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  Great Entrance
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Cherubic Hymn

We are now beginning The Liturgy of the Faithful, the third and last part of the Divine Liturgy, which commences with the "Great Entrance", while the Choir chants the "Cherubic Hymn."

This final part of the Liturgy begins with the priest chanting:

"Grant, that being ever protected by Thy power, to Thee we may ascribe glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and from all Ages to all Ages."

The Priest then unfolds the "Antimension" (meaning: "instead of the table").  On this Antimension we see imprinted the pious Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea taking down the Body of Jesus from the Cross.  The Antimension usually contains the relics of some Saint. The Antimension brings us back to the days of the early persecutions, during which the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in various and remote places, catacombs and so forth, not having one designated Place and Table, as we have today.  And so it is today, that even though we do have established places of worship, we still use the "Antimension" as a reminder that the Church of Christ is not confined to any certain place or section. It also contains the Signature of the Bishop authorizing the conduct of the Divine Liturgy.

The laity begins to sing the Cherubic Hymn:

"Let us, who mystically represent the cherubim and sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-giving trinity, lay aside all worldly cares, that we may receive the King of all, invisibly escorted by the angelic hosts. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia."

This hymn invites us to walk with Jesus Christ on the path of martyrdom that leads to the sacrifice on the Cross setting aside every worldly care we may have in our souls. Saint John Chrysostom says, "The soul of a Christian who has not learned how to become alienated from worldly cares during the Divine Liturgy, will never be able to admire the all-heavenly... Mind and heart will not be glorified in splendor by the inconceivable grandeur of the heavenly Altar and the angelic hymns" (P.G. 47, 414). Now is the time to set aside all worldly cares and focus exclusively on Christ our Savior. This includes all the thoughts of family, our jobs, all our worries, and our trials and tribulations. Fill the mind instead with Christ: "Lord have mercy on me." To be so attentive as to shed our worldly cares demands we adopt a contrite state––one of extreme humility. We recognize our unworthiness to receive the Precious Gifts we are about to be presented with. We realize how blessed we are to receive these gifts for our spiritual benefit. Our egoism must be crushed. This requires our attention and effort.

Why? So we can receive the "king of all." Jesus Christ was the most powerful king of all who came without an army but with total humility.

Having set aside our worldly cares we join with the multitude of angelic bodiless powers, and "mystically represent the cherubim," who continually "sing the thrice-holy hymn." At this time the entire church is transformed into a piece of the heavenly Church––the Church Triumphant.

We are now approaching the presentation of the Precious Gifts in the Great Entrance. Christ comes with these Holy Gifts during the Great entrance to offer us His sacrifice for the salvation of the world.

Here is an incredible story about Euthymios the Great that took place after the start of the Cherubic Hymn..

All the monks were present, all of them without exceptions, suddenly say a huge flame coming from above, from the temple's dome, like a sheet that was covering, like a flaming cloud, surrounding Euthymios the Great along with Father Dometianos in the the Holy Bema...

A fearful sight...and even more fearful, when they saw them realizing the Great entrance was surrounded by flames, moving within them and with them...

Everyone fell on their stomach, for they could not bear the light and the brightness coming from the flames, in which those two worthy Celebrants were wrapped...

This reminds us of the Lord's Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. I should shout: "Oh, how miserable are today's young priests!"

The two celebrants, flame bearing and light bearing, remained in this state until the end of the Divine Liturgy.

Indeed it was awesome, when it was time for the monks to receive Holy Communion, how did they go for communion while witnessing this fearful sight? With trembling feet, with dazzled eyes, with awe from within, amazement and in peace and rejoicing in their hearts...The heaven, paradise, the Triumphant Church, the Jerusalem Above, the Glory of our Christ, all were present, all within them...And all inside us...for that is how it happens, even if we do not see it. Inconceivable beauty and inexpressible blessedness, which was experienced by those who were partakers of that Divine Liturgy! How can one describe that which "eye has not seen, nor ear heard"? But in fact they saw, heard and experienced, that which was allowed by God to those chosen living earthen vessels.*

All the monks were present, all of them without exceptions, suddenly say a huge flame coming from above, from the temple's dome, like a sheet that was covering, like a flaming cloud, surrounding Euthymios the Great along with Father Dometianos in the the Holy Bema...

A fearful sight...and even more fearful, when they saw them realizing the Great entrance was surrounded by flames, moving within them and with them...

Everyone fell on their stomach, for they could not bear the light and the brightness coming from the flames, in which those two worthy Celebrants were wrapped...

This reminds us of the Lord's Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. I should shout: "Oh, how miserable are today's young priests!"

The two celebrants, flame bearing and light bearing, remained in this state until the end of the Divine Liturgy.

Indeed it was awesome, when it was time for the monks to receive Holy Communion, how did they go for communion while witnessing this fearful sight? With trembling feet, with dazzled eyes, with awe from within, amazement and in peace and rejoicing in their hearts...The heaven, paradise, the Triumphant Church, the Jerusalem Above, the Glory of our Christ, all were present, all within them...And all inside us...for that is how it happens, even if we do not see it. Inconceivable beauty and inexpressible blessedness, which was experienced by those who were partakers of that Divine Liturgy! How can one describe that which "eye has not seen, nor ear heard"? But in fact they saw, heard and experienced, that which was allowed by God to those chosen living earthen vessels.*

While the Cherubic Hymn is sung the priest recites one of the most powerful and dvinely-inspiring prayers of the Divine Liturgy beseeching the Lord to qualify him to perform this Great Mystery.

"No one who is bound with the desires and pleasures of the flesh is worthy to approach, or draw near, or to serve Thee, O King of Glory; for to serve Thee is great and awesome, even to the Heavenly Powers. Yet, through Thine ineffable and boundless love toward mankind, Thou didst unchangeably and immutably become Man, and served as our High Priest, and as Lord of All, hast committed to us the celebration of this liturgical and bloodless sacrifice.

For Thou alone, O Lord our God, rulest over all things in Heaven and Earth, Who art borne on the Throne of the Cherubim, Who art the Lord of the Seraphim and King of Israel, Who alone art Holy and resteth amongst Thy Saints.

Wherefore, I implore Thee, Who alone art good, and ready to listen: Look down upon me, Thy sinful and unprofitable servant, and cleanse my soul and my heart from an evil conscience; and enable me by the power of Thy Holy Spirit, vested with the Grace of the Priesthood, to stand before this, Thy Holy Altar, and consecrate Thy Holy and Immaculate Body and Precious Blood.  For to Thee I come, having bowed my head, and beseech Thee:  Turn not Thy face away from me, nor reject me from among Thy Children; but make me worthy, Thy sinful and unworthy servant, to offer these Gifts unto Thee.

For Thou art the Offerer and the Offered, Who accepts and is distributed, O Christ our God, and to Thee we ascribe glory, together with Thine Eternal Father, and Thine All-Holy, Good, and Life-giving Spirit; now and for ever, and from all Ages to all Ages.  Amen."

There is no priest who approaches the Altar trusting in his own holiness to serve the Divine Liturgy.

The priest will also at this time cense the Altar and the people while reciting the 51st psalm. Incense is a strong urging for payer. When they are censed the people stand and bow. When this is complete the priest prostrates himself in front of the altar asking for God's mercy as a sinner. He then turns facing the congregation and asks for their forgiveness as a sinner. He also asks God to forgive all those who hate us and those who love us. Then he proceeds to the Table of Oblation where the gifts have earlier been prepared.

* Lagghis Matthew, The Great Synaxarion of the Orthodox Church, vol 1, Athens 1992, p. 495 from Experiences in the Divine Liturgy, p. 221-222

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