Liturgy of The Faithful – Part I

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”

And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.”

Isaiah 6:1-7

Hi everyone! We’ve been making great progress in getting through the liturgy, with its hymns and rites. This post will have information from both lessons from December 18th and January 8th.

Are you ready for your journey to Heaven?

Let’s keep going with covering the liturgy then! The Liturgy of the Faithful actually starts after the Orthodox Creed, despite what may be seen on the Coptic Reader app. We wrapped up the Liturgy of the Word with the 3 Long Litanies, where we pray for peace, the Fathers of our Church, and for ourselves and others in our congregation.

  • The Orthodox Creed: We then say the Orthodox Creed OUT LOUD! This should never be said quietly and shyly. It is a statement of our faith. We recite the creed strongly and out loud because we are confirming our strong faith in our Lord Jesus Christ!
  • Pre-Anaphora Washing of Hands: While we recite the Creed, the priest washes his hands with water, asking God to grant him internal purification to undertake the mystery that is about to happen in the Liturgy (transformation of the bread and wine to the Body and Blood of Christ). He also does this to “wash” his hands from the guilt of giving Communion to anyone who has not prepared adequately for this. Basically, at this point in the Liturgy with the absolution and prayers and personal fasting, the people are preparing themselves for receiving something VERY holy (Communion). The priest also did his job by absolving us as well. At this point, if anyone takes Communion without really preparing for it and didn’t tell the priest, it is not the priest’s fault at all in giving them Communion.
  • Prayer of Reconciliation: One question we had during our session was what the word “reconciliation” means. This word in the dictionary means “the restoration of friendly relations.” For us, it’s even more than that. It’s not just superficial “friendly” interactions, but pure love. Part of preparing for receiving Communion is to reconcile with everyone as we come together as one Body and receive the Holy Mystery. Jesus Himself made a point on how important it is to be at peace with others:

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:23-24

Being at peace with each and every person is one of the most important things to God, because this is true love, and God Himself is love. Therefore it is absolutely necessary if we are wanting to have a relationship with God and be closer to Him. Every single person is precious to God, and we see them as our brothers and sisters. So if we are holding something against another person or mistreating them, talking about them behind their backs, then you’re technically not allowed to take Communion! Sometimes fights and arguments happen, but if you have not put the effort to make it right, then we cannot come to God’s altar. No matter who they are, we forgive them because God forgives us! God asks us to reconcile and forgive that person before approaching Him. This prayer is that chance for us to reconcile. It is built in to the Liturgy so you have a moment to be able to forgive whomever you need to forgive.

When we approach another person during this time, we say “Christ in our midst”. The person on the receiving end then is supposed to say “He is and always will be”.

Just before this prayer, the priest holds up a veil from corner to corner, drops one corner, and the veil partially falls. This represents the middle wall, or the wall of separation between God and man, which is now torn down through the cross of Jesus.

