HOW TO BENEFIT FROM THE HOLY LITURGY”

 

 

This book has been translated especially for the benefit of all the children and youth in the lands of immigration.

 

I  believe  this  book  is  very  important  for  every  deacon  and member of the congregation who dearly loves the Lord and earnestly   seeks   to   benefit   from   every   moment   spent   in church, so that they may feel comforted by the heavenly joys the  church  offers  and  receive  spiritual  fullness  from  the

‘meals’ they partake of :-

 

?   the meal of doctrinal liturgy of the catechumens

?   the   meal   of   spiritual   worshipping   in   the   liturgy   of believers, or the sacrificial liturgy

?   then the communion of the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord God Emmanuel, which we partake of in a worthily manner  and  have  Christ  abiding  in  us,  as  the  Lord promised : “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him” (John 6:56).

 

May this book be a source of blessing for all who read it, so that they may learn how to benefit from the Divine Liturgy.

 

[Bishop_Mattaous/GoogleSq_Access.htm]

 

 

Through  the  intercessions  of  our  mother  St.  Mary  and  the prayers  of  His  Holiness  our  beloved  father  Pope  Shenouda III.

 

The grace of the Lord bless us.

 

 

 

Bishop Mettaous

Abbot of El Syrian Monastery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Bishop_Mattaous/GoogleSq_Access.htm]

 

 

 

 

 

HOW TO BENEFIT FROM THE HOLY

LITURGY

 

 

By His Grace Bishop Mettaous, Abbot of St. Mary

& El Syrian Monastery

 

 

 

Introduction To The First Edition

 

In  our  Coptic  Church,  the  Holy  Mass,  in  her  essence  of group prayer and worship, is the house of God and the door of heaven, the house of angels and the congregation of the saints.

 

During the Holy Mass, angels and archangels, the Cherubim and  the  Seraphim,  together  with  all  the  heavenly  hosts  are present and are surrounding the altar with great glory. At the awesome moment when the priest calls on the Holy Spirit to transform  the  bread  and  wine  present  on  the  altar  into  the holy Body and Blood of our Lord, He is present amidst the praising of His holy angels.

 

The  time  we  spend  in  church  during  the  Mass  is  a  slice  of heaven  on  earth.  The  glory  might  be  hidden  from  our  eyes because we are still in the flesh, but many desired to see His glory and indeed did see and are witnesses to their testimony.

 

Yet despite all these glories, many express that they do not benefit  from  attending  the  Holy  Mass.  So,  how  can  one benefit from the Mass?

 

 

6

 

 

 

Before answering this, we must first understand what hinders

receiving benefit ...

 

i.  Coming  late  to  Church  -  If  one  comes  to  church  late, they will      deprive            themselves      of         receiving         the       Holy Communion.  They  will  also  deprive  themselves  of  listening

to the Gospel readings, the beautiful hymns, and the deeply spiritual prayers said during the Divine Liturgy; prayers that uplift  one’s  heart  and  spirit  to  heaven,  giving  comfort  and peace  from  all  worldly  cares.  For  this  reason,  the  Lord Himself  advises  us  to  come  to  church  early  :  “Those  who seek Me early will find Me” (Proverbs 8:17).

 

ii. Not  participating  in  the  responses  during  the  Mass  - One  may  come  early,  but  attend  as  a  spectator  and  not  a participator. Hence they will not feel a part of the liturgy and leave  feeling  they  have  not  received  any  spiritual  benefit. Whoever  attends  the  Mass  is  an  important  servant  of  the Mass,  and  this  is  clarified  during  the  Servant’s  Absolution when the priest says : “May Your servants, the ministers of this day, hegumens, priests, deacons, clergy, all Your people and my weak self be absolved...”. Hence the congregation is one  of  the  three  important  personalities  present  during  the Mass - the clergy, the deacons, and the congregation. If one of  them  is  absent,  it  is  not  possible  to  celebrate  the  Holy Mass.

 

Everyone present during the Divine Liturgy should share and participate  in  the  responses  with  all  their  heart,  soul  and senses in order to receive from God the overflowing comfort and  peace  He  will  provide  for  us.  Therefore,  before  the

 

 

 

 

7

 

actual  responses        are       the       words, ‘The    congregation responds,’ not ‘The deacon responds’.

 

iii.  Lack  of  concentration  or  contemplation  during  the responses - Many times the hymns and responses are said in recitation  instead  of  in  contemplation,  and  hence  our  mind may become distracted from focusing on the prayers of the Mass. Every participant, whether clergy, deacon or believer should  pray  with  attention,  understanding  and  in  a  spirit  of contemplation,  so  that  together  with  the  Apostle  Paul  we say, “I  will  pray  with  the  spirit  and  I  will  also  pray  with understanding,  I  will  sing  with  the  spirit  and  I  will  also sing with understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15).

 

iv.  Occupation  with  administrative  matters  instead  of with  spiritual  matters  -  Some  people,  during  the  Mass, occupy  their  minds  with  administrative  matters,  like  the selling of the ‘korban’ (small holy breads), or collecting alms, donations, and so on. Amidst these thoughts they do not give themselves a chance to listen to the Mass and partake in the hymns  and  responses.  To  those,  the  Lord  Jesus  says  :

“These you ought to have done without leaving the others undone” (Luke 11:42), and also, “To everything there is a season...”  (Ecclesiastics  3:1).  Hence,  although  the  Apostle Paul  tells  us,  “Those  who  lead,  with  diligence”  (Romans

12:8), and at the same time, they participate in prayers and

worships, according to what the Apostle also tells us in the same   chapter:           “fervent            in         spirit,  serving            the       Lord, continuing steadfastly in prayer” (Romans 12:11,12).

 

v.  Prayer  of  the  whole  Mass  in  the  Coptic  language  - Some  complain  that  they  do  not  understand  anything  or benefit because they do not understand the Coptic language

 

 

8

 

it is prayed in. Hence, the preference is for praying the Mass

in the language most common to all, and leaving a part to be said  in  Coptic,  for  it  is  our  original  language  and  our heritage, and so it is important for us not to neglect it. It is important  however,  that  the  congregation  try  to  learn  the Coptic  language,  for  it  is  the  language  of  our  fathers  and grandfathers.

 

vi.  Lack  of  partaking  of  the  Holy  Communion  -  Some people  attend  the  Mass  only  out  of  habit,  and  deprive themselves  from  receiving  the  Holy  Sacraments,  sometimes for months or years. The church advises that all those, who have  confessed  and  are  spiritually  prepared  should  receive the Holy Communion according to the words of our beloved Lord:  “Drink  from  it  all  of  you...”  (Matthew  26:26,27). Those who do not partake of the Holy Communion deprive themselves from the community of believers and from a great blessing.

 

vii.       Taking the       Holy    Communion    without            having confessed   -   A   person   may   come   to   receive   the   Holy Communion,  while  having  on  their  conscience  sins  that  are not  confessed.  This  guilty  feeling  deprives  the  person  from receiving   spiritual   consolation   and   benefit.   The   person receiving  the  Holy  Communion  should  be  repentant,  pure and ready.

 

This book, my beloved reader, is a humble trial to overcome the  obstacles  which  prevent  you  from  gaining  the  spiritual benefits  of  attending  the  Mass.  It  is  also  a  journey  to  take you   to   the   depth   of   the   unity   of   the   Mass   and   Holy Communion. It explains how you can prepare yourself to be ready  and  deserving  of  the  holy  sacrament  of  Communion,

 

 

9

 

and   it   also   explains   the   responses   of   the   deacon   and congregation, in addition to some spiritual contemplations.

 

This  book,  “How  to  benefit  from  the  Holy  Mass”, compliments   my   last   book,   “The  Spirituality  of  the Rites of the Holy Mass”, which  focuses  on  the  prayers and rituals of the priest. This book, however, focuses more on   the   responses,   practices   and   contemplations   of   the deacons and congregation during the Holy Mass.

 

“For  those  who  worship  Him  must  worship  in  spirit  and truth” (John 4:24).

 

We  ask  our  beloved  God  to  bless  this  book  so  that  it  may become a source of blessing to all who read it, so that it may encourage  contemplation,  understanding,  concentration  and depth of prayer during the Holy Mass, and so that we may proceed to receive the Holy Communion in worthiness with

a  contrite  spirit;  hence  attaining  uncountable  blessings  and comfort.

 

With the blessings of our beloved father His Holiness Pope

Shenouda III.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10

 

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Many   complain   that   they   do   not   receive   benefit   from attending the Divine Mass. In this book we will try to walk you   through,   my   beloved   Christian,   step   by   step   the procedures            before, during and      after    the       Mass,  and contemplate  together  the  rituals,  and  fervent  prayers  which must be understood in order to benefit.

 

We record all these contemplations and practices from what we  read,  hear  and  experience,  in  the  hope  of  providing  for you  benefit  and  solving  some  of  the  problems  many  of  us face.

 

The Liturgy of St. Basil will be the focus of our discussion and contemplation, for it is the one most commonly used.

 

 

 

1.         PREPARATORY PRACTICES

 

The day in the church rite, starts from the evening prior to the celebration of the Holy Mass, so, for example, in order to attend  the  Sunday  Mass  you  must  be  prepared  from  the Saturday.

 

How do we prepare?

 

The  church  rules  necessitate  your  coming  clean  and  pure, both from within and on the outside; you must be in the best image externally and internally, as you are appearing before

 

 

 

11

 

God,  the  King  of  kings,  Lord  of  lords  and  Master  of  all earthly masters.

 

External cleanliness means bathing, clean clothes, and decent dressing. Internal cleanliness means purity of heart, through peace  and  reconciliation  with  others,  then  repentance  and confession.  If you have an appointment with your confession father  you  must  be  prepared  beforehand  by  sitting  with yourself, and remembering the sins you committed with and without intention.

 

You  make  a  note  of  them  with  all  honesty,  remembering what St. Antonious said, “If we remember our sins God will forget  them,  if  we  forget  our  sins  God  will  remind  us  of them.”

 

You can write your sins on a piece of paper, as well as any questions  you  may  have  to  ask  your  confession  father. Therefore,  having  made  a  note  of  all  the  sins  you  have committed since your last confession, you repent before God for these sins.

 

For those who are new or beginners in the life of repentance, the  best  period  for  confession  is  fortnightly,  then  gradually every   month.  It   is   very   dangerous   for   the   believers, especially  youth  and  beginners,  to  be  neglectful  in  their confessions,  and  delay  the  period  between  confessions,  for this neglect leads to spiritual lukewarmness, lack of scrutiny

in self examination and forgetfulness of certain sins intended

to  be  confessed.  And  the  greatest  danger  is  a  person  who often receives Holy Communion without regular confession.

 

 

 

 

 

12

 

Going To Church

 

When   you   hear   the   bells   of   the   church   declaring   the beginning  of  the  Vesper  Prayers,  or  you  know  the  time  at which   these   prayers   begin,   change   to   wearing   modest clothing so that you may attend the prayers and hymns of the Vespers.

 

Take  with  you  three  small  books:  the  Agbia,  the  Coptic Liturgy, and the book of Doxology. (In some churches, these books may be available for you to use during the service).

 

Along  the  way  to  church,  recite  certain  psalms,  and  bring your senses and mind to concentrate on them so that you are not distracted by anything useless. Learn psalms by heart so you can pray them inaudibly, at any time, and wherever you are.

 

There are three short, beautiful psalms from the Agbia...

 

?   Psalm 121, from the Sunset Prayer :

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of  the  Lord.”  Our  feet  have  been  standing  within  your gates  O  Jerusalem!  Jerusalem  is  built  as  a  city  that  is compact together. Where the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord,  to  the  testimony  of  Israel.  To  give  thanks  to  the name of the Lord. For thrones are set there for judgment, the  thrones  of  the  house  of  David.  Pray  for  the  peace  of Jerusalem.  “May  they  prosper  who  love  you.  Peace  be within your walls. Prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake  of  my  brethren  and  companions,  I  will  now  say,

“Peace be within you.” Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good. Alleluia.

 

 

13

 

?   Psalm 83, from the Sixth Hour Prayer :

How  lovely  is  Your  tabernacle,  O  Lord  of  hosts.  My  soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord. My heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found  a  home,  and  the  swallow  a  nest  for  herself,  where she may lay her young. Even Your altars O Lord of hosts, my King and my God, blessed are those who dwell in Your house. They will still be praising You. Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. As  they  pass  through  the  valley  of  Baca,  they  make  it  a spring.  The  rain  also  covers  it  with  pools.  They  go  from strength  to  strength.  Every  one  of  them  appears  before God  in  Zion.  O  Lord  God  of  hosts,  hear  my  prayer,  give ear O God of Jacob! O God, behold our shield, and look upon the face of Your anointed. For a day in Your courts

is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in   the   house   of   my   God   than   dwell   in   the   tents   of wickedness.  For  the  Lord  is  a  sun  and  shield:  The  Lord will give grace and glory: No good thing will He withhold: from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You! Alleluia.

 

?   Psalm 14, from the First Hour Prayer :

Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in  Your  holy  hill?  He  who  walks  uprightly  and  works righteousness,  and  speaks  the  truth  in  his  heart,  he  who does  not  backbite  with  his  tongue,  nor  does  evil  to  his neighbour  nor  does  he  take  up  a  reproach  against  his friend.  In  whose  eyes  a  vile  person  is  despised,  but  he honours  those  who  fear  the  Lord.  He  who  swears  to  his own hurt and does not change. He who does not put out his money at usury. Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. Alleluia.

 

14

 

 

 

Upon reaching the church, make the sign of the cross, then

quietly enter so as to disturb anybody. Enter the church, the house of God, in reverence and righteousness remembering what  the  gospel  mentioned  about  Simon  the  Elder,  “He came  by  the  Spirit  to  the  temple,  he  took  Him  (Jesus)  in his arms and blessed God” (Luke 2:25-28).

 

When entering the church, say with the Psalmist, “But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy.  In  fear  of  Your  I  will  worship  towards  Your  holy temple"  (Psalm  5:7).  When  you  reach  the  altar,  make  the sign of the cross, and prostrate three times saying, "I worship You  Christ  our  God,  with  Your  gracious  Father,  and  the Holy  Spirit,  because  You  have  come  and  saved  us."   Then reverently   stand   before   the   altar   and   pray   the,   “Our Father...” Touch the hem of the curtain's veil and reverently kiss it as it is a symbol of Christ’s garment about which the woman with the flow of blood said, ‘“If only I may touch His  clothes,  I  shall  be  made  well.”            Immediately  the fountain of her blood was dried up and she felt in her body that  she  was  healed  of  the  affliction”’  (Mark  5:25-34). Take a blessing from the priest by kissing the cross and his right hand holding the cross. Then quietly take your place in the  church  and  start  partaking  in  the  prayers.  You  can  use the Coptic Liturgy book.

 

If you enter the church at the time of the Gospel reading, you must stand reverently at the door of the church, listen to the gospel with the others and after the gospel is read you may go forward and kneel before the altar.

 

 

 

 

 

15

 

In the book of, 'The Mystery of the Trinity in the Ministry of Priesthood',  it  mentions  that,  "If  anyone  approaches  the door of the church and hears the reading of the gospel, he should stand still until the end of the reading."

 

 

 

2.         PRAYERS AND HYMNS OF THE MATINS AND VESPERS

 

These  are       groups of         prayers,           supplications  and thanksgivings,  requesting  the  Lord’s  blessing  for  the  Mass service, so that the minds and souls of the believers may be prepared  to  enter  worthily  to  attend  the  Mass  with  all  its spirituality.  For  every  Mass  there  is  a  Matin  and  a  Vesper Prayer,  preceded  by  the  wonderful  Tasbeha  prayers.  The only exception are the weekday Masses, (Monday to Friday), and  during  the  Holy  Lent  for  they  conclude  late  in  the afternoon.

 

 

 

Canonical Hours

 

Those commonly said in Vespers are the prayers of the Ninth Hour, the Sunset Prayer, the Prayer before Sleeping, as well as the Prayer of the Veil which is said in the monasteries.

 

During  the  prayer  of  the  Ninth  Hour,  you  must  remember that this prayer was instituted by the church to commemorate the hour of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh on the Cross, which was for our salvation. Darkness fell on all the earth at the sixth hour until the ninth hour, indicating the end  of  Satan's  kingdom  when  our  Lord  trampled  him  and death through the cross, and God freed His people from the

 

 

16

 

bondage  of  sin  and  the  devil.  The  statement,  "The  Lord reigns," is repeated in many psalms. In Psalm 110 we pray,

"The  Lord  said  to  my  Lord,  'Sit  at  my  right  hand  till  I make  Your  enemies  Your  footstool.  The  Lord  shall  send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies.'"

 

When the psalms are distributed, pray them in reverence and understanding, and pray in spirit and truth.

 

During the reading of the gospel of the Ninth Hour, which is called the 'Gospel of Blessing', listen in reverence, for it tells of  the  blessing  of  the  five  loaves  and  two  fish  by  the  Lord Jesus.  This  Gospel  is  also  known  as  the  'Feeding  of  the multitudes'.  The  church  chose  the  gospel  of  feeding  the multitudes  to  be  read  at  the  ninth  hour,  as  most  of  the church’s fasts end at the ninth hour, reminding us that when we eat, we should request the blessing of our Lord Jesus.

 

Listen  carefully  to  the  Troparia  (prayers)  read  after  the gospel  as  they  are  very  spiritual.  Partake  in  their  responses

(Thoksa  batri  ke  euo...  Amen),  giving  glory  to  God  while bowing and making the sign of the Cross.

 

In the second part of the Troparia, we pray saying, "Let me partake  of  the  grace  of            Your  sacraments  so  that  when  I taste Your goodness, I offer You praise unceasingly."  Why don’t you my beloved, partake in these supplications humbly and reverently, if you intend to receive the Holy Communion the  next  day,  so  that  it  can  be  part  of  your  spiritual  and psychological preparation.

 

 

 

 

 

17

 

Prayer Of Lord Have Mercy

 

At the completion of every prayer of the Agbia, the church repeats, 'Lord have mercy' forty-one times. It is a marvellous example  of  perseverance  in  prayer  which  does  not  return empty, as the Lord Jesus taught us in the story of the unjust judge  who  avenged  the  woman  for  her  persistence  (Luke

18:1-7), and the story of the friend who came by at midnight

:  "I  say  to  you,  though  he  will  not  rise  and  give  to  him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. And I say to you,  ask  and  it  will  be  given  to  you,  seek,  and  you  will find,  knock,  and  it  will  be  opened  to  you.  For  everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Luke 11: 8-10).

 

The Greek for Lord have mercy is 'Kyrie-ley-son', which is composed of two words: Kyrie, meaning Lord, and ley-son, meaning  to  have  mercy.  My  advice  to  you  my  beloved,  is that whenever you pray ‘Lord have Mercy’ forty one times, try  to  remember  the  thirty  nine  lashes  that  grazed  the  holy back  of  your  beloved  Jesus  for  your  sake.  Remember  the crown  of  thorns  which  was  placed  on  His  holy  head  in mockery and scorn and remember how He was beaten on His holy head so that the crown of thorns pierced His bleeding forehead, and do not forget that cruel stab in His holy side which caused His pure Blood to be shed on the earth.

 

These are the sufferings that the church reminds us of while we recite this short but effective prayer of 'Lord have mercy.' Some people just repeat this prayer without knowing that it actually   represents   the   thirty   nine   lashes   on   the   Holy Saviour’s  back,  plus  the  crown  of  thorns  and  the  stabbing

 

 

18

 

spear,  so  the  total  is  forty  one  wounds  which  the  beloved Lord Jesus endured for our sake. So, its repetition reminds us always of Christ's incredible love for us. Let us pray 'Lord have mercy' saying :

 

?   You who were lashed for us, have mercy on us.

?   You who were stabbed by the spear for us, have mercy on us.

 

Try  my  beloved,  to  ease  the  severe  pain  which  the  Lord Christ   endured   for   you,   through   your   repentance   and persistence, pleading for His mercy.

 

Father Antonious Rageb says about this meaningful short prayer: "We recite, 'Lord have mercy' so many times. Our whole life is not enough to recite and beg the compassionate mercy from our loving God. Let your repetition in prayer become a beautiful incense, seek mercy for yourself, for all your matters and also for others. Specify each time a certain matter for which you need the Lord’s mercy :

 

?   Lord have mercy on me because of my evil thoughts;

?   Lord have mercy on me from mental distraction;

?   Lord have mercy on me in this tribulation;

?   Lord have mercy on Your church from corrupt foxes;

?   Lord have mercy on Your children from the seduction of sin.

