LETTER OF INSTRUCTION #5

THE CONCILIAR CELEBRATION OF DIVINE LITURGY BY PRIESTS IN THE DIOCESE OF THE WEST

by Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) of San Francisco and the West

 

The Orthodox Church in America

The Bishop of San Francisco and the West

650 Micheltorena Street, Los Angeles, CA 90026-3629

Telephone: (213) 913-3615; Facsimile (213) 913-0316

 

Wednesday, June 26, 1996

The Tikhvin Icon

 

To the Very Reverend and Reverend Deans & Rectors

Diocese of the West

 

1. All the Priests and Deacons who are to celebrate the Divine Liturgy together must pray the Entrance Prayers together before the Liturgy. The Rector[1], or the Senior Priest who is presiding, and all the other Priests, garbed in Podriassnik (Under-cassock, or "Anteri"), as well as Riassa (Outer-cassock, Rason), and Skufiyas and Kamilavkas, if they have been awarded; and Deacons garbed in Podriassnik and Riassa, all arrange themselves according to the order of Seniority round about the Holy Altar Table. The Rector or other Priest presiding stands in front of the Holy Altar Table, with the Deacon(s) standing beside him and a little behind him, and all other Priests stand in rows on either side ( North or South) of the Holy Altar Table, facing it. All make together one reverence from the waist, kiss the edge of the Holy Altar Table and go out the North and South Doors: the Rector and the Priests (and Deacon) on the North Side go through the North Door, the Deacon and Priests on the South Side go out the South Door.[2]

2. They all line up on the Soleas: the Rector in the Center, the Deacon(s) at his side(s) and a little behind him, and the rest of the Priests arranged in descending order on right and left. As usual, the Rector says three times, "O God, cleanse me a sinner." He and all the rest at the same time cross themselves and make three reverences from the waist (according to the Typikon, the bow from the waist should be deep enough so that if extended the first two fingers of the right hand would touch the floor.)

3. The Deacon then quietly pronounces, "Bless, Master." The Rector: "Blessed is our God …" Deacon: "Amen." "Glory to Thee, O God, glory to Thee." "O Heavenly King …" and the Trisagion Prayers through "Our Father," as usual. At the reading of "We adore Thy most pure image …" the Priests take off their headgear and make a waist reverence or a full reverence (depending on the day of the week), kiss the Icon of the Savior and then, at the reading of "Thou art a fountain of tender-heartedness …" reverence and kiss the Icon of the Theotokos. After them, the Deacons do the same. Then all Priests, bowing their heads, read quietly, "O Lord, stretch forth Thine hand …" The Rector reads the prayer, "O Lord, forgive, pardon and remit …" and all bow to each other, those on the right bow to those on the left and vice-versa, the Rector bows to both sides, and then all bow to the people and go into the Altar, each on his own side. The Rector goes in first on the South Side. Going through the Deacons' Doors, they kiss the icon of the Archangel or Archdeacon that is on the Door. The Rector reads the Psalm, and all make together a waist reverence or prostration before kissing the Altar Table and going to vest. In some places all the Priests exchange the Kiss of Peace with the Rector at this point.

4. The Proskomedia is served by the youngest Priest (by ordination) or by the one whose turn it is (as in a Church where many Priests serve together regularly). At the end of the Proskomedia, i.e., towards the end of (or during the Trisagion of) the Sixth Hour, a Deacon does a complete censing of the entire Church. (As at any Liturgy, the Curtain is opened when the Deacon begins his censing and not before.)

5. Before the beginning of the Liturgy, all Priests and Deacons take their places as they did before beginning the Entrance Prayers. The Rector, standing alone with the Deacons before the Holy Altar Table begins, "O God, cleanse me a sinner," three times with three signs of the Cross and three waist reverences. The rest of the clergy cross themselves and bow in unison with him. After that, the Rector (alone) lifts up his hands and prays: "O Heavenly King," "Glory to God.."(2) and "O Lord, open Thou …" After each prayer all make the sign of the Cross and a waist reverence, but only the Rector lifts up his hands or reads the prayers aloud.[3] Then the Deacons obtain the blessing for the beginning of the Liturgy as outlined in the Priest's Service Book.

