This is the sixth in a series of blogs on the Divine Liturgy. The intent of the series is to remind us of what our children are learning about the service. That way we as a family can better understand what is happening around us during the Liturgy, and together we can more fully enter into “the offering of the people for the whole world!” (Photos courtesy of Teaching Pics: http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/teachingpics.)
This week’s post will continue our look at the Liturgy of the Faithful. I must admit that, because I am a member of the choir in our parish, by this point in the service I am often swept away with paying attention to the music and the director, and not always focusing on what exactly is going on or what we are saying/singing/praying. This process of studying the Liturgy is giving me much to think about! I hope that you are learning along with me, and that, together, we can help our families be better aware of what we are participating in at the Divine Liturgy.
We have already discussed how the Liturgy of the Faithful begins with the singing of the Cherubic Hymn, the Great Entrance, etc. It then continues with reciting the Creed, the Anaphora, and hymns of preparation for communion. So what is it that are our children learning about this part of the Liturgy of the Faithful? I found that they are actually learning quite a lot! Let us look together at what they are learning and learn along with them.
After the Great Entrance in the Liturgy of the Faithful, we recite the Nicene Creed. Our children are learning that the Nicene Creed is more than just something nice that we can say together: it is the basis of what we believe. “The word ‘creed’ comes from the Latin word, ‘credo,’ which means ‘I believe.’… Reciting the Creed is… a far greater pledge than one to any country on earth. When we sing or recite the Creed during the Liturgy, we are acknowledging that we accept and believe in what the church teaches us and there is an implied pledge to uphold and witness to these things… The Creed uses ‘I’ because each person is called to make their own statement of faith. I order for Christians to act together as a people of God, they must have a common belief and the Creed served the purpose of bringing them together in their faith.” (1) “In the Nicene Creed, we proclaim the truths of our faith. When we say the Creed aloud together, we confess our faith and confirm our unity…” (2)
Immediately after the Creed, the priest points our attention to the anaphora, or the lifting up of the gifts of bread and wine which are being offered to God for Him to use in the Eucharist. Our children are learning that the anaphora is a very holy moment in the Divine Liturgy. “The word Anaphora means ‘offering.’ This is the part of the Liturgy where we offer the bread and wine to God. We are told to stand up, listen and pay attention to this important part of the Liturgy.” (3, pg. 26) “The most important gifts are the gifts of bread, wine and water that we offer to God during the Divine Liturgy. Jesus Christ taught us to offer these gifts because they represent our lives and everything we have.” (4)
There are many beautiful fulfillments of Old Testament worship in this part of the Liturgy. We ask God to transform the gifts into the Body and Blood of Christ Himself. “During… [the anaphora], we offer our gifts of bread and wine, our hearts, and our thanksgiving to God. We hear Christ’s words when He consecrated the bread and wine to be the Eucharist at the Last Supper. We ask the Holy Spirit to come down upon these gifts to become the Body and Blood of Christ.” See (2) above. “Most importantly of all we pray to the Holy Spirit to come to us and change the bread into the very body of Christ and the wine into His blood. This is the climax of the Liturgy, when God truly comes among us.” (5) Immediately after we ask God for these things, we thank Him in song. “At the holiest moment of the Divine Liturgy, when the priest asks God to bless our gifts, we sing: ‘We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we give thanks to Thee, O Lord.’ The priest asks God to send the Holy Spirit to bless us and to bless our gifts. the Holy Spirit makes our gifts truly the Body and Blood of His son Jesus Christ. When we receive these Gifts in Holy Communion, we truly receive Jesus Christ in us.” (6)
Our children are learning that we do not approach the throne of God (or His Table) alone: the saints who have gone before us are already there, praying for/with us. “The priest now remembers all those Christians who’ve gone before us. He ends by remembering the purest example of a Christian, the Virgin Mary.” See (3) above, p. 30. These prayers conclude with the Theotokos, since “she was the one who gave birth to the God-Man in the flesh which makes possible his ‘birth’ in our midst on the Holy Table.” (7)
They are also learning that we pray for the departed and all living people before we are ready to ask God to bless the Holy Eucharist of which we are about to partake. The anaphora concludes with prayers for both the departed and the living, (especially the poor), and a blessing from the priest. The anaphora is followed by yet another litany in which we ask “that the Gifts be received as a sweet smelling fragrance on God’s heavenly altar… [and] that we may receive the Gifts worthily, for the forgiveness of sins, for the communion of the Holy Spirit and not for condemnation.” See (7) above. That is a lot to ask for, in one brief litany. Let us be sure we are paying attention as we ask!
The next time I am participating in the Divine Liturgy, the Kiss of Peace will be my cue to pay special attention to what’s happening next! Whether we are corporately stating our beliefs through reciting the Nicene Creed; praying along through the holy moments in the Anaphora; lifting up the world through litanies; or agreeing with the request for God’s blessing on the Gifts, each opportunity now has deeper meaning to me! I hope that they do for you as well, now that we have spent a little time looking more closely at them.
