By: + Father Andrew Mahalares
The Actions of Divine Liturgy
The Divine Liturgy may be divided into two major parts: the Liturgy of the Catechumens and the Liturgy of the Faithful, which are preceded by the Service of Preparation. Although there are many symbolic interpretations of the Divine Liturgy, the most fundamental meaning is found in the actions and prayers.
The Service of Preparation
Prior to the beginning of the Liturgy, the priest prepares himself with prayer and then proceeds to vest himself. The vestments express his priestly ministry as well as his office. Next, the priest goes to the Proskomide Table which is on the left side of the Altar Table in the Sanctuary. There, he prepares the offering of bread and wine for the Liturgy. Ideally, the leavened loaves of bread, and the wine from which the offering is taken, are prepared by members of the congregation. The elements are presented to the priest before the service, together with the names of those persons, living and dead, who are to be remembered during the Divine Liturgy. The offering symbolically represents the entire Church gathered about Christ, the Lamb of God.
The Liturgy of the Catechumens
The Divine Liturgy begins with the solemn declaration: "Blessed be the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit now and forever more." With these words we are reminded that in the Divine Liturgy the Church becomes a real manifestation of God's Kingdom on earth. Since the first part of the Liturgy was designed originally for the Catechumens, those being schooled in the faith, had a very instructive quality. The Eucharist also has elements which are in common with other Services. We gather as Christians who share a common faith in the Holy Trinity. We sing and pray as a people united in Christ, who are not bound by time, space, or social barriers.
The Little Entrance is the central action of the first part of the Liturgy. A procession takes place in which the priest carries the Book of Gospels from the sanctuary into the nave. The procession directs our attention to the Scripture and to the presence of Christ in the Gospel. The entrance leads to the Epistle lesson, the Gospel, and the Sermon.