 

Thus the incense of your prayers rises and is accepted by the

Lord.”

 

The prayer of 'Lord have mercy' includes all the requests and needs of the person, whatever they may be, and at all times.

'Lord  have  mercy'  said  41  times  is  then  followed  by  the

 

19

 

prayer,  "Holy,  Holy,  Holy  is  the  Lord  of  hosts..."  as  it incorporates many beautiful requests:

 

?   persistence  in  asking  for  God's  mercy,  "O  Holy  Trinity have mercy upon us";

?   asking  the  Lord  for  His  help  and  protection,  "O  Lord

God of hosts be with us";

?   asking  for  absolution  and  the  forgiveness  for  our  many sins, "Which we have done willingly and unwillingly, the hidden and the visible"

 

We then conclude with the Lord’s prayer, "Our Father who art in heaven...", for this is the prayer that was taught to us by our beloved teacher and Lord Jesus Christ.

 

At the end of the Ninth Hour prayer, pray the absolution as it

is  a  powerful  prayer,  requesting  the  Lord  to,  "Raise  our minds   above   worldly   care   and   bodily   desires   to   the remembrance of Your heavenly Commandments. Fulfil Your love  to  humanity  O  God.  Receive  our  prayers  at  all  times and this prayer of the ninth hour."

 

 

 

The Sunset Prayer and the Prayer before Sleeping

 

Contemplate on each word of the Agbia prayers, so that God can  give  you  understanding  and  consolation,  and  so  you may benefit from your Agbia prayers.

 

It is also important for us to remember why each hour of the

Agbia was instituted :

 

 

 

 

 

20

 

?   The Ninth Hour Prayer commemorates the atoning death of Christ on the Cross.

?   The Sunset Prayer commemorates the taking down of the Lord’s holy body from the Cross. It reminds us that the sun  of  our  lives  must  set  one  day  when  we  leave  this world  to  be  with  our  God  Jesus  Christ,  so  let  us  be prepared for this day with care, vigilance and repentance.

 

The  Gospel  of  the  Sunset  Prayer  narrates  how  the  Lord Jesus healed the mother in law of St. Peter from a fever and how He cast out demons. Let us take this opportunity to ask the Lord to heal our sicknesses, both physical and spiritual, and to cast away from us the power if the adversary and his evil hosts which cause us to sin.

 

At  the  end  of  the  Sunset  Prayer,  we  pray  the  absolution whereby  we  thank  the  Lord  for  He  granted  us  to  pass  the day in peace and brought us thankfully to the night and made us worthy of seeing His light until sunset. He did not allow for us to perish suddenly without repentance, but in His love He kept us alive so that we live to the end of the day to see and enjoy His light.

 

The Prayer before Sleeping is prayed after the Sunset Prayer as the church instituted it to commemorate the laying down of  the  body  of  our  Lord  Jesus  in  the  tomb,  for  sleep  is considered a little death and the bed we sleep on signifies the tomb  into  which  we  shall  be  placed  into  after  death.  A particular  saint  used  to  speak  to  his  bed  each  night  saying,

"O bed you might become my tomb this night."

 

The subject of death reminds us to always lead a repentant life, and this prayer is a prayer of repentance. The Troparia prayed after the Gospel of the Prayer Before Sleeping says,

 

21

 

"Behold I am about to stand before the Just Judge in fear, because of my numerous sins, for the life spent in pleasures deserves  condemnation.  Repent,  therefore,  O  my  soul  so long as you dwell on earth ... Yet I imitate the tax collector beating  on  my  chest  saying,  'God  be  merciful  to  me  a sinner!" The Troparia is then followed by the prayer, "Lord by Your grace protect us this night from sin..."

 

The   praying   person   presents   a   true   repentance   in   the absolution as they intend to sleep and surrender themselves

in  the  hands  of  the  Lord,  who  is  the  honest  guard.  For  as they intend on receiving Holy Communion the next morning, they must be repentant in order to be worthy of receiving the sacrament.   Therefore   in   the   absolution   we   pray,   "Lord forgive  us  for  the  sins  we  committed  against  You  this  day whether  they  are  by  action,  by  words...”  (think  how  many sins  you  have  committed  through  your  actions  or  words, whether  swearing,  lies,  insults  or  otherwise,  and  repent  to God),  “by  thought”,  (think  how  many  sins  of  thought  you committed  this  day.  You  might  have  condemned  someone, or  envied  or  angered  someone,  or  even  had  a  profane thought. Repent to God and say, Lord I have sinned forgive me my sins of...), “or  by  any  of  our  senses…”  (how many sins  did  you  commit  today  through  your  sense  of  sight, hearing,  touch  or  otherwise?  Remember  all  these  sins  and repent to God).   Then complete the absolution, in faith and persistence.

 

 

 

The Prayer of the Veil

 

This prayer is said in the monasteries by the monks after the

Twelfth           Hour    Prayer (Prayer            before  Sleeping).       It          is

 

 

 

22

 

composed of twenty eight psalms, selected from the psalms

in the Agbia psalms. It also includes three parts from Psalm

118,  which  is  said  during  the  Midnight  prayer.  It  is  then followed by the Gospel, the  Troparia and the absolution.

 

The  Troparia  in  the  Prayer  of  the  Veil  reminds  us  of  the awesome  judgment  where  people  will  be  gathered,  angels standing,   books   opened,   works   revealed,   and   thoughts exposed. It is prayed with great humility, "Who will quench the  flame  of  fire  away  from  me?  Who  will  enlighten  my darkness if You do not have mercy on me O Lord?"   Then we  request  the  intercession  of  the  Virgin  Mary,  whose prayers  are  acceptable  on  our  behalf.  Thereby  we  will  be victorious against our enemies and the wicked one will flee from us.

 

The      absolution       in         the       Prayer of         the       Veil     is         very contemplative, for we ask God to, "Give us rest in our sleep, repose for our bodies and purity of our souls. And protect us from  the  darkness  of  sin,  pitch  and  gloom,  soothe  the painful motions, quench the heat of the flesh and suppress the agitation of the body. Grant us a wakeful mind, humble thoughts, a virtuous life and an undefiled, unstained bed..."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1          Raising of Incense

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

 

Raising of Incense

 

 

 

THE VESPERS

 

After completing the Agbia prayers, the choir starts the the Vesper (Tasbeha); it is shorter than the Midnight Tasbeha. It begins  with  a  beautiful  tune  :  Ni-Ethnos-Teero,  which  is Psalm  117,  ''Oh,  praise  the  Lord  all  you  Gentiles.  Laud Him  all  you  peoples!  For  His  merciful  kindness  is  great towards  us.  And  the  truth  of  the  Lord  endures  forever. Praise the Lord Alleluia.''  It is called the Sunset Psalm and

is the first psalm in the Sunset Prayer.

 

Why don't you learn these beautiful tunes and urge others to learn  it  so  all  those  in  the  church  can  pray  together  in  one voice.

 

After  this  tune,  the  Tasbeha  starts.  It  is  composed  of  the Fourth Hoas, then the day's Epsalia or anniversary (or both together),  then  the  Tazakia  of  the  day,  Lobsh,  Tarh  and conclusion.

 

Partake in the Tasbeha, normally said in Coptic, and praise together  in  one  voice,  just  as  the  Apostles  advised,  ''That you  may  with  one  mind  and  one  mouth  glorify  the  God and  Father  of  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ''  (Romans  15:6), resembling the heavenly hosts who praise before the Divine Throne.

 

If  you  do  not  know  the  Coptic  language  very  well,  or  the

Tasbeha  praises,  follow  the  chanters  with  your  Tasbeha

 

 

25

 

Book, and repeat the verses of the Psalia and Tazakia. These verses were instituted specifically as recitations for the whole congregation to say during the Tasbeha.

 

While  following  the  Tasbeha  praises,  you  may  contemplate on its deep meanings.

 

 

 

THE VESPER PRAYERS

 

After  completing  the  Tasbeha,  the  raising  of  the  Vesper incense begins.

 

Follow the prayers in the Liturgy book attentively. Partake in the responses with the congregation singing the hymns with the  choir,  as  the  congregation  are  to  be  active  participants, and not passive audiences during the Vesper service or Holy Mass.  The  responsibility  of  the  chanter  (deacon)  is  to  lead the  congregation  the  responses,  and  to  chant  the  special festive tunes.

 

The Vesper prayer starts with the Prayer of Thanksgiving as

it  is  an  important  prayer  by  which  the  church  starts  every service with.

 

We notice that the priest prays this prayer in the plural form saying,  “We  thank  You  for  You  have  protected  us…” Therefore, as the priest prays for us, every person ought to lift up their hearts and feelings in gratitude to our Lord.

 

After the priest proceeds to raise incense three times around the  altar,  he  says  the  Prayer  for  the  Departed.   During  the prayer, we must contemplate on the following :

 

 

26

 

 

 

?   The  prayer  for  the  departed  is  said  during  the  evening

incense (specifically at sunset) to remind us that we shall one day join the departed, so we must always be ready;

 

?   To ask the departed to pray for us that God will help us complete our earthly struggle peacefully;

 

?   To  remember  the  resurrection,  as  when  the  priest  says,

''Raise up their bodies also, on the day which You have appointed, according to Your true promises, which are without lie.'' We believe that the resurrection will come for  us,  as  God  will  appear  to  recompense  each  one according to their deeds.

 

After  completing  the  litany,  the  priest  proceeds  around  the altar with the censor once, then proceeds around the church, raising  incense  towards  the  gospels,  icons,  tabernacle  and congregation.

 

The  priest  places  his  cross  on  each  person  blessing  them saying, ''The blessing of the incense be with us. Amen.''

 

Meanwhile, the congregation must reflect a true repentance saying, ''I ask You my Master Jesus Christ to forgive my sins which were committed knowingly and unknowingly.''

 

The priest once again raises the incense at the altar, praying inaudibly for our repentance saying: ''O God who accepted the   confession   of   the   thief   on   the   cross,   accept   the confession and repentance of Your people for the sake of Your Holy Name that is called upon us, and according to Your mercy and not according to our sins.''

 

 

27

 

 

 

Solomon   prayed   a   similar   prayer   for   his   people   saying

''...each  one  knows  the  plague  of  his  own  heart,  and spreads  out  his  hands  toward  this  temple:  then  hear  in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to  everyone  according  to  all  his  ways,  whose  heart  You know (for You, only You, know the hearts of all the sons of  man)''  (1  Kings  8:  38-9).  This  prayer  of  repentance,  as well as the intercession of the priest are offered before God. So, my brethren, you should offer God a pure repentance in order  to  be  able  to  benefit  from  these  deep,  interceding prayers.

 

During  the  raising  of  incense,  the  congregation  sing  the doxologies  which  are  the  glorifications  to  the  holy  Virgin mother of God, the angels, the martyrs, the saints, and all the various church feasts and occasions.

 

May  we  all  partake  and  glorify  God  and  His  saints,  asking for their intercessions and prayers.

 

 

 

The  Prayer  of  'Evnoti-nay-nan'  (God  have  mercy upon us)

 

After   the   raising   of   incense,   the   congregation   says   the Orthodox  Creed,  chanting  the  last  sentence,  "And  we  look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come,   Amen."   Meanwhile,   the   priest   holds   the   cross together with three lit candles in his right hand. This signifies that the One who was crucified on the cross is Jesus Christ the  light  of  the  world,  who  sanctified  Himself  to  enlighten those  living  in  darkness  and  in  the  shadow  of  death.  Also,

 

 

28

 

through the cross, He took us into His wonderful light, from the darkness.

 

The priest makes the sign of the cross on the congregation on  all  sides,  three  times  inaudibly,  then  says  the  prayer  of

‘God have mercy upon us,’ making the sign of the cross in all   four   directions   with   the   cross   and   the   lit   candles, symbolising  that  Jesus  Christ  enlightened  His  people,  who live in all four corners of the earth, through the cross, saving them from the darkness of sin and granting them eternal life.

 

During these    rounds of         the       raising of         incense,           the congregation say "Amen" three times, in humility, believing that   the   priest’s   prayers   ask   for   mercy,   blessings   and forgiveness.

 

The  congregation  then  chant  "Lord  have  mercy"  three times. It is a very beautiful tune that touches the heart and soul, as the congregation cry for mercy and compassion.

 

Prayers   using   special   tunes   are   heavenly   music.   The struggling church on earth partake with those who carry the golden  harps  in  the  victorious,  heavenly  church,  before  He who is seated on the Throne.

 

Our fathers were so fond of the tune, "Evnoti-nay-nan" and

"Kyrie-lay-son"  that  one  stated,  "It  is  impossible  that  God hears  this  marvellous  tune  without  having  mercy  on  His people."

 

My beloved, recite with the priest inaudibly during Vespers,

"Lord  have  mercy  upon  us.  Settle  Your  mercy  upon  us. Have compassion on us. Bless us, guard us, help us. Take

 

 

29

 

away  Your  anger  from  us.  Visit  us  with  Your  salvation. And forgive us our sins."

 

Also chant with the congregation the joyful tune of,  "Lord have  mercy,"  while  beating  your  chest  in  persistence  and humility like the tax collector. Do you feel you return to your house justified like the tax collector?

 

 

 

The Gospel

 

After granting peace to the congregation, the priest prays for hearing  the  holy  gospel.  It  is  a  powerful  prayer  which intensifies  in  power  and  spirit.  The  priest  mentions  the blessing of the Lord to His disciples for they saw and heard what prophets and righteous men had desired to see and had not  seen.  We  must,  therefore,  thank  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ because  He  made  us  worthy  to  hear  the  words  of  grace coming  from  His  Divine  mouth  and  recorded  in  His  Holy Gospel.  We  ask  Him  with  the  priest  to  make  us  worthy  to hear the holy gospel and act according to His word. In this way,  we  gain  the  blessing  promised  in  Revelation  saying,

"Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this  prophecy...  for  the  time  is  near"  (Revelation  1:3).  In this way, we thus become a dynamic fifth gospel, "You are our  epistle  written  in  our  hearts,  known  and  read  by  all men; you are manifestly an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart" (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).

 

The  priest  then  prays,  "Those  who  have  already  fallen asleep, repose them. Those who are sick, heal them...'' We

 

 

30

 

remember  our  departed  beloved  ones  and  the  sick,  so  that God  may  repose  the  former  and  heal  the  latter.  We  thus become  a  blessing  for  ourselves  and  others  too.  These contemplations  concentrate  our  thoughts  in  prayer,  so  we protect ourselves from boredom and evil thoughts. Then we repeat  with  the  congregation,  "Lord  have  mercy,"  bearing

in mind its previous meaning. We ask the Lord to bestow His

divine words in a heart with good earth, to bear good fruit.

 

The   deacon   now   says,   "Pray   for   hearing   the   Holy Gospel..."  Let  us  pray  fervently  so  that  the  words  of  the gospel  find  its  place  in  every  heart,  becoming  a  good  seed falling on good earth to bear fruits : "some a hundredfold, some  sixty,  some  thirty"  (Matthew  13:8).  Let  us  pray  that everyone in the church finds special spiritual food and divine consolation  in  the  words  of  the  gospel  when  opening  their hearts, mind and ears.

 

We must stand reverently to listen to the living word of God. We have to listen attentively for a special message God may be trying to tell us - as He did with St Anthony who sold all his  possessions  and  gave  to  the  poor.  We  may  find  certain answers  for  confusing  situations  and  spiritual  solutions  to our  problems.  This  can  be  said  in  confidence  after  much experience from spiritual people.

 

During  the  gospel  reading,  two  deacons  stand  beside  the reader with two lit candles to denote the light of the gospel which must shine on every heart leading to eternal life. "For the  commandment  is  a  lamp,  and  the  law  is  light...''

(Proverbs 6:23) and the Psalmist said, "Your word is a lamp

to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).

 

 

 

 

31

 

 

 

The Sermon

 

The sermon of the Vesper Prayer is :

 

?   About the gospel read during the Vespers. It introduces the  liturgy  gospel  and  all  the  oncoming  readings.  The liturgy gospel is the centre of all the readings throughout the Mass.

 

?   Sunday's sermon may be for a specific purpose, such as directed  to  youth,  servants  or  general.  The  topic  must have been previously agreed upon.

 

?   It may be a bible study and explanation on the holy Bible, or  explanation  on  doctrines  or  rites,  etc.  It  may  not  be related to the Vesper gospel.

 

In  any  case,  you  must  carefully  listen  to  the  sermon  and benefit  spiritually  so  that  you  may  grow  in  your  life  with God.

 

 

 

THE LITANIES

 

Litanies  (plural  of  litany)  is  a  Greek  word  meaning  prayer. After the Gospel and sermon, the priest prays five litanies :

 

i.          Peace

ii.         Fathers iii.      Place

iv.        Air, waters, plant v.    Gatherings

 

 

32

 

 

 

?   Litany of Peace  -  the priest says, "Remember, O Lord

the  peace  of  Your  one,  holy,  universal  and  apostolic church,"  which  is  repeated  by  the  deacon  in  order  to harmonise the prayers. The congregation respond, "Lord have  mercy."  The  Psalmist  exalts  the  mercies  of  God saying,  "Your  loving  kindness,  O  God  is  better  than life”  (Psalm  63:3).  Through  His  mercy,  "we  live  and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Without God's mercy and providence, there is neither earthly nor eternal life.  On  the  contrary,  there  is  death,  emptiness  and destruction. The mercy of God is followed by goodness, spiritual and material blessings, righteousness and beauty. St  Paul  the  Apostle  stated,  "But  God,  who  is  rich  in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  even  when  we  were  dead  in  trespasses,  made  us alive together with Christ..." (Ephesians 2:4-5). God full of  mercy  gives  us  this  grace  to  live  with  Christ.  "How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"

(Romans 8:32).

 

We ask the Lord to have mercy on the Church and its people

-  including  the  leaders,  subordinates,  servants  and  general congregation. No one is divided, but united in love. We need that external peace to protect us from the evil hosts as it is,

"the  church  of  God  which  He  purchased  with  His  own blood" (Acts 20:28), "The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

 

?   Litany for the Fathers  -  the priest prays this litany and the deacon urges the congregation to pray for the fathers of          the       church.            They    say,      "Lord            have    mercy," remembering  the  Patriarch,  Metropolitans  and  Bishops,

 

 

33

 

praying that the Lord give them health, strength and keep them for the Church for many years and peaceful times.

 

We ask the Lord to have mercy on the Church's fathers by giving them grace and wisdom to guide His holy Church. For them  to  keep  the  Orthodox  faith  until  the  end,  and  to shepherd their flock through example and teaching.

 

?   Litany for the Place  -  when the priest prays this litany, requesting  its  safety  and  peace,  the  deacon  asks  the congregation to pray for the safety of, "this  holy  place of  Yours,  and  of  the  world,  this  city  of  ours,  all  the cities,         districts,          islands            and      monasteries."  The congregation  respond,  "Lord  have  mercy,"  asking  for God to have mercy on the world; giving it peace, safety from  famines,  plagues,  earthquakes  and  other  disasters. We  pray  for  the  islands  surrounded  by  sea  that  God protects  it  from  sinking,  and  the  monasteries  in  the wilderness   that   God   protect   them   from   attacks   of barbarians  and  evil  wars.  We  pray  that  the  monks  and nuns have peace and safety, so that they may pray for the safety and salvation of the world.

 

Then  the  priest  prays  the  rest  of  the  litany  saying,  "And every   city,   every   region,   the   villages   and   all   their ornaments. Save us all from famine, plagues, earthquakes, fire,  captivity  of  barbarians,  sword  of  the  stranger  and rising  up  of  heretics."  We  should  inaudibly  repeat  these prayers  with  the  priest.  For  example,  if  he  says,  "Save  us from  famine,"  we  should  answer,  "God  save  us  from famine, plagues, floods, fire and wars. Save the faith and the   Church   from   heretics.   Amen."   At   the   end,   the

 

 

 

 

34

 

congregation  responds,  "Lord  have  mercy."  We  pray  with this gathering all that was requested throughout the litany.

 

?   Litany of air, water and plantations   -   (In Egypt, the litany prayers are said in accordance to the seasonal time of  cultivation  and  harvesting,  or  the  rising  of  the  River Nile). The priest prays for the waters of the rivers and for the cultivation of crops, seeds and herbs, and for the air of   the   heaven   and   plants   of   the   field.   The   deacon responds  accordingly,  urging  the  congregation  to  pray also.  We  then  respond  with,  "Lord  have  mercy"  three times.

