Orthodox Liturgy is “Bondservant” Liturgy

I love the way St. Paul describes Christians as “bondservants.” Other translations besides the NKJ use the word slave, but bondservant seems much more appropriate since it is not associated with modern slavery. To be a bondservant of Christ means that we are indeed bound to our servant-hood. We are not slaves in the modern sense of not having freedom, but we are slaves in the spiritual sense of having freedom yet under the certain care and tutelage of Christ.

When we worship God on the Lord’s Day we become bondservants to Christ through the ordained liturgy of the Church. There is indeed a difference between ordained liturgy and just good liturgy. Good liturgy is good because it looks good on paper, like a thesis. But ordained liturgy, which we shall refer to as bondservant liturgy is good because one really and truly becomes bound to it – covenantaly speaking. Bondservant liturgy is done under the succession and law of Christ’s Church-historical under the care and authority of a bishop. Some may be a little leery on the use of the bishopric here, so please allow me to explain.

It is not the bishop in and of himself that makes the liturgy valid. It is not even his office that makes the liturgy valid. It is what’s behind the office of the bishop that makes the liturgy valid. It is what bishops do that makes the liturgy valid.

You may have noticed that within Christendom those churches that have no bishop have no standard of liturgy that lasts any longer than one generation. Some churches will use some parts of different liturgies for their service, but this piecemeal type of liturgy does not last. It may seem theologically correct when it is on paper, but is it theologically correct when it is within the Body of Christ? Liturgy, like all ethics, is to be covenantal. Liturgy must be able to be handed down from generation to generation. ONLY THE BISHOPRIC HAS PROVEN ITSELF TO BE ABLE TO HANDLE THIS TASK. The other modern forms of ecclesiology have not been able to sustain a standard of liturgy, and thus have not proven themselves to be covenantal liturgies. A bondservant is bound to something. There is a liturgy that is bound and a liturgy that is not bound. The liturgy that is bound is the liturgy that is under the bishop.

Traditional liturgy involves a very tight structure that, although sometimes may seem uncomfortable to us, is able to form our character and lead us to appropriate behavior (great for both adults and kids). We become bound to this particular form/structure. It is a form that is so tightly woven that almost no personality can seep into the service. Almost none of man’s sinful nature can come in to strut its arrogance and manipulative suave. Suave is not all bad, though, right? No it is not, but suave and personality have their place. They especially have their place in conversation, where the receiving end has the freedom to shoot back, creating lively and eventful fellowship. BUT ONE SHOULD NOT HAVE TO BECOME A BONDSERRVANT TO ANOTHER MAN’S PERSONALITY, ESPECIALLY WITHIN WORSHIP. Think of the ramifications of this! And does God desire to be worshiped in personality, especially that of one man’s? Here is a fine quote from the Journey to Orthodoxy website, written by a Protestant, regarding  Orthodox worship:

“We could take a cue from Orthodoxy, whose priests stand with their backs to their congregation, leading a liturgy that is neither clever nor impassioned, but simply beautiful, like stone smoothed by centuries of rhythmic tides. It’s an austere ritual, in the sense of – there’s nothing new here; it’s sublime, in the sense of – creating a clearer view into Heaven. The priest can be any priest. Who he is, what he looks like, how he speaks, and what he thinks matter little. He hasn’t written the service that he officiates. It isn’t about him or his prowess. He’s an interchangeable functionary draped in brocaded robes, obscured by incense, and, as such, never points to himself, a flawed human, pointing ever and only to the Perfection of the Mysterious Divine. That is the role of every priest or preacher – invisibility, while making God seen.”

Bondservant liturgy is liturgy that has succeeded multi generations and is in itself bound to Christ’s message and redemption; past, present and future. When we give ourselves to Christ’s worship we are becoming bondservants to something very particular within the framework of sanctification. When we submit ourselves as bondservants in worship, we demonstrate our ability to submit ourselves as bondservants to the entirety of life in Christ. If one cannot submit to worshiping God how much more could they possibly be able to submit themselves to anything else Christ asks of them?