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email: pater@christopherklitou.com 

TALK ON THE VARIOUS

INTERPRETATIONS OF THE LITURGY

Part 5

11th Nov 2010

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Continuing with our series of talks on the various interpretations of the Liturgy, last week we finished with the Alexandrian and Antiochian interpretations of the Great Entrance. Today we continue with what follows after the choir finish singing the Cherubic hymn. The Priest will say the following petitions:
“Let us complete our supplication unto the Lord.”
“For the precious gifts here set forth, let us pray unto the Lord.”
“For this holy temple and for them that enter therein with faith, reverence and fear of God, let us pray unto the Lord.”
“That He may deliver us from all tribulation, wrath, danger and necessity, let us pray unto the Lord.”
“Succour, save, have mercy and preserve us, O God, by Thy grace.”
“That this whole day may be perfect, holy, peaceful and without sin, let us entreat the Lord.”
The spiritual life is a continuous journey towards perfection. Here we beseech the Lord that we may live this day in that perfection that we desire to have, to grant as to live the whole day and the rest of our lives in holiness, to distance from our lives all turmoil and temptation and to grant us peaceful days that we may live without sin.
“For an angel of peace, faithful guide and guardian of our souls and bodies, let us entreat the Lord.”
This petition is based on the teaching and belief that the angels not only glorify God with unceasing hymns, but they also play an active and beneficial role on the life of the faithful on earth. They are spiritual ministers sent to serve the future salvation of man. God assigns to each person an angel as a companion in life, who helps him in his struggles and strengthens him in times of temptation and protects him from dangers that threaten him. St. Basil the Great says: Close to each of us who believe in the Lord can be found an angel. If we ourselves don’t send him away with our evil ways, the angel will never abandon us. But he will abandon us when we sin, because like the smoke puts to flight the bees and bad odours get rid of the doves, so also the bad odour of our sins distance our guardian angel.
“For pardon and remission of our sins and transgression, let us entreat the Lord.”
As we approach closer to the time of communion and closer to God, it is natural that we should feel the weight of ours sins as a barrier that bars us from approaching worthily. We thus beseech for the forgiveness of our sins and even the smaller transgressions which we rarely take notice of in our daily lives
“For things good and profitable to our souls, and peace for the world, let us entreat the Lord.”
What are the things good and profitable to our souls? St. John Chrysostom says that: You do not know those things which are profitable for you, but they are known to God very well. Many times you ask for harmful and dangerous things, but God who cares more for your salvation doesn’t pay attention to your request, but even before you ask, he takes care for what you need. Thus the faithful should not grieve if they haven’t received from God what they asked for. But believe that God will give them those things which are good and profitable for their salvation.
“That we may pass the remainder of our lives in peace and repentance, let us entreat the Lord.”
With this petition, the Church is reminding us that our life here on earth will not be forever and that one day it will come to an end. Therefore we pray for whatever time we have left, that the Lord may grant us to live it in peace and repentance. This reminder that our life on earth is short is taken up again with the next petition:
“For a Christian ending to our life, painless, without shame and peaceful, and a good defence before the dread judgement seat of Christ, let us entreat the Lord.”
The petition is in two parts: the first is concerned with the last days of our life on earth and the second with what our defence will be when we find ourselves before the great judge when with his second coming he shall come to judge all according to their works. We pray that we end our life in a Christian manner without pain and suffering and without works and actions that disgust and are accompanied with shame. Someone who lives his life within the liturgical life of the Church doesn’t fear to gaze the last moment of his earthly life. Through repentance he has been cleansed and through the Divine Liturgy he already lives in that eternal life. He knows that the period which follows repentance is full of joy and delight. The joy in his heart makes fun of death and overcomes Hades, because this joy has no end. For those who truly repent, death is not the entrance into the darkness of non existence but the door which opens to the Lord’s Bridal chamber and the birth of a new life.
With the completion of the petitions, the Priest blesses the people saying:
“Peace unto all.”
The Priest says this many times during the Liturgy and if we pay attention we will see that he gives this blessing of peace immediately before an important event. He said it before the reading of the Gospel because we needed inner peace to help us understand the spiritual wisdom of the scriptures. When we are at peace we are close to God. God is love and we are called to love one another. Inner peace prepares the road for love. The Priests says:
“Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess.”
The Priest asks that we have love for each other. During the first centuries all the faithful at this time embraced and exchanged a brotherly kiss. They did what St. Paul exhorted the faithful to do: “Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.” (1 Corinthians 16:20) The Priests embraced among themselves and the people exchanged embraces, men with men and women with women. The embrace was a frank and sincere show of love and spiritual unity among the faithful. Love for one another prepared them to confess as one person their faith in the Holy Trinity by reciting together the Symbol of faith which followed. Today only the Priest and Deacons exchange this liturgical embrace saying to each other: Christ is in our midst, he is and ever shall be. They confess that Christ is always between them and because they recognise that Christ is the link of unity between them, before they exchange the embrace they first kiss the holy gifts on the holy Altar saying each to himself: I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my firm support, and my refuge, and my deliverer.
The choir at this time also confess on behalf of the faithful their unity of faith by singing:
“The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Trinity consubstantial and undivided.”
Immediately after this the Priest exclaims:
“The doors, the doors. In wisdom let us give heed.”
In older times, this was said earlier after the dismissal of the Catechumens. It was an order to the Deacons and Subdeacons to close the doors so that no one who was unbaptized or held heretical views should enter the Church, because it was not permitted for the unbaptized to hear the divine Mystery of the Eucharist. And if a brother came from another area he would have to have a letter of reference which was carefully examined by the Deacons in case he was polluted with heresy. Nowadays we ignore this command and give it a spiritual understanding. We are told to close the doors of our minds to all external and earthly things and to open them to the wisdom that is to follow with the reciting of the Symbol of Faith. To open all the doors – that is our mouth and our ears, not inattentively, but eagerly devoting all our minds to it.
The Symbol of Faith (The Creed) was formulated by the First Ecumenical Council held at Nicaea in 325, and was given its definite and final form by the Second Council held at Constantinople in 381, which is used by all the Orthodox Churches up to this day. St. Basil writes concerning the Symbol of faith that: We neither except any newer confession of faith, which others composed, nor dare go give the faithful products of our own minds, so that we don’t transform the words of godliness and piety to human words. But to those who ask us of our faith, we preach those things we have been taught by the Holy Fathers.

