Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS AND IS AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
PRAYER OF THE ENTRANCE [Divine Liturgy]
Priest: (in a low voice) Master, Lord our God, You have appointed in heaven orders and hosts of Angels and Archangels to minister to your glory.
As we make our entrance, let there be an entrance of holy Angels, serving with us and together glorifying your goodness.
For all glory, honor and worship befit You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Priest: Singing, proclaiming, shouting the victory hymn and saying: Cantors or Choir: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Hosts, heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the Highest. Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest.
Priest: (inaudibly) With these blessed powers, we too, loving Master, cry out and say: Holy are You and Most Holy, You and Your Only-begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit. Holy and Most Holy are You and sublime is Your glory. You so loved Your world as to give Your Only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should NOT perish but have eternal life..."
On September 22nd Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors, and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Phocas, bishop of Sinope; Saint Peter the tax-collector in Africa; 26 holy Martyrs of Zographou Monastery; Saint Phocas the Gardener; Saint Macarius, Abbot of Zhabyn; Saint Theophanes the Silent of the Kiev Caves; Saint Emmeram, bishop of Gaul; Abbot of Yashozero: Martyrs Isaac and Martin.
THE HIEROMARTYR PHOCAS, BISHOP OF SINOPE. He exercised himself from his youth in all the Christian virtues. As bishop in his birthplace, the town of Sinope on the shore of the Black Sea, he strengthened the devout in their faith by his divine example and words, and brought many idol-worshippers to the true Faith. The story-hearted pagans were filled with wrath against Saint Phocas, and the Lord foreshowed to him in a vision his death by martyrdom. Saint Phocas saw a shining dove fly down from heaven, carrying in its beak a beautiful wreath of flowers which it laid on his head, and a voice came from the dove: 'My cup is full, and it is for thee to drink it!' From this vision, the man of God learned that he must very soon suffer for Christ. He was not afraid, but, with thanksgiving to God, prepared himself for torture. Soon after this, the Governor, Africanus, took St. Phocas for interrogation and inflicted harsh tortures upon him: his whole body was beaten black and blue and torn with wounds, and, after imprisonment, he was thrown into boiling water, in which this courageous soldier of Christ finished his earthly course and entered into the joy of his Lord. He suffered in the time of the Emperor Trajan (98-117).
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints and Holy Martyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: I Corinthians 10:23-28
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 4:31-36
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"The devil loves and always rejoices over the ungoverned; those who are not subject to one who has power, under God, to help them and to give them a hand." [Saint Dorotheros of Gaza]
THE PRESENCE OF THE ANGELS IN THE DIVINE LITURGY
Father Gregory the Hieromonk writes: "The Angels come at the time of the Divine Liturgy to fill the Cathedral to celebrate with the priest. The Angels actually perform the Liturgy with him. In the procession the Gospel is preceded by altar boys carrying exapteryga representing the Angels. Saint John Chrysostom reports an incident with a priest who witnessed a large number of Angels clothed in bright robes luminous like the sun. He said he was carried up to the altar offering their help, bowing their head in great respect, and then surrounded the Holy Table. At times they stood in silence and others chanted liturgical hymns along with the chanters uplifting their melody".
"The Angels are "crowned with the faithful forming a union, in a common feast of the heavenly and the earthly!... Heaven and earth are one company on the journey towards the Holy Altar and are both praising and glorifying our Lord Jesus Christ..." Jesus Christ Who is being escorted by Angels and Archangels is here, inside the church temple, and they are entering the Holy Altar in order for the Divine Liturgy to occur... The Christians who attend church services ought to live the miracle of Angelic presence, like the shepherds of Bethlehem!"
The Trisagion Hymn (Thrice Hymn)
The Trisagion Hymn "Holy God, Holy Might, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us" is the heavenly hymn of the Angels that they chant at the heavenly altar. We are acting out here on earth what takes place at the heavenly altar. While this hymn is chanted by all, the priest is praying: "O Holy God, Who resteth among Thy Saints, who are glorified by the Cherubim, and praised by the Seraphim with a Thrice-Holy voice, and worshipped by all the Hosts of Heaven...sanctify our souls and bodies; grant that we may worship Thee in holiness all the days of our life..."
"Holy God". "With this Thrice Hymn the heavenly hosts of Angels and the synaxis (gathering) of the faithful Orthodox Christians are united in an incessant hymning of the Triune God. The Angels are chanting at the heavenly Altar: "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord Sabbath". We Christians, here on earth, in the earthly Church Temple also chant: "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal..."
For every human being and every Christian more so, God is the source of holiness so that the former will attain "theosis" (deification), a source of omnipotence for the lethal blow that of the triple evil as well as a source of eternal life, for He created him "according to His likeness"!
We have already mentioned that with the Trisagion (Thrice-Holy) hymn the Celebrant Priest together with the faithful Christians identify with the Angelical Celestial Powers in the act of glorifying the Triune God. Together Heaven and earth are proceeding together towards the Altar for a common doxology.