 

*          Lord  have  mercy  on  the  waters  to  be  plentiful  to  make happy and fruitful the land by the Nile, to avoid drought.

 

*          Lord  have  mercy  on  the  plants  and  herbs  to  grow  and multiply  to  bear  much  fruit,  to  be  kept  from  worms  and stealing, so that happiness prevails on all.

 

*          Lord have mercy on the air of heaven so God may give it adequacy as it nourishes and matures the fruit in due time. As winds whether hot or sudden damage the fruit.

 

Note:

While  the  priest  prays  for  waters  of  the  river  in  the  due season,  the  deacon  recites  reverently  and  the  congregation respond,  "Lord  have  mercy,"  thrice,  not  once  like  the pervious litanies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

35

 

What is the reason?

 

First,   thrice   for   the   waters   of   the   river   to   request   its abundance,  in  persistence.  Repetition  of  one  prayer  many times  denotes  persistence  and  knocking  on  God's  door  to respond to the important and persistent request.

 

Second, while the congregation prays to God for mercy on the  waters,  they  do  not  forget  the  plants,  herbs  and  air  of heaven.  So  three  times,  one  for  the  waters,  second  for  the plants,  third  for  the  air  as  they  are  related  to  each  other. Water  needs  wind  to  carry  clouds  for  rainfall  into  the  Nile sources to flood, also the plants need water and air to grow and  mature,  also  air  needs  plants  to  intake  oxygen  and  the most important constituent is water to cool and modify the air.

 

All these factors are necessary for man's livelihood, for when he  is  in  need  of  nothing,  he  increases  in  every  good  deed, thanking God for being generous in giving and distributing, according to our needs.

 

?   Prayer of the Gatherings   -   when the priest prays for the          church's           meeting,            and      the       deacon asks     the congregation  to,  "Pray  for  this  holy  Church  and  for our  congregation,"  the  congregation  responds,  "Lord have mercy", meaning :

 

*          Lord have mercy on all of us, and keep us from internal divisions that weaken and deteriorates our gathering;

 

*          Lord have mercy on us and make us regular in attending these spiritual meetings, "Not forsaking the assembly of

 

 

36

 

ourselves   together,   as   is   the   manner   of   some"

(Hebrews 10:25);

 

*          Lord have mercy on us and let the door of Your Church open before our faces until the end of ages;

 

*          Lord  have  mercy  on  us  by  blessing  this  assembly  and making  it  a  reason  of  blessing  and  salvation  to  all  the attendants who hear Your word, who pray and supplicate unto  You  in  Your  holy  house,  Your  dwelling  place forever.

 

So  my  beloved,  when  you  partake  in  prayers  with  the congregation  saying,  "Lord  have  mercy,"  as  previously explained,   your   prayers   rise   like   incense   before   God, requesting the abundant divine mercy of God.

 

You  may  pray  inaudibly  with  the  deacon's  response,  and audibly with the congregation to conclude your prayers. For example, when the deacon says, "Pray for the peace of the one  holy,  universal  and  apostolic  Orthodox  Church  of God,"  you  may  pray  inaudibly,  "Lord  have  mercy  on  the Church  from  internal  divisions  or  external  persecutions  or from  worldly  spirits  and  evil  currents,"   then   when   the congregation respond, "Lord have mercy," everybody asks God to have mercy on the Church and her congregation.

 

Do this with the rest of the prayers, so your prayers become focused and fervent, and not monotonous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

37

 

Absolution

 

After completing the litanies, the congregation prays,  "Our Father  who  art  in  heaven..."  Pray  with  contemplation,  as this is the special prayer taught to us by our beloved Lord. It

is a prayer which asks for all our physical and spiritual needs.

 

When the deacon says, "Bow your heads before the Lord," bow your head and accept the absolution from the priest of God,  according  to  the  authority  given  to  him  from  God  by the laying of the apostolic hand and the breath of the Holy Spirit.

 

The priest says three absolutions - two inaudibly while facing the east and standing in front of the altar and the third is said audibly  facing  the  west.  The  priest  asks  for  the  absolution and forgiveness for the believers, the servants of God, who are bowing their heads before His holy glory, bowing before His mighty, holy hand.

 

During these absolutions, think about your sins, asking God

to  forgive  them.  Think  about  your  weaknesses  and  request God to heal them. Pray inaudibly some prayers of repentance such as :

 

?  Psalm of Repentance - "Have mercy upon me, O God, according  to  Your  loving  kindness,  according  to  the multitude of Your tender mercies..."

 

?   The prayer of Manasseh the King, who implored to the Lord his God, humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers who heard his supplication : "O Lord, God of our fathers, of Abraham and Issac and Jacob and their

 

 

38

 

righteous  posterity,  You  who  have  made  heaven  and earth with all their order, who has shackled the sea by Your  word  of  command,  has  confined  the  deep  and sealed its mouth with Your glorious name, at whom all things  shudder  and  tremble  before  Your  power,  for Your glorious splendor cannot be borne, and the wrath of        Your    threat   to            sinners            is         irresistible,                 yet immeasurable   and   unsearchable   is   Your   promised mercy,  for  You  are  the  Lord  Most  High,  of  great compassion,            long       suffering       and        merciful,       and righteous altogether, who sorrows for my evil. You, O Lord, according to Your great goodness has promised repentance  and  forgiveness  to  those  who  have  sinned against  You,  and  in  multitude  of  Your  mercies.  You have  appointed  repentance  for  sinners,  that  they  may be saved. Therefore, You O Lord, God of the righteous has  not  appointed  repentance  for  the  righteous,  for Abraham and Issac and Jacob, who did not sin against You, but You have appointed repentance for me, who am a sinner. For the sins I have committed are more than  the  sands  of  the  sea;  my  transgressions  are  too many  O  Lord  they  are  multiplied!  I  am  unworthy  to look   up   to   the   heights   of   heaven   because   of   the multitude  of  my  iniquities.  I  am  weighed  down  with many  an  iron  felter,  so  that  I  am  rejected  because  of my sins, and I have no relief, for I have provoked Your wrath and have done what is evil in Your sight. Setting up  abominations  and  multiple  offences.  And  now  I bend  the  knee  for  Your  kindness.  I  have  sinned  O Lord, I have sinned, and I know my transgressions. I earnestly beseech You, forgive me, O Lord, forgive me. Do  not  destroy  me  with  my  transgressions.  Do  not  be angry  with  me  forever  or  remember  my  iniquities,  do not  condemn  me  to  the  depths  of  earth,  for  You,  O

 

39

 

Lord, are the God of those who repent, and in me You will declare Your goodness; for unworthy as I am, You will save me in Your great mercy, and I will praise You continually all the days of my life.”

 

?   A  prayer  of  repentance  from  the  Agbia  -  “My  Lord God  and  Saviour  Jesus  Christ,  treasure  of  mercy  and spring of salvation, I come to You confessing my sins. I confess  that,  insolently,  I  dared  to  defile  Your  Holy Sanctuary  with  my  sins.  Now  I  seek  Your  mercy  and love,  for  Your  mercies  sake.”  During  the  prayer,  we must contemplate on the following :

 

*          The  prayer  for  the  departed  is  said  during  the  evening incense (specifically at sunset) to remind us that we shall join the departed, so we need to be ready for that day;

 

*          To ask the departed to pray for us that God will help us complete our earthly struggle peacefully;

 

*          To  remember  the  resurrection  as  when  the  priest  says,

"Raise up their bodies also, on the day which you have appointed, according to Your true promises, which are without lie." We believe that the resurrection will come for  us,  as  God  will  appear  to  recompense  each  one according to their deeds.

 

After  completing  the  litany,  the  priest  proceeds  around  the altar once, then proceeds around the church, raising incense towards the gospels, icons, tabernacle and congregation.

 

The  priest  places  his  cross  on  each  person  blessing  them saying, ''The blessing of the incense be with us. Amen.''

 

 

40

 

 

 

Meanwhile,  the  congregation  must  pray  a  true  repentance

saying,  "I  ask  You  my  Master  Jesus  Christ  to  forgive  my sins, which I have committed knowingly and unknowingly."

 

The priest once again raises the incense at the altar praying inaudibly  for  our  repentance  saying,  "O  God  who  accepted the confession of the thief on the cross..."

 

Solomon  prayed  a  similar  prayer  for  his  people  saying,

"...And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment..." (Hebrews 9: 27).

 

You  ought  to  know  that  only  the  repentants  who  deserve forgiveness, benefit from these absolutions, and it resembles the prayers of the Lord Jesus on the Cross, when He prayed for  the  forgiveness  of  those  who  were  crucifying  Him  :

"Father,  forgive  them  for  they  know  not  what  they  do"

(Matthew  23:34).  Very  few  benefit  from  this  prayer  or absolution,  like  St.  Longinus  who  repented  and  believed  in Christ and was a great martyr.

 

Sing with the Church at the end of the service hymns, which are usually in the Coptic language, and have great meaning :

"Amen. Alleluia. Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy  Spirit,  now  and  forever,  and  to  the  ages  of  ages, Amen."  We  proclaim  and  ask  the  Lord  Jesus  Christ  to bless the waters of the river (this statement varies according

to seasons and Church celebrations). May Your mercy and Your  peace  be  a  fortress  unto  Your  people,  save  us  and have  mercy  on  us.      Lord  have  mercy,  Lord  have  mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord bless us, Amen. Bless me. We offer

 

 

 

 

41

 

unto You a ‘metania’ (repentance). Forgive me. Then say the blessing.

 

Go  towards  the  priest,  and  kiss  the  Cross  and  gospel  he  is holding, then his hand.

 

?   Kiss  the  Cross  as  a  sign  of  your  love  to  the  Cross  and renewal  of  your  covenant  with  the  Crucified  Lord  who forgave  your  sins  (by  the  absolution  read  by  the  priest) through the worthiness of His blood shed on the Cross;

 

?   Kiss the Gospel as a sign of submission to the Gospel of

God, promising to fulfill His Commandments;

 

?   Kiss the hand of the priest as a sign of your respect and sanctification  of  the  priesthood  of  God  and  the  divine Sacraments held by the hand of the priest, also as a sign of your submission and love to the priest as your spiritual father  who  watches  your  salvation  as  he  is  the  visible means  of  getting  this  great  grace  of  forgiveness  of  sins through  the  authority  given  to  him  from  God  and  the absolution he reads for the repentants.

 

The priest then holds the Cross with his right hand and the Gospel in his left hand, lifts it above his head for blessing and says, "May God have compassion on us..."

 

During the blessing, bow your heads to accept the blessing in humility      and      need.   At            the       end,     proclaim         with     the congregation,  "Amen,  ese-shobi,"  meaning  "Amen,  let  it be",  acknowledging  all  the  priest  blessings  for  you  and others  through  the  intercessions  and  prayers  of  the  saints,

 

 

 

 

42

 

then   pray   with   the   congregation   the   "Our   Father..."

reverently.

 

 

 

The Release

 

When the priest releases the congregation, proceed towards the  sanctuary,  bow  and  kiss  the  veil  of  the  temple,  before going in peace.

 

If you have an appointment for confession, take a corner in church,  until  the  priest  is  ready,  then  proceed,  taking  your turn for the mystery of repentance, which is one of the Seven Sacraments of the church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

43

 

 

 

 

CONFESSION

 

One  of  the  most  important  individual  roles  of  a  priest,  is  the confession session with his congregation, through which he can get into contact with each individual privately.

 

Confession is the true Christian discipleship, which qualifies the believer  to  all  the  spiritual  graces,  supporting  them  in  all  their spiritual  growth.  One  of  these  spiritual  graces  is  the  Holy Communion.

 

When our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Lordly supper in the upper room in Zion, He only gave the Holy Communion to His disciples.   Likewise,   no   one   should   partake   of   the   Holy Communion except those who are disciples of Christ, and who have  a  confession  father,  for  through  him  we  learn  spiritual practices and Christian virtues.

 

When the priest starts the confession session, take your turn and wait.

 

While waiting, keep yourself busy with some spiritual readings, so that you might keep your mind free of any evil thoughts, or the temptations of the devil, who at that particular moment will try  his  utmost  to  prevent  you  from  confessing,  and  hence consequently prevent you from receiving the Holy Communion.

 

When  it  is  your  turn,  approach  in  reverence,  kissing  the  cross and  the  priest’s  hand.  You  should  be  ready  for  confession, keeping in mind, or on a piece of paper, the sins you are going

to confess, as well as the questions you want to ask.

 

 

 

44

 

Confess your sins in detail, and do not hide anything, regardless

of how embarrassing the sins may be. Remember the Apostle’s words:  “If  we  confess  our  sins,  He  is  faithful  and  just  to forgive     us        our       sins,     and      to         cleanse            us        from    our unrighteousness”  (1  John  1:9).  Do  not  condemn  others,  or circumstances  around  you,  or  justify  yourself,  for  “If  we  say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).

 

Confess all your sins, as the Prophet says, “Pour out your heart like  water  before  the  face  of  the  Lord”  (Lamentations  2:19). The Prophet used the metaphor of “water” specifically, because water  never  leaves  any  traces  or  marks  in  the  cup  after  it  is poured  out.  Likewise,  when  your  confession  is  complete  and honest, it will never leave any stains inside of your heart.

 

You  should  know  that  you  are  confessing  before  God,  not before a human being, because the Holy Spirit is present at that moment to listen and grant forgiveness.

 

The  priest  is  like  a  spiritual  doctor,  who  will  help  cure  you  of your   sins   and   weaknesses   by   giving   you   advice   to   your problems, for as the Apostle said: “Confess your trespasses to one  another  and  pray  for  one  another,  that  you  may  be healed” (James 5:16).

 

The same way that a patient never hides any illness from their doctor, so that the doctor can give the appropriate medication, we must be even more honest with our priest in describing our spiritual illnesses, so that he can help us in our spiritual life and growth.

 

 

 

 

 

45

 

Remember  King  Solomon’s  words:  “He  who  covers  his  sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

 

Repentance  is  a  second  baptism.  St  Athanasius  the  Apostolic says, “As a baptised person is enlightened with the grace of the Holy  Spirit,  so  also  he  who  confesses  his  sins  through  the priest, receives remission of sins through the grace of Christ.”

 

After you finish confessing, kneel before the priest in reverence, pray one or so of the prayers mentioned before, such as Psalm

51, King Menassah’s prayer, or the prayer of Repentance in the

Agbia, then say the “Our Father…”

 

Repeat  these  prayers  in  contriteness,  humility  and  hope  in  the forgiveness  of  your  sins,  so  that  you  might  not  repeat  them again.

 

During this, the priest puts the holy cross on your head, praying the three absolutions, the blessing, then the “Our Father…”

 

?  In  the  first  absolution  he  asks  for  God’s  help,  support  and grace  be  upon  you,  in  order  to  give  you  the  strength  and power to crush Satan and his wicked tricks under your feet quickly.

 

?  In the second absolution, he asks God to grant you His divine grace and peace, which you lost because of your sins.

 

He also asks God to return you once more to His fear, so that you will choose the way of hoilness which is Christ, rather than the way of destruction which is with the evil one.

 

 

 

 

46

 

He asks God to grant you here on earth His divine riches, such

as the Holy Bible, the Holy Communion, and an inheritance in His eternal kingdom, as well as granting us earthly comfort, so that our good Lord may smell the sweet aroma of the incense of thanksgiving  arising  up  from  you,  and  being  presented  before His throne.

 

Finally,  he  asks  God  to  bestow  on  you  the  various  spiritual virtues, so that you, together with the priest, might deserve the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

?  In the third absolution, he asks for many gifts and blessings for you:

 

*          That God may grant you His rich mercy

 

*          That  God  may  cut  all  the  bondages  of  sins,  so  that  Christ might free you, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). When you feel the grace and freedom of Christ, you can say with the Psalmist, “You have loosened my bonds, I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,  and  will  call  upon  the  name  of  the  Lord.  I will  pay  my  vows  to  the  Lord,  now  in  the  presence  of  all His people, in the court’s of the Lord’s house, in the midst of you O Jerusalem” (Psalm 116:16-19).

 

*          He asks for the absolution and forgiveness of all the sins you have  committed,  saying,  “If  we  have  committed  any  sin against   You,   whether   knowingly   or   unknowingly,   or through anguish of heart, in deeds or words, O Master who knows the weakness of men, grant us forgiveness, purify us and absolve us.”   Here, the priest asks for the grace of the

 

 

 

 

47

 

forgiveness of sin, absolution, blessing and purity, as effective remedies for the wounds of sin.

 

*          Then  he  asks  for  permanent  protection  for  us  from  falling into sin once more, this protection is the fear of God, as He says, “Fill us with Your fear.”

 

*          He asks that your journey in the world be towards God, and not towards the world and its lusts, so he says, “Direct us to Your good will.”

 

*          Stand   up,   my   repentant   one,   after   bowing,   feeling   the greatness  of  the  gift  of  forgiveness,  kiss  the  cross  and  the priest’s  hand,  depart  from  this  divine  meeting  amidst  the praising of the heavenly hosts, and the rejoicing of the saints.

 

*          Go  to  your  house  in  peace,  thanking  the  Lord  for  His numerous graces and mercies bestowed on you.

 

You might repeat the following Psalm 124:

 

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,” Let Israel now say – “If it had not been the Lord who was on your side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swolled us  alive  when  their  wrath  was  kindled  against  us;  then  the waters  would  have  overwhelmed  us,  the  stream  would  have gone over our soul, then the swollen waters would have gone over our soul.  Blessed be the Lord who has not given us prey

to  their  teeth,  but  our  soul  has  escaped  as  a  bird  from  the snare  of  fowlers.  The  snare  is  broken  and  we  have  escaped. Our  help  is  in  the  name  of  the  Lord  who  name  heaven  and earth.”

 

 

 

 

48

 

Upon arriving at your house, pray your usual daily prayers, have

a  light  supper,  and  prepare  yourself  for  the  Holy  Communion the next day.

 

Sleep early, so that you might be able to wake up early the next morning, and go to church, according to His precious promise:

“I love those who love Me, and those who seek Me diligently will  find  Me,  riches  and  honour  are  with  Me”  (Proverbs

8:17,18).

 

God loves those who get up early to meet Him, and pray with Him,  remembering  His  words  to  Moses  the  Prophet:  “So  be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai,  and  present  yourself  to  Me  there  on  the  top  of  the mountain…Then Moses rose early in the morning, and went up to Mount Sinai as the Lord had commanded him” (Exodus

34:2-4).

 

 

 

Notes on the Mystery of Confession:

 

Some   people   are   used   to   confessing   during   the   Liturgy’s readings,  but  this,  however,  is  inappropriate  because  of  the shortness  of  time,  especially  if  the  priest  is  serving  alone.  In addition, this does not give enough chance for you to confess all your  sins,  nor  give  the  priest  enough  time  to  give  you  the appropriate spiritual practices or advices.

 

What is more dangerous is that some people do not confess at all, but still proceed to the Holy Communion, asking only that the  priest  give  them  the  absolution.  With  great  sorrow,  some priests  approve  of  giving  the  absolution,  without  asking  these

 

 

 

 

49

 

people  whether  they  have  confessed  or  not.  These  people  are adding to their sins, which will lead to a horrible judgement.

 

Now  I  wonder…  What  is  the  use  of  the  absolution  without confession?  Is  it  a  magical  prescription  to  forgive  unconfessed sins?

 

Also, there is another strange attitude amongst members of our churches, and that is, people who have already confessed, come early to church, and still ask for absolution… Why? I hope that the priests might correct this common mistake.

 

You should know, my beloved, that if you go to church after the Gospel reading, you cannot have Holy Communion, as is taught by  the  church  rites.  If  you  come  between  the  readings  of  the Matin  Absolution  and  the  Absolution  of  Servants,  and  the reading  of  the  Gospel,  do  not  ask  for  an  individual  absolution for the following reasons:

 

i.          You have already confessed, and are ready because the priest has previously prayed the absolution for you;

 

ii.         The  priest  shall  pray  general  absolutions  for  everyone after  the  Fraction  Prayers.  So,  because  you  will  not  be present and you will offer true repentance with the whole church, you are not in need for individual absolution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

50

 

 

 

 

MIDNIGHT PRAYERS AND MIDNIGHT PRAISE

 

Some   churches   practice   midnight   prayers   and   'Tasbeha'

(praise) during its normal ritual time, that is, at dawn on the day of the Holy Mass. The Midnight Prayers are followed by the Matins and the Divine Liturgy.

