Roles in the Liturgy
No Christian, by virtue of an office or liturgical role, has any claim to greatness before God; all that we do in the liturgy is delegated by our Mother the Church. But by the same token, not all who take part in the liturgy do so in the same way.
- The bishop is a successor to the apostles; it is his responsibity to teach, to govern, and to ensure that the Church's liturgy, like her teaching and laws, is carefully observed.
- The priest is our representative before God, offering sacrifice and praying on our behalf; at the same time, he is the representative of Jesus Christ, empowered to bless, to forgive sins, and to make present the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ.
- The deacon is responsible for order in the liturgical assembly. In the litanies, he announces the things for which we pray; he calls for our attention at various points in the services, and directs the people at prayer in a variety of ways. He may preach and read the Gospel, but does not bless the people.
- The reader chants the appointed sections of the Old Testament and Apostolic readings, and may also lead certain services in the absence of a priest. (See Reader Services.)
- The people add their prayers to those of the priest, sealing his prayer with their "Amen". They pray for their own needs as well as for those announced by the deacon, affirming these petitions with responses such as "Lord, have mercy", and "Grant this, O Lord." They lend their voices in the singing of hymns, and offer their own sacrifices in union with the one acceptable sacrifice, offered by Christ as our High Priest, and made present by the priest in the Eucharist. They listen attentively to the Scripture readings and sermon or homily, applying these teachings to their own lives and to the sanctification of the world around them.
- The cantor or cantors lead the singing of the people, setting a comfortable pitch, and starting the singing to show which melody is to be used.
- A choir of singers may also support the singing at liturgical services, especially when rarely-used or difficult music is used. The choir may be divided in two, for those parts of the services in which hymns are sung in alternation.
In some eparchies, those priestly prayers which are made on behalf of the people are now taken aloud, allowing the people's "Amen" to be made with full recognition of what went before. Similarly, the wider presence of deacons in the church has allowed for a restoration of the deacon's role as well. This has sometimes resulted in controversial changes, such as shortening the singing of those hymns which became longer in order to "cover up" the priest's prayers. To the extent that all is done in good order, however, these changes provide a prayer which respects both the letter and the spirit of our liturgical traditions.
for Life: Part Two, The Mystery Celebrated.
(Pittsburgh: God With Us Publications, 1996).
An excellent introduction to Byzantine liturgy. This is the second volume of a widely-used Byzantine Catholic catechism.