The Liturgy is the most important divine service, for in it
the most holy Mystery of Communion is celebrated, as established by our Lord
Jesus Christ on Holy Thursday evening, the eve of His Passion. After He had
washed the feet of His disciples, to give them an example of humility, the Lord
gave praise to God the Father, took bread, blessed it and broke it, giving it
to the Apostles, saying, Take, eat, this is My Body, which is broken for you.
Then He took a cup with grape wine and also blessed it and gave it to them with
the words, Drink of it all of you: for this is My Blood of the New Testament,
which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins. And when they
had communed of these, the Lord gave them the commandment to always perform
this Mystery, Do this in remembrance of Me (Matt. 26:26-28, Lk. ; I Cor. ).
The Apostles celebrated Holy Communion according
to the commandment and example of Jesus Christ and taught all Christians to
perform this great and saving Mystery. In the earliest times the order and form
of celebrating the Liturgy was transmitted orally, and all the prayers and
sacred hymns were memorized. Eventually, written explications of the apostolic
Liturgy began to appear. As time passed, new prayers, hymns and sacred actions
were added in various churches so that the uniformity of its performance was
lost. The need arose to unify all the existing orders of the Liturgy and to
reintroduce harmony in their celebration. In the fourth century, when the
persecutions of the Romans against Christians ended, it was possible to
re-establish good order in the Church’s inner life through Ecumenical Councils.
St. Basil the Great wrote down and offered for general use one form of the
Liturgy, while St. John Chrysostom composed a shorter version of St. Basil’s
Liturgy. These liturgies were based on the most ancient Liturgy, ascribed to
St. James the Apostle, the first bishop of Jerusalem.
St. Basil the Great, who reposed in 379 A.D, was
archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia in Asia Minor. He is called "the Great" because of his great
ascetic endeavors and his literary contribution to the Church of numerous
prayers and ecclesiastical writings and rules.
St. John Chrysostom was an archbishop of
Constantinople. He was called "Chrysostom" (in Greek, "the
golden tongued") for his unique rhetorical gifts with which he proclaimed
the Word of God. Though he reposed in 402 A.D. in exile, many volumes of his
sermons and letters remain to edify us spiritually.
The liturgy is described by various terms.
"Liturgy" itself is a Greek word meaning "common action or
service" and signifies that the Mystery of Holy Communion is the
reconciling sacrifice of God for the sins of the entire community of faithful,
the living and the dead. Since the Mystery of Holy Communion is called
"Evharistia" in Greek or "the Thanksgiving Sacrifice," the
Liturgy is also called the "Eucharist." It is also termed the
"Mystical Supper" or the "Lord’s Supper" since it is customarily
celebrated around noon, and the Body and Blood of Christ offered in the Mystery
of Holy Communion are called such in the Word of God (cf. I Cor. 10:21; 11:20).
In apostolic times the Liturgy was referred to as the breaking of bread (Acts
2:46). In the Liturgy the earthly life and teachings of Jesus Christ, from His
Nativity to His Ascension into Heaven, are recalled, as well as the benefits
which He bestowed upon the earth for our salvation.
The order of the Liturgy is as follows. First, the
elements for the Mystery are prepared, then the faithful are prepared for the
Mystery, and finally the very Mystery itself is celebrated and the faithful
receive Communion. The Liturgy is divided into three parts: I) the Proskomedia,
II) the Liturgy of the Catechumens and III) the Liturgy of the Faithful.
"Proskomedia" is a Greek word meaning
"offering." The first part of the Liturgy derives its name from the
early Christian custom of the people offering the bread and wine, and all else
that was needed for the Liturgy. Therefore the very bread which is used in it
is termed "prosphora," another word meaning "offering."
This bread or prosphora must be leavened, pure and made of wheat flour. The
Lord Jesus Christ Himself, for the celebration of the Mystery of Holy
Communion, used leavened, not unleavened bread, as is clear from the Greek word
used in the New Testament. The prosphora must be round and is formed into two
parts, one above the other, as an image of the two natures of Jesus Christ,
divine and human. On the flat surface of the upper part a seal of the Cross is
impressed, and in the four sections are thus formed the initial Greek letters
of the name of "Jesus Christ," IC XC, and the Greek word NIKA, which
mean "Jesus Christ conquers."
The wine used in the Mystery must be red grape
wine, as this color reminds one of the color of blood. The wine is mixed with
water to remind us of the pierced side of the Saviour from which flowed blood
and water on the Cross. Five prosphoras are used in the Proskomedia to recall
the five loaves with which Christ miraculously fed the five thousand, an event
which gave Jesus Christ the means to teach the people about spiritual
nourishment, about the incorrupt, spiritual food which is bestowed in the
Mystery of Holy Communion (John 6:22-58). For Communion only one prosphora is
used (the Lamb), in accordance with the words of the Apostle: one loaf, and we
many are one body; for all have partaken of only one loaf (I Cor. 10:17).
Therefore this one prosphora must correspond in size to the number of
The Celebration of
In order to prepare, according to the
ecclesiastical Typikon, for the celebration of the Liturgy, the priest and
deacon read the "entrance prayers" before the closed doors of the
Royal Doors and then enter the Sanctuary and vest. Then going to the Altar of
Oblation the priest blesses the beginning of Proskomedia, takes the first
prosphora, the Lamb, and with the spear makes the sign of the Cross over it
three times, saying the words, "In remembrance of our Lord and God and Saviour,
Jesus Christ." These words mean that the Proskomedia is celebrated
according to the commandments of Jesus Christ. The priest then cuts a cube out
of the center of this prosphora with the spear and pronounces the words of the
Prophet Isaiah, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a blameless lamb
before his shearer is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth; in His lowliness His
Judgement was taken away (Is. 53:7-8).
