From Saint Nicholas Church Bulletins
Reverend Vladimir S. Borichevsky
The Divine Liturgy of Saint John
The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom was written down about 370 A.D. It is a revised, a somewhat shortened version of the older Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great. Both of these Liturgies follow quite closely the most ancient forms of worship in the Christian tradition.
The purpose of the Divine Liturgy is twofold: to Praise God, and to teach Christians their faith. Because few early Christians could read, a more effective method of teaching was used, namely that of ritual and symbol. The Liturgy itself told the story of the Life of Christ through its ritual and symbol.
September 15, 1946
The Divine Liturgy
Before the Divine Liturgy, a public service of worship, can be celebrated certain essentials must first be met and fulfilled.
First of all, a Divine Liturgy can only be celebrated by a priest validly ordained, and authorized by his bishop to celebrate in the Church or place designated. For example, no priest may celebrate Divine Liturgy or minister in any way to the needs of St. Nicholas parish, even though he be validly ordained, unless he has the express permission of the pastor of the church or that of the diocesan bishop. No priest is every assigned to a parish without the agreement of the parish. However, once assigned, he can be only removed by his own agreement, or by the bishop and then only for canonical reasons.
Secondly, the Divine Liturgy can only be celebrated in a consecrated place and on a consecrated “antimins.” In certain cases if a consecrated place does not exist a Divine Liturgy can be celebrated provided it is celebrated on an antimins. The antimins is an ikon of the Burial of Christ painted on a silk cloth. This antimins contains sewed, into small pocket a portion of the relics of a Saint of the Church. Each antimins is consecrated by the Bishop for a specific Church. If for some reason a Liturgy cannot be celebrated in a Church on a consecrated altar, the Liturgy can be celebrated in any place on a plain table as long as there is an antimins. For example, in wartime Orthodox Chaplains celebrated Liturgy in many places with only an antimins. Or in a small community where there is no church, a priest will celebrate Liturgy in a home on a table with only an antimins A Divine Liturgy cannot be celebrated unless there is an antimins, even though there be a validly ordained priest.
The third essential is a congregation. The Divine Liturgy is a public service of worship, and it is celebrated for the congregation, by the congregation with their representative and that of the Church, the priest, at the altar. Except under exceptional circumstances there must be at least one person in the congregation to represent the membership of the church.
September 22, 1946
In order to prepare ourselves for a study of the Divine Liturgy and its celebration in the Church, we must also have an understanding of the design of the Church in which it is celebrated.
Orthodox Churches are usually built east and west, with the altar in the east end which the people face. The Early Christians who were mostly west of Jerusalem, faced toward Jerusalem, the place where Christ was crucified and where he rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven. The East is also the direction of the rising sun, and Jesus Christ was the “Sun of Righteousness” Who rose upon the world for its salvation. Without Him the world would still be living in darkness.
The Church itself is usually built in the form of a Cross. The Body of the Church is the stem, the two arms are the North and South Choirs, and the Altar is the head of the Cross.
Most Orthodox Churches are surmounted by cupolas – onion shaped domes. One cupola – as we have at St. Nicholas – is a silent witness to our Faith in One True God. Churches with two cupolas have a symbol of the two natures of Jesus Christ who was both God and Man; three symbolize the Holy Trinity; four, the four Evangelists; five, the four Evangelists and Jesus Christ; seven, the seven Holy Sacraments; twelve, the twelve Apostles of Christ.
September 29, 1946
The Holy Altar
In the Holy Altar the priest celebrates the Divine Liturgy with the active participation of the congregation in the body of the Church.
The Holy Altar in the east end of the Church is usually on a higher level than the rest of the Church, and there are one or more steps from the Church to the level of the Altar. The Altar proper is divided from the rest of the Church by a screening of Ikons called an Ikonostas.
The central entrance into the Altar, through the Ikonostas is called the Royal Doors for through these doors enters the Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ at various times during the Divine Liturgy. The two other entrances to the right and left of the Royal Doors are called the South and North Deacon’s Doors. This name is derived from the frequent use of these doors by the deacon as he leaves the altar by the North Door to read the Litany, and enters the altar by the South Door to assist the priest at the Altar table.
