The Feast of Faith
The Divine Liturgy is the central expression of our Faith. It is a feast for all the senses, filled with processions, singing, incense, colorful vestments and icons.
Blessed is the Kingdom…
At the Divine Liturgy, the Kingdom of God touches earth and Christ lifts back the veil to our eternal destiny. That is why the priest opens the Liturgy with the proclamation, “Blessed is the kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever.”
Entering the Kingdom…
As with the Roman Catholic Mass, the Divine Liturgy is divided into two major parts - the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Both are preceded by processions. In the “Little Entrance” the Gospel Book is carried in procession while hymns (called Kontakia and Troparia) and Psalm verses are sung. The hymns serve as a sort of catechetical instruction, particularly when one of the Great Feasts is being celebrated. The Liturgy of the Word culminates in the homily, where the priest breaks open the Scriptures for us.
At the Great Entrance, the gifts of bread and wine are transferred in procession from a side table (known as the Prothesis) to the altar. During the transfer the congregation sings the Cherubic Hymn, reminding us that we stand together with the angels at the altar of the Lord, and calling us to set aside all our earthly cares so that we can refocus on our heavenly destiny.
Receiving the Kingdom…
The central point of the Liturgy of the Eucharist is the “Epiclesis,” or calling down of the Holy Spirit upon the gifts of bread and wine. Unlike the Roman Catholic tradition, which prefers to pinpoint the “Words of Institution” as the moment that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, the Eastern traditions have never preferred to make such a claim, and prefer to leave that moment as a mystery.
Just as the Liturgy of the Word culminates in the breaking open of the Word in the homily, so too does the Liturgy of the Eucharist culminate in the communion of the faithful in the one Body of the Lord. When we receive Christ in Holy Communion, we receive the future Kingdom. We are then called to bring that Kingdom out into the world and be Christ’s living presence in the world throughout the ages.
If you are Catholic attending the Divine Liturgy at any Byzantine Catholic parish will fulfill your Sunday obligation. And so long as you are properly disposed, you are welcome to receive Holy Communion.
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