 

Some churches have the Midnight Prayer and Tasbeha after Vespers,  and  conclude  about  11pm  when  the  congregation go  home.  They  then  return  early  the  following  morning  to pray the First Hour of the Agbia.

 

In many cases a person can organise their time to attend the

Midnight Prayer and Tasbeha.

 

Your  attendance  during  the  Midnight  Prayer  -  whether  at night  or  at  dawn  -  is  of  great  spiritual  benefit  and  gives preparation  (psychological,  mental  and  spiritual)  to  attend the Mass and receive the Holy Communion. If you miss any of the services in preparation for the Mass, there might be a lack in the expected spiritual benefit of the Mass.

 

 

 

1.         Midnight Prayers

 

Its  aim  is  to  meditate  on  the  divine  teachings  and  heavenly laws that lead a person to repentance and preparation for the day of Judgment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

51

 

The  three  services  in  this  prayer  represent  the  three  times that  Jesus  prayed  in  the  garden  of  Gethsemane  (Matthew

26:36-44).

 

?   The First Service - Psalm 119 speaks entirely about the word of God; the laws, testimonies, commandments and statutes. This psalm advises us to take care and keep the commandments of God and practice them in order to live as God wants us to.

 

We  find  a  young  man  cleansing  his  way  by  taking  heed  of God's word which, “I have hidden in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”

 

The  Gospel  of  the  ten  virgins  advises  the  believers  to  be vigilant   in   order   to   be   prepared   to   receive   the   true bridegroom  Jesus  Christ,  who  will  lead  us  to  repentance, purity  and,  “holiness,  without  which  no  one  will  see  the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

 

?   The Second Service - The psalms of the Sunset Prayer are read with the exception of the first two. They call us to repentance.

 

The Gospel is about the sinful woman who loved Jesus much and struggled with tears, humility and love until her sins were forgiven.

 

The Psalms and the Gospel speak of repentance which is the aim  of  every  believer.  We  should  try  to  be  like  the  sinful woman  in  her  complete  repentance.  “Resist  to  bloodshed, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4).

 

 

 

 

52

 

The church teaches us in the Troparia to ask of God to make us worthy to be like this repentant woman, and like her, hear the words: “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace.”

 

By  repentance,  the  believer  becomes  prepared  to  see  the Lord Jesus Christ on the day of Judgment and live with the Lord in His eternal kingdom.

 

?   The Third Service - The Psalms of the Twelfth Hour are read. These Psalms are ones of praise and rejoice, for the coming of the Lord is near, at which time He will reward His faithful servants.

 

In the Gospel our beloved Lord Jesus assures us saying, “Do not fear little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” But He does not give the kingdom except   to   honest   servants   who   watch   their   Master’s possessions,  who  keep  His  commandments  and  guard  their salvation and the souls of the servants their companions. But the  servants  who  are  neglectful,  who  prefer  worldly  cares, eating, drinking and getting drunk, their Master will come on

a day they do not expect and will cut them off from His flock

and appoint their portion with the unbelievers and devils.

 

Thus  the  believer  ought  to  warn  himself  with  these  things, while praying the Troparia saying,  “Wake  up  my  soul  and be   careful,   your   judgment   is   present   -   consider   the awesome time of judgment!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

53

 

2.         Midnight Tasbeha

 

Following  the  Midnight  Praise,  believers  start  the  Midnight Tasbeha.  I  advise  you,  my  beloved,  to  partake  in  these praises. Pray with all your heart, these beautiful Coptic tunes. When you learn the praises and partake in chanting them you will  find  them  to  be  a  source  of  great  and  overflowing spiritual comfort, and you will gain the saying: “Blessed are those who dwell in Your house, they will be praising You”

(Psalm  84:4).  Remember  the  Psalmist  saying:  “Those  who

seek Him will praise the Lord” (Psalm 22:26). If you seek the  Lord  and  yearn  for  a  loving  relationship  with  Him, partake  in  praising  and  glorifying  Him  and  rejoice  with  the Psalmist  saying,  “My  mouth  shall  praise  You  with  joyful lips” (Psalm 63:5).

 

Midnight Tasbeha during all the days of the year is composed of :-

 

1. “TEN-THENO” : the same as what is said after Psalm 50

in  the  Midnight  Prayer.  In  the  Tasbeha  it  is  said  in  Coptic tunes with special verses. The church urges us to awake from idleness and praise the Lord of Hosts and ask Him to accept us and forgive us our sins.

 

2.  The  FIRST  HOAS  :  is  the  song  of  Moses  the  prophet which he sang with the Israelites after crossing the Red Sea

(Exodus 15). As Moses saved the Jews from the bondage of Pharaoh, the Lord Jesus saved us from the dominion of Satan and  the  tempestuousness  of  the  world.  Therefore  we  ought

to praise Him at all times.

 

 

 

 

 

54

 

3.  The  SECOND HOAS :  is  Psalm  135,  with  the  chorus:

“Thank  the  Lord  for  the  Lord  is  good  and  His  mercy endures forever.”   This is repeated at the end of every verse of the Hoas. The Hoas is a thanksgiving praise by the church

to God for His goodness and His everlasting mercy.

 

4.   The THIRD HOAS : is the song of the three young men in the fiery furnace. The church sings this hymn as if to lead the whole creation, earthly and heavenly to praise and glorify God. There are two chorus in the Third Hoas

:-

 

*          ‘More  blessed  and  more  exalted  forever’  repeated  six times;

*          ‘Praise Him and exalt Him forever’  repeated  34  times. Total  is  40,  which  is  a  perfect  number,  symbolising  the perfect praise offered by the church to her God.

 

5.   CONGREGATION   OF   SAINTS   :   The   struggling church here on earth asks for the intercessions and prayers of the  victorious  church  together  with  all  her  saints:  St  Mary the mother of God, then the angels, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs and saints. Doxologies are then said in the same manner of commemoration to glorify the saints and ask for their prayers.

 

6.  The  FORTH  HOAS  :  is  comprised  of  the  last  three psalms   :   148,   149,   150.   It   resembles   the   Third   Hoas regarding  the  leadership  of  the  church  and  the  whole  of creation praising and glorifying God.

 

7. EPSALIA : every day of the week has a special Epsalia which  serves  and  glorifies  the  name  of  our  Lord.  It  has  a

 

 

55

 

fixed  response  at  its  beginnings  and  its  end  so  that  the congregation  may  respond  easily.  For  the  various  church seasons, such as the fasts, the Lordly Feasts, feasts of saints, etc, there are specific Epsalias to serve the occasion.

 

8. THEOTOKIA : these are seven. There is a Theotokia for every  day  of  the  week.  It  is  a  special  glorification  for  St Mary the mother of God, glorifying the mystery of the divine incarnation  and  the  miraculous  virgin  birth.  It  also  includes symbols and prophecies about St Mary, her pregnancy, and her giving birth to the incarnated God for our salvation. The word  'Theotokia'  comes  from  the  Greek  word  'Theotokos', meaning  the  Mother  of  God.  Every  Theotokia  concludes with its unique part, expressing the meaning of the words.

 

9.   DEPHNAR   :   resembles   the   Sinaxarium   in   that   it commemorates feast days of saints with praises for them.

 

10.  CONCLUSION  :  concludes  the  wonderful  Midnight Tasbeha.  The  ‘ADAM’  is  the  tune  chanted  on  Sundays, Mondays  and  Tuesdays.  ‘WATOS’  is  the  tune  chanted  on Wednesdays,  Thursdays,  Fridays  and  Saturdays.  'Adam'  is the first word in the Monday praise. The ‘ADAM’ tunes are reviving  and  uplifting,  reflecting  what  Sunday  expresses  in our church - the victory of resurrection, and Monday which signifies  renewal.  The  word  ‘WATOS’  is  the  first  word  in Thursday’s Tasbeha. The Watos tunes are more solemn than the  Adam  tunes,  and  hence  reflects  the  days  its  expresses  : Wednesday  was  the  day  in  which  Judas  plotted  against Christ. Thursday was the day when the Lord was delivered into  their  hands.  Friday  was  the  day  of  crucifixion,  and Saturday was the day Christ’s body lay in the tomb.

 

 

 

 

56

 

11.  THE  CREED  :  followed  by  Amen,  Lord  have  mercy, with its wonderful humble tune.

 

12. The priest prays the Midnight Absolution audibly while the  congregation  listens  carefully  to  this  beautiful  prayer which pleads for everything and everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

57

 

 

 

THE MATINS OR MORNING INCENSE

 

This  begins  with  the  morning  service  which  is  instituted  to commemorate the hour at which our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Sunday morning. We thank the Lord who let us pass the night in peace and kept us safe until morning. The church teaches us to pray persistently and fervently, and this is evident when we begin our prayer by saying:

 

O Come , let us worship,

O Come, let us ask Christ our God (we are requesting)

O Come, let us worship,

O  Come,  let  us  ask  Christ  our  King  (our  request  becomes stronger)

O Come, let us worship,

O Come, let us implore Christ our Saviour (imploring Christ means we are pleading to Him for help)

 

This is according to the teachings of our good Saviour, when He said; "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks  receives,  and  he  who  seeks  finds,  and  to  him  who knocks it will be opened" (Matthew 7:7,8).

 

One  of  the  saints  said,  "I  have  a  habit  of  collecting  my thoughts  and  calling  them  to  prayer  saying,  let  us  worship Him, let us kneel down before Christ our God."

 

In  this  prayer,  the  Church  draws  a  plan  for  us  to  follow throughout the struggles of the day. Its aim is to guide our thoughts  to  the  fourth  chapter  of  the  Epistle  of  St.  Paul  to

 

 

 

 

58

 

the  Ephesians,  so  that  we  may  meditate  on  his  words  and apply them to our duties and relations during the day...

 

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to have

a  walk  worthy  of  the  calling  with  which  you  were  called, with  all  lowliness  and  gentleness,  with  long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism."

 

As  we  recite  this  prayer  in  the  early  morning,  we  read  the Gospel   of   St.   John,   chapter   1,   which   says,   "In   the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." At this time, the sun begins to rise and when  it  appears,  it  reminds  us  of  God  our  True  Light  who gives light to every man who comes into the world. This is what  we  say  in  the  first  contemplative  Troparia  of  the Morning  Prayer.  In  the  second  Troparia,  we  ask  God  to enlighten our senses and thoughts by saying :

 

"When the morning hour approaches, O Christ our God, the  True  Light,  let  the  senses  and  thoughts  of  the  light shine upon us, and let us not be covered by darkness." In the  third  Troparia,  we  glorify  the  Virgin  Mother  of  True Light   coming   to   the   world,   by   saying:   "You   are   the honourable  Mother  of  the  light.  Everywhere  under  the sun, people offer you glorification, the Mother of God, the second heaven."

 

After completing the Morning Prayer, the congregation pray the  morning  Doxology.  This  is  a  wonderful  prayer,  rich  in meaning. We sing it with joyful hearts and we may liken it to

 

 

59

 

a brilliant piece of symphony. Its rich meaning compliments the  Morning  Prayer.  We  say  two  complete  Troparia  from those of the Morning Prayer and we also pray the following :

"Have mercy upon us according to Your will forever. The night had passed away, we thank You O Lord and ask You to keep us this day without sin and deliver us."

 

?   In this dawn, facilitate our inner and outer ways by Your joyful protection.

 

?   By  your  peace,  O  Christ  Our  God,  You  passed  us through the night and brought us to the beginning of this day because we trusted You.

 

?   What  is  good  and  what  is  beautiful  except  brothers dwelling together in unity.

 

?   Agreed in true evangelical love like the Apostles.

 

?   Like  the  precious  oil  on  the  Head  of  Christ,  running down  on  the  beard,  running  down  on  the  edge  of  His garments and feet.

 

?   Those  whom  the  Holy  Spirit  united  together,  like  a violin, praising God at all times.

 

Why don't you meditate on all these meanings, my beloved, while you pray the Morning Prayer, and sing the wonderful morning  Doxology  which  lifts  you  spiritually  up  to  the heavens.

 

After  completing  the  morning  Doxology,  the  priest  begins the  raising  of  the  morning  incense,  which  resembles  the evening incense, except for minor differences, for example :

 

60

 

 

 

In  the  evening  incense,  the  priest  prays  the  litany  for  the

departed,  while  in  the  morning  incense  of  Matins,  he  prays two litanies:

 

i. Litany for the sick - According to St. John Chrysostom, the  church  is  considered  like  a  hospital,  and  usually  it  is  in the  morning  when  the  hospital  opens  its  doors  to  welcome the sick and heal them.   During the litany for the sick, pray for  anyone  you  know  who  may  be  sick,  whether  they  are relatives,  friends  or  neighbours.  Remember  them  by  name and ask for them to be relieved of their sickness. Then pray with the congregation in the response,  "Lord  have  mercy" fervently  and  with  humility  so  that  God  may  accept  your prayers for those you have mentioned and will have mercy on them and heal them.

 

ii. Litany for the travellers - this is said in the morning, for

in the past, people travelled during the daytime for reasons of good visibility and less risk of encountering criminals along the  way.  Of  course  that  was  well  before  travel  became possible  during  night  time.  King  David  the  psalmist  said,

"When the sun rises man goes out to his work and to his labour until evening" (Psalm 104:22,23).

 

While  reciting  the  litany  for  travellers,  remember  not  only those you know who are travelling, but also those who may have  migrated  to  a  foreign  country.  Ask  the  Lord  to  keep them safe and accompany them throughout their journeys, so that  they  may  return  to  their  homes  joyful  and  safe.  Then pray  with  the  congregation  in  the  response,  "Lord  have mercy."

 

 

 

 

61

 

On   Sundays   and   feast   days,   we   replace   the   litany   for travellers  with  the  litany  for  the  oblations,  as  the  church assumes that during these days, all of its children attend the church for prayer and celebration bringing their oblations and offerings.  The  church  lifts  up  these  oblations,  offerings  and prayers to God so that He may accept them and reward each person  with  the  heavenly  instead  of  the  earthly,  and  the eternal instead of the temporal.

 

While reciting the prayer for the oblations, we plead with the Lord  to  accept  all  our  offerings,  whether  they  be  money, time, effort, love, or anything we may sacrifice for the sake of  God,  "hidden  or  manifest,  those  in  abundance  and those in scarcity, to the needy brothers of Christ. May God accept  their  offerings  and  bestow  on  them  the  grace  of happy life in this age, and eternal life in His Kingdom.”

 

Then the morning incense prayer follows in the manner of the evening  incense  in  the  prayer  of  EVNOT-NAI-NAN  (God have  mercy  upon  us).  This  is  followed  by  the  litany  of  the Gospel, the five short litanies, the absolution and finally, the blessing.

 

My beloved, attend the prayers of the Matins with reverence, following every prayer and litany with your Liturgy book, as you did during the Vespers.

 

May God open our minds and our hearts to contemplate on what the Spirit says to the churches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

62

 

 

 

 

2          The Offertory

 

 

 

63

 

 

 

LITURGY OF THE CATECHUMENS OR

DOCTRINAL LITURGY

 

 

 

Donning the Service Vestments :

 

The liturgy of catechumens begins with the priest blessing his vestments  and  the  vestments  of  the  deacons.  This  is  done three times with the sign of the cross. Then the priest and the deacons start donning their beautiful white vestments which symbolise purity of the heart and life. During this process, all pray Psalm 29,    I  will  praise  you,  O  Lord....”  and  Psalm

92, “ The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty....”.

 

The   above   mentioned   Psalms   embraces   many   befitting statements for donning priestly vestments and preparation for ministering to the divine Sacraments. For example, in Psalm

29, it is written:-

 

?   “I  will  praise  you,  O  Lord,  for  You  have  lifted  me up...”  As  this  is  said,  all  the  servants  are  thanking  the Lord   before   entering   His   Holies   and   serving   His Sacraments, thanking the Lord for making him worthy to serve Him, despite his unworthiness. Thus, he is praising, glorifying and blessing the name of the Lord.

 

?   “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”        This     Psalm            speaks about   weeping          for repentance and remorse for all sins and confessing them before  the  priest  of  God  the  night  before,  so  as  to  be prepared for Holy Communion. In the morning, all enter the Sanctuary in joy as the Psalmist says, "Then I will go

 

 

64

 

onto the altar of God, onto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon  the  harp  will  I  praise  You,  O  God  my  God"

(Psalm 43:4).   The servants respond “ You have turned for  me  my  mourning  into  joy;  You  have  put  off  my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.”

 

If the believer repents to God in humility and with a contrite spirit,  God  will  turn  their  mourning  into  tears  of  joy  and happiness, for the salvation which Christ has given us from the  bondage  of  sin  and  evil. The  Lord  will  take  off  the sackcloth  of  sorrow  and  cloth  him  with  the  purified  white vestments  of  priesthood  to  serve  the  Lord  in  the  temple  of Holiness. Thus, he sings with joy because he has proven he has   resisted   sin   and   therefore   can   receive   the   Holy Communion  in  order  to  protect  himself  from  Satanic  wars. During  this,  Psalm  23  is  prayed:     "You  prepare  a  table before me in the presence of mine enemies: You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over."

 

?   In Psalm 92, the Psalmist says: "The Lord reigns, He is clothed with     majesty;          the            Lord    is         clothed            with strength..."   When the priest or deacons wear the white vestments  for  service,  they  confess  that  the  Lord  is clothed with majesty and girded with power; hence He is the king of the whole earth. And the deacons and priests are like the servant angels who appeared at the tomb of Christ. While wearing the white vestments to administer the  Sacraments  and  receive  Holy  Communion,  he  is girded with strength to win in his struggle, as promised in Revelation 3:5   "He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white garments; and I will not  blot  out  his name out of the book of life..."

 

 

65

 

 

 

All altar servants, whether priests or deacons wear the white

vestments  to  resemble  the  angels  in  the  way  they  look  and praise,  and  thus  they  convert  the  earth  to  heaven  and  the Church  to  the  heavenly  Jerusalem  ,  "Strength  and  beauty are  in  His  sanctuary."  Psalm  96  in  the  Third  Hour  prayer says,  "Whenever  we  stand  in  Your  holy  temple,  we  are considered as those who abide in heaven”.   In the church, prayers  are  said,  the  Holy  Spirit  dwells  on  the  Sacraments, and the church is filled with heavenly bright angels as truly this is the house of God and should be adorned in Holiness forever.

 

?   Dear  brother,  if  you  are  a  deacon,  do  not  bury  this  gift and  leave  this  holy  ministry.  Prepare  yourself  with  the appropriate clothing, bring it with you when you come to church for service, come forward reverently to the priest, so  he  can  bless  the  vestments.  Then  wear  the  purified vestment and read the two Psalms contemplating on their meaning.  It  is  important  to  note  that  a  deacon  is  not permitted  to  wear  his  vestment  without  a  blessing  from the   priest,   as   the   blessing   of   the   vestments   by   the celebrant priest has two meanings :

 

*          Blessing  the  vestments  and  sanctifying  them  by  prayers with  the  sign  of  the  cross,  thus  the  priest  blesses  the servant;

 

*          The priest is giving his permission for the deacon to serve and have Holy Communion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

66

 

In the past, one deacon asked the saintly Father Barsonofius

(Sixth Century saint),  "Father,  as  you  are  ordaining  me  to serve  around  the  holy  altar,  tell  me  what  to  think  about while  standing  in  front  of  God  and  helping  serve  with  the priest,  especially  if  I  am  holding  the  Holy  Chalice?  And should I have a specific garment for the altar service?"

 

The Saint answered, "My son, these are spiritual matters as the  deacon  must  be  like  the  Cherubim,  all  eyes  and  mind thinking about heavenly matters. This should be done in awe and  fear  praising  God  while  carrying  the  blood  of  the eternal  King.  He  is  like  the  Cherubim  who  proclaims  the TASBEHA  guarding  the  fearful  sacrament  like  what  the angels do in heaven with their wings. Remember those wings signify  the  enlighting  of  the  mind  from  the  heavy  earthly matters  to  blissful  heavenly  matters,  crying  without  fatigue in his inner self,   proclaiming the TASBEHA of victory for the majestic glory of God, praying reverently saying: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, Heaven and Earth are full of your Holy Glory."

