The Orthodox understanding of scripture is based on two important principles of interpretation. In the first place, as the First Epistle to Timothy puts it, 'All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching' (2 Tim 3:16). Secondly, holy scripture, both Old and New Testaments, forms one divine revelation. The Fathers of the Church and the writers of its hymns and prayers believed that the whole Bible spoke directly of Christ. This is what our Lord implies in Luke 24:44, 'Everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be ful-filled.'1 Holy scripture, therefore, is central to the worship of the Orthodox Church. Its text is chanted and proclaimed, but its words are also woven into the fabric of the Church's prayers and hymns, many of which are in fact little more than mosaics of biblical words and phrases. The Eucharistic Prayer of the Liturgy of St Basil contains over one hundred direct quotations and allusions to the biblical text.2 Many other prayers are similarly constructed. Here is the prayer which introduces the Lord's Prayer in the Liturgy of St Basil:
Our God, the God who saves [Ps 67 (68):2i], teach us to thank you worthily for all the benefits, which you have done and do for us [Tob 12:6]. Do you, our God receive these gifts and cleanse us from every defilement of flesh and spirit [2 Cor 7:1], and teach us to accomplish holiness in fear of you [2 Cor 7:1], so that, receiving a part of your holy gifts with the witness of a pure conscience [cf. 2 Cor i:i2; i Tim 3:9], we may be made one with the holy body and blood of your Christ. And when we have received them worthily may we have Christ dwelling in our hearts [Eph 3:17], and become a temple of your Holy Spirit [i Cor 6:19]. Yes, our God [Rev 16:7], make none of us guilty of these your dread and heavenly Mysteries, nor weak in soul and body through partaking of them unworthily [i Cor ii:27, 3o];but grant us, until our last breath, to receive our part of your holy things as provision for the journey of eternal life, for an acceptable defence
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