V. Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian
After the declaration and the glorification of
the Kingdom of God, the choir or a deacon recites the introit for the day
The introit, or Jzamamoud (Ժամամուտ), means the opening of the liturgy. Jzam (ժամ) means liturgy, and moud (մուտ) means entrance. At this stage of the liturgy, the Midday Office or Synaxis begins. The Synaxis was considered the liturgy for catechumen, those who are not yet baptized but desiring to “audit” the liturgy, in order prepare themselves for baptism. Accordingly, this part of the liturgy is known as the Liturgy of the Word. The faithful listen to passages from the Prophecies, from the Epistles, and at the end of the Liturgy of Word, the Gospel.
However, what is the meaning of the introit? Why should we pay attention or sing with the deacon? The introit is an introductory Psalm or prayer. There are many different introits, both for feast days and for fasting days. One particular introit is recited almost every Sunday. This introit is called “Miadzin Vorti.” Both the original text and the English translation follow (“Miadzin Vorti yev Pant Asdvadz”):
The Original Text:
«Միածին Որդի եւ Բանդ Աստուած, եւ անմահ էութիւն, որ յանձն առեր մարմնանալ, ի սրբոհւոյ Աստուածածնէն եւ ի միշտ Կուսէն։ Անփոփոխելիդ մարդ եղեալ, խաչեցար Քրիստոս Աստուած մեր, մահուամբ զմահ կոխեցեր։ Մինդ ի Սրբոյ Երրորդութէնէն, փառաւորակից ընդ Հօր եւ ընդ Սրբոյ Հոգւոյն կեցո զմեզ»։
“Only-begotten Son and Word of God and immortal Being, who consented to become incarnate from the ever-Virgin, the holy Mother of God. O Christ, our God, you who are unchangeable, you became man, and were crucified, and conquered death by your death. You who are on the Holy Trinity, equal in glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us”.
The introit proclaims why the faithful gather around God’s holy table. It summarizes the Liturgy, preparing the faithful to “fight.” The introit takes place immediately after the glorification of the Kingdom of God. Imagine a messenger from a kingdom proclaiming victory with a scroll. In this case the deacon or the choir declares victory. What is victory for a believer? Why do we call it a “celebration?” Let’s look at the text of the introit for the non-feast Sundays. It summarizes the purpose behind Christ’s earthly mission. He consented to become incarnate and save us through crucifixion and resurrection. The introit declares the King’s victory over death! God Himself fought against death, so that we may live forever. The Divine Liturgy transforms the Holy Table into a banquet of eternal victory over death. This is the spirit of the Divine Liturgy.
The spiritual aspects of the introit fall into three categories:
1. Birth in Christ.
2. Death in Christ.
3. Resurrection in Christ.
We gather for the Divine Liturgy to commemorate and recall the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The Divine Liturgy is not a “show,” but rather requires meaningful participation. Focusing on the following three spiritual aspects of the Divine Liturgy will help us participate more effectively.
1. Birth in Christ. Our baptisms make us children of God. We are spiritually reborn. Our souls are cleansed as we leave Adam’s sin in the font of baptism. We are no longer beings burdened by death, but gifted with divine grace in our nature. Therefore, we belong to the Kingdom of God. Isn’t it an honor to be invited to the royal palace to dine with the King? We may take this for granted, but it is an honor. When we are born in Christ, we are clothed in the grace of salvation. Christ consented to take human form and conquer death with His own death. Accordingly, we must consent to be clothed in His grace. In this way, we continue His fight against evil and death. With this in mind, we can revitalize and energize our spirit to continue our battle against the adversary and life challenges.
2. Death in Christ. In the Gospel of John 12:24, Jesus explains, “very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” We read this gospel passage at the end of Liturgy, but it summarizes the meaning behind dying in Jesus that we proclaim in the Jzamamoud. We can only die in Jesus if we cleanse our soul of sin. We cleanse our soul of sin by confession, repentance, and asking for forgiveness. The world’s worst enemy is conquered by these three spiritual practices. We attend the Divine Liturgy because Jesus died on the Holy Cross for us so we may live. We must nail our sins on the cross in order to receive His resurrection. We must fight our earthly desires that attach us to the world and keep us from rising with grace. Dying in Christ means dying to the world. In this case, we understand the word “world” to signify the world of sin. The Divine Liturgy creates an opportunity to declare every week that the world has no power over us, because we died in Christ on the victorious Holy Cross.
3. Resurrection in Christ. This encompasses the entire Divine Liturgy. We need to get up. We all realize how much sin, challenges, and difficulties bring us down. The world does not allow us to stand on our feet. Christ conquered death and everything related to it. We should always feel victorious. Christ paid for victory with His own Body and Blood. That gathers us around Him. That is why we stand before His Holy Table. The Divine Liturgy is an invitation for all of us to taste victory. It is a furnace which renews us in Christ, energized and ready to declare victory over the world.
Victory in battle, is based on having an upright spirit. It assures us that the battle is won. We are all backed by the greatest power in the universe. The introit brings assurance and lifts the spirits of the faithful, so they can participate and be born, die, and be resurrected once again.