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TALK ON

 THE INTERPRETATION AND

MEANING OF THE DIVINE LITURGY

Part 6      7th June 2007

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Last week we finished with the Triumphal hymn: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Sabaoth: heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”
Today we continue with the prayer that follows the hymn which is in fact not a separate prayer, but continues from the previous prayer and the hymn.
“And with these blessed Powers, O Master and lover of mankind, we also cry aloud and say: Holy and most Holy art Thou, and Thine Only-begotten Son, and Thy Holy Spirit. Holy and most Holy art Thou, and magnificent is Thy glory, who so loved Thy world that Thou didst give Thine only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Who being come and having accomplished all that was appointed for our sakes, in the night that He was betrayed, but rather, in the which He did give Himself for the life of the world, took bread in His sacred, pure and spotless hands, and when He had given thanks, and blessed and sanctified it, He brake it and 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.
After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying,
Drink ye all of it; this is my Blood of the new testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins.”

We mentioned last week that “In heaven, the angelic hosts glorify God, while at the same time men join with them in a common choir and mimic and chant the same glory to God. From above the Seraphim sing the Thriceholy hymn, from below the same hymn is sang by the multitudes of men. In the same way that the angelic powers sing Holy, Holy, Holy, we also now confess that God the Father, together with his Only-begotten Son and His Holy Spirit is Holy and most holy and magnificent in glory. We make mention of the great love the Father had for the world that He gave his only begotten Son to be sacrifice and that whosoever believes in Him will not die but have everlasting life. He came into the world and accomplished everything that was required to raise us from death to eternal life with Him in the kingdom of heaven, with teachings and commandments that guide us to salvation. He distanced from us the false religions of idols and guided us to the knowledge of the One True God. The Divine Liturgy is a mystical extension of the Mystical Supper. It is not a symbolic act or a replay of what took place, but the very same Mystical Supper, because it is Christ himself who offers and is offered. St. John Chrysostom says: “Believe that even now, this is the very same supper that Christ sat with His Disciples. That mystical Supper is not different from this Mystery. Because this one is not performed by man and that one performed by Christ. But that one and this one is offered by Him.” Remembering then that very night of the Mystical Supper when He was betrayed or rather, when He voluntarily gave himself up to be sacrifice so that we might have eternal life, we recount that Mystical Supper which He performed in that upper room. “He took bread in His sacred, pure and spotless hands, and when He had given thanks, and blessed and sanctified it…”
But why did He first give thanks to God the Father, if the Son is the Priest and Sanctifier? It is to teach us that the Saviour possesses this power of sanctification not in His quality as a man, but because He is God, and because of the Divine power which He shares with His Father. This is what the Lord himself wished to show us when, while instituting the sacrament, He lifted his eyes up to heaven and offered the Bread to His Father. For the same reason, He performed many of his miracles in an attitude of prayer to God; He wished to show that this was not the work of His human nature according to which He had a mother on earth, but of his divinity, according to which God was His Father. So after giving thanks, He blessed and sanctified it and broke it into portions and 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.”
After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying,
“Drink ye all of it; this is my Blood of the new testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins.”
But having said these words, the sacrament is not yet consecrated. They are still to be transformed into the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord through descent of the Holy Spirit. At the Mystical Supper, Christ having offered His Body and Blood to his disciples gave them a commandment: that they should do this in remembrance of him. With this commandment He teaches us that the true remembrance of him is not just a mere thought, but an action: the celebration of His Mystical Supper. Thus we remember this commandment of salvation and all those things which followed saying:
“Remembering therefore this commandment of salvation, and all those things which came to pass for our sakes: the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the sitting on the right hand, the coming again a second time in glory,”
And then crossing his hands the Priest raises the holy things, lifting the paten with his right hand and the chalice with his left, making the sign of the Cross with them and says: ”Thine own of Thine own, we offer unto Thee in all and for all.”
