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Divine Liturgy and the movies are two things that seem very strange to compare from the start. About the only similarity that they might have, and this is a very loose similarity, is that they both offer an escape. People go to the movies to be swept up into a different world. These days, movies about current, politically charged events, don’t fare well at the box office. That’s because people don’t want to see a movie about things they see on the news or read in the paper. They are going to the movies to leave the world behind for a couple of hours. Isn’t that what we do when we attend the Liturgy? Don’t we leave behind the world for a period of time? In the Cherubic hymn, we sing, “Let us now lay aside all earthly cares.” We “escape” from the cares and concerns of the world, and leave them behind during the Liturgy.
The difference in these escapes from the world is immense however. After the end credits have rolled, we leave the theater and we have to go back to the reality of life. We aren’t any better equipped or prepared to face the difficulties the world can and often does offer. When we leave the Liturgy, however, we are better prepared. We have been fed the Word of God and the precious body and blood of Christ. The problems in the world will be there, but we will be better armed to face them. The Liturgy even offers us the chance to be completely transformed spiritually. No movie can do that.
We go to the movies to be entertained. We sit and watch. We can’t participate in a movie. In today’s world, people often make the mistake of thinking that they should be entertained when they go to Church too. In Orthodox worship, that isn’t the case. We have substance over style. The Bishop, Priest and other altar servers, or the choir aren’t there to “put on a show” and we aren’t there to just sit back and watch. We participate in the Liturgy. We are actively involved. After all, the word Liturgy comes from a Greek word meaning “work of the people.”
In the movies, there are some scenes that once the film is over, you realize weren’t that important. In the Liturgy, everything is important. Everything has meaning. Once we better understand that meaning, the Liturgy will mean more to us as well.
They certainly don’t make movies today the same way they did 20, 40 or 60 years ago. But when we come to Liturgy, we know that we are worshipping the same way the early Church worshipped. They may not make them like they used to, but we sure worship like they used to!
In future articles, we will be looking more specifically at different parts of the Divine Liturgy—what they mean, and why they we do them. In this way, you will hopefully be better able to understand exactly why we worship the way we do, and exactly how incredible an experience the Divine Liturgy truly is.