The Augmented Ektenia, and the Peace be to all!
Once the gifts have been placed on the Holy Table, a prayer and a litany are offered which sum up all our desires for salvation in every state of life. We “complete our prayer unto the Lord” by appealing to God for the fulfillment of our needs, culminating in the greatest need of all, “that we may have a good defense before the fearful judgment seat (bema) of Christ.” This petition is important, since the name of the very place where the gifts have been placed is the bema, “the judgment seat,” one of the many names for the altar. We realize that the judgment is not only in the future, but even right now! Are we ready to meet the Lord? Will we be found worthy to partake of Him?
With this sober reality before us, once again we hear the holy words to calm our hearts, “Peace be to all!” Now we will confess our faith together, but this again is never done without a deep connection to our spiritual state. Without inner peace, what can mouthing empty words mean?
It is interesting that we heard “Peace to all!” just before the high point of the first half of the liturgy; namely, the reading of the Holy Gospel. Now we hear it again, just before we celebrate the climax of the second and more solemn half of the liturgy, the Holy Eucharist itself.