The Creed is made up of 12 articles, which in short contain the basic dogmas of the Orthodox faith.
“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”
With the first we proclaim our faith in one God, the Father Almighty, the first Person of the Holy Trinity, the creator of heaven and earth and all creation visible and invisible.
The next six make mention of the Second Person of the Trinity. With these we proclaim our faith that our Lord Jesus Christ is the Only-Begotten Son of God who was begotten of the Father from all eternity. But we emphasize that he was begotten and not created like all the other things that were created. He was born of light from the Father who also is light and is truly God as the Father is truly God. We confess also that for our salvation he came down from heaven to earth and took upon himself flesh in a way unknown and mysterious to us, from the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary and became a man. And also that he was crucified for us during the rule of the Roman governor of Palestine, Pontius Pilate. We acknowledge that he suffered and was buried and that on the third day he rose from the dead, all of which was prophesised in the Old Testament. After his resurrection he ascended to heaven and sat on the right hand of the Father and shall come again at the end of time, but his second coming will this time be in glory and he shall come to judge everyman living and all those who have fallen asleep. And after this he shall rule in a kingdom that will have no end and will be for all eternity.
The eighth article makes mention of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit. With this we confess our faith that the Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of life, he is God and equal to the Father and the Son. That he proceeds only from the Father and is worshipped and glorified together with the Father and the Son and that he spoke through the Prophets.
With the ninth article we proclaim that we believe in One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. With the next article each of us confesses our belief in only one Baptism through which is granted remission of sins. And with the last two we each confess our expectation and sure hope in the resurrection from the dead and in the eternal and happy life in the new world that will continue to exist after the end of this world.
The Symbol of Faith was introduced into the Liturgy towards the beginning of the Sixth Century. Up until then the Symbol was used in connection with Baptism and only later during the great dogmatic disputes was it used in its capacity as a measure which guarded the Church from heresy. With its insertion into the Liturgy the Creed became a symbol of unity which the faithful confessed with one mouth and proclaimed their one faith. But it is also a reminder of our spiritual rebaptism in the mystical font of the truths of our faith and the means by which we renew our ties with the Holy Tradition of our ancient Church. The Creed also serves to remind us of everything the Holy Trinity has done for our salvation so that we may become partakers of the future resurrection, our freedom from the power of death and our eternal reinstatement in the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus with the Symbol of Faith, we express our appropriate thanksgiving to God for the unforeseen and inaccessible to human logic ways of our salvation. With this we can proceed with the completion of the Holy Offering.