 

From the voice of this awesome preaching, the devil falls and escapes  in  fear  from  the  mention  of  God’s  name,  his  hosts also escape shamefully and the soul becomes free from their dominion.  Thus,  then  the  soul  can  recognise  the  TRUE LIGHT and know Gods beauty and splendour. It then yearns

to be filled with His Holy Body and Blood to enjoy the voice of  David  the  prophet  :  "Taste  and  see  that  the  Lord  is good." Then the soul rejoices and glorifies the Lord, as one has  become  purified  by  the  precious  Body  and  Blood  of Christ, which protects the soul from all pain and anguish.

 

Thus, when you stand to serve the Holy Sacraments, or are carrying the holy censor, or are folding the altar garments, or

 

67

 

organising the altar and its coverings, or if you accompany a priest who carries the Holy Obligation to a sick person, as a deacon,  you  should  always  be  in  awe  and  always  keep  in your mind and thoughts constantly that you are a Cherubim who is consecrated for the service.

 

As  for  the  garment,  obtain  for  yourself  a  spiritual  garment with  which  you  can  please  God.  About  being  a  deacon  the church says, "Now after being a deacon, which is of a higher rank   than   that   of   Leviticus,   who   served   the   vanishing sacraments, you are serving in the rank of St Stephen, in the holy altar on which the pure Body and sacred Blood of our beloved Saviour is placed."

 

 

 

CANONICAL PRAYERS OF THE HOURS

 

Once   completing   the   donning   of   the   vestments   for   the Liturgy  service,  the  prayer  of  the  Canonical  hours  are  said from the Agbia.

 

i. Each Sunday throughout the year that falls on non-fasting days, the third and sixth hour prayers are said.

 

ii. During the weekdays of all other fasts, the third, sixth and ninth hour prayers are said.

 

The following, is a contemplation on the meaning of the third and sixth hour prayers, as we previously contemplated on the ninth hour prayer in the Vespers.

 

Saint Paul, said to his children of the church in Galatia, "My little children, of whom I labour in birth again until Christ

 

 

68

 

is formed in you"  (Galatians 4:19). This means, I sacrifice for  you  by  teaching  you  the  word  of  life  and  salvation, placing the image of Christ before you, always to remind you of the incidents of the Lord's life, from His birth, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. Reminding you of His words and teachings so that Christ might be formed in you and that your faith can become stronger in Christ. The church implements this with her children. This is reflected in the seven prayers in the Agbia, where the believer prays daily, contemplating and recalling Christ. Thus, Christ is formed and His image vivid

in their minds, incidents, daily sayings, etc. The teachings of

Christ are alive in their memory all day, every day. As written

in Revelation 22:4,   "And they shall see His face; and His name shall be on their foreheads."

 

 

 

The Third Hour Prayer

 

The church instituted these prayers for commemorating these incidents in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ:

 

?   The  condemnation  of  Jesus  Christ  before  Pilate  and  the sentence  of  His  crucifixion,  despite  the  witnessing  of Pilate regarding His innocence.   Jesus did not argue but was silent like a lamb taken to be slaughtered. Psalm 25 in  the  Third  Hour  prayer  says,  "Vindicate  me  O  Lord, for I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the  Lord,  I  shall  not  slip.   Examine  me  O  Lord,  and prove me."

 

?   During the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ to heaven, the Psalmist says,  "Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His Holy place? He which

 

 

69

 

has clean hands, and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol..."  (Psalm 23). These are all the qualities  of  Christ  ascending  to  heaven,  standing  at  the right hand of God. In Psalm 24, King David says,   "Lift up  your  heads,  O  you  gates;  And  lift  them  up,  you everlasting doors; And the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King  of  glory."           This  verse  is  read  before  the  Gospel during the Resurrection Feast.

 

In  this  psalm,  a  multitude  of  heavenly  hosts  asks  another multitude to lift up the doors of heaven so the King of Glory may enter, who is ascending from the earth. The Lord strong and  mighty  in  battle,  has  fought  and  conquered  the  devil, freeing   all   the   imprisoned,   beginning   with   Adam,   and bringing them back to Paradise.

 

?   The Holy Spirit came down on the disciples. "The voice of the Lord is over the world. The voice of the Lord is full of majesty", and also "In His temple everyone says

'Glory'" (Psalm 28).

 

*          The Gospel of the Third Hour speaks about the promise of  the  Lord  of  Glory  to  send  His  Holy  Spirit  to  His disciples.  He  calls  Himself  the  TRUE  VINE  and  we  are the branches that grow in Him by the Holy Spirit which we receive in the Sacrament of Confirmation - the Myron. Through this, we bear more fruit.

 

*          In  the  contemplative  Troparia,  we  ask  the  Lord  not  to take  His  Holy  Spirit  away  from  us,  but  to  abide  within us.  We  ask  the  Holy  Spirit,  who  is  the  Comforter  to dwell within us, through the intercessions of the Mother

 

 

70

 

of Light St Mary, and the pure apostles, so that we may be purified from iniquity, and the Holy Spirit may give us peace.

 

*          In the Absolution, we thank the Lord God of all mercy and the Lord of all comfort, for raising us up for prayer

at  this  holy  hour  -  the  blessed  hour  in  which  the  Holy Spirit  descended  on  the  disciples  -  and  we  ask  Him  to bestow  on  us  the  grace  of  His  Holy  Spirit  to  purify  us from the iniquities of the body and soul.

 

 

 

Sixth Hour Prayer

 

The  church  has  instituted  this  prayer  to  commemorate  the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for  our  salvation.  We  find  in  the  psalms  of  the  sixth  hour verses expressing the sufferings endured by our beloved Lord Jesus Christ.

 

?   “Save  me  oh  God  by  Your  name...For  strangers  have risen up against me and oppressors have sought after my life" (Psalm 53)

 

?   "Whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue

a sharp sword" (Psalm 56)

 

?   The  cross  was  the  throne  for  the  Lord  of  Glory  who reigned, "The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty"

(Psalm 92)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

71

 

?   "Bow  down  Your  ear,  Oh  Lord  and  hear  me...in  the day  of  my  trouble  I  will  call  upon  You,  for  You  will answer me" (Psalm 86)

 

*          The Gospel of the Sixth Hour is the start of the famous Sermon   on   the   Mount.   The   Lord   speaks   about   the blessings  which  shall  be  bestowed  on  all  who  share  in carrying His cross. For example :-

 

?   On the cross Jesus was in the depth of spiritual poverty, humility  and  humiliation,  and  so  through  these  virtues which  He  Himself  experienced,  expresses  His  words  :

"Blessed   are   the   poor   in   spirit,   for   theirs   is   the kingdom of heaven."

 

?   Christ  on  the  cross  was  in  the  depth  of  sorrow  :  "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death" (Matthew

26:3),  and  hence  He  consoles  the  downcast  by  saying,

"Blessed   are   those   who   mourn   for   they   shall   be comforted."

 

?   Christ on the cross was very meek : "He was oppressed and  was  afflicted,  yet  He  opened  not  His  mouth.  He was  lead  as  a  lamb  to  the  slaughter,  and  as  a  sheep before  His  shearer  in  silence,  so  He  opened  not  His mouth"  (Isaiah  53:7).  The  Lord  wants  to  teach  us  the virtue of meekness and so says, "Blessed  are  the  meek for they shall inherit the earth."

 

?   Christ on the cross was hungry and thirsty - not for bread and water, but hungered for our salvation, so He called out,  "I  thirst"  (John  19:28).  And  so  He  blesses  those

 

 

 

 

72

 

saying,  "Blessed  are  those  who  hunger  and  thirst  for righteousness, for they shall be filled."

 

?   The crucifixion of Christ is the apex of Divine mercy for our falling mankind, for on the cross, "Mercy and truth have met together” (Psalm 84, a Sixth Hour psalm).

 

?   Out   of   mercy,   our   Lord   Jesus   Christ   preferred   our salvation to show the kindness of God the Father and His satisfaction  about  His  earthly  life,  so  it  is  mentioned  in the sixth hour Psalm, “Because Your loving kindness is better  than  life”  (Psalm  62).    He  sacrificed  His  life willingly,  so  that  we  might  enjoy  His  mercy.  For  this reason He blesses the merciful saying, "Blessed  are  the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."

 

?   Our beloved Lord and God Jesus Christ, whose heart is pure  and  void  of  all  evil,  this  purity  was  manifested  on the  cross  when  He  asked  His  Father  to  forgive  His oppressors  and  enemies  saying,  "Father  forgive  them for  they  do  not  know  what  they  are  doing"  (Matthew

23:34).

 

?   Our  beloved  Lord  Jesus  encourages  us  to  live  a  life  of purity  in  order  to  become  holy  as  He  is  holy,  saying,

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God"

(Matthew 5:8). And in another place it is written, "How long will it be until they attain to innocence?" (Hosea

8:5).

 

?   Our  beloved  Lord  established  peace  on  the  cross  and united the heavenly and the earthly, as the Apostle says,

"God  was  in  Christ  reconciling  the  world  to  Himself,

 

 

73

 

not   imputing   their   trespasses   to   them,   and   has committed   to   us   the   word   of   reconciliation"   (2

Corinthians 5:19).   "For  if  when  we  were  enemies  we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled we shall be saved by  His  life"  (Romans  5:11).  And  the  Apostle  Paul proclaims   in   joy   saying,   "Therefore,   having   been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord  Jesus  Christ"  (Romans  5:1).  Our  beloved  Lord Jesus wants us to become peace-makers as He reconciled us and made us His ambassadors: "Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew

5:9).

 

All  His  life,  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ  endured  persecution, torture, false accusations and reproach in order to teach by example truth and righteousness. He then endured the torture of crucifixion; the beatings, lashings, false judgments, before violently subjecting Him to the words and most humiliating death of all - the death on the cross. In His love, Christ wants us  to  share  in  His  suffering:  "Blessed  are  those  who  are persecuted   for   righteousness   sake,   for   theirs   is   the kingdom of heaven." Then He consoles us saying, "Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you and say all kinds  of  evil  against  you  falsely  for  My  name’s  sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven."

 

Then  in  his  letter,  the  Apostle  Paul  blesses  those  who  are persecuted for righteousness saying, "If you are reproached for  the  name  of  Christ,  blessed  are  you,  for  the  Spirit  of glory  and  of  God  rests  upon  you"  (1  Peter  4:14),  and,

 

 

 

 

74

 

"Because   Christ   also   suffered   for   us,   leaving   us   an example that you should follow His steps" (1 Peter 2:21).

 

By the cross He was the Light of the world, attracting all to Him as He said, "And I, being lifted up from the earth, will draw  all  people  to  Myself"  (John  12:32).  And  from  the cross  He  descended  to  Hades  and  saved  those  who  were sitting in the darkness and shadow of death, "Who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light" (1 Timothy

6:16). Despite this, He called us saying, "You are the light of   the   world"   (Matthew   5:14).  Christ   ascended   the lighthouse  of  the  cross,  and  so  attracted  all  people  from darkness  to  His  light,  and  here  He  resembles  the  believer who puts the light on a lamp stand to give light to all who are in the house.

 

The  contemplations  of  the  Sixth  Hour  prayer  focus  on  our crucified Lord saying:

"Break the bonds of our sins Lord Jesus and save us"

"O  Lord  may  all  our  pains  be  ended  through  Your  life giving and healing sufferings. May our minds be saved from foolishness and worldly desires to the remembrance of Your heavenly laws."

 

This  is  a  very  deep  request!  Take  it  as  practice  if  evil thoughts        attack  you,     or            any      foolish desire  becomes burdensome  for  you.  Look  to  the  cross  and  Christ  and meditate  on  His  crucifixion  which  He  endured  for  us;  the crown  of  thorns  placed  on  His  holy  head,  His  blood  which ran  from  His  wounds,  and  His  side  which  was  pierced. Remember His wounds and proclaim to the Lord,  "End  my pains  by  Your  healing  and  life  giving  sufferings",  and  you

 

 

 

 

75

 

will immediately feel the love and help of the Lord, making you victorious.

 

In  the  TROPARIA  we  kneel  in  contriteness  and  humility asking for the forgiveness of our sins.

 

In the absolution we thank God for allowing us to stand in prayer   before   Him   at   the   time   of   commemorating   His crucifixion  for  our  sake,  and  we  ask  Him  to  give  us  an unblemished  life  of  peace  and  goodness  in  order  to  please His holy and glorified name forever. Amen.

 

Father Antonious Ragheb parallels the Canonical hours to a wedding  feast  by  saying,  "The  introduction  of  the  prayer  is the wedding garment that leads our thoughts and emotions to enjoy the delicacies of this feast. This garment is composed of a tunic, belt and shoes."

 

The tunic is the Lord’s prayers granted to us from the Lord of the feast who advised us to pray saying, "When you pray say 'Our father in heaven'". A tunic covering us from head

to  toe  covers  all  our  supplications  to  God,  ourselves  and

others   around   us,   a   complete   tunic   that   comforts   the righteous soul to wear it in peace and joy.

 

The belt, or girdle is the prayer of thanksgiving which must surround the Christian completely in all their prayers; giving thanks always for everything in the name of Christ. Through

it we declare God's favours to us in everything, and we deny ourselves and confess that all help and support comes from the Almighty God.

 

The  shoes  are  the  Psalm  of  repentance  (Psalm  51);  it  is  a psalm  of  humility  and  repentance,  asking  forgiveness  for

 

76

 

what has corrupted us in this world. We pray this Psalm  and ask the Lord to enable us to continue travelling through the wilderness of life without being hurt.

 

This  is  the  garment  of  the  heavenly  feast  with  which  the praying  faithful  enters  to  its  spiritual  delicacies  of  heavenly bread and pure water.

 

On  the  spiritual  table  are  many  delicious  spiritual  foods offered        by        David  the            Psalmist          in         his       beautiful         and contemplative psalms of praise, of thanksgiving and for help, and so on.

 

Do not just look at the spiritual banquet but also eat from it. Taste of its sweetness and enjoy it so that it may benefit your inner self.

 

We then find heavenly bread with which we end our spiritual meditation,  and  this  is  the  Gospel  which  is  appropriate  for the hour.

 

So if you enjoy the pleasures of the Old Testament, and the blessings of the New Testament, you will find in the banquet:

 

?   Pure Water : meditations suitable for the hour of prayer in the Troparia, so take from this pure water so that you may cool yourself. This banquet has a wonderful spiritual atmosphere.

 

?   Perfumes of holiness and of faith : we sing the songs of angels, and repeat the faith of the Fathers, during which the Christian person feels that they are sharing with the angels  and  the  saintly  fathers  in  their  praise.  When  you say  the  Creed,  put  in  your  heart  that  thousands  and

 

77

 

thousands of angels are glorifying the Lord of glory, and that  you  are  surrounded  with  a  "cloud  of  witnesses" who have existed throughout the ages. Holiness and faith are beautiful perfumes.

 

There  is  incense  in  the  feast:  prayers  which  ascend  in  a special order. Repeat "Lord have mercy" many times.   If we repeated  ‘Lord  have  mercy’  all  our  life,  it  would  not  be enough  to  ask  for  God’s  compassionate  mercy.  Let  its repetition be as spiritual incense, not a mere recitation. Ask mercy for yourself and others. Relay to God all matters that are  in  need  of  God’s  mercy.  Pray,  "Lord  have  mercy  upon me  and  save  me  from  my  evil  thoughts.  Lord  have  mercy upon  me  and  save  me  from  my  absent-mindedness.  Lord have  mercy  upon  me  and  save  me  from  tribulations.  Lord have  mercy  upon  me  and  upon  Your  church  and  save  her from   wolves.   Lord   have   mercy   upon   me   and   save   all children from the seductions of sin."

 

Hence, your prayers become as incense ascending to God.

 

You conclude the feast with your heart and mind becoming enlightened  by  the  beauty  of  your  garment.  Your  prayers which ascend to the heavens are the whispers of a heart that thanks, asks, loves, rejoices, repents and determines in truth.

 

 

 

THE OFFERTORY

 

?   Choosing  the  'LAMB'  presents  the  agreement  of  the Divine  Trinity           to  the  hypostasis  of  the  'SON'.  This happened  to  redeem  the  falling  race  of  Adam.  Adam angered God by breaking His commandments to obey the deceit of Satan.

 

 

78

 

 

 

This  great  divine  work  which  the  Lord  did  for  us  proves

clearly how merciful God is to us. He,  "Did  not  spare  His

own Son, But delivered Him up for us all" (Romans 8:32).

And "For  God  so  loved  the  world  that  He  gave  His  only

begotten  Son,  that  whoever  believes  in  Him  shall  not

perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

 

During  the  offertory  the  congregation  chants  "Lord  Have Mercy" 41 times, fervently until the celebrant priest chooses the 'Lamb'.

 

The  congregation  does  this  to  perpetuate  the  Lord's  mercy and sacrificing love, as He had mercy on those who believed, and saved them from the original sin of their ancestor Adam.

 

The  congregation  asks  the  Lord  to  forgive  them  their  sins which they committed in human weakness, and to fulfil His love to mankind and make them worthy to enjoy the blessing of  redemption,  forgiveness  of  sins  and  inheritance  of  the kingdom of heaven with the saints.

 

?   My   beloved,   pray   "Lord   have   mercy"   during   the

OFFERTORY with persistence, asking the 'LAMB' who

is without blemish to purify you from every blemish, and

to make you worthy to partake of the sacraments and to

have eternal life.

 

?   After completing the "Choice of the 'LAMB'" the priest

'baptises' the 'LAMB' with some water. This is symbolic

of the Baptism of Christ. And then the priest recites the

names of those whom he wishes to mention, particularly

those on whose behalf the offering is raised; whether they

be  living,  departed,  sick  or  in  distress.  The  'LAMB'  of

God  takes  away  the  sins  of  the  world  to  deliver  them

from their troubles and pressures.

 

 

 

 

 

79

 

?   Come reverently my beloved, and give your name to the priest.  Ask  him  to  remember  you   in  his  prayers.  Write your name on a small piece of paper. Even the names of your dear ones who are in times of trouble, or who are sick,  distressed,  or  sitting  exams.  The  priest  will  place these  papers  on  the  altar,  and  will  ask  God  to  answer peoples  prayers  according  to  His  will.  We  often  hear from  the  priests,  about  the  power  of  the  prayer  of  the Mass and how miraculously fast problems are solved.

 

?   The priest holds the 'Lamb' wrapped in the silk corporal, above  his  head  while  standing  at  the  Royal  door  facing westward and says : "Glory and Honour, Honour and Glory  to  the  Holy  Trinity..."  You  should  then  kneel down with your head to the ground before the 'Lamb' of GOD until the 'Procession of the Lamb' is completed.

 

?   The priest starts the Mass by doing the three signs of the cross. Following this is the Prayer of Thanksgiving, and prior to this the priest blesses the congregation with the sign of the cross saying, "Peace be with you all."

 

You should bow in reverence at every sign of the cross, and make the sign of the cross on yourself until the peace of God

is bestowed upon you and sanctifies your body.

 

?   It   is   important   to   understand   that   the   more   you participate in the prayers, the more you will be praying in spirit, and therefore feelings of monotony will flee.

 

?   During the signs of the cross you should bow your head and   do   the   sign   of   the   cross,   when   they   mention thanksgiving you thank the Lord. Upon supplication you should lift your hands and earnestly supplicate God. On the  mention  of  repentance  you  should  beat  your  chest like the tax collector who remembered his sins.

 

?   After  the  procession  of  the  Lamb,  the  priest  says  the

Thanksgiving   Prayer   and   thanks   God   who   made   us

 

80

 

worthy of this grace and partakers of the inheritance of the saints. Services of the Holies are mentioned as well as the  Holy  Sacrament  of  Communion  which  the  angels yearn to see.

 

?   After completing the first part of the thanksgiving prayer, the deacon begins by saying "Let us Pray."

 

?   So my beloved, why don't you take this special invitation as  an  opportunity  for  prayer,  so  that  your  spirit  can communicate with God.

 

?   When  the  congregation  chants,  "Lord  have  Mercy", partake in this. Ask the Lord to have mercy on you and give  you  the  grace  of  prayer  in  Spirit  and  in  your relationship with God. Talk to the Lord with love and try to feel His existence in the church.

 

?   The  deacon  then  says  to  the  congregation  :  "Pray  that God  may  have  mercy  and  compassion  upon  us,  hear us, aid us, and accept the supplications and prayers of His  saints  on  our  behalf  at  all  times,  and  make  us worthy to partake of the Communion of His Holy and blessed Mysteries for the forgiveness of our sins."

