Did you ever wonder what worship in 1st Church Jerusalem sounded like? Listen to this little video.
After the return from Babylon, Aramaic had become the language of the people of Judah. Second temple period Jews used Aramaic as their everyday language -- Hebrew was used for the reading of Scripture in the Temple -- but the rest of the liturgy and everyday life was in Aramaic. Yes, the New Testament was written in Greek -- and certainly Greek was known by most people in the eastern mediterranean. But Aramaic was undoubtedly the language spoken by Jesus and his followers. As the church moved into a gentile world, Greek would have become the worship language of gentile Christians. But the earliest, Jewish-Christian communities worshipped in Aramaic. Now, why does this matter?
A family churches in the middle east continue to worship in the language of Jesus. Primarily: the Syrian Orthodox and the Syrian Catholic Church -- use the Antiochian Rite and the Syriac Language (which is a dialect of Aramaic.) They use Arabic for some of the readings -- as most of the members of this church today use Arabic in daily life. But Aramaic is their language of Worship! This little clip -- I didn't want to film too much during the service - they were so kind to me it just felt rude to have my camera running during the service. But the final blessing at the end of the service was sung in Aramaic -- and so I filmed this brief part. It began with censing the congregation and then the Bishop sang in Aramaic: "Go in peace my beloved brothers and sisters. We entrust you to the grace and mercy of the Holy Trinity and the nourishment and blessings you have received from the purifying altar of the Lord. You who are far or near, living or asleep, saved by the victorious cross of our Lord and signed with the seal of Holy Baptism. May the Holy Trinity forgive your faults and pardon your sins and give rest to the souls of the departed and have pity on me, a weak and sinful servant. May your prayers come to help me. Go joyfully in the peace of the Lord and pray for me." Certainly most western Christians find the service a bit elaborate and unfamiliar. But just for a moment put your reservations aside and listen to worship in the language of Jesus.