Hearing the Prayers of the Divine Liturgy

The prayers of the Divine Liturgy are a call to action on the part of the people of God, as the word “liturgy” implies it is the work of all the people of God.  We are, among many things, called upon in the Liturgy to pray,  to pay attention, to lift up our hearts, to love one another, to be of one heart and mind, to lay aside earthly cares, to give thanks to God as well as to ascent to the fact that God’s kingdom is blessed.  The Liturgy is not for spectators to merely stand around while others do the work, we are prayed into being the living temple of  God.  We are prompted to embody, enact and incarnate the very words we pray.  We call for the Holy Spirit to come upon us, the people of God, as well as upon the Gifts offered so that both we and the gifts become the Body of Christ. When we hear the words of the Divine Liturgy, we are called upon to remember the entire history of salvation.  The words of the Liturgy are the commemoration of salvation history, they are needed for us to remember what God has done so that we can be lifted up to the heavenly kingdom.  Indeed the Liturgy is the Church remembering and commemorating the events of our salvation, which in turn is how we liturgically and sacramentally participate in the Lord’s life which is our salvation.

In their thoughtful book, Bringing Jesus to the Desert, Gary M. Burge and Brad Nassif tell a wonderful story from the life of St. Melania the Younger which gives us the sense of how important it is to hear and live the prayers of the Divine Liturgy:

“But Melania deeply loved the liturgy, literally till her dying breath. On the Sunday on which she died, she asked to be placed inside the church close to the relics of the martyrs. She encouraged her priest to celebrate the liturgy even though she was ‘in total agony’ from the disease she was suffering. As she was listening to the service, she noticed that the priest was so overwhelmed with grief that he could not pray loud enough for her to hear the prayer for the descent of the Holy Spirit on the communion elements, to which she called out, ‘Raise your voice so that I will hear the prayer (the epiclesis).’”   (Kindle Loc. 1309-13)

It is godly to hear the prayers of the Divine Liturgy especially the epiclesis.  It is saintly to want even to one’s last breath to have the words of the Liturgy fill one’s heart and mind for these words are the breath of the Holy Spirit.