 

The  congregation  responds  saying,  "Lord  Have  Mercy." During   the   response   of   the   deacon,   you   should   recite inaudibly:  "Have  mercy  and  compassion  on  us,  hear  us and  accept  Your  saintly  supplications  for  my  weakness. Give me true repentance Lord to go forward to partake of your        Holy    blessed            Sacraments,    without            falling into condemnation,  and  without  committing  new  iniquities  to add  to  my  many  transgressions,  if  I  unworthily  receive communion.  Give  me  forgiveness  of  my  sins,  burn  my iniquities,  heal  my  physical  and  spiritual  pains,  for  the growth  of  my  spiritual  life.  Deepen  my  life  of  unity  with You."

 

 

 

 

81

 

Recite, “Lord   have   mercy   "   with   the   congregation, collecting all your previous requests as the mercy of God is the key to His blessings and grace.

 

?   Concentrate with the priest as he completes the Prayer of Thanksgiving.  Share with him the request to God to give you His divine peace and holy fear to cast away all envy, all  temptation,  all  works  of  Satan,  all  intrigues  of  the wicked,     and      to         grant            you      the       endowments    and benefactions  to  enjoy  all  blessings,  to  keep  you  from tribulations which leads to destruction and being cast out of His Heavenly Kingdom.

 

?   After  completing  the  Prayer  of  Thanksgiving,  the  priest covers  the  'LAMB'  with  a  clean  corporal,  and  likewise the     Chalice,           then     covers all        the       altar            with     the

'Prospherine'  (which  is  a  large  altar  covering),  then  he goes  out  of  the  sanctuary  with  the  deacons  to  pray  the Absolution of Ministers.

 

?   All  the  congregation  bow  to  accept  the  absolution  and forgiveness of sins. During the absolution, pray inaudibly prayers  of  repentance  which  were  previously  mentioned in the Evening Incense.

 

?   After completing the Absolution, the congregation gain a feeling   of   forgiveness   from   their   sins   for   which   a collective  repentance  was  given,  and  they  accept  this absolution from the priest.

 

?   The  priest  enters  the  sanctuary  to  start  the  raising  of incense.

 

?   When the priest comes out with the censor and proceeds to  raise  incense  toward  the  entire  congregation  to  bless them, repeat the prayer previously mentioned during the procession of the Evening Incense, "I ask you my Lord Jesus  Christ  to  forgive  my  sins  which  I  committed knowingly and unknowingly."

 

82

 

 

 

?   Repent  to  God  with  all  your  heart,  so  that  you  benefit

from  the  prayers  said  by  the  priest  as  he  is  offering

incense and blessing the congregation. This is called ‘The

Mystery of the Confession of the Congregation.’

 

?   This is repeated in the two processions of incense; during that of the Pauline Epistle and the PRAXIS (Acts of the Apostles).   Incense   is   not   raised   during   the   Catholic Epistle reading.

 

?   During  the  incense  processions,  the  congregation  chant some hymns, such as the hymn of Intercession. This is a chance          for       you,     my       beloved,          to            chant   with     the congregation,  thus  you  will  not  be  a  passive  audience, but  an  active  participator.    Just  because  you  are  not  a deacon  it  does  not  mean  you  are  not  a  servant.  You should realise this fact when you hear the priest saying in the  beginning  of  the  Absolution  of  Ministers  :  "Your servants   -   those   who   serve   you   on   this   day-   the hegumens,  priests,  the  deacons,  the  clergy,  the  whole congregation, and my weakness..."

 

You are a servant who partakes in the Mass, and so therefore you must perform your role during the service of the Mass honestly.

 

It is for your own good to respond with the prayers, for you will feel spiritually revived and feel the comfort of the Lord. In  this  way,  no  feelings  of  boredom  or  wandering  thoughts will be experienced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

83

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3          Liturgy of the Word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

84

 

 

 

READINGS    OF       THE    LITURGY       OF       THE

CATECHUMENS

 

The liturgy of the catechumens include these readings:

 

?   Pauline Epistle - from Epistles of St. Paul

 

?   Catholic  Epistle  -  from  Epistles  of  St.  James,  Peter, John and St. Jude.

 

?   Praxis - a chapter from the Acts of the Apostles

 

?   Sinaxarium - including biography of saints of the day

 

?   Gospel of the liturgy - which is chosen from one of the four  Gospels  and  this  reading  is  the  focus  of  all  the readings said during the liturgy.

 

?   The sermon - relates to the Gospel reading

 

 

 

The Readings

 

i.  The  Pauline:  is  read  by  the  ‘Oghnostos’  (who  is  at  the beginning of the rank of deacons), and the readings are taken from  St.  Paul's  Epistles,  sent  to  specific  people  such  as Timothy, Titus or Philemon, or to specific churches, such as the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, and others.

 

ii.  The   Catholicon:   is   read   by   a   senior   Oghnostos   or

‘Ebizeacon’,  because  it  is  taken  from  the  universal  epistles. So, St. James’ Epistles is sent to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad (James 1:1). Also, St. Peter's First Epistle is sent   to   the   Pilgrims   of   Dispersion   in   Pontus,   Galatia, Cappadocia,  Asia  and  Bithignia  (Peter  1:1).  St.  John's  First

 

85

 

Epistle  is  universal,  and  not  specific.  St.  Jude's  Epistle  was sent  to  those  who  are  called  sanctified  by  God  the  Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ (Jude 1:1).

 

iii. The Praxis (Acts): is read by a deacon, because it is the Book  of  the  Apostles'  struggle,  where  they  sanctified  their lives and blood. It is also the Book of the Holy Spirit's work

in the church.

 

This  does  not  mean  that  there  are  priorities  of  readings,  or that  some  are  more  important  or  beneficial  than  others, because, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and

is  profitable  for  doctrine,  for  reproof,  for  connection,  for instruction in righteous" (2 Timothy 3:16), but it is just a matter of discipline.

 

iv. The Sinixarium: this is a historical book, so it should be read  by  the  priest  himself,  to  be  given  the  image  of  the Church's readings in the Liturgy.

 

v. The Coptic Gospel: read by the celebrant priest, who will offer the Lamb, whether he be the Bishop, a Hegumen or a priest,  because  it  is  a  part  of  the  Liturgy  and  it  teaches  us about  the  sayings  and  life  of  our  Lord  and  Saviour  Jesus Christ.

 

vi. The Arabic/other language Gospel: read by a high rank deacon,  such  as  an  archdeacon,  and  it  is  preferable  that  he also be the deacon serving in the altar during the Liturgy.

 

The  reason  that  the  Coptic  Gospel  should  be  read  by  the celebrant priest or bishop, while the Arabic Gospel is read by

 

 

 

 

86

 

a  deacon,  is  that  the  Coptic  Gospel  is  the  original  reading, but the Arabic (or other) is just a translation of the Coptic.

 

vii.  The  Sermon:  addressed  by  the  highest  rank  present  in Church,  that  is,  the  Bishop,  or  the  hegumen  or  the  priest. Sometimes, the priest may give permission to the deacon to give the sermon.

 

My      beloved,          listen   to         these    divine  readings          with concentration,  so  that  they  may  cure  your  wounds,  answer your  queries,  and  give  solutions  to  your  problems.  Try  to learn a verse or two which attracts your attention during the readings.

 

Put this verse in your heart, with the Psalmist, saying, "Your word  I  have  hidden  in  my  heart,  that  I  might  not  sin against  You"  (Psalm  119:2).  Put  this  verse  in  the  three weights of flour, that is, your body, soul and spirit, so that the  yeast  may  work  in  the  dough,  thus  all  your  inner  and outer  senses  may  be  purified,  while  the  priest  prays  in  the Mystery of the Pauline: "Purify our hearts and sanctify our souls,  cleanse  us  from  every  sin,  which  we  have  done willingly and unwillingly."

 

The  Lord  has  clearly  indicated  the  importance  of  effective listening to the Divine sayings, in purifying and sanctifying a person, "You are already clean because of the word which

I have spoken to you" (John 15:3).

 

During this time, the priest is also supporting you through his inaudible  prayers,  which  he  says  on  the  altar,  praying  that God  may  open  your  mind,  and  give  you  understanding  to listen and comprehend what the spirit says to the Churches.

 

 

87

 

So,  in  the  Mystery  of  the  Pauline  for  example,  he  says,

"Grant  us  and  all  Your  congregation  a  clear  mind,  and understanding,   in   order   to   know   and   understand   the benefit  of  Your  teachings,  which  are  being  read  to  us now" (alluding to St. Paul's Epistle).

 

In the Mystery of the Gospel, the priest prays for the sake of the congregation saying,  "...make  us  worthy  to  hear  Your Holy Gospel and keep Your commandments, to bear fruits

a  hundredfold,  sixty  fold  and  thirty  fold  through  Jesus

Christ  our  Lord...",  and  at  the  end  he  says,  "Your  law, rights, commandments, holy orders, confirm them in their hearts,  let  them  know  the  power  and  depth  of  the  words they have heard."

 

The readings and the sermon are rich meals, don't miss them or ignore listening to them. The word of God is the light to our feet and path, food for our spirits and bodies, as, "Man shall  not  live  by  bread  alone,  but  by  every  word  that proceeds  from  the  mouth  of  God"  (Matthew  4:4).  That  is why the Apostle advises us, "...not forsaking the assembly of  ourselves  together,  as  is  the  manner  of  some,  but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25).

 

The   Hegumen   Antonious   Ragheb   says,   "The   readings resemble the five loaves of bread and two fish: In the Holy Liturgy the five chapters of the Holy Bible which we listen to

:  the  Pauline,  Catholicon,  Praxis,  Psalm  and  the  Gospel, are the loaves of grace, while the two fish are the Sinixarium and the  sermon."

 

 

 

 

 

88

 

We  eat  and  are  filled,  we  are  then  to  on-pass  this  grace  of God's  great  mercies  to  whoever  did  not  attend  the  Holy Liturgy.

 

The  readings  and  the  sermon  prepare  the  soul,  body  and spirit  to  partake  of  the  Holy  Communion,  so  therefore  the Church states that whoever is not present for these readings, should not partake of the Holy Communion.

 

It  is  written  in  the  book  of   'The  Principles  of  the  Church Rules' to Ibn El Assal: "Whoever is late coming to Church, and  does  not  attend  the  reading  of  the  Gospel,  should  not partake   of   the   Holy   Communion."   St.   Sawinis   Ibn   El Moqagaa says, "... also whoever misses the readings and the Prayer  of  Reconciliation  from  the  very  beginning  will  be punished  as  Judas  Iscariot,  because  the  readings  and  the Holy Liturgy are prepared before the Communion, in order to sanctify the soul and body, thus making a person worthy to partake of the Holy Body and Blood."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

89

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4          The Three

Great Litanies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

90

 

 

 

THE THREE GREAT LITANIES

 

After  the  sermon,  the  priest  starts  praying  the  three  major litanies:  of  Peace,  the  Fathers  and  the  Gatherings.  These litanies  are  full  of  strong  pleadings,  for  the  safety  of  the Church  and  the  whole  world,  for  protecting  the  Church's fathers,  and  for  the  gatherings  of  the  church,  so  that  they may  be  conducted  without  any  obstacles  from  the  Church's enemies or devils, or the inner diversions and bad counsels.

 

Concentrate  on  each  word  said  by  the  priest,  and  say,

"Amen  O  Lord"  always  after  each  prayer  said  for  the church,  the  fathers  or  the  gatherings  of  the  believers.  You should also pray some inaudible prayers, as done during the litanies of the Vesper and Matin incense, as explained before. Then  repeat  with  the  congregation  the  universal  prayer,

"Lord have mercy"  in enthusiasm believing and asking the Lord to respond to all the pleadings of the priest, said during these litanies.

 

 

 

THE LITURGY OF THE BELIEVERS

 

This is the most important part of the Mass. It is considered the  holiest  of  the  holy,  for  which  we  prepare  from  the evening Vespers in order to make us worthy to be prepared physically,  psychologically  and  spiritually,  so  that  we  may benefit and feel consoled.

 

The Liturgy of the Believers begins with the ORTHODOX CREED  recited  by  the  whole  church,  audibly  and  in  one voice,  in  a  powerful  and  effective  manner.  Reciting  the

 

 

91

 

Orthodox  Creed  at  the  beginning  of  the  Liturgy  of  the Believers  is  of  utmost  importance  to  ensure  that  we  please God, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder  of  those  who  diligently  seek  Him"  (Hebrews

11:6). By reciting the Orthodox Creed we declare our faith

in  one  God  in  the  Holy  Trinity,  the  work  of  redemption fulfilled by His only begotten Son, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our sanctification and purification.

 

My  beloved,  recite  the  Orthodox  Creed  with  the  whole church carefully. Believe every word as it is the fruit of the work   of   great   Ecumenical   Councils   instituted   by   great church fathers who were guided by the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

92

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5          Prayer Of

Reconciliation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

93

 

 

 

5.         PRAYER OF RECONCILIATION

 

By entering into the Prayer of Reconciliation, we enter into the  real  environment  of  the  holy  Mass  and  we  must  pay attention  to  stand  in  reverence  and  fear.  We  shall  mention some   contemplations   to   help   you   in   concentration   and meditation,        but            I           advise  you      not       to         worry  about contemplations alone, but let the tunes of the liturgy console you as it is splendid in spirit, even if the priest partly prays in the Coptic language, and you may not understand.

 

With    everyone         reciting           their    own     parts    quietly and reverently, the exchangeable harmony of the Liturgy between priest,  deacon  and  congregation,  will  make  each  person  in the church feel closer to heaven than to earth and puts them

in  a  state  of  true  transfiguration  and  communication  with

God.

 

 This  prayer  is  called  the  "Prayer  of  Reconciliation"  as  the priest  mentions  the  wonderful  work  of  Jesus  to  reconcile man with his creator, "For  He  Himself  is  our  peace,  who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of  division  between  us,  having  abolished  in  His  flesh  the enmity, that is, the law of commandments, so as to create in  Himself  one  new  man  from  the  two,  thus  making peace" (Ephesians 2:14,15), and, "Made peace through the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1:20).

 

He  also  mentions  the  story  of  salvation  made  by  the  Lord Jesus  for  mankind  when  He  destroyed  that  death  which entered into the world  through the envy of the devil, and He filled the earth with peace which is from heaven.

 

 

94

 

 

 

My beloved, be thankful to the Lord while listening to these

marvellous words of the Prayer of Reconciliation. Consider the salvation made by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and keep it personal for me and you, as the Apostle said, "The Son  of  God  who  loved  me  and  gave  Himself  for  me"

(Galatians 2:20), and, "This is a faithful saying and worthy

of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief" (1Timothy 1:15).

 

Then  the  word  of  SALVATION  is  magnified  before  your eyes and great is your gratitude to God who saved you, with His life-giving manifestation, enlightening you, your life and your eternity.

 

When  the  priest  says  the  words,  "Glory  to  God  in  the Highest...," recite it with him fervently and lovingly, giving glory to God with the heavenly hosts and angels.

 

When   the   deacon   says   to   the   congregation,   "Pray   for perfect peace, for love, and for the pure apostolic kisses," the  congregation  responds  by  saying,  "Lord  have  mercy." We  ask  the  Lord  to  have  mercy  by  giving  us  these  great divine  graces;  the  grace  of  perfect  peace  for  the  church externally and internally - the grace of perfect peace within our  homes  and  families  so  that  troubles  and  conflicts  may end and wounds may heal. And for the grace of love, which

is the bond of perfection of the children of the church with

each  other.  If  peace  and  love  dwell  within  us,  then  the exchange of holy kisses will be like those of the apostles in the first church; unlike the kiss of Judas which was false and deceptive, shrewd and evil hearted.

 

 

 

 

95

 

While  the  deacon  is  chanting  this  response,  why  don't  you, my beloved, request peace and love for yourself, your family, your neighbours and your friends, and especially those who are suffering from various conflicts and trials. Mention them by name, ask for them in persistence at these moments and God will be able to do by your prayers more than wise men can do.

 

In the second part of the Prayer of Reconciliation, the priest asks  God  to  fill  our  hearts  with  his  Divine  Peace  that surpasses the mind, to keep our hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus, the King of Peace. And when He reigns in our hearts we can live peacefully with ourselves and others, bearing all their weaknesses, and we will have peace with God who is a loving  Father  for  all  of  us.  Hence,  we  will  also  enjoy psychological and physical health, and make us live in heaven while still being on earth (Deuteronomy 11:21).

 

When  you  hear  the  priest  saying,  "By  Your  good  will,  O God, fill our hearts with Your peace...", join him in seeking this divine peace with perseverance, as it is God's will for His children to live in peace and harmony.

 

Peace  is  the  greatest  gift  one  can  have  on  the  earth,  and whoever   receives   this   heavenly   peace   has   a   pledge   of glorified eternal life.

 

This ‘Prayer of Reconciliation’ is called in some old liturgical books,   ‘Prayer  of  the  Kiss’,  because  the  prayer  concludes with  the  deacon  saying  to  the  congregation,  "Greet  one another  with  a  holy  kiss",  and  so  the  people  greet  each other. Men greet men and women greet women. The method of kissing is to place both of one's hands into the hands of

 

 

96

 

the person standing near him or her. This is done as a sign of love,  reconciliation  and  peace.  An  old  tradition  in  some churches states that when believers exchange a holy kiss with each other, each person is to say, "Christ is in our midst", and  the  other  one  responds  by  saying,  "Now  and  He  will stay with us."

 

'Prayer of Reconciliation' refers to the reconciliation between us   and   God.   "Now   all   things   are   of   God,   who   has reconciled  us  to  Himself  through  Jesus  Christ  and  has given  to  us  the  ministry  of  reconciliation"  (2  Corinthians

5:18). As long as Christ reconciled us with God and gave us

the ministry of reconciliation, let us reconcile with each other and greet one another with a holy, loving kiss, while standing in   the   presence   of   God,   to   prove   our   adoption   and worthiness for his Fatherhood, and so make glad His loving heart.   It   is   worth   mentioning   that   at   this   moment,   the congregation sings the appropriate hymn, "Rejoice O Mary" as the Virgin St. Mary is our compassionate mother, and the mother  of  the  church  rejoices  when  she  sees  her  children loving one another and greeting one another with a holy kiss

of love and peace.

 

When   we   kiss   each   other,   the   peace   of   God   reigns immediately in our hearts and, "Pray everywhere, lifting up holy  hands  without  wrath  and  doubting"  (1Timothy2:8), so we can be assured of the acceptance of our prayers.

 

After  this  holy  greeting,  the  congregation  sing,  "Through the pleadings of the Mother of God, Saint Mary. Oh Lord, grant  us  the  forgiveness  of  our  sins.  We  worship  you,  O Christ, with Your gracious Father and the Holy Spirit, for You  have  come  and  saved  us.  The  gift  of  peace,  the

 

 

97

 

sacrifice   of   praise."   Here   we   require   the   acceptable intercession of the Virgin St. Mary before her beloved Son to forgive us our sins, so we kneel and glorify. We worship our Saviour  and  our  redeeming  Lord  Jesus,  together  with  His Good Father and the Holy Spirit; the Holy Trinity who are worthy of worship and glory.

 

The  statement,  "A  gift  of  peace,  a  sacrifice  of  praise," means God gives us His peace as a gift and His gift will fill us   with   peace   and   comfort.   In   return   we   offer   Him thanksgiving and the sacrifice of praise, "a fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name" (Hosea 14:2).

 

Why  don't  you  share  with  the  congregation  in  this  request fervently. My beloved, ask for the intercession of our mother St. Mary, as the church believes in her strong and acceptable intercession and asks for her assistance in so many prayers.

 

Then give a sacrifice of praise by confessing His name, and thanking  Him  for  His  mercies,  as  Jeremiah  said,  "Because His  compassions  fail  not,  they  are  new  every  morning"

(Lamentations 3:226).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

98

 

 

 

 

 

6          The Heavenly

Hymn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

99

 

 

 

The Heavenly Hymn

 

 

The Anaphora

 

The priest turns and blesses the congregation with the sign of the  cross  saying,  "The  Lord  be  with  you  all,"  and  the congregation responds, "And with your spirit."

 

Here the priest asks God to dwell in the midst of His people and  bless  them.  He  also  warns  the  congregation  about  this great divine dwelling, of Christ who is Emmanuel, meaning

'God  is  with  us'  or  'God  is  in  our  midst',  is  present  and residing amongst His people.

 

My  beloved,  feel  the  presence  of  God  in  the  midst  of  His people     and      reverently            stand   and      proclaim         with     the congregation,  giving  your  father  the  priest  this  same  grace saying, "And with your spirit."