  • Anaphora: The next part is called the Anaphora, which also means “lifting up” in Greek. This is when we are lifted up to Heaven. We continue showing the life of Jesus on earth with our liturgical rites and enter into the resurrection. The priest, with a deacon’s help, slowly wave the propharine above their heads. While removing it, the voice of it rattling in the church represents the earthquake that happened at the time of Jesus’ death on the cross (Matthew 27:51). The lifting of the prospharine acts as an announcing of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The prospharine also represents the stone that was removed from the tomb of Jesus. By the power of the Lord’s resurrection, the church is lifted up and arrives at the heavenly throne. We declare that our hearts are with Christ as the priest says “lift up your hearts”, and we reply with “we have them with the Lord!” We are no longer focussing on this earth, and all our attention is to God as we are standing before His throne, quite literally! This is not figurative or imaginary, but our Church teaches us that it is a fact that we are in heaven. Right now, we are standing with thousands and thousands of angels, and are praising God with all of the saints. They are actually with us in those moments!
  • Sanctus: Since we are actually standing in front of the throne of God, we cannot help but declare just how holy He is. When we are in His presence after death, we will be so overwhelmed by his holiness that we could not help to fall at His feet. But what is so beautiful about this is that God didn’t leave the holiness to Himself, but out of His love has shared this with us. The priest takes hold of a cross while his hand is covered with a veil and makes three signs of the cross, first on himself (the one who needs the most sanctification), then deacons, then to the congregation. This hand is the one that was touching the chalice, indicating that we are sanctified through Christ’s blood. We sing “holy, holy, holy”, just as the angels do in Isaiah’s vision (see the quote at the top of the page), and so does the priest. We also say it is “meet and right” to thank God. This basically means that it is appropriate and the right thing to do!
  • Institution Narrative: the priest recounts the whole story of creation and our need for salvation, as well as what God did to make this happen. Remember, the Church always taught its congregation theology and the tenets of our faith through its liturgy and prayers. It’s not a mystery, it’s all laid out in front of us and explained every Sunday. Recounting this story reminds us of our need for Christ in our lives as well as reminding us of His immense redemptive love and sacrifice for us. We are reminded that God gave us the opportunity to be renewed, transformed, with a fresh start every day. Otherwise, without Christ, we would be left to ourselves alone to save ourselves, which is nearly impossible to do. This story gives us hope, and for me, reminds me of how wonderful Communion is. Communion transforms and renews us, and it gives us strength to face life’s challenges. There is so much I can say about this, which might require another separate post sometime soon!
    • The priest takes his hands from underneath the veils and both purifies his hands with incense and puts it onto the altar. The incense is the life of Christ and the altar is the cross. The priest then holds he bread with his left hand, looks up, and blesses it three times with the cross.
    • Then he starts to divide the bread into a third and two-thirds from above without separating the pieces. The number three here represents the Trinity. The one third that is not separate from the other 2 represents Christ, since He was never separated from the Trinity. This was a part of the Liturgy as a response to heresies that claimed that Jesus was not a part of the Trinity.
    • Then the priest puts a finger on the edge of the chalice and makes it around counterclockwise 3 times. This represents the blood of Christ is for our salvation. In the Old Testament, the priest would spread the blood of the animal sacrifice in a circle around the temple. Our priest circles counterclockwise around the chalice to represent the children of God (us) living a life against the ways of this world.
    • He then moves the chalice West to East, representing strangers to God (West) then becoming true children of God (East). He then moves it from left to right, indicating our transition from being rejected (left) to accepted (right)
  • Epiclesis: this is the most important part of the Liturgy, and its climax. At this point, the bread and wine become the holy Body and Blood of Christ. The Epiclesis is a prayer that the priest prays for the Holy Spirit to descend onto the altar and perform the great transformation. We bow and pray with the priest with reverence for this holy moment.

After this part of the Liturgy, you will notice that the priest never crosses anything anymore nor does he even touch the cross. Why is that? Normally during any prayer, the person of the highest rank present in the church is the one who blesses everyone with the sign of the cross. If it’s not a priest, it will be a bishop that is present of the Patriarch even. But at this point, now that Christ, who is the highest rank of all, is now truly in our midst as the Body and Blood, He is the only One who blesses and sanctifies all!

Coptic Letters – We learned a total of 6 letters in the last two sessions! You’re making really great progress!

Psalm: Finally, we are memorizing another psalm! The one we will memorize is Psalm 30, and testing is on 2/5/20! You can also memorize the bonus verse for extra points!

Psalm 30 – recited when putting on vestments

I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up,

And have not let my foes rejoice over me.

2 O Lord my God, I cried out to You,

And You healed me.

3 O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave;

You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

4 Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His,

And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.

5 For His anger is but for a moment,

His favor is for life;

Weeping may endure for a night,

But joy comes in the morning.

6 Now in my prosperity I said,

“I shall never be moved.”

7 Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong;

You hid Your face, and I was troubled.

8 I cried out to You, O Lord;

And to the Lord I made supplication:

9 “What profit is there in my blood,

When I go down to the pit?

Will the dust praise You?

Will it declare Your truth?

10 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me;

Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;

You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,

12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.

O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

Psalm 5:7 –  recited when entering the church (BONUS!)

But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy;

In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple. 

That was so much! We’ve gone through a lot which is great!! We will see you next time on January 22nd!

Love,

Jasneet + Juju ❤

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