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     (A Guide For Participating In The Divine Liturgy Of St. John Chrysostom)
by the Very Reverend Michel Najim & T.L. Frazier

3.  The Prayer of the Cherubic Hymn


While the Cherubic Hymn is being sung, the priest in a low voice says the prayer of the Cherubic Hymn. This prayer is addressed to the Son, the King of Glory who, in His love for humanity, became man without change or alteration. While the prayer is addressed to Christ, by the end glory is given not only to the Son, but also to the eternal Father and to the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit.

This is the only prayer in which the celebrant speaks of himself as a person clothed with the grace of the priesthood. Christ our High Priest has entrusted to the priests of the Church the celebration of the unbloody Liturgy. Being, however, bound by worldly desires and pleasures, the priest considers himself sinful and unworthy to minister to the King of Glory; for to serve Christ is great and awesome even for the heavenly powers. Consequently, he asks God to look favorably upon him, a sinful and unprofitable servant, and to cleanse him from an evil conscience.

Then the priest asks God to enable him, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to celebrate the Mystery of the holy and pure Body and Blood of Christ. In this prayer it is declared that Christ, as man, is the One who offers, and as God, is the One who receives the offering. The Second Person of the Trinity receives and is distributed.

This part of the prayer stirred up a big controversy in the twelfth century when a mere deacon declared it to be heretical,148 stating that Christ is only the offerer and that only the Father and the Spirit receive the offering. This issue was settled on January 26, 1156 at a synod in Constantinople called by Patriarch Luke Chrysovergis, which reaffirmed the orthodoxy of the prayer.

After the prayer of the Cherubic Hymn, the priest and the deacon recite the Cherubic Hymn again three times and then cense the Holy Table, the icons, and the people. Present-day rubrics instruct the priest to recite Psalm 51 in a low voice during the censing, a practice probably started during the Middle Ages. The psalm, however, fits the penitential tone at this solemn point of the Liturgy. No one ought to enter into the celebration of the awe-inspiring eucharistic Mystery without first repenting of his sins. Thus, after reciting the 51st Psalm, two penitential troparia are said. Describing himself as a prodigal son and a tax-collector, the celebrant asks the Father in the first prayer, and then Christ in the second, to accept his repentance.

As the priest and the deacon go to the Prothesis, the priest lifts the aer from the gifts, places it on the deacon’s shoulders and gives him the Diskos, saying: “Lift up your hands to the holy places, and bless the Lord.”149

The priest then takes up the Chalice, saying: “God has gone up with a shout; the Lord with the sound of the trumpet.”150



148 The controversy involved the learned deacon Soterichus Panteugenes, deacons Michael of Thessalonica and Nicephorus Basilaces (both of whom served in the Hagia Sophia and taught theology at the patriarchal school), and the metropolitan of Dyrrachim, Eustathius, who was at the time Patriarch-elect of Antioch.
149 Psalm 134:2.
150 Psalm 47:5.

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Page created: 24-12-2012.

Last update: 24-12-2012.