This cubical portion of the prosphora is called
the Lamb (John ) and is placed on the diskos. Then the priest cuts
cruciformly the lower side of the Lamb while saying the words, "Sacrificed
is the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world, for the life and
salvation of the world." He then pierces the right side of the Lamb with
the spear, saying the words of the Evangelist, One of the soldiers with a spear
pierced His side, and forthwith there came out blood and water. And he that saw
it bare witness, and his witness is true (John ). In accordance with these words wine is poured into the
chalice mixed with water. From the second prosphora the priest cuts out one
portion in honor of the Mother of God and places it on the right side of the
Lamb on the diskos. From the third prosphora, which is called "that of the
nine ranks," are taken nine portions in honor of the saints, John the
Baptist, the prophets, the apostles, the hierarchs, the martyrs, the monastic
saints, the unmercenaries, the parents of God, Joachim and Anna, the saint who
is celebrated that day, and finally the saint whose liturgy is being
celebrated. These portions are placed on the left side the Lamb on the diskos
in three rows of three. From the fourth prosphora portions are removed for the
hierarchs, the priesthood and all the living, and are placed below the Lamb.
From the fifth prosphora, portions are taken for those Orthodox Christians who
have reposed, and these are placed just below those which were removed for the
living. Finally, portions are removed from those prosphoras donated by the
faithful as the names of the living and the dead are read simultaneously for
the health and salvation and the repose of the servants of God. These are
placed together with those portions taken from the fourth and fifth prosphoras.
The Russian tradition is to use five separate prosphoras at the Proskomedia.
Other traditions such as the Greek use one or two large ones from which the
portions are taken.
At the end of the Proskomedia the priest blesses
the censer and incense, and after censing the Star he places it on the diskos
over the Lamb and the portions in order to preserve their arrangement. He
covers the diskos and chalice with two small cruciform cloth covers, and over
the two of them another larger veil called the "aer" is placed. Then
he censes the Holy Gifts and prays that the Lord bless the offered gifts,
remember those who have offered them and those for whom they are offered, and
make the priest himself worthy for the solemn performance the Divine Mystery.
The sacred instruments used and actions performed
in the Proskomedia have a symbolic meaning. The Diskos signifies the cave in
Bethlehem and Golgotha; the Star, the star of Bethlehem and the Cross; the
Covers and Veils, the swaddling clothes and the winding sheet at the tomb of
the Saviour; the Chalice, that cup in which Jesus Christ sanctified the wine;
the prepared Lamb, the judgment, passion and death of Jesus Christ; its
piercing by the spear, the piercing of Christ’s body by one of the soldiers.
The arrangement of all the portions in a certain order on the diskos signifies
the entire Kingdom of God whose members consist of the Mother of God, the
angels, all the holy men who have been pleasing to God, all the faithful
Orthodox Christians, living and dead, and in the center its head, the Lord
Himself, our Saviour. The censing signifies the overshadowing by the Holy
Spirit, whose Grace is shared in the Mystery of Holy Communion.
The Proskomedia is performed by the priest in a
quiet voice at the Table of Oblation when the sanctuary is closed. During its
celebration, the Third and Sixth (and sometimes the Ninth) Hours are read
according to the Horologion.
The Liturgy of the
The second part of the Liturgy is called the
Liturgy of the Catechumens because the catechumens, those preparing to receive
Holy Baptism and likewise the penitents who are temporarily excommunicated for
serious sins, are allowed to participate in its celebration.
The deacon, upon receiving a blessing from the
priest, goes out from the Altar to the Ambo, and loudly pronounces the words,
"Bless, Master," that is, bless that the service begin and for the
gathered faithful to partake in prayerful glorification of God. The priest in
his first exclamation glorifies the Holy Trinity, "Blessed is the Kingdom
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto
the ages of ages." The choir responds with "Amen" ("so be
it"). The deacon intones the Great Litany in which are enumerated the
various needs of Christians and our requests to the Lord, at which time the
priest in the Altar privately prays that the Lord look down upon the church and
those at prayer in it and fulfill their needs. The Great Litany begins by
reminding us that in order to pray to the Lord one needs to be "at
peace," that is, reconciled with all, having no resentment, anger, or
hostility towards anyone. According to the teaching of the Saviour we may not
offer God any gifts, if we have anything against our neighbor (Matt. 5:23-24).
The loftiest good for which one should pray is this peace of soul and the salvation
of the soul: "for the peace from above (Heaven) and the salvation of our
souls." This peace is that serenity of conscience and sense of joy which
we experience when we have conscientiously been to Confession and worthily
partaken of Holy Communion, or that sympathetic concern for the welfare of our
fellow men when we have done a good deed. The Saviour bestowed this peace on
the Apostles during His farewell conversation at the Mystical Supper (John
14:27). "For the peace of the whole world," asks that there be no
disputes and hostility among nations or races throughout the entire world.
"For the good estate of the holy churches of
God," is a prayer that the Orthodox Churches in every country might firmly
and unwaveringly, on the basis of the Word of God and the canons of the
Universal Church, confess the Holy Orthodox Faith, and "for the union of
all," asks that all may be drawn into one flock of Christ (cf. John
We pray "for this holy temple," which is
the principle sacred object of the parish and should be the object of special
care on the part of each parishioner, so that the Lord preserve it from fire,
thieves and other misfortunes; and that those who enter it ("for them that
enter herein") do so with sincere faith, reverence, and the fear of God.
We pray for the patriarchs, metropolitans,
archbishops and bishops because they are entrusted with the overall supervision
of the purity of the Christian faith and morals; "for pious rulers,"
who preserve the freedom of the Orthodox Faith and the general lawful order for
the peaceful life of all citizens; "For this city (or monastery)" in
which we live and work, and "for every city, country and the faithful that
dwell therein" we also pray in a spirit of Christian love, and for all the
other cities and their environs and all the faithful who live in them.
