‘Only-begotten Son’, which ends the second Antiphon, was originally
the Entrance Hymn, Eisodikon, of the Liturgy, as it still is in the
Liturgy of St James. Originally this was the beginning of the
Liturgy and the clergy came, not from the Altar, but from Narthex,
or vestibule, through main door of the church. This is traditionally
known as the Royal Gate, Vasiliki Pyli. Today when the singers begin
the third Antiphon, the Priest takes up the book of the Gospels and
going round the holy Table anti-clockwise he leaves the Altar by the
north door of the icon screen, preceded by a server with a lighted
candle, and goes to the centre of the church. Standing in the middle
of the church the Priest blesses the Entrance, with the words,
‘Blessed is the entrance of your holy ones, always, now and for
ever, and to the ages of ages’. We are ‘holy ones’, the ‘saints’.
Come, let us worship! - Pontifical liturgy Entrance
In the Old
Testament, God says to his people a number of times, ‘Be holy,
because I am holy’ [Leviticus 11:44], and St Peter repeats this in
his first Letter to his fellow Christians. In a number of places St
Paul calls the Christians ‘saints’. By our baptism we have been
‘sanctified’, ‘made holy’, as the prayers of the service of Baptism
make clear. Our task as Christians is to become what we already are.
In the Liturgy, just before Communion, we are reminded of this
again, when the Priest raises the holy Bread, the Body of Christ,
saying, ‘the Holy Things for the Holy [ones]’. That is, us.
Entrance it is usual to sing the Apolytikion of the Sunday or Feast.
The Apolytikion is the hymn that precedes the Dismissal (Greek Apolysis)
at Vespers. It
is the characteristic hymn of the day or the feast, and is used at
all the offices and at the Liturgy. It is often a brief summary of
the meaning of the feast. We should become familiar with the
Apolytikia of the great feast and of our own patron Saint.
If a Bishop is the
celebrant, he stays outside the Altar for the whole of the opening
Litany and the Antiphons. The clergy, with the Gospels, join him in
the middle of the church. The deacon, or the priest, if there is no
deacon, raises the Gospel book high and exclaims, ‘Wisdom! Stand
upright!’ The Gospel book is an icon of Christ, the Wisdom of God.
It is never bound in leather, that is in the skin of a dead animal,
but if possible in metal, sometimes gilded or silver, and frequently
ornamented with jewels and enamelled. One cover is normally adorned
with an icon of the Crucifixion, and the other with one of Descent
of Christ into Hades, the traditional Orthodox image of the
Book of the holy gospels
As we begin the Liturgy proper we are invited to stand up and give
all our attention to where we are and what we are doing. Standing
and facing East is the traditional Orthodox posture of prayer.
Indeed the First Synod of Nicea in 325 forbade kneeling on Sundays
and during the fifty days from Pascha to Pentecost.
"Wisdom! Stand upright!"
Singers chant the Entrance Hymn, while the clergy enter the Altar
through the Holy Door, or Beautiful Gate, Oraia Pyli, to begin the
Liturgy of the Word.