Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church

Serving the Orthodox Christians of West Central Florida

A COMMENTARY ON

THE DIVINE LITURGY


As you read about the Divine Liturgy, please feel free to listen to the service also.  You may click on the sound icon to the right for Greek or English as you may prefer.
 
 
With the Fear of God and Love, Draw Near!

Introduction

The Divine Liturgy is divided into three parts:

1. The "Proskomidi", or preparation of the Holy Gifts. (Not visible to the Faithful).
2. The "Liturgy of the Catechumens", (the students or learners of the faith).
3. The "Liturgy of the Faithful", (Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist).


Priest prepares the Holy Gifts during the Prothesis

THE PROSKOMIDI
or OFFICE of the OBLATION

The Priest, fully vested Click to Learn more about the Priest's Vestments proceeds to the Table of Preparation called "PROTHESIS" or "PROSKOMIDI". The Prothesis Table is always located inside the sanctuary and usually on the wall to the left of the Altar Table. The PROSKOMIDI is the preparation of the Holy Gifts, the Bread and Wine for the Divine Liturgy. (The Prothesis depicts the birthplace of Our Lord Jesus).

The Priest, using a Lance (signifying the lance used by the guard to pierce our Lord's side when on the cross), cuts the center square of the PROSFORON (bread) or Oblation Loaf, and recites the Prophet Isaih's words: (chap. 53:7-8): "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, He opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied Him. Who shall declare His generation? For His life is raised from the earth."

Placing the square, face down on the DISKARION (Paten, Dish), the Priest carves crosswise without cutting the segments through and says: "Sacrified is the Lamb of God, the Son of the Father, Who takes away the sin of the world for the life of the world and for its salvation" (John 1:29, 1 John 2:2).

As a reminder of how a soldier pierced His side, the Priest thrusts the lance into the face of the square of bread reciting: "And one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water. And he who saw it (St. John) bore witness and his witness is true." (John 19:34-35).

Saying this, the Priest pours into the Holy Chalice wine and water, since the Bible states that blood and water ran down His side when he was pierced by the spear of a soldier. The Priest blesses the Chalice and recites: "Blessed is the union of the Holy now and ever, and to the ages of ages."

A triangular form of bread, is then carved from the left side to the square, and placed on the left of the "AMNOS" or Host on the DISKARION (Paten). This is honor of and memory of the blessed Mother of God, adn ever-Virgin Mary. The prophetic words recited are: "On Thy right hand stood the Queen, arrayed in gold inwrought with many colors." (Psalms 45:9).

From the right to the opening of the center of the Bread 9 pieces are removed and placed on the right of the Host on the DISKARION. Those are in honor and memory of (1) the Archangles and Bodiless Powers, (2) St. John the Baptist and the Prophets, (3) the Apostles, (4) the Holy Fathers and prelates, (5) the Holy Martyrs, (6) the Holy, God-bearing Fathers and Mothers, (7) the wonder-working and unmercenary Doctors (Anargyroi), (8) Sts. Joachim and Anna, (9) St. John the Chrysostom or St. Basil the Great, (depending on whose liturgy is being celebrated on the particular day).

Cutting other smaller particles of bread, the Priest prays for and commemorates the Orthodox Patriarchs, Bishops and Rulers, and all names of the living given to the Priest by the faithful.

He then prays for the departed rulers and clergy and any names of our beloved submitted to him.

Lastly, he removes a small piece for himself, begging for the forgiveness of his sins. (All of these particles are placed below the Host on the Diskarion).

The Priest then censes, saying: "To Thee, O Lord, we offer incense as a scent of spiritual fragrance; accept it at Thy Heavenly Altar and send down upon us in return, the Grace of the Holy Spirit."

Taking the ASTERIK, shaped in a cross (and symbolizing the star), which will protect the pieces of bread from the veil used to cover the Diskarion, the Priest places it on the Diskarion saying: "And the star came and stood over the place where the young child was." (Matthew 2:9).

Placing the veril (Kalymma) over the DISKARION on top of the ASTERIK, the Priest says: "The Lord hath reigned, He hath clothed Himself with majesty; the Lord hath clothed Himself with might; and hath girded Himself." (Psalms 93:1).

Placing the second veil over the Chalice, he says: "Thy virtue hath covered the heavens, O Christ, and the earth is full of Thy praise."