The Royal Doors are always decorated with an Ikon of the Annunciation, for this event when the Virgin Mary was told by the Archangel Gabriel that she was to give birth to Jesus, the long promised Saviour, is the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation for His people. Also on the Royal Doors are to be found the Ikons of the four Evangelists, St. Mark, St. Matthew, St. Luke, and Saint John who wrote down the events of the Life of Christ in their Gospels which are the doors which lend to our knowledge of Christ.
On the Right of the Royal Doors is always an Ikon of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and on the Left is always an Ikon of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus. On the South Deacon’s Door is usually an Ikon of the Archangel Michael, and occasionally an Ikon of Saint Stephen, the first deacon and martyr of the Church. On the North Deacon’s Door is always an Ikon of the Archangel Gabriel who announced to Mary her Blessed State of Mother of God. Beyond the North Deacon Door on the right side of the Royal Doors is placed the Ikon of the Church. In Saint Nicholas it is the Ikon of Saint Nicholas for whom the Church is named.
Above the Royal Doors is placed the Ikon of the Last Supper as a constant reminder of the event which is reenacted in the altar in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Also in the Ikonostas are to be found in a specific order prescribed by the tradition of the Church the Ikons of the Great Holy Days, of the Apostles, of the Saints, and of the Prophets.October 6, 1946
The Holy Throne
In the center of the Holy Altar, directly before the Royal Doors is placed a square altar table called the Holy Throne. It represents the Throne of God in Heaven, and also the tomb of His Son, Jesus Christ, since His Body and Blood are placed on this table during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
The Holy Throne is vested in two coverings. The first is a simple white linen covering which represents the grave clothes which were wound about Our Lord’s body. The outer covering is usually a rich brocade and it represents the Glory of Christ the King. The two coverings represent also the two natures of Christ. The first, the Humanity; and the second, the Divinity of Jesus Christ.
On the Holy Throne is always to be found an Antimins – the consecrated silk ikon of the “Preparation of Christ for Burial” containing sewed into it a portion of the relics of a saint. This Antimins is always folded within another cloth, ILITON, which represents the swaddling clothes in which the Christ Child was wrapped after His Birth. Beside the Antimins there is always placed on the Holy Throne, a Holy Gospel, a Cross, an Ark, a Tabernacle, a Baptismal Chest and a seven-candle Candelabra. The Holy Gospel is usually richly bound in red cloth, and decorated with metal ikons – gold or silver – of Christ and the four Evangelists. The Cross is a hand, crossed, and is used by the priest for the final blessing and dismissal. The Ark is a miniature Church which contains a sepulcher in which is placed the Reserved Sacrament for the sick and the Liturgy of the Presanctified. The Tabernacle is a small Arc used to carry the Reserved Sacrament to the sick.
The Baptismal Chest contains the Holy Chrism and Oils used during a Baptism and Chrismation. The seven candles of the candelabra symbolize the Light of Christ which illumines the world, as well as, the Seven Sacraments of the Church.
Behind the Holy Throne is placed a large Cross which is carried in Religious Processions.
October 13, 1946
The Table of Oblation
To the right of the Holy Throne (Prestol), in the Altar on the North side, is placed an altar table called the Table of Oblation (sacrifice). It is on this table that the elements of Bread and Wine are prepared in the first part of the Divine Liturgy during the Liturgy of Oblation – Proskomedia – which means in Greek, offering.
The Table of Oblation is vested in two coverings as is the Holy Throne. The first is a simple white linen covering representing the burial cloth wound about the body of our Lord. The outer covering is usually a rich brocade cloth representing the vestments of Christ the King.
On the “Zhertvennik,” as the Table of Oblation is called in Church Slavokik, in preparation for the Liturgy of Oblation we find the following sacramental vessels and utensils: a Paten (Diskos), a Star-Cover (Zvyezditza), a Chalice (Potir), a Spear (Kopio), a Spoon (Lzhitza), a Sponge, three veils and a small ladle.