Man received the world from the hands of God as a gift filled with divine blessings. Wishing therefore to express His gratitude for all these blessings, man wants to offer something in return, but what can he offer, the whole world belongs to God. He can only offer God what he has received from God. Thus the world which was the vehicle by which God transferred His love to mankind returns to God and becomes the vehicle by which is transferred our thanksgiving to God. We offer to God the gift He has granted us placing upon it the seal of our gratitude. What is this seal? It is the cultivation of the earth, the sowing of the seeds, the harvest, the making of the dough and the crushing of the grapes. The bread and the wine is the world which returns to God burdened with our labour, our troubles, our joys and expectations. But this gift of the world is not the only or greatest blessing to us. If with the first creation, God revealed His love for mankind, by giving us the world, with the new creation He revealed his love by offering as a gift to mankind his very self. Therefore now with the new sacrifice we don’t offer God simply materials of the earth, but Christ himself. We offer the same offering that the Only-begotten Son offered to God the Father when He gave his life as a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:28) And in offering it we give thanks saying:
“We hymn Thee, we bless Thee, we give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, and we pray unto Thee, our God.”
Then follows the most sacred moment of the Divine Liturgy, the Consecration of the Bread and wine which will transform them into the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Priest beseeches the Father to send His Holy Spirit to accomplish the Mystery saying:
“Moreover we offer unto Thee this reasonable and bloodless service; and we beseech Thee, and we pray and implore Thee: send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here set forth.”
And the Priest blessing the holy bread shall say:
“And make this bread the precious Body of Thy Christ. Amen.”
And the Priest blessing the chalice shall say:
“And that which is in this cup the precious Blood of Thy Christ. Amen.”
And the Priest blessing both the holy bread and the chalice shall say:
“Transmaking them by Thy Holy Spirit. Amen. Amen. Amen.”
The Lord himself commanded the Apostles to celebrate the Mystical Supper in remembrance of Him and through them, the whole Church. “Do this”, He said, “in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) He would not have given this command unless He was going to give them the power to enable them to do this. What then is this power? It is the Holy Spirit, the power from on high which has strengthened the Apostles according to the words which the Lord spoke unto them: “But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) Such is the work of that divine descent. For, once come down, the Holy Spirit did not then forsake us, but He is with us, and he will remain until the end. It is for this purpose that the Saviour sent him, so that He may dwell with us for ever: “Even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” (John 14:17) This is the Spirit who through the hand and the tongue of Priests consummates the Mysteries.
But the Lord was not satisfied with sending the Holy Spirit to abide with us; He has himself promised to be with us, even unto the end of the world. The Paraclete (Comforter) is present unseen, because he has not taken a human form, but by means of the great and holy Mysteries the Lord submits himself to our sight and touch through the dread and holy Mysteries, because He has taken our nature upon Him and bears it eternally.
Such is the power of the priesthood, such is the Priest. For after once offering Himself, and being made a sacrifice he did not end his priesthood, but is continually offering the sacrifice for us, by virtue of which He is our advocate before God for ever. And therefore it was said of him: “Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek”
The Priest continues:
“That they may be to them that partake thereof unto vigilance of soul, the remission of sins, the communion of Thy Holy Spirit, the fulfilment of the kingdom of heaven; and for boldness to approach Thee, neither unto judgement nor unto condemnation.”
“Moreover, we offer unto Thee this reasonable service for them that have gone to their rest in faith: for our Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics; and for every righteous spirit in faith made perfect.”

When the sacrifice has been completed, the Priest, seeing before him the pledge of God’s love of mankind, the Lamb of God, uses Him as his intercessor and, with Him as advocate, makes his petitions known to God, and pours forth his prayers in sure and certain hope; he asks that the intentions which he commemorated when the bread was brought, those for which he prayed at the preparation for the celebration of the mysteries, and those for which he pleaded when offering up the gifts and asking that they might be found acceptable may now have their effect, since God has been pleased to accept our offerings.
What are these effects? They are common to the living and the departed: that for the gifts which He has been pleased to accept, God will send grace in return. In particular, that the departed may have rest for their souls, and may, with the saints who have completed their course, inherit the kingdom; and that the living may partake of the holy table, and be made holy, and that none may partake to his own judgement and condemnation; likewise, that they may receive remission of their sins, peace, fruitfulness, and the provision of what is necessary to them; and finally that they may in God’s sight appear worthy of the kingdom.