After this, the Priest takes the large veil called the "AERA" and places it over both the DISKARION and the CHALICE and recites: "Shelter us in the shelter of Thy wings; drive away from us every enemy and for; make our life peaceful; O Lord, have mercy on us and on Thy world, and save our souls, for Thou art good and lovest mankind."

The Priest continues with the prayer of the Prothesis: "O God our God, Who has sent the Heavenly Bread, the Food of the whole world, our Lord and God Jesus Christ, as our Saviour, Redeemer and Benefactor to bless and sanctify us, bless Thou this offering and accept it on Thy Heavenly Altar, remember those who have offered it, and those for whom it is offered, as Thou art good and the lover of all, and keep us uncondemned in the celebration of Thy Divine and majestic Name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; now and ever and to the ages of ages, Amen."

The Priest then finishes the Prothesis with the closing prayer:

"Glory to Thee, O Christ our God an our Hope, Glory to Thee. May He, Who was born in a cave and lay in a manger for our salvation, Christ our true God, through the intercessions of His all-immaculate and all-blameless Mother and of all the Saints, have mercy on us and save us, for as much as He is good and loveth mankind. Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, O Lord, Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen."

The PROTHESIS, although not seen by the faithful, is the FIRST part of the Divine Liturgy.


Epistle and Gospel Readings

THE LITURGY OF THE CATECHUMENS

Following the Proskomidi, the Priest comes before the Holy Altar and during the Great Doxology he recites certain preparatory prayers before commencing the Divine Liturgy. When the Doxology has been sung, the Priest blesses himself, and bows very deeply repeating three times: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men." and twice says: "O Lord, open Thou lips, and my mouth shall proclaim Thy praise."

Then taking the Golden Book of the Gospels he raises it and making with it the sign of the cross he chants the opening words of the Divine Liturgy: "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages."

The Choir responds readily "Amen, yes, so be it, - may God truly reign over us to all eternity.

After the Divine Liturgy has commenced with the glorification of the Holy Trinity, the Deacon (or Priest), chants 9 petitions, each a separate beautiful and meaningful prayer.

Before the first petition, the Priest call the people to pray by saying: "In peace, let us pray to the Lord."

Peace is an absolute pre-requisite for the full and complete appreciation of the Divine Liturgy. Without peace of mind and heart we are not worthy to stand before the Altar of God, to beg forgiveness and offer our thanks. As we know, our Lord, after His resurrection, appeared before His Apostles, saying: Peace be unto you." (John 20:21).

In the 5th Chapter of Matthew, v. 23-24, our Lord commands, that if we come before the Altar to offer our gift and remember that we are not at peace with someone, we should leave the gift at the Altar, return and make our peace with our fellow man, then come to the Altar, present the gift, and only then will it be acceptable and beneficial to us.

Thus, with a complete serenity of heart and mind we must attend the Divine Liturgy; only then do our prayers have meaning. With this peace the Priest recites the first petition and follows with the remaining 8 petitions.

After the petitions, through which we pray for various things entreating the Lord in Peace, and having the Faithful, represented by the Choir, respond with "Kyrie Eleison" (Lord have Mercy), the Priest prays: "Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us, O God, by Thy Grace."

Everything we have received, or is given, or will be given to us is by God, comes through His Grace, as a gift to the faithful. This Grace comes from God's infinite Goodness and from the supreme sacrifice of our Lord made upon the Cross; through His Blood our sins are washed away.

With this Grace, then, we pray to God to receive us as His true Children, to save us, to have mercy on our souls, and to guard us physically and spiritually against all dangers.

What follows are the 3 ANTIPHONS, the third being a poetic masterpiece composed about 1400 years ago by the great Byzantine Emperor Justinian (who also built St. Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople). This 3rd Antiphon in theological terms explains the supernatural Birth of our Lord, defines His two distinct Natures and declares that He is the second person of the Holy trinity.

In the Ancient Christian Churches there was a separate room or vault, which contained all the valuables that were to be used in the church during the services. Amongst these was the Book of the Gospels (Evangelion). This room or vault, was known as the "skevofilakion", a composite Greek word meaning the "guarding place of the implements or articles."

After the Antiphons, the time is approaching when the Gospel is to be read, therefore in the ancient church, the Priest or Deacon and the Altar Boys, would go to the "skevofilakion", and they would take out the Evangelion and holding it at head-height, preceded by the Altar Boys, brought into the Church. He would pause in the space before the Sanctuary (Soleas), chant a hymn and place the evangelion on the Altar.

