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Celebration of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great during Flowery (Palm) Sunday.

Celebration of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great during Flowery (Palm) Sunday.

Liturgy of St. Basil the Great

Written by +Fr. Pavlo Hayda

The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, is perhaps one of the greatest of all Liturgical Services. Unfortunately not many people have the opportunity to truly appreciate the depth, balance, and beauty of this Liturgy, because they rarely hear (or read) all the prayers. To contain all this beauty and depth, it is longer than the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and therefore this Liturgy is not celebrated as often.

This Liturgy is very similar to the Liturgy we are accustomed to, except for the silent prayers, especially those in the anaphora. Many of us might be aware that we celebrate this Liturgy on Sundays during the Great Fast, on the Vigil of Christmas and Epiphany, on his feast day and on Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday, but perhaps never really had the opportunity to read the text yourself.

Read the prayers, enjoy them, contemplate them, pray them!

Speaking of praying the Liturgy—sometimes it is said that the Divine Liturgy is a re-presentation, a re-playing, or re-praying of the great cosmic drama of God’s great Love and never-ending care for His creation, namely us. The drama of our sin and struggle against temptation and God freely giving us grace, strength, and ultimately His very Life, Body and Blood for our salvation.

The incense being prepared during a Liturgy of St. Basil the Great.

The incense being prepared during a Liturgy of St. Basil the Great.

But in speaking in terms of the drama—I do believe that most faithful have the ‘roles’ in this drama reversed. If we were to use theatrical terms, many believe that in the drama of the Liturgy that God is the director (directing our prayers) the priest is the actor (the one engaged in the ‘act’ of praying), and the people are there as the audience (the spectators that are there to be either passively entertained or edified by the drama, or sit as reviewers commenting on the skill of the choir, cantors, or homily).

This is not as it should be! As I said, this is reversed! The people are to be the actors, (the ones actively engaged in prayer), the priest is the director (he is the one who co-ordinates the prayers and directs them so that we are all acting together, not all of us ‘doing our own thing’), and God—He is the audience, and we could not hope for a better one.

God is the one who is listening to our prayers and our singing. God is the only one who can judge the quality and sincerity of the homily, the singing and of our lives. And fortunately for us, God is never just a passive audience, He is actively interested in us, looking for ways into our lives. He is always granting us the grace and the strength we need. He is the one that never abandons us. He is the audience that gave His life for us.

So sing, pray, give this time to God! “I don’t have a good voice” you say… that’s OK, you’re not singing for the person sitting next to you, they are not the audience—God is! And He is the one that gave you that voice—so let Him hear it! “I’m embarrassed” you say… Don’t be—we could not ask for a more loving, understanding, forgiving and gracious audience.

Of course we realize that God is much more than an audience, He Is who Is, He is our Creator, He is the focus of our worship, none-the-less, take this opportunity to pray and sing this Liturgy. It is a little longer—but it is worth it! As with any Liturgy or anything important, you will only get out of it what you put into it.

Our Divine Liturgy has all of these (and more) elements. To unlock some of these elements for the churchgoer, this text was designed with several features:

  • Colors: the text is color coded, red is for instruction, blue is for the priest’s silent prayers (which I strongly recommend for the people to read), green is for explanations, and black is for the normal text.
  • Reflections and Commentary: A simple running commentary of some of the meaning and symbols of the Liturgy. Mainly they are reflections that have unlocked the Liturgy for me. The main purpose of these reflections is not a historical explanation of the Liturgy as much as helping the faithful be ever more mindful of the Liturgy.
  • Changeable parts: the changeable parts (the Tropars, Kondaks etc.) are not included in this text for simplicity sake.

Click here for the full text.