The offering of sacrifice is not only an act of supplication; it is one of thanksgiving as well, in the same way that, at the beginning of the liturgy, in dedicating the offerings to God, the Priest gave thanks and made supplication at the same time; he now, having consecrated and sacrificed these gifts, unites thanksgiving with petition. He states the reasons for his thanksgiving, and names those for whom he prays.
The reasons for thanksgiving, are the Saints; for in them the Church finds that which she seeks and obtains that for which she has prayed—the kingdom of heaven. Those for whom she prays are they who have not yet reached perfection and are still in need of prayer.
These are the Priest’s words concerning the saints:
“We offer thee also this spiritual sacrifice in honour of those who rest in faith, our fathers and ancestors, patriarchs, apostles, prophets, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, virgins and all souls who have departed in peace, and especially for our most holy and undefiled, most blessed and glorious Lady, the Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary.” Then he commemorates the whole assembly of the saints. They are the cause for which the Church gives thanks to God. It is for them that she offers to him a spiritual sacrifice in thanksgiving; above all, it is for the blessed Mother of God, who surpasses all others in holiness. That is why the Priest asks for nothing on behalf of the saints; rather, he asks that he may be assisted by them in his prayers; because, as we have said, for them the gifts are offered not in supplication but in thanksgiving. That is also why at this moment the choir sing hymns to the Mother of God as a thanksgiving:
“Meet it is in very truth to call thee blessed who didst bring forth God, ever blessed and most pure, and Mother of our God.
More honourable than the cherubim and past compare more glorious than the seraphim, who inviolate didst bear God the Word, very Mother of God, thee we magnify.”

The Priest continues:
“For St. John the Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, for the holy and all-glorious Apostles, for St. [Name] to whose memory we dedicate this day, and for all Thy saints, at whose intercessions visit us, O God.
And remember all them that are fallen asleep in the hope of resurrection unto life eternal: [and he remembers such as he will of the departed, pronouncing their names] and give them rest where the light of Thy countenance watcheth over them.
Also we beseech Thee, remember, O Lord, all the Orthodox episcopate who rightly divide the word of Thy truth, all the priesthood, the diaconate which is in Christ, and all clerical and monastic orders.
Also we offer unto Thee this reasonable service for the whole world; for the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church; for them that live in purity and decency; for those in authority over us who are faithful and pious and all their household. Grant unto them, O Lord, to rule over us in peace, that we also may lead a peaceable and quiet life in all godliness and decency.
And remember first, O Lord, our Archbishop [Name], whom do Thou grant to serve Thy Holy Churches in peace, safety, honour, health and length of days that he may rightly divide the word of Thy truth.”
“And everyone that each of us has in mind, and all and everyone.”
We ask the Lord to remember everyone that each of the faithful has in his thoughts so each of us should at this moment inwardly remember and pray for his loved ones and all those who have asked for our prayers.
The Priest continues:
“Remember, O Lord, this city [monastery or village] in which we live, and every city and land, and them that dwell therein with faith. Remember, O Lord, them that travel by water, by land, by air; the sick and the suffering; those in captivity and their salvation. Remember, O Lord, them that strive and bring forth the fruit of good works in Thy holy Churches and them that care for the poor; and upon all of us, do Thou send down Thy mercies.”
“And grant us with one mouth and one heart to glorify and praise Thy sublime and majestic name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and for ever: world without end.”
To glorify the sublime and majestic name of God, the faithful and the whole Church must have one voice and one heart and to do this they must be joined in their love for God and one another. This is a gift from above and is only possible with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
So now after the consecration of the Holy Gifts, the thanksgivings and supplications the Holy Anaphora is finished and we begin a new phase of the Liturgy - The Preparation of the faithful to partake of the Holy Mysteries.
The Priest turning to face the people shall bless them saying:
“And may the mercies of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ be with you all.”
The faithful who are preparing to partake of the Precious Body and Blood of the Lord have great need of his mercy to receive forgiveness of their sins. The Priests also have need of his mercy for they also are men with weaknesses. Thus the people respond with:
“And with thy spirit.”
The Priest then continues with a new set of supplications:
“Calling to remembrance all the saints, again and again in peace let us pray unto the Lord.”
