Orthodox Worship

Orthodox worship is unchanging, and grounded in tradition 

A visitor to the monastery recently shared his preference of contemporary worship with drums, guitar, etc. He insisted that God doesn’t really care how we worship, as long as we offer Him our praise. Knowing this man to be a serious Christian, and an upfront disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, made it clear to me that I could not judge him, or be critical of his views. However, it did leave me with a grateful heart, knowing that I am not convinced that he is correct. 

Believing, as he does, that God does not care how we worship Him, reminded me of a question I asked my Baptist grandmother, as a boy of twelve. Why did she think the God of the Old Testament cared so much about how His people worshipped him, that He detailed just how the vestments of their High Priest were to be designed, and how they should build His temple? Her reply suggesting that once Christ appeared, God the Father didn’t care about all those Old Testament rules, did not convince me, child that I was.

The key difference between the young visitor’s view of worship, and that of we Orthodox Christians, is clearly based on the difference between “man centered” worship, and worship directed to God in Trinity. Worship is not about pleasing me, or the personal taste of my neighbor, but about what is truly pleasing to God. One person may find “contemporary,” “pop,” “folk,” “rock,” and other “styles” of worship appealing, but is it truly pleasing to God? 

Our Orthodox way of worship is not about “personal taste”, for that would make it “man centered”. Our worship is, rather, centered on the God Who has invited us into communion with Him. It is a worship offered “in Spirit and Truth”, and thus pleasing unto God, and we should care only whether our worship is truly God pleasing. 

Worship is not about being entertained, nor should we worry about our worship being “relevant”. Worship, if it be true worship, must give us a glimpse of eternity, and of the divine. Our worship can not truly be worship unless it be focused on God.

Our worship “in Spirit and Truth” asks that we “lay aside all earthly cares”. But, how can this take place if we engage in forms of worship that change with the decisions made by local “worship leaders”, who are constantly attempting to make worship “relevant” to the tastes of an ever changing group of church members, flowing in and out of their “mega churches”.

Our Orthodox faith calls us to transform our fallen human existence by bringing it into the very presence of God Himself. He has called us into His Kingdom, not ours. God is calling us to that place where He is, rather than “where we are”, or where we would like Him to be. 

Our form of worship must reflect the fullness of Truth as preserved and proclaimed by the Ancient Orthodox Catholic Church. It is worship centered in the Divine Liturgy that becomes the essential act of worship and thanksgiving. This is the only form of worship that has the ability to usher us into heavenly worship, uniting us to the Church Triumphant, and joining us to the ongoing Heavenly Banquet. 

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Wednesday September 4, 2019 / August 22, 201912th Week after Pentecost. Tone two.Fast. By Monastic Charter: Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)

Martyr Agathonicus of Nicomedia and his companions: Martyrs Zoticus, Theoprepius, Acindynus, Severian, Zeno, and others, who suffered under Maximian (4th c.).
Martyr Gorazd of Prague, Bohemia and Moravo-Cilezsk (1942).
Venerable Isaac I (Antimonov, the “Elder”) of Optina (1894).
New Hieromartyrs Macarius bishop of Orlov, John and Alexis priests (1918).
New Hieromartyrs Theodore bishop of Penza and with him Basil and Gabriel priests (1937).
New Hieromartyrs John bishop of Velikoluk, Alexis archbishop of Omsk, Alexander, Michael and Theodore priests, Hieromartyr Hilarion, John and Hierotheus (1937).
Hieromartyr Athanasius (270-275), bishop of Tarsus in Cilicia, Venerable Anthusa of Syria (298) and Martyrs Charesimus and Neophytus (270-275).
Virgin-martyr Eulalia of Barcelona (303).
Iveron Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos at the Monastery of St. Alexis of Moscow (1650).
Venerable Bogolep of St. Paisius of Uglich Monastery (16th c.).
St. Symphorian of Autun (2nd-3rd c.) (Celtic & British).
Venerable Sigfrid, abbot of Wearmouth (England) (688) (Celtic & British).
New Hieromartyr Andrew (Ukhtomsky), bishop of Ufa (1937).
Martyrs Irenaeus, Deakon, Or, and Oropsus (Greek).

The Scripture Readings

2 Corinthians 6:11-16

Be Holy

11 O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. 13 Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open.

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will dwell in them

And walk among them.

I will be their God,

And they shall be My people.”

Mark 1:23-28

23 Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”

25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 26 And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him. 27 Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee.

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon is Igumen of All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.


