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1. the forms of public services officially prescribed by a Church
2. Chiefly Eastern Churches the Eucharistic celebration
3. a particular order or form of public service laid down by a Church


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Derived from the Greek word leitourgia ("public duty"), liturgy has come to refer to the act of public worship, especially as it pertains to Christian church services. But its emphasis, though subtle, has quite literally changed the landscape and influenced daily life.

The kind of building we associate with the word "church" is a direct result of the liturgy it was designed for. The formal liturgical tradition of the Catholic Mass, for instance, called forth the Gothic cathedral. The simple tradition of the Quaker meeting produced a less formal design. The New England Meeting House places the preacher and his pulpit front and center, while many modern sanctuaries look more like "theaters in the round" with full-scale media rooms controlling sound and lighting equipment.

Beginning with the reforms of Vatican II (see Vatican Councils) in 1963, Roman Catholic liturgy forced a change in furniture placement. In an effort to include more lay participation, the priest now stood behind the altar, facing the people. Previously he had stood with his back to the people, facing the altar. Now the altar had to be moved away from the wall, enabling people to move behind it. While common now, back then it caused a furor.

When organs began to be used to accompany liturgy, churches were built around the demands of the instrument itself. Organ pipes began to be a recognizable part of liturgical furniture. Now, with many Protestant churches employing modern instruments, it is not uncommon for churches to be built around orchestra pits and stages, with giant screens behind the worship leader so as to project the words of songs or highlight the text of the lecturer's sermon.

Liturgy dictates architecture. Architecture displays theology. Theology demands liturgy. The three cannot be separated.



a Christian worship service during which the Eucharist is received. The Russian popular name for the liturgy is obednia (based on the time of day when it is conducted, before obed, “lunch”). The Catholic name for the liturgy is the Mass.

Initially, the form and content of the liturgy were determined by oral traditions, which were different in various localities. Two basic forms of liturgy evolved in the Eastern Roman Empire during the fourth to fifth centuries (attributed to Basil the Great and John Chrysostom). They were reworked and supplemented right up to the 14th century. In this form they have been preserved in the modern Orthodox Church. The liturgy includes readings from the Bible, singing, prayers, and a number of symbolic actions and processions, allegorically depicting the life and death of Christ. Since the late 17th century, composers have created complete cycles of choir renditions of the liturgy. Classic models of such liturgies were created by P. I. Tschaikovsky, A. T. Grechaninov, and S. V. Rachmaninoff.


Schulz, H.-J. Die byzantinische Liturgie. Freiburg im Breisgau, 1964.



a state obligation in ancient Greek city-states that was borne by prosperous citizens and metics (aliens and freed slaves whose wealth was estimated at three talents or over). They were obliged to meet certain important state expenditures.

There were both regular and extraordinary liturgies. The regular varieties included the choregia (payment of the chorus performing at dramatic and musical competitions), the architheoria (financing of embassies dispatched for religious festivals), and the gymnasiarchia (selection and support of participants in gymnastic competitions). The trierarchia (for the equipping of naval triremes) is an example of an extraordinary liturgy. The liturgy was particularly widespread in Athens during the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. It was introduced to meet two needs: to reduce contradictions between the rich and poor and to strengthen the military and political might of the city-state.

In addition to the ancient Greek city-states, the liturgy was found in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, the Roman Empire, and Byzantium.


Oertel, F. Die Liturgie: Studien zur ptolemäischen und kaiserlichen Ver-waltung Ä gyptens. Leipzig, 1917.
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