By Rev. Alkiviadis Calivas

The divine Liturgy is the sacred rite by which the Orthodox Church celebrates the mystery of the Eucharist. This title for the Eucharist is derived from two Greek words, theia and leitourgia. The word theia means "pertaining to God," hence divine. The term leitourgia comes from two words; leitos (people) and ergon (work), hence "the work of the people" or "a public service, act or function." The word leitourgia was used in Greek antiquity to describe those services and acts which were performed for the benefit and common interest of all, including acts of worship. It was in this latter religious sense that the word found its way into the vocabulary of Scripture and the Church. In the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament the word was applied to the Temple services and the functions of the priests. In the New Testament, where the word appears infrequently, it describes the saving work of Christ (Heb. 8:6) and Christian worship (Acts 13:21). In the Apostolic Fathers and later tradition the word was applied to worship. By the fourth century, the word leitourgia, together with adjective theia (i.e., Divine Liturgy) had become the technical term for the mystery of the Eucharist. The word Eucharist in turn means thanksgiving. [Read More]