Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Thought on the Divine Liturgy

“We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth, for surely there is no such splendor or beauty anywhere on earth. We cannot describe it to you; only this we know, that God dwells there among humans, and that their service surpasses the worship of all other places. For we cannot forget that beauty”
-- Envoys of Prince Vladimir of Kiev, after attending the Divine Liturgy in Hagia Sophia Cathedral, Constantinople, late tenth century.

I’ve read this little quote lots of times and am constantly amazed how the feeling which these words convey continues to be my own experience of Orthodox worship.

I felt this way the very first time I attended an Orthodox liturgy over 20 years ago – not at Hagia Sophia Cathedral, but in the basement of a priest’s home, a house chapel. Not with hundreds of other worshippers in attendance, but with less than a dozen. I remember it being all at once the strangest and yet most familiar liturgy I’d ever witnessed.

And these words continue to come to mind almost every time I worship. I’m awed at the timelessness of these observations.


Poem Master 3000 said...

You felt this way the first time you were in an Orthodox church? How different from my experience! I do believe that what is going on is heavenly, but I forget the beauty of this almost immediately after walking out the door.

-C said...

Indeed- the very first time. And the beauty of the liturgy is something I can bring to mind at a moment's notice. For me it is both life-changing and life-giving. Completely unforgettable.