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Questions and Answers about the Divine Liturgy #4 – Liturgy of the Faithful

February 19th, 2009 by Fr. Vasile

altar_orthodox1.      Who are the faithful?

The faithful are all that have received the Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity in the Orthodox Church and are found in good ecclesiastical order. As we saw previously the catechumens and the people that were not in good order were leaving the Nave after the Litany of the catechumens and staying in the Narthex for the rest of the service.

2.      What is the Structure of the Liturgy of the Faithful?

a.       The Preparation of the Eucharist (Introductory part): The Prayers for the Faithful, Great Entrance, The Litany of Fervent Supplication and the prayer of offering of the Gifts, The Creed

b.       The Anaphora (prayers and the ritual of the Holy Sacrifice): The introductory Dialogue between the Priest and the Faithful, The Great Eucharistic Prayer, Anamnesis – remembering the saving mission of the Son in the world, Epiclesis – the prayer of invocation of the Holy Spirit, The Megalinarion and the prayers for mediation

c.       Holy Communion: The preparatory  prayers (The Litany of Supplication, The Lord’s Prayer, The prayer for the bowing of the heads, The Prayers before communion), The preparation of holy Communion, The Communion of the priests, The Communion of the Faithful, The thanksgiving prayers after Communion

d.    The Apolysis – the final prayers of the Liturgy

3.      What is the Cherubic Hymn?

“We, who mystically represent the Cherubim, And chant the thrice-holy hymn to the Life-giving Trinity, Let us set aside the cares of life That we may receive the King of all, Who comes invisibly escorted by the Divine Hosts.” The Cherubic Hymn is sung in the Church by the Faithful and is recited in low voice by the priest in the Holy Altar. In this moment we imagine, as the words say, how the Cherubims in the heavens are preparing to welcome Christ that will enter in our midst during the Great Entrance, represented by the Holy Gifts.

4.      What is the Great Entrance?

The Great Entrance has first of all a practical scope to transfer the Holy Gift from the Oblation Table to the Holy Table.

Symbolically the Great Entrance represents the last trio that our Lord made before His Passions and His Death, from Bethany to Jerusalem. And His triumphal Entrance in the Holy City.[1],[2]. Others interpret it as the transportation of His Holy Body from the place of the Crucifixion, Golgotha, to the place where His tomb was prepared.[3]

5.      What is the preparation of the Faithful to receive Communion?

This one has three stages:

a. First is the prayer expressed by the litany following the Entrance: Let us complete out prayer to the Lord…

b.        Second is the fulfillment of the commandment of love materialized by the kiss of peace that was taking place in the Church at the words: Let us love one another so that in one mind we may confess. Today is practically carried only by the priests in the Holy Altar when several priests concelebrate.[5]

c.       Then the confession of the Orthodox Faith through the Creed.

6.      Why is the significance  of the kiss of peace

It is the fulfillment of the commandment of Christ saying: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. As I have loved you, you should also love one another. (Joh 13:34). In this moment the people would kiss each other asking forgiveness. This underlines the fact that love is on of the essential condition for receiving Holy Communion „ If you bring your gift to th altar and there you will remember what your brother has something against you, leave your gift in front of the altar and go back, make peace with your brother and coming back your gift will be received.” [6] Even if today we do not practice the kiss of peace anymore  in this moment we should fill our hearts with love and forgiveness for all our brothers.[7]

7.      Why do we recite the Creed during Holy Liturgy?

The Creed shows hat beside love we also need the true Orthodox faith in order to participate worthily in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

8.      What represents the lifting of the aer above the Holy Gifts during the Creed?

The lifting of the Holy Aer and its shaking above the Holy gifts represents the earthquake that happened before the Resurrection. Then at the words “and rising in the third day…” the priest stops the shaking and puts the Aer away. This represents the rolling away of the tombstone by the Angel and the opening of the Holy Sepulcher.

9.      When does the Eucharistic Sacrifice (Anaphora) starts?

The Anaphora starts with the words of the Priest: “Let us stand well, let us be attentive to bring the Holy offering in peace”

10.  Why do we sing now the Hymn „Holy Holy the Lord Sabaoth?

This hymn known as the Trisagion of the Seraphims makes us partakers in the heavenly angelic singing. In the beginning, in the Old Testament, as St. John Chrysostom is saying, this hymn was sung only in heavens, now it is also ours because Jesus Christ has removed the wall between the two worlds. The singing of this hymn is the climax of the glorifying praise that fills the heaven and the earth, the sacrifice brought forth by the people united wit the angels sitting in front of God with unceasing doxology[8]

11.  What are the other liturgical movements representing?

v      The touching of the star in the four sides of the diskos represents the song of the four creatures from the Apocalypse of John

v      The taking away of the star represents the breaking of the seal of the tomb of Christ

v      The lifting of the Gifts at the words: “Your own of Your own…” remembers the lifting of the chalice and the bread by Jesus Christ at the holy Supper.

