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)
After the people respond to the above doxology with an “Amen,” the priest says: “Let us go forth in peace.”
To which we reply: “In the name of the Lord!”
Prompting the priest to say: “Let us pray to the Lord.”
And we answer: “Lord, have mercy.”
The priest then dismisses the congregation in peace, asking God to bless us and sanctify us and to protect the whole body of the Church. Those who bless the Lord and place their trust in Him shall be sanctified and glorified by the divine Power. The kingdom of God being within us, we should depart seeking to live the Liturgy in our daily lives. The priest also implores that peace be given to the world, to all the churches, to the clergy, to those in public service, and to all people everywhere. Since every good and perfect gift is from above from the Father of lights,225 gratitude, thanksgiving, and worship should be given to the Lord. Thus, as though their petitions had already been granted, the people sing three times: “Blessed be the name of the Lord, henceforth and forevermore.”
Going forth into the world, we are always to bless the name of the Lord. The invocation of the name of Jesus Christ transforms our relationship with the outside world, revealing all things as icons and mysteries of God’s presence.
After entering the sanctuary through the Royal Doors, the priest says the following prayer over what is left of the prosphora at the Prothesis: “Christ our God, you are the fulfillment of the law226 and the prophets; you have fulfilled all the divine plan of the Father: fill our hearts with joy and gladness always, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.”
Then the priest (or deacon) returns to the Royal Doors and says one last time: “Let us pray to the Lord.”
The call to prayer is a call to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us; for, through Christ, we all have access to the Father by the Holy Spirit.227 Therefore, to live a life of prayer is to live a life in the Spirit. Paul tells us that, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, selfcontrol.... If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”228
The people answer the priest’s call to prayer by responding one last time: “Lord, have mercy.”
As we prepare to depart, the priest invokes the blessing of the Lord upon us, that we may know His mercy through His divine grace and love. At the very end, the mercy of God is implored through the intercessions of the holy Theotokos and all the saints. Through the prayers of the holy Fathers, especially through those of Saint John Chrysostom, the priest asks that God will have mercy on us and save us.
Then standing on the lowest step in front of the Royal Doors, the priest offers the cross for the people to come forward and venerate while giving the following blessing: “The blessing of the Lord and His mercy come upon you always, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.”
As people exit the church, they usually take a piece of blessed bread called the antidoron. The Faithful also take a piece of antidoron after receiving Communion in order to swallow the last sacred bits of the Eucharist. Originally the antidoron was only given to those who did not receive Communion; it was basically a kind of substitute. This explains why it is called “antidoron,” meaning literally “in place of the gift.” As the Church was growing in the earlier centuries, the number of those who took Communion decreased and those who started taking the antidoron increased. The origin of the antidoron appears to go back to the original agape feasts of the primitive Church. As mentioned at the beginning of the book, these were common meals shared by everybody and which were originally celebrated in connection with the Eucharist. Hippolytus of Rome at the end of the second century writes of the distribution of blessed bread at the agape: “And they shall take from the hand of the bishop one piece of a loaf before each takes his own bread, for this is `blessed [bread];’ but it is not the Eucharist as is the Body of the Lord.”229 Hippolytus also points out that only a “cleric” (klairikos) is able to bless the bread: “And if the Faithful should be present at a supper without the bishop, but with a presbyter or deacon present, let them similarly partake in orderly fashion. But let everyone be careful to receive the blessed bread from the hand of the presbyter or deacon. Similarly, a catechumen shall receive the same bread, [but] exorcized. If laymen (laos) only are met together without the clergy, let them act with discipline. For the layman cannot make a blessing.”230
Sometimes before the end of the Divine Liturgy, prayers of thanksgiving are said by the whole congregation before the departure. As the Eucharist is essentially a corporate act of thanksgiving, nothing could be more appropriate. Regardless of the practice of any particular parish, however, it is incumbent upon each of us to offer prayers of thanksgiving after holy Communion. The following prayer by Saint Basil the Great, the great fourth century Cappadocian Father, is a short yet poetic act of thanksgiving: “O Master, Christ our God, King of the ages and Maker of all things: I thank You for all the good things which You have bestowed upon me and for this partaking of Your immaculate and life-giving Mysteries. Therefore I pray to You, O good One and lover of humanity: Keep me under Your protection and in the shadow of Your wings; and grant to me that with a pure conscience and to my last breath I may partake of Your holy Mysteries, for the forgiveness of sins and for everlasting life. For You are the Bread of Life, the Fountain of holiness, the Giver of good things; and to You we give glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.”
225 James 1:17.
226 Romans 13:10. 227 Ephesians 2:18.
228 Galatians 5:22-25. 229 Hippolytus of Rome, The Apostolic Tradition, 26:2.
230 Hippolytus of Rome, The Apostolic Tradition, 26:11-12.
Page created: 24-12-2012.
Last update: 24-12-2012.