My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord and Our Only True God and Savior Jesus Christ,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
A TEACHING DIVINE LITURGY (Part II)
Before the Great Entrance and the Cherubic Hymn
Great Entrance is a procession of the gifts of bread and wine being offered by the people (Orthodox Christian believers). God takes what we offer to Him, and then blesses and transforms them. This is a reminder that all we have is God's, and we are called to offer back to God the gifts that He has given us. We show our gratitude to God by offering back to Him from our many blessings.
We are approaching the halfway point of the Divine Liturgy. When we sing the Cherubic Hymn, we are called to prepare ourselves for receiving our Lord's Body and Blood in Holy Communion. The Cherubic Hymn says, "We (as a group of Christian believers) mystically represent the Cherubim (the Angels of Heaven) and sing the Thrice Holy Hymn (Holy, Holy, Holy) to the Life-Giving Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)." And then listen to what it says, "Let us lay aside our earthly cares that we may receive the king of all."
This is the moment in the Divine Liturgy when we should offer to God all the cares and worries of our lives. What concerns did you come to church with today? Hand them over to the Lord. What sins are pulling you down? Confess them now and offer them to Christ. What anxieties are you thinking about for the upcoming week? Turn everything over now to our Loving God and "lay aside our earthly cares" so that we may only concentrate on one thing -- God Himself. We are called to offer God our complete attention at this moment! The Gospels teach us, "Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, and all these things will be added to you."
This is also the time when we may pray for our loved ones, family and friends. The priest will come around in the Great Entrance and say, "May the Lord Our God remember us all in His Kingdom." Offer your own prayer for those with whom you are concerned, both living and dead, asking God to remember them in His Kingdom.
In this way, as we clear our mind of all earthly care, and as we pray for the salvation of all people in the world, we prepare ourselves to humbly say our Creed of Faith -- words which describe, confess and proclaim what we believe.
Kiss of Peace
Right before we say the Creed, the priest offers the peace of God to the faithful, and then asks them to "Let us love one another." We cannot proceed forward in the Divine Liturgy without love for one another. In the Ancient (Early) Church, at this point of the service they performed a meaningful and beautiful act -- "the kiss of peace." Everyone would turn to one another, and greet one another with "the kiss of peace," saying "Christ is in our midst." "He is and always shall be.
Once we offer this sign of our love for one another, then we are in a position to publicly declare our profession of faith -- what we believe as Orthodox Christians. We say a summary of our Faith in the Creed that the Holy Fathers put together in the 3rd and 4th Ecumenical Synod (Council) in the 4th century.
After the Creed and Before the Holy Anaphora
Having stated what we believe, we are now ready to begin the Holy Offering. Explain the connection with the animal sacrifice in the Old Testament which washed away the sins of the people. Jesus Christ becomes the Lamb of God.
This is a high point in the Divine Liturgy when we actually participate in the Mystical (Last) Supper. The priest calls upon the Holy Spirit to come upon each one of us and upon the gifts offered, and together we ask that the gifts be mystically changed into the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This Sacred Mystery is something we all participate in. The priest will ask the Holy Spirit to come upon the bread and wine, but when the priest says the prayer "Make this bread the precious Body of your Christ" all of you may respond with a loud voice "Amen." Amen means "so be it," so you are participating in the prayer by saying that you agree, and humbly ask our Lord to change this bread and wine into His Body and Blood.
Before the Lord's Prayer
We have now come to the doorstep of our salvation. The gifts have been offered and accepted. We have gone through the journey of laying aside our earthly cares and calling upon the Holy Spirit, and now we are ready to receive Jesus Christ through His Body and Blood (Holy Communion). But before we do that, we pray the supreme prayer of the Church - words which Our Lord Himself taught us. We all know the Lord's Prayer, and we have all recited it countless times in our lives, and yet today, let us pray it slowly and attentively, paying attention to each sentence and understanding the request of each petition.
Following the Lord's Prayer, we will hear the priest lift up the Holy Gifts and say, "Let us attend, the Holy Gifts are for the Holy people of God" (Orthodox Christian believers). To which we respond by singing, "One is Holy, One is Lord." We affirm that although the Holy Gifts are for the Holy People, only one is holy, and that One is Jesus Christ. Thus, in order for us to be holy, we must unite ourselves to Christ, become one with Him and be sanctified by His presence. Following this comes the moment of receiving Holy Communion. It should be obvious that the whole Divine Liturgy leads up to the receiving of Holy Communion. Our worship remains incomplete if we choose not to receive the Life-giving Mysteries of Christ's Body and Blood.
We should live from Holy Communion to Holy Communion, week by week. Saint John Cassian, wrote, "We must approach it frequently for the healing of soul and purification of the spirit."
When the priest says, "with the fear of God, with faith and with love draw near," it is our invitation to receive Jesus Christ in the Most Powerful and meaningful way possible. Through this Mystery (Sacrament) we receive a gift of forgiveness, of renewal, and of eternal life.
As we approach, let us approach with sincere reverence and the proper awe that we go to be united with Jesus Christ. Let us contemplate the incomprehensible mystery of how God becomes bread and wine for us to eat and drink. And after we receive the Holy Eucharist, let us not go back to our places talking or chatting with one another. Although the distribution of Holy Communion may take 10-15 minutes, let us be prayerful, let us be meditative, let us stand quietly offering prayers of thanksgiving for the Goodness of God.
Before the Dismissal
We have now partaken of the Heavenly Gifts. As the post-communion prayer stated, "We have seen the True Light. We have received the Heavenly Spirit. We have found the True Faith by worshipping the Holy Trinity Who has saved us." We have tasted salvation. We have renewed, sanctified, and set on fire our souls and now ready to descend from our heavenly worship and enter back into our earthly existence here in South Bend, Indiana. One aspect of our journey is complete, and yet another aspect is just beginning. The Divine Liturgy isn't over until next Sunday. Our worship and Divine Liturgy continues as we walk out the front doors.
God has filled us and nourished us for a purpose. God blesses us so that we may now go out and be a blessing for the world we live in. We are called to carry this spirit of love, this presence of God, into our homes, into South Bend, and throughout the whole world, bringing the Light of Christ to all people, and giving everyone an opportunity to taste of salvation.
This has been a wondrous journey we have all taken. Some were prepared for this journey ahead of time, and experience has been wondrous. Others weren't prepared, and I'm sorry that they did not get to experience the fullness of the Kingdom of God. Don't despair, however, since we'll have another opportunity to taste Paradise at the next Divine Liturgy. May we all Prepare ourselves during this upcoming week, and be ready for another exciting journey into heaven next Sunday. Amen. [Source: Father Luke Veronis. Department of Stewardship, Outreach and Evangelism of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America]
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Resurrection
The sinner and unworthy servant of God