Today we do not have a separate "skevofilakion". Consequently the Evangelion is always on the Altar. In order that the church may preserve all these historic and symbolic meanings the procession still takes place, from the Sanctuary, outside the Sanctuary and back into the Sanctuary. This procession is known as the "LITTLE ENTRANCE". The Little Entrance symbolizes our Lord's coming to the Earth, abd being amongst His people, to whom He preached the message of salvation.

Having no "Skevofilakion", the Priest with the Altar Boys exists the Sanctuary reciting the following prayer: "O Master, Lord our Go, Who hast appointed in Heaven legions and Hosts of Angels and Archangels for the service of Thy Glory, grant that with our entrance there may be an entrance of Holy Angels serving with us and glorifying Thy goodness; for to Thee are due all glory, honor and worship; to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; now and ever, and to the ages of ages, Amen."

Facing the Sanctuary, the Priest bless and says: "Blessed is the Entrance of Thy Saints, always, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen."

Slightly raising the Evangelion, he chants: "WISDOM! LET US RISE!"

The Golden Book of the Gospels contains the Wisdom of God and all His Divine Truths. Let us all then stand in attention to receive the Lord.

The Hymn of the Little Entrance is chanted by the priest: (bowing slightly at the appropriate time as indicated in the prayer) "Come, let us worship and bow down before Christ. O Son of God, Who didst rise from the dead; save us, who wing to Thee: Alleluia."

The Priest then enters the Sanctuary, places the Holy Book on the Altar, and taking the Censer, he censes the Altar, the Holy Icons and the faithful, to fill the Church with the fragrance of the incense and remind us that our prayers should rise up into Heaven, just as the smoke does from the incense.

During this time, the Priest and the Choir chant:

1. The Hymn of the Day (Apolytikion).
2. The Hymn of the Church.
3. The Kontakion (Hymn).

The Choir soon follows by chanting the TRISAGION (or Thrice Holy Hymn). The Liturgy of the Catechumens at this point is well under way. We have sung the praises of our God and have glorified Him with various Hymns. Now, after the singing of the Trisagion we arrive at the point to hear excerpts from the New Testament.

The reading from the New Testamentis most important. It is the most ancient practice in the Church. It transmits to us the Holy Word of God, and reminds us of our obligation to read and search the Scriptures and practice its commandments.

After the Trisagion, the Priest stands outside the Royal Doors, and facing the people, he reminds them that the hour has arrived for the Epistle and Gospel reading; he requests their attention by saying: "Let us attend - Wisdom - Let us attend".

The Reader reads the chosen excerpt from the acts of the Apostles or the Epistles, after which the Priest exits from the Sanctuary and facing the congregation says: "Wisdom! Rise! Let us hear the Holy Gospel. Peace be unto all."

The Priest reads the Gospel excerpt for the day after which we follow the ancient practice of the Church to have the sermon follow the Gospel reading. The people having just heard the Gospel, have it fresh in their minds whereby the sermon would have a fuller meaning.

This ends the Catechumen (educational) portion of the Liturgy. The Hymns (immediately before and after the Small Entrance) and the New Testament Readings change each Sunday, thereby offering a means by which to educate the people of the Word of God and the Life of the Saints.


The Great Entrance and Faithful Receiving

THE LITURGY OF THE FAITHFUL

In Part I, we have learned of the preparation of the Holy Gifts to be presented and transubstantiated into the real Body and Blood of our Saviour in the last part of the Liturgy.

In Part II, commencing with the words "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father ...", called the Liturgy of the Catechumens, ends as we have seen with the reading of the Holy Gospel. At this point, the unbaptized or Catechumens (learners of the Faith) were compelled (in the early days of the Church) to exit from the Church and only the baptized Faithful Christians remained until the end of the Divine Liturgy.

The Liturgy of the Faithful, the third and last part of the Divine Liturgy, commences with the "Great Entrance", while the Choir chants the "Cherubic Hymn." In our Liturgy today, after the reading of the Holy Gospel, we do not hear the many petitions that belong to the Liturgy of the Catechumens, and the prayers of their dismissal from the service. These have long ago been omitted, because today we rarely have Catechumens, all persons having been baptized in their infancy. (In the early church, many had yet to be baptized).

The GREAT ENTRANCE is the title given to the second procession commencing from the Sanctuary, to distinguish it from the Little Entrance, during which the Priest brought out the Golden Book of the Gospels before the people, signifying in this manner the coming of our Lord to this Earth, ministering and teaching the people the new life.