 

The priest then says, "Lift up your hearts."  Lift your hearts to  God  and  forsake  the  worldly  worries  to  concentrate  in worshipping and praising God. My beloved, benefit from this advice,  and  lift  not  only  your  heart  to  God,  but  all  your existence, your mind, heart, hands, eyes and whole body as a sacrifice  of  love  for  Him  who  redeemed  you  by  His  blood. The  congregation  responds,  "They  are  with  the  Lord." When saying this response, think to yourself, is your heart at this  moment  specifically  with  God?  If  you  have  said  this statement and your heart is busy with other cares, then you have lied to the Lord.  The apostle advises us by saying: "Do not lie to one another" (Colossians  3:9).  How  much  more

lying are we going to do to God?

 

 

100

 

 

 

We must collect our hearts and lift them to God so we truly

proclaim: "They are with Lord," as the Psalmist said, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight" (Psalm 19:14), and, "To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul, O my God, I trust in You, let me not be ashamed" (Psalm 25:1,2).

 

When the priest sees this, he thanks the Lord and urges the congregation to thank Him by saying, "Let us give thanks to the Lord."   The congregation responds, "He is worthy and righteous,"      that      is,        God     is         worthy of         thanksgiving, glorification  and  praise,  because  He  descended  and  dwelt among His people, and because of His grace, He helped us and made us able to love Him and worship Him with all our hearts.  We  thank  Him  for  His  many  blessings  which  are enormous and uncountable.

 

Thank  God,    my       beloved,          during these    moments, remembering  His  personal  mercies  for  you,  as  the  Apostle Paul said:  "Cause  thanksgiving  to  abound  to  the  glory  of God" (2 Corinthians 4:15).

 

The priest chants, "Right and Worthy, truly You are right and  worthy..."   You  God  are  worthy  for  all  thanksgiving, glorification  and  praise  because  You  are  the  Creator  of  all things seen, and unseen. You who sits on the throne of Your glory, and is worshipped by all the holy powers! This hymn resembles the hymn of the twenty four spiritual elders who give  praise  before  the  throne  of  Christ  saying,  "You  are worthy,  O  Lord  to  receive  glory  and  honour  and  power. For You created all things and by Your will they exist and were created" (Revelations 4:9-1).

 

 

101

 

 

 

During the recitation of this prayer, meditate on its powerful

meaning, and when you hear: "Who is worshipped by all the holy powers", make the sign of the cross and bow reverently

to worship God together with all the holy powers.

 

The  deacon  then  says:  "You  seated,  stand  up."  Upon hearing this call from the deacon, every one must stand more reverently  and  attentively  to  offer  unto  God  a  pure  prayer together with the heavenly hosts.

 

The priest then says:  "Before  whom  stand  the  angels,  the archangels, the principalities, the authorities, the thrones, the  lordships  and  the  powers."          The  priest  mentions  here seven out of the nine heavenly ranks who stand before God incessantly to praise and glorify Him.

 

The   deacon   asks   the   congregation:   "Look   towards   the East."   When praying in the church, the congregation faces the East where the altar and the Sacrifice is placed. We face the  East  with  our  hearts  as  well  as  our  thoughts.  It  is  a warning  for  those  who  might  think  to  wander  or  look elsewhere  while  inside  the  church,  forsaking  prayer  and worship, and being mindless of the holy presence of God of whom we should be revering.

 

There is a response called the great 'Esbazeste' in the Liturgy of St. Gregory, where the deacon says, "Let us stand well, stand  in  godliness,  let  us  stand  in  prayer,  let  us  stand  in peace, let us stand in fear of God in awe and reverence, O clergy,          and      all        the            congregation   in         prayer  and thanksgiving,  in  tranquillity  and  silence.  Raise  your  eyes towards the East, that you may observe the altar beholding

 

 

102

 

the  Body  and  Blood  of  Emmanuel  our  God,  which  is placed  upon  it.  Arise,  O  Angels  and  Archangels,  the Cherubim,  of  six  wings,  and  the  Seraphim,  full  of  eyes, covering their faces from the brilliance of His great glory, which  surpasses  sight  and  speech.  They  praise  Him  with one voice, proclaiming and saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts, Heaven and Earth are full of Your Holy Glory."  This response gives us an idea about the awe of the church and the holiness of these moments, so together with Jacob we proclaim, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it. How awesome is this place? This is none other  than  the  house  of  God,  and  this  is  the  gate  of heaven" (Genesis 28:16,17).  We stand in the church as if in heaven  and  proclaim  with  the  Psalmist:  "Holiness  adorns Your house, O Lord, forever" (Psalm 93:58), and, "In the congregation, I will bless the Lord" (Psalm 26:12).

 

"For around You stand the Cherubim, full of eyes and the Seraphim of six wings, praising You continuously without ceasing saying..."

 

The  priest  now  mentions  another  two  orders  of  heavenly angelic rank, who differ from the previously mentioned seven ranks.  Thus  the  total  number  of  heavenly  orders  are  nine, according  to  the  doctrine  and  faith  of  the  church,  and  the tenth rank is the order of saints from mankind. After the fall, our   beloved   Lord   Jesus   Christ   restored   Adam   and   his children to their previous dignity, for having been formed in the  image  and  likeness  of  God,  God  created  mankind  to partake  with  the  heavenly  hosts  in  praising  Him  as  He  is pleased with this praise and unity.

 

 

 

 

 

103

 

As  the  wise  King  Solomon  wrote,  "The  Lord  made  all things  for  Himself"  (Proverbs  16:4),  for  the  purpose  of giving  us  His  love  and  being  united  with  us.  The  Prophet Isaiah wrote, "Whom I created for My glory, I have formed him, yes, I have made him. This people I have formed for Myself, they shall declare My praise" (Isaiah 43:7,21). The Apostle  Paul  said,  "For  by  Him  all  things  were  created"

(Colossians  1:16).     For  this  reason,  St.  Gregory  in  his

contemplative liturgy pleads, "Who confirmed the standing arrays  of  incorporeal  creatures  among  men,  who  gave those on earth the praise of the Seraphim, accept our voice also with the invisible, count us with the heavenly powers. Let us also proclaim with them, having cast away from us every remembrance of unnatural reckonings, and cry out with  voices  that  are  never  silenced  and  lips  that  never cease, and praise Your greatness."

 

The   deacon   then   says,   "Let   us   attend,"   warning   the congregation   to   give   more   reverence   and   attention   and quietness  (Acts  22:2)  in  preparation  for  the  hymn  of  the Seraphim. As Zachariah wrote, "Be silent, all flesh, before the  Lord  for  He  has  aroused  from  His  Holy  habitation"

(Zephaniah. 2:13).

 

Then the congregation says this hymn of the Seraphim, "The Cherubim  worship  You  and  the  Seraphim  glorify  You, proclaiming  and  saying,  Holy,  Holy,  Holy  is  the  Lord  of Hosts. Heaven and Earth are full of Your Holy Glory."

 

This praise was heard by Isaiah the Prophet from the mouth of  the  Seraphim  in  his  revelation  (Isaiah  6).  We  sing  it  to prove  our  partaking  with  the  angels  of  heaven  in  praising God. When the angels look and see the beauty of God and

 

 

104

 

His  Holiness,  they  can  only  praise  Him  by  saying,  "Holy, Holy,  Holy."        Let  us  also  look  to  the  beauty  of  God,  in faith, in His holiness when we sing this praise.

 

 

 

The Three Holy 'Agios'

 

The   priest   takes   this   praise,   which   was   said   by   the congregation  and  recites  it  in  a  beautiful  tune  as  he  makes the sign of the Cross three times, firstly upon himself, then upon the servants on either side of the altar, and finally upon the congregation.

 

When   the   priest   makes   the   sign   of   the   cross   on   the congregation  saying,  "Agios",  make  the  sign  of  the  cross and bow before God reverently.

 

The prayer of `Agios' or `Holy' is the holiest and strongest of prayers,  and  the  most  chastening  for  the  devil,  who  is  the enemy  of  all  holiness.  It  includes  honouring  God,  and  the word `Holy' means 'high' and “who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), and  “Holy,  harmless,  undefiled,  separate  from  sinners, and has become higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26). In  the  Syrian  language,  `Agios'  means  ‘has  no  limit  in greatness, love, justice and all divine qualities.’

 

As  the  saints  in  heaven  praise  Him  saying,  "Great  and marvellous are Your works Lord God Almighty, who shall not  fear  You,  O  Lord,  and  glorify  Your  name,  for  You alone are holy" (Revelations 15:3,4), and Hannah, Samuel's mother  prayed  saying,  "There  is  none  holy  like  the  Lord for there is none beside You, nor there is any rock like our God" (1 Samuel 2:2).

 

 

105

 

 

 

Isaiah the Prophet heard the praise of the Seraphim: "Holy,

holy, holy is the Lord of hosts" (Isaiah 6:3), and the praise of  the  four  living  creatures  carrying  the  Divine  Throne

(Revelations 4:8). The rank of the Seraphim is the highest of heavenly  hosts,  proving  that  the  praise  they  sing  is  of  the highest and greatest praise that can possibly be presented to the Divine Glory.

 

St.  Ambrose  says,  "We  cannot  find  anything  to  honour God better than calling Him Holy, because He is the most Holy."  These  words  are  also  reflected  in  Daniel  9:24.  Our beloved Lord is the source of every purity and holiness.

 

The  priest  continues  to  pray,  "Holy,  Holy,  truly  You  are Holy, O Lord our God." To avoid elaboration, I leave you my  beloved,  to  proceed  and  contemplate  on  this  wonderful part that manifests the infinite holiness of God, followed by the  story  of  our  creation,  the  fall,  God's  mercy  by  sending His prophets, and then His incarnation at the fullness of time

in order to redeem us from sin and give us the possibility of

holiness once again.

 

Make a quick comparison between the holiness of God and the  profanity  of  man,  and  ask  Him  to  give  you  a  life  of holiness, as the Apostle said: "But as He who called you is Holy,  you  also  be  holy  in  all  your  conduct,  because  it  is written, 'Be holy for I am holy'" (1 Peter 1:15,16).

 

The  congregation  responds  with,   "Amen"  believing  the priest’s   proclaimation   about   the   holiness   of   God,   His providence,  His  creating  man  in  His  image  and  likeness,  in righteousness,  holiness  of  truth,  and  the  story  of  man  who

 

 

106

 

fell   by   the   seduction   of   the   serpent,   followed   by   the incarnation of the Son of God for our salvation.

 

The  priest  prays,  "He  was  incarnated  and  became  man," while  placing  one  spoonful  of  incense  into  the  censer.  This completes  the  previous  part  and  is  a  contemplation  on  the incarnation of Christ and His great love for us, that knew no limits, for He sacrificed Himself for us on the cross. On the cross His Spirit united with His Divinity, He descended into Hades and freed all those who died in the hope of the coming Redeemer, beginning with Adam. For the Apostle says, "By whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison"

(1 Peter 3:1).

 

Meditate, dear believer, in the words of this prayer that are full  of  life,  and  thank  God  who  taught  you  the  way  of salvation and enlightened the way to ETERNITY.

 

Also  meditate  on  the  incense  ascending  from  the  censer  as one spoonful is placed in it; a symbol of the divine love of God for us as He denied Himself, descended to our earth and was incarnated for our salvation. Try to exchange love with God and be fervent in loving Him, His commandments, His children and all His creation.

 

The  congregation  recites  "Amen,  I  believe."        Truly  we believe,   witness   and   admit   all   His   providence   for   our salvation, we believe in His incarnation out of love for us and His  yearning  for  our  salvation.  We  believe  He  gave  us Baptism of water and Spirit, for the forgiveness of sins. We believe in His atoning death for us on the cross. He believe that He then descended to Hades in great light, in the lower divisions   in   the   earth,   breaking   the   doors   of   iron   and

 

 

107

 

destroying the doors of copper, in order to free the righteous ones : "He led them out of captivity and gave gifts to men"

(Ephesians 4:8). He freed them from the authority of Satan

and returned to them the gift of lost paradise.

 

Meditate,  my  beloved,  on  all  these  meanings  during  the priest's prayer in this wonderful part during the recitation of the congregation, "I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with understanding" (1 Corinthians 14:15).

 

The priest continues, "He rose from the dead on the third day..."    Previously  the  priest  paused  at  the  incident  of Christ's crucifixion, His death on the cross, and the descent of  His  Spirit  into  Hades  in  order  to  save  the  righteous.  He then  completes  the  incident  of  His  resurrection,  and  His second  coming  which  will  be  fulfilled  at  the  end  of  ages, when  the  Lord  Jesus  will  judge  the  world  and  reward everyone according to their deeds.

 

We  might  forget  all  these  important  matters  so  the  priest reminds us to prepare ourselves for the awesome day of the Lord.  Prepare  yourselves  with  repentance  and  purity  and adorn  yourselves  with  spiritual  virtues,  so  that  we  are  not cast out from the presence of Christ.

 

The   priest   reminds   his   congregation   about   the   Second Coming   and   the   general   judgement.   The   congregation proclaim  saying,  "Let  it  be  according  to  Your  mercy  O Lord, and not according to our sins."

 

My beloved, beat your chest three times while calling to the Lord this prayer for rescue, together with the whole church, resembling the tax collector who did not like to lift his eyes

 

 

108

 

to the heavens (feeling the burden of his sins), but beat his chest  saying,  "God  be  merciful  to  me  a  sinner"  (Luke

18:13).

 

Remember  your  sins,  even  the  slightest  sin  is  enough  to cause  you  to  perish.  But  it  is  the  sacrament  of  repentance and the great mercy of God which accepts us.

 

Remember  your  situation  at  the  day  of  judgement  when people  are  gathered,  angels  standing,  books  opened,  works realised  and  thoughts  examined,  "Some  to  everlasting  life

(the   righteous)   and   some   to   shame   and   everlasting contempt (the evil ones)" (Daniel 12:2).

 

Ask yourself, 'In which group am I going to be in?'   Truly, we say, "Let it be according to Your mercy, O Lord, and not on account of our sins," believing in God's mercy, but take  care,  the  mercy  of  God  does  not  work  by  itself,  it accepts our repentance and helps us in our struggle against sin.

 

Mercy does not work with those who neglect their salvation, staggering in their eternal redemption. Depend on the mercy of God, just as the Psalmist David did, "But I have trusted in Your mercy, my heart shall rejoice in Your Salvation"

(Psalm  13:5).  “Therefore,  since  a  promise  remains  of

entering His rest, let us have fear, lest any of you fall short of   it"   (Hebrews   4:1),   because   of   negligence   and   not depending on God's mercy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

109

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7          The      Consecration

 

 

 

 

 

 

110

 

 

 

The Consecration

 

The  following  part  of  the  liturgy  until  the  beginning  of  the litanies  is  called  the  CONSECRATION  or  the  Institution Narrative.  It  is  considered  the  most  important  part  of  the Mass  as  it  includes  the  dwelling  of  the  Holy  Spirit  on  the Sacraments and the conversion to the Holy Body and Blood of our Good Saviour.

 

The   priest   points   to   the   bread   and   wine   saying,   "He instituted for us this great mystery of godliness." Then he places the two corporals on the altar, then places his hands in the incense above the censer, and gives three rounds of the incense to the bread with his hands. On the third round, he also  gives  incense  to  the  chalice,  saying,  "For  He  was determined to give Himself up for the life of the world."

 

Look  at  this  strange  conflict,  the  unlimited  love  of  Christ towards mankind, versus the hatred of mankind to the Lord Jesus  Christ.  On  the  same  night  that  the  people  agreed  to surrender the Son of God to death, the Lord Jesus cared to give life to the world. While they were preparing chains for Him  to  be  crucified,  He  had  prepared  for  them  this  Divine Feast  and  Redemptive  Table.  While  they  were  thinking  of crucifying   and   slaughtering   Him,   He   was   preparing   a Sacrifice  of  Atonement  for  them.  St  Paul  says,  "For  I received from the Lord that which is also delivered to you, that  the  Lord  Jesus  on  the  same  night  in  which  He  was betrayed took bread" (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).

 

This is clear from the Gospels that the Lord Christ instituted the  Sacrament  of  the  Eucharist  on  Thursday  evening,  and

 

 

111

 

after  a  while  the  soldiers  caught  Him,  and  dragged  Him  to condemnation,  which  ended  with  His  crucifixion  on  Friday noon.

 

How  great  is  God's  love  to  His  creation,  and  how  sinful  is man in his ingratitude and denial!

 

Why don't we learn from this lesson and not repeat what the Jews did to our Saviour, but instead, respond to the constant loving   calls   of   God,   and   accept   His   will,   obeying   His commandments  so  that  we  may  benefit  from  this  Divine Sacrifice.

 

The Sacrament of EUCHARIST is called the 'Great Mystery of Godliness' as it is the greatest of the Seven Sacraments in the  Holy  Church.  It  is  the  crown  of  all  the  sacraments  of godliness,  because  it  strengthens  in  us  the  feeling  of  God's love towards us, and His Sacrifice for us, also the feelings of humility, reverence and gratitude to this overflowing, divine love   by   which   He   "Did   not   spare   His   own   Son   but delivered Him up for us all" (Romans 8:32).

 

The path of godliness is not as easy as it may seem at first glimpse, but needs effort, struggle and Divine Providence so that  we  ask  in  the  first  supplication  of  the  Liturgy  of  St. Gregory,   "May   the   righteousness   of   faith   multiply, straighten the path of godliness for us.

 

The Sacrament of Communion is the most important Divine help in our struggle in the way of godliness and fear of God, as the wise King Solomon says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10).

 

 

 

 

112

 

The congregation responds, "Truly we believe." We believe the  mystery  of  redemption  which  was  made  by  the  Son  of God on the cross, and we believe in this great Mystery which He instituted on the night of His sufferings as an expression of  love  to  mankind  and  His  Divine  will  to  save  them.  We believe  in  this  great  Mystery  instituted  by  the  Lord  as  a remedy  for  all  diseases,  exposing  all  sins  and  strengthening the  life  of  godliness,  humility  and  reverence  before  the sacrificial love of God.

 

My beloved, remember all these matters while you proclaim,

"Truly we believe" with the congregation.

 

The priest takes the Bread into his hands and says, "He took bread  upon  His  holy,  immaculate,  undefiled  and  blessed life-giving  hands."    Beginning  with  this  statement,  the Divine   Liturgy   teaches   us   the   way   in   which   the   Lord instituted  the  great  Mystery  of  godliness  and  redemption. The first thing that the Lord Jesus did was to take the bread upon His hands to bless it, sanctify it, and convert it to His Holy Body.

 

Contemplate on the description of the hands of the Lord.

 

Strive  to  make  your  own  hands  resemble  them  as  much  as you  can.  The  Lord's  hands  were  unblemished,  and  your hands, my beloved, have the sense of touch, which is one of the five senses; senses are the doors of the heart and mind. Try  to  keep  them  undefiled  from  lust  and  evil  and  prevent them  from  sin  such  as  stealing,  abuse,  forgery  and  bribery. Thus  your  hands  should  be  blessed  like  the  Lord's  hands which  were  described  as  life  giving.  For  by  His  hands,  He rose many from the dead and healed many sick and diseased.

 

 

113

 

 

 

You,  my  beloved,  should  make  your  hands  life-giving  as

much as you can by helping or befriending the hungry, sick, needy or the downcast. Listen to the words of the righteous Job who said, "If I have kept the poor from their desire, or cause the eyes of the widow to fail, or eaten my morsel to myself,  so  that  the  fatherless  may  not  eat  of  it,  but  from my youth I reared him as a father, and from my mother's womb  I  have  guided  the  widow.  If  I  have  seen  anyone perish  for  lack  of  clothing,  or  any  poor  man  without covering. If his heart has not blessed me and if he was not warmed  with  the  fleece  of  my  sheep.  If  I  have  raised  my hand against the fatherless, when I saw I had help in the gate. Then let my arm fall from my shoulder, let my arm be torn from the socket" (Job 31:16-22), also, "Because I delivered the poor who cried out and the fatherless and he who had no helper, the blessing of a perishing man came upon  me,  (perishing  because  of  hunger,  cold  or  sickness), and  I  caused  the  widow's  heart  to  sing  for  joy"  (Job

29:12,13).

