Archive for November, 2008|Monthly archive page

The Eucharist, continued: the Epiklesis, or invocation of the Holy Spirit

In Commentary on the Divine Liturgy for laity on November 27, 2008 at 8:26 pm

Now, we come to the holiest moment in the Divine Liturgy: the epiklesis (eh-PEE-klee-sis), or invocation of the Holy Spirit “upon us and these holy gifts.”

The Epiklesis

At once, God answers the elevation by His action. The priest invokes (epiklesis, “invocation”) the Holy Spirit “upon us and upon these gifts,” thus rendering the bread to be the Body of Christ and the contents of the cup to be the Blood of Christ, “changing them by Thy Holy Spirit.” We speak of metabolism in the human body as it processes material or physical energy; now, the priest mentions a special kind of metabolism (“changing,” from the Greek word, metabalon) in which the Divine Energy infuses the material gifts offered. Our reception of these gifts will be a meal, but now a very special one, for we will, by faithful partaking of them, become communicants in the divine nature. Unlike the Scholastics of old (with their “transubstantiation”), or the Protestants (with their opposite error in which they deny transfiguring grace to this mystery), we have no need to explain this dyophisitic (dual-natured) mystery: we have bread, it is the Body; we have wine, it is the Blood. Our Chalcedonian[1] way of understanding gives us the key which holds all together, “holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience” (I Timothy 3: 9).

To summarize, the sacred exchange takes place: the worshipping community, represented by the presiding bishop or priest offers their whole life embodied in the bread and wine, “Thine own of Thine own.” In response, God receives this offering and “places His own Life in the Gifts, ‘the Holy for the holy’” (Elder Zacharias of Essex).

Once the epiklesis is completed, we enter the third section of the anaphora, the commemoration of the whole Catholic Church. We begin with the greatest members of the Church, the Mother of God, and the Apostles, along with all the saints, mentioning especially those saints we are commemorating on that day. The choir begins singing the megalynarion (magnification hymn) to the Theotokos, as she justly receives prime attention. During that hymn, the priest mentions all the other saints, and names among them the names of deceased Orthodox Christians who may be on the list of commemorations. At the same time, the deacon stands by the Holy Table, as he reads out the diptychs, a record of names of living and dead who are to be commemorated. We see ourselves standing by the very Altar of God, with no difference between heaven and earth, “behold, the tabernacle of God is with men” (Apocalypse 21:3). The commemorations continue with the first of importance among the living: “our father and metropolitan [Name], and our father and bishop [Name].”  We receive our hierarchical authorities not as worldly princes or “strongmen,” but rather as “fathers in Christ.” In this spirit, they nourish us with apostolic teaching and authority and become the visible, personal, and concrete principle of catholic unity in the Church, “wherever the Bishop is, there is the Church” (St Ignatius of Antioch). The commemorations are only complete once every estate of Christian is mentioned, including the monastics and all the people, especially emphasized in the unique Greek way, literally “and of all men and women.”

The anaphora is concluded with a doxological exclamation in the name of the Holy Trinity, “Thine all-honourable and majestic Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The anaphora, however, is not sealed until the whole synaxis asserts the “Amen.” Recall what St Jerome said about this, mentioned above. We have eucharistized, given thanks. “The Christ is in our midst! He is, and ever shall be!”

[1] At the Fourth Oecumenical Synod, held in the city of Chalcedon in the fifth century, the dogma of the “two natures” (dyo physeis) of Christ was decreed, while insisting in the utter unity of His divine-human Personhood.



In reflections, ephemera on November 27, 2008 at 6:06 pm

Let us offer our humble thanks to the all-good Lord Who has granted us so many gifts!

I recommend the beautiful Akathist of Thanksgiving for a vehicle of prayer: http://www.antiochian.org/node/18543

wishing and praying all good things to you who read my blog!

a gem from the St Anthony Monastery Divine Music Project

In reflections, ephemera on November 26, 2008 at 5:20 am

If you who love our Orthodoxy have not yet seen the beautiful work of the brotherhood of St Anthony Monastery (Florence, Arizona), you will find a garden of spiritual refreshment there.

