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Celebrating: The Year of the Holy Eucharist Understanding the Divine Liturgy Session #2 Preparation of the Priest and of the Holy Gifts (Remembering for whom and by whom it is offered) A study based on the book “The Heavenly Banquet,” by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis

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understanding the divine liturgy

Celebrating:

The Year of the

Holy Eucharist

Understanding the Divine Liturgy

Session #2

Preparation of the Priest and of the Holy Gifts

(Remembering for whom and by whom it is offered)

A study based on the book “The Heavenly Banquet,” by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis

and The Orthodox Faith vol. II (Worship) by Fr. Thomas Hopko

part 1 how the priest prepares for the divine liturgy
Part 1:How the priest prepares for the Divine Liturgy

Before the actual beginning of the Divine Liturgy, the priest enters the Church and prays a special service called “The Kairon Service” or preparation prayers.

This service is prayed outside the sanctuary in front of the iconostas.

Prayer taken from the end of the Kairon service.

“Stretch forth thy hand, O Lord, from thy holy dwelling place (on high), and strengthen me for thine appointed service, that standing without condemnation before thy fearful judgment seat, I may fulfill the sacred, bloodless service, for thine is the power and the glory, unto ages of ages. Amen”

part 1 how the priest prepares for the divine liturgy3
Part 1:How the priest prepares for the Divine Liturgy

The priest then enters the sanctuary, bows three times, kisses the Gospel and says:

Prayer upon entering the sanctuary

“I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy, and in fear I will worship toward thy holy temple. Cleanse, O Lord, the defilement of my soul, and save me, for thou art the Lover of mankind.”

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Part 1:How the priest prepares for the Divine Liturgy

Next the priest prays a special service as he puts on his vestments. Each piece he puts on has a prayer and specific meaning that goes with it.

The Sticharion:

The White robe worn under all other vestments. It represents the baptismal garment we wore at our baptism.

Putting on the sticharion, the priest says

“My soul shall rejoice in the Lord, for He has clothed me with the garment of salvation, and with the robe of gladness He has encompassed me. As a bridegroom He has set a crown upon me, and as a bride He has adorned me with an ornament.” (Isaiah 61:10)

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Part 1:How the priest prepares for the Divine Liturgy

The vesting service cont.

The cuffs or “Epimanikia”

The cuffs represent the reminder that the Priest is tied against sin.

Blessing and kissing the right and left cuff, the priest says the following prayers.

“Your right hand, O Lord is glorified in strength; Your right, O Lord, has shattered Your enemies, and in the multitude of Your glory You crushed Your adversaries.” (Exodus 15:6)

and

“Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding and I will learn Your commandments.” (Psalm 119:73)

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Part 1:How the priest prepares for the Divine Liturgy

The vesting service cont.

The Epigonation or “Shield”

Given to priests who have the distinction of hearing confessions.

A square vestment that hangs to the right side of the priest. It represents the Sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God) and Christ’s victory over death. It can also symbolize the towel that Christ used to wipe the feet of His disciples.

Blessing the Epigonation and kissing it, the priest says;

“Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, O Mighty One, in Your comeliness and your beauty, and proceed prosperously, and be king because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and Your right hand shall guide You wondrously.” (Psalm 45:3)

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Part 1:How the priest prepares for the Divine Liturgy

The vesting service cont.

The Stole or Epitrachilion

This garment represents the dignity of the office of the Priest.

Blessing the stole and kissing it, the priest says.

“Blessed is God, who pours out His grace upon His priests, as oil of myrrh on the head, running down upon the beard of Aaron, running down over the fringe of his robe.” (Psalm 133:2)

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Part 1:How the priest prepares for the Divine Liturgy

The vesting service cont.

The Belt or “Zone”

This garment represents the wisdom and strength of the Priestly office.

Blessing the belt and kissing it, the priest puts it on and says.

“Blessed is God, who girds me with strength and has made my path blameless.” (Psalm 18:32)

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Part 1:How the priest prepares for the Divine Liturgy

The vesting service cont.

The Phelonion

The outer garment covering the shoulders. It’s short in front and long in the back to symbolize Christ carrying the cross on His shoulders.It’s also a reminder of the scarlet robe placed on Christ before the crucifixion.

Blessing the belt and kissing it, the priest puts it on and says.

“Your priests, O Lord, shall be clothed with righteousness, and Your holy ones shall shout for joy (Psalm 132:9)

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Part 1:How the priest prepares for the Divine Liturgy

The Washing of the Hands

Before beginning any of the sacred functions of the Divine Liturgy, the priest washes his hands.