"For seasonable weather, abundance of the
fruits of the earth, and peaceful times": we pray for good weather so that
the earth might yield in abundance her fruits that are necessary for the
nourishment of all the inhabitants of these countries, and for peaceful times,
so that there be no enmity or conflicts among these citizens that will distract
them from peaceful and honorable labors; "for travelers by sea, land and
air, for the sick, the suffering, the imprisoned and for their salvation"
— all those persons who more than others need divine aid and our prayers.
We pray "that we be delivered from every
tribulation, wrath, and necessity." Then we beseech the Lord that He
defend and preserve us not according to our deeds nor our merits, which we
lack, but solely according to His mercy: "Help us, save us, have mercy on
us, and keep us, O God, by The grace."
In the final words of the Litany, "calling to
remembrance" the Mother of God and all the saints, we entrust and
surrender ourselves and each other to Christ God so that He might guide us
according to His wise will. The priest concludes the Great Litany with the
exclamation, "For unto Thee is due all glory, honor, and worship, to the
Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages
of ages," which contains, according to the example of the Lord’s Prayer,
the doxology or glorification of the Lord God.
After the Great Litany, Psalms 102 ("Bless
the Lord, O my soul...") and 145 ("Praise the Lord, O my
soul...") are chanted, separated by the Small Litany, "Again and
again in peace let us pray to the Lord." These psalms describe the
blessings for the human race bestowed by God. The heart and soul of the
Christian must bless the Lord, Who purifies and heals our mental and physical
weaknesses and fills our desires with good things and delivers our life from
corruption, and thus one must not forget all His benefits. The Lord is
merciful, compassionate and longsuffering. He keeps truth unto the ages, gives
Judgement to the wronged and food to the hungry, frees the imprisoned, loves
the righteous, receives the orphan and widow and punishes the sinner.
These psalms are called the "Typical
Psalms" and are chanted "antiphonally," with the verses
alternating between two choirs. These psalms are not sung on the feasts of the
Lord but are replaced by special verses from other psalms which relate to the
events being celebrated. After each of these verses the refrain is chanted,
"Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Saviour, save us." The
verses of the second festal antiphon are dependent on the feast being
celebrated. For the Nativity of Christ we chant "Save us, O Son of God,
Who art born of the Virgin," "Who wast baptized in the Jordan"
for the Theophany of the Lord, and "Who art risen from the dead" for
Pascha. All are concluded with "save us who sing unto Thee.
The second antiphon is always followed by the
hymn, "O Only-begotten Son and Word of God, Who art immortal, yet didst
deign for our salvation to be incarnate of the Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin
Mary, and without change didst become man, Thou Who art one of the Holy
Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us." This
hymn sets forth the Orthodox teaching on the Second Person of the Trinity, the
Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is the Only-begotten (one in essence) Son and Word
of God, Christ God, Who being immortal, became human without ceasing to be God
("without change" — became incarnate) and accepted a human body from
the Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. By His crucifixion, He with His death
conquered our death, "trampling down death by death," as one of the
three Persons of the Holy Trinity, and is glorified equally with the Father and
The Small Litany and the chanting of the Gospel
Beatitudes follow (Matt. 5:3-12). The Beatitudes indicate the spiritual
qualities necessary for a Christian seeking the mercy of God: humility of
spirit (spiritual poverty) and contrition concerning one’s sins, meekness when
drawing near the righteousness of God, purity of heart, compassion for one’s
neighbor, seeking peace in all situations, patience amid every temptation, and
a readiness to endure dishonor, persecution, and death for Christ, trusting
that as a confessor for Him, and for such ascetic struggles, one can expect a
great reward in Heaven. Instead of the Gospel Beatitudes, on the great feasts
of the Lord the festal troparion is sung several times with various verses.
During the chanting of the Gospel Beatitudes the
Royal Gates are opened for the Small Entry. As the Beatitudes are ending the
priest takes the Holy Gospel from the Altar, gives it to the deacon and comes
out with the deacon, who carries the sacred Gospel through the north door onto
the ambo. This entrance with the Holy Gospel by the clergy is termed the Small
Entry to distinguish it from the Great Entrance which follows, and it reminds
the faithful of the first appearance of Jesus Christ to the world, when He came
to begin His universal preaching. After receiving a blessing from the priest,
the deacon remains standing in the Royal Gates and raising the sacred Gospel
aloft, he loudly proclaims, "Wisdom! Aright!" He then enters the
Sanctuary and places the Gospel on the Holy Table. The exclamation,
"Wisdom! Aright!" reminds the faithful that they must stand upright
(in the literal meaning of the Greek word Orthi which is correctly, or
straight) and be attentive, keeping their thoughts concentrated. They should
look upon the Holy Gospel as upon Jesus Christ Himself Who has come to preach,
and faithfully sing, "O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ;
save us, O Son of God, Who didst rise from the dead (or, through the
intercessions of the Theotokos, or Who art wondrous in Thy saints), who chant
unto Thee: Alleluia!" The troparia and kon-takia for Sunday, or the feast,
or the saint of the day are then chanted, while the priest privately prays that
the Heavenly Father Who is hymned by the Cherubim, and glorified by the
Seraphim, receive from us the angelic (trisagion) hymn, forgive us our sins,
and sanctify and grant us the power to rightly serve Him. The conclusion of
this prayer, "For Holy art Thou, our God...," is uttered aloud.
The Trisagion Hymn, "Holy God...," is
then chanted, though for the Nativity of Christ, the Baptism of the Lord,
Pascha and Bright Week, and the Day of the Holy Trinity, as well as on Holy
Saturday and Lazarus Saturday, we chant, "As many as have been baptized
into Christ, have put on Christ: Alleluia." This hymn is chanted because
in the early days of the Church, the catechumens received Holy Baptism on these
days. On the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross of the Lord (September 14)
and on the third Sunday of Great Lent (when the veneration of the Cross is
celebrated) instead of the Trisagion we chant, "before Thy Cross we bow
down, O Master, and Thy Holy Resurrection we glorify."
