Orthodox Worship / Liturgical Gestures
The word liturgy, derived from the technical term in ancient Greek, leitourgia “leitos” = people “ourgos” = work
“leitos” + “ourgos” = work of the people
Orthodox worship involves the whole of the human person. It utilizes all of the senses of sight, smell, hearing, touch, and even taste. We see the candles, icons, vestments; we hear the sounds of the bells, singing, reading; at times we use our own voices for praise; we smell the sweet fragrance of the incense; and we taste the Body and Blood of Christ. The entire person is involved in worship, not just our thoughts or voices. Therefore, the actions and very posture of our body play a role in worship and affect its quality and nature.
Transfiguration of the whole being
Prostration (Great Metanoia/Great Pokhlon)
Bow / Reverence
Sign of the Cross
Sight /Taste /Smell/Touch/Sound
The entire Liturgy itself is a symbolic representation of the life of Christ. So, when we see the different parts of the Liturgy taking place, these are visual cues to remind us of what Christ did on Earth, as well as what He is doing for us now.
The most important thing we hear during the Liturgy is the Gospel. Jesus Christ is the Son and Word of God; when God became man, He could be amongst us and teach us Himself. This reflects a very powerful way in which we are to understand God. This is a point in our worship where we are given a clear chance to Love God with all our mind. As the priest instructs us: “Wisdom! Stand up! Let us listen to the Holy Gospel!”.Also, nearly the entire Liturgy – and any service – is chanted. The hymns of our worship are to our ears what the icons are to our eyes. They fill our mind and our heart with praise of God and remembrance of His works.
Incense has been used in worship for ages. When we smell the incense in our services, this is a physical reminder that, like the smoke, our prayers rise to God, and hopefully are pleasing to him like the fragrance of the incense. As we chant during Vespers and the Presanctified Liturgy:
“Let my prayer be set forth as incense before Thee.”
Receiving the incense
As we hear the priest repeat Christ’s commandments:
“Take, eat. This is My Body, which is broken for you, for the forgiveness of sins,”
“Drink of this, all of you. This is My Blood of the New Covenant which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins,”
our heart and mind should be focused on what we are about to do: receive Holy Communion.