What is Liturgy?

What is the liturgy?

The term "liturgy"

[Cf. MARSILI S., "The liturgy, historic moment of salvation", AA.VV., liturgy, time in the history of salvation. Casale Monferrato: Marietti, 19792, 33-45 (= Anàmnesis 1).

1. Etymology and evolution of the meaning of "Liturgy"

The word "Liturgy" from the Greek leitourgía, letourgía, litourgía, now used almost exclusively to describe the Christian worship, is not born in a religious nor in world of AT. It rises instead in ancient Greece, as a word from the classical Greek language. It has its own story originally linked to its etymology.
"Liturgy" is a word made up of two root: leit (laós = people), which means "the public", "belonging to the people", and: érgon (ergázomai = act, act) that is, "action", "work" .
The word "Liturgy, from antiquity to the present, has suffered a significant evolution of meaning, that deserves our interest.

A) In classical Greece, namely, around the sixth century before Christ, the word "Liturgy" or a designated work done for the people, a public. Therefore, the verb leitourgía was used at that time with a sense of "public support tasks" in the Greek city.
Trattatasi therefore public services made by certain wealthy people who felt obliged to this from their social and economic position. We distinguish two types of "Liturgy" those "cyclical", composed almost always from games and parties, and those "extraordinary", which made it necessary in cases of public emergency: to provide a defensive military department or the a crew of the ship.
Aristotle (Policy 5.8) notes that "liturgies cyclical", while showing the power of the donor, were the cause of unnecessary loss of wealth for many families.

B) In Hellenistic III centuries BC, the term passes to indicate a mandatory work created by a community or certain categories of people, both as a penalty or any disobedience against the authority of the state, both as workers in exchange for special rights or honors received by the state.
In this era, in addition to this effect, the term "liturgy" also receives a large extent service generally, meaning a mandatory or a servant to his master, or for a friend. Thus the term "liturgy" loses its value "public", ie, service created for the community, which in its etymology.
In the same period the Hellenistic period begins to appear more and more sense religioso-cultuale, as a service to the gods, made by people that intended. That use is noticed especially in so-called "mysteries" of religions. And, with the loss of all references to the "public", this new sense of "liturgy" grow to the point that, after or switched to indicate only "a service provided to worship gods. Exactly in this technical sense find the word "Liturgy" is nell'AT (Greek translation of LXX) or, in some degree, in the nascent Christianity.
C) In Sacred Scripture, in the Greek translation of LXX (translation performed approximately 250-150 before Christ), the term "liturgy" appears in its various forms written about 170 times. And each time it appears, it means always worship supplied Jahve by priests and Levites in the Temple (tabernacle). Even when the lyrics refer to the cult supplied Jahve by the people, the word used is never leitourgía, but only: doulía, latría (= worship, honor). This clearly says that the translators of LXX have made a conscious choice, giving the word "Liturgy" technically precise sense of worship Journal intended to Jahve and realized by a particular category of persons appointed to this: the priests and Levites.
D) In the New Testament, the word "Liturgy" only appears 15 times in various ways: 1) as a term borrowed from the common language: Rom 13.6; 15.27; Phil 2,25.30; 2 Cor 9.12; Hb1, 7.14; 2) in the rituale-sacerdotale of AT: Luke 1.23; Hb 8,2.6; 9.21; 10.11; 3) in the sense of spiritual worship: Rm 15.16; Phil 2.17; 4 ), and only once in the sense of ritual worship of Christians: At 13.2: "While they were celebrating the cult of the Lord (liturgy) and fasting, the Holy Spirit said," a reservation for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to The reason abandonment of the term in NT seems due to the fact that "liturgy" recalls in a clear and direct the sacrifices made in the temple, which were harshly criticized by the prophets of Israel, not to be true expression of love and gratitude to God by the people for the benefits received. In these sacrifices, in general, did not appear hearts, and this hypocritical worship God not ever accept (cf. Ps 39.7-9; 49,14.23; 50.18-19, 68.31-32; 140.2 ; Is 1,10-20; Jr. 7,3-11; Os 6.6; 8,11-13; Am 5,21-25).
E) In the primitive Christianity word "Liturgy" is slow to appear. The early Christians, using the "cultural spiritualism", ie, the kind of worship in spirit and in truth, no longer tied to the priesthood or temple, the temple in Jerusalem, is to Garizim (cf. Jo 4,19-26), do not feel the need to use the word "liturgy." This, indeed, was served to identify explicitly nell'AT a cult official made the second rules, rich in appearance, but empty of spirit. Therefore, as we mentioned, was sentenced by the prophets. But, in the Apostolic Church, "Liturgy" is beginning to lose its negative aspect and distinguishes the rite of Christian worship, as is observed in some documents: Didache 15.1 and 1 ° Clemente Romano Letter to the Corinthians ...

F) Nell'Oriente Greek, the word "Liturgy" has always been used to describe the Christian religion in general. It shows, first of all, the Eucharist according to a particular rite. Es. "Liturgy of the 12 Apostles," "St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil", "San Marco", "St. James' etc..

G) Nell'Occidente Latin, that is, among us, the word "Liturgy" will be ignored for many centuries. In its place are used other terms, such as: Officia divine sancta, celebratio, ministeria sacred sacred ritus, ritus ecclesiastical agenda divine agenda opus, etc. sacramentum. Only in the sixteenth century, thanks to the Renaissance contacts with the ancient Greek sources, the West appears the word "Liturgy" in the sense of rituals and forms of worship Mass. But ecclesiastical official language in the Latin term appears only in the first half of the nineteenth century with Gregory XVI (1842) and Pius IX (1864), becoming usual starting from Pius X (Among the concerns, 1903), until the Second Vatican Council.

2. Current Concepts of liturgy

At the Liturgical Movement of the first part of the twentieth century, the word "Liturgy" was frequently used to describe the celebration of Christian worship. Indeed, the movement is called "liturgical", in reference to concern that central determine its development: the promotion of liturgical life in the Church. And the Second Vatican Council, as a legitimate child and directed, started by Liturgical Movement, consecrate the word "Liturgy" in its various documents, especially in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium.

SC defines "liturgy" as:
1) "banner (Standard, teaches or symbol) raised in the face of nations, under which the children of God can gather, as long as there is one flock and one shepherd" (SC 2);
2) "exercise of the priestly function of Jesus Christ. Sanctification is signified by means of sensitive and implemented in a way that each of them; full public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, namely the head and its members "(SC 7);
3) "the summit toward which the action of the Church and at the same time the source from which all her energy" (SC 10).

But, in a simple, direct and current can say that "Liturgy" is "the celebration, using symbols and rituals of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ."

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