by the Very Reverend Michel Najim & T.L. Frazier"UNDERSTANDING THE DIVINE LITURGY"(A Guide For Participating In The Divine Liturgy Of St. John Chrysostom)
The ancient Greeks had two words for “time”: chronos and kairos. The modern Western mind thinks almost exclusively of time as chronos, which is sequential time, linear and moving in only one direction into the future. Chronos even forms the root of many English words like “chronological,” “chronology,” and “chronometer.”
Kairos, on the other hand, is multidirectional and repeatable. Whereas chronos is linear, kairos is circular. Kairos is not time as we know it in this world; it is sacred time, time as experienced by the heavenly hosts. In chronos, the past and the future can only be said to “exist” in the abstract; in the fluidity of kairos, all aspects of time are immediate and accessible.
The deacon announces: “It is kairos to begin the service of the Lord.”
Here kairos means the “propitious time;” in other words, the fitting time for the Lord to act and the fitting time for us to worship Him. This is not “propitious time” in the sense of the “opportune” or “convenient” moment, but as the only time in which the Lord can be approached. It points to the Messianic age, the kingdom of heaven which is “at hand,”28 the proclamation of which is the very essence of the Church: “For He says, `In an acceptable time (kairos) I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’29 Behold, now is the accepted time (kairos); behold, now is the day of salvation.”30
The little service of Kairos is of relatively recent date, the older manuscripts of the Divine Liturgy starting instead with the Proskomide. It is likely that the Kairos service was originally the bishop’s private blessing of the priest. The service involves kneeling toward the east (from whence we expect the Lord’s coming) and the veneration of the holy icons.
When the Canon is read, the priest and the deacon, both being vested in an exorasson (a long black garment reaching from the shoulders to the ankles), come before the bishop’s throne and make one metania (a prostration or deep bow). Then, standing on the solea before the closed Royal Doors31, they make three metanias and start the entrance prayers. In two of these prayers, the priest’s main request is for mercy from the Lord. When the priest says, “Open to us the door of your compassion, O blessed Theotokos32,” the Royal Doors are opened.
The deacon then says the appropriate troparion33 for each icon on the Iconostasis34: the icon of Christ, the icon of the Mother of God and the icon of John the Forerunner. The deacon then says the troparion before the icon of the patron saint of the Church. As the priest approaches the appropriate icon on the Iconostasis, he makes three metanias and kisses it. After the veneration of the icons, the priest and deacon return to their places on the solea before the Royal Doors, and the priest asks the Lord to prepare him to fulfill the sacred, bloodless service without condemnation.
After reciting the dismissal, the priest enters the sanctuary through the north door of the Iconostasis while the deacon enters through the south door. The priest then recites Psalm 5:7: “I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy, and in Your fear I will worship toward Your holy temple.”
Then, standing before the Holy Table facing east, the priest says: “I worship the one Godhead in three Persons, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, to the ages of ages. Amen.”
The priest then kisses the Gospel book and the Holy Table, while the deacon kisses only the southwest corner of the Holy Table.
28 Matthew 4:17.
29 Isaiah 49:8.
30 2 Corinthians 6:2.
31 The Royal Doors, also called the “Holy Doors,” are the two doors in the center of the Iconostasis (the large icon screen) through
which one can see the Holy Table.
32 "Mother of God” or, more literally, “God-bearer” in Greek.
33 The troparion is a short poetic verse of some three to thirteen lines. It was used as early as the year 400 in Alexandria.
34 The Iconostasis is the large icon screen which separates the sanctuary from the nave, where the people are.
Page created: 24-12-2012.
Last update: 24-12-2012.