What is liturgy?
1550s, Liturgy, “the service of the Holy Eucharist,” from Middle French liturgie (16c.) or directly from Late Latin/Medieval Latin liturgia “public service, public worship,” from Greek leitourgia “a liturgy; public duty, ministration, ministry,” from leitourgos “one who performs a public ceremony or service, public servant,” from leito- “public” (from laos “people;” compare leiton “public hall,” leite “priestess;” see lay (adj.)) + -ergos “that works,” from ergon “work” (from PIE root *werg- “to do”). Meaning “collective formulas for the conduct of divine service in Christian churches” is from 1590s. Related: Liturgist; liturgics.
Liturgy is a fairly straight-forward term – as you can see. Granted, it is used to specifically refer to the practices around the Eucharist (or communion) in some circles, but it is more broadly used to describe the practices & formula of a worship service.
The term is not exclusive to Christianity as other belief systems will also observe various practice forms.
We see the expression of liturgy most clearly in the order of service. All churches follow some form of liturgy and there are various reasons for why one church will worship in one manner versus another. Tradition is a common element here but not the only. Various theological distinctions also contribute.
Examples of elements of liturgy are the songs sung (style, amount, when they’re sung, etc), whether or not there’s responsive readings, the language or Bible versions spoken from, order of events in the worship, handling of sacraments, and so on…
If you’re still curious about liturgy, try looking up the liturgy of various known denominations, like Presbyterian, and see what they do. Until next time!
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