During the "Great Entrance" we prepare ourselves to receive the "King of All", our Lord Jesus. His work having been finished upon this earth, He now prepares to offer Himself "a ransom for all" (I Timothy 2:6). He will soon make the supreme sacrifice in order the His Precious Blood will wash away the sins of mankind. This Great Sacrifice is the crowning point of the "Liturgy of the Faithful."

During the Great Entrance the Priest exits from the Northern Door of the Sanctuary holding the "Diskarion" upon which is the Lamb, the cube of bread as have seen in the Proskomidi, and the Chalice, which contains the wine mixed with water. These elements during the latter part of the Liturgy will be changed into the Body and Blood of our Lord and are offered to the faithful, to unite themselves in a real way with our God and Saviour.

The Cherubic Hymn which the Choir sings during the Great Entrance and the prayer which the Priest says within the Altar impress upon the Faithful, Clergy and Laity, that them moment is approaching - we must cast aside every earthly desire and uplift our souls to recieve the King of All.

The Priest unfolds the "Antiminsion" (meaning - instead of the table). On the Antiminsion we see imprinted the pious Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea taking down the body of Jesus Christ from the Cross. The Antiminsion, brings us back to the days of the early persecutions, during which the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in various remote places, catacombs and so forth, not having one designated Place and Table, as we have today. And so it is today, that even through we do have established places of worship, we still use the "Antiminsion" as a reminder that the Church of Christ is not confined to any certain place or section. Indeed, a Divine Liturgy may be celebrated anywhere - so long as the Priest has an antiminsion.

The priest then recites an extremely beautiful prayer after which he recites the cherubic hymn and censes the Altar and Faithful to show that as the smoke rises and is fragrant, in like manner our prayer should be uplifted and warm to our God. During the censing the priest recites the 50th Psalm. After which he kisses the Altar Table and bows to the people, asking them to forgive him in order that he may be purer during the celebration of the Liturgy. He then proceeds to the Preparation Table and with his head bowed says: "O God, be gracious unto me a sinner, and have mercy on me."

He then takes the top cover or Kalymma called the "Aera" and places it upon his shoulders saying: "In peace lift up thy hands to the Holy, and bless ye the Lord."


THE GREAT ENTRANCE takes place with the Priest holding the Chalice and the Diskarion preceded by the Altar Boys carrying the processional Cross, Hexapteryga and Candlesticks, reverently exiting from the Northern Door and slowly walking to the center of the "Soleas" pausing and chanting: "May, the Lord our God remember us all in His Kingdom, always, now and ever and to the ages of ages."

These words are based on the confession of the thief upon the cross when he said to Jesus: "Remember me, O Lord, when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom."

After offering prayers for the living and the departed, the Priest re-enters the Sanctuary and places the Diskarion and the Chalice upon the Antiminsion, covers them with the Aera, censes them, reciting the last verses of the 50th Psalm (51st in English translations).

Here we realize the importance of all the faithful. They are elevated and compared with the Angelic Hosts, the Cherubim. Just as the legions of the Angels are constantly about God's Throne singing the Thrice-Holy Hymn, in like manner the Faithful represent the Cherubim upon the earth, and gather around the Holy Altar in spirit to sing God's glory. We not only sing His glory, but we take God within us through Holy Communion, thereby setting up a throne of God within our hearts. That is why the Cherubic Hymn implores us to put away all earthly and worldly cares.

The priest now resumes his place in front of the altar and continues by reciting several petitions, telling the faithful that even though we have expressed our prayers, it is time now to make those prayers more complete because the great Moment is soon at hand.

THE CONFESSION OF THE FAITH ... The time of the Great Sacrifice is approaching. The Sanctuary now becomes the Upper Room where our Lord held the Last Supper. The faithful represent the Disciples of Jesus, who sat and partook at the Table. The Priest from the beginning of the Liturgy has offered prayers and petitions for himself and the faithful. At this point in the Liturgy, the Priest turns and facing the congregation he greets and blesses, as the Lord did after His Resurrection: "Peace be unto all."

In other words, may peace also be in your heart and soul. Without peace of mind and heart there can be no love. Therefore, the Priest implores his people to love one another as our Lord commanded us. With this love we can rightfully stand before God and confess our faith to Him. The Priest admonishes: "Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess."

