The Liturgy of the Faithful. The Divine Liturgy is technically broken up into three major portions - the Proskomedia (preparing the Gifts), the Liturgy of the Catechumens (sometimes also called the Liturgy of the Word), and the Liturgy of the Faithful (or Liturgy of the Eucharist). This week we’re going to discuss the Liturgy of the Faithful, which is itself split into the the Great Entrance, the Anaphora, and the Holy Communion (and Dismissal). The Divine Liturgy continues with the Cherubic Hymn, during which the priest goes to the proskomedia table, takes up the Chalice and Discos (paten/ plate), and exits the altar through the north deacon’s door. Prayers are offered for our hierarchs, for the land, and for the faithful of the temple, then the Gifts are taken into the Altar through the Royal Doors. After blessing the faithful, the priest exclaims, “the doors, the doors,” a reference to the catacombs when the doors must be guarded among the unbaptized (although these days we have relaxed this practice, in some parishes catechumens exit to the narthex at this point). Then we recite the Creed (called the Symbol of Faith) together, emphasizing the importance in determining the Orthodoxy of those with whom we worship.
Next is the Anaphora “offering up,” the eucharistic prayer of the Gifts which begins, “let us lift up our hearts,” one of the most solemn parts of the Divine Liturgy in which your attention should be directed to the sacrifice about to take place upon the Holy Table. The Holy Spirit is invoked in the epiclesis “invocation,” asking that He descend upon the Gifts, and this is the high point of the change of the Gifts from the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, though we are not interested in pinpointing the moment or trying to carefully define it, as Roman Catholics are; we do, however, treat the Gifts as consecrated and changed following this though. Next follows the megalynarion “that which magnifies,” which begins, “it is truly meet (appropriate) to bless Thee, O Theotokos…” A prayer is then said for the bishop at whose pleasure the priest serves, and we ask that he be preserved in health and years.
The Communion itself begins with the priest lifting up the consecrated Gifts (the Lamb - the central portion of the Communion bread inscribed with, “IC XC NI KA - Jesus Christ Conquers!,” and exclaiming, “Holy things are for the holy!” We lose a bit of the original intent here in English as it ought to be a bit closer to, “holy things are for (God’s) saints!” In other words, we participate in Holy Communion only through the grace of God, and any holiness we might want to place a claim on is founded on God alone. The priest communes in the Altar while a candle is placed before the Royal doors, and then the faithful commune by receiving “both kinds” (the Body and Blood) from a spoon, a practice which we have continued from the 4th century without pause, through plague, death, and even Covid, after which they take a piece of antidoron/ zapivka. Following the dismissal and a blessing, the post-communion prayers are read and the faithful come forward to venerate the icon of the day and the blessing cross and then are sent forth into the world to proclaim the Gospel!