My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE DIVINE SERVICES: The Liturgy of the Faithful
This part of the Divine Liturgy is called 'The Liturgy of the Faithful' because only the faithful were allowed to be present during its celebration--those already baptized. It can be divided into the following sections: 1) The transferal of the honored Gifts from the Table of Oblation (Prothesis) to the Holy Table, 2) the preparation of the faithful for the consecration of the Gifts, 3) the consecration of the Gifts, 4) the preparation of the faithful for Holy Communion, 5) Communion, and 6) the thanksgiving for Communion and the Dismissal.
Following the request for the catechumens (those under religious instruction) to depart from the church two short litanies are proclaimed, and the Cherubic Hymn is chanted: "Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim, and chant the thrice-holy hymn unto the Life-creating Trinity, now lay aside all earthly care, that we may receive the King of All, Who cometh invisibly upborne in triumph by the ranks of Angels. Alleluia."
The words of the original Greek for "upborne in triumph" mean literally, "borne aloft as on spears." This refers to an ancient practice when a nation, desiring to solemnly glorify its king or war leader, would seat him upon their shields, and raising him aloft would carry him before the army and through the city streets. As the shields were borne aloft on the spears, so it would seem that the triumphant leader was carried by their spears.
The Cherubic Hymn reminds the faithful that they have now left behind every thought for daily life, and offering themselves as a likeness of the Cherubim, are found close to God in Heaven and, together with the Angels, sing the Thrice-Holy Hymn in praise to God. Prior to the Cherubic Hymn the Royal Gates are opened and the deacon performs the censing, while the priest in private prayers requests of the Lord that He purify his soul and heart from an evil conscience and by the power of the Holy Spirit make him worthy to offer to God the Gifts which have been presented. Then the priest, with the deacon, three times quietly says the words of the Cherubic Hymn, and both proceeded to the Table of Oblation for the transferal of the precious Gifts from the Table of Oblation to the Holy Table. The deacon, with the Aer (the larger of the three kalymata or covers over his shoulders), carries the Diskos (The Paten), while the priest carries the Chalice (Poterion) in his hands.
Leaving the altar by the north door, while the cantor chants "Let us lay aside all earthly care...", they come to a stop on the solea (ambo), facing the people. The practice now is, if the local Metropolitan or Bishop officiate, to commemorate the patriarch, metropolitan, archbishops, bishops, the clergy, monastics, the founders of the church (or monastery) and the Orthodox Christians who are present. They then turn and enter the altar through the Royal Gates, place the precious Gifts on the Holy Table, on the opened Antimins (Antiminsion), and cover them with the Aer. As the Cantor/s finishes the Cherubic Hymn the Royal Gates and curtain are closed. The Great Entry symbolizes the solemn passing of Jesus Christ to His voluntary suffering and death by crucifixion. The faithful should stand during this time with bowed heads and pray that the Lord remember them and all those close to them in His Kingdom. After the priest says the words, "and all of you Orthodox Christians, may the Lord God remember in His Kingdom," one must say softly, "And may the Lord God remember your priesthood in His Kingdom, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages."
The Preparation of the Faithful for the Consecration of the Precious Gifts
Following the Great Entry is the preparation of the faithful so that they might be worthy to be present during the consecration of the Gifts which have been prepared. This preparation begins with the Intercessory Litany, "Let us complete our prayer unto the Lord" for the "Precious Gifts set forth (offered)," so that they might be pleasing to the Lord. At the same time the priest prays privately that the Lord sanctify them with His Grace. We then pray that the Lord help us to pass the entire day in perfection, that is, holy, peaceful, and without sin, and that He send us a Guardian Angel to be a faithful guide on the path of truth and goodness, keeping our souls and bodies from evil. We ask that He forgive and forget our accidental sins as well as our frequently repeated transgressions, that He grant us all that is good and beneficial for the soul and not those things which gratify our destructive passions, and that all people might live and work in peace and not in enmity and mutually destructive conflict; that we might spend the remainder of our lives at peace with our neighbors and with our own conscience and in contrition for the sins we have committed; that we be granted a Christian ending to our lives, that is, that we might confess and receive the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) of Christ before our repose. We ask for an end to our lives which is peaceful, with peace of soul and reconciliation with our fellow men. Finally, we ask that the Lord deem us worthy to give a good, fearless account at His Dread Judgment.
In order to be present worthily at the celebration of the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments), the following are absolutely required: peace of soul, mutual love and the true (Orthodox)Faith, which unites all believers. Therefore, after the Litany of Intercession, the priest when blessing the people says, "Peace be unto all." Those praying express the same desire in their souls with the words, "And to Thy spirit." Then he exclaims, "Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess...," and the Cantor/s chant, "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, One in essence and indivisible (undivided)." This response indicates for us Who should be confessed in unanimity in order to recite the Creed (Symbol of Faith) in a worthy manner. Then comes the exclamation, "The doors! The doors! In wisdom, let us attend." The Symbol of Faith (The Creed) is then offered, in which briefly, but exactly, our faith in the Holy Trinity and the other main truths (dogmas) of the Holy Orthodox Church are set forth. At this time the curtain behind the Royal Doors is opened and the celebrant priest lifts the Aer from the precious Gifts, and gently waves it over them in expectation of the descent of Holy Spirit. The words "The doors! The doors!" in ancient times reminded the doorkeepers to watch carefully at the doors of the church that none of the catechumens or unbelievers enter. Today these words remind the faithful to close the doors of their souls against the assault of thoughts. The words, "In wisdom, let us attend," indicate that we should be attentive to the truths (dogmas) of the Orthodox Christian faith as set forth in the Creed.
From this point on, the faithful should not leave the church until the end of the Divine Liturgy. The Holy Fathers of the Church condemned the transgression of this requirement, writing in the 9th Apostolic Canon, "all faithful who leave the church...and do not remain at prayer until the end, as being those who introduce disorder into the church, should be separated from the church community." After the Symbol of the Faith (The Creed) the priest exclaims, "Let us stand aright, let us stand with fear, let us attend, that we may offer the Holy Oblation in peace," directing the attention of the faithful to the fact that the time has come to offer the "Holy Oblation," or sacrifice. It is time to celebrate the Holy Mystery of the divine Eucharist, and from this moment one ought to stand with special reverence and attentiveness. The Cantor/s then respond, "A mercy of peace, a sacrifice of praise." We offer with gratitude for the mercy of heavenly peace granted to us from above the only sacrifice we can, that of praise. The priest blesses the faithful with the words, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all." His next words, "Let us lift up our hearts," summon us in a reverent presenting of ourselves before God. The Cantor/s responds with reverence in the name of those praying, "We lift them up unto the Lord," affirming that our hearts are already striving and aspiring to the Lord. (Source: The Law of God)
(To be continued. Next: The Consecration of the Gifts)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God