“For the precious gifts here offered and hallowed, let us pray unto the Lord.”
“That our God, which loveth mankind, who hath received them unto His holy and heavenly and spiritual altar for a sweetsmelling savour of spiritual fragrance, may send down upon us divine grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit, let us pray unto the Lord.”
Here we pray not for the gifts to be sanctified for they have already been sanctified and transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, but that they may impart this sanctification to us. For this is what we mean when we ask the merciful God, who has accepted these offerings, to send us grace in return. “Let us pray for the offerings” says the Priest, that they be not rendered powerless to produce this grace, as occasionally happened when our Saviour was on the earth – there were cities in which his almighty hand could work no miracles, because of their lack of faith. (Matt. 13:58)
Thus with the next petition we ask for faith:
“Having besought the unity of the faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit, let us commend ourselves, and one another, and our whole life to Christ our God.”
The unity of faith is assurance that we will be accepted in the unity of the Divine Eucharist. That is why before we approach the Chalice of life we ask from the Lord to grant us unity of faith. The one faith gives us the possibility to be nourished from the one Bread of life. The Church is one body, the Body of Christ. She has one soul, one heart, one mouth. That is why the Church denies communion to heretics- those who belong to other churches and are not in unity of faith with us. This at times can seem as hard and unchristian but how would it be possible to give communion to people who believe in Christ in a different way, with a different soul, a different heart and mouth. We would lose the unity of faith which is essential for our salvation.
The Priest then offers this prayer silently:
“Unto Thee we entrust our entire being and our hope, O Master and lover of mankind, and we beseech Thee and we pray and implore Thee, account us worthy to partake of Thy heavenly and dread mysteries at this sacred and spiritual table, with a pure conscience, unto the remission of sins, the forgiveness of transgressions, the communion of the Holy Spirit, an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, and for boldness to approach Thee, neither unto judgement nor unto condemnation.”
We are now at the threshold of our communion of the Holy Mysteries and recognize the burden of our sins, which remind us of our unworthiness to approach. Our only hope is God’s compassion and his love for mankind. Thus we now lay before God our whole life and all our expectations beseeching him to forgive us all our sins and give us the boldness to approach the sacred and spiritual table.
The Priest then says aloud:
“And vouchsafe, O Lord, that boldly and without condemnation we may dare to lift our voices unto Thee, O heavenly God and Father, and say:”
The Priest, considering that our preparation is now complete and that we are worthy of Divine adoption and to be called sons and heirs of the Kingdom of the Father, asks God that we may be held worthy and dare to call him Father in the prayer that our Lord taught us. Thus with one voice we lift up our voices and say:
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
And the Priest recites the conclusion as a doxology saying:
“For Thine is the kingdom. The power and the glory, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and for ever: world without end.”
The Lord’s Prayer is of the greatest importance because it was given to us by Christ himself as an example of prayer pleasing to God. We will not, as this time, analyze the deeper meanings of the prayer, but look only at two points of the prayer. The first we have already seen - Our Father. We call God our Father because we are sons and children of God. But this adoption, which we now receive and enjoy in the Church, is an image of the future adoption and the inheritance of the Kingdom. Children inherit wealth and lands from their parents and in a similar way we inherit the wealth of the Holy Spirit. What is this wealth? It is the Gifts and Grace of the Holy Spirit that will bestow upon all those found worthy of the kingdom the greatest gift of God’s love by making them sons and heirs which in reality means their deification, their elevation to sainthood becoming gods through the grace of God.
St. John the Theologian write in his Epistle:
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2)
The other point is “Give us this day our daily bread.” From very early on, the Church placed the Lord’s Prayer at this very moment of the Liturgy as a prayer to prepare the faithful for Holy Communion, because it mentions to give us our daily bread. In Greek it is “επιούσιος άρτος” which literally means “the bread of substance.” Many of the Church fathers interpret this bread as the bread of the Divine Liturgy, the Body of Christ.
The Priest then blesses the people saying:
“Peace unto all.”
