Renouncing Satan and the Divine Liturgy: A Proposal

The Byzantine Liturgy has numerous offices and components of repentance. Other than the rite of confession, most penitential offices and rituals occur during Lent. The Divine Liturgy does not have a penitential rite. There are penitential components leading up to the Divine Liturgy, including Psalm 50 (51) in Matins and the prayers before Holy Communion – but no communal rite of penance during the Liturgy. I composed a brief rite and prayer that could easily be inserted into the Divine Liturgy, which was published in a larger study in 2018.

The racial tumult engulfing the United States calls for pastoral action. The creation of a new liturgical component would be only one part of a comprehensive pastoral initiative, to avoid identifying liturgy as the only area for addressing the sin of racism.

I have been reflecting on ways such a rite could feel natural, and no forced, in the Byzantine tradition. One natural place for the introduction of a liturgical component is adjacent to the confession of faith, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. The rite of Baptism is constructed on the foundation of the renunciation of Satan and the confession of faith in Christ. The communal recitation of the Creed is the people’s common confession of their baptismal faith. It is therefore sensible to add the creed’s sibling – the renunciation of Satan – to the Liturgy, as part of a larger penitential act.

The objective of the pastoral initiative is to initiate the faithful into a process of authentic repentance – true conversion, which requires renunciation of Satan and sin along with a confession of faith.

The following draft of a communal renunciation of Satan for the Divine Liturgy addresses not only racism, but also exhorts the community to renounce several passions of the heart and soul. The list does not exhaust every possible sin, but attempts to represent the repentance and conversion demanded by the scriptures and apostolic tradition. Most importantly, he rite draws upon the renunciation/confession baptismal foundation and evokes it in the Eucharistic Liturgy, demanding that faithful reiterate their baptismal covenant explicitly.

In this initial draft, I have intentionally used porneia and phyletism instead of more colloquial terms. This provides pastors with an opportunity to teach people about the connection between porneia, self-absorption, and exploitation of others, and to define phyletism as a tribal mentality that excludes those of other national backgrounds. The rite follows this order:

Renunciation of Satan (Divine Liturgy)

Let us pray to the Lord! Lord, have mercy.

Merciful and Compassionate Father, who received us as fellows of Christ and citizens of Your kingdom in Baptism by water and Your Holy Spirit, we lament the sins we commit, both voluntary and involuntary. Grant us the courage to renounce Satan, the adversary and father of lies, to repent of our sins and seek your kingdom and its justice anew.

Deacon= [D] Let us renounce Satan, and all of his service, and all of his pride.

People= [P] We do renounce him!

[D] Let us renounce murder and all acts of violence!

[P] We do renounce them!

[D] Let us renounce slavery, human trafficking, and porneia!

[P] We do renounce them!

[D] Let us renounce racism and phyletism!

[P] We do renounce them!

[D] Let us renounce gluttony and corruption!

[P] We do renounce them!

[D] Let us renounce self-glorification, gossip, and false witness!

[P] We do renounce them!

[D] Let us renounce human acts that damage nature and creation!

[P] We do renounce them!

[D] Let us renounce all destructive passions of the flesh and heart!

[P] We do renounce them!

[D] Let us renounce Satan, and all of his service, and all of his pride.

[P] We do renounce him!


Merciful and Compassionate Father, teach us to sustain life and seek peace; inspire us to protect the vulnerable; open our eyes to see your image in all peoples and to restore human dignity; give us strength to fast from sin, to give alms, and to build up treasure in heaven; humble us, teach us to be agents of your truth, and to offer You, and Your only-begotten Son, and Your all-holy Spirit true worship.

Blessed are You, o Lord, teach me Your statutes!
Blessed are You, o Lord, make me to understand your commandments!
Blessed are You, o Lord, enlighten me with your precepts.

Your mercy, Lord, endures forever; despise not the works of Your hands. To You belongs worship, to you belongs praise, to You belongs glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The Divine Liturgy continues here according to the customary order (diaconal command to exchange kiss of peace, and common recitation of the Creed).  

This is just a draft and I do not foresee Christians of the Byzantine Rite embracing such a proposal because of the general aversion to liturgical changes. I do hope that it might lead to some reflection on our need to renounce Satan and sin explicitly, and to understand that renunciation is an important part of true conversion.


  1. Nicely composed! However, I prefer the hyphenated word “self-absorption” to “porneia”

    lex orandi lex credendi
    helpful to ritually articulate the existential order of the symbiotic complexus of “world-flesh-devil”
    contemporary prayer — and theology — needs to re-present the pauline witness in a meaningful translation. Rohr’s exegesis and bridge-making to contemporary words in streetsmart dialog is a poetic “turnkey”: a contemporary poetry doing what Ephrem the Syrian chants in his hymns, or Romanus the Melodist chants in his kontakia.

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