St. John tells us, "God is love" (1 John 4:16). St. Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, chap 13 verse 1, states: "Though I speak the tongues of men and of Angels and not have love, I am become as sounding brass or a tinking cymbal." to confess our faith and have it acceptable to God it is necessary that we extricate every animosity from our heart and fill it with love. What are we about to confess?

The Choir chants: "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Trinity, one in essence and undivided." While the Choir sings, the Priest, making the sign of the cross, bows and kisses the veiled Chalice and Paten saying: "I shall love The O Lord, with all my strength. The Lord is my support and my refuge, and my Saviour."

In the ancient Christian Church at this point the Christians not only were prepared to confess their faith, but also to manifest it. They embraced each other and gave the kiss of Christian love. Today our Church has preserved only a remnant of this tradition. We witness it only when a Bishop celebrates the Liturgy with the Priest or when two or more Priests serve at the Altar. They embrace each other from right to left and then kiss each other's hands to show their love and humility.

During the embrace they repeat: "Christ is in our midst; He is, and will be in all the ages."

We then hear the Priest aloud: "The doors, the doors, in wisdom let us attend."

As we have learned, the Catechumens were compelled to exit at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Faithful. At this moment the celebrant Priest would chant aloud, "the doors, the doors ....", in order that the guards at the doors would not permit any unbaptized person to enter, not only because the Liturgy of the Faithful was in progress, but the Holy Gifts were about to be unveiled for the first time and were being prepared for the Sacrifice.

Today we cannot attach the same meaning to "the doors." However, it is a good reminder for the faithful to close the doors of their mind and hearts in order that no impure thoughts can enter. By guarding the door of their hearts filled with love, the faithful are in a better position to sit and partake with, and of the Lord at the Last Supper. Guarding the doors, let us then listen to the wisdom of the Creed.

The Creed we recite every Sunday during the Divine Liturgy is popularly called the Nicene Creed. It contains the twelve articles of our Faith. The Creed is a summary of what the Orthodox Christian believes. In fact in Greek, the Creed is referred to as "To Pistevo", which roughly means "The Belief".

During the rescitation of the Creed the Priest picks up the "Aera", the veil covering the gifts, and waves it over the Chalice and the Diskarion. This practice is a relic of the first Liturgies, some held outdoors and some in chapels with no windows. For fear that any insect might fall into the unvelied Chalice, two deacons or acolytes held large fans on either side of the Holy Altar. In place of this fanning the Priest waves the "Aera" (the veil).

However, the Church has also given symbolism to the waving of the Aera. Just as in all contests or wars, ultimately the victor raises his flag, also in this case, the Faith has triumphed over all heresies, over all wordly bodies and now waves victoriously over all. The Aera is lowered during the 6th article of the Creed which states that Christ ascended into Heaven.

We have now finished the Confession of the Faith and are presently embarking on the Great Moment, which we shall know as the Holy Euharist.

THE HOLY EUCHARIST is preceded by the Priest reminding us how we should prepare ourselves before approaching the Holy Sacraments. he says: "Let us stand aright. Let us stand with awe. Let us attend, that we may be present the Holy offering in peace."

St. Paul at the close of his second Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapt. 13, vers 14, gives his apostolic greetings to the Christians of Corinth. This greeting or blessing is one the most beautiful and most re-assuring verses in the Bible. The Holy Orthodox Church using the Bible as its guide in her every step uses this Apostolic greeting word for word exactly at this point of the Divine Liturgy. the Priest exits from the Royal Gate and facing the congregation blesses the faithful and says: "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." In other words, may the apostolic greeting be in your heart also. The Priest then raising his hands upwards and looking up implores the faithful, saying: "Let us lift up our hearts", to which all respond: "We have unto the Lord".

According to the Scriptures, our Lord at the Last Supper before breaking and offering the Bread and Wine, offered His thanks to God the Father. That is why the Great Sacrament or Mystery is called the Holy Eucharist. (Eucharist is the Greek Word, Efharistia", meaning "thanks".

The Choir completes the priest's prayer in the form of the "triumphal hymn". The first part of this hymn is the hymn of the Seraphim, which is sung around the Throne of God. The second part of the Hymn is the praises which the Israelites received our Lord Jesus upon His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. They did this thinking Jesus had come to free them from the Romans and re-establish the Kingdom of David. We the faithful, now sing God's praises and are prepared to receive Him in our hearts during the Divine Liturgy when He will once again through the Priest offer Himself as a Sacrifice for the human race.