- Ashanin, Natalie, “The Creed is What We Believe”, Little Falcons Magazine: #37, “The Creed” .pp. 4 & 6, (Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf )
- Various, The Way the Truth the Life, Yonkers, NY: Orthodox Christian Education Commission, 2003, p. 99, (available here http://orthodoxchristianed.com/files/2214/0856/4733/OCEC-Catalog-2014.pdf)
- Timko-Hughes, Anna, The Divine Liturgy for Children: An Interactive Guide for Participation in the Divine Liturgy, Yonkers, NY: Orthodox Christian Education Commission, 1996, p. 26. (Available here http://store.ancientfaith.com/the-divine-liturgy-for-children-an-interactive-guide/)
- Ashanin, Natalie, “Giving Thanks”, Little Falcons Magazine: #15, “Thanksgiving” .p. 7, (Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf )
- Ashanin, Natalie, “The Liturgy – Where We Meet God”, Little Falcons Magazine: #52, “Holy Liturgy” .p. 8, (Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf. )
- Kazich, Fr. Thomas, “Giving Thanks in the Liturgy”, Little Falcons Magazine: #15, “Thanksgiving” .p. 13, (Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf )
- Cutler, Archimandrite Alexander, “The Divine Liturgy: An Explanation for Parents & Children, Building an Orthodox Christian Family: A Handbook for Parents from the archives of the Orthodox Family Life Institute, p. 32.
The following posts feature quotes related to what is happening during this part of the Liturgy of the Faithful.
“…The people are invited to join in the recitation of the Creed… It is a confession of faith by the whole Church, and individually by the members who constitute it. Participation means reciting… [the] Creed with full awareness and commitments. One way of helping this happen… is to ask ‘To Whom am I saying the creed?’ The creed takes on a totally different, and very personal aura when we direct it consciously toward God Himself, as a prayer, as a conscious linking of one’s self with the Triune God.” ~ Harakas, Stanley S. The Melody of Prayer: How to Personally Experience the Divine Liturgy. Minneapolis, Minn: Light and Life Pub. Co, 1979, pp. 28-30.
If you have not already done so, help your children learn to recite the Creed from memory. Here is one suggestion of a way to do so: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/398498267001089819/
There are many ways to help your children learn the Creed. For example there is a coloring book of the Creed as shown through icons, found at http://www.stnectariospress.com/the-creed-in-coloring-icons-and-stickers/. Slightly older children can learn about it by reading the illustrated “I Believe: The Nicene Creed” found at http://www.amazon.com/I-Believe-The-Nicene-Creed/dp/0802852580. Older students will benefit from studying this guide to the Nicene Creed (with a study guide) available at http://www.stnectariospress.com/the-nicene-creed-for-young-people-with-study-guide/.
“During the singing of the Creed, it is the custom in the Church for the clergy to fan the eucharistic gifts. This fanning was an act of veneration used toward the earthly emperor in the Byzntine period, during which time it was incorporated into the Church’s liturgy, and used as an actof veneration toward the ‘presences’ of the Heavenly Kin gin the midst of His People, namely towards the book of the Gospels and the eucharistic gifts. In some churches special liturgical fans are carried by the altar servers at processions.” Hopko, Fr. Thomas, sidebar, Little Falcons Magazine: #37, “The Creed” .p. 8, (available at Available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf )
“Immediately after the Creed the priest calls all to attention for the anaphora or the offering up of the gifts of bread and wine to God. This is the holy oblation or sacrifice of the Lord, Jesus Christ, for our salvation on Calvary represented to us in this Eucharistic offering. The choir responds, ‘A mercy of peace a sacrifice of praise.’ This ‘Mercy of Peace’ refers to the communion sacrifices offered to god by the Jewish priests in the temple at Jerusalem. Communion sacrifices were offerings (usually of animals) that had certain parts burned up for God and other parts eaten by those who made the offering. This was thus a sacrificial meal with God. In Leviticus 7:11-12, we read, ‘This is the ritual for the communion sacrifice… offered to God: If it is offered with a sacrifice of praise…’ After the priest asks all present to lift up their hearts, he invites us to make a thanksgiving unto God (literally, from the Greek, ‘Let us make an Eucharist.’)” Building an Orthodox Christian Family: A Handbook for Parents from the archives of the Orthodox Family Life Institute, p. 32
“The Anaphora (‘offering back’) is the lengthy prayer which culminates in the Consecration of the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. However, we are offering to God from the very gifts that He Himself gave to us. It is for this reason we say, “Your own from Your own.” It is God who truly provides, and God who receives.
“The Anaphora begins with a dialogue between the priest and the faithful. The priest commands, “Let us stand well. Let us stand in awe. Let us be attentive, that we may present the holy offering (“anaphora”) in peace.” The faithful respond, “Mercy and peace, a sacrifice of praise.” The priest continues, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you” – to which the faithful reply – “And with your spirit.” Again, the priest exhorts, “Let us lift up our hearts” – the faithful respond – “We lift them up to the Lord.” The priest then says, “Let us give thanks unto the Lord,” which prompts the response, “It is proper and right.”
“This dialogue puts into perspective what is taking place during the Liturgy – we are presenting a gift to the King. As the created, we stand at attention in the presence of the Creator. This exchange highlights the point of the Liturgy – God offers us His mercy and His peace, and we respond with praise and thanksgiving. We lift up our hearts and give thanks to God.” http://saintbarbara.net/articles/study_of_the_divine_liturgy.pdf
“As if standing before the Throne of God in the Kingdom of Heaven, while thanking God the Father for all that He has done for us, we join our voices with the angels to sing to Him this hymn of the heavenly hosts, “Holy, holy, holy…” Building an Orthodox Christian Family: A Handbook for Parents from the archives of the Orthodox Family Life Institute, p. 32