6. During the Divine Liturgy, Priests may not converse with each other, move around from their places, nor read the prayers audibly. While each Priest must read every secret prayer in the service, it is only the Priest taking the first place before the Holy Table that says these prayers in an audible tone. The Exclamations up to the Little Entrance are read by the Priests each at his turn in order. (See below.)

7. During the singing of the Beatitudes or other Third Antiphon, when the time comes for the Entrance[4] the Rector makes two and the Deacon three reverences. The Rector kisses the Gospel Book, then picks it up and gives it to the Deacon. Then the Rector makes a third reverence. The other Priests make reverences together with the Rector, and when he kisses the Gospel Book, they kiss the Altar Table. The Entrance takes place in this order: All Processional items are carried in front of the Gospel and none after it. If there is more than one Deacon serving, the Deacon not carrying the Gospel goes in front of the Gospel bearing the censer, but does not turn towards the Gospel Book, nor does he cense it, but he leads the Deacon carrying the Gospel before the Holy Doors, then continues without stopping directly into the Altar and stands at the Southwest corner of the Holy Altar Table, facing the Holy Doors, but not censing yet. Behind the Deacon with the Holy Gospel Book come: the Rector, the First Priest, the Second Priest, the Third Priest, etc., in order of seniority. Those who had been standing on the right (South) side of the Holy Altar Table go across the High Place, the Deacon and Rector leading, and those on the left (North) side join them according to rank as they pass by on the way out. There is no point at all for the Priests to come in pairs before the Holy Table and make reverences, kiss it, and bow to the people at the Little Entrance.

8. The Deacon goes to stop before the Holy Doors, a little to the right and slightly ahead of the Rector. The Rector stops in the center of the Soleas before the Holy Doors. The remaining clergy line up in two rows behind the Rector (two rows extending east-west) in the same order as they stood at the Holy Altar Table: the Seniors farthest towards the West, During the Procession the Deacon says quietly (and not as was formerly done in many places loudly) "Let us pray to the Lord," and the Rector prays softly the Prayer of the Entrance. The Deacon, indicating the Altar with his Orarion, bids "Bless, Master the Holy Entrance." The Rector blesses with his hand towards the East. The Deacon waits until the singers have finished the Beatitudes (last troparion of the Beatitudes), then steps directly in front of the Rector, faces due East and lifts up the Gospel Book, making the sign of the Cross with it, and exclaims: "Wisdom, Attend!" As he lifts up the Book the Deacon in the Altar censes towards it three times three and gives up the censer, goes to the High Place, prays to God and bows to the Rector before crossing over to resume his place. The Deacon places the Gospel Book on the Holy Altar Table. If there are no Deacons, then the Rector is the one to take custody of the Holy Gospel Book and to have the honor of carrying it in the Procession. If that is the case, then the Rector should lay the Gospel Book upon the Holy Altar Table, then go back to kiss the small Icon of the Savior on the Royal Door-post, bless the Candle-bearer(s), kiss the small Icon of the Theotokos on the Royal Door-post, and then go to stand before the Holy Altar Table. The Priests come into the Altar, each kissing the small icon on the Royal Door-post on his own respective side as he enters. When all have come to their places, they pray to God (i.e., cross themselves and bow to the East), kiss the Holy Altar Table and then bow to the Rector together, and he returns their bow. Only the Rector turns west before entering the Altar to bless the Candle-bearer(s) (this is not a general blessing of the Faithful, and if there is no Candle-bearer, the Priest blesses no one at this point).