12.  What is the holiest moment of the Liturgy?

This is the prayer of the Epiclesis when the priest says the prayer : “Again we offer unto You…” În timpul în care în biseric? se cânt? imnul „Pe tine te l?ud?m…” atunci preotul roste?te epicleza, rug?ciunea de invocare a Duhului Sfânt pentru a coborâ ?i a sfin?i darurile „Înc? aducem ?ie aceast? slujb? cuvânt?toare ?i f?r? sânge ?i cerem ?i ne rug?m ?i la Tine c?dem…”.

This is the holiest moment in the Whole Liturgy because now the gifts of Bread and wine are transformed in the Body and Blood of the Savior. From now on they are not just symbols, but the true Body and the true Blood of Jesus Christ, really present on the Holy Table.[9]

It is important to remember that only the Holy Lamb is transformed in the Body of Christ. The Other particles only partake of the holiness they receive from the Holy Body, but are not transformed neither in It nor in the bodies of the saints. This is why at the words: “The Holy Gifts for the Holy people of God” the priest elevates only the Holy Lamb, not the whole Diskos.

13.  What should the Faithful do during the invocation of the Holy Spirit?

In this moment the faithful should kneel and pray fervently together with the priest, since this is the holiest moment În acest moment credincio?ii trebuie s? stea în genunchi ?i s? se roage plini de evlavie al?turi de preot, fiind cel mai sfânt moment din timpul Sf. Liturghii.

14.  What follows after?

After the transformation of the Holy Gifts follows the Diptichs, or the intercessory prayers for the whole Church. The opening of the doors represents the opening of heavens and of divine mercy toward us through the Sacrifice of the Son of God. The censing that follows is done in honor of the Holy Gifts and of the Mother of God whose Hymn we are singing at this moment.

15.  Why do we say the Lord’s prayer before Communion?

Because now through the Sacrifice of Christ we are can be called sons of God to Whom we pray now by the model shown by the model shown by his Son. We pray now for  our daily earthly bread but also to become worthy to receive the true food and the true drink , the celestial bread, the Body and Blood of Christ.

16.  Why is the Priest saying “The holy gifts are for the Holy”?

Because the Holy Gifts, meaning the Body and Blood of the Savior are given only to the Holy, meaning to those that have prepared for this and are worthy to receive them. To this the faithful respond: “One Holy, on Lord Jesus Christ”  showing the none of them is worthy, only one among man is worthy, Jesus Christ.[10]

17.  What is the braking of the Lamb ?

The breaking of the Lamb and its crosswise disposal on the Diskos represents the crucifixion of Christ on the Cross and His death. The Part IS that was pierced with the lance during Proskomidi  is now put into the Chalice symbolizing the reunion of His Body and His Blood, the symbol of His Resurrection.

18.  What is the Hot water?

The Hot water represents the life giving warmth that the Holy spitrit is pouring into our sinful beings through the Resurrection. It also symbolizes the descent of the Holy Spirit over the Church at Pentecost.

19.  When do the Priest and the faithful take Communion?

The priests take Communion in the Altar around the Holy Table, representing the Apostles at the Holy Supper. The Faithful are communed by the priest in the Church. The entrance of the Priest with the Chalice represents the first showing of Jesus Christ in the world after the Resurrection. After Communion the Priest shows once again the Chalice saying the words ” Always now and forever and to the ages of ages”  representing His last showing in the world before His Ascension int Heavens.

20.  What happens with the faithful that could not receive communion during the Liturgy?

Even though they could not receive Communion they still partake mystically in the Communion with Christ through the particles that were taken from them during the Proskomidi. This particles are poured in the Choly Chalice with the prayer: Wash away, Lord, by Your holy Blood, the sins of all those commemorated through the intercessions of the Theotokos and all Your saints. Amen. They also receive the Antidoron as a blessing at the end of the Liturgy.

21.  What is the Antidoron?

The antidoron- in translation in place of the gifts,  is blessed by touching the bread to the Holy Vessels and the reading of the blessing prayer. It is made from the prosphoron from which the Lamb was taken. The distribution of the Antidoron represents the fact that The Mother of God remained in the World after the Ascension until her Dormition.

The Antidoron is given to all the people, including those that could not take Communion and is a symbol of spiritual communion, a remembrance of the brotherly agape dinners that were taking place after Liturgy in the Primary Church. The Antidoron should be taken with great reverence as a great blessing from God.

22.  What is the ending of the Liturgy?

The Priest exits the Altart and says the last prayers from the middle of the Church. The priest now descends from the heavenly like mission and step by step descends in the midst of the people from the height he was taken into during the Liturgy. Until now He prayed secretly from the Height of the Altar, but know he prays together with the people from their midst, openly, bringing the community prayer to God.


