EO Lenten Services



  • I mean that much of what we do is a matter of order. It is sort of like 'good manners' in the Church. It is possible for psalter to cense, for instance, since he only has to reach out his hand and take the censer but it is not the proper order of things. It is not according to the way the Church orders and organises herself. It is possible for a layman to push himself forward to commune 'out of turn' but that is not according to the order, or organisation of the Church and the Liturgy.

    I think that St Ignatius speaks about how the Church has a certain order even in the early 2nd century.

    In terms of handling the elements of the eucharist, it is a matter of order and not dogma. The Church has adopted a certain practice at this time and so it is a matter of good order and obedience to follow that practice. But it is not a matter of dogma.

    The laity ceased to take the communion home because there was a concern that it was being misused. But the laity communed themselves, in the way that many Catholics did/do. St Severus writes a letter to one layman who asks that he will send the eucharist to him, and this could only be the case if in the 6th century the laity still received the eucharist into their hands and communed themselves.

    My personal opinion is that after the Islamic invasion the security of the eucharistic elements became a matter of concern, the iconostasis became more of a physical barrier to the desecration of the altar, and the eucharist was no longer reserved since it left it liable to Islamic abuse. That same protection of the eucharistic elements also caused them to become seen as more dangerous and therefore not fitting to be touched by any but the priest. But this was not always the view. The order of the Church requires us to be obedient to the teaching of the Church as we participate in it, but we also need to recognise that where other Orthodox have different practices they are not worse or better but just part of the variety which is allowed and has always existed.

    St Severus composed the Presanctified Liturgy and was the de-facto Patriarch of all the non-Chalcedonians during his exile. Certainly I know the Syrians and Egyptians used the Presanctified Liturgy. Apparently a Presanctified Liturgy was still used on the Tuesday of Holy Week until the 10th century, and the PS Liturgy had apparently been used on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday since the 5th century. I think that in the Coptic Tradition the Presanctified Liturgies became full Liturgies while they tended to remain as Presanctified in other Traditions. The issue was that it had been considered that fasting days should not have a celebration of the Eucharist, and so the Presanctified Liturgy was developed to allow people to still receive communion even on a day of fasting. As far as I can see the Coptic Church decided over time that it would allow a full Liturgy on such days.
  • This just goes to show how much about the Church I really do not know and how much reading I need to be doing!

    Your theory about the Islamic invasion changing how the Eucharist was handled seems plausible.

    However, this brings forth the question in my mind: Why do we kiss the priest's hand? I thought it was because it was only he that was allowed to touch the Body and therefore when we kiss the priest's hand we are really giving honor to the Body which he holds.

    But if all believers at one point were allowed to handle the Body, when did this kissing of the hand begin?

    I do not see how it is simply a matter of order now, father. The distribution of the Body and Blood might go faster and in a more orderly manner if we did as the Catholics do...if you have time, please elaborate.
  • Well I guess I mean that the way it happens is the way it happens and there is often/usually not a great deal of value in thinking about how things could be different - I don't mean in a moral or spiritual sense. Actually in the British Orthodox Church it is permitted for people to receive the Holy Body in their hand according to the instructions of St Cyril of Jerusalem. Nearly everyone in my own congregation receives the Holy Body into their mouth though.

    I think that the hand of the priest is kissed because in the past the hand of all those who were 'superior' in honour was kissed. This was a normal greeting throughout the ancient world. I believe that it is preserved in the kissing of the hand of the priest in the Coptic Church. In England until relatively recently it was entirely normal to kiss a persons hand. Probably the last vestige is the kissing of the hand of the monarch, but I recall reading the life of Thomas More in the 16th century and he would kneel before his own father (as an adult) and kiss his hand and ask for a blessing.

    When I was on my journey to Orthodoxy I attended a Liturgy with some American Antiochian priests and kissed the ring they wore. Since it was the ring which was kissed it seems to me to show that reverence and honour is being paid to the person and not to the hands as having touched the eucharistic elements. And if the hands are kissed because they have touched the elements then what honour is due to each lay person who has received these elements, and the Lord Himself, into union with their very body?