The Appearance of Jesus The Little Entry With the
Gospel Christ in the World.
Following the Trisagion the Epistle for the day is
read from either the Book of Acts or the seven catholic epistles of the
Apostles or the fourteen epistles of the Apostle Paul, according to a special
order. The faithful are prepared for the attentive hearing of the Epistle by
the exclamations, "Let us attend," "Peace to all,"
"Wisdom" and the chanting of the prokeimenon, which is a special
short verse which changes with the day. During the reading of the Epistle a
censing is performed as a symbol of the Grace of the Holy Spirit by which the
Apostles proclaimed to the entire world the teachings of Jesus Christ. One
should respond both to the censing and to the exclamation of the priest,
"peace to all," with a simple bow, without making any sign of the
Cross. "Alleluia" is sung three times with the intoning of special
verses, and the Gospel of the day is read, also according to a special set of
indications. This is preceded and accompanied by the chanting of a joyous hymn,
"Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee," since for the believing
Christian there can be no more joyful words than those of the Gospel concerning
the life, teachings, and miracles of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Epistle and
Gospel must be listened to with particular attention, with a bowed head. It is
good for people to familiarize themselves with the readings beforehand. Before
the readings begin one ought to cross oneself and at their conclusion make the
sign of the Cross and bow.
The Gospel is followed by the Augmented Litany,
when the faithful are invited to pray to the Lord God with a pure heart and all
the powers of their soul. "Let us say with our whole soul and with our
mind..." In two of the petitions we fervently request the Lord to hear our
prayer and to have mercy on us. "O Lord, Almighty, the God of our Fathers,
we pray Thee, hearken and have mercy — Have mercy on us, O God..." Then
follow the fervent petitions for the patriarchs, the metropolitans, the
archbishops, the bishops, the ruling hierarch and "all our brethren in
Christ" (all the faithful Christians), for pious rulers, for priests, priest
monks and all the serving clergy of the Church of Christ, for the blessed and
ever-memorable (always worthy of memory) holy Orthodox patriarchs, and pious
kings, and rightbelieving queens, and for the founders of the holy church
parish, and all the Orthodox fathers and brethren who have reposed, and are
buried in the vicinity and everywhere. It is necessary to pray for the dead in
the spirit of Christian love which never fails, all the more since for the
reposed there is no more repentance after the grave, but only requital: blessed
life or eternal torment. Christian prayer for them, good deeds accomplished in
their memory, and especially the offering of the bloodless Sacrifice can evoke
the mercy of God, lighten the torment of sinners, and according to Tradition
even free them entirely.
We pray too for mercy, that the Lord will be
compassionate towards us, for life, peace, health, salvation and the
forgiveness of the sins of the brethren of this holy temple (the parishioners).
The last petition of the Augmented Litany refers to those who are active and do
good deeds in the holy, local church (parish), those who labor for it, those
who chant and the people present who await of God great and abundant mercy.
Those who are active and do good deeds for the church are those faithful who
provide the church with all that is necessary for the divine service (oil,
incense, prosphoras, etc). and who contribute to the needs of the church and
parish with their monetary and material goods for the beauty and decoration of
the church, for the support of those who work for it, the readers, chanters,
serving clergy, and those who help poor parishioners and provide help when
other common religious and moral needs may arise.
The Augmented Litany is followed by the special
Litany for the Departed, in which we pray for all the fathers and brethren who
have reposed. We beseech Christ the immortal King and our God to forgive them
all their sins, voluntary and involuntary, and to grant them a place of repose
and serenity in the dwellings of the righteous, and, admitting that there is no
man who has not sinned in his life, we ask the Righteous Judge to grant them
the Heavenly Kingdom wherein all the righteous find peace.
The Litany for the Catechumens is then recited, in
which we ask the Lord to have mercy on them and establish them in the truths of
the Holy Faith ("reveal unto them the Gospel of righteousness") and
make them worthy of Holy Baptism ("unite them to His Holy, Catholic and
Apostolic Church"). During this litany the priest opens the Antimins on
the Altar, and the litany ends with the exclamation, "that with us they
also may glorify...;" in other words, that they (the catechumens) might
together with us (the faithful) glorify the all-honorable and great name of the
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then the catechumens are requested to depart from
the church building: "As many as are catechumens, depart..."
Catechumens exist even today as people prepare to become Orthodox all over the
world, pagans (in China, Japan, Siberia, Africa), Muslims, and Jews — as well
as those coming into the Orthodox Church from the schismatic and heretical
traditions of the Western denominations. They are all in need of the mercy of
God, and therefore we are obliged to pray for them. These words for the
catechumens to depart from the church building should also be a warning to us,
even if there are no actual catechumens among us. We, the baptized, sin
frequently and often without repentance are present in the church, lacking the
requisite preparation and having in our hearts hostility and envy against our
fellow men. Therefore, with the solemn and threatening words, "catechumens
depart," we as unworthy ones should examine ourselves closely and ponder
our unworthi-ness, asking forgiveness from our personal enemies, often
imagined, and ask the Lord God for the forgiveness of our sins with the firm
resolve to do better.
With the words, "As many as are of the
faithful, again and again, in peace let us pray to the Lord," the Liturgy
of the Faithful begins.
The Liturgy of the Faithful.
This third part of the Liturgy is so called
because only the faithful are 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 to the Holy Table,
2) the preparation of the faithful for the consecration of the Gifts, 3) the
consecration (transformation) of the Gifts, 4) the preparation of the faithful
for Communion, 5) Communion, and 6) the thanksgiving for Communion and the
The Transferal of the Honored
Following the request for the catechumens 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 of 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 proceed 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 on his
left shoulder, carries the Diskos on his head, while the priest carries the
Chalice in his hands.