9. At the conclusion of the singing of the Troparia and Kontakia, the Rector is the one who pronounces the exclamation: "For holy art Thou.." There is no Diaconal bidding, "Let us pray to the Lord," as there is at a Hierarchical celebration[5]: if the Deacon utters that at a non-hierarchical celebration, it's a mistake. During the singing of the Trisagion by the Choir, and separately from them, the Rector quietly pronounces three times, "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us," and he and all the Priests and Deacons make the sign of the Cross and a waist reverence each time (this prayer is said or sung exactly the same total number of times as at an Hierarchical celebration) kisses the Holy Altar Table and goes to stand at the Southeast corner of it, facing West. Standing or sitting at the High Place itself (i.e., in the very center of the East of the Altar) is reserved to Hierarchs only. The rest of the Priests kiss the Altar Table with the Rector and array themselves to either side of him in descending rank, also facing West.

10. Before saying "Peace be to all," (and not "all of you", as if in contrast to according peace to only, say someone's arms, or "some parts of you") the Rector bows to the Priests serving with him to the right and to the left. If there are no Deacons, the censing before the Gospel is done by the Third Priest (if three are serving) The Second Priest, after the Apostolic Reading is over, bows to the Rector, goes to the Holy Altar Table, and give the Gospel Book to the Deacon. If there is no Deacon, then the Rector himself reads the Gospel from in front of the Holy Altar Table, facing west. After the Gospel reading, the Rector receives the Gospel Book from the Deacon and hands it to the Second Priest, who places it on the Holy Altar Table between the Tabernacle and the Antimension.

11. During the "Fervent" Litany, after the petition for the Hierarchy, the Rector opens the lower portion of the Antimension and kisses the signature on it. During the Catechumen Litany, at the petition: "That He may reveal to them the Gospel …" two Priests open the upper portion of the Antimension, cross themselves, bow to the East and bow to the Rector. The exclamations of the Litanies after the Gospel continue in order of the Priests' seniority[6]: however, the exclamation after the second "Prayer for the Faithful" — "That being kept always under Thy might …" is always to be pronounced by the Rector.

12. At the Cherubim Hymn, only the Rector raises his arms and reads aloud, "Let us the Cherubim …"

13. Here are the exclamations at the Great Entrance:

(Please take note: the insertion of the word "for" at the beginning of these remembrances is very bad grammar and meaningless.)

Deacon: Remembers the Metropolitan and the Ruling Bishop: "His Beatitude (or "Our Lord"), the Most Blessed Theodosius, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, may the Lord God remember in His kingdom...

Rector: The president, etc.[7]

2nd Priest: The founders, benefactors, and brethren (or parishioners) of this holy Temple (or house)

3rd Priest: All who are suffering and being persecuted for the Orthodox Faith..."

Rector: And all you Orthodox Christians may the Lord God …[8]

14. After the Great Entrance, all exclamations should be pronounced by the Rector.

15. At the lifting up of Chalice and Diskos at "Thine own of Thine own," it is not acceptable to make the sign of the Cross in the air over the Antimension with these sacred items.

16. Before taking Communion, the Rector prays, "O God, cleanse me, a sinner," three times with three waist reverences. Then he says the prayer, "O Lord, forgive, pardon remit my sins, voluntary and involuntary, etc.," makes one full reverence before the Altar Table (and all the rest make the same reverence with him) then bows to the others and says, "Bless me, holy Fathers, and forgive me a sinner." The concelebrants also bow to the Rector. The Rector turns towards the West and directs the same words to the people standing without. Then, with the words, "Behold, I draw near to Christ …" he makes a second full reverence, kisses the edge of the Holy Altar Table and places into the palm of his right hand the Precious Body of Christ and goes to stand on the right side of the Holy Altar Table, where the Second Priest had been standing. Then all the Priests on the right side go over to the left side and stand in line according to seniority preparatory to receiving the Most Pure Body the same way the Rector did. The Second Priest, after crossing himself, making a full reverence, kissing the edge of the Altar table and placing the Most Holy Body in his hand, exchanges the kiss of peace with the Rector (and they kiss each others' shoulders)[9], but he does not go around behind the back of the Rector, but turns back and goes all the way around the left side of the Holy Altar Table to stand at the right side of the Rector. Going around behind the backs of Priests holding the Most Pure Body of the Lord in their hands while oneself holding the Same is not allowed, neither should anyone carrying the Most Pure Body in his hands allow anything or anyone to come between him and the Holy Altar Table at any time. When all the Priests have received into their hands the Most Pure Body, the Rector returns to his place in front of the Holy Altar Table and quietly, in the hearing of all the celebrants, prays the prayers beginning, "I believe, O Lord, and I confess …" At the conclusion of this prayer, all commune together with the Rector. Then the Rector partakes of the Holy Blood[10] and summons the Deacons to impart to them the Most Pure Body of Christ, according to the format in the Service Book. Only at a conciliar celebration are Deacons imparted the Most Pure Body after the Priests. (When one Priest is serving alone, he, having his hands free, places the Deacon's portion into the Deacon's hand before placing a portion in his own hand, as prescribed in the Service Book.) To partake of Christ's Blood, all Priests come to the Chalice on the right side of the Holy Altar Table, according to seniority, make a waist reverence (not a full one) and say, "Lo, once again …"