[1] „înf??i?eaz? ar?tarea cea din urma a lui Hristos, prin care mai ales a aprins ura iudeilor, când a facut drumul din patrie (Galileia) la Ierusalim, unde trebuia s? se jertfeasc?, intrând c?lare pe asin în ora?, escortat ?i aclamat de mul?imi.“Sf. Nicolae Cabasila, Tâlcuirea Dumnezeiestii Liturghii, Editura Arhiepiscopiei Bucurestilor, 1989

[2] Vezi ?i Pr. Prof. Ene Braniste, Liturgica Speciala, Ed Nemira, 2002, p. 243

[3] Ibidem

[4] Ibidem, p. 244

[5] atunci când slujesc mai multi preoti

[6] Mt. 5, 23-24

[7] Pr. Prof. Ene Brani?te, op. cit., p. 245

[8] Pr. Florin Botezan, Liturghie ?i euharistie www.biserica-mihai-viteazul.ro

[9]darurile s-au sfintit si Jertfa s-a savârsit, iar marea Victima, adica Mielul cel junghiat pentru lume, se vede zacând pe Sfânta Masa. Caci acum pâinea nu mai este doar o închipuire a trupului Domnului sau numai o icoana a adevaratului Dar, care ar avea doar o întiparire a mântuitoarelor patimi ca pe o tablita, ci este însusi Darul cel adevarat, însusi Trupul Stapânului Cel atotsfânt: Trupul care a primit cu adevarat toate acele umiliri, ocari si loviri, Trupul care a fost rastignit si jertfit, care a dat marturia cea buna înaintea lui Pilat din Pont146, Trupul care a fost biciuit si batjocorit, care a îndurat scuipari si a gustat fiere. Asisderea si vinul este acum însusi Sângele care a tâsnit din Trupul cel împuns cu sulita. Este Trupul si Sângele care s-a zamislit de la Duhul Sfânt, s-a nascut din Sfânta Fecioara, a fost îngropat, a înviat a treia zi, s-a înaltat la ceruri si sade de-a dreapta Tatalui.” Sf. Nicolae Cabasila, op. Cit.

[10] În biserica primelor veacuri to?i cre?tinii erau numi?i sfin?i (agioi, sancti),. Sfin?ii sunt nu numai cei care su ajuns sfin?i ci to?i cei care se str?duiesc s?  mearg? pe calea cea strâmt? a mântuirii

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11 responses so far ↓

  • I would like to ask Fr. Vasile more about the Communion of the Apostles scene that can be viewed behind the altar on the picture featured on this page – article “Divine Liturgy #4″.
    I would be very grateful if you would kindly let me know in which church the picture was taken?
    I am a student of Art History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and I am writing a thesis paper about a Byzantine Art object from the 6th century that features a Communion of the Apostles scene.
    Thank you in advance.
    Charlotte

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    • Charlotte,
      I do not remember where I took the photo from. it is one of the Greek_orthodox Churches in America but don’t remember which. Do you have any specific questions about the icon, I might be able to help

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      • It’s my church, St. Haralambos Niles IL. The Iconographers are from Mt. Athos

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  • The Holy Trinity Greek Orhtodox Church in Dallas displays a similar scene in the altar. Charlotte, are you interested in having a picture of that one? (it is not the same as the one used by Fr. Vasile) The real question is if you are interested in the theme depicted more than in the icon itself. Serban

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  • I have to rephrase: The real question is if you are interested in the theme depicted more than in that particular icon. (displayed by Fr. Vasile)

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  • A question about this statement: ” This is why at the words: “The Holy Gifts for the Holy people of God” the priest elevates only the Holy Lamb, not the whole Diskos.” Are not the commemorative particles still on the diskos at this point? Aren’t they thus elevated then also?

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    • The diskos is not elevated at this time, only the Holy Lamb at the words “Let us be attentive, the Holy Things for the Holy” (this is the current translation I use – Metr. Isaiah of Denver 2008). The Lamb is then broken into the four particles: IC, XC, NI and KA. The particle IC goes immediately in the Chalice , the particle XC is used for the communion of the priests while the Particles NI and KA go also in the chalice and are used for the communion of the faithful.
      Only after the communion of the priests the other particles( of the Theotokos, saints, living and departed) are put in the chalice with their respective prayers.

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      • One more thing, the elevation of the Holy Lamb alone, that I refer to in my previous comment, only happens later, after the invocation of the Holy Spirit, right before Communion. The reference to it in the context of the invocation was to make a point regarding the fact the only the Holy Lamb will become the Body of Christ. Hope this helps.

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  • Thank you kindly for your replies. I am writing about the iconography of the Communion of the Apostles (the theme). And I am interested in this picture (on the page above) as being a modern example of the iconography in the Greek Orthodox Church. But my paper concentrates on two Byzantine objects from the 6th century AD.
    I just want to give proper credit to the source of this website and the picture if I decide to use it in my paper – but it is not essential to the thesis.
    If you are interested in reading my paper (once it is finished) please send me an e-mail.
    Sincerely, Charlotte

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  • [...] Communion is practiced. In addition to being an aide in the breaking of the Eucharistic fast, one Orthodox priest explains: The Antidoron is given to all the people, including those that could not take Communion [...]

  • [...] The Epiclesis — the Prayer of the Calling Down of the Holy Spirit, by Archbishop Averky (Taushev) [Die Epiklese - das Gebet der Herabrufung des Heiligen Geistes. Von Erzbischof Awerki (Tauschew)] Posted on 27. May 2012 by An Orthodox Christian Photo: dialogues.stjohndfw.info [...]