Christian Worship and Liturgies




Origen distinguishes adoration from worship, because sometimes a person adores an idol or a man against his own will, while worshipping means subjection of the whole man - inside and appearance - in the action.

The text goes on to say, "You shall not adore them nor worship them" (Exod. 20:5). It is one thing to worship, another to adore. One can sometimes adore even against his will, as some fawn to kings when they see them given to fondness of this kind. They pretend that they are adoring idols when in their heart they are certain that an idol is nothing. But to worship is to be subjected to these with total desire and zeal. Let the divine word, therefore, restrain both, that you may neither worship with desire nor adore in appearance.


In homily 5 on Numbers Origen alludes to various Christian customs of worship.

There are things among the Church's observances, which everyone is obliged to do, and yet not everyone understands the reason for them; e.g.,... the fact that we kneel to pray, and that of all the quarters of the heavens, the east is the one we turn to when we pray... And can you readily explain the reason for the way we receive the Eucharist, for the rites it is celebrated with or for the words, gestures, commands, questions and answers made in Baptism?



I must also say a word or two about the part of the world we ought to look to when we pray... You will all immediately point to ... the east as the direction we should turn to, for reasons of symbolism, when we say our prayers, since the soul ought to keep its eyes steadily turned towards the rising of the true Light.

Suppose a man has a house... facing another way and prefers to turn that way when he says his prayers, on the ground that where the doors and windows do not face east, the sight of the sky is more conducive to recollection in the soul than the sight of a wall. He should be told that... his house faces this quarter of the globe or that because men have decided that it should, whereas the superiority of the east to the other parts of the world comes from nature. What is of natural law must be considered superior to what is laid down by positive law.

The interesting thing about the passage quoted is that it shows that the tradition concerned not only public prayer but private prayer as well, and thus gives us a glimpse of the private religious practice of the early Christians, a sphere we have very little information about. As for the symbolical significance of the custom, Origen says that it was observed because Christ is the Sun of the new universe, the Church.




There is no limit to the number of postures the body can take up, but the position to be preferred is unquestionably the one we adopt when we stretch out our hands and lift up our eyes, as it is the best bodily expression of the soul's attitude in prayer.

He also says that we ought, so to speak, to stretch out our souls before we stretch out our hands and raise our minds to God before we raise our eyes to him. Before we stand up, we should free our minds from all preoccupation with the earthly and so stand them before the God of the universe. We should put aside any resentment we may feel at wrongs done to us if we want God to forgive us for the wrong we have done ourselves.

People might be forced by circumstances to pray in some other position.

I say that this should be observed when there are no obstacles. But circumstances may sometimes lead you to pray sitting down, e.g., if you have... bad feet; and if you have a temperature, you may even have to lie down... for if your business makes it impossible for you to go to some quiet place to discharge your debt of prayer, you will not be able to insist on standing when you pray. As for prayer in a kneeling position what you must realize is that it is necessary when we confess our sins to God and beg him to forgive them and restore us to health. It is a symbol of that prostration and submission that Paul speaks of when he says: "I fall on my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that Father from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth takes its title" (Eph. 3:14). This spiritual bending of the knee, so called because all creatures worship God and humble themselves before him, when they hear the name of Jesus, is, to my mind, what the apostle is thinking of when he says: "Everything in heaven and on earth and under the earth must bend the knee before the name of Jesus" (Phil. 2:10).



As far as place is concerned... any place will become suitable for prayer if you pray well in it... How-ever, if you want to say your prayers in greater quiet and without so much distraction, you may choose a special place in your own house, if you can have a consecrated place, so to speak, and pray there.... Special grace and benefit are to be had from the place of prayer, the place, I mean, where the faithful assemble; for it is reasonable to suppose that angelic powers are present when the faithful meet together; the influence of our Lord and Savior must be there too and so must the spirits of the saints - the spirits, to my way of thinking, of the dead who have gone before us and obviously, too, the spirits of those saints who are still alive, though how, it is difficult to say.

You may look at the Savior now, if you will, with your own eyes, in this assembly and in this church; for when you set the most spiritual part of your eyes they do look on Jesus. Blessed was that community whose members Scripture tells us, all had their eyes fixed on Him (Matt. 13:I6). If only this assembly too could deserve the same testimonial and all of you, catechumens and baptized Christians, men, women and children, could look at Jesus, not with your bodily eyes but with the eyes of the soul! When you look at Him, through His grace and His gift of contemplation, your faces shine with a clearer light and you can say: 'The light of Your countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us (Ps. 4:7)."


