February 17, 2022

Homilies on the Divine Liturgy - The Small and Great Entrance (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 Homilies on the Divine Liturgy

The Small and Great Entrance

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
The Divine Liturgy, my beloved brethren, is a great festival. We do not have the senses to understand this, but when we acquire other noetic senses then we will be enchanted by what is taking place, by what is said and chanted in the Divine Liturgy.

The way in which the Divine Liturgy is performed today is not exactly the same as it was done in the ancient Church, because over time new sections entered and it became all this greatness that we enjoy today.

With today's sermon we will briefly look at the two entrances, or as they are called in the liturgical language, the Small and the Great Entrance.

The Small Entrance is when the priest receives the Gospel from the Holy Altar and exits through the North Gate of the Holy Bema, descends to the west side of the sacred temple, stands in the middle of the temple, blesses the entrance and raises the Sacred Gospel as he chants: “Wisdom. Arise."

Until the seventh century, the Divine Liturgy began from this point, since the priest at that time took the Sacred Gospel from the sacristy, which was located outside the sacred temple, then he entered the sacred temple to perform the Divine Liturgy. Therefore, this moment was the first solemn entry of the Bishop, the sacred Clergy and the people into the sacred temple. As Saint Maximus the Confessor says, this entrance is an image and type of the first incarnate presence of Christ in the world, when Christ began to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. That is why the priest or deacon holds the Gospel and says: “Wisdom. Arise." That is, what I hold in my hands, he says, is the wisdom of God, so get up all of you. This is why the Divine Liturgy is the experience of the divine economy, of the divine incarnation.

The Great Entrance takes place after the Cherubim Hymn, when the priest receives from the Holy Proskomidi the bread and wine, which will later become the Body and Blood of Christ, and transfers them from the Holy Proskomidi to the Holy Altar and chants: "May the Lord God remember all of you in His Kingdom always now and forever and unto the ages of ages." While with the first - the Small Entrance - we saw Christ entering the world to preach and perform miracles, now we see Christ proceeding to Golgotha to suffer, to be crucified and resurrected for the salvation of man. In the Divine Liturgy we experience what Christ said, what Christ did and especially what Christ suffered for man, but also what great good Christ did to man, after giving him the opportunity to participate in the mystery of His resurrection and ascension.

The Small and Great Entrance reminds us that we too must respond to this work of Christ, to thank Christ for His great gift in becoming man in order to deify human nature, but above all to make the Small Entrance a reality in our life, namely, to live through our actions the spirit of the words of Christ, that is, to keep His word, and to make the Great Entrance into the mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. In other words, what Christ once made physically happen, may it continue in our lives, so we will not dwell on the external and superficial aspects of the Christian life, but to go deeper. The Church is a mystery that has great depth. And blessed are those who can discern this depth and can dive into it. Most of us stand on the seashore, on the beach and see the surface of the Divine Liturgy.

The purpose of the Divine Liturgy is to help us make, first, the Small Entrance into the spirit of the evangelical words of Christ and then make the Great Entrance into the mystery of the life in Christ and the entrance to Paradise, the Kingdom of Heaven.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.