Do this in remembrance of Me…Luke 22:20
These are the words of our Lord to His Disciples at the time of the Mystical Supper. He reveals to them the Holy Eucharist, His Body and Blood, which are shed for many for the remission of sins. Though this event occurred once in time, it abides forever for the Lord commands that we do this in remembrance of Him.
The mystery of the Eucharist is at the heart of the Divine Liturgy and is its purpose. We serve and participate in this regularly to fulfill the Lord’s words to do this in remembrance of Him. The Divine Liturgy shows us much more however, it reveals the life of Christ. In a series of forthcoming articles, we hope to better demonstrate this.
The readings of the Epistle and Gospel
The Divine Liturgy offers us the Word of the Lord. Shortly before the sacred readings, the clergy perform the Small Entrance. During this procession, the clergy and accolytes exit the altar through the North door with lamps, censer and the Gospel. The Deacon lifts the Gospel on high as the procession moves forth so that all of the people can see. This is done to demonstrate Christ’s coming into the world and beginning His Earthly ministry. This is the time the Lord walked among old Israel and taught them through His words and deeds. The Gospel recounts all of this. The Church bids us to read from scripture in each Liturgy as reminder that God came to walk among us and He suffered for us.
After this, that is, after our Lord made Himself known to us, we chant hymns to the Holy Trinity- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because Jesus Christ revealed the Holy Trinity us. The Feasts of the Theophany and Transfiguration attest to this. It is for this reason that it is meet that we offer hymns to the Holy Trinity.
Following these hymns are the scriptural readings. Before the sacred texts are read, the Reader announces to the faithful to prepare themselves and to listen attentively. The choir then chants praises to God – the verses from the Psalms and the Prokeimenon, which is the hymn praising God’s glory. In the world we often see great speakers introduced so as to prepare the audience. These hymns do the same and call us to attentiveness. The readings begin with a section from the Acts of the Apostles or the Epistles of the Apostles. These readings were sent unto the early Church communities as pastoral messages to encourage the faithful and to exhort them to piety and faith in our Risen Lord. These readings help us to turn our minds and hearts to our Lord and His salvific message. The reading from the Gospel demonstrates the way to salvation, as prepared by our Lord and Saviour. The Gospels teach us joy by reading God’s word; Faith by hearing Christ’s miracles; and love by remembering His awesome Passion and Resurrection.
Why does the Church assign the Epistle readings before the Gospel readings? When the Apostles were sent forth unto all the nations of the world, they were first messengers, delivering God’s good news of salvation. They prepared the way for the faithful to accept God’s word. The Epistles were letters of exhortation and preparation.
These readings also serve a practical purpose – to ready our heart and mind for the reception of the Body and Blood of our Savior. The Epistle readings are Christ’s teaching to His Apostles, whom He sent throughout the world. In the Gospel readings we hear Christ speaking to us, just as He spoke and taught His Disciples and the faithful of ancient Israel.