The Paten (Diskos) is a small silver or gold plate on a small stand on which the Host, and the other particles of bread are placed. The Paten represents the birthplace of Christ. The Star-cover is a metallic cover placed over the Paten to support the veil and to keep it from touching the bread placed on the Paten. It is shaped like a star and it is symbolic of the Star which marked the birthplace of our Lord. The Chalice is of gold or silver, and represents the chalice with which Christ administered the Last Supper. The spear is actually a miniature spear, and is used to cut the host out of the bread (Prosphora), as well as the other particles of bread. It represents the spear with which the soldier pierced the side of Christ on the Cross. The Spoon is used to administer the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist to the Laity. The sponge is used to wipe the Chalice dry at the end of the Liturgy. It represents the sponge dipped in vinegar which was offered to Christ by a Soldier who heard Him on the Cross cry that He was in thirst. There are three coverings for the Paten and Chalice. The two smaller veils (Pokrovi) are used to cover the Paten and Chalice separately. The large veil (Vozduch-Air) is used to cover the Chalice and Paten, when they are placed together on the Holy Throne. These represent either the swaddling cloth of the Christ Child, or the burial cloth of our Lord. The ladle is a small cup used to hold the water and wine during certain parts of the Divine Liturgy.
October 20, 1946
We have described in some detail the design of the church, both the exterior and interior, the Holy Alter and the ecclesiastical furniture which it contains, as well as the Sacred Vessels and Utensils that are used in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Now we will proceed to describe the manner in which the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, covering in some detail, step by step, the complete Service from the very beginning to the end.
The priest wearing his cassock (rasa) – a black gown which is symbolic of the penitential attitude with which Men must approach God – enters the Church and proceeds to the Royal Doors. Before the Royal Doors he makes three low reverences and repeats the prayers “On Entering the Church.” These prayers begin with the prayer to the Holy Ghost (Tsaru Nebesnee), the prayer to the Holy Trinity (Presvyataya Troitse), and the Lord’s Prayer. Then follow two penitential prayers, the prayer before the Ikon of Christ, and the prayer before the Ikon of the Mother of God. Then he says the following prayer: “Stretch forth They hand, O Lord, from Thy dwelling-place on high, and Strengthen me for this, Thine appointed service; that standing uncondemned before Thy dread altar, I may fulfill the sacred, unbloody rite. For Thine is the power unto ages of ages.” Having asked for God’s aid and blessing in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the priest enters the Holy Altar through the South deacon’s doors saying the prayer “On Entering the Holy Altar.” Sopping before the Holy Throne the priest makes a complete reverence (standing on both knees and bowing head to the floor), and then standing up he kisses the Gospel on the Holy Throne.
Now the priest proceeds to put on his vestments for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. With each vestment the priest says a prayer, blesses the vestment, and kisses it before putting it on.
Taking the surplice (podriznik) – a loose long-sleeved garment of white – in his left hand and making a reverence to the East the priest says: “Blessed is our God always, now, and even unto ages of ages. Amen.” Then blessing the surplice and kissing it he says: “My soul shall exult in the Lord. For he hath endued me with the robe of salvation, and with the garment of joy hath He clothed me. He hath
set a crown upon my head, like unto a bridegroom, and as a bride hath He adored me with comeliness.”
October 27, 1946
The Vestments of the Priest
The vestments worn by the priest of the Orthodox Church are as ancient as the Church itself. Originally these were the everyday garments of the people. Now these garments are made of richer and costlier materials. The ancient vestments point out clearly the permanence of the Church in a changing world, and also avoids in Church the possible preoccupation of the people with changing styles of dress.
The meaning of these vestments is that man cannot approach a holy place in his accustomed state. He must change and put on holy vestments which form a sort of impenetrable cover about him. The congregation no longer sees a certain individual, but a Priest of the Church.
