Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

The Law of God: Foundations of the Orthodox Faith. Lesson 7.

Posted in The Law of God: Foundations of the Orthodox Faith by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 23 October 2010

English-language supplement for the Law of God classes for adults at the Holy New Martyrs of Russia Church in Mulino, OR

Lesson 7

Introduction

In the previous lesson, we began our discussion of the Divine Liturgy with its very first words—the blessing given by the priest and the response of the faithful.  In this lesson, we will continue our discussion of the structure of the Liturgy and the fundamentals of the Orthodox faith revealed to us through this service.

The Liturgy consists of two parts: the Liturgy of the catechumens and Liturgy of the faithful.[1] The first part of the Divine Liturgy is called the Liturgy of the catechumens because in ancient times the catechumens attended this part of the service, but had to leave the church when the part called the Liturgy of the faithful began.  Catechumens are people who have decided to become Christian and are preparing for baptism.  In ancient times, this preparation consisted both of instruction in the form of classes, lessons, and lectures, but also of praxis, such as prayer and fasting.  The length of this preparation varied by century, location, and circumstance.  The Apostolic Constitutions, a document which was compiled at the end of the fourth century but is based on much earlier documents, contains the following rule: “Let him who is to be a catechumen be a catechumen for three years.  However, if anyone is diligent and has a good-will to his earnestness, let him be admitted [to baptism].  For it is not the length of time that is to be judged, but the course of life.”[2] (more…)

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The Law of God: Foundations of the Orthodox Faith. Lesson 6.

Posted in The Law of God: Foundations of the Orthodox Faith by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 16 October 2010

English-language supplement for the Law of God classes for adults at the Holy New Martyrs of Russia Church in Mulino, OR

Lesson 6

Introduction

The most common Liturgy used in the Russian Church is the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom (349-407).  But other Liturgies also exist, and some are used more or less frequently.  One of the most ancient Liturgies in use today is the Liturgy of the Holy Apostle James († 62).  The Russian Church also uses the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great of Caesarea in Cappadocia (330-379) and the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts attributed to Saint Gregory Dialogus (ca. 540-604).[1]

Most Churches that experienced Byzantine influence in their liturgical worship, and this includes the Russian Church, celebrate the Liturgy of Saint Basil ten times a year: on the five Sundays of Great Lent, on Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday, on the Eves or the Feasts of the Nativity and Theophany—depending on the days of the week on which these feasts fall, and on the feast day of Saint Basil— 1 January according to the Church calendar.[2] The Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts is commonly celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays during Great Lent.[3] And the Liturgy of Saint James is celebrated on the feast day of the saint, but practically never in parish churches.

Many volumes of detailed studies have been written on the origins and histories of each Liturgy, but it suffices to say that it is more likely than not that none of the discussed Liturgies was actually “written” by any of the saints to whom it is ascribed.[4] Almost certainly, when we say “The Liturgy of the Holy Apostle James” or “The Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom” what we actually mean is “The Liturgy of the Church of Jerusalem” and “The Liturgy of the Church of Constantinople.”  In the case of the Liturgy of Saint James, it was likely recorded in writing after the repose of the Apostle based on the unwritten liturgical tradition established by him.  Moreover, “the words, probably, in the most important parts [of the Liturgy of Saint James, and] the general tenor in all portions … [descended to us] unchanged from the apostolic author.”[5]

The liturgical traditions of the Churches in Caesarea and Constantinople[6] already existed by the time that Saint Basil and Saint John were born and were based on the tradition of the Church of Jerusalem.[7] Both saints—Basil and John—are credited with, perhaps, unifying, somewhat modifying,[8] and strengthening existing traditions through writing them down, but certainly not with composing their own Liturgies “from scratch.”  Thus, it is most appropriate to think of the Liturgy as a living tradition of the Church, which nourishes the entire community and is preserved, supported, and maintained by the entire community, including the Apostles and the Fathers who expressed the very foundations of the apostolic faith through the sacred words of the Liturgy.  In this course, we will focus mostly on the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom as the most common in the Russian Church, and refer to some parts of the Liturgy of Saint Basil where appropriate. (more…)

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The Law of God: Foundations of the Orthodox Faith. Lesson 5.

Posted in The Law of God: Foundations of the Orthodox Faith by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 9 October 2010

English-language supplement for the Law of God classes for adults at the Holy New Martyrs of Russia Church in Mulino, OR

Lesson 5

Introduction

Having prepared ourselves, we are now ready to enter into God’s temple.  But let us now pay attention—there should be nothing mechanical in our actions, everything we do must be deliberate and intentional, filled with reason and meaning.  Let us return to the beginning: we are now ready to enter into God’s temple.  First, it is God’s.  We have been invited by the Creator of all—not just the Earth, and the stars, and the galaxies, but of the very space, and matter, and time, and amazing things of whose existence we cannot even guess—to enter into His innermost Holy of Holies, to enter into communion with Him, and to quite literally enter into His Body even as He enters into our bodies.  Second, it is a temple.  It is a space and time sanctified, set aside, for the service of God—and only and exclusively for this purpose.[1] (more…)

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The Law of God: Foundations of the Orthodox Faith. Lesson 4.

Posted in The Law of God: Foundations of the Orthodox Faith by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 2 October 2010

English-language supplement for the Law of God classes for adults at the Holy New Martyrs of Russia Church in Mulino, OR

Lesson 4

Introduction

Beginning with the next lesson, we will examine the structure of the Divine Liturgy.  We will not, however, concentrate on all of the actions of the clergy, the way a seminary student would learn how to serve when he is ordained a deacon or a priest.  Rather, we will focus our attention on the meaning of the various parts of the Liturgy, that is to say, the fundamentals of our faith contained in the Liturgy, and on the way that the faithful participate in the service.

In this lesson, we will briefly discuss how one must prepare for participation in the Divine Liturgy.  We will come up, as it were, to the very door of the temple, without entering in until next Sunday.

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight” (Mark 1:3)

Every good deed begins with preparation, and so does the Liturgy.  The daily cycle of services in the Orthodox Church does not begin with the Liturgy—it culminates with it; it finds its highest point in the Holy Eucharist.  In this course, however, we will not study the services that precede the Liturgy—a topic which we hope to cover next year.  This year, we will fast-forward directly to the service of prothesis,[1] also known by another Greek word—proskomedia, or “an offering.”  But first, let us discuss what is necessary to begin the Divine Liturgy. (more…)

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