Liturgical Gestures in the Byzantine Liturgy

This page is dedicated to the formation of Melkites and other Catholics interested in the details of the Byzantine (Greek) liturgical tradition. What is given here is not merely information but hopefully formation. That is, what we learn here will slowly be a matter of a habit of prayer so that we may meet God (the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in an authentic way. Not knowing or worse, dismissing ritual gesture as unimportant, risks capitulating to nihilism and empty and vain ritualism. Catholics As the great priest from Milan once said, ” Christ bumped into my life, my life bumped into Christ, precisely so that I should learn to understand that He is the central point of everything, of the whole of my life. Christ is the life of my life…” (To Give One’s Life, 37-38).

The point of delving into these gestures is remind ourselves that help us to encounter (meet) Jesus Christ. The liturgical (ritual) gesture is the physical engagement with the Incarnation of the second person of the Holy Trinity; it is the physical experience, in a real way in time and space of the person of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The words and actions of the divine liturgy given to us by the Church are fundamental and universal human experiences, full of meaning and are effective in pointing us to the path of salvation history,

The Constitution Dei Verbum given to the Church at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) is a foundational text for understanding Divine Revelation. There the Council Fathers (including some significant Melkite bishops) said the nature and object of revelation “is realized by deeds and words, which are intrinsically bound up with each other. As a result, the works performed by God in the his- tory of salvation show forth and bear out the doctrine and realities signified by the words; the words, for their part, proclaim the works, and bring to light the mystery they contain” (2).

The Audience?

In the Byzantine East, and in other Eastern Christian Churches like the Armenians, Copts, etc. (Catholic and Orthodox), there is no audience . . . we all stand before God together! Even the Latin Church thinks this way historically but in practice is doing something different except at the Latin Mass. Father David Bibeau gives a fine explanation.

Sign of the Cross
Receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