The surplice is the first vestment that is worn over the black cassock. In contrast to the black vestment of penance, the surplice is white, the symbol of purity and righteousness. Indeed it is called the robe of salvation and the garment of joy. It is symbolical of a pure and quiet conscience, a spotless life and the spiritual joy in the Lord which flows from the person who puts on the righteousness of the Lord.
Having put on the surplice the priest takes the Stole, blesses it and putting it on says:“Blessed is God, Who poureth upon His priests His grace, like unto the precious ointment on the head, which ran down upon the beard, even upon the beard of Aaron; which ran down the skirts of his garment.”
The Stole is a wide band of brocade material hung about the neck and over both shoulders, and buttoned together down the front. It is the symbol of the grace of the sacrament of Priesthood and is called the “yoke of Christ” which the priest assumes upon his ordination. No sacred office or service can be performed by the priest without his Stole.
If the priest has been bestowed the honor of the Epignation (Nabedrennik) he now blesses and kisses it, and putting it on over the right hip he says:“Gird thy sword upon thy thing, O Mighty One, in thy vigour, and in thy beauty: and go forth and prosper, and reign, because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness; and thy right hand shall guide thee wondrously always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.”
November 3, 1946
The Vestments of the Priest
In vesting, the priest first puts on the light Surplice over his black cassock the symbol of righteousness and purity thus covers his penitential robe. He then puts on the Stole, the yoke of Christ, the symbol of the grace of Priesthood. If the priest has been honored the Epiganation, he puts on this symbol of the Sword of Truth, the Word of God, over his right hip.
Then the priest blesses and kisses the Zone or Girdle which is worn as a belt to keep the Surplice, Stone and Epignation in place and thus allows more freedom for his arms while celebrating at the Holy Throne. Putting on this symbol of the gift of spiritual and physical strength given to those who follow in the Way of Christ the priest says: “Blessed is God Who girdeth me with strength and hat put my path blameless, and hath given me feet like unto those of a hart, and hath set me on high.” Now taking into his hands the right Cuff the priest blesses it and kisses it. Putting it on he says: “Thy right hand, O Lord, is glorified in strength. Thy right hand, O Lord, hath shattered the enemy and through the multitude of Thy Glory hast Thou crushed Thy adversaries.” Taking the left Cuff he puts it on saying: “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me, Enlighten my mind, and I shall learn thy Commandments.” The Cuffs are worn to keep the sleeves of the Surplice bound, and are symbolic of the bonds with which Christ was bound when he was taken away to be crucified.
Now the priest blesses and kisses the Chasuble and he puts it on saying: “Thy priests, O Lord, shall clothe themselves with righteousness, and Thy Holy Ones shall rejoice with exaltation always – unto ages of ages. Amen.” The Chasuble is a sleeveless, high back, and cape-like garment with the front cut out in order to allow more freedom for the arms. This outer garment is symbolic of the Righteousness and the Truth of God with which we must clothe ourselves as a shield against the Devil.
Having vested himself the priest washes his hands saying: “I will wash my hands among the innocent, and so I will compass thine Altar, O Lord Destroy not my soul with the ungodly, nor my life with the men of blood. In the churches will I bless Thee, O Lord.”
November 10, 1946
The priest having fully vested and performed the first ablution (washing of hands) proceeds to the Table of Oblation on the North side of the Holy Altar. Making three reverences before the Table of Oblation the priest says with each: “O God cleanse Thou me, a sinner, and have mercy on me.” And then with hands uplifted in prayer he says: “By Thy precious Blood has Thou redeemed us from the curse of the Law: in that Thou was nailed to the Cross, and was pierced with a spear, Thou has poured forth immortality upon Mankind as from a fountain. O our Saviour, Glory to Thee.”
Thus, begins the Divine Liturgy, and in particular the Office of Oblation (Proskomedia) which is the first part of the Divine Liturgy. The word “proskomedia” in its original Greek means “offering.” This name comes from the custom of the believers of the ancient Christian Church of bringing offerings of oil, bread, and wine, as well as other foods to the Church. From these offerings the best portions of bread and wine were selected for the elements of the Divine Liturgy. The remainder of these gifts were either set aside for distribution among the poor by the deacons of the Church, or they were shared by all at the Agape – Feast of Charity – held by the Christian Community for its members, and especially for the poor and unfortunate. Gifts in money now replace these gifts in kind.