During the reciting of the Creed, the Priest takes up the Aer and holding it over the sacred gifts, calmly shakes it up and down. At the words of the Creed “And the third day He rose again according to the scriptures, and ascended into heaven” the Priest lifts the aer from the holy gifts, folds and kisses it and lays it aside with the other veils. What does all this mean? Originally it must have been for practical reasons to fan away any small flying insects which in hot countries like ours are many. In ancient times two deacons with large fans on either side of the Holy Altar continually fanned the holy gifts. When deacons became a luxury and priests served the Liturgy on their own then the fanning of the gifts was done by the priest using the aer or one of the other veils. This is probably where the veil received its name of Aer. In Greek Aer means Air and the shaking of the fan clears the air above the Holy Gifts. This is the practical explanation for the shaking of the aer, but as with everything other moment in the Liturgy, we can give it symbolic meanings.

The first is Alexandrian in concept which as I mentioned in the previous talks this school of thought gave emphasis to the ascent of the Church and the heavenly altar. Thus at the reciting of the creed, in which we confess the unity of the Church, the shaking of the aer symbolizes the movement of the Holy Spirit uniting the Church on earth with the Church in heaven in the unity of Christ's body and blood. With the Antiochian school of thought which gave more emphasis to the literal and historical events of the Gospels we have to take ourselves back to last week’s talk where I mentioned the Antiochian interpretation of when the priest covers the gifts with the Aer and that it represents the stone which Joseph placed upon the tomb and which was later sealed by the Roman guards. The shaking now represents the earthquake mentioned in the Gospel when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb very early on that Sunday morning of the Resurrection: “And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door.” (Matth. 28: 2) The lifting of the Aer at the words “And the third day He rose again according to the scriptures, and ascended into heaven” represents the stone being rolled away to reveal that Christ Resurrected from the dead.
The Priest continues:
“Let us stand upright, let us stand with fear: let us take heed to present the holy offering in peace.”
From this moment begins what is called the Holy Anaphora which literally means the Holy Rising. It refers to the rising of the faithful and their offering to heaven. One can say that it is the centre of the whole Liturgy because during the Anaphora the Holy Gifts are consecrated and are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. We are therefore told to stand upright, in fear and godliness and pay attention to present our offering to God in peace. St. John Chrysostom says: Try to understand whom you are standing near to; with whom you are about to beseech God: with the angels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim. No one ought to take part in these divine and mystical hymns with a slackened eagerness. But after distancing all the earthly thoughts from his mind and transporting himself completely to heaven, as though he is standing near to the throne of glory and flying with the seraphim, then to offer the holy hymn to the God of glory. That is why we are told to stand with attention at this time, in other words to stand in awe and fear with a vigilant and watchful soul. The holy gifts are not offered simply upon the earthy Altar, but are raised to the heavenly altar. They are raised by the Priest who calls us all to rise to that place of unshakable peace. The transportation and entrance to this place must be done in peace. There is need of great peace and the utmost silence at this time and place. During the time the gifts are raised to the Heavenly Altar, angelic powers stand present in fear and dread. They reverently cover their faces singing to the Holy Trinity.
In response to the Priest’s exhortation to offer the Anaphora in peace, the faithful reply:
“The mercy of peace, the sacrifice of praise.”
