V. Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian
Before the deacon delivers the chalice containing the gifts of the Holy Communion, he exchanges Psalm 24:7-10 with the celebrant.
While the choir sings Hreshdagayin, the celebrant and the deacon recite Psalm 24, verses 7-10, in response to one another. They usually recite the verses in a low voice, too low for the congregation to hear over the hymn. What are the words of the Psalm?
Deacon: “Lift up your gates, O Princes; let the everlasting doors be lifted up, and the king of glory shall come in.”
Celebrant: “Who is the king of glory: The Lord strong in his power, the Lord mighty in battle.”
Deacon: “Lift up your gates, O princes; let the everlasting doors be lifted up, and the king of glory shall come in.
Celebrant: “Who is this king of glory? The Lord of hosts.”
Deacon: “This is the king of glory!”
What did David mean by “gates,” “doors,” “princes,” and “king of glory?” According to Willem A. VanGemeren, the structure of Psalm 24 is divided into three parts: 1) The Creator-God (vv. 1-2), 2) The Holy God (vv. 3-6) and 3) The Glorious King or the Divine Warrior (vv. 7-10). The verses recited while transferring the Gifts come from the last three verses, where God is represented as the Glorious King or the Divine Warrior. In the Jewish tradition, this Psalm is recited on Sunday, in celebration of the first day of creation. According to VanGemeren, early Christians sang the Psalm on Ascension Day.
Some scholars believe that David was referring to the return of the ark from battle to Jerusalem or to the Temple. “Doors” or “gates” may refer either to the doors of the Temple or the gates of Jerusalem. The ark, which contains the real presence of God, returns to its place in the Temple. The Psalmist uses “lift up your heads” as a command to rejoice. We no longer have to bow down before an enemy, because victory is at our door.
This exchange signifies Christ the King’s victorious entry into the sanctuary. However, that only covers the surface. We have all lost things that have been very precious to us. We have also often found these lost items. These discoveries cause a different kind of joy. We often don’t think that we will ever get those things back. The Israelites felt that upon the return of the ark, just as Christians did when returning the true Cross of Christ from the Persians. Jesus told the story of “the lost coin,” “the lost sheep,” and “the lost son,” (Luke 15) to teach us about the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus Christ is the Kingdom of Heaven. We receive Him as our salvation. We rejoice upon his return because our sins separated us from Him and distanced us from the Kingdom. Christ arrives as our gift of salvation, for Whom we should rejoice and celebrate.
Can we count how many times we have walked away from God, yet He found us and brought us back? Jesus walked through death to show us His love and His forgiveness. God goes out of His way to bring us all back from the wrong path. And now, He delivers Himself to us as a gift so that we may never be lost.
Have you ever heard of a king that asks for permission before entering a house? Jesus the King does. The celebrant asks, “who is this king of glory?” Many of us have seen that painting where Jesus is knocking the door. The meaning behind this painting is that Jesus is knocking on the door to our hearts. Jesus is the Creator and the Owner of our hearts, yet asks for our permission to come in. God respects our freedom of choice. Every human being has the freedom to reject Him, even though He is the Creator of the universe. Who can reject a victorious King, who bears love, grace and salvation paid for in His blood? He brings Himself to each of us as a gift, rather than making us go to Him.
During the transfer of gifts, Jesus Christ knocking on our door. He asks us if we will let Him in to redeem us and save our souls. This question alone melts my heart, because I do not think that I deserve to be asked. We crave Christ in our lives. We crave freedom from our sins. We starve for His love and grace. Even so, He asks us every Sunday during the Divine Liturgy: do you want me to give myself to you, so that you never have to lift your burdens on your own again? Would you like me to enter your heart and heal your wounds and heartbrokenness? Would you like me to come in and renew your heart? No matter how many promises we have failed to keep, He asks us to answer Him in our hearts as we look at the Gifts of the Holy Communion in the hands of the celebrant. The celebrant blesses the faithful by making the sign of the cross with the gifts and says: “blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.”
If we transcend the words and the meaning of the Liturgy, we begin to understand the depth of God’s love for us. If participating in the Liturgy does not bring us closer to God, it is only a performance. Sometimes a word, a tone, or a movement shakes us. Regardless of how many times we participate in the Liturgy, we are still touched by His love and real presence. Each time, He repeats His question: can I enter your heart? Do I have your permission?
 VanGemeren A., Willem, Psalms- The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, (Zondervan 2008), p. 493.