This is a short review of Let Us Attend: A Journey Through the Orthodox Divine Liturgy by Fr. Lawrence Farley. The book is about a hundred pages long, and was put out by Conciliar Press in 2007. I must admit that liturgics are not my strong suit, and the only books other than this one that I have read on the subject were On the Divine Liturgy by St. Germanus of Constantinople and A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy by St. Nicholas Cabasilas. Thankfully this is an introductory text by Fr. Lawrence, so my lack of knowledge shouldn't hurt the review too much.
The Introduction to the book is titled "The Importance of the Eucharist," and that gives a fair insight into the approach or tone the author will use in this book when discussing the liturgy. Fr. Lawrence considers the Divine Liturgy, and especially the eucharist, to be the centerpiece of the Christian life. Thus he says in the Introduction:
"I believe that participation in the eucharistic Divine Liturgy is the most important thing one can ever do. It characterizes, defines, and constitutes the true Christian, for the Christian Church has always determined and recognized her members, not so much by the private beliefs they hold about Jesus, but rather by the corporate and liturgical expression of those beliefs in the Eucharist. In the dark days of persecution when the Roman state waged war against the holy Church, the state did not forbid Christian belief--it forbade attendance at the Christian Eucharist, for in the Eucharist the Church recognized her own members. The Eucharist was everything." (emphasis in original, p. 7)
Throughout the book Fr. Lawrence uses little boxes in the margins to give definitions of words that the readers might not be familiar with. He does this, according to my count, 22 times in the book. This can very helpful, and Fr. Lawrence defines everything from more common words like "Nave" to more obscure words like "Skeuophylakion". Just to give a little sample of how these definitions are given, here is how he defines Skeuophylakion:
"(literally, 'vessel guardroom')--In fourth-century Constantinople, a building adjoining the main building of the church containing the vessels needed for the performance of the Liturgy" (p. 53)
And to give a sample of the text that makes up the main content of the book, here is what Fr. Lawrence says about the skeuophylakion at the beginning of Chapter 9:
"In Constantinople in former days, the bread and wine were prepared in a seperate adjoining building, called in Greek the skeuophylakion (or sacristy). In the days of St. John Chrysostom, after the first part of the Liturgy centering on the Scripture readings and the sermon was completed, the deacons would leave the building to go to the adjoining skeuophylakion. There they would gather up the prepared bread, the diskoi, chalices, wine, and all other items needed for Holy Communion and bring them back into the church temple itself, placing them on the altar." (p. 53)
The book then goes on to describe this "procession" of the deacons a bit more, to describe what the bishop and priests were doing, and how things evolved in time so that "this purely practical procession did not remain so unadorned" (p. 54)
Fr. Lawrence strikes a good balance between detail and concision throughout the book, covering a wide variety of topics spanning the entire Liturgy in about ninety pages. As mentioned, his focus is on the Eucharist, but he doesn't let this focus distort the meaningfulness of other aspects of the Divine Liturgy. Fr. Lawrence also points out that it's not just the Liturgy itself that Orthodox Christians find so important, but what happens afterwards as well, in the outside world where Christians are supposed to be "the Light of the world":
"In the Liturgy, Christ fills us with Himself, with His light, His life, His holiness. Then He sends us back out into the world that our light may so shine before men, that they too might glorify our Father in heaven. The final goal of the Liturgy is nothing less than the transfiguration and illumination of the world." (p. 95)
I'd say that this seems to be a good introduction to the Divine Liturgy, and makes for an informative, quick read. I'm not an expert in liturgics, but that's my general impression, anyway.