The Divine Liturgy can be divided into three sections; a) the Proskomedija—in English: the Preparation; b) the Liturgy of the Word; and c) the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Known by many titles, the Liturgy of the Word is so named because it includes a reading from the Epistles, and a reading from the Gospels. We will continue our series by discussing the Great Litany and the Antiphons.
Outline of the Liturgy of the Word
- Amin and Great Litany
- Antiphons: Prva Slava; Druga Slava; and the Beatitudes
- Little Entrance: Gospel brought into the Nave from the Altar
- Pridite: Entrance Hymn
- Troparion: Resurrection Troparion in the designated tone from the Altar; Troparion for St. Lazarus by Choir; Additional special hymns from the Altar
- Trisagion Prayer/ Thrice Holy Hymn Svjati Bože sung three times
- Epistle Reading
- Gospel Reading
- Litany of Fervent Supplication/ Augmented Litany
- Litany for the Departed
- Litany of the Catechumens (people wishing to become Orthodox—oglašeni in Serbian)
- Litany of the Faithful
The Divine Liturgy begins with the opening benediction “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit now and ever and unto ages of ages.”[i] And with the choir, everyone in church needs to say or sing Amen. It is our affirmation of our belief in God as the Holy Trinity. This is your first assignment when participating in the Liturgy, proclaiming: Amen. Say it, thinking it to yourself is not enough.
The Great Litany is a complete list of our needs; that is why it is named great. A litany (Serbian: Jektenija) is a prayerful sequence of supplications which are said by a deacon or priest.[ii]
Do you remember in my first article on participating in the Divine Liturgy I said: “During the Divine Liturgy Father Živan is calling us to pray for different things: for peace of the whole world, for example, for this holy house and for those who enter with faith,” and much more? We are expected to be praying all the time for our needs, and the needs of our Holy Orthodox Church and our nation. And, as I said in the first article, there is not a lot of time to form these prayers, but it gets easier with practice. So whether it is the Great Litany or one of the shorter litanies we need to follow the guidance of the priest and pray for our specific needs. The Great Litany is also called the Litany of Peace because of the opening petition: “In peace, let us pray to the Lord.”
The Great Litany is followed by Antiphons (Serbian: Slava). There are three antiphons divided by little litanies. An antiphon consists of one or more psalm verses or sentences from Holy Scripture. The first antiphon is sung by the choir: Bless the Lord, O my soul…[iii] The second antiphon is also sung by the choir and this time comes from Holy Scripture: Only-begotten Son and immortal word of God...[iv]
The third antiphon is the Beatitudes, recited by the congregation and choir. The Beatitudes are the set of teachings by Jesus that begin “Blessed are…”, and appear in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The term beatitude comes from the Latin adjective which means “happy”, “fortunate”, or “blissful.” The first Beatitude is Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
The complete text of the Beatitudes is printed on the white card in your pew. The choir director leads the congregation in reciting the Beatitudes. It is your responsibility to be prepared and recite them with the congregation and the choir.
We hope that you are enjoying learning more about the Divine Liturgy with us. Join us Fridays in the Library at 7:00 pm.
–-Snežana and Karen