I’m home from church today. I’ve been ill for awhile and can’t be far from home right now. I decided that I would sit back, relax and contemplate what I love about my church, The Orthodox Church of America. And what I really miss. I will sing what I can right here on my sofa. In so doing I will bring to mind God, the Resurrected Christ and all His blessings.
As I walk in the nave I am wrapped in the scent of the church. I’m greeted with warmth and love by those who are there before me. I buy some candles and put on my headscarf (my own means of humbling myself before Christ, not a requirement). I go to venerate the icons because I honor the saints and martyrs they represent. I venerate Christ my Savior and Mary His mother. I ask for their prayers as I light the candles. I ask Mary to pray to God for me and my children because I know she is with Him and closest of all. I ask St. Seraphim to pray for me, that Christ my God may fill me with the joy of the Resurrection every day of my life. As he also served God and was filled with His joy and he is now with God. I light candles for those I love, I pray with each one. I remember those who have gone before me on this journey, this path to salvation. Those who have given their lives for Christ.
As the service begins, we hear the priest pray loudly, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”
The choir sings Amen and the deacon begins his litany. We pray for peace from above, we pray for peace of the whole world, we pray for “this holy house” and the fear of the Lord. We pray for our hierarchs, we pray for the President of our country, “all civil authorities, those in the armed forces”. We pray for our city and every city and country. We pray for seasonable weather and abundance of fruit and for travelers of all kinds. We pray for deliverance from all affliction and for our Lord to save us.
The choir sings as angels from above. And we know, with confidence, that we are among a choir of angels, “a great cloud of witnesses”.
We sing Bless the Lord, O my soul! Blessed art Thou O Lord. And parts of Psalm 102.
We sing Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to God while I have my being. And parts of Psalm 145.
We sing the Beatitudes. In Thy Kingdom remember us O Lord, when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom.
Oh! The music is so beautiful. I hear the angels sing!
I can hear them in my head as I walk through the service I am missing so much.
We then see the clergy come out of the altar in what we call the Little Entrance. The deacon carries the Gospel book high above his head. The priest proclaims, “Blessed is the entrance of Thy saints always now and ever.”
We sing, Oh Come let us worship and fall down before Christ, Oh Son of God who has risen from the dead, save us who sing unto Thee: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Then we sing for the Resurrection of Christ, the saint of the day and to the Theotokos. Today we commemorate the Saints of North America. The hymn of the Resurrection today was in Tone One:
When the stone had been sealed by the Jews,
while the soldiers were guarding Thy most pure body,
Thou didst rise on the third day, O Savior,
granting life to the world.
The powers of heaven therefore cried to Thee, O Giver of Life:
“Glory to Thy Resurrection, O Christ!
Glory to Thy Kingdom!
Glory to Thy dispensation, O thou who lovest of mankind!”
Then we sing what we call the Trisagion Prayers:
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal have mercy on us! (3x)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Holy Immortal! Have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal have mercy on us!
The Epistle is read. Today that is Romans 2:10-16
The Gospel is read. Today that is Matthew 4:18-23
The prayer said before the gospel is so beautiful:
“Illumine our hearts, O Master who lovest mankind, with the pure light of Thy divine knowledge. Open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of Thy gospel teachings. Implant also in us the fear of Thy blessed commandments, that, trampling down all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing such things as are well-pleasing unto Thee. For Thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, together with Thy Father, who is from everlasting, and Thine all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
The deacon prays the litany again. We pray for many things. Let us pray to the Lord. Amen.
The choir then sings one of my favorite hymns, the Cherubic Hymn:
Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim,
and who sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-creating Trinity, now lay aside
all earthy cares.
That we may receive the King of All, who comes invisibly upborne by the angelic hosts. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
We sing the creed, and then we go into what is called the Anaphora. The most important part of the service. The Anaphora is the preparation of the gifts. Taken from this article, “ At this time the gifts of bread and wine which have been offered on the altar are lifted up from the altar to God the Father, and receive divine sanctification by the Holy Spirit who comes to change them into the very Body and Blood of Christ.” The entire article is well worth the read if you want to learn more about the Anaphora and all that is done and said. It is simply beautiful.
Taken again from the same article: “At this point in the Divine Liturgy man’s thanksgiving to God the Father for all that he has done in Christ and the Spirit is brought to its climax. The man in God remembers all things and is grateful to God. His remembrance and his thanksgiving take him into the very Presence of the Kingdom to the Throne of the Father to sing the Thrice-Holy Hymn with the angelic choirs (Is 6.1–5).”
The priest prays:
With these blessed powers, O Master, Who lovest mankind, we also cry aloud and say: Holy art Thou and all-holy, Thou and Thine only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit! Holy art Thou and all-holy, and magnificent is Thy glory! Who hast so loved Thy world as to give Thine only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Who when He had come and had fulfilled all the dispensation for us. in the night in which He was given up—or rather gave Himself up for the life of the world—He took bread in His holy, pure and blameless hands; and when He had given thanks and blessed it, and hallowed it and broken it, He gave it to his holy disciples and apostles saying:
Take! Eat! This is My Body which is broken for you for the remission of sins. Amen.
And likewise after supper, He took the cup saying: Drink of it all of you! This is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins! Amen.
Remembering this saving commandment and all those things which have come to pass for us: the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the sitting at the right hand of God the Father, the second and glorious coming.
Thine own of Thine own we Offer unto Thee, in behalf of all and for all!
We bow and worship. The Holy Spirit has performed a mystery.
The Lords Prayer is sung.
And finally, we are called to partake of the great mystery of our Lord, the gift He has given us.
“With fear and trembling draw near.”
Never to be taken lightly but in all seriousness, with fasting and prayer and repentance, we draw near to partake of these Holy Gifts.
After all the faithful have partaken of the Holy Gifts we sing:
We have seen the true light! We have received the heavenly Spirit! We have found the True Faith! Worshiping the undivided Trinity, who has saved us! Let our mouths be filled with Thy praise O Lord, that we may sing Thy glory; for Thou hast made us worthy to partake of Thy holy, divine, immortal and life-creating mysteries. Keep us in Thy holiness, that all the day we may mediate upon Thy righteousness. Alleluia. Alleluia, Alleluia.
Thank you, Lord for the Holy Mysteries that I have been able to partake of every single Sunday. Most every Sunday for the past 17 ½ years.
Sure, I’ve missed some, just like today, but I know when I am well, I will go back, and it will all be there. Just like this. I am so very grateful.
Thank you, Lord, for the loving community I am in. Thank you for your love and most of all for sending down Your Son to dwell among men. For the Resurrection of Him who trampled down death by death.
Let us sing! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.