Here, following, is a gem from St Basil about the psalms, found after the koinonikon for righteous fathers:

A psalm is a city of refuge from the demons; a means of inducing help from the angels, a weapon in fears by night, a rest from the toils of the day, a safeguard for infants, an adornment for those at the height of their vigor, a consolation for the elders, a most fitting ornament for women. It peoples the solitudes; it rids the market places of excesses; it is the elementary exposition of beginners, the improvement of those advancing, the solid support of the perfect, the voice of the Church. It brightens feast day; it creates a sorrow which is in accordance with God. For, a psalm calls forth a tear even from a heart of stone. A psalm is the work of angels, a heavenly institution, the spiritual incense.

See: http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org/music/download.php?file=Chrys/Finale%202003%20-%20%5B1260_Tuesday%20-%20brief.pdf

Protected: Systema Typikou: Regular Services of the Great Feasts of the Master and Mother of God #171-181

In Orthodox Typikon: Systema Typikou in English on November 25, 2008 at 4:09 am

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On why I am working on the Systema Typikou, and not Biolakis (TME)…

In Orthodox Christianity: liturgics, Orthodox Typikon: Systema Typikou in English on November 25, 2008 at 2:57 am

I received a question recently with regard to the work on the Systema Typikou:

Dear Fr Patrick,  But the “Systema Typikou” is not in force. The Typikon of the Great Church (Konstantinos and Biolakes editions) is!  Why do you choose the Papagiannes work?

“The Papagiannes work,” Systema Typikou, is the most clear and well-assembled typikon available to me. It shows the various findings of the ancient typika which are available to us, all assembled into one volume. This provides a firm basis for constructing a typikon of Orthodox services as they ought to be celebrated in American Orthodox parishes.  Violakis is deficient in this; it is laconic in certain places, incorrect in others, and fails to address certain liturgical difficulties.

The Biolakis, TME, volume has many problems, even some rather egregious errors.  Archbishop CHRISTODOULOS, of thrice-blessed memory, began to address these in various decrees: the restoration of the Orthros Gospel to its proper place before Psalm 50, and the censing of the Gospel in the Liturgy in the more (traditional) solemn way.  Also, Biolakis, as Papagiannis says in his introduction, assumes a general knowledge of the typikon of Orthodox services on the part of chanters (psalteis) and clergy. This cannot be assumed in our day. Also, Biolakis makes little reference to the monastic practices. This relationship of the monastic typikon to the parochial is essential for all to understand.

Of course, in the end, the episcopal authority of any local church ought to provide the basis for liturgical practice. In our region, here in America, there is great confusion. It seems that “every man does what is right in his own eyes.” So, in the interest in heightening liturgical knowledge, I am busy bringing this holy typikon into the English tongue. May this humble work be a helpful contribution to the building up of our most holy Orthodox Christian faith in this land!

More on the recent election of Bishop JONAH to be Metropolitan of the OCA

In reflections, ephemera on November 17, 2008 at 1:51 am

I have reflected much recently over the rapid elevation of Bishop (I am still not even used to that!) JONAH to be Metropolitan of Washington and New York and all America.  Here are some ephemera for reflection:

http://www.post-gazette.com/multimedia/?videoID=101187  which is a nice, 4 minute video showing the dramatic election at the OCA’s council.

http://www.times-standard.com/lifestyle/ci_10992476  gives a bit of the flavor of Fr Jonah’s ministry of outreach from the monastery in northern California.  This is the context in which I have gotten to know him; namely, his tireless interest in active intercession in behalf of various people who are struggling.

And, la piece de resistancehttp://ancientfaith.com/specials/podup/oca15aac/bishop_jonah_addresses_questions

This message must be heard by every single Orthodox Christian in this country!

Eis polla eti, Dhespota!  God grant you many years, Master!