 

The   congregation   says,   "We   believe   that   this   is   true, Amen." We believe that the Lord's hands which carried the bread   and   converted   it   to   His   Holy   Body,   were   holy, undefiled, blessed and life-giving, and we ask Him to give us hands  like  His  hands,  to  do  good,  and  abstain  from  every evil.

 

The priest places his right hand on the Bread that is on his left hand, lifting his eyes toward heaven, saying,  "He looked up towards Heaven to You, O God, His Father and Master of everyone..."

 

 

 

 

114

 

Here the Lord teaches us to ask for His blessings by casting our eyes towards heaven, the throne of God, and beseeching that  He  may  bless  whatever  our  hands  behold,  for  as  the Psalmist prayed : "Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hands of their masters, as the eyes of a maid to the hands  of  her  mistress,  so  our  eyes  look  to  the  Lord  our God until He has mercy on us" (Psalm 123:1,2). The Lord delights  when  our  eyes  seek  and  long  for  Him,  and  so  He says, "Look at Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth, for  I  am  God,  and  there  is  no  other"  (Isaiah  45:22).  The Lord  Jesus  Christ  did  this  so  many  times  to  teach  us  this good  habit.  He  looked  toward  heaven  before  starting  any important  mission.  Like  raising  Lazarus  up  from  the  dead

(John  11:41),  when  He  prayed  before  the  crucifixion  (John

17:1),  and  when  He  blessed  the  five  loaves  and  two  fish

(Luke 9:16).

 

Then the priest makes the sign of the cross over the Bread three  times  saying,  "And  when  He  had  given  thanks,  He blessed  it,  He  sanctified  it."  Each  time  the  deacons  and congregation   respond   by   saying,   "Amen."   (There   is   a common  mistake  done  in  some  churches,  that  only  the deacons  serving  inside  the  altar,  or  even  only  one  deacon, responds with "Amen," although it is written in the Liturgy book that the congregation are to respond.  Let us hope that everyone  in  the  church  responds  with,  "Amen,"  together with  the  deacons,  and  hence  confirming  their  belief  in  the consecration  and  signings  of  the  cross  by  the  priest.  This

"Amen," then, would be a very strong prayer.

 

The  congregation  then  respond,  "We  believe,  confess  and glorify You," believing and confessing the sanctification and

 

 

115

 

conversion of the Bread which the Lord touched by His pure hands, when He thanked, blessed and sanctified it.

 

So  the  simple  bread  becomes  the  true  Body  of  the  Lord, given for the forgiveness of sins for all those who worthily partake of it. We glorify God who gave us this valuable gift for our souls, bodies and spirits. St. Paul says, "For with the heart  one  believes  to  righteousness,  and  with  the  mouth confession is made to salvation" (Romans 10:10).

 

Participate   with   the   responses   of   the   congregation,   my beloved,  while  deeply  meditating  spiritually,  as  the  Holy Spirit  flows  into  you  when  He  sees  your  yearning  to  know Him and your honesty in loving Him and your reverence in standing before Him during these awesome moments of the Holy Mass.

 

The  priest  carefully  divides  the  Bread  (as  explained  in  the Liturgy Book) saying, "He broke it, and gave it to His own holy  disciples  and  pure  apostles  saying,  'Take,  eat  of  it, you  all,  for  this  is  MY  BODY,  which  is  to  be  broken  for you and many others, given for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of Me.'"

 

The careful act of dividing and separating the Bread, whether here or during the prayer of the FRACTION, reminds us of the sufferings of the Lord on the cross for us, and that is why the       priest   prays   saying, "Therefore,     as         we       also commemorate His Holy Passions..."

 

Let us think about the passions of the Lord while the priest recites  these  brilliant  words,  so  we  thank  Him,  humble

 

 

 

 

116

 

ourselves and learn the sacrificial love that does not ask for itself but for others.

 

The Lord gave us His HOLY BODY for the forgiveness of sins, so every one who is burdened by sin, comes to the Lord repenting, confessing and receiving the Holy Communion, is remedied from their sins.

 

The  Lord  ordered  the  disciples  to  perform  this  mystery  in remembrance  of  Him,  to  commemorate  His  incarnation, crucifixion,  resurrection  and  ascension  into  heaven.  The prayers of the Liturgy that sanctifies the mysteries narrate the story  of  Jesus  from  beginning  to  end,  to  remind  us  always about those incidents of incarnation and salvation, to satisfy our souls as if with rich food.

 

The  congregation  responds  by  saying,  "This  is  also  true, Amen." This response are words of assurance and belief to the priest as he said that the Lord Jesus broke His Body and gave  to  His  disciples  to  eat  for  the  forgiveness  of  sins,  to abide in Him, and receive eternal life according to His Divine Promise.  "I  am  the  living  bread  which  came  down  from heaven.  If  anyone  eats  of  this  bread,  he  will  live  forever and the bread that I shall give as My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world"  (John 6:51). And, “Whoever eats My body and drinks My blood has eternal life and I will  raise  him  up  at  the  last  day.  For  My  flesh  is  food indeed,  and  My  blood  is  drink  indeed.  He  who  eats  My flesh  and  drinks  My  blood  abides  in  Me  and  I  in  him"

(John 6:54).

 

The congregation says we believe all that you say, and hope

to   fulfil   these   sayings   in   us   to   make   the   mystery   of

 

 

 

117

 

thanksgiving  always  without  hindrances,  proceeding  to  the Sacraments  in  humility  and  repentance,  and  preparation  to gain forgiveness of our sins according to the Lord's promise and finally to gain Eternal Life.

 

My beloved, while reciting this response, ask for yourself, I

and all your brethren proceeding for the Holy Communion,

to   gain   these   blessings   of   this   great   mystery,   for   the forgiveness  of  sins,  abiding  in  the  Lord  and  at  the  end,  to gain eternal life.

 

 

 

Sanctification Of The Wine

 

The priest places his hands on the rim of the chalice and says,

"Likewise  the  chalice  also  after  supper,  He  mixed  it  of wine  and  water..."   Here  the  priest  makes  the  sign  of  the Cross  over  the  chalice  three  times  saying,  "And  when  He had  given  thanks,  He  blessed  it,  and  He  sanctified  it." And each time the deacon responds by saying, "Amen."

 

The tradition teaches us that the Lord mixed the wine in the Chalice  with  some  water  to  symbolise  the  water  and  blood which came out of His holy side when He was stabbed with a spear  after  His  death  on  the  cross.  This  Holy  Blood  mixed with water, came out of His side in a miraculous way, for as we know, as soon as a person dies, their blood clots in their veins and arteries. Thus the blood of our Lord running in this miraculous   way   is   the   blood   of   the   new   covenant   for purification and atonement for sins and iniquities.

 

The priest makes the sign of the Cross three times to signify that  the  Lord  Jesus  sanctified  the  Chalice  by  His  will,  the

 

 

118

 

pleasure of His Father, and the work of His Holy Spirit, to fulfil the conversion, truly and fully, and sanctification by the sign of the Cross, for the Cross is the seal of Christ and His life-giving sign.

 

Participate   with   the   deacons   and   congregation   in   the response of,  "Amen", believing the words of the priest that the Lord Jesus thanked, blessed, and sanctified the Chalice of the  Blood  of  the  New  Covenant,  and  He  is  also  present  to sanctify this Chalice so that the mixture in it is the true Blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 

The  congregation  says,  "Amen,  again  we  believe,  confess and glorify."   This means that as we believed and confessed the conversion of bread when the Lord touched, blessed and sanctified  to  become  His  living  Body,  we  also  believe  and confess  the  conversion  of  the  mixture  in  the  Chalice  which the  Lord  blessed  and  sanctified,  to  become  His  precious Blood  shed  for  the  life  of  the  world.   And  as  we  glorified Him for the gift of His life-giving Body which He gave us, we  also  glorify  Him  for  the  gift  of  the  life-giving  Blood which He gave us, "precious Blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19).

 

This Blood purifies consciences from dead works as St. Paul says, "The Blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered   Himself,   without   spot,   to   God,   purge   your conscience  from  dead  works  to  serve  the  living  God"

(Hebrews  9:14).  For  all  these  blessings,  restored  in  the

precious blood, we glorify the Lord and exalt Him forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

119

 

The priest holds the chalice in his hands, while he continues the prayer, saying, "He tasted, and gave it also to His own holy disciples and pure apostles saying..."

 

Here  the  priest  moves  the  chalice  gently  in  the  shape  of  a cross,  from  west  to  east,  then  from  north  to  south,  for  we were  strangers  separated  from  God,  and  by  the  Blood  He shed  on  the  Cross,  He  brought  us  back  to  Paradise,  which faces  eastward,  as  the  Apostle  Paul  says,  "Now  in  Christ, you who once were far have been made near by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:13).     Moving it from the north to the south signifies that we were rejected like the goats on the north,  and  by  the  Divine  Blood  He  took  us  to  the  right  of God to be with His accepted and beloved sheep.

 

On  moving  the  chalice,  the  priest  says,  "Take,  drink  of  it you all, for this is My Blood of the New Testament which

is shed for you and many others. Do this in remembrance

of Me."

 

The Blood of the Old Testament was the blood of bulls and goats unable to take away sin, as St. Paul says,   "For  it  is impossible  for  the  blood  of  bulls  and  goats  to  take  away sins" (Hebrews 10:4), but the New Testament is established on the Blood of the Son of God who "Takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29).

 

The  Lord  Jesus  offered  His  Blood  to  be  given  for  the forgiveness of sins. He advises us to partake of it always in remembrance  of  His  passion  and  salvation  and  wonderful redemption on the Cross.

 

 

 

 

 

120

 

The congregation confirms the priests words about the true life-giving Body of Christ given for the forgiveness of sins, for abiding in God and gaining Eternal Life.   Here also, the congregation confirms that the Precious Blood is the blood which  was  shed  for  the  life  of  the  world  and  provided  the means of reconciliation between God and man, qualifying us

to approach God after being exiled from Him.

 

In the Revelation, St John saw multitudes standing before the throne  of  Christ,  and  when  he  asked  about  them  the  angel responded: "These are the ones who came out of the great tribulation  (the  world  and  its  worries)  and  washed  their robes  and  made  them  white  in  the  blood  of  the  Lamb. Therefore  they  are  before  the  throne  of  God,  and  serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne   will   dwell   among   them   (caring   and   loving)"

(Revelation 7:14,15).

 

Also included in this response, is an inaudible supplication to God to qualify the congregation to be worthy to partake of this  sacrament,  in  remembrance  of  the  Lord  Jesus,  and  to approach  without  hindrance  or  obstacles  so  that  they  may take life to their spirits and power to their souls, and remedy

to  their  bodies,  until  they  cross  the  sea  of  this  world  and reach  the  coast  of  eternity,  peacefully  to  join  the  cloud  of saints who washed their clothes in the Blood of the Lamb.

 

While  reciting  this  response,  my  blessed  one,  think  about these  matters  and  ask  with  all  your  heart  to  have  the forgiveness  of  your  sins  through  this  Precious  Blood,  to abide in Christ and obtain Eternal Life according to the true promises of our Good Saviour.

 

 

 

 

121

 

Look to the Lord's invitation in His words, "Eat of it you all and drink of it you all." He wants all to accept the mystery of  partaking  from  His  blessed  Body  and  Blood  on  one condition, that they repent of all sins, and this condition of repentance  and  confession,  before  Communion,  is  clear  in the virtue of the washing of the feet which the Lord fulfilled before  the  institution  of  the  Sacrament  of  Eucharist.  He washed  the  feet  of  His  disciples,  not  for  the  purpose  of cleaning physical dirt, but as a symbol of purification of the body,  soul  and  spirit  from  the  dirt  before  approaching  the Holy  Sacraments.  So  when  Peter  objected  saying,  "You shall never wash my feet," Jesus warned him, "If I do not wash  you,  you  have  no  part  with  Me."            He  would  have prevented  Peter  from  partaking  in  the  Sacrament  of  unity with His Body and Blood, as his sin would have still existed.

 

The priest motions towards the Body and the Chalice saying,

"For  every  time  you  shall  eat  of  this  Bread  and  drink  of this Cup, you preach My Death, confess My Resurrection and  remember  Me  until  I  come."         Here  the  Lord  Jesus gives   us   the   responsibility   of   preaching   His   death,   His resurrection   from   the   dead,   and   His   awesome   Second Coming  which  will  be  full  of  glory.   We  should  remember this every time we celebrate the Holy Mass.

 

I           think    this      confirmation   and      mission           and      continual remembrance of the Lord Jesus comes when we enter into a holy covenant with God by receiving the Sacraments of the New Covenant, feeling that our sins are forgiven and that we abide  in  Him.  Then  we  cannot  keep  quiet  but  proceed  to preach  the  excellence  of  the  One  who  called  us  from  the darkness  to  the  true  light  (1  John  2:9)  and  tell  everyone around  us  how  much  the  Lord  has  done  for  us  and  had

 

 

122

 

compassion  on  us  (Mark  5:19).     This  proclamation  comes through experiencing death from worldly desires in order to experience His Resurrection.  "For  if  we  have  been  united together  in  the  likeness  of  His  death,  certainly  we  also shall be in the likeness of His Resurrection" (Romans 6:5-

8).  We  die  from  the  world's  lusts  and  sins  in  order  to  live,

and  yet,  as  St  Paul  says,  "It  is  not  I  who  live,  but  Christ who lives in me."

 

This  sacrament  enables  us  to  abide  in  Jesus  and  be  united with  Him,  assuring  us  of  the  perfect  unity  with  God  in  the Eternal Life.

 

As  we  yearn  to  abide  and  unite  perfectly  in  Him,  so  we remember  Him  always  until  He  comes,  and  we  await  His glorious  coming  with  earnest  expectation,  for  His  second coming will fulfil our unity with Him forever.

 

The  congregation  responds  with  this  wonderful  hymn  in answer  to  the  Lord's  words,            "Amen,  Amen,  Amen.  We preach  Your  death,  O  Lord.  Your  Holy  Resurrection  and Ascension we acknowledge. We praise You, we bless You, we thank You, O Lord, and supplicate You, O our Lord."

 

They  sing  with  an  uplifted  voice  to  the  Lamb  who  was slaughtered  for  their  salvation.  They  remember  His  life- giving  death  for  their  redemption,  and  confess  His  holy resurrection  by  which  He  defeated  the  terrifying  enemy  of humanity - death. They confess their belief in His ascension

to  heaven,  where  He  is  sitting  at  the  right  Hand  of  the Father,  having  entered,  "the  inner  part  behind  the  veil where the forerunner has entered for us" (Hebrews 6:20),

"To  prepare  a  place  for  us"  (John  14:2).  We  live  in  the

 

 

123

 

expectation  of  His  Second  Coming,  according  to  what  He advised, "Do this in remembrance of Me."   St. Paul says,

"For as often as you eat this Bread, and drink this Blood, you   proclaim   the   Lord's   death   till   He   comes"   (1

Corinthians 11:26).

 

The  last  sentence  of  this  hymn,  "We  praise  You  …"  is addressed  to  the  Holy  Trinity,  as  explained  by  one  of  the church fathers: "We praise You, O Lord God. We bless You,

O Son the Word. We thank You O Holy Spirit for all these great gifts, and we supplicate You, O Holy Trinity, our One God to accept this sacrifice from us, sending to us the gift of Your Holy Spirit."

 

My  beloved,  recite  this  response  reverently  with  the  whole church,  meditating  on  every  word.  Stretch  out  your  hands and  say  to  the  Lord,  "We  praise  You  Lord,  bless  You  and thank  You  for  these  great  graces,  which  angels  yearn  to see."            Supplicate  unto  Him  with  all  your  heart  concerning your  private  needs  or  problems  that  need  a  solution,  or blessing, guidance and divine leadership in your life. Lift up your   hands   and   eyes   and   heart   to   God   pleading   with persistence so that He may give you your request.

 

The priest says, "Therefore, as we also commemorate His Holy   Passion,   His   Resurrection   from   the   dead,   His ascension  into  the  Heavens,  He  is  sitting  at  Your  right hand,  O  Father,  and  His  second  coming  from  Heaven, awesome  and  full  of  glory.  We  offer  You  these,  Your oblations, from that which is Yours, concerning all things and for all things."

 

 

 

 

 

124

 

The church remembers the Lord's passions, His resurrection, ascension to Heaven, and His second coming in each Mass, for many reasons:

 

?   His  Passions,  crucifixion  and  death  were  the  means  of our salvation and redemption as Christ tasted Death for the sake of every one of us (Hebrews 2:9).

 

?   His resurrection guarantees our forthcoming resurrection as  St  Paul  says,  "But  now  Christ  has  risen  from  the death and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20.

 

?   His  Ascension  to  heaven  opened  to  us  the  doors  of heaven,  for  He  went  to  prepare  a  place  for  us,  and  so taught  us  to  lift  our  eyes  unto  Him  always,  like  the apostles  when  they  saw  Him  ascending.  With  Him  we ascend in our hearts and minds to heaven where He sits

at the right hand of the Highest.

 

?   His   second   coming   reminds   us   of   that   awesome judgement day, so that we may be prepared,  "like  men waiting for their master when he will return from the wedding,  that  when  he  comes  and  knocks  they  may open to him immediately" (Luke 12).

 

We await this Second Coming, through which He will take us to the place He prepared for us in His glory according to His Divine Promise, "And if I go and prepare a place for you,  I  will  come  again  and  receive  you  to  Myself,  that where I am you may be also" (John 14:3).

 

 

 

 

 

125

 

Amongst   all   these   powerful   memories,   and   amidst   our emotions   ignited   by   His   love   for   us,   and   His   great providence, we offer Him these oblations from His gift given

to us in this life, like wheat from which we make the bread; grapes  to  make  wine;  water  to  mix  with  wine;  and  much more  for  which  we  thank  Him  always.  We  offer  these oblations  as  a  sacrifice  of  Thanksgiving.  Because  of  Your passions,   death   on   the   cross   for   us,   resurrection   and ascension  to  heaven,  we  offer  thanksgiving  to  gain  Your mercies, and the forgiveness of sins for those who are living, and those who have passed away.

 

It is clear to see, my beloved, that this is the most important part of the Mass, not only because of the holy memories, but because of the presence of the Holy Spirit which converts the oblations and sanctifies the people attending the Mass.

 

The   deacon   says,   "Attend   to   the   Lord   in   awe   and reverence."   These  moments,  moments  of  the  dwelling  the Holy   Spirit   are   the   most   awesome.   Everyone   must   be prepared  spiritually,  psychologically  and  physically  to  the highest  level,  as  the  deacon  says  this  call.  They  must  be found ready and worthy for the dwelling of the Spirit on the Sacrifice  and  it's  conversion,  and  His  dwelling  on  you, sanctifying  and  purifying  you.  It  reflects  the  voice  of  the Psalmist,  "Serve  the  Lord  with  fear,  and  rejoice  with trembling" (Psalm 2:11), and Joshua says, "Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth" (Joshua

24:14).

 

The priest, deacon and congregation kneel in preparation for the dwelling of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

 

126

 

My  beloved,  kneel  reverently  and  worship  God  in  holy adornment in humility, seeking the fullness of the Holy Spirit

to purify and sanctify you, as if you are with the apostles in the  upper  room  of  Zion  where  the  Holy  Spirit  descended upon  them  in  order  to  purify  all  their  sins  and  remove  all their weaknesses and fears, creating them as new people, full of the Spirit to the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:10).

 

While  kneeling,  recite  with  the  congregation  the  wonderful praise, "We praise You, we bless You, we serve You, and we worship You."

 

?   We praise You - was repeated twice before, confirming the  praise  and  glorification  of  the  believers  offered  to God  who  is  worthy  of  all  glory  and  honour,  for  His blessings and unspeakable gifts.

 

Praising is the greatest kind of prayer that a human soul can give, joining the heavenly choir that continually praise God.

 

?   We bless You - also repeated twice. We bless God and confess  His  great  glory  and  deeds,  together  with  His visible  and  invisible  creation.  We  thank  Him  for  His generous  blessings  and  rich  overflowing  grace  and  His loving kindness toward us (Ephesians 2:7).

 

?   We  serve  You  -  man's  service  to  God  is  a  response  to God's  love  and  His  sacrifice  for  us,  saving  us  from  the grip of Satan and sin. Peter's mother in law was healed by Jesus   from   her   high   fever.   The   first   offering   of thanksgiving  that  she  gave  to  the  Lord  was  to  arise immediately and serve Him (Luke 4:38).

 

 

 

 

127

 

The service which is implied in this response is the service of prayer, praise and glorification before God. Kneeling must be

in