The Liturgy of the Faithful

This begins with the singing of the Cherubic Hymn and the Great Entrance. The bread and wine prepared in the outside skeuophylakion used to be brought in a solemn procession to the altar, which came to be seen as a burial procession of Christ whose resurrection would be celebrated in the anaphora. The hymn, 'Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim' may have replaced a psalm sung at this point. When a bishop celebrates nowadays he receives the gifts at the holy doors, but a celebrating priest and deacon carry the chalice and the paten in procession from the preparation table, through the north door (around the church in Greek usage) and in through the holy doors.

A further litany accompanies the priest's prayer of approach to the altar, and after that, the exchange of the kiss of peace (nowadays only between the clergy), is followed by the singing or saying of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed (introduced to the liturgy in the early sixth century).

The anaphora or eucharistic prayer follows the same Antiochene shape whether it is that attributed to St Basil (now used only on ten days annually), or to St John Chryso-stom. The opening dialogue includes the call to lift the hearts, and the reply 'Let us give thanks to the Lord' is sung at length while the priest prays the opening thanksgiving for God's creative and redemptive work. The last words of this thanksgiving are sung aloud to introduce the hymn 'Holy, holy, holy', and the priest continues to thank God more especially for the saving work of Christ. This leads to the chanting aloud of the words of institution, with the response 'Amen'. During the second 'Amen', the priest commemorates the saving acts of Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and sending the Holy Spirit, and the paten and chalice are elevated in a gesture of offering. The singers again continue while the priest invokes the Spirit upon the people and the gifts, and specifically prays for consecration of the gifts, so that the communicants may benefit from their reception. The Mother of God is commemorated by a hymn that may change for certain feasts, and the priest continues to intercede for the living and the dead, he is audible again when he prays for the bishop, and the prayer finishes with a doxology chanted aloud.

After the greeting of the people, another litany with the 'angel of peace' petitions covers the prayer of preparation for the Lord's Prayer. 'Our Father' is usually sung or said by all, and is followed by a prayer of inclination originally intended as a blessing over those who were not receiving communion, and who would now leave (Taft 2000: 166-97). After another prayer the priest breaks the Lamb into four, saying 'The Holy things for the Holy People', the ancient invitation to communion.

One of the four parts is placed in the chalice, followed by some hot water, a custom which may be a remnant of Greco-Roman symposium practice (Taft 2000: 441-502), and now seen as a symbol of the warmth of the Holy Spirit. The second part is used for the communion of the clergy, and the other two are cut into much smaller particles and placed in the chalice for the communion of the faithful. It is normal to close the doors and curtain of the altar during the communion of the clergy and then open them to bring out the chalice for the people with suitable invitation.

Communion has become much more frequent in parts of the contemporary Orthodox Church, and one will see large queues before several chalices in Russian and Ukrainian churches. In other part of the Orthodox world, only a few people, mostly children, will receive communion, except on great festivals.

As in all traditional liturgies, the remaining rites are quite short. Two brief hymns, 'We have seen the true light' and 'Let our mouths be filled with thy praise O Lord' are followed by a short litany of thanksgiving. The prayer 'Behind the ambo' said in the centre of the church by Russian priests and before the icon of the Saviour by Greeks was the ancient final prayer that followed the monition 'Let us depart in peace'. The prayer is now followed by chants that once accompanied the distribution of blessed bread, a blessing, and the dismissal prayer drawn from the offices. Nowadays blessed bread is distributed after the final prayer. The bread, known as antidoron (in place of the gifts), should be what was cut off the loaf when extracting the Lamb.

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