On pursuit of the divine eros…

In reflections, ephemera on November 10, 2008 at 6:46 am

My heart longeth for Thee in a land where there is no water, untrodden, wasteland…

I melt for Thy love, O Lord!  My flesh trembleth in holding Thy divine Communion within, as I journey forth from the holy Liturgy.  Today, when we commemorated Thy friend, our father Nektarios the wonderworker of Aigina.  Where else can I find this sweetness?  Where else is my repose, my rest?  Thou, O Lord, my Lover, O Thou Who seekest out the lost and beareth them on Thine own Shoulders to the place of green pastures.  My heart cannot contain this Love; my eyes drip with tears in Thy mercy. I am wax melting in the dew-breeze of Thine uncreated Fire.  How can any filthy passion still endure?  How can I dare utter any mean thing about my neighbor? I must keep silence before Thee!  I can barely utter any of Thy words without the running waters of the baptism of tears.  I am all dust and ashes; Thou dost consume every stubble in the heat of the Thy Love!  Truly, THOU ART!

Doxa Theo yper panta!  Glory to God for all things!

To the newly-consecrated–and now newly elevated–Metropolitan JONAH, new primate of the OCA, Eis polla eti Despota!

In reflections, ephemera on November 10, 2008 at 6:15 am

Such a meteoric rise, and for such a time as this in the Orthodox Church in America!  Such is God’s gracious providence.

My father-confessor and friend, the former hieromonk and newly-elected Metropolitan JONAH, is newly consecrated to the episcopate, as of November 1, 2008:


For pictures, see:


And now, as of November 12, 2008, newly-elected at chief hierarch of the OCA!



A “word” from His Beatitude, IGNATIUS IV, Patriarch of Antioch

In reflections, ephemera on November 10, 2008 at 4:59 am

To all who follow my blog:

The following is a distillation, in epistolary form, of an interview which I was blessed to have in privato with our father in Christ, His Beatitude, IGNATIUS IV, Patriarch of Antioch, during his visit to Boston over a few days at the end of October and beginning of November, 2008.  The Patriarch had founded an Orthodox university in Lebanon some 20 years ago, Balamand University.  His visit to the USA was in the role of promoting the university, as well as participating in the session of the Holy Synod of our (American) Self-ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese.

Our local bishop, our father in Christ, His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH, had arranged this interview in response to the Patriarch’s request to meet other “adult-convert” clergy who could provide further insights concerning Orthodox conversions in America.  Bishop JOSEPH thought that I could provide something toward this end, along with another priest from our diocese who also participated in the interview.  In the epistle which follows, I provide a distillation of His Beatitude’s utterances. The epistle, as written, is fictional; however, its contents are not.  They are the actual teaching which I heard and noted down. Indeed, my last request of His Beatitude was the following: “please give my parish a word for our salvation, as though you were present to speak directly to the faithful.”  So, here is “a patriarchal epistle for St Peter the Apostle parish, of southern California.”

To the faithful in Christ of St Peter the Apostle parish,

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all!  My beloved children in the Lord, your love for God and for His Church, and your zeal for the Orthodox faith stand as a signet on your parish community for all the world to see.  The gnawing spiritual hunger of confused and seeking souls can find its satisfaction in the fresh spring of life in the community of your parish, in your gatherings for worship, in your agape meals, and in your holy teaching and care one for the other.  You struggled and found the sweet well of Orthodoxy. You embraced the Holy Tradition, which is nothing other than the very life of God incarnate–the life of Christ, the divine energy which leads to compunction, repentance, transfiguration, and a restoration to the likeness of God.

