In writing and compiling this manual, we intentionally chose the Divine Liturgy to provide the basic educational structure. Although this work isn’t about the Divine Liturgy, it provides the topics that you will learn as we encounter them throughout the Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy, as Father Alexander Schmemann wrote, is “the very center of the whole life of the Church, the sacrament of Christ’s presence among us and of his communion among us.”1 Therefore, it is appropriate to allow the Divine Liturgy to be both experience and guide for us as we explore the teachings of Orthodox faith.
You will notice as you read through the text that each chapter has a unique voice and style of presentation. A variety of trusted teachers, scholars, and theologians, all members of the Orthodox Church in America, have contributed their chapters in their area of expertise. They bring their own experiences and perspectives to the text, but much like the Holy Scriptures which also were written by a variety of authors with different voices and writing styles, there is a common thread and message that runs throughout: God has revealed Himself and He has chosen a people to be His Bride.
There may also be some repeated themes or concepts in the various chapters. Naturally, certain concepts may be explained in a context which might seem to be repetitive but stated in a different way throughout the text. Use this as an opportunity to understand how the teachings of the Church are both interwoven and interdependent.
This effort is meant to be a work in progress, much like our own spiritual lives. We will continue to receive feedback and advice from trusted sources to make the text more effective for learning. Your teacher will instruct you on definitions and concepts that may not be explained in the text. This manual isn’t meant to be an exhaustive source but will provide the foundation for your continued learning and growth. We encourage you to supplement your learning with other material at the recommendation of your teacher. We are grateful to God for His mercies and to the generous donors who made this work possible.
Archpriest Thomas M. Soroka
Departments of the Orthodox Church in America
Alexander Schmemann, Liturgy and Life: Lectures and Essays on Christian Development Through Liturgical Experience (New York: Department of Religious Education, Orthodox Church in America, 1983), 26. ↩