Form and Characteristics of Orthodox Worship


The Work of the People

The main Sunday morning worship service of an Orthodox Church is called the Divine Liturgy. The term Liturgy means “work of the people.” Participation is the key word here. The whole congregation is active in worship, even the children. As such, the Liturgy is the common act of prayer, worship, teaching, and communion of all those who constitute the Church. In the Liturgy we participate, by grace, in the life of Christ.  We thereby come to know Christ in us, the hope of glory.  What happened almost 2000 years ago becomes vital and alive and contemporary to us in the Liturgy. 

The Church's liturgical, festal and sacramental worship gathers God's People into a united community which:

  • affirms its common faith in God's transforming love for us;
  • shares its faith and fears, joys and sorrows through fellowship; and 
  • publicly proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ while rendering thanks to God for His many blessings.


The Liturgical Cycle

The Church posseses a cycle of worship services which:

  • revolves around the celebration of the Church's most important service, the Eucharistic Divine Liturgy;
  • enables us to set aside a certain portion of each day to praise and thank God, and
  • serves as a constant reminder that in all things, God must be glorified.


The Most Comonly Celebrated Liturgical Services Include:

The Divine Liturgy

The Divine Liturgy, during which the faithful gather to hear the Word of God and to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, is the highlight of the Church's worship. All worship finds its reference point in the Eucharistic Liturgy.

Compline and Nocturns

These night services serve as reminders that God must be praised at all times. Nocturns (the Midnight Service) are rarely served in parish settings.


Begins the liturgical day. This evening service reminds us of the coming of Christ in the world as the "Light who enlightens all" and relates the most important elements of God's plan for the Salvation of His people. 

Matins (Orthros)

This is the Church's morning service. At Matins, we: 

  • proclaim the glory of Jesus Christ
  • learn, through the various hymns, more about God's plan for His people
  • prepare most directly for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy

The Hours

Are short services consisting of prayers and readings primarily taken from the Old Testament book of Psalms. There are four Hours:

  • The First Hour (6AM) is often celebrated after Matins
  • The Third (9AM) and Sixth Hours (Noon) are often prayed before the Divine Liturgy
  • The Ninth Hour (3PM) may be celebrated before Vespers

Each of the Hours carries with it a particular theme, thereby reminding us of the many deeds Jesus Christ accomplished for our salvation.

Othe lesser Hours called the Mesoria or Inter-Hours and the Typica my be served during the Fasts.