Leaving the altar by the north door, while the
choir chants "Let us lay aside all earthly care...," they come to a
stop on the ambo, facing the people. They commemorate the patriarchs,
metropolitians, archbishops, the local ruling bishop, 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, and cover them with
the Aer. As the choir 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 the ages of ages."
The Preparation of the
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 every 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 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 Judgement.
In order to be present worthily at the celebration
of the Holy Mysteries, 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 choir chants, "The Father, the Son, and the Holy
Spirit, the Trinity, One in essence and indivisible." This response indicates
for us Who should be confessed in unanimity in order to recite the Creed 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 sung or
read, in which briefly, but exactly, our faith in the Holy Trinity and the
other main truths of the Orthodox Church are set forth. At this time the
curtain behind the Royal Doors is opened and the celebrant lifts the Aer from
the precious Gifts, and gently waves it over them in expectation of the descent
of the 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 of the Orthodox faith as set forth in the Creed.
From this point on, the faithful should not leave
the church until the end of the Liturgy. The Fathers condemned the
transgression of this requirement, writing in the ninth 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 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
Eucharist, and from this moment one ought to stand with special reverence and
atten-tiveness. The choir then responds, "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 to
a reverent presenting of ourselves before God. The choir 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
The Consecration of the
The act of the Holy Mystery of Communion comprises
the main portion of the Liturgy. It begins with the words of the priest,
"Let us give thanks unto the Lord." The faithful express their
gratitude to the Lord for His mercy by bowing to Him, while the choir chants,
"It is meet and right to worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
the Trinity, one in essence and indivisible." Praying silently, the priest
offers a eu-charistic prayer (one of thanksgiving), glorifying the infinite
perfection of God, giving thanks to the Lord for the creation and redemption of
mankind and for His mercy, in forms both known and unknown, and for the fact
that He deems us worthy to offer Him this bloodless sacrifice, although the
higher beings, the archangels, angels, Cherubim and Seraphim stand before Him
"singing the triumphal hymn, shouting, crying aloud, and saying:."
These last words of the priest are said aloud as the choir proceeds with the
described hymn by singing the angelic hymn, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord of
Sabaoth, Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory." Then the choir adds to
this hymn, which is called the "Seraphic Hymn," the exclamation with
which the people greeted the entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, "Hosanna (a
Hebrew expression of good will: save, or help, O God!) in the highest, blessed
is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, hosanna in the highest!" The
words, "singing the triumphal hymn," are taken from the visions of
the Prophet Ezekiel (1:4-24) and the Apostle John the Theologian (Rev. 4:6-8).
In both their visions they beheld the throne of God surrounded by angels in the
form of an eagle (singing), a bull (shouting), a lion (crying out) and a man (saying)
who continually were exclaiming, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of
The priest privately continues the eucharistic
prayer which glorifies the benevolence and the infinite love of God, which was
manifest in the coming upon the earth of the Son of God. In remembrance of the
Mystical Supper, when the Lord established the holy Mystery of Communion, he
pronounces aloud the words of the Saviour which He spoke upon instituting the
Holy Mystery, "Take, eat; this is My Body, which is broken for you, for
the remission of sins" and "Drink of it, all of you: this is My Blood
of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of
sins." The priest then inaudibly recalls the commandment of the Saviour to
perform this Mystery, glorifies His passion, death, and resurrection,
ascension, and His second coming, and then aloud says, "Thine own of Thine
own, we offer unto Thee, in behalf of all and for all," for all the
members of the Orthodox Church and for the mercy of God.
The choir then chants slowly, "We praise
Thee, we bless Thee, we give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, and we pray unto Thee, O
our God," while the priest in private prayer asks the Lord to send down
the Holy Spirit upon the people present and the Gifts being offered and that He
might sanctify them. In a subdued voice he reads the troparion from the Third
Hour, "O Lord, Who didst send down Thy Most Holy Spirit upon Thine
apostles at the third hour, take Him not from us, O Good One, but renew Him in
us who pray unto Thee." The deacon pronounces the twelfth verse from the
Fiftieth Psalm, "Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a right
spirit within me." Then the priest again reads the troparion from the
Third Hour, and the deacon pronounces the next verse from the same psalm,
"Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy holy spirit from
me." The priest reads the troparion for the third time. Blessing the Lamb
on the Diskos, he says, "And make this bread the precious Body of Thy
Christ." Blessing the wine in the Chalice, he says, "And that which
is in this cup, the precious Blood of Thy Christ." After each blessing the
deacon says, "Amen." Finally, blessing the bread and wine together
the priest says, "Changing them by Thy Holy Spirit." Again the deacon
says, "Amen, amen, amen." At this great and sacred moment the bread
and wine are changed into the true Body and true Blood of Christ. The priest
then makes a full prostration to the ground before the Holy Gifts as to the
Very King and God Himself. This is the most important and solemn moment of the
After the sanctification of the Holy Gifts the
priest in private prayer asks the Lord that, for those who partake the Holy
Gifts, it might serve "unto sobriety of soul (that is, that they may be
strengthened in every good deed), unto the remission of sins, unto the
communion of the Holy Spirit, unto the fulfillment of the Kingdom of Heaven,
unto boldness toward Thee; not unto Judgement or condemnation." He then
remembers those for whom the Sacrifice is offered, for the Holy Gifts are
offered to the Lord God as a Sacrifice of Thanksgiving for all the saints. Then
the priest gives special remembrance of the Most-holy Virgin Mary and says
aloud, "Especially for our most holy, most pure, most blessed, glorious
Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary," to which the faithful respond with
the laudatory hymn in honor of the Mother of God, "It is truly meet"
(During Holy Pascha and all the twelve great feasts, until their giving up,
instead of "It is truly meet..." a special hymn is chanted, which is
the ninth irmos of the festal canon from Matins with its appropriate refrains).
