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A liturgy comprises a prescribed ceremony, according to the traditions of a particular group or event. In religion, it may refer to, or include, an elaborate formal ritual (such as the Catholic Mass), or a daily activity such as the Muslim Salats (see Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, p.582-3). Anglican, Orthodox, or other groups, when using the words "the Liturgy" are normally referring to the Eucharist. The open or waiting worship of Quakers is an example of a non-liturgical service because there is no minister or structured order of events.
Methods of dress, preparation of food, application of cosmetics or other hygienic practices are all considered liturgical activities. Liturgies are natural and common in all human activities such as organized sports venues.
In the Christian church, liturgical churches are those that use a well-defined liturgy dating to the second century and earlier, in which many of the words and music used follow basic patterns each time the service is conducted. Most Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches are liturgical while most others are to a far lesser extent. So-called non-liturgical churches usually do follow a common worship sequence from one service to the next, but identical elements are few.
The word comes from the Classical Greek word λειτουργία (leitourgia) meaning "a public work". In the Greek city-states, it had a different sense: some public good which a wealthy citizen arranged at his own expense, either voluntarily or by law. At Athens, the Assembly assigned liturgies to the wealthy, and there was a law by which any man who had been assigned a liturgy while a richer man had had none could challenge him either to undertake the liturgy or to exchange property with him.
- Bowker, John, ed. (1997) Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-213965-7.
- "What Do Quakers Believe?". Quaker Information Center, Philadelphia, PA, 2004.
- Catholic Encyclopedia article
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Liturgy
- Contemporary Christian Liturgy Website History, theory, practicecs:Liturgie
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