  1. You are so right about worship. I have heard it said that the Old Testament is about “I am God, you are not and this is how I want you to worship me.” As a former Protestant I have seen some awful things in the name of worship, some obscene, some totally irreverent, and many, many things which make me wonder why anyone would go to those churches. I thank God daily for the Orthodox and the Catholic church (mainly the Orthodox :). Worship matters. Maybe this young man will think about things and the Holy Spirit will begin to show him another way – God’s way of worship.

  2. Bless, Abbott:
    Thank you for your excellent and helpful reflection upon what is true worship. As a convert to Orthodoxy from Evangelical Protestantism I have sometimes struggled with the “contemporary” worship of those gatherings and wondered if it is truly worship and how to present the worship in Spirit and truth of Orthodoxy. Your exposition is a great blessing to me and I am grateful.
    Kissing your right hand,
    Chuck Calendine

  3. hmmmm….well, I thought of when Moses came to the burning bush and God said, “Take off your sandals; you are standing on holy ground.” So, I think God does care how we worship him – the guitars, drums, and folk-style music can lead to a more pagan-style of worship if not careful – creeps in quietly, subtley. Our music and worship will be the utmost holy, reverent and angelic in Heaven – not earthly and of our fashion and tastes.
    Natural voices without instruments for worship are much more pleasing to me – perhaps not everyone. Beautiful chants are often or mostly done without instruments although can be. I agree about things becoming too much like entertainment where the focus becomes on self and not on Jesus…..

    Tks and God bless!

  4. Those would be fightin’ words if proclaimed in most Evangelical circles today, Father! I believe it to be,in a word, pandering – to culture , sensibilities and ever ambiguous feelings. I remember as a young Catholic boy(RCC) in parochial school when nuns came in with guitars to class (this is 1968) to lead in morning “worship”. The sacrilege I sensed it to be! The more I explore Orthodoxy , the more treasure I find.

  5. Father Bless, Well said. What a wonderful explanation for Orthodox worship. My children have talked to their friends who have “shorter and more engaging ” churches. I stammered with my answer to them. Thank you. Would it be correct to say that we are blessed with true Orthodox worship in our services, but we may praise God not only in our worship services but in other more “contemporary” ways outside of our actual worship services. Once in a while when I am home, I am in the mood to hear some good ole Southern gospel music rather than Orthodox chant. Bottom line, using the gentleman ‘s wording above, “that God doesn’t realy care how we worship Him”; would it be correct to say that God doesn’t really care how we praise Him outside of the Divine services? To me praise is different than worship. I can praise him in a song or a dance, with timbrel and lyre; but God-centered Worship in our Orthodox services is different. Our worship services are traditional and meant for Him; but also us ,since we receive the greater gift through Christ’s body and blood. The service help us communally show our love for Him so that He, through His Church, can transform us by revealing the Truth to us, the Truth that is beyond all ages. Is that right? Sophia

  6. Father forgive me for a differing viewpoint.
    God works in mysterious ways.
    Of which we are not to judge. We cannot know the heart of man and where and when God chooses to touch him. It could be standing by a lake or walking in a slum.
    That being said the mystery of Orthodoxy holds true beauty.
    If our hearts are not touched and soften towards humanity, it does not matter where are feet are planted.

  7. Father, bless. I am grateful for your guidance in this writing. It was helpful in thinking and understanding more about Orthodoxy. A while back, when I discovered it is “the original Christian Church founded by Jesus and continued by his Apostles,” I was drawn to know more about its traditions. Thank you for sharing, by your example, an authentic kindness and respect in your listening to others —- while teaching us how discerning Truth is experienced and shared.
    Grateful, in Christ. Debbe

  8. Father bless,
    The imaginary need for instant gratification may partly explain why many of us are drawn to what you so succinctly call “man-centered” worship. Perhaps we should understand that by following the inherited forms of worship we begin to lose something we need to lose, and that what we seek to gain will come later, usually when we least expect it.
    I don’t ascribe to the word “ego” because it gives a false impression of unity in the unrepentant, but in following the orthodox form of worship I have to fend off the “Richard” I have always been in order to approach the “Christopher” I would hope to become. It’s not suppose to be easy. I was raised Unitarian Universalist. Do you know how hard it is to watch the monks venerate the Icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos, and to try to generate from within myself the same gestures of reverence? You’ve seen how poor I am at it. Even the simple , basic, fundamental Prayer Rule is hard for me. That’s why I do it. Some nights that’s the only reason I do it. We need to value efforts, instead of what makes us feel good.
    I think the same attitude towards “ego” and efforts can apply to corporate worship. I started out as a teenager looking for God in the solitude of Nature (as you did, yourself, Father, if I’m not mistaken) It is not entirely uncommon. Later in life, I began to slowly understand that honest worship requires community. One has to offend one’s own vanity to stand beside others in worship, especially if those others may appear at first glance as unappealing.

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