The priest at this time privately prays for the reposed, and in beginning the
prayer for the living says aloud, "Among the first, remember, O Lord, the
Orthodox episcopate...," that is, the most holy Eastern Orthodox
patriarchs and the ruling hierarchy. The faithful respond, "And each and
every one." The prayer for the living ends with the exclamation of the
priest, "And grant unto us that with one mouth and one heart we may
glorify and hymn Thy most honorable and majestic name, of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages."
After this he gives his blessing to all those present, "And may the mercy
of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, be with you all."
The Blessing of the Bread and The Consecration of
the Gifts Wine by the Lord at the Mystical Supper
The Preparation of the Faithful for Communion.
This section begins with the Supplicatory Litany,
"Having called to remembrance all the saints, again and again, in peace
let us pray to the Lord....For the precious Gifts now offered and
sanctified—That our God, the Lover of mankind, Who hath received them upon His
holy and most heavenly and noetic altar as an odor of spiritual fragrance, will
send down upon us Divine Grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit..." Then
come the usual requests of the Supplicatory Litany, which ends with the
exclamation of the priest, "And vouchsafe us, O Master, with boldness and
without condemnation to dare to call upon Thee, the Heavenly God, as Father,
and to say." The choir chants the "Our Father...," and in some
churches all those present sing this prayer together. Then follows the bestowal
of peace and the bowing of one’s head during which the priest prays to the Lord
that He sanctify the faithful and enable them to partake without condemnation
of the Holy Mysteries. At this time the deacon, while standing on the ambo,
takes the orarion from his shoulder and girds himself with it in a cruciform
pattern, in order to 1) serve the priest unencumbered during Communion and 2)
to express his reverence for the Holy Gifts by representing the Seraphim who,
as they surround the Throne of God, cover their faces with their wings (Is.
6:2-3). During the exclamation of the deacon, "Let us attend," the
curtain is closed and the priest lifts the Holy Lamb above the Diskos and
loudly proclaims, "Holy things are for the holy." This means that the
Holy Gifts may be given only to the "holy," that is, the faithful who
have sanctified themselves with prayer, fasting and the Mystery of Repentance.
In recognition of their unworthiness, the
chanters, in the name of the faithful, exclaim, "One is Holy, One is Lord,
Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen."
The faithful who intend to come to Holy Communion
must in advance attend the Vigil service in the church and read at home
"The Order of Preparation for Holy Communion."
Then follows the communion of the serving clergy
in the Sanctuary. The priest divides the Holy Lamb into four parts, and
communes himself and then gives the Holy Mysteries to the deacon. After the
communion of the clergy, the portions intended for the communion of the laity
are put into the Chalice. During the communion of the clergy various verses of
the psalms termed "Communion verses" are chanted, followed by various
hymns relating to the feast, or the Prayers before Communion are read. The
Royal Gates are opened then in preparation of the communion of the faithful
laity, and the deacon with the sacred Chalice in his hands calls out,
"With the fear of God and faith draw near." The opened Royal Doors
are symbolic of the open tomb of the Saviour, and the bringing forth of the
Holy Gifts of the appearance of Jesus Christ after His resurrection. After
bowing to the Holy Chalice as before the very risen Saviour Himself, the choir,
as representatives of the faithful, chant, "Blessed is He that cometh in
the name of the Lord. God is the Lord and hath appeared unto us." Those of
the faithful who are to commune, "with the fear of God and faith,"
make a preliminary bow to the Holy Chalice and then listen quietly to the
prayer before Communion, "I believe, O Lord and I confess..." in
which they confess their faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Saviour
of sinners, their faith in the Mystery of Communion by which, in the visible
form of bread and wine, they receive the true Body and Blood of Christ as a
pledge of eternal life and the Mystery of Communion with Him. They beseech Him
to deem them worthy of partaking without condemnation of the Sacred Mysteries
for the forgiveness of sins, promising not only not to betray Christ, as did
Judas, but even amid the sufferings of life to be like the wise thief, and to
firmly and boldly confess their faith. After making a full prostration — if it
is not a Sunday — the faithful step forward and go up to the ambo. To keep good
order and out of reverence one should not leave one’s place, nor is it proper
to impede or embarrass others with a desire to be first. Likewise, one should
not be overly cautious and fearful, but should step forward with gratitude and
serenity of faith. Each should remember that he is the first among sinners, but
that the mercy of the Lord is infinite. With one’s hands crossed over one’s
chest one should step forward to the Royal Gates for Communion and, without
making a sign of the Cross near the Chalice, receive Communion from the spoon
in the priest’s hands. After receiving, one kisses the side of the Chalice,
again without making any sign of the Cross, so that the Chalice will not be
Children are encouraged to take Communion often
from their earliest infancy, in the name of the faith of their parents and
educators in accordance with the words of the Saviour, Suffer the little
children to come unto Me and Drink of it, all of you. Children under seven or
so are allowed to take Communion without confession, as they have not reached
the age of responsibility or discernment.
Following Communion, the communicants step away
from the Royal Gates to the small table set out specially in the center of the
church, upon which are a mixture of water and wine together with some small
portions of prosphora, which they drink and eat so that none of the Holy Gifts
remain in the mouth but are washed down. After the communion of the laity, the
priest puts all the particles taken from the offered prosphora into the Holy
Chalice with a prayer that the Lord purify with His Blood the sins of all those
commemorated through the prayers of the saints. He blesses the congregation
with the words, "Save, O God, Thy people (those who believe in Thee) and
bless Thine inheritance," (those who are Thine own, the Church of Christ).