As we said last week, the Priest gives this blessing of peace immediately before an important event. He gave it before the reading of the Gospel because we needed inner peace to help us understand the spiritual wisdom of the scriptures. He gave it before our confession of faith when we were called to love one another because inner peace prepares the road for love and when we are at peace we are close to God. He gives it again now because the need for peace is greater as we approach for communion. St. John Chrysostom says: Through Holy Communion, you are about to receive inside you Christ the King of all. When the King enters inside you, there must be great calm in your soul. A great quietness and peace in your mind.
We are next asked to bow down our heads before the Lord.
With the Lord’s Prayer we were reminded of our nobility by calling God our Father, now we are called upon to acknowledge him as Lord, and to show him a sign of our servitude by bowing our heads, thus indicating our dependence on him. We bow before him not simply as creatures before our Lord and Creator, but as purchased slaves to him who obtained us at the price of the blood of his only Son; for he possesses us by double right, as slaves whom he has made his children. For the same precious Blood both increased our slavery and brought about the Divine adoption.
While the faithful bow their heads, the Priest gives thanks to God for all that he has made and once more asks for those things which are necessary to each, saying:
“We give thanks unto Thee, O King invisible, who in Thine immeasurable power didst fashion all things, and in the multitude of Thy mercies didst from non-being bring all things into being. Do Thou, O Master, look down from heaven upon them that bow their heads unto Thee; for they are bowed not before flesh and blood, but unto Thee, O dread God. Therefore, do Thou grant, O Master, that these Thy gifts may be for each of us beneficial, for each according to his needs. Sail with them that sail, accompany them that travel by land, heal the sick, O Thou who art the physician of our souls and bodies.
Through the grace and compassions and love for mankind of Thine only-begotten Son, with whom Thou art blessed, together with Thine all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now and for ever: world without end.”
After this the Priest prays once more, in a low voice. Alls the prayer of the Divine Liturgy have up to now been directed to the Father and through the Father to the Holy Trinity. With this prayer the Priest now invokes Christ himself, who is Victim, Priest, and Bread, that he may give himself, by his own hand, to his servants.
“Give heed, O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, from Thy holy dwelling place, and from the glorious throne of Thy kingdom, and come to sanctify us, O Thou that sittest on high with the Father and art here invisibly present with us. And vouchsafe by Thy mighty hand to impart unto us of Thy most pure Body and precious Blood; and through us unto all Thy people.”
At this point the Priest exclaims:
“Let us attend,” in other words let us pay attention.
And taking the Bread of Life with both hands, and raising it and making the sign of the Cross with it says:
“The Holy Things unto the holy.”
He does not invite everyone to receive Communion, but only those who are worthy, for holy things are only for the holy.” Those whom the Priest calls holy are not only those who have attained perfection, but those also who are striving for it without having yet obtained it. Nothing prevents them from being sanctified by partaking of the holy Mysteries, and from this point of view being saints. It is in this sense that the whole Church is called holy, and that the Apostle, writing to the Christian people as a whole, says to them: “Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling.” (Heb. 3:1) The faithful are called saints because of the holy thing of which they partake, because of him who’s Body and Blood they receive. But they are also holy because the Divine Liturgy transcends our earthly time, and is in fact the Feast, the Banquet of the New Kingdom.
If we understand “The Holy Things unto the holy” with our earthly time then no one can receive Communion for no one is holy but God, and to this we reply:
“One only is holy, One only is the Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.”
If the Holy things are only for those who are Holy, how do we dare approach and partake of these dread Mysteries? We partake because we anticipate the Universal Kingdom. We say “The Holy things unto the Holy” because we have been transcended to the banquet of the New Kingdom. We are with Christ at the Wedding banquet which means that we have been saved and if we have been saved then we are saints and therefore Holy. If we are found standing with Christ after the General Resurrection then Christ has found us worthy to be among the ranks of saints and therefore worthy to partake of the Wedding Banquet.
The Priest now breaks the Body of Christ into four parts saying:
“Broken and divided is the Lamb of God; which being broken yet is not divided; Being ever eaten, never is consumed; But sanctifieth them that partake thereof.”
During that first ever Divine Liturgy, Christ broke the Bread and gave it to his disciples saying:
“Take, eat: this is my Body which is broken for you.” At each Liturgy this act of Christ is repeated, the Priest breaks the Lamb of God and offers it to the faithful. Christ is broken but not divided. After the breaking, Christ is complete and whole in each part of the Holy Bread. When we partake, we don’t partake of a little part of Him, but we take in us the whole of Christ and being eaten he is never consumed.
