St. Mary and St. Joseph Coptic Orthodox Church
G18 Why is the Orthodox worship full of Rituals?

The Book of Leviticus and other biblical books show that God Himself established numerous religious rituals for the ancient Israelites. Sacrifices and offerings, ordination ceremonies and priestly behavior, holidays and festivals – all had their designated rituals (see Lev. 1:1-10:20; 16:1-34; 23:1-44).

The Lord Jesus, Saint Mary, Saint Joseph and the apostles were all faithful Jews and they practiced the religious rituals as per the Bible (see Lk 2:39, Lk 2:21-39; Lk 2:41-43; Lk 22:1-13; Jn 2:13; 7:2-10; 10:22-23).

Since the beginning of Christianity, Christians no longer practice Jewish rituals which referred to Christ, such as temple sacrifices (see Heb 9:1-28). But they started to practice new rituals. The New Testament indicates “the breaking of the bread (the Eucharist) and . . the prayers” (Acts 2:42); the customary three o’clock prayers at the temple (Acts 3:1); the laying on of hands and anointing with oil (Acts 6:6; Jas 5:14); the apparent quotations from the liturgy (Col 1:15-20; Phil 2:6-11; 1 Tm 3:16). 

When Acts says that the church leaders at Antioch were “worshiping” (13:2), the Greek verb used is leiturgeo (the root of the English word “liturgy”), which refers to ritual worship.

Why does the New Testament provide no details of these rituals? The Lord Jesus Himself taught His disciples a lot of rituals during the forty days after resurrection. After the Ascension of the Lord, the Christians worshiped regularly according to an oral tradition. That unbroken tradition eventually developed into the rich ritual of worship practiced today by the Orthodox Church.

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