In response the choir chants, "We have seen the true Light, we have received
the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith, we worship the indivisible
Trinity: for The First Appearance of the Lord The First Appearance of the Holy
Gifts after the Resurrection
He hath saved us." This means that we have
seen the true light since, having washed our sins in the Mystery of Baptism, we
are called the sons of God by Grace, sons of the Light. We have received the
Holy Spirit by means of sacred Chrismation, we confess the true Orthodox Faith
and worship the indivisible Trinity, because He has saved us. The deacon takes
the Diskos from the priest, who hands it to him from the Holy Table, and
raising it before him bears it to the Table of Oblation, while the priest takes
the Holy Chalice and blesses the faithful with the exclamation, "Always,
now and ever, and unto the ages of ages" and then likewise carries it to
the Table of Oblation. This last elevating and presentation of the Holy Gifts
to the congregation, their removal to the Table of Oblation, and the
exclamation, are to remind us of the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ into
heaven and His promise to remain in the Church for all time unto the end of the
ages (Matt. 28:20).
Thanksgiving for Communion
and the Dismissal.
Bowing to the Holy Gifts for the last time, as to
the very Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the faithful express their thanks to the
Lord for Communion of the Holy Mysteries. The choir chants the hymn of
gratitude, "Let our mouth be filled with Thy praise, O Lord, that we may
hymn Thy glory, for Thou hast vouchsafed us to partake of Thy holy, divine,
immortal and life-creating Mysteries. Keep us in Thy holiness, that we may
meditate on Thy righteousness all the day long. Alleluia."
Having exalted the Lord because He has deemed us
worthy of partaking of the Divine and immortal and life-creating Mysteries, we
ask Him to preserve us in the holiness which we have received through the Holy
Mystery of Communion, that we may contemplate on the righteousness of God
throughout the entire day. Following this, the deacon intones the Small Litany,
"Aright! Having partaken of the divine, holy, most pure, immortal,
heavenly, and life-creating, fearful Mysteries of Christ," and thus
summons us to "worthily give thanks unto the Lord."
Having asked His help in living the whole day in
holiness, peace, and sinlessness, he invites us to devote ourselves and our
lives to Christ God. The priest, folding up the Antimins and placing it on the
Gospel, exclaims, "For Thou art our sanctification, and unto Thee do we
send up glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and
ever, and unto the ages of ages." And then he adds, "Let us depart in
This indicates that the Liturgy has concluded and
that one should leave the Church at peace with all. The choir in the name of
all chants, "In the name of the Lord," that is, we go forth with the
blessing of the Lord. The priest then comes out through the Royal Gates and
stands facing the Altar in front of the Ambo and reads the "Prayer before
the Ambo," in which he again requests that the Lord save his people and
bless His inheritance, sanctify those who love the splendor of the church
building, and not deprive all those who hope on His mercy, grant peace to the
world, to the priests, to faithful rulers, and to all mankind. This prayer is a
condensed version of all the litanies uttered throughout the Divine Liturgy.
After the conclusion of the prayer before the ambo
the faithful devote themselves to the will of God with the prayer of the
Psalmist "Blessed be the name of the Lord from henceforth and
forevermore." Often at this point a pastoral sermon, based on the Word of
God, is given for the spiritual enlightenment and edification of the people.
The priest then offers a final blessing, "The blessing of the Lord be upon
you, through His grace and love for mankind, always, now and ever, and unto
ages of ages," and gives thanks unto God, "Glory to Thee, O Christ
God, our hope, glory to Thee."
Turning to the people and signing himself with the
sign of the Cross, which the people should also make, the priest utters the
Dismissal, "May Christ our True God..." At the Dismissal, after the
priest commemorates the prayers for us by the Mother of God, the saint of the
church, the saints whose memory is celebrated on that day, the righteous ancestors
of God, Joachim and Anna (the parents of the Mother of God), and all the
saints, he expresses the hope that Christ the true God, will have mercy and
save us since He is good and loves mankind. He steps to the bottom of the ambo
and holds the holy Cross for the faithful to venerate and distributes the
antidoron, the remainders from the prosphora which are cut into small pieces.
In an orderly fashion the faithful proceed forward to kiss the Cross as a
witness to their faith in the Saviour, in Whose memory the Divine Liturgy was
celebrated. The choir chants a short prayer for the preservation for many years
of the most holy Orthodox patriarchs, the ruling bishop, the parishioners and
all Orthodox Christians.
The Liturgy of St. Basil The
The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great in its content
and order is almost identical with the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The only
differences are the following:
1) The prayers which the priest reads privately in
the altar, especially that of the Eucharistic Canon, are significantly longer,
and therefore the chanting for this Liturgy is of longer duration.
2) The words of the Saviour by which He instituted
the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist are as follows, "He gave it to His holy
disciples and apostles, saying: Take, eat; this is My Body, which is broken for
you for the remission of sins." And then, "He gave it to His holy
disciples and apostles, saying: Drink of it all of you: this is My blood of the
New Testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of
3) Instead of the hymn, "It is truly meet to
bless thee...," a special hymn in honor of the Mother of God is chanted,
"In Thee rejoiceth, O Thou who art full of grace, all creation, the
angelic assembly and the race of man..."
In addition to these, when the Liturgy of St.
Basil is celebrated on Great and Holy Thursday, the Cherubic Hymn is replaced
by "Of Thy mystical supper, O Son of God,..." and on Great and Holy
Saturday: "Let all human flesh keep silence..."
The Liturgy of St. Basil is celebrated only ten
times throughout the year, on the eve of the feasts of the Nativity of Christ
and the Theophany (or on the feasts themselves if they fall on Sunday or
Monday), the first of January (the day St. Basil is commemorated), on the five
Sundays of Great Lent (excluding Palm Sunday), and on Great Thursday and Great
Saturday of Passion Week.
The Liturgy of the
The distinguishing characteristic of the Liturgy
of the Presanctified Gifts is that the Eucharistic Canon is not served during
its celebration but rather the faithful are communed with "Presanctified
Gifts," gifts which were consecrated earlier at another Liturgy of either
St. Basil the Great or St. John Chrysostom.