In our time the bread and the wine is usually purchased from funds donated by the Church members. The bread is a specially baked leavened bread containing only wheat flour, salt, water and leavening. Five loaves are used at each Liturgy in remembrance of the five loaves with which Jesus fed five thousand. Each of these round loaves of bread (Prosfori) is baked together from two separate parts. The top part makes a smaller round cap and is stamped with the letters IC XC, NI KA in the form of a cross. These characters in the Greek mean, Jesus Christ, the Conqueror. The symbolism of the “prosfora” baked together from two separate parts is that Jesus Christ is both God and Man, and that in Him these two natures are united, unchanged and unconfused. In the Greek Church instead of five “prosfori” one large bread which is stamped with a large stamp having five sections is used.
November 17, 1946
Before the priest on the Table of Oblation is the Chalice, and on its left is the Paten. Taking the Spear in his right hand, and one of the “prosfora” in his left hand the priest makes the sign of the Cross with the Spear over the seal of the “Prosfora” saying with each sign of the Cross: “In remembrance of our Lord, and God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” Then making the first incision along the right border of the seal the priest says: 1) “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter.” Then making the second incision along the left border of the seal the priest says: 2) “And as a spotless lamb before his shearers is dumb, so opened he not his mouth.” Making the third incision along the top border of the seal, the priest says: 3) “In his humiliation his judgment was taken away.” The fourth cut is made along the bottom border of the seal and with it the priest says: 4) “For his generation who shall declare it.” The fifth incision is made at the bottom of the cube made by the first four cuts – and the priest says: “For his life is taken away from the earth.” Now the priest lifts the “Lamb of God” – as this cube of leavened bread is called – out of the “prosfora.” This action of preparing the “Lamb of God” (Agnets) is symbolic of the Nativity of our Lord and the “prosfora” from which the “Agnets” is lifted represents the Mother of God, Mary. The “Lamb of God” is inverted and with the seal facing down is placed on the Paten. With the Spear, the priest cuts the “Agnets” into four equal sections, but cuts only to the seal so that the four sections of the “Lamb of God” are held together. With these two final incisions, the priest says: “Sacrificed is the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world, for the life of the world, and for its salvation.” All these six verses said at the preparation of the “Agnets” are taken from the prophecy of Isaiah, who spoke of the coming Messiah and Saviour, Jesus Christy.
November 24, 1946
The “Lamb of God” is now on the Paten with its seal facing up. The priest takes the Spear in his right hand and placing the index and middle finger of his left hand on the “Agnets” he pierces its right side (Under the letters NI of the seal) saying: “One of the soldiers did pierce His side with a spear and straightway there came forth blood and water. And he that saw bare witness, and his witness is true.” Thus, the Church commemorates the Sacrifice of Cross on the Cross, and the moment when a soldier of Rome pierced His side to make certain that He was dead. At the words “blood and water” the priest pours into the Chalice from the Ladle a previously prepared mixture of wine and a few drops of water which the priest had blessed with these words: “Blessed be the union of Thy Holy Things always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.”
Then taking the second “prosfora” into his left hand the priest says: “In honor and commemoration of our Most Blessed Lady, Theotokos, and Ever-Virgin Mary, through whose prayers accept, O Lord, this sacrifice upon Thy most heavenly altar.”
And with the Spear in his right hand the priest cuts out of its side a large triangular portion. This he places on the right side of the “Lamb of God” near its center saying: “On Thy right hand stood the Queen, clothed in a vestment wrought with gold and many colors.”
