The Heavenly Liturgy and other Eucharist images

In the late Byzantine period a dramatic form of Eucharist image was developed, that of the Heavenly Liturgy, the liturgy performed in perpetuity before the throne of God by the most exalted residents of heaven, the angels.31 Hints of this had appeared earlier, in the Jerusalem roll.32 In fresco painting, for example in the church of the Peribleptos at Mistra, these angels assume the roles and robes of deacons and priests, and are shown bearing in procession the liturgical implements such as chalice, paten, asterikos and aer from the prothesis to the sanctuary, in a vivid re-creation of the Great Entrance. The procession was depicted circling Christ in the dome, or in the prothesis, whence the angels emerge to make the Great Entrance, or even in the apse itself.

Other images are more purely typological in character. Often located in the vicinity of the bema or apse are certain Old Testament prefigurations of sacrifice: the Sacrifice of Isaac, Abraham offering food to the visiting Trinity, Elijah fed by the raven or the Three Hebrews in the Fiery Furnace; many of these have origins far back in monumental painting of the early Christian period. Eucharistic imagery drawn from hagiography included that of the desert hermit Mary of Egypt receiving communion from Zosimas,33 and the Vision of Peter of Alexandria, which started as anti-Arian theology andbecame a liturgical statement once the figure of Christ was made to stand atop an altar.34

Cycle of the church year

Text and image in the Gospel lectionary and praxapostolos Gospel readings proper to each day of the year were excerpted from the Bible and rearranged according to the demands of the church calendar in a manuscript called the Gospel lectionary. The usual lectionary starts with readings for the movable feasts, those dependent upon the date of Easter, from Easter Sunday to the end of Holy Week the following year. The readings for Lent are drawn roughly from each of the four Evangelists in turn (John, Matthew, Luke and, for Lent, Mark). Following these Gospel readings for the movable feasts comes a long calendar of fixed feasts, those celebrated on the same date every year, with reference to their assigned readings. Most of the fixed feasts commemorate saints, but also include important events in the

31 It was also known as the Divine Liturgy or the Celestial Liturgy.

32 V Kepetzis, 'Tradition iconographique et création dans une scène de communion', Jahrbuch der (Österreichischen Byzantinistik 32/5 (1982), 443-51.

33 Gerstel, Sacred mysteries, 57.

34 Walter, Art and ritual, 213-14.

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