Liturgy is the customary public worship performed by a religious
group, according to its beliefs, customs and traditions. As a
religious phenomenon, liturgy is a communal response to and
participation in, the sacred through activity reflecting praise,
thanksgiving, supplication or repentance. Ritualization may be
associated with life events such as birth, coming of age, marriage,
sex and death. It thus forms the basis for establishing a relationship
with a divine agency, as well as with other participants in the
liturgy. Methods of dress, preparation of food, application of
cosmetics or other hygienic practices are all considered liturgical
Technically speaking, liturgy is a subset of ritual. When ritual is
undertaken to participate in a divine act or assist a divine action,
it is liturgy. If the ritual does not have this purpose it is not
liturgy but only ritual. Thus, the word, sometimes rendered by its
English translation "Service or Divine Service", refers to a formal
ritual, which may or may not be elaborate, enacted by those who
understand themselves to be participating in a divine action, such as
Divine Liturgy (Greek: Θεία
Λειτουργία), Catholic Mass, the
Eucharist or Mass (Anglican
Communion). A daily activity such as the
Muslim salah and Jewish
synagogue services would be ritual but not liturgy. If the Temple were
re-established, the ritual undertaken by the Judaic priesthood within
the Temple would be liturgy.
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
The word liturgy, derived from the technical term in ancient Greek
(Greek: λειτουργία), leitourgia, which literally means "work
of the people" is a literal translation of the two words "litos ergos"
or "public service". In origin it signified the often expensive
offerings wealthy Greeks made in service to the people, and thus to
the polis and the state. Through the leitourgia, the rich carried a
financial burden and were correspondingly rewarded with honours and
prestige. The leitourgia were assigned by the polis, the State and
Roman Empire and became obligatory in the course of the 3rd century
A.D. The performance of such supported the patron's standing among the
elite and the popular at large. The holder of a Hellenic leitourgia
was not taxed a specific sum, but was entrusted with a particular
ritual, which could be performed with greater or lesser magnificence.
The chief sphere remained that of civic religion, embodied in the
festivals: M.I. Finley notes "in Demosthenes' day there were at least
97 liturgical appointments in Athens for the festivals, rising to 118
in a (quadrennial) Panathenaic year." However groups of rich
citizens were assigned to pay for expenses such as civic amenities and
even payment of warships. Eventually, under the Roman Empire, such
obligations, known as munera, devolved into a competitive and
ruinously expensive burden that was avoided when possible. These
included a wide range of expenses having to do with civic
infrastructure and amenities; and imperial obligations such as
highway, bridge and aqueduct repair, supply of various raw materials,
bread-baking for troops in transit, just to name a few.
Buddhist liturgy is a formalized service of veneration and worship
performed within a
Buddhist Sangha community in nearly every
traditional denomination and sect in the
Buddhist world. It is often
done once or more times a day and can vary among the Theravada,
The liturgy mainly consists of chanting or reciting a sutra or
passages from a sutras, a mantra (especially in Vajrayana), and
several gathas. Depending on what practice the practitioner wishes to
undertake, it can be done at a temple or at home. The liturgy is
almost always performed in front of an object or objects of veneration
and accompanied by offerings of light, incense, water and food.
Main article: Jewish liturgy
Jewish liturgy are the prayer recitations that form part of the
observance of Rabbinic Judaism. These prayers, often with instructions
and commentary, are found in the siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer
book. In general, Jewish men are obligated to pray three times a day
within specific time ranges (zmanim). while, according to the Talmud,
women are only required to pray once daily, as they are generally
exempted from obligations that are time dependent.
Traditionally, three prayer services are recited daily:
Shacharit or Shaharit (שַחֲרִת), from the Hebrew shachar or
shahar (שַחָר) "morning light",
Mincha or Minha (מִנְחָה), the afternoon prayers named for the
flour offering that accompanied sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem,
Arvit (עַרְבִית) or
Maariv (מַעֲרִיב), from
Musaf (מוּסָף, "additional") are recited by Orthodox and
Conservative congregations on Shabbat, major Jewish holidays
(including Chol HaMoed), and Rosh Chodesh.
A fifth prayer service,
Ne'ila (נְעִילָה, "closing"), is
recited only on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Main article: Christian liturgy
A bishop celebrating the
Divine Liturgy in an Eastern Catholic Church
in Prešov, Slovakia
Wedding ceremony inside the
Kiuruvesi Church in Kiuruvesi, Finland
Frequently in Christianity, a distinction is made between "liturgical"
and "non-liturgical" churches based on how elaborate or antiquated the
worship; in this usage, churches whose services are unscripted or
improvised are called "non-liturgical". Others object to this usage,
arguing that this terminology obscures the universality of public
worship as a religious phenomenon. Thus, even the open or waiting
worship of Quakers is liturgical, since the waiting itself until the
Holy Spirit moves individuals to speak is a prescribed form of Quaker
worship, sometimes referred to as "the liturgy of silence".