Taking a third “prosfora” the priest proceeds to commemorate the nine ranks of Saints. For each rank he cuts from the seal of the “prosfora” a small portion which he places to the left of the “Agnets.” The nine portions are placed in three rows of three each. Now the Paten takes on a symbolic representation of the whole Church of Christ. The Church Triumphant is represented by “The Lamb of God,” Jesus Christ surrounded by the Saints of the Church. On His right stands the Mother of God, the Ever-virgin Mary, and on his left stand the Saints in the following order: 1) St. John the Baptist, 2) The Prophets, 3) The Holy Apostles, 4) The Holy Fathers, 5) The Holy Martyrs, 6) The Blessed Ascetics, 7) The Unmercenaries, 8) The Saints of the Day, 9) St. John Chrysostom.
December 1, 1946
The Paten represents the whole universe, and the Church of Christ in particular. Christ, the Lamb of God, is surrounded by the Saints of the Church. On the right is the Theotokos in her full glory; on the left are the nine Ranks of Saints: 1) St. John the Baptist, 2) The Prophets, 3) The Holy Apostles, 4) The Holy Fathers, 5) The Holy Martyrs, 6) The Blessed Ascetics, 7) The Unmercenaries, 8) The Saints of the Day, 9) St. John Chrysostom. These constitute the Church Triumphant.
Now the Priest mentions the names of the Living and the Dead. Prayers are offered for them, and particles of the Eucharistic bread are taken out and placed on the Paten.
For all these represented on the Paten in the particles form one whole and great Body of the Church – the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant. In the words of Saint Paul, (I Cor. X, 17.) “For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” This is the basic theme expressed in the Proskomedia – the Saving Suffering, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the God-Man; and the great Oneness of all in the one Body of the Church. This is also the basic theme which runs like a golden thread through the Divine Liturgy – the One-ness of all in and through the Body of Christ – His Holy Church.
The priest takes the fourth “prosfora” in his left hand and with the Spear in his right hand he cuts out a triangular particle, smaller than that of the Theotokos, out of the side. He places this particle below the Lamb of God and to its right, saying: “Remember, O Lord, Lover of mankind, every Bishop of the Orthodox, and the Holy Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs; (Then the priest mentions his ruling Metropolitan, and his Diocesan Bishop.) the honorable Priesthood, the Diaconate in Christ, and every Sacerdotal Order; our brethren and fellow-ministers, the priests, the deacons, and all our brethren whom Thou has called into Thy communion, through the tenderness of heart, O All-Good Lord.”
The priest then prepares another particle from the same “prosfora” which he places below and to the left of the “Agnets.” With this particle the priest commemorates the President of the United States and its God-loving Peoples. The names of the living are now mentioned, and for each a small particle is taken out of the fourth “prosfora.” The particles for the Dead are taken out of the fifth “prosfora.”
December 8, 1946
In the Paten there is now the “Lamb of God” in the center surrounded by portions of Eucharistic bread representing the whole Church of God. To the right of the “Agnets” (Lamb of God) stands the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. To the left are the nine ranks of Saints. Below the “Agnets” to the right is the particle of the “prosfora” representing the hierarchy of the Orthodox Churches. To the left is placed the particle representing the Orthodox peoples, the God-loving people of this Nation and its authorities. Below the “Lamb of God” the priest also places the many small particles of bread taken from the fourth “prosfora” in remembrance of the Living.
Now the priest takes the fifth “prosfora” and says: “In memory, and of the remission of sins, of the most Holy Patriarchs, of Orthodox and God-fearing Rulers, and of the blessed founders of this holy temple.” Then the priest mentions the departed whose memory he or the congregation wish to commemorate, and for each name the priest lifts a small particle form the “prosfora.”
An ancient custom of the Church which is still followed in many Orthodox Churches is for the Faithful to purchase a “prosfora” at the Church and send it to the Holy Altar with a list of names of the Living and Dead he wishes to be commemorated. The Priest blesses this “prosfora” and takes from it a small particle of bread for each name that is mentioned. The “prosfora” is then returned to the believer who takes it home to consume it with reverence as bread blessed by the Church.
Having mentioned all the Dead the priest says the following prayer: “And of all our Orthodox Fathers and brethren, who have fallen asleep in hope of Resurrection, of the Life Eternal, and of Communion with Thee, O Lord who loves mankind.”
