Thursday, October 2, 2008
How did the apostles worship?
For the longest time, I thought our worship was something we acquired over the centuries, invented by the church as it went along. "Surely," I thought, "The apostles and the early church worshiped spontaneously, with random clapping, shuddering, speaking in tongues, etc."
But then, I stumbled on Liturgica.com . Thanks to this amazing website, and some Coptic videos on youtube, I discovered that I couldn't have been more wrong about worship in the Early Church.
It turns out the apostles worshiped much the same way as we Orthodox do today. There was a clear-cut order and structure to their prayers and hymns.
I decided to test what I read online against scripture, to see if could find a biblical foundation for Liturgical Worship. Here's what I discovered:
I. The Old Testament.
- The Lord clearly dictates to the Israelites how they should go about worshiping him. Sacrificial
rituals and the priestly office are described in great detail. (Exodus Ch.26-28, Leviticus
Ch.16). The writer of Hebrews mentions that all the liturgical rituals and artifacts mentioned in
the Old Testament are a "copy and shadow of what is in heaven." (Hebrews 8:5) It would
seem that the Lord wanted the Israelites to have something as close to Heavenly worship as
- The Prophet Isaiah Describes a vision that he saw in the Temple (Isaiah Ch. 6.) In it, he
sees heaven opened up, and the angels worshiping God. The "Holy, Holy, Holy.." chant of
the angels is mentioned, and it's interesting to see that "the temple was filled with smoke." At
one point, probably the most important part of the vision, an Angel flies down "with a live coal
in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar." The coal was placed in Isaiah's
mouth, for the remission of his sins.
Sound Familiar? Let's go on to the New Testament.
II. The New Testament.
- Christ explicitly states that he has not come to do away with the law and the teachings of the
prophets, "but to fulfill them"(Mathew 5:17.) The Gospels show that the Lord reguarly took
part in Jewish worship by attending Feasts in the Temple (John 7:14, 12:12), and regulary
visiting and preaching in the synagogues (Mathew 4:23, 9:35.)
-The Apostles continued to worship as Jews even after the ascension of Christ. In the Book of
Acts, we see the Apostles Peter and John going up to the temple for the ninth hour of prayer
(Acts 3:1.) At many times church leaders are shown praying at "liturgical hours"(Acts 10:2-3,
9.) On top of that, it seems that the New Testament church observed some sort of church
calendar, since St.Paul seems determined at one point to be in Jerusalem for the feast of
Pentecost (Acts 18:21, 20:16.)
-The book of Revelations is a liturgical goldmine, especially the eighth chapter. We see an Altar
(verse 3,) Angels serving and offering incense with a censer (verse 3) In Chapter six, we see
the communion of the departed (verses 9-11.) Ch.5:11 shows us the liturgical
nature of heavenly prayer.
Imagine my amazement! Suddenly, it became quite clear why the church continued to practice this ancient form of worship for millenia. If it's good enough for the apostles, it's good enough for me! :)
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