The Priest then continues by repeating the Lord's exact words reminding us that on the night our Lord was betrayed, or rather He surrendered Himself to be crucified for our sins, He took and blessed and broke the bread before His Apostles during the Last Supper and said: "Take ye, eat: This is My Body which for you is broken unto the remission of sins." The institution of this Mystery we see in the Scriptures. (Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:17-20, John 6:51, 53, 56 and 1 Cor. 11:23-25).

With these words we see our Lord Jesus performing an act which was to perpetuate to all ages His presence with us. By receiving Holy Communion we take within us the very Body and Blood of our Lord. This transformation (Metousiosis) takes place a few seconds later when the Priest invokes the power of the Holy Spirit to make the transformation.

The Priest continues, saying: "Likewise (He took) also the Chalice after the Supper saying: Drink from it ye all: This is My Blood of the New testament, which for you and for many is shed unto remission of sins."

Just as the bread becomes His Body, in like manner His Blood, under the form of wine, is given also for the remission of sins.

THE ELEVATION ......At this point of the Service the Elevation takes place. The Holy Altar is no more the Upper room where the Last Supper was held. It is now the place of Crucifixion, Golgotha, where His Holy Blood was shed for us. This is the most crucial and the most sacred moment of the Divine Liturgy. What we offer as a sacrifice to our God, is the very Sacrifice our Lord made upon the Cross for us people. Is there any reason then why we all should not kneel during the Consecration?

THE INVOCATION or EPIKLESIS .. Up to now the bread and wine were only symbols of our Lord's Body and Blood. Now, through the invocation to God, the Holy Spirit will descend and transubstantiate the elements into the real Body and Blood of Jesus.

The celebrant Priest kneels before the Holy Altar as says: "Again we offer to The this rational and bloodless Worship, and we beseech Thee, and pray, and supplicate Thee, send down hy Holy Spirit upon us, and upon these Gifts here presented. May God have mercy on me a sinner. The priest rises and making the sign of the Cross over the bread says: "And make this bread the precious Body of Thy Christ" and making the sign of the Cross again over the Chalice the Priest says: "And that which is in this cup, the prcious Blood of the Christ." Then making the sign of the Cross over both gifts he says: "Changing them by Thy Holy Spirit, Amen, Amen, Amen." Kneeling once more the Priest continues praying: So that they may be to those who receive Them, for the purification of the soul, for the remission of sins, for the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, for the fullfillment of the Kingdom of heaven, and for the boldness to approach Thee, neither unto judgment nor unto condemnation."

The Sacrament is now complete.

Various prayers (and hymns) are now recited. During the singing of the Axion Esti, a hymn offering the most magnificent description of our Lady Theotokos, an altar boy hands the Priest the basket containing the pieces of Bread (antidoron) to be blessed and distributed to the faithful after the termination of the Divine Liturgy.

The "Antidoron", a composite Greek word meaning "instead of the Gift" is given to the faithful, even to those who may not recieve Holy Communion. There is added symbolism however. In early Christian times, all Christians, rich and poor would sit at common tables following the Divine Liturgy and partake of the same food. These "Agape" {or Love) tables may not always be practical today, hence the distribution of antidoron so that everyone may still partake of the same table of Agape or Love.

Following a blessing, all the prayers of the consecration are complete and the Divine Liturgy enters a different phase. Following the reciting of a few petitions, which act a a last minute preparation of the Priest and faithful for Holy Communion, the Lord's Prayer is recited.

Beseeching God to come amongst us and sanctify us through Holy Communion, the Priest blessing himself says: "O God, have mercy on me a sinner." He then takes the Bread, which is now the Body of the Lord, raises it after having first called the peoples attention by saying: "LET US ATTEND", and with the Bread elevated exclaims: "The Holy Gifts, unto the Holy".

The Holy of course are the Faithful who are to receive Holy Communion and are blessed and sanctified after receiving through preparation.

THE COMMUNION OF THE CLERGY and LAITY ....... The center part of the Prosforon, which is cut and placed on the Diskarion during the Prothesis has the following letters:

 IC  XC
NI  KA


Interpreted these letters mean:

IC=contraction for Jesus (in Greek).
XC=contraction for Christ (in Greek).
NIKA=Conquers (in Greek)

in other words: "Jesus Christ Conquers".

The Priest takes this cube of Holy Bread, which has been carved int he form of the Cross, but not broken, and breaks it into the four parts, saying inaudibly: "Broken and distributed is the Lamb of God, broken but not divided, always eaten, yet never consumed, but sanctifying those who partake."