However, as many converts do, you face the temptation of idealism. Idealism is a framework of thinking which holds that one can find a certain specific doctrine and practice which, if taken as the sole standard, will answer all questions and lead the idealist to a life free from troubles.  Idealism is a false god, something like a fairy-tale ending which you Americans like to see in your movies and novels: the so-called “happy ending.”  Idealism is, from a theological point of view, a kind of monophysitism: the idealist says, if one is Orthodox, he becomes swallowed up with the divine!  This however is wrong.  We are sinners, we all struggle and we all must reckon with countless others around us who are not Orthodox and see no need to become Orthodox.  Christ loves them as well–and so should we.  Therefore, beware that your zeal does not fall into idealism. Translate your zeal for the faith into Christian action–holy praxis–which will give you a mission to love everyone as Christ does, regardless of their response.  Do not be concerned with converting souls to Orthodoxy as much as loving them where they are. Remember how you were deeply moved when someone gave you the attention and care you needed. You would not want to be proselytized or drafted for the Church; you wanted only to find spiritual relief to your problems in life.

This is our Orthodoxy; to love as Christ loves, to care as He cares.  Remember, God did not only give us a word through the prophets.  He Himself came into our lowly estate. He BECAME us!  We must then become what our neighbors need for their salvation.  Live as Christ does–always looking out for the care of your neighbor and weeping with them, as you care for their life.  In this way, you will never fail to prosper as a holy community.  One profound way in which you can show your Christian love is in your patient listening.  Be careful in your prayerful way to listen deeply to the heart-beat of the one who is speaking to you.  Listen through the words to the pain, the sorrow, the concern, the fear, the ache, of each person’s heart.  So few people know how to listen today!  Everyone has an agenda; everyone wants to promote his or her ideas. Where can anyone confess their sins to be saved from them?  The parish priest has his role in the sacrament of Holy Confession, to be sure. However, this listening must be the mission for all of us.  It is a wonder, indeed a true miracle, when one truly encounters his neighbor without any other agenda than to love.

In conclusion, my word to you as a holy community is to love as Christ loves. This is the evangelical commandment: “that you love one another as I have loved you.”  May you then follow our Master in the sacred ministry of selfless love for the reconciliation of those in whose area you live and work.  You can be assured of my constant gratitude before God for you and my prayers for your ever-deepening experience of the Great Mercy.

In Christ, your father,

IGNATIUS (IV) of Antioch

The Eucharist proper: the opening dialogue and Anaphora (eucharistic prayer)–Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, continued

In Commentary on the Divine Liturgy for laity on November 10, 2008 at 4:08 am

Now we come to the high point of the Divine Liturgy in which we “offer the sacrifice of praise, giving thanks unto the Lord.”

The Anaphora: the dialogue

The climax of the Divine Liturgy now takes place. The holy anaphora, the oblation or “offering up (to God)”, now begins.  A very special dialogue serves to awaken and employ the highest human sensitivity: the noetic, or spiritual faculty of the soul. After the call to attentiveness, the deacon says, “that we may offer the holy oblation in peace” and the faithful add to this a further description of the oblation, thus defining it: “a mercy of peace, a sacrifice of praise.” The due sacrifice to God amounts to “the weightier matters of the Law: judgment, mercy and faith” (Matthew 23: 23). “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6: 8).

Before the prayer of the anaphora is uttered, the priest bestows the apostolic blessing, from the earliest times of the Church’s life: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all!” With this blessing, all is in order for the liturgical act. Apostolic orders and blessing have been given; it remains to fulfill them. The faithful have already “laid aside” all earthly cares; now they are exhorted to an even higher, noetic awareness: “Let us lift up our hearts!” The wording suggests a specific action here, not just mental attention, but something much more profound—spiritual attentiveness: “Hold your hearts upward!” “We hold them toward the Lord.” All join together now for the Eucharist per se, “let us give thanks unto the Lord” (in Greek, eucharistesomen). To this the laity, by singing the initial words, urges the celebrant to begin the anaphora proper, “It is truly meet and right.”

