When we think of the traditional Orthodox liturgical arts, we most often think about the tactile and the sensory; gilded icons glowing with candlelight cast from iron chandeliers, the smell of incense wafting as the priest walks censing the believers as the choir sings praises to the Theotokos. One thing that doesn’t necessarily come to mind, though it should, is that moment in the Liturgy when the motion and rhythm breaks, we sit, and we listen as the readings or the Saints commemorated that day are explained. With a good homily, the preacher (lay, Deacon, Priest or Bishop) adds to the beauty of the liturgical, corporate experience, educating the people in the Faith.
The Divine Liturgy is often contrasted with the sermon-based Sunday service which is so much a part of American religious life. But Orthodox liturgy does not stand opposed to the sermon. When we neglect the sermon, we ignore the example set for us by St. John Chrysostom himself, who delivered long, rich, and beautifully edifying homilies during the same Divine Liturgy we celebrate each Sunday. It is for his careful, educating sermons that St. John was given the name Chrysostom (“Golden-mouthed”). Preaching then is a part of the Liturgy, and thus of the liturgical arts.
I would like to draw the readers’ attention to a new website, Worthwhile Sermons. There you can find a small and growing cache of sermons delivered by Orthodox clergy (Also featured are Protestant and Catholic preachers). They have text, audio, and video files. We will be adding a link to their site on our sidebar in a week, so be sure to check back in regularly for new content. I pray that by their efforts, the art of Orthodox homiletics continues to edify the faithful and build on the deposit of the faith.