The four pieces from the oblation are arranged on the Diskarion thus:

IC
NI       KA
XC

forming the shape of the cross.

Taking the piece marked IC, and making the sign of the Cross over the Chalice, he drops it in saying quitely: "The fulness of the Cup of the Faith, of the Holy Spirit, Amen."

How significant! The Lamb of God is divided and distributed, yet not disunited; it is forever consumed by the Faithful, but never used up and always sanctifies those who partake thereof. Now the piece which is placed into the Chalice containg the Blood of our Lord is the completion of the Mystery, the fulness of the Cup, which when received faithfully grants to the partakers the full power and Grace of the Holy Spirit.

The ZEON is then brought to the priest, the heated water is blessed and poured into the Holy Chalice to give the contents the temperature of the blood. The warm water signifies th warmth of our faith. The Priest blesses the water saying: "Blessed is the fervour of Thy Saints, always, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen." Puring the water into the Chalice he repeats: "The fervour of Faith, full of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

The Priest reverently recites the prayers before receiving Holy Communion, and then taking the piece marked XC and before consuming it says: "To me (name) the unworthy priest, is given the most Holy and Precious Body of our Lord, and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, unto the remission of my sins, and unto Eternal Life."

he then picks up the Chalice, and before drinking from it he repeats: "The most Holy and precious Blood of Our Lord, and God and Saviour Jesus Christ is given to me (name), the unworthy Priest, unto the remission of my sins, and unto Eternal Life."

Wiping his lips with the communion cloth, he kisses the Chalice and says: "This hath touched my lips and my iniquities shall be taken away, and my sins cleansed." (Isaiah 6:7).

Then taking the portions marked NI-KA, he places them into the Holy Chalice, from which the faithful will shortly recieve. The Chalice and the Diskarion are then covered with the veils as the Priest recites the Prayer of Thanksgiving while the reader leads the congregation in reciting the same prayer.

HOLY COMMUNION OF THE FAITHFUL ........ [Click here to learn more about how to receive and prepare for Holy Communion
] The Priest holding the Holy Chalice covered with the veil turns toward the congregation and elevating the Chalice invites the Faithful to come and recive saying: With fear of God, faith and love draw near."

Those who are prepared to receive approach reverently, making the sign of the Cross and repeating to themselves: "Lord, have mercy on me." or, "Lord, remember me in Thy Kingdom."

While administering Holy Communion to the faithful, the Priest rpeats: "The servant of God (name) partakes of the precious and All Holy Body and Blood of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins and unto life everlasting."

After all have received, the Priest covers the Chalice with the veil and raising it again says: "O God, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance."

While the Priest re-enters the Sanctuary the Choir sings: "We have seen the true Light; we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith by worshipping the undivided Trinity; because the Trinity hath saved us."

At this point the Priest takes the Holy Chalice and the Diskarion back to the "Prothesis" preparation table, where they are kept to be re-used during the next Divine Liturgy. All of the contents of the Chalice are consumed by the Priest as the last prayers of the Liturgy are recited taking care that not one particle may remain unconsumed because it is the very Body and Blood of our Lord.

The Priest returns to the Altar where he folds the "antiminsion" and with the Golden Gospel book makes the sign of the Cross over the Antiminsion and places it directly upon it chanting: "For thou art our sanctification, and to The we ascribe glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages."

The Priest now exits the Sanctuary and proceeds to face the Holy Icon of Christ praying the "Prayer behind the Amvon (pulpit), then re-enters the Sanctuary and proceeding to the "Prothesis", prayers inaudibly: "O Christ, Our God Who art Thyrself the fullfillment of the Law and the Prophets, and hast fullfilled all the dispensation of the Father fill our hearts with joy and gladness always, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen."

THE DISMISSAL .....Exiting the Royal Doors the Priest blesses and gives the benediction and closing prayer after which he descends to the lower step of the Sanctuary and distributes a piece of "antidoron" to the faithful, saying to each: "May the blessing of the Lord and His mercy be upon you."

After the congregation has left, the Priest goes to the Prothesis and consumes the contents of the Holy Chalice, and removes his vestments; for both these acts he recites appropriate prayers.

GLORY BE TO GOD!


This information on the Divine Liturgy has been copied from the book: The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, by the Rev. Fr. George Papadeas.