V. Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian
The deacon calls the faithful to pay attention to the Divine Mystery, as the priest inaudibly prays the Anaphora, the Eucharistic prayer.
In most churches, the choir sings and responds to the calls from the Holy Altar, rather than the congregation. For this reason, the faithful often do not feel that the Divine Liturgy is a conversation between the celebrant, the deacon, and the people. In fact, the Liturgy is meant to be a spiritual discussion including all of the faithful present in the church. I firmly believe that the attending faithful should sing and respond, instead of or along with the choir. This will restore the true meaning of the Liturgy, and in turn draw more faithful into the church.
During the course of the Liturgy, it gradually escalates spiritually. At this moment, the Anaphora of the Holy Eucharist begins. The Anaphora is considered the most solemn part of the Liturgy, when the consecration of the bread and wine takes place. Here we will focus on the “conversation” before the Sanctus (Holy, Holy…).
Let us take a look at the text:
Deacon: Let us stand in awe, let us stand in the fear of the Lord, let us stand straight, let us attend with good heed.
Choir: To you, O God
Deacon: Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, offers himself in sacrifice.
Choir: Mercy and peace and a sacrifice of praise.
Celebrant: The grace, the love and the divine sanctifying power of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit be with you all. †
Choir: Amen. And with your spirit.
Deacon: The doors, the doors! With all wisdom and good heed lift up your minds in the fear of God.
Choir: We have them lifted up to you, O Lord almighty.
Deacon: And give thanks to the Lord with the whole heart.
Choir: It is proper and right.
Now, imagine that we are seated at the Last Supper with our Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostles did not understand what was happening or why. However, imagine that we are Jesus’ friends. We know that only hours separate us from His suffering, crucifixion and death. How terrifying! We know that our beloved Savior is going to sacrifice Himself, although He has done no wrong. We never want anyone to die, for any reason. But our pure, caring, Lord knowingly walks into death for each one of us. The moment of sacrifice grows closer, deepening our spiritual connection to the Liturgy.
What did Jesus bring to humanity? He brought mercy, peace, grace, love, and sanctification. For the most part, these may seem like simple words. Each of them, however, compresses a theological meaning. Humanity suffered from the tension between the Law and sin. Keeping the Law while fighting sin challenged us. Humanity suffered for centuries because of this tension until our Lord Jesus Christ brought mercy, peace, grace, love and sanctification. Imagine a prisoner receiving parole without a trial. Not freed by lawyer or judge, but because someone came to pay his bail. This encapsulates what mercy, peace, grace, love and sanctification mean for us. He saved us from the consequences of our own sins, not because we are worthy, but because He loves us. When the celebrant makes the sign of the Holy Cross, he passes us Christ’s mercy, grace, love and divine sanctifying power. Christ’s grace and love open the door of mercy to us, through which we are saved and sanctified.
Next, the deacon on the Holy Altar calls us where he says to close the doors and focus on the divine mystery of the Holy Eucharist. This reminds us of Jesus’ words, who instructed us that “when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6) This moment needs our full attention. The Liturgy is becoming holier, and we should close our minds to the world outside the divine mystery. We should close the doors to our hearts and let our hearts connect to the Lord through the Divine Liturgy. We cannot stand at the threshold between the world and the divine mystery of the Holy Eucharist. Worldly desires open the world’s door; but grace, mercy, love, and peace open the door to the divine mystery.
Our Lord Jesus Christ opened the door to our salvation. He did this by giving Himself as a sacrifice for our wrongdoing. He did not defend Himself before the pharisees, paving the way to His conviction and sacrifice. His grace opened the door to our salvation.
No matter how hard we try to comprehend the true meaning of Christ’s sacrifice, it never seems to be enough. Likewise, we have to go beyond participating in the Divine Liturgy every Sunday. We have to live Christ’s great love for us, by loving and giving to our fellow humans.
Let us pray the following:
My Lord and My Savior Jesus Christ, help me to walk with you, while you are taken as a Lamb by my own sins, to be sacrificed for my life. Let me walk in through the door of mercy and leave my worldly thoughts and desires outside the door of the church. Let me come to collect the blood that You shed. Let me take Your love with me to others, so that everyone feels Your overwhelming and unconditional love through my words and deeds. You are the Glory, who sanctified, purified and saved my sinful life, by Your grace, love, mercy, and peace. Amen.