Origen touches on the practice of Lent, which is dedicated to fasting; the ordination of the priest, in whose selection all the people participate; and on the process of Christian discipline, based on Matthew 18.15-17.

However, we do not say this that we may loosen the restraints of Christian abstinence. For we have forty days dedicated to fasting; we have the fourth and the sixth day of the week on which we regularly fast. There is certainly freedom for the Christian to fast at all times, not by an excessive regard of an observance but by virtue of moderation.



Do you still want me to show you what kind of fast it is appropriate for you to practice?

Fast from every sin, take no food of malice, take no feasts of passion, do not burn with any wine of luxury. Fast from evil deeds, abstain from evil words, hold yourself from the worst evil thoughts.

Do not touch the secret loaves of perverse doctrine.

Do not desire the deceptive foods of philosophy which seduce you from truth.

Such a fast pleases God.

But "to abstain from the foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by the faithful" (1 Tim. 4:3) and to do this with those who crucified Christ, cannot be acceptable to God. Once the Pharisees were indignant with the Lord because his disciples were not fasting. He responded to them, "The sons of the Bridegroom cannot fast as long as the Bridegroom is with them" (Cf. Matt. 9:15). Therefore, let them fast when they lose the Bridegroom; but we, who have the bridegroom with us, cannot fast.



We must acknowledge that he who is interested in feasts and temporary cares cannot ascend to the upper-room, nor have a share with Jesus in keeping the Pasch.




The perfect man is he who is involved in the words of the Lord, His deeds and His thoughts. Thus he lives in the Lord's days constantly, and all his days become the Lord's days.




To announce the Gospel is a sacerdotal office. Even as the Priest had to see while officiating that the victim was without blemish, and hence agreeable to God, so he who carries out this sacrifice of the Gospel and announces the words of God must watch that his preaching is without blemish, his instruction without fault, and his magisterial perfect. But that means that he is, as far as possible, first to offer up himself in sacrifice and to make his members dead to sin, so that, not only through his doctrine, but also by the example of his life, he shall ensure that his oblation, in being accepted by God, wins the salvation of those who hear him.


Preaching the Gospel is a kind of worship and a sacrifice.

This is the sacrifice that is called "salutary" (Lev. 7:28-34). No one offers that sacrifice to the Lord unless one who, healthy and conscious of his salvation, renders thanks to the Lord. Thus, no one who is sick in spirit and feeble in works can offer a "salutary sacrifice."



I do not hesitate to say it: in our congregation angels too are present. If we say anything consonant with the Word, they rejoice and pray with us. And it is because angels are present in Church, in that Church at least which is Christ’s, that women are called upon to have their heads covered and men are bound to bow in veneration.



Origen depicts a living picture of the Liturgy of Eucharist in his days.


Origen told Celsus that we consume bread which by virtue of prayer has become body, which sanctifies those who use it with a sound purpose. The Eucharist is "a certain holy body which sanctifies those who partake of it with a pure intention." He refers to the reverence shown to the Eucharist. He designates the Eucharist the Logos Himself. In the Contra Celsus he writes thus: "We give thanks to the Creator of all and, along with thanksgiving and prayer for the blessing we have received, we also eat the bread presented to us; and this bread becomes by prayer a sacred body, which sanctifies those who sincerely partake of it."

He is more explicit in the following passage: "You who are wont to assist at the divine Mysteries, know how, when you receive the body of the Lord, you take reverent care, lest any particle of it should fall to the ground and a portion of the consecrated gift (consecrati muneris) escape you. You consider it a crime, and rightly so, if any particle thereof fell down through negligence."

Origen in the Commentary on St. John writes thus of the Last Supper: "As he who unworthy eats the bread of the Lord or drinks His chalice, eats and drinks to his judgment, as the greater force, which is in the bread and the chalice, effects good things in a good soul and evil things in a bad, the morsel given (to Judas) by Jesus was of the same kind; that which He gave to the other apostles saying "Take and eat" was salvation for them, but judgment for Judas, so that after the morsel Satan entered into him. The bread and chalice are understood by the more simple people in the ordinary meaning of Eucharist, but by those who have acquired a higher knowledge in the more divine meaning of the nourishing truth of the Word."