17. After all the Priests have communed, the Rector communes the Deacons with the Holy Blood. Warm water mixed with wine, also bread, are taken by all the celebrants save the one who will be consuming the Holy Gifts at the end of the Liturgy. All the clergy without exception must say "Glory to Thee, O God, glory to Thee" three times and then pray the prayer: "We give thanks to thee …" If there is time to do so while the particles for the People's Communion are being cut, then the Prayers after Communion may be read by the remaining Priests.

18. At the exclamation, "Always, now and ever …" the Rector makes the sign of the Cross with the Holy Chalice while standing in the Holy Doors in recollection of the Lord Jesus Christ's last blessing on the Mount of Olives before His Ascension into heaven. He holds the Chalice with both hands. If there is no Deacon serving, then there are two received practices: one is to juggle both the Chalice and the Diskos with the items on it for this blessing: the other is to bless only with the Chalice, then turn to the Holy Table, pick up the Diskos and proceed directly to the Table of Oblation with it, place the Chalice and Diskos on the Table of Oblation, cover them, place the candle before them, and cense them. If there is a Deacon, then he censes him too at this point.

19. During the Litany, "Attend! Having received the …" the Rector closes up the Antimension after kissing it and the sponge. Other Priests help him. Other Priests hand him the Gospel from its place before the Tabernacle.

20. The Prayer before the Ambo is usually read by the very most junior Priest. Before he goes out, he makes the sign of the Cross, kisses the Holy Altar Table, and bows to the Rector. He does the very same thing when he returns to the Altar.

21. If the Rector gives a Sermon after "Blessed be the Name of the Lord (and the Psalm), or at any other time, all Priests, as well as all the other persons in the Altar save the Deacon that is consuming the Gifts, should come forth from the Altar to listen to the Rector's Sermon.

22. All come out of the Altar for the Dismissal, pronounced by the Rector holding the Cross. The Rector may himself hold the Cross for the veneration of the people or ask another Priest to do so. All clergy venerate the Cross and then return to the Altar to read (or finish reading) the Thanksgiving Prayers and unvest. No one should leave the Altar without first taking leave of the Rector.

23. In the Service Book (at the end of the office of Proskomedia) it is remarked that if a Priest serves without a Deacon then he doesn't make the Diaconal utterances: "Bless, Master," "Pierce, Master," and "the rest," i.e., those words which are utterances of the Deacon as Deacon to the Priest as Priest. Such words are not spoken by a Priest serving alone without a Deacon. Other utterances, such as, "Let us pray to the Lord," "Let us attend," "Wisdom," "As many as are catechumens, depart," and the rest (and, according to Bulgakov, who cites the practice of the Patriarch of Constantinople of pronouncing these words himself, according to Muraviev's eyewitness report in 1850: "O Lord, save the pious, and hear us"), are not such words spoken by Deacons to Priests, therefore, even though the Service Book apportions these utterances to Deacons, when there is no Deacon the Priest must pronounce them himself.