The Presanctified Liturgy originated in the first
centuries of Christianity. The first Christians took communion frequently, some
even on weekdays. However, it was considered improper to serve a full Liturgy
on days of strict fasting, as they were days of grief and contrition for sins.
Since the Liturgy is the most magnificent of all
the church services, in order to give the faithful the opportunity to receive
Holy Communion on fast days in the middle of the week, without destroying the
character of the divine services of Great Lent, they were provided with the
Gifts consecrated earlier. For this reason the service of the Presanctified
Gifts was introduced into the services of Great Lent. The definitive order of
this Liturgy was put into written form by St. Gregory the Dialogist, the Pope
of Rome in the sixth century.
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is
celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays of the first six weeks of Great Lent, on
Thursday of the fifth week, when the Great Canon of St. Andrew is commemorated,
on February 24th, the commemoration of First and Second Findings of the Head of
St. John the Baptist, sometimes on March 9th, the day commemorating the Forty
Martyrs of Sebaste, if it falls on a fast day, and not a Saturday or Sunday;
and on the first three days of Passion Week (Great Monday, Tuesday and
The Presanctified Liturgy is served following the
Lenten Hours and consists of Vespers joined to the Liturgy of the Faithful,
with the omission of its central part, the sanctification of the gifts.
One kathisma is added to each of the Lenten Hours
so that the Psalter might be read twice during the week rather than the usual
After the kathisma the priest leaves the altar and
reads the tropar-ion of each hour in front of the Royal Doors with its
corresponding verses, and makes appropriate prostrations while the choir chants
this troparion three times.
In the troparion of the Third Hour we ask the Lord
to not take from us, due to our sins, the Holy Spirit that He sent down upon
In the troparion of the Sixth Hour we beseech
Christ, Who voluntarily endured crucifixion on the Cross for us sinners, to
forgive us our sins.
In the troparion of the Ninth Hour we beseech
Christ, Who died for us, to mortify the sinful movements of our flesh.
At the end of each hour we read with prostrations
the Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian: "O Lord and Master of my
During the Sixth Hour there is a reading from the
book of the Prophet Isaiah.
The Ninth Hour is followed by the Typica, and the
Beatitudes are read along with the prayer of the repentant thief on the Cross,
"Remember us, O Lord, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." Then
various prayers are read, followed by the Prayer of St. Ephraim and the
Immediately after this, Vespers with the Liturgy
of the Presanctified Gifts begins with the exclamation, "Blessed is the
kingdom of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto
the ages of ages."
Up to the Entry the service proceeds in the usual
order. After the Entry and "O Gentle Light" the reader goes to the
center of the church and reads two lessons, one from the Book of Genesis
relating to the fall of Adam and his unfortunate descendants, the other from
the Proverbs of Solomon which exhorts one to seek and love divine wisdom.
Between these two readings the Royal Gates are opened and the priest, holding a
lit candle and censer, proclaims the words, "Wisdom! Aright!,"
blesses the faithful with them and says, "The light of Christ enlighteneth
In response, the faithful, recognizing their
unworthiness before Christ, the pre-eternal Light which enlightens and
sanctifies mankind, make a prostration to the floor.
Following the second reading, the Royal Gates are
again opened, and in the center of the church, choir members slowly chant these
"Let my prayer be set forth as incense before
Thee, the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.
"Lord, I have cried unto Thee, hearken unto
me; attend to the voice of my supplication..."
During the chanting of these verses, the faithful
are kneeling prostrate and the priest, standing before the Holy Table, censes.
Vespers concludes at this point with the Prayer of
St. Ephraim, "O Lord and Master of my life...," and the main portion
of the Presanctified Liturgy begins.
On the first three days of Passion Week (Monday,
Tuesday, Wednesday), after this prayer the Gospel is read. On other days the
Augmented Litany and the Litanies of the Catechumens and of the Faithful are
intoned as in a usual Liturgy.
During the Great Entry, instead of "Let us
who represent the Cherubim..." the choir chants, "Now the powers of
Heaven invisibly serve with us; for behold, the King of Glory entereth. Behold,
the mystical sacrifice that hath been accomplished is escorted." During
this hymn the Royal Gates are opened and the Altar is censed.
With the conclusion of the first half of this
hymn, with the words "is borne in triumph," the Presanctified Gifts
are transferred from the Table of Oblation to the Altar Table. The priest, with
the Chalice, preceded by candles and the deacon with the censer, goes out through
the north door on to the solea with the Diskos over his head, and silently
bears them into the Sanctuary and places them on the Antimins which has been
opened earlier on the Altar. Then the choir concludes the interrupted hymn,
"With faith and love let us draw nigh that we may become partakers of life
everlasting. Alleluia." Since the Sacred Gifts are already consecrated
(transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ) the praying faithful fall
prostrate during their transferal to the main altar. The priest then prays
"O Lord and Master of my life..." after which the Royal Doors are
Since at this Liturgy the consecration of the
Gifts does not occur, all which relates to this sacred action is omitted. Thus,
after the Great Entry only the three final portions of the Liturgy of the
Faithful are celebrated: a) the preparation of the faithful for Communion, b)
the communion of the clergy and the laity, and c) the thanksgiving for
Communion with the dismissal. All are celebrated as during a full Liturgy with
only minor alterations in accordance with the significance of the Liturgy of
the Presanctified Gifts.
The Prayer before the Ambo differs in this
Liturgy. The priest in the name of the faithful gives thanks to God, Who has
deemed them worthy to reach the days of this fast for the purification of the
soul and body, and requests that He give His help in accomplishing the good
struggle of the fast, preserve them unchanged in the Orthodox Faith, manifest
Himself as the conqueror of sin, and grant them uncondemned to worship the holy
Resurrection of Christ.