The anaphora proper

The anaphora itself is a mighty condensation of the whole of the apostolic eucharistic tradition. In it we hear all about “the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2: 11). As mentioned at the beginning, there are various “liturgies” in use in the Orthodox Church: most commonly, those of St James, of St Basil, and of St John Chrysostom, in chronological order. Each of these differs most clearly in the variety in size and content of the anaphora.  Yet other liturgies exist as well, but are not widely used today. Each of these liturgies receives its name from the saint who composed the anaphora in it. In the beginning, the apostles and their successors prayed and eucharistized, “according to their ability” (St Justin the martyr, First Apology, 67, written c. A.D. 150). As the faith spread, there was an increasing need for the distillation of this holy Eucharist, especially as the bishops ordained presbyters to serve in their absence, since they could not be present themselves at every eucharistic synaxis. Thus, the written anaphorae came into being as we now have them.

The anaphora falls into three distinct sections, the juncture of each of which is marked by a special hymn sung by the people.  The initial expression of thanks to God for His mighty acts culminates with the singing of the thrice-holy, directly using the words of the angelic hosts themselves, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of sabaoth (a Hebrew word which means “armies [of angels]”)…”  Then, the center of the anaphora, the second section, stresses the manifestation of the love of God by the offering of the Son. Many people, even heterodox, love that verse in St John’s Gospel which occurs in this section, “For God so loved the world, that He sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that whosoever should believe in Him, would have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The remembrance of the economy of salvation is developed at much greater length in the Liturgy of St Basil. The culmination of this section is the rehearsal of the very words of our Lord Himself, uttered by the celebrating priest, as though Christ were physically present, “Take, eat, this is My Body… Drink of this, all of you. This is My Blood…” After these holy words which provide a unique authorization for the whole of the Liturgy, the deacon (or priest) elevates both the diskos and chalice, holding them in a cross-wise fashion. With this action, the anaphora comes to the apex of human ability.  This is our offering, the simple basics of life, through which the Life of the world will come to us. “Wine maketh glad the heart of man… and bread strengthens man’s heart” (Psalm 103: 16-17). With the elevation, the priest intones very solemnly, “Thine own, of thine own, we offer to Thee, in behalf of all and for all.” In such a short expression the priesthood of the whole body of the Church is expressed. Together, clergy and laity, the whole of creation, “Thine own,” is voluntarily offered back to God Who gave it. And this with a special purpose: for the salvation and reconciliation of the whole of creation, “in behalf of all and for all.” This is the ministry of Jesus Christ in miniature; this is the ministry of the Church in depth—to bring all back to God, voluntarily, in the freedom of love.

Immediately, the choir appends a sung augmentation to the words that the priest just uttered: “we hymn Thee, we bless Thee, we give thanks (eucharistoumen) to Thee, O Lord, and we pray to Thee, O our God.” This is meant as a completion of the priest’s words. Among many other things, this should emphasize that the liturgy is accomplished by the whole synaxis, not just the priest alone.

Protected: Systema Typikou: Divine Liturgy for Sunday #147-156

In Orthodox Typikon: Systema Typikou in English on November 8, 2008 at 11:40 pm

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Protected: Systema Typikou: Regular Vespers, Midnight, and Orthros for Sunday #133-146

In Orthodox Typikon: Systema Typikou in English on November 8, 2008 at 11:33 pm

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Divine Liturgy: graphic, #3 of 3

In Commentary on the Divine Liturgy for laity on November 8, 2008 at 8:47 pm

And, here is the final graphic, of the Liturgy of the Faithful from the Prayer of Bowed Heads unto the dismissal.


I would welcome any comments!

Divine Liturgy: graphic, #2 of 3

In Commentary on the Divine Liturgy for laity on November 8, 2008 at 8:43 pm

Here is the next section, the Liturgy of the Faithful, from the cherubic hymn (Great entrance) to the Lord’s Prayer:


Divine Liturgy: graphic, #1 of 3

In Commentary on the Divine Liturgy for laity on November 8, 2008 at 7:56 pm


Click on the above to get a nice graphic organization of the first half of the Divine Liturgy, including the preparation. Read from top to bottom for linear progression, and from left to right for increasing detail of organization. 

I extend my gratitude to Maria Dome (forgive any misspelling!) who gave me the idea, and Kh. Christina, my beloved wife, for taking my outline and adorning it as you see here!