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March 24, 2022

Homilies on the Divine Liturgy - The Holy Anaphora (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 Homilies on the Divine Liturgy

The Holy Anaphora

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
Analyzing the Divine Liturgy in these sermons, my beloved brethren, we have reached the central part of the Divine Eucharist  which is called the "anaphora" (or the "elevetation"), during which through the Holy Spirit the bread and wine will be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. We will analyze this in a few simple words today.

The prayer of the anaphora is recognized by the exhortation of the deacon "let us stand well, let us stand in fear, let us be attentive to the holy anaphora which we offer in peace." It is called an anaphora, because this prayer and sacrifice is offered not on an earthly altar, but on the heavenly altar. In fact the prayer of the anaphora begins with the apostolic blessing: "The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be upon us all," and ends again with the prayer and blessing "and may the mercies of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ be with us all.” The greatest events in our lives are done with the blessings of God.

Before beginning the prayer of the anaphora, the "Creed" is recited, namely the Symbol of Faith, which was compiled by the First and Second Ecumenical Synods and includes the basic doctrines in which Orthodox Christians believe, namely that God is Triune - Father and Son and the Holy Spirit - that Christ is the Word of God incarnate, that the Holy Spirit is God and proceeds from the Father, that the Orthodox Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic, that Baptism is one and is performed in the Church, that we await the resurrection of the dead and the second coming of Christ. And the Symbol of Faith is placed at this point, because only when we have the right faith can we participate in the Divine Liturgy. Heretics are excluded from it because they do not belong to the Church.

During the prayer of the anaphora there are three basic events which take place. First, a dialogue takes place between the liturgist Priest and those present to raise their minds to heaven, and then the Priest thanks God for all the benefits He has bestowed on the human race. Second, there is an existential remembrance of the Secret Supper and the liturgist utters the words of Christ: "Take, eat, this is my Body ..." and "Drink from this all of you, this is my Blood ...". Third, the whole prayer of the anaphora is a prayer of the liturgist to the Father - the First Person of the Holy Trinity - to send the Holy Spirit and change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. And indeed at that moment the Holy Spirit descends and transforms the gifts we offer into the Body and Blood of Christ. There are Saints who at this moment have seen the light of the Holy Spirit on the Holy Table. We do not see this because we do not have spiritual senses.

The Divine Liturgy is an theophany and we can liken it to the case of Moses, who ascended Mount Sinai, in the darkness, and had personal communion with God, while the people remained at the foot of the mountain. Here as well the liturgist enters the mountain of the vision of God, that is, he says the prayer of the anaphora, and the people at that time in a low voice prayerfully await in the nave of the emple chanting: "We praise you, we bless you, we give thanks to you, O Lord, and we implore you our God."

Also important is the utterance of the liturgist: "Your own of your own we offer to You in all and for all." That is, Lord, we offer some of Your gifts that You have given us - the bread and the wine - in all places where the divine Eucharist takes place at this moment and for all the benefits that you have given us.

This utterance is crucial because it shows that the Divine Liturgy is intended to prepare man to offer his whole life to Christ and to enter the "spirit" of the Divine Liturgy which is the offering, the kenosis, the sacrifice, the totality of love.

May our whole life be a prayer and an effort to elevate us to God, Who has shown His love for us in various ways.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.