Monday, February 17, 2014

Meditations on the Divine Liturgy (Holy Trinity Publications)

For the first 5 years of my life, when I was growing up Baptist, there was a Greek Orthodox Church literally on the other side of the road. I didn't even know that it was there, let alone who the Orthodox were and what they believed. Our Baptist church eventually "upgraded" facilities, and I didn't see that Orthodox Church again for another 10 years, despite living less than a mile from it. So lately it seems that I find myself leaping at every chance I get to learn about Eastern Orthodoxy. This does not mean that I am converting. It just means that I would like to understand my Eastern brethren more fully, in the hopes of one day being reunited. So today, I get the joy of reviewing a new edition of the book

Meditations on the Divine Liturgy is divided into three sections - "The Office of Preparation," "The Liturgy of the Catechumens," and "The Liturgy of the Faithful." Each section contains description and commentary of all that is taking place leading up to the Divine Liturgy and during the Divine Liturgy. It also contains, in bold typeface, the words spoken by the priest, deacon, and lay faithful in attendance. I found these parts especially helpful, as the book also contained the secret prayers the priest says and that the laity doesn't get a chance to hear.

The section I enjoyed the most was "The Office of Preparation." I never realized how much went preparation went into the Divine Liturgy. The prayers made you pause and reflect, and the great detail on how the bread is cut; what each piece of bread symbolizes; and the how and why of the way the bread is arranged on the diskos or paten. There is so much rich and beautiful symbology in this office that I never knew existed. I also appreciated how the book started. It begins, "The priest who intends to celebrate the Liturgy should be abstinent in body and spirit from the previous evening, should be at peace with all, and should avoid holding a grudge towards anyone." This is excellent advice for laity as well.

Most of the time religious books of this nature are written by the clergy or those with advanced degrees in theology. What is refreshing about this book is that it was written by a layman, Nikolai Gogol, who was one of the great Russian authors of the 19th Century. He understood the importance of the Russian Orthodox Church and used his talents to serve the Church. To read more about him, check out the publisher's page on this book or by clicking here for a PDF. If you're looking for an excellent introduction and thorough guide to the Divine Liturgy check out this book. In fact, I'd pair it with the book Journey to the Kingdom.

This book was provided to me for free by Holy Trinity Publications in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!