The priest takes the fourth “prosfora” and lifting from it the final particle says: “Call to remembrance, O Lord, my unworthy self, and pardon me every transgression, whether voluntary or involuntary.”
Having ended the commemoration of the Living and Dead the priest says the “Prayer of the Censer” as it is brought to him by the Deacon or server: “Unto Thee, O Christ-God, do we offer incense for an odor of spiritual fragrance; which do Thou accept upon Thy most heavenly Altar, and pour forth upon us in return the grace of Thine all-holy Spirit.”
December 15, 1946
Having completed the preparation of the elements for the consecration in the Divine Liturgy the priest says the Prayer of the Censer. Then taking the Starcover (Zvezditsa) and censing it over the Censer, he places it on the Paten saying: “And the Star came and stood over the place where the Child was.” The Star-cover is symbolic of the Star which guided the shepherds to the place where Jesus was born. For practical purposes the “Zvezditsa” acts as a support for the Veil that is placed over the Paten, and it also protects the Eucharistic bread from being disturbed.
Now the priest takes the first Veil and censes it. Then he places it over the Paten saying: “The Lord is King, and hath put on glorious apparel; the Lord hath put on His apparel and girded Himself with strength. He hath made the round world so sure that it cannot be moved … Thou art from everlasting. Thy testimonies, O Lord, are very sure: holiness becometh Thine house forever.” Placing the second veil, after censing it, over the Chalice, the priest says: “Thy virtue, O Christ, hath covered the heavens, and earth also is full of Thy Praise.” Now taking the third covering called the Air (Vozduch) the priest censes it and places it over the Paten and Chalice saying: “Cover us with the shelter of Thy wings, and drive away from us every foe and adversary. Order our lives in peace, O Lord; have mercy upon us and upon Thy world, and save our souls; forasmuch as Thou art good and loves mankind.”
The two veils – one covering the Paten and the other the Chalice – have a dual symbolism. The Proskomedia commemorates both the Birth and the Death of Christ, therefore, the veils are symbolic both of the swaddling clothes in which the Christ Child was wrapped, and the grave clothes in which the Body of Christ was entwined for burial. The third covering, the Air, symbolizes in particular the air or the Heavens which God created, and His Glory and Grace which covers the whole world.
With the Censer the priest now censes the Table of Oblation (Zhertvennik) thrice saying each time: “Blessed art Thou, O our God, who herein art well pleased. Glory to Thee; always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.”
December 22, 1946
After censing the Table of Oblation three times the priest says the Prayer of Oblation: “O God, our God, who did send forth the Heavenly Bread, the Nourishment of the whole world, our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour and Redeemer and Benefactor, blessing and sanctifying us: Do Thou, the same Lord, bless also this oblation, and accept it on Thy most heavenly altar. Call to remembrance those who offer it, and those for whom it is offered, inasmuch as Thou art good and love mankind; and preserve us blameless in the holy mystery of Thy Divine Mysteries. For sanctified and glorified be Thy most honorable and majestic Name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Then the priest says the usual prayers of dismissal in which he especially mentions the name of Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople.
Thus, ends the “Proskomedia,” or the Service of Oblation in which the priest prepares the elements of bread and wine that are to be consecrated later on in the Divine Liturgy. This Service of Oblation is a commemoration by the Church of the Nativity of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and of His Sacrifice on the Cross, and His Death. It is also a living symbolic reminder of the Oneness of the Church of Christ, both of the Church Triumphant, with the Virgin Mary and the Saints and witnesses surrounding the Throne of Christ, and of the Church Militant in the world standing at the foot of the Throne of our Lord. Together all the members of the Body of Christ witness the consecration of bread and wine, and its transubstantiation into the Body and Blood of the Holy Eucharist.
When the Orthodox Believer sends the names of the Living and Dead which he wishes to commemorate to the Holy Altar, the priest places a particle of the Eucharistic Bread for each name mentioned on the Paten. Thus those mentioned are symbolically and mystically present at the commemoration of the “Proskomedia,” and at the consecration of the bread and wine later on in the Divine Liturgy.
December 29, 1946