THE LITURGICAL WORSHIP
FR. TADROS Y. MALATY
THE WORD "LITURGY"
The word "Liturgy" in classic Greek means "a public
service undertaken on behalf of the people" it comes from:
1. "Liow," meaning "People."
2. "Ergia," meaning "work."
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, this word means "the
service of the altar," or "the priestly service" Heb. 8:6; 9:21.
The church used this term since the apostolic age, to
cover all that worship which is officially organized by her,
and which is offered by all her members, or on their behalf.
In the course of time, this term has come to be particularly
applied to the performance of the service of Eucharist, al-
though there are other liturgies as the liturgy of Baptism,
liturgy of marriage etc.
LITURGICAL WORSHIP AND LITURGICAL LIFE
Liturgy does not mean some hours spent by believers -
clergymen and laity - in participating in the Eucharistic lit-
urgy, performing on vesper or matin or baptism or marriage
celebrations etc., but it is in its essence the true communion
with Christ. This liturgical life is not lived only when a
believer participates in common worship whatever it is, but it
dwells within his heart even when he is alone in his room. In other words "liturgy" is a life which the church practises, through which she acknowledges her nature, realizes her message and attains her own existence which is life and growth in Jesus Christ.
In fact, we use the word "liturgy" for common worship,
because the believer participates in this worship with the
members of the community. This membership is alive and
active and it represents a part of his entity. He is a member
even when he is alone speaking with God in his own room.
The holy community is in the heart of the real believer, and
the believer is within the heart of the church community. In
other words, when a believer prays in his room, he realizes
that all the church is within his heart, praying in her name,
calling God: "Our Father" and not my Father who art in
heaven." At the same time, when the community prays it
endows its members, present and absent with love.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE COPTIC LITUR-
1. The Coptic liturgies are known to be not monopolized
by clergymen. They are the liturgies of all the church, laymen
and clergymen. The people participate in the hymns, and
prayers. Therefore clergymen should pray in the language of
the people, clearly and with a pleasant tone, as the people
take their turn in participating. Here the "people" means all
the congregation: men, women and children. The Coptic
church does not exclude children during the liturgy, and this
is one of the resources of our church in Egypt, for even the
child feels his positive membership and acknowledges his
right in participating in church liturgies. The beautiful rites
and heavenly hymns encourage children in worship without
feeling bored , inspite of the lengthy services.
2. The Coptic liturgies not only emphasize church unity,
clergy and laity, young and old, men and women, but also
aim at revealing that the heavenly life is near and realizable to
us! All the Coptic liturgies have eschatological (heavenly)
attitude. In the liturgies the church participates in the hymns
of the heavenly creatures, its thoughts are attracted to
acknowledge the hidden mysteries of heaven. For example,
the liturgy of marriage attracts our thoughts to the heavenly
marriage of our souls to Christ, and also to the crowns of the
3. The Coptic liturgies are correlated to the church
dogmas and doctrines. Liturgies' rites and texts instruct even
children in simple ways about Church faith, her concepts and
dogmas concerning: God; our relation with Him; our relation
with the heavenly hosts and saints; our view of sanctity, of
the world and our bodies, our struggles against the devil and
his agent etc. Liturgies represent a school to the people,
opening its doors to the children through its simplicity, and
to the theologians through its depth.
Coptic liturgies clarify church dogmas without the need
of any theological discussions, and at the same time gives
genuine theological concepts that believers experience during
4. Coptic liturgies are correlated to the ascetic church life.
Asceticism has its effect on our liturgies, as it appears in the
long duration of the services and practicing kneeling during
the services. Liturgies soothe and delight the ascetic person.
For example, in the service of the Holy Week and Good
Friday, although the believers fast for long periods and
abstain from many kinds of food, they feel true consolation,
which they rarely attain in other occasions during the year. The daily Eucharistic liturgies in Lent season grant the believers spiritual delight of particular character.
5. Coptic liturgies are biblical. Every liturgy declares the word of God and the experience of the evangelic life. They include readings from the Holy Bible, the Old and New Testaments, especially the book of Psalms, Epistles of St. Paul, the Catholic Epistles, and the Gospels. They also present prayers and hymns quoted from the Bible, carrying evangelic thoughts. Thus we can say that liturgies are totally presented in the spirit of the Bible.
6. Coptic liturgies touch the believers' daily life and also
their family life, for they are the "dynamic energy" which
moves their lives. There is no separation between common
worship and actual life. In other words, believers practise the
common worship as a part of their lives as a whole.
To explain the correlation between the liturgical life of common worship and the daily life for Copts, we here give some examples:
a. The priest and the laity acknowledge the liturgy of
Eucharist as a meeting at the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and as an entrance to Golgotha, so that they all might sit
under the Cross' shadow (Cant. 2:3). The priest puts his hand
on the "Lamb" (Holy Bread) and prays for his family, his
spiritual children and for all the people. He prays for the
repentance of those who stray away and for the solution to
church problems and family disputes, and for those who are
in trouble that God may intervene through His Divine grace.
He also prays for those who are travelling, for the sick and
for those who departed in the Lord etc.
The Coptic people used to ask the priest to remember
them and their problems on the altar of the Lord and they
themselves participate with him in asking God. Thus, Copts
find their comfort in the liturgy of the Eucharist, as they find
the precious Blood of Jesus Christ as the propitiation of their
sins (1 John 4:10), and a source of their inner peace.
b. Through the various liturgies believers acknowledge
the motherhood of the church and the fatherhood of the
priest as a figure and shadow of God's Fatherhood.
Therefore, Copts flee to the church as their own refuge in the
important and trifle matters, in sadness and in their
happiness, because of their trust in her and their love for her.
For Example, when God grants a family a baby, the church
prays a special "liturgy" for washing the babe on the eighth
day of his birth. The priest, deacons, the family and their
friends participate in giving thanks and praise to God, asking
Him to act in the baby that he might grow in the grace of
God as a saintly member of the church. When a person
succeeds in any work usually he asks for giving thanks to
God by praying a special doxology through or after the
Eucharistic liturgy. When a person falls ill he asks for praying
the liturgy of the unction. When a person dies the church
prays the funeral service, and on the third day prays a com-
mon prayer at his house to declare God's consolation
through the resurrection of Christ on the third day, and in
every memory the priest mentions the name of the dead
person in Eucharistic liturgy (the diptych).
Thus, the church does not interfere in the lives of her
children but through love, participates in all their affairs, that
they might feel her motherhood and her sharing in their