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The Holy Scripture and Divine Service.


In the daily Divine Service in the Orthodox church, as we know, is repeated the process of fulfillment of the matter of salvation of people in basic features: the vespers starts with the recollection of the creation of the world, then it reminds of the downfall of people, says about the repentance of Adam and Eve, about the gift of the Sinai Law, and ends by the prayer of Simeon the God-Receiver. The matins draws the state of the Old Testament mankind before the Coming into the world of Christ the Savior, draws grief, hope, expectations of those times’ people, says about the Good News to the Ever-Holy Virgin Mary and the Navity of Christ. The Liturgy shows the whole life of the Savior since the Bethlehem cave till Golgotha, the Resurrection and Ascension, through symbols and reminders leading us into reality, for in the Holy Communion we take in not the symbol, but really the Very Body of His, the Very Blood of His, that Very Body, that Very Blood, Which He gave on the Mystical Supper in the room of Zion, that Very Body, that Very Blood, Which suffered at Golgotha, resurrected from the tomb and ascended into heaven.

The repetition in the Divine Service, at least in brief, of the whole process of preparation of mankind to the acceptance of the Lord, is necessary, because the both processes — historical and official, in the essence have one goal: in both ways to prepare the weak, infirm, inert, carnal man to the greatest and most terrible: to the encounter with Christ — the Son of God — and to the unity with Him. The aim is one, the object is one — the man.

In the historical process the preparation of the people to the acceptance of the Son of God is closely connected with the Holy Scripture not only because this process is narrated in the Scripture, but because exactly with the Scripture, since the moment of its appearance, the souls of people got more and more prepared to the spiritual perfection, which was to make them able to meet Christ. On the church legend, the Ever-Holy Virgin Mary in the moment of bringing the Good News by the Archangel was reading a book of prophet Isaiah, in any case, due to the knowledge, concerning the prophecy of Isaiah she could understand and accept the Good News. John the Baptist preached the fulfillment of the Scriptures and with the words from It. His testimony "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," which gave to the Lord His first apostles, could be understood by him only in the light of the Scripture.

Naturally, with the very beginning the process of the individual preparation of each separate man to the acceptance of the Son of God, i.e. Divine Service, turned out to be closely connected with the same tool of God, by which historically mankind was prepared to the same, (i.e. with the Holy Scripture).

The very act of entering of the Lord and our Savor Jesus Christ into the world through the Sacrament of Transformation — is a very brief act, it was brief when it was first performed by Christ Himself in the room of Zion at the Mystical Supper. But as the mean of preparation to this holy act there was used everything sacred, kind in all the preceding history of mankind.

The Mystical Supper is short, the repetition of It in the Divine liturgy is short as well, but a Christian understands that he should not fulfill this act without worthy, necessary preparation, for the Lord says in the Scripture: "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully." And "For he that eateth and drinketh (the Communion) unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" (1 Cor. 11:29).

The Holy Scripture was the worthy preparation for the acceptance of the Son of God in the historical process. It, i.e. the careful reverent reading of It, might be the corresponding preparation for the acceptance of the Son of God in the Divine service process.

That is why, and not only because of the imitation of the synagogue, as it is often being interpreted, since the very beginning of the Christian history the Holy Scripture occupied such an important place in the matter of the preparation of Christians to the Sacrament of the Eucharist and Communion of the Holy Gifts, i.e. in the Divine service.

In the first church, in the principal years of Its existence, in Jerusalem, when the Church consisted mostly of the Hebrew Christians, the reading and chanting of the Holy Scripture was made in the holy language of the Old-Testament church, in ancient Hebrew, though the people, which at that time already spoke Aramaic, almost did not understand this language. For the interpretation of the Holy Scripture, Its text was interpreted in Aramaic. These interpretations were called the targums. In the Christianity targums mean the explanations, concerning the Old Testament in the meaning of its fulfillment and making the New Testament complete.

These interpretations of the Old Testament were made by the holy apostles and for the first church were the substitution of the Holy Scripture of the New Testament, which, as such, did not exist yet.

This way, in spite of the absence of the books of the New Testament in the first church, in its essence the Christian Divine service from the very beginning consisted of listening to and learning from the Divine words of both the Testaments. The interpretations of the Old Testament Scriptures by the very apostles — the Law, Prophets and Psalm, were the most important part of the preparatory for the Holy Eucharist Divine Service.

The specimens of such Christian interpretations of the Old Testament are the preserved in the Acts of the Apostles sermons of Ap. Peter and the first martyr Stephan.

Further on, when in the Church started to prevail the Christians from the medium of heathens, the Holy Scripture of the Old Testament began to be read and explained in Greek, which was commonly understandable at that time in the whole world. Soon there appeared the books of the New Testament, first the Epistles of the Apostles, then the Gospels and other apostolic creations, which as well were written in Greek.

With that, the providentially important circumstance was the fact that the Church had no need to worry about the creation of the translation of the Old Testament into the new sacred language of the Church — into Greek.

This translation was prepared by the Divine providence beforehand by the God-inspired exploit of the Old-Testament church, which created such a translation of the holy books of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. This translation is called the translation of the 70 or in Latin — the Septuagint.

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