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Love and Faith

Before the Divine Litur­gy can pro­ceed fur­ther, there are two con­di­tions which must be ful­filled by the faith­ful. These are the solemn expres­sions of love and of faith which are essen­tial to the Chris­t­ian life, and with­out which there can be no self-offer­ing and no com­mu­nion with God. There­fore at this time the procla­ma­tion is made from the altar: Let us love one anoth­er that with one mind we may con­fess…. And the faith­ful peo­ple con­tin­ue the sen­tence: …Father, Son and Holy Spir­it, the Trin­i­ty, one in essence and undi­vid­ed.

Love is the foun­da­tion of life. This is the fun­da­men­tal Chris­t­ian truth. With­out love there can be no life, no truth and no com­mu­nion with God, for God is Love. (I John 4:8,16) Thus Jesus Christ has taught that the whole Old Tes­ta­ment Law and the Prophets depend on the two great com­mand­ments of love for God and men, and he has giv­en his own “new com­mand­ment” that his dis­ci­ples should love “even as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)

Thus at the Divine Litur­gy the Chris­tians are con­tin­u­al­ly called to love. The out­ward expres­sion of this love in the litur­gy today is the kiss of peace exchanged by the cel­e­brat­ing cler­gy, which kiss in times past was cer­tain­ly exchanged among the faith­ful peo­ple as well. With­out this love, the litur­gy can­not go on.

Fol­low­ing the call to love, the Sym­bol of Faith, also called the Creed, is chant­ed. The tra­di­tion­al intro­duc­tion to the recita­tion of the creed in the litur­gy is the excla­ma­tion: The Doors! The Doors! In wis­dom, let us attend! The doors referred to here are the doors of the church build­ing, and not the doors of the iconos­ta­sis as some have been known to think, since this is a call to assure that all cat­e­chu­mens and non-com­mu­ni­cants have left, and that now no one may enter or leave the litur­gi­cal assem­bly. The his­tor­i­cal rea­son for such an excla­ma­tion in the Divine Litur­gy was not only that order might be kept in the church, but that the Creed might be pro­nounced only by those who had already offi­cial­ly pro­nounced it at bap­tism, and con­tin­ued to con­fess it with­in the life of the Church.

The recita­tion of the Sym­bol of Faith at the Divine Litur­gy stands as the offi­cial acknowl­edg­ment and for­mal accep­tance by each indi­vid­ual mem­ber of the Church of his or her own bap­tism, chris­ma­tion and mem­ber­ship in the Body of Christ. The recita­tion of the Creed is the only place in the Divine Litur­gy, with the excep­tion of the very sim­i­lar pre-com­mu­nion con­fes­sion of faith, where the first per­son pro­noun is used. All through the litur­gy the com­mu­ni­ty prays in the plur­al we. Only here does each per­son con­fess for him­self his own per­son­al faith: I believe.

No per­son can believe for anoth­er. Each must believe for him­self. A per­son who believes in God, in Christ, in the Holy Spir­it, in the Church, in bap­tism and in life eter­nal, in short, a per­son who affirms and accepts his bap­tismal mem­ber­ship in the Church, is com­pe­tent to par­tic­i­pate in the Divine Litur­gy. A per­son who can­not do this, can­not par­tic­i­pate. He sim­ply is not able to, since this spe­cif­ic faith is the spe­cif­ic require­ment for mem­ber­ship in the Ortho­dox Church and for par­tic­i­pa­tion in its Divine Litur­gy. With­out this faith, the move­ment of the litur­gy can­not pro­ceed fur­ther. With it, and its offi­cial acknowl­edg­ment in the chant­i­ng of the Creed, the litur­gi­cal action goes on.

It is the cus­tom in the Church for the cler­gy to fan the eucharis­tic gifts dur­ing the singing of the Creed. This fan­ning was an act of ven­er­a­tion used toward the earth­ly emper­or in the Byzan­tine peri­od, dur­ing which time it was incor­po­rat­ed into the Church’s litur­gy, and used as an act of ven­er­a­tion toward the “pres­ences” of the Heav­en­ly King in the midst of his Peo­ple, name­ly towards the book of the Gospels and the eucharis­tic gifts. (In some church­es spe­cial litur­gi­cal fans are car­ried by the altar servers at all pro­ces­sions and expo­si­tions of the Gospel book and the eucharis­tic gifts.)