In other words, the faithful reply: Not only do we make our offering in peace; it is peace itself which we offer as a gift and a second sacrifice. For we offer mercy to him who said: “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” (Matth. 9:15) Mercy or love is the fruit of peace. For when the soul is untroubled by passion, there is nothing to hinder it from being filled with mercy and love. Sacrifice offered with love is a sacrifice pleasing to God. This is the sacrifice that God seeks, for as it says in the Psalms: “Offer unto God the sacrifice of praise.” (Psalm 49). This is the kind of sacrifice that God desires much more than thousands of sacrifices of animals and offering of gifts. For the Psalmist says in another psalm: “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 50)
So having made this reply, The Priest wishes them the greatest and most divine of all goods:
“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.”
And the faithful return his blessing saying:
“And with thy spirit,” in accordance with the command that we should pray for one another. This prayer is taken from the Epistles of St. Paul. It secures for us the benefits of the Holy Trinity – every perfect gift, (James 1:17) and it asks from each of the Divine Persons his special gift: from the Son grace, from the Father love from the Spirit fellowship (communion). For the Son gave himself as saviour to us. Christ died for us: his care for us is in the truest sense a grace. The Father, through the suffering of his Son was reconciled to mankind, and showered his love upon his enemies, so that his goodness to us is given the name of love. And finally the Holy Spirit, being rich in mercy, wished to give to his enemies who had now become his friends the best of himself and this he did when he descended upon the Apostles as tongues of fire at Pentecost.. This is why his goodness is called communion. But if all these benefits were given to us through the coming of the Saviour, what need is there to pray for that which we already have? The answer is clear: we pray that we may not lose that which we have received, but may keep it forever. So the Priest does not say: “May these be given to you all”, but, “May these be with you all.” In other words “Let not the grace which has been given to you be taken away.”
The Priest now gives a new command to the faithful saying:
“Let us lift up our hearts.”
In other words let us be heavenly minded, let us raise our hearts and our thoughts upwards to that heavenly Altar because the Eucharist is accomplished not on earth but in heaven. St John Chrysostom says: “Let us beware that we do not remain on the earth” otherwise we will have no place in this heavenly Eucharist and our presence at its celebration will become our condemnation. Let us therefore not be concerned with anything earthly for very shortly we will have before us the awesome mystery of the Bloodless Sacrifice. The faithful reply: We lift them up unto the Lord. With this reply the faithful confirm that they have already raised them on high, towards the throne of God. Our hearts are where our treasure is – there where Christ is, who sits on the right hand of the Father.

The faithful are now ready to proceed towards the Divine Thanksgiving. So the Priest now tells them:
“Let us give thanks unto the Lord.”
St. John Chrysostom says that the best way for us to guard the gift of God is to remember them and continually to give thanks to God for them. That is why the Divine Mysteries which are celebrated at every gathering of the faithful and by which are offered salvation are called Ευχαριστία (Eucharist) because they comprise a remembrance of many benefits and reveal the pinnacle of the divine providence. For this reason therefore the Priest commands us at this time of the sacrifice to give thanks to God for the whole world, for all things we have received in the past and for all things we are to receive in the future. To this the faithful reply:
“It is meet and right.”
St. Nicholas Cabasilas says that this reply by the faithful means that they agree to the celebration of the divine Eucharist. St. John Chrysostom says that it shows the unity of the body of Christ and the unity of the minister and the faithful before the divine gifts. The thanksgiving is common, because the Priest doesn’t offer thanksgiving by himself, but together with all the people.

