The Divine Liturgy (Sourp Badarak) is the main worship service of the Armenian Church. But the Badarak, as we call it in Armenian, is much more than that. It provides the most intimate encounter we can have with God in this life. In the Divine Liturgy, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, comes to his people — to you and me — in two forms: First, by his Word, in the reading of the holy Gospel; and second, by his holy Body and Blood, in Holy Communion. These two actions — the reading of the Word of God, and the reception of Holy Communion — are the two pillars or building blocks of the Divine Liturgy in all ancient, apostolic churches.
Supported by these two pillars is a magnificent structure of words, music, symbols, and rituals. For those unfamiliar with it, the Divine Liturgy can seem like a bewildering array of disjointed movements and rituals, and arcane theological terminology. The complex interplay of the celebrant priest, the deacons, the other altar servers, the choir and the people might lead one to overlook the logic and purpose of the Divine Liturgy, and to miss its very real benefits.
The Divine Liturgy is the great medicine that provides true meaning and direction for our lives. It offers the peace and solace that only God can give — a free gift no less — in an age when so many people are searching, and spending millions of dollars in vain to find personal stability and security.
The Badarak really is a matter of life and death. This guide to the Divine Liturgy is something like a travelogue that leads you on your journey supplying helpful information about points of interest along the way. It is designed to accompany the new Divine Liturgy “Pew Book,” The Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church: With Modern Armenian and English Translations, Transliteration, Musical Notation, Introduction and Notes (New York: St. Vartan Press, 1999). Page numbers from the Pew Book have been placed in square brackets [ ] for easy cross-reference. While it will not answer all your questions, this booklet will help you to discover the larger themes that unite the words, music and rituals of the Badarak. In this way, it is hoped, you will be drawn into deeper and more meaningful participation in the Divine Liturgy.
We prepare ourselves for the Divine Liturgy both physically and spiritually. The custom of the Armenian Church is to fast from all food and drink from the time we wake up on Sunday morning until we have received Holy Communion. Fasting helps us to focus our minds and hearts on the spiritual nourishment we will receive in Holy Communion. Exceptions are made, of course, for those who, for health reasons, must eat in the morning. They may have a light breakfast and still come forward for Holy Communion.
Spiritual preparation for the Badarak is by means of prayer. To participate fully in the Divine Liturgy, one should devote at least fifteen minutes of quiet time with God either on Saturday night, or on Sunday morning. This quiet time serves to help us focus on the great mystery of being with God. It can include reading of, and meditation on relevant passages from the Bible, or prayer and reflection.
To learn more visit also Introduction to the Divine Liturgy and Liturgical Armenian.