that we are only approaching the fullness of the kingdom of God, and in order that the Eucharist not become for us just a habit, but that it may always be a dynamic event.302


The Holy Mysteries of Christian Life

The Mystery—Christ is in our Midst
403 In Holy Scripture and the teaching of the Fathers, the meaning of the term mystery [which is the word for sacrament in various Eastern Christian languages] is particularly extensive. “The mystery of God’s will” is what Saint Paul calls God’s “plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:9-10). For Christians, mystery ultimately means Christ in our midst (see Col 1:27). Therefore, knowledge of the mystery of God’s salvation is the knowledge of Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3). Briefly stated, mystery—the Mystery—is Christ, and all that he did and does for us.


404 After his Ascension, Christ continues to remain among his disciples—Christians throughout the ages—and to act for their and the whole world’s salvation. We proclaim this in the kontakion of the feast: “You ascended in glory, O Christ our God, in no way distant, but remaining inseparable.”304 These words echo the Lord’s assurance: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). In his Church, Christ continues to teach, feed, heal, forgive, and revive. Thus, the Church herself can be called the mystery of his presence, the place where God and people meet. The fifth-century Pope of Rome Saint Leo the Great explained: “that which till then [Christ’s Ascension] was visible of our Redeemer was changed into a sacramental presence.”305

b. The Seven Sacramental Mysteries

405 The saving and sanctifying action of the Church is accomplished in seven Holy Mysteries. These are: Baptism, Chrismation, Eucharist, Repentance, Holy Anointing, Marriage, and Orders. Through these sacred actions of the Church, Christ grants the grace of the Holy Spirit. Through these Mysteries the Church sanctifies the faithful on their journey to the fullness of life in Christ. Through visible signs (e.g., water, chrism, bread and wine, the laying on of hands) Christ builds up his Church in the Holy Mysteries. In the liturgical actions of the Mysteries it is God’s grace that acts, and believers enter into God’s life. By participating in the visible form of a Mystery, that is, through the liturgical action, we become partakers of God’s salvific action of grace. “[The unbeliever], hearing of a laver, counts it merely as water: but I behold not simply the thing which is seen, but the purification of the soul which is by the Spirit.”306 The external form of the rite and its material expressions are vital as they signify our deification and manifest the first fruits of transfigured nature.


c. The Holy Mysteries Are a Synergy of God and Human Persons


406 The synergy, or joint operation, of God and human persons in the Mys-teries, manifests itself as an exchange in which God discloses himself in love, grants his grace—his very life—to human persons, who receive this gift and in turn respond in love. The salvation of men and women consists precisely in their becoming capable, in Christ, of loving as Christ loved us (see Jn 13:34). In opening themselves to the gift of grace, human persons fully abandon themselves to the will of God in order to grow in faith, hope, and love, even “to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Eph 4:13).<


The Mystical Life of the Church
407 Through Baptism, Chrismation, and the Eucharist, called the Myster-ies of Christian Initiation, a person becomes a member of the Body of Christ and is enabled to participate in Christ’s priesthood, kingship, and prophetic mission. Through the Mysteries of Repentance and Anoint-ing, called Mysteries of Healing, we receive both spiritual and physical healing. Through the Mysteries of Service, Priesthood and Marriage, Christians are consecrated to the service of the ecclesial community or to the domestic church.