    So I think the hand kissing is a matter of honour and respect and seeking a blessing as it was in ancient times.
  • I was in the process of posting this quote when Father Peter posted. I spent too much finding this quote to just leave it  :D... so here's the quote that Father Peter referred to in his post.

    St. Cyril of Jerusalem writes

    "When thou goest to receive communion go not with thy wrists extended, nor with thy fingers separated, but placing thy left hand as a throne for thy right, which is to receive so great a King, and in the hollow of the palm receive the body of Christ, saying, Amen."

  • This has been very enlightening indeed.

    I remember one time I was at the monastery , and I was receiving the Blood of our Lord. The priest who was distributing it gave me five "spoons." He was distributing the Blood fast and I was sick, and on the fifth one I coughed. The Blood came out of the cup and went on the priests face and clothes as well as my body and clothes and even the ground. Needless to say, I felt deep fear and the priest looked at me in a way I will never forget. He basically told me not to move, I could not touch my clothes or even lick the Blood off of my hands. I stood there like a statue until he removed my "tonia" and washed it and washed my hands and drank the water himself. This experience made me think that I should never under any circumstances be allowed to touch the Body or Blood. Even when it accidentally went on my own clothes and hands.

    I have one more question, father. If the Body or Blood falls on the ground will is it still the Body and Blood? How can our Lord Christ fall on the ground, and even in some extreme cases with children be vomited out of the mouth?

    The bishop of the monastery told the priest that it was not necessary to remove the carpet which was stained with the Blood and burn it. But that this sacrament is a mystery. He told him to clean the carpet and dump the water in the plants, but if he wanted to drink it, that would be up to him.

    What is your take on this father?
  • I think that there are several aspects of the mystery...

    i. Our Lord, the Word of God, has ALREADY become incarnate for our salvation and has humbled Himself more than we could possibly  comprehend, not only in becoming weak as a man, but especially in allowing His own creation to lay hands on His holy Person and even to dare to put to death the one who is Life. God has ALREADY chosen to become part of His creation and therefore He has experience of humiliation.

    ii. The elements of the eucharist require the utmost devotion, respect and honour because they do not symbolise God, or represent God, but they are in truth the Body and Blood of the incarnate Word of God, one of the Holy Trinity.

    iii. There should be no more fear and awe, in my opinion, in accidentally having some small element of the eucharist touch our hand than we should have in approaching the sacrament in the first place. If we are afraid of touching the elements then how can we receive them into our body? We should not be afraid, but we should be in a state of awe and utmost reverence. The fear should be in treating these elements casually and so allowing some to fall and spill.

    iv. If some major accident occurred, which thank God I have never seen, then it becomes a matter of the utmost reverence in regard to how the priest handles the matter. The eucharist remains the eucharist, but it is also a mystery that we hesitate to pollute with unseemly thoughts. But let us say some tiny fragment falls unnoticed. Does that tiny fragment remain the Body of our Lord forever? I would not presume to determine what God will do. I know that the baptismal waters upon which we ask the Holy Spirit to descend are also returned to the state in which they were found. God is not bound by some mechanical system.

    But if there were a major accident then it would be a very serious matter indeed. I pray that it not happen to me. I would, as far as I kept my senses, act in the way that you describe. It is very serious indeed because we are dealing with the presence of God. But to those who belong to Christ, His presence is not a matter of dread but of reverent fear. We do know that for a long period Orthodox Christians have received the Body of our Lord into their hands without considering it a matter of dread. But we are not dealing with simple elements of bread and wine but with the very Body and Blood of God. Therefore we hesitate lest we be consumed. But WE ARE COUNTED WORTHY TO RECEIVE THESE ELEMENTS INTO OUR VERY BODY, therefore it is not a matter of dread but of reverence.

    How can our Lord fall to the ground? Because He has humbled Himself to become incarnate and He humbles Himself to offer Himself to the faithful upon the altar. What a mystery of grace and love that God, our Creator, the Almighty, should act in such a manner, condescending to our weakness.
  • Thank you, Fr. Peter  :)
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