 

II.

 

A. Conciliar Serving of Liturgy with Participation of a Deacon.

 

a) Two Priests:

Second Priest: 1) For Thine is the strength, 2) For Thou are a good God, 3) (before the Gospel) "Wisdom, Attend …" 4) Let us attend, 5) That with us they also..6) For to Thee belongeth..(after the 1st Prayer for the Faithful), 7) after "Always, now and ever," closes the Antimension, 8)Exclaims, "Let us depart in Peace" and the Prayer before the Ambo.

 

b) Three Priests:

Second Priest: 1) For Thine is the strength, 2) Wisdom, attend, 3) That with us …, 4) after :"Always, now and ever," closes up the Antimension.

Third Priest: 1) For Thou art a good God, 2) "Let us attend," (before the Gospel) 3) For to Thee belong all...4) Exclaims, "Let us depart in Peace," and the Prayer before the Ambo.

 

c) Five Priests:

Fourth Priest: 1) That with us..,

Fifth Priest: 1) For to Thee belong, 2) Exclaims, "Let us depart in Peace," and the Prayer before the Ambo.

Second and Third Priests, excepting what is prescribed for the 4th and 5th Priests, pronounce the same things they would when three are serving.

 

B. Service without a Deacon:

 

Two Priests:

The Second Priest pronounces every thing assigned to the second and third Priest in a Service for Three Priests without a Deacon (see below)

 

Three Priests:

The Second Priest: 1) First Litany and its exclamation: "For Thine is the strength," 2) (before the Prokeimenon) "Let us attend, 3) (before the Apostolic Reading) "Let us attend," "Wisdom," and he also does the censing then, 4) (before the Gospel) "Wisdom, Attend, let us hear the Holy Gospel," 5) (Litany) Pray to the Lord, ye Catechumens," 6) Remembers the Authorities, 7) (Litany) "Let us complete," 8) (Litany) "Attend, having partaken.." and its exclamation: "For Thou art our."

The Third Priest: 1) Censes before Blessed is the Kingdom, 2) Second Little Litany and its Exclamation, "For Thou art a good God," 3) (Before the Prokeimenon) "Wisdom," 4) (Litany) "As many as are Catechumens, depart, 5) Closes the curtain, 6) (Litany) "Having remembered all the saints" 7) Let us depart in Peace, let us pray to the Lord.

 

Five Priests:

The Fourth Priest: (before the Prokeimenon) "Let us attend," (before the Apostolic Reading) "Wisdom" and "Let us attend," does the censing at that time, the Litany, "Pray to the Lord, ye Catechumens."

The Fifth Priest: (before the Prokeimenon "Wisdom," Litany, "As many as are Catechumens, depart," remembers the Ruling Bishop.

 

III.

 

In addition one must also observe the following:

1) Every junior Priest, after pronouncing an exclamation, crosses himself, makes a metanoia (bow from the waist far enough over so that, if extended, two fingers of the right hand would reach to the floor) to the Holy Table and then turns to the presiding Priest and bows to him.

2) The Proskomedia and the Prayer before the Ambo are always done by the most junior Priest.

3) We stated above what was to be pronounced by the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Priests: everything which was not mentioned is to be done by the Presiding Priest.

4) At a conciliar celebration without a Deacon the fundamental rules which must be observed are that the petitions and concluding Exclamation of each Litany are to be pronounced in order by one and the same Priest (and not so that petitions of a given Litany would be pronounced by a junior Priest and its exclamation by a Priest senior to him, the equivalent of reducing the junior Priest to the Diaconate), and that junior Priests would maintain the usual posture of respect toward those of senior rank, such as Archpriests and Archimandrites.

5) No one has the right to elevate himself above the rest of the Priestly Hierarchy in accomplishing the Holy Oblation, as if only he possesses authority and importance and the rest do not have such: It is true that a Hierarch accomplishes the Sacrament, but the others also participate with him; and it is true that Archimandrites, Hegumens, Archpriests and the Cathedral Deans have the honor of standing before the others, yet the Priesthood and the power given It and the power of Priesthood is the same for all.