Here we enter the realm of allegory, well-known to students of Origen. For both St. Clement and Origen, the bodily feeding of the Eucharist becomes a symbol of spiritual feeding of the Word, which is then equated with intellectual and moral nourishment found particularly in Scripture, right doctrine and mystical contemplation. When the sacrament is received in the right frame of mind, it feeds both body and soul, nourishing both parts of the composite being, Man; but Origen quite explicitly stated that, without spiritual awareness, participation in the communion-sacrifice has no effect, the food just passing through the material body like any other. The spiritual food which brings immortality to those who partake with faith, cannot be eaten by unworthy persons, since it depends on spiritual participation in the Divine Word.

That bread which God the Word (deus verbum) owns to be His body, is the Word which nourishes the soul, the Word which proceeds from God the Word, and that bread from heavenly bread which is placed upon the table, of which it is written: 'You have prepared a table before me, against them that afflict me' (Ps. 22:5). And that drink, which God the Word owns to be His blood, is the Word which saturates and inebriates the hearts of those that drink it, they drink in that cup of which it is said: How goodly is Your inebriating chalice (Ps. 22).... Not that visible bread, which he held in His hands, did the divine Logos call His body, but the word, in the mystery of which the bread was to be broken . Not that visible drink did he call his blood, but the word, in the mystery of which this drink was to be poured out. For the body of the divine Logos or His blood, what else can they be than the word which nourishes and the word which gladdens the heart?

About this passage G. Bareille thinks that it shows that Origen had not sought to make a synthesis of his ideas in this whole theological domain, while P. Batiffol thinks that his doctrine is here incomplete. Passages as the following must be noted:

If you go up with him to celebrate the Pasch, He gives you the chalice of the New Testament, He gives you the bread of the blessing, He dispenses His body and His blood.

Formerly in figure baptism was in the cloud and the sea, but now regeneration is in water and the Holy Spirit. Then in figure the manna was food, but now disclosed the flesh of the Word of God is true food, as he Himself said, "For My flesh is food indeed and My blood is drink indeed."

What it means to approach such great and such wondrous sacraments?!

Till now (Christ) enters under our food through the leaders of the church the saints, of whom God is pleased... When you receive the body and blood of the Lord, He himself enters under your roof. In humility say, " O Master, I am not worthy...

We are said to drink the Blood of Christ, not only in the rite of the mysteries, but also when we receive His words in which life consists, just as He says, "The words which I have spoken are spirit and life" (John 6:63)

Origen clearly believed that what he received in the Eucharistic communion, was the Word of God which enlightens the ignorance of the world. The communion-sacrifice has thus been intellectualized as well as individualized, and the fellowship-meal uniting the church as communion with the Risen Christ, is completely submerged.




The fact that the Eucharist can be eaten to one’s condemnation (a fact well illustrated by the Last Supper, of which the disciples all partook for their salvation, except Judas who partook for his condemnation), is interpreted by Origen to mean that the Word which brings salvation to the soul which is basically healthy, may be a stimulant to worse evil if given to a sick soul.

In his comment on Matt. 26:23 "He who dips his hand into the dish with Me, he will betray Me," Origen explains that those who receive the Communion while they plot against their brethren, imitates Judas the betrayer.

Such are all in the church who plot against their brothers in whose company they have been frequently at the same table of the body of Christ and at the same cup of His blood.



 Origen praises Baptism as a new birth, participation in the divine nature, acceptance of membership in the body of the church, return to Paradise and receiving a general priesthood.

Baptism is the indispensable first stage in the journey to God. It purifies, regenerates, initiates one into Christ, and endows with the Holy Spirit. But as the Homilies on Exodus and the Homilies on Joshua make clear, baptism and its preparations are the fledgling stage of a long and dangerous journey.




For Origen and the Alexandrian Fathers generally, however, the focus is squarely on Christ’s own baptism: What happened at the Jordan happens also in the baptismal font.

The Events of the Jordan are the icon of the mystery which is accomplished in baptism.



Origen lays great stress on the spiritual efficacy of baptism. He insists on penitence, sincere faith and humility as its prerequisites.

But you, too, who desire to receive holy baptism and to obtain the grace of the Spirit, first you ought to be cleansed by the Law. First, having heard the word of God, you ought to restrain your natural vices and to set right your barbarous and wild nature, having taken on gentleness and humility, you can receive also the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Not all are "washed unto salvation". Those of us who have received the grace of baptism in the name of Christ are "washed," but I cannot tell which are washed "unto salvation". Simon was "washed"... but because he was not washed unto salvation he was condemned by the one who said to him in the Holy Spirit "your money perish with you" (Acts 8:20). It is tremendously hard for him who is washed to be washed unto salvation. Hearken, you catechumens... and prepare yourselves while you are still catechumens and unbaptized...: he who is washed but not unto salvation receives the water but not the Holy spirit. He who is washed unto salvation receives both.

