Episcopal Liturgy (a word that means “work of the people”) is taken from ceremony crafted from the earliest known Christian and Hebrew sources. The first Christians were Jewish and so their traditional forms of worship influenced the first forms of Christian worship. The main focus of the liturgy is the Eucharist (a Greek word meaning “Thanksgiving”) which is a re-enactment of the Last Supper in which Jesus commanded his disciples to “do this in remembrance of me”. There are two main parts of this service, first the Word of the Lord in which we listen to Scripture and learn about it in preparation for the Eucharist, and the Holy Communion during which the assembled body of Christians through the leadership of the priest blesses the bread and wine making it the Body and Blood of Jesus. We eat the broken bread and share the one cup as a sign of unity in faith and taking our place in the one Body of Christ, the fellowship of all believers.
Upon entering the church, a sense of quiet allows the worshippers to prepare themselves in prayer. Ushers show visitors to the pews and make sure they have a bulletin. St. Mark’s bulletins contain the complete service, including hymns, but if you have difficulty following the service, ask the person next to you or simply listen as the service progresses.
The Organist plays a prelude to assist us in centering on prayer. The introduction to the opening hymn is played louder to draw us together. As the introduction begins, the congregation stands to greet the Procession.
Formal processions were the custom of the leaders of secular assemblies. When the Christian Church became the official church of the Empire in the early 4th Century AD, the custom was applied to church assemblies.
Opening Acclamation and Collect for Purity
These opening sentences (chosen according to season as indicated on BCP p. 355) are a salutation to the fellowship, an exclamation of praise, and permission to preside. The Collect for Purity (based on Psalm 51) helps the priest prepare us for worship.
A hymn of praise is then offered. Usually this is the Gloria but during Lent and Advent the more solemn Kyrie (Lord Have Mercy) or Trisagion (Holy God, Holy and mighty, holy immortal One have mercy upon us) are used.