My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE DIVINE EUCHARIST ACCORDING TO
THE HOLY ORTHODOX TRADITION.
The celebration of the Divine Eucharist is the action of the ENTIRE COMMUNITY OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD, A FULFILLMENT OF THE
ROYAL PRIESTHOOD" CONFERRED UPON THEM BY GOD IN BAPTISM. Therefore the priest is not the "representative" of the faithful. Although there are prayers in which he speaks for all the people, all these prayers close with the "Amen" of the faithful. Without the active participation of the people, the dialogue between the celebrant and the people becomes a nonsensical monologue. The participatory character of the Divine Liturgy is pointed out by Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia of blessed memory:
"Liturgy indeed means precisely a shared corporate action. Liturgy is something done by many persons in common, something that none of us can do alone. So, if the Eucharist is termed liturgy, that means that, at the service, there are only active participants there are no passive spectators."
"… The ultimate form of participation is of course to partake worthily of the Sacred Mystery of Holy Communion–by all: "Drink of This ALL OF YOU." This too will be emphasized throughout this treatise, because short of this goal everything else would be to no avail.
Liturgy is the work of the people. Without people THERE CANNOT BE A LITURGY. This means that besides the celebrant priest at least one other faithful must be present. But participation goes well beyond our physical presence. If you see "chanter" or "choir" in any Liturgy books understand "people" in their place, as the ancient liturgical manuscripts clearly annotate. This means ALL OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD PRESENT, CLERGY, AND LAITY. Everyone is supposed to answer with their "Amen," their "Kyrie eleison," and their many other short invocations, like "Grant this O Lord," "To You, O Lord, "And with your spirit" etc. If not, many of the prayers would not even be prayers, because they are addressed to the people. The people make them with their reply. By not answering they ignore the call of the priest or deacon, but what is worse, nobody prays in church!
"… We need to mention another kind of participation and CONCELEBRATION TAKING PLACE WHEN WE CELEBRATE THE DIVINE MYSTERIES. There may be only two or three faithful gathered together in the Lord’s Name, but they are NOT alone. He is present in the midst of them (cf. Matthew 18:20), and so are His holy Angels and His Saints. The Divine Liturgy takes place IN THE PRESENCE AND WITH THE PARTICIPATION OF THE SPIRITUAL WORLD. Celebrant clergy and concelebrant people have the distinct awareness that THEY ARE NOT ALONE but ARE SURROUNDED BY "A CLOUD OF WITNESSES" (Hebrews 12:1), by the SPIRITUAL POWERS and the Saints. Their icons, which cover the walls, columns, and ceiling of the church, are A CONSTANT REMINDER OF THEIR ACTUAL PRESENCE, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, WHENEVER THE AWESOME MYSTERIES ARE CELEBRATED.
Celestial and earthly members of the Church ARE UNITED IN THEIR THANKSGIVING AND PRAISE OF THE TRIUNE GOD. As sojourners on earth we pray for one another and all together we pray to the Saints, asking for their INTERCESSIONS, SO THAT WITH THE PAHRRESIA (BOLDNESS) WHICH THEY HAVE, THEY MAY BRING OUR PRAYERS BEFORE THE FEARFUL THRONE OF GOD. Likewise, we ask them to intercede for the souls of our departed brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bloodless Sacrifice is offered FOR THE LIVING AND THE DEAD. The Saints, THE GLORIFIED MEMBERS OF THE Church, are offered to God the Father together with us and with the Head of the Body, Jesus Christ, and are "REMEMBERED" (made present) throughout the Liturgy.
Communion with the heavenly Church is what distinguishes the Orthodox Faith from all the Christian confessions: "This is our preeminence, or primogeniture, our glory: THE CONSTANT REMEMBRANCE OF THE HEAVENLY CHURCH." For the Orthodox Christians, our life on this earth IS IN UNITY WITH THE HEAVENLY CHURCH. APOSTLES, MARTYRS, CONFESSORS, PROPHETS, AND RIGHTEOUS DEPARTED THIS LIFE BEFORE US, THE VENERABLE "ASSEMBLY OF THE FIRST BORN WHO ARE ENROLLED IN HEAVEN" (Hebrews 12:23), together with "INNUMERABLE ANGELS IN FESTAL GATHERING" (Hebrews 12:22), LEAD US TO THE WORSHIP OF THE "GOD OF ALL" AND TO His incessant doxology.
Every time we offer ourselves and one another, we do it commemorating the Most Holy THEOTOKOS and all the Saints who pleased God. In so doing we call upon them TO BE PARTICIPANTS AND CONCELEBRANTS WITH US. We are fully aware and cognizant OF THEIR PRESENCE, and we offer the Holy Oblation IN UNITY WITH THEM. Heaven and earth praise and glorify God TOGETHER…
"…The Divine Eucharist constitutes THE CENTRAL MYSTERY OF OUR FAITH. All the other Mysteries (Sacraments) and services of the Church REVOLVE AROUND THE MYSTERY, as planets orbit around the sun. All the other Mysteries (Sacraments) lead to it and are united with it. Saint Dionysius the Areopagite calls the Divine Eucharist the "high point" of every other Sacrament. Saint Nicholas Cavasilas says, "The Eucharist alone of sacred rites supplies perfection to the other Mysteries." Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki (+ 1429) calls it, "the perfection of every sacrament and the seal of every mystery."
"Far from being a ritual ceremony, the Eucharistic celebration engages every parishioner, challenging each of them to further action. It is a charge to put into practice what is said in the ANAPHORA, to make it more than a mere passive offering, TO MAKE IT A TOTAL SELF-OFFERING OF OUR BEINGS, OUR HEARTS."
The Divine Liturgy consists OF A DOUBLE OFFERING: in the form of earthly gifts we offer to God His Only Son, and in return, through the action of the Holy Spirit, we receive Christ in us, in His GLORIFIED HUMANITY as well AS HIS DIVINITY UNITED HYPOSTATICALLY WITH IT. In actuality, the True Offerer and Celebrant of the Divine Eucharist IS CHRIST HIMSELF, WHO, ACCORDING TO THE PRAYERS OF THE CHERUBIC HYMN, IS "the Offerer and the Offered." Priests and bishops are "ministers (diakonoi) of Christ and stewards of the Mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1), serving AS INSTRUMENTS OF CHRIST, THE "High Priest" (ARCHIEREUS) (Hebrews 2:17).
In the words of Saint Nicholas Cavasilas, the Divine Eucharist is "THE FINAL MYSTERY… IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO GO BEYOND IT OR TO ADD ANYTHING TO IT." And Saint John Kronstadt adds: "the Eucharist IS A CONTINUAL MIRACLE." So, let us embark upon this humbling task, to provide, with God’s grace and the prayers of the Holy Theotokos and all the Saints, a commentary on this "continual miracle," this "final Mystery, "which holds the Church IN UNITY, MAKES THE CHURCH TO BE ITSELF, AND WHICH IS THE HEART OF OUR LIFE AS CHRISTIANS." [Source: The Heavenly Banquet. Understanding the Divine Liturgy by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis. Orthodox Witness.)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God