Christians in many worshiping traditions use a variety of ritual actions to indicate their reverence for the worship of God and participation in the sacrament of the Eucharist. This article explains what these actions of reverence look like and how the architectural design of the sacramental symbols can enhance their meaning.
Christian storytelling is rooted in the ancient Jewish tradition of telling stories. In telling the story, its reality and power are made present to the hearers, so that by entering into the story they experience its significance and power to shape their perspectives and the living out of their own stories of faith.
Anglican worship emphasizes the incarnational and sacramental motifs of the Christian faith. God was embodied in Jesus Christ. Thus, in worship the church incarnates in a visible and tangible form the embodiment of God in Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world.
The churches in the Byzantine tradition are those with an historic relationship to the church of Constantinople (originally Byzantium); they are familiar to North Americans as the Orthodox churches (among them the Greek and Russian). The Byzantine rite is complex and proceeds as two interwoven liturgies, one conducted with the congregation and the other performed by the celebrants behind the icon screen (iconostasis) that separates the altar from the rest of the church. The dominant theme of this liturgical tradition is the presence of Christ, both in his incarnation and in his heavenly ministry.
The liturgy of the West Syrian churches derives from Antioch, although some elements are believed to have come from the Jerusalem church of which James, the brother of Jesus, was the head. The tone of the liturgy is optimistic, and different parts anticipate the triumphal return of Christ.
Although the New Testament offers several versions of Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, common themes emerge. In observing the Lord’s Supper, the church puts the worshiper in contact with the redemptive death of Jesus—the act that has brought the church into being as one body, the eschatological new covenant community.
Together with symbolic actions and structures, biblical worship incorporates symbolic objects. Sometimes these are real objects, physically present in the place of worship. Sometimes they are verbal symbols of things not physically present. And sometimes they are both, either at the same time or at different times. Such objects include the ark of the covenant, books and scrolls, anointing oil, the lamp, incense, blood, the bread and cup, and the cross.