So all being in agreement that thanksgiving must be given in a worthy and righteous way, the Priest offers this prayer of thanksgiving:
“It is meet and right to hymn Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks unto Thee, to worship Thee in all places of Thy dominion. For Thou art God ineffable, unknowable, invisible, incomprehensible, Thou art eternal, Thou art unchanging, Thou, and Thine Only-begotten Son, and Thy Holy Spirit. Thou didst bring us from non-being into being; and didst raise us up that were fallen away; and left naught undone till Thou hadst lifted us to heaven, and hadst bestowed upon us Thy kingdom to come. For all these things we give thanks unto Thee, and Thine Only-begotten Son, and unto Thy Holy Spirit: for all whereof we know and whereof we know not; for benefits both manifest and hid which Thou hast wrought upon us. We give thanks unto Thee also for this ministry which Thou dost deign to receive at our hands, even though thousands of archangels, and tens of thousands of angels wait upon Thee, the many-eyed cherubim and the six-winged seraphim that sour aloft
Singing the triumphal hymn, exclaiming, crying aloud and saying:
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.”

Before I give the interpretation of the prayer and hymn we have just heard, we should say something of the contemporary practice of many priests which deprives the faithful from hearing this and other prayers. While the Choir sing “It is meet and right” many priest rush through the prayer silently and then suddenly without any link to what came before he will shout out “Singing the triumphal hymn, exclaiming, crying aloud and saying:” and after the triumphal hymn he will again exclaim without any link to the words of the hymn “Take, eat: this is my Body which is broken for you for the remission of sins” etc. Because the faithful don’t hear the connecting prayers the whole Anaphora up to the consecration of the Holy Gifts sounds like a series of unconnected exclamations by the priest which make no sense. The truth is that the prayer “It is meet and right” up to the consecration of the Gift is one continuous prayer and only when it is heard as such will the priest’s exclamations make any sense. You are in a privileged position because I say the prayer out loud and wait for the choir to finish the hymn, which is their part of the prayer, before continuing and in this way the faithful are not deprived of the links that make the prayers and hymns one complete whole.

So having said this let’s now look at the first part of the Eucharistic prayer. By taking earth God created man and breathed life into him. From non existence he gave man existence and placed him close to himself. And when man fell, he sent his only-begotten Son to save us, and left nothing undone, in other words he did everything that was required to guarantee our return to heaven to be close to him again. For this it is meet and right to offer hymns to him, to bless him, to praise him, to give thanks and worship him, and not only for this, but also for all the things we know and all the things we don’t know, for all the benefits he has wrought and given us, all those things that have been revealed to us and all those things that he has done for us but remain hidden from us. We thank him for this very Liturgy which he accepts from our hands for he could have ordained for the pure and undefiled angels to minister the divine Eucharist, but he ordained that men should accomplish this work and he accepts the holy offering from our unclean hands.

Remembering therefore that the angels also minister before the throne of God we are called to join our voices together with theirs and offer the angelic hymn, which we call here the triumphal hymn, with once voice to God. St John Chrysostom says: 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. A common festival is taking place, a common thanksgiving to God. It is the revelation of the unity of the heavenly and earthly worlds. The hymn is taken again from the angelic hymn which was heard by the Prophet Isaiah and from the hymn offered by the people when Christ entered Jerusalem for the passion. By singing this hymn we mimic the angels and also the people of the holy City. But the hymn is not only a hymn of Glory, it has a double meaning: because it is also a prophecy for the good things that will be given to the world. It says in the hymn: the earth is full of thy glory. When was the earth full of God’s glory? It refers to the second coming of Christ. That is why it is now called the Triumphal hymn and not the angelic hymn or the Thriceholy hymn. It proclaims the Triumphal coming of the Son of Man who’s Cross shall go before him, the sign of his victory. Then we shall all sing: Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.
The Priest continues the prayer:
“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.”

I mentioned earlier 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 or rather remember 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 the 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 but 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.
This is where we will stop for today. We are now approaching the end of the Liturgy or rather the climax which the communion of the faithful so next week will be the last on this series of talks on the Liturgy.