The system laid out above for conciliar celebrations is done differently in different places. For example, in some places the presiding Priest takes part in opening the Antimension, in some places not; in some places when no Deacon is serving, the presiding Priest carries both Chalice and Discos at the Great Entrance, while the Second Priest carries the Hand Cross, while in other places the Presiding Priest will carry the Discos and the Second Priest the Chalice. Since there are, in fact, no universal rules for such conciliar serving, one must, of course, follow that order which is laid down by the local ruling bishop. I prefer that, at a celebration without a Deacon, one Priest, the senior one, would carry both Chalice and Diskos. There is also no consistent guidance vis-à-vis who pronounces which commemorations at the Great Entrance, nor who carries what at the same, nor do I intend to give any; however, it is good practice to insure the maximum amount of items are carried out at the Entrance: all the hand-crosses first, then the spoon and spear, then the cutting plate, then the sponge.

 

[signed] +Tikhon

 

cc:

His Beatitude

Hierarchs of the Holy Synod

 

Footnotes:

[1] Altar Servitors are to be blessed to wear their Sticharia only by the Rector. This applies, as usual, even if the Rector is not serving but only standing and praying in the Altar. If the Rector is not present, then the Senior Priest blesses the donning of Sticharia.

[2] Naturally, before beginning, all initially enter the Altar and venerate the Holy Table according to received practice. The Deacon(s), having arrived before the Priests, will have insured that the Table of Oblation is completely prepared for Proskomedia, that the Priests' vestments are ready, and that his (their) own Diaconal vestments are folded and ready to be blessed immediately at the conclusion of the Entrance Prayers.

[3] As at any Divine Liturgy, the hands are lifted up three times only. Since there are four prayers, one may either combine the double reading of "Glory to God" into one lifting up of hands, or not lift up the hands for "O Lord, open Thou."

[4] If the Troparion verses are sung with the Beatitudes, the time of the Entrance is as stated in the Typikon: "When the singers come to the Glory of the Beatitudes or Third Antiphon." If the Beatitudes are sung by themselves, without Troparia and Glory, then the usual place to begin the Entrance sequence of actions is at the Beatitude: "Blessed are the merciful."

[5] Why would that be a mistake? This "Let us pray to the Lord," at a hierarchical celebration is the introduction to the polychronia that would come after "O Lord save the pious," during which the Hierarch takes a seat at an ordination while the deacon proceeds to intone many years to all ecclesiastical and political estates, one by one, and it is not an introduction to "For Holy art Thou …

[6] Or as the Rector himself decides and indicates.

[7] At the Los Angeles Cathedral, the following petition has been authorized: "This God-beloved and God-protected land, its President, Civil Authorities (NOTE: not "those in civil authority), Armed Forces, and People; the Russian People in their homeland and scattered abroad; the suffering Serbian, Palestinian, and Lebanese Peoples and every Christian People and land, may the Lord God..."

[8] Making up other exclamations here for distribution amongst the Priests is to be discouraged. The number and contents of the commemorations at the Great Entrance, very popular as they indeed may have become, have grown out of all proportion, so as to develop into almost an impromptu general Anglican Collect. The only commemoration foreseen here by the Service Books (and not by the Typikon at all) is "May the Lord God remember us all in His Kingdom..."

[9] While at a hierarchical celebration, each Priest kisses the Hierarch's right hand as the Holy Body is placed in his own hand, and then kisses the Hierarch's left shoulder only, at non-hierarchical celebrations Priests kiss both each others' shoulders.

[10] After communing of the Holy Pure Body, the Rector makes sure that there is absolutely no particle of It whatsoever remaining in his hands. He may lick his hand; however, he and all the communicants in the Altar must pick up the sponge and carefully brush palms and between the fingers, over the Antimension, before partaking from the Chalice or handling anything at all. It's inappropriate to brush or slap both hands against each other over the Antimension, as if one had completed a task of some kind.

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