How Divine Liturgy Changes Us

Symbolism, Ritual and Revelation

In this post His Grace Archbishop Lazar Puhalo explores how regular participation in the Divine Liturgy changes us- how, literally, it brings about changes- for the good- in our brain function.

His Grace’s purpose for this post is to address efforts at liturgical reform which would reduce repetition and “simplify” the Orthodox Christian Divine Liturgy. He opposes these efforts.

In the summoning of the various realities which address this aim, His Grace mentions the therapies by means of which persons with learning disabilities or brain damage retrain their brains.

 The Arrowsmith School in Toronto specializes in teaching people to “rewire” their brains in order to overcome learning disabilities.  . . .

It is through repetition of actions, phrases and words, particularly in fixed symbolic contexts, that this restructuring takes place. It is known that neurons and synapses in the brain can be strengthened by repetition, by repeated engagement of the neurons and neuro-communication.

Both the Jesus Prayer, which Orthodox Christians repeat toward obedience to the exhortation by St. Paul that we “pray constantly,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and Orthodox Christian liturgical services provide contexts through which repetitious actions can rewire and transform us toward conformity to the Divine Likeness.

This rewiring has implications for us all- including persons with cognitive disabilities.


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