5th Monday of Pascha, May 5/18 2009
Back when we were having classes after Wednesday Vespers, I was covering various prayers of the church (the sessions were recorded.) I hope we can get back to those sessions again, but to be completely honest, we will need to have a little bit better regular attendance to make it work.
Anyway, for one of the sessions, (an overview of Vespers), I discussed at length how our worship is inherently Jewish. Here is a “fleshing out” of part of the outline I had prepared for that talk. I hope to make the catechism outlines neater in the future, so they can be included in the catechism page, which has mostly audio. I know so people like audio, but, oddly, even though I am someone who creates a lot of it, I would rather read something than listen to it.
Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism. The whole of the law and the prophets, and entire Jewish way of life as specified in the scriptures had one purpose: to lead mankind to the truth, which Jesus revealed. One could say that Judaism became Christianity.
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Mat 5:17)
Conversely, one may also say that those that become Christians are descended from the Jewish chosen people, since the Lord spoke of the Gentiles when He said:
“Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Luke 3:8)
Since Christianity is descended from Judaism, it stands to reason that many practices of Judaism have continued and found their true meaning in Christianity.
Christian worship is incredibly "Jewish". All of our liturgical services have a "formal" aspect to them; we do things in a certain way, just as the Jewish priests of old ministered according to a certain tradition. The priest wears elaborate vestments, uses incense extensively, and serves behind a screen much of the time, just as the Jews of old. Our liturgical actions are replete with symbolic meanings, just as the Jewish liturgy was full of types and figures of the New Covenant.
Our services use the Psalter extensively; it has been called the “prayer book of the church.” In most weeks it is read once in its entirety, bit by bit, in daily Vespers and Matins, and every service and has psalms or psalm verses in it. The Old Testament is read in Vespers in just about all "special" services (such as feasts of the Lord and Theotokos, and highly venerated Saints, such as St Nicholas). The Vespers and Matins services especially contain numerous allusions to OT events and types, showing their true Christian meaning.
There are more parallels between true Christian worship and that of the ancient Jews, but we will need to leave that for another far away day. Perhaps you can think of some; if you send them to me, I may use them to update this short essay.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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