During the time when the thrice holy hymn is being chanted, the Celebrant Priest makes certain movements inside the Holy Altar; he moves from the Holy Altar towards the Holy Prothesis (Table of Offerings or Oblation) and then returns to his place. These movements symbolize the circular movements of the Cherubim around God's Heavenly Throne. In this way, with the Angelic Thrice-Holy Hymn and the Angelic movements in the Holy Vema, we experience the event of the co-liturgy of heaven and earth, of the one Church, Triumphant and Militant. [Protopresbyter Stefanos K. Anagnostopoulos, "Experiences During the Divine Liturgy").
"Then the priest, with his hands raised, from beside the Holy Altar, in fear and trembling and exultation "Rejoice in Him with trembling"--says: "Blessed art thou on the throne of the glory of thy Kingdom, Who art enthroned upon the cherubim, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen".
"As the priest glorifies, he makes reference to the heavenly Seat above and the Throne of Glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and at the same time is imitating the Cherubim, who glorify God, "Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place".
Saint John Chrysostom writes: "And although, my good Christian, you are clothed in flesh and bone and in a multitude of weaknesses, nevertheless, you are made worthy together with the Bodiless Powers to praise and glorify the common Bishop and Lord. And despite your personal weaknesses, when you wish with all you might, then 'tightly' and psychosomatically through the Holy Spirit you are accompanied by the Cherubim in Thrice-Holy Hymn and with them--peacefully--you glorify the All-Holy Triune God. A common heavenly and earthly feast is being set up; one is the Thanksgiving, one the exultation, one the joyful choir.
However, what does the word "alleluia" mean?
It means: "Glorify the Lord God!" Praise and glorify the Lord, to Whom we ascribe all glory, honor and worship but also our own salvation! Glorify the Lord, for His judgment is proper and true... Simultaneously, Angelic voices are heard, calling all the devout Christians to glorify God. "All of you, whose faith is living and steadfast. All of you, who kept the Lord's word on patience up to the end. All of you, who have devoutness and the fear of God. All of you, who have kept your bodies undefiled and your souls prudent. All of you, whose eyes have never stopped shedding tears of repentance. All of you, young and old, men and women, who have confessed Christ "crucified". All of you, who belong to the One, Holy, Catholic, Orthodox, and Apostolic Church!"
And then, the Evangelist (St. John) adds something great and shocking has occurred: Earth and heavens were filled with melodic voices: "And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, as the voice of mighty waters and as the voice of mighty thundering, saying, Alleluia for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!"
"They never get tired, the Angels and Archangels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim, Thrones, Principalities, Powers, Dominions, Authorities never feel they have praised and glorified the Lord our God enough. They never cease for the Infinite God." [Experiences During the Divine Liturgy].
"Singing the triumphal hymn shouting, proclaiming and saying…"
The Triumphal hymn, which we chant during the Holy Anaphora, hymns Christ Jesus' victory over death and the devil.
'Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabbath; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory: Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest'.
It is a joining together of the Triune Angelic hymn, the one that Prophet Isaiah had heard the moment God invited him to the Prophetic Office:
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Sabbath, heaven and earth are full...'. As well as the hymn with which the people of Israel received the Lord, "Who willingly came to the Passion", in the Holy City: 'Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest' (which is taken from the 117th Psalm and prophesies the Lord's triumphant Entrance to Jerusalem: "This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad therein. O Lord, save now; O Lord, send now prosperity. Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.'
Elsewhere, Saint John Chrysostom mentions: "The Angelic hosts above are glorifying; on earth the people in the churches are chanting in a chorus offering the same doxology as them. The Seraphim above cry the Thrice Holy (Trisaghion) Hymn; on earth, crowds of people ascribe the same hymn. Common banquet that of the heavens and of earth that is being set up...'
In other words, in heaven, the hosts of Angels are glorifying . On earth the Christians are chanting in a chorus imitating with them the same doxology. Above, the Seraphim are chanting the Thrice-Holy hymn, here in the holy church on earth the multitude of Christians that are attending the liturgy are ascribing the same hymn. The heavenly and the earthly are having a common celebration.
This common chanting chorus, according to Saint Maximus the Confessor's interpretation, "means a common way of living, conduct and symphony of the Divine Doxology which shall occur at the same time and place by heavenly and earthly creatures in the age to come". Not only is the Church's liturgical song being coordinated now with the Angels' heavenly doxology, but it also foretells the Angel' common conduct and way of living with the people who will be saved, in the Triumphant Church in the age to come..."
When we chant the Triumphal hymn in the Divine Liturgy, we along with the Angels stand beside, before God's Throne. Angels and humans together glorifying the Lord. This is the reason why the Celebrant Priest does not merely invite us to this hymn as he stands before the Holy Altar offering the rational Worship and bloodless Sacrifice, but primarily refers to the Cherubim and commemorates the Seraphim. He then urges all of us Christians to raise our voice, distracting our attention from earthly things as we bring to our minds the Angels who are celebrating and glorifying. To chant and stand together with the Seraphim, opening along with them the wings of our souls and flying with them around the Throne of the Heavenly King. [Experiences During the Divine Liturgy].
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God