The benefit from baptism depends on the intention of the person baptized. If he repents he receives it: if he comes for baptism without repenting the benefit becomes a judgment.




1. Origen sees the baptismal font as a tomb, where the candidate participates in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:1-11). He calls baptism the "mystery of the third day." For "those who have been taken up into Christ by baptism have been taken up into His death and have been buried with Him, and will rise with Him."

2. Baptism is the new or "second circumcision."

3. Baptism is a mystery of illumination.

Blessed are those who become near (to Him)! They became near the fire which illuminates them and does not burn them.

4. Baptism is a mystery of the unity of earth and heaven.

Origen believes that passing the Red Sea under the leadership of Moses was a symbol of baptism in the Old Testament, while passing the Jordan River under the guidance of Joshua was a symbol of baptism in the New Testament. The Red Sea was divided and the people passed among the waters, while in the Jordan River water was only on one side. It refers to the unity of the two (earth and heaven) and the destruction of the dividing wall.

5. Baptism is the mystery of purification from all sins.

It is not said that Joshua seized one (king) and left another through the war, but he seized all and killed them. For the Lord Jesus purified us from all kinds of sins which were in man before his faith... Do you not believe with me that all sins with all their kings have been removed from us in the waters of baptism? This is what the apostle Paul desired to say for after numerating all kinds of sins he adds, "And such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 7:11).

(Baptism) is named "the washing of generation," being accompanied by the renewing of the Spirit, who still broods over the water.

When you come to Jesus and receive the grace of Baptism for the remission of sins... you yourself shall rest from war (Jos 11:23), on condition that you carry in the body the mortification of the Lord Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may appear in our body (2 Cor. 4:10). Thus the war ends in you, and you become a peace-maker, and are called a child of God (Matt. 5:9) .

6. Baptism sets aflame the soul with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Christ, then, does not baptize with water, but His disciples. He reserves for Himself to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

For His baptism is not that of the body only; He fills the penitent with the Holy Spirit, and His divine fire does away with everything material and consumes everything that is earthly, not only from him who admits it to his life, but even from him who hears of it from those who have.

For my part, I cannot speak thus, for I know that, when I go hence, my wood will have to be burned in me.

But if there is a sinner like me, he will come to this fire like Peter and Paul, but he will not be able to cross it like Peter and Paul.

7. Origen frees us from the power of the Devil.

8. Baptism makes us members of the Church as Christ’s body.

The Holy Spirit creates for Himself a new people and renews the face of the earth; when through the grace of the Spirit, men "put off the old man with his doings," Col 3:9, and begin to walk in the newness of life" (Rom. 6:4).

Let us consider that perhaps we have been preserved so that baptized with our own blood and washed from every sin we may pass our existence with our fellow contestants near the altar in heaven (Rev. 6:9).



Through Baptism we receive the adoption to the Father by the grace of the Holy Spirit. On our part we must call our God, "our Father," not only by our lips but through our whole saintly life, which fits our adoption to the Father.

Because of the "Spirit of sonship" we have learned, in the general letter of John concerning those born of God, that "no one born of God commits sin, for His seed remains in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God," 1 John 3:9..., they may not say "Our Father" only half way. Such people add to their works their hearts, which are the fountain and origin of good works which lead to righteousness, while the mouth joins in harmony and confesses to achieve salvation (Cf. Rom. 10:10).



Now, it may very well be that some one not versed in the various aspects of the Savior may stumble at the interpretation given above of the Jordan; because John says, "I baptize with water, but He that comes after me is stronger than I; He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit." To this we reply that, as the Word of God in His character as something to be drunk is to one set of men water, and to another wine, making glad the heart of man, and to others blood, since it is said, "Except you drink My blood, you have no life in you," (John 6:53) and as in His character as food He is variously conceived as living bread or as flesh, so also He, the same person, is baptism of water, and baptism of Holy Spirit and of fire, and to some, also, of blood. It is of His last baptism, as some hold, that He speaks in the words "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished?" (Luke 12:50). And it agrees with this that the disciple John speaks in the Epistle (I John 10:8) of the Spirit and the water, and the blood, as being one.



Let us remember the sins we have committed, and that it is impossible to receive forgiveness of sins apart from baptism,

that it is impossible according to the laws of the Gospel to be baptized again with water and the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins,

and that the baptism of martyrdom has been given to us. This is what it is called, as is evident from the fact that, "Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?" is followed by "or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" (Mark 10:38). And in another place it is said, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!" (Luke 12:50).