Next the Priest takes one of the four pieces and puts it into the Chalice saying:
“The fullness of the Holy Spirit.”
At this moment the union of Christ’s Body and Blood takes place and means that Christ is One and proclaims the union of Christ’s nature. “The fullness of the Holy Spirit” means that Christ fills us with the Holy Spirit.
Then taking a vessel with warm water, called the Zeon which means warm water, the Priest shall first bless it saying:
“Blessed is the fervency of Thy saints, always, now and for ever: world without end. Amen.”
And then shall pour the warm water into the chalice, saying:
“The fervency of faith, full of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
The warm water symbolizes the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. For the Holy Spirit came down when the whole plan of redemption had been completed. And now the descent of the Spirit comes about when the sacrifice has been offered and the holy offerings have reached their perfection.
Starting with the Preparation for the Divine Liturgy until now we have seen the whole scheme of Christ’s work. We saw the symbol of the infant Christ, of Christ led to death, crucified, and pierced with a lance; then we saw the bread transformed into the most holy Body which actually endured these sufferings, and rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, where it sits at the right hand of the Father. So it is fitting that the later fulfilment of all these events should be symbolized, that the celebration of the Liturgy may be complete, the final effects being added to the work of redemption.
What is the final effect? It is the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. And this is represented by the warm water poured into the chalice.
Since this warm water is not only water, but shares the nature of fire, it signifies the Holy Spirit, who is sometimes represented by water, and who came down upon the Apostles in the form of fire. This point of the liturgy represents that moment in time, for the Holy Spirit came down after all things pertaining to Christ had been accomplished. In the same way, when the holy offerings have attained their ultimate perfection, this water is added.
For the mysteries also represent the Church, which is the Body of Christ; she received the Holy Spirit after our Lord’s ascension; now she receives the gift of the Holy Spirit after the offerings have been accepted at the heavenly altar; God, who has accepted them, sends us the Holy Spirit in return, as we have said; for then and now there is one Mediator and one Spirit.
The Priest will then say to himself the prayers of preparation and receive communion.
After his Communion he will place the other pieces of the Body into the Chalice and call the faithful to approach saying:
With fear of God, with faith and love draw near.
Repentance, confession, prayer and fasting comprise the spiritual preparation for our participation of the Divine Mysteries. Fear of God, faith and love constitute the way in which we must approach for communion: our spiritual and physical attitude before Christ who calls us to his Supper. St. John Chrysostom says: When you are about to approach the holy and fearful table, to this Divine Mystery, approach with fear and trembling, with a clear conscience, with fasting and prayer. Without making a noise, without stepping on toes, and without pushing those next to you. Because this disorder is a sample of the greatest madness and contempt of the Holy Mysteries. Tell me, O man, why do you make a noise, why are you in such a rush? Are you being pressured by the need to do your chores? And are you at this moment thinking that you have work to do? Do you have the feeling that you are on earth? Do you think that you are together with other men?
Now there are two kinds of fears of God: the first is created in our soul by the threats of hell and eternal damnation, the second is connected and associated with love itself. This kind of fear gives birth to devotion, reverence and godliness in the soul so that the soul doesn’t take God for granted because of the freedom and familiarity created by love.
We approach also with faith not doubting for a moment that what we are about to receive is the Body and Blood of our Saviour. Of course our eyes see bread and wine and our tongue senses the taste of bread and wine, but things are not as they appear. From the moment when the Holy Spirit descended and the Sacrament was perfected, we no longer have that which we see with our eyes or taste with our tongue. We have that which we believe, worship and adore. We have the very Body and Blood of our Christ who communicates to us life and incorruptibility.
After the faithful receive communion there follows prayers and hymns of thanksgiving and finally the dismissal. Sadly we don’t have the time to take a closer look at these prayers and hymns, but maybe we will have the opportunity to look at them at a later date. I wish to thank you all for your devoted attendance of these talks and hope to see you all again when we restart with the new school year in the autumn. Happy holidays.