This action symbolizes the purity of those who celebrate the Eucharist.

slide12
Part 2:Preparation of the Holy GiftsWith notes from “Understanding The Orthodox Liturgy” by Fr. Michel Najim & T.L. Frazier

The Proskomedia or “Prothesis” Service

  • Before the Divine Liturgy, the priest prepares the offering of bread and wine on the table of Oblation, called the Prothesis table.
  • The word Proskomide means “to offer” or “to bring. This service dates back to the 14th century
  • The gifts are offered to give thanks to God and to make supplication to Him.
  • No Divine Liturgy can be celebrated without the Proskomedia.
  • The Prothesis table symbolizes the Christ’s manger.
  • The Prothesis table signifies “Calvary.” This is the place where Jesus was “offered up” to God
part 2 preparation of the holy gifts
Part 2:Preparation of the Holy Gifts

The Proskomedia or “Prothesis” Service

  • The priest first holds the offering with both hands, elevates it and makes the sign of the cross with it saying:
  • “Blessed is our God, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.”

“In remembrance of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

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Part 2:Preparation of the Holy Gifts

The Proskomedia or “Prothesis” Service

  • Next, the priest cuts a large cube of bread from the loaf (called the Prosphora or offering).
  • This cube is called the Lamb. It represents Christ Himself who is “The bread of life…which came down from heaven, and who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

As the priest cuts the lamb from the bread, he recites from the prophecy of Isaiah.

“As a sheep led to the slaughter, and as a blameless lamb before its shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. (Isaiah 23:7)

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Part 2:Preparation of the Holy Gifts

The Proskomedia or “Prothesis” Service

The Seal from which the lamb is taken.

The lamb has the symbols (IC XC) “Jesus Christ” and (NI KA) “Conquers.”

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Part 2:Preparation of the Holy Gifts

The Proskomedia or “Prothesis” Service

  • And then, inverting the Lamb, he makes a deep cross-wise cut without cutting through it and says:
  • “Sacrificed is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
  • [This is done so the Lamb can easily be broken into four separate pieces at the time of Holy Communion.]
  • The priest then puts the Lamb on a Diskos, pierces it on the symbol “IC” with the Spear, saying:
  • “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” (John 19:34)

The Diskos represents the hands of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who baried Christ. It also represents Heaven.

The spear represents the spear that was used to pierce Christ’s side at His crucifixion.

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Part 2:Preparation of the Holy Gifts

The Proskomedia or “Prothesis” Service

  • The priest then pours wine and water into a Chalice and blesses it saying:
  • “Blessed is the union of thy holy things.”
  • [The wine and water represent the blood and water which came forth from Christ’s body when the soldier pierced it.]
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Part 2:Preparation of the Holy Gifts

The Proskomedia or “Prothesis” Service

The Church is called the Body of Christ

  • So, the priest cuts out pieces from the Lamb, which will become the eucharistic Body of Christ.
  • These pieces are placed on the Diskos around the Lamb, showing that Christ is the center of the Church.
  • This also shows that we are mystically presenting ourselves to God as “a living scrifice, holy and acceptable to God.

Christ

The Virgin Mary

The Saints

The living and the departed

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Part 2:Preparation of the Holy Gifts

The Proskomedia or “Prothesis” Service

After having poured wine mixed with water into the chalice, the priest then places a piece of bread on the Diskos next to the Lamb in remembrance of the Theotokos.

  • Then pieces of bread are placed on the Diskos in memory of:
      • John the Baptist
      • the prophets
      • The Apostles
      • The Hierarchs
      • The Marytrs
      • The Monastic Saints
      • The Healers,
      • The Saints commemorated for the day
      • The Saint whose liturgy is being celebrated.
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Part 2:Preparation of the Holy Gifts

The Proskomedia or “Prothesis” Service

In addition, pieces are placed on the Diskos for the bishop, for civil authorities, and for all the faithful both living and departed.

Then the priest places over the Diskos a cover called “The Star,” and says:

“The star came to rest over the place where the young child was.”

[The Star represents the “Star of Bethleham, and also protects the Lamb from anything touching it.]

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Part 2:Preparation of the Holy Gifts

The Proskomedia or “Prothesis” Service

Covering the Gifts with special covers

The priest blesses the cover for the Diskos with incense and says:

“The Lord is King, He is clothed with majesty and strength. For He has established the world which shall not be shaken.”

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Part 2:Preparation of the Holy Gifts

The Proskomedia or “Prothesis” Service

Covering the Gifts with special covers

The priest then blesses the cover for the Chalice with incense and says:

“Thy virtue has covered the heavens, O Christ, and the earth is full of thy praise.”

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Part 2:Preparation of the Holy Gifts

The Proskomedia or “Prothesis” Service

Covering the Gifts with special covers

Finally, the priest blesses the “aer” with incense, and covering both the Diskos and Chalice he says:

“Shelter us, O God, in the shelter of thy wings; drive away from us every enemy and foe; make our life peaceful and have mercy on us and on the whole world, for thou art good and lovest mankind.”