Typically in Christianity, however, the term "the liturgy" normally
refers to a standardised order of events observed during a religious
service, be it a sacramental service or a service of public prayer. In
the Catholic tradition, liturgy is the participation of the people in
the work of God, which is primarily the saving work of Jesus Christ.
In the liturgy, Christ continues the work of redemption.
The term "liturgy" literally in Greek means "work for the people", but
a better translation is "public service" or "public work", as made
clear from the origin of the term as described above. The early
Christians adopted the word to describe their principal act of
worship, the Sunday service (Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion, Mass or
Divine Liturgy). This service, liturgy, or ministry (from the Latin
"ministerium") is a duty for Christians as a priestly people by their
baptism into Christ and participation in His high priestly ministry.
It is also God's ministry or service to the worshippers. It is a
reciprocal service. As such, many Christian churches designate one
person who participates in the worship service as the liturgist. The
liturgist may read announcements, scriptures, and calls to worship,
while the minister preaches the sermon, offers prayers, and blesses
sacraments. The liturgist may be either an ordained minister or a
layman. The entire congregation participates in and offers the liturgy
Main article: Salat
Salāt ("prayer", Arabic: صلاة ṣalāh or gen: ṣalāt; pl.
صلوات ṣalawāt) is the practice of physical and compulsory
Islam as opposed to dua, which is the Arabic word for
supplication. Its importance for
Muslims is indicated by its status as
one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Salat is preceded by ritual ablution and usually performed five times
a day. It consists of the repetition of a unit called a rakʿah (pl.
rakaʿāt) consisting of prescribed actions and words. The number of
obligatory (fard) rakaʿāt varies from two to four according to the
time of day or other circumstances (such as Friday congregational
worship, which has two rakats).
Prayer is obligatory for all Muslims
except those who are prepubescent, menstruating, or in puerperium
stage after childbirth.
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common
Worship of 1993
Divine Service (Eastern Orthodoxy)
Divine Service (Lutheran)
Kesh temple hymn
Kesh temple hymn (
Liturgy to Nintud) — Sumerian clay tablet written
as early as 2600 BC
Liturgical books of the Roman Rite
^ Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, p. 582–3
^ N. Lewis, "Leitourgia and related terms," Greek, Roman and Byzantine
Studies 3 (1960:175–84) and 6 (1965:226–30).
^ Finley, The Ancient Economy 2nd ed., 1985:151.
^ Underhill, E.,
Worship (London: Bradford and Dickens, 1938), pp.
^ Dandelion, P., The Liturgies of Quakerism, Liturgy,
Society Series (Aldershot, England and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005).
^ Catechism of the Catholic Church 1069(London: Chapman, 1994).
^ Multicultural Handbook of Food, Nutrition and Dietetics, p. 43,
Aruna Thaker, Arlene Barton, 2012
Baldovin, John F., SJ (2008) Reforming the Liturgy: a Response to the
Critics. The Liturgical Press
Bowker, John, ed. (1997) Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford
University Press. ISBN 0-19-213965-7.
Bugnini, Annibale, (1990) The Reform of the
Liturgy 1948–1975. The
Dix, Dom Gregory (1945) The Shape of the Liturgy
Donghi, Antonio, (2009) Words and Gestures in the Liturgy. The
Johnson, Lawrence J., (2009)
Worship in the Early Church: an Anthology
of Historical Sources. The Liturgical Press
Jones, Cheslyn, Geoffrey Wainwright, and Edward Yarnold, eds. (1978)
The Study of Liturgy. London: SPCK.
Marini, Piero, (2007) A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of
the Liturgical Renewal. The Liturgical Press
Scotland, N. A. D. (1989). Eucharistic Consecration in the First Four
Centuries and Its Implications for Liturgical Reform, in series,
Latimer Studies, 31. Latimer House. ISBN 0-946307-30-X
"What Do Quakers Believe?". Quaker Information Center, Philadelphia,
Library resources about
Resources in your library
Resources in other libraries
Catholic Encyclopedia article
Orthodox Tradition and the Liturgy
Jewish Encyclopedia: Liturgy
Liturgy Website History, theory, practice
The Indult Tridentine Rite of Mass
Work of the People
Yejeonhak Baeumteo: Online Community for Liturgical Resources (Korean)
Dictionary of Catholic Liturgy
Liturgie-Kontor "Maria Magdalena" (Texte zu Gottesdiensten im
15th century liturgy for the deceased, written in Gothic Textualis
script, Center for Digital Initiatives, University of Vermont
Eastern Orthodox Christian
Liturgy Website Liturgy
A Brief Exposition of the Divine Service