And Joshua, who succeeded Moses, was a type of Jesus Christ, who succeeds the dispensation through the Law, and replaces it by the preaching of the Gospel. And even if those Paul speaks of were baptized in the cloud and in the sea, there is something harsh and salty in their baptism. They are still in fear of their enemies, and crying to the Lord and to Moses, saying, (Exod. 14:11) "Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you brought us forth to slay us in the wilderness? Why have you dealt thus with us, to bring us forth out of Egypt?" But the baptism of Joshua, which takes place in quite sweet and drinkable water, is in many ways superior to that earlier one, religion having by this time grown clearer and assuming a becoming order...

And, in the former case, they kept the Passover in Egypt, and then began their journey, but with Joshua, after crossing Jordan on the tenth day of the first month they pitched their camp in Galgala; for a sheep had to be procured before initiations could be issued to the banquet after Joshua's baptism.



The early church insisted on the baptism of children, so that grace touches their own salvation. Every human being is born in sin and for this reason it is an apostolic tradition to baptize the newly born. Origen is a witness to infant baptism.

The Church has received a tradition from the Apostles to give baptism even to little ones. For since the secrets of divine mysteries had been entrusted to them, they know that there are in all people genuine defilements of sin, which ought to be washed away through water and Spirit.

If you like to hear what other saints have felt in regard to physical birth, listen to David when he says, I was conceived, so it runs, in iniquity and in sin my mother has borne me (Ps. 50,7), proving that every soul which is born in the flesh is tainted with the stain of iniquity and sin. This is the reason for that saying which we have already quoted above, "No man is clean from sin, not even if his life be one day long" (Job 14,4). To these, as a further point, may be added an inquiry into the reason from which, while the church’s baptism is given for the remission of sin, it is the custom of the Church that baptism be administered even to infants. Certainly, if there were nothing in infants that required remission and called for lenient treatment, the grace of baptism would seem unnecessary.

For those who have been entrusted with the secrets of the divine mysteries, knew very well that all are tainted with the stain of original sin, which must be washed off by water and the Spirit.

Jaroslav Pelikan says,

In the writings of Origen the custom of infant baptism was taken to be of apostolic origin. He maintained that there was "a tradition of the church from the apostles" to administer baptism also to infants. But even though it was apostolic, the custom remained problematical for him. If infants were completely devoid of anything that called for forgiveness and pardon, baptismal grace would seem superfluous. Why, then, was it the custom of the church to administer baptism to them? Attempting to draw together these various considerations, he proposed as a tentative answer: "Infants are baptized ‘for the remission of sins.’ Of which sins? Or at what time have they sinned? Or how can there exist in infants that reason for washing, unless in accordance with the idea that no one is clean of filth, not even if his life on earth has only been for one day? And because the filth of birth is removed by the sacrament of baptism, for that reason infants, too, are baptized; for ‘unless one is born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.’"



Origen states that the Risen Christ is an Energizing Light. Christ's "energy" as risen is present to the believer not only at his baptism, but also at his consistent walking and struggling in "newness of life."


Now he is called the light of men and the true light and the light of the world because he brightens and irradiates . . . all reasonable beings. And similarly it is from and because of the energy with which he causes the old deadness to be put aside, and causes life par excellence to be put on, so that those who have truly received him rise again from the dead, that he is called the resurrection. And this he does not only at the moment at which a man says, "We are buried with Christ through baptism and have risen again with him" [cf. Rom 6:4], but rather when a man, having laid off all about him that belongs to death, walks in the newness of life which belongs to him the Son, while here. We always "carry about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus," and thus we reap the vast advantage, "that the life of the Lord Jesus might be made manifest in our bodies" (2 Cor. 4:10).



Who recites: "Our Father who are in heaven," and has not the Spirit of Adoption lies.

If you commit new sins you return to your ancient reproach, nevertheless you will be in more evil condition as if you have "trampled the Son of God underfoot, counting the blood of the covenant by which (you) were sanctified a common thing"(Heb. 120:29)....

Yes, who presents himself to adultery after receiving the Gospel, his reproach becomes greater than he who does thus while he is under the law. For it is said, " shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot?! (1 Cor 3:17).

It seems to me that there is a difference between those who are baptized ... There are some who receive the holy baptism and return to push themselves to the cares of the world and the passions, drinking again from the salted cup of the lusts.