Liturgy

Liturgy is the customary public worship performed by a religious group.[1] As a religious phenomenon, liturgy represents a communal response to and participation in the sacred through activity reflecting praise, thanksgiving, supplication or repentance. It forms a basis for establishing a relationship with a divine agency, as well as with other participants in the liturgy.

Technically speaking, liturgy forms a subset of ritual. The word liturgy, sometimes equated in English as "service", refers to a formal ritual, which may or may not be elaborate, enacted by those who understand themselves to be participating in an action with the divine; examples include the Eastern Christian Divine Liturgy (Greek: Θεία Λειτουργία), and the Catholic Mass. Not every religious ritual is a liturgy; a proper liturgy is a service to God and God's service to the performers of it, a mutual ministry (service) and a duty incumbent on the worshippers.

A daily activity such as the Muslim salah[2][need quotation to verify] and Jewish synagogue services would be ritual but not liturgy.[better source needed][3]

Etymology

The word liturgy, derived from the technical term in ancient Greek (Greek: λειτουργία), leitourgia, which literally means "work of the people" is a literal translation of the two words "litos ergos" or "public service". In origin, it signified the often expensive offerings wealthy Greeks made in service to the people, and thus to the polis and the state.[4] Through the leitourgia, the rich carried a financial burden and were correspondingly rewarded with honours and prestige. The leitourgia were assigned by the polis, the State and the Roman Empire, and became obligatory in the course of the 3rd century A.D. The performance of such supported the patron's standing among the elite and the popular at large. The holder of a Hellenic leitourgia was not taxed a specific sum, but was entrusted with a particular ritual, which could be performed with greater or lesser magnificence. The chief sphere remained that of civic religion, embodied in the festivals: M.I. Finley notes "in Demosthenes' day there were at least 97 liturgical appointments in Athens for the festivals, rising to 118 in a (quadrennial) Panathenaic year."[5] However, groups of rich citizens were assigned to pay for expenses such as civic amenities and even payment of warships. Eventually, under the Roman Empire, such obligations, known as munera, devolved into a competitive and ruinously expensive burden that was avoided when possible. These included a wide range of expenses having to do with civic infrastructure and amenities; and imperial obligations such as highway, bridge and aqueduct repair, supply of various raw materials, bread-baking for troops in transit, just to name a few.