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Now begins the part of the Divine Liturgy called the eucharistic canon. It is also called the anaphora, which means the lifting-up or the elevation. At this time the gifts of bread and wine which have been offered on the altar are lifted up from the altar to God the Father, and receive divine sanctification by the Holy Spirit who comes to change them into the very Body and Blood of Christ.
The general form of the eucharistic canon is that of the Old Testamental Passover ritual, now fulfilled and perfected in the new and everlasting covenant of God with men in the person and work of Jesus Christ the Messiah, “our Paschal Lamb who has been sacrificed.” (I Corinthians 4:7; See also Hebrews 5-10) Thus the eucharistic anaphora begins:
Let us stand aright! Let us stand with fear! Let us attend!
That we may offer the Holy Oblation in peace.
The people respond: A mercy of peace! A sacrifice of praise!
The Holy Oblation is Christ, the Son of God who has become the Son of Man in order to offer himself to his Father for the life of the world. In his own person Jesus is the perfect peace offering which alone brings God’s reconciling mercy. This is undoubtedly the meaning of the expression a mercy of peace, which has been a source of confusion for people over the years in all liturgical languages.
In addition to being the perfect peace offering, Jesus is also the only adequate sacrifice of praise which men can offer to God. There is nothing comparable in men to the graciousness of God. There is nothing with which men can worthily thank and praise the Creator. This is so even if men would not be sinners. Thus God himself provides men with their own most perfect sacrifice of praise. The Son of God becomes genuinely human so that human persons could have one of their own nature sufficiently adequate to the holiness and graciousness of God. Again this is Christ, the sacrifice of praise.
Thus, in Christ, all is fulfilled and accomplished. In him the entire sacrificial system of the Old Testament, which is itself the image of the universal striving of men to be worthy of God, is fulfilled. All possible offerings are embodied and perfected in the offering of Christ on the Cross. He is the offering for peace and reconciliation and forgiveness. He is the sacrifice for supplication, thanksgiving and praise. In him all of men’s sins and impurities are forgiven. In him all of men’s positive aspirations are fulfilled. In him, and in him alone, are all of men’s ways to God, and God’s ways to men, brought into one Holy Communion. Through him alone do men have access to the Father in one Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18; Also John 14, IICorinthians 5, Colossians 1)
The celebrant now addresses the congregation with the Trinitarian blessing of the Apostle Paul. (II Corinthians 13:14) This is the more elaborate Christian salutation than the simple Peace (Shalom) of the Old Testament:
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
And the people respond: And with your spirit.
The grace of Christ comes first. In this grace is contained the fullness of the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit. The celebrant offers this entire abundant ‘outpouring of the inner life of the Holy Trinity to the People of God. And they in turn respond with the prayer that this “fullness of God” would be with his spirit as well.
The eucharistic dialogue continues:
Let us lift up our hearts!
We lift them up unto the Lord!
Let us give thanks unto the Lord!
It is meet and right to worship the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; the Trinity one in essence and undivided.
As men in Christ lift up the eucharistic gifts, they lift up their hearts as well. In the Bible the heart of man stands for his whole being and life. Thus in the anaphora, as the Apostle Paul has stated, the whole man is taken up into that realm where Christ is now seated at the right hand of God.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)
The manner of lifting up oneself to God is through thanksgiving. The word eucharist in Greek means thanksgiving. The eucharistic Divine Liturgy is preeminently the action of lifting up one’s heart and giving thanks to God for all that he has done for man and the world in Christ and the Holy Spirit: creation, salvation and eternal glorification.
The original sin of man, the origin of all of his trouble, corruption and ultimate death, is his failure to give thanks to God. The restoration of communion with God, and with all creation in him, is through thanksgiving in Christ. Jesus is the only man truly grateful, humble and obedient to God. In him, as the only Beloved Son of God and the only perfect Adam, all men can lift up their hearts and give thanks to the Lord: “For there is…one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all ….” (Timothy 2:5)
It should be noted here that the affirmation. It is meet and right is expanded into the longer form given above only in the Slavic tradition of the Church. In other churches it remains in this simple and more ancient form.
With hearts lifted up to the Lord, and thanksgiving rendered to God, the prayer of the eucharistic canon continues:
It is meet and right to sing of Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks to Thee and to worship Thee in every place of Thy dominion. For Thou art God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever-existing and eternally the same, Thou and Thine only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit. Thou it was who brought us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away, didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until Thou hadst brought us up to heaven and hadst endowed us with ‘Thy Kingdom which is to come. For all these things we give thanks to Thee, and to Thine only-begotten Son and to Thy Holy Spirit; for all things of which we know and of which we know not, whether manifest or unseen; and we thank Thee for this liturgy which Thou hast found worthy to accept at our hands, though there stand by Thee thousands of archangels and hosts of angels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim, six-winged, many eyed, who soar aloft, borne on their pinions, singing the triumphant hymn, shouting, proclaiming and saying:
Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord of Sabaoth! Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!
At this point in the Divine Liturgy man’s thanksgiving to God the Father for all that he has done in Christ and the Spirit is brought to its climax. The man in God remembers all things and is grateful to God. His remembrance and his thanksgiving take him in to the very Presence of the Kingdom to the Throne of the Father to sing the Thrice-Holy Hymn with the angelic choirs. (Isaiah 6: 1-5)
Through Christ and the Holy Spirit, the man of faith is transported in spirit to be with his Lord. The limitations of this age are left behind through grateful remembrance of Christ and his accomplishment of salvation. Thus the eucharistic prayer continues With the whole focus of attention brought to that One Man and that one night in which the Divine Son gave himself as food for the faithful, offering himself in sacrifice for the life of the world.
With these blessed powers, O Master, who lovest mankind, we also cry aloud and say: Holy art Thou and all-holy, Thou and Thine only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit! Holy art Thou and all-holy, and magnificent is Thy glory! Who hast so loved Thy world as to give Thine only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Who when he had come and had fulfilled all the dispensation for us. in the night in which he was given up-or rather gave himself up for the life of the world-he took bread in his holy, pure and blameless hands; and when he had given thanks and blessed it, and hallowed it and broken it, he gave it to his holy disciples and apostles saying:
Take! Eat! This is my Body which is broken for you for the remission of sins. Amen.
And likewise after supper, he took the cup saying: Drink of it all of you! This is my Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins! Amen.
Remembering this saving commandment and all those things which have come to pass for us: the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the sitting at the right hand of God the Father, the second and glorious coming.
Thine own of Thine own we Offer unto Thee, in behalf of all and for all!
As the celebrant intones these last words which proclaim that all that is offered to the Father is already his-for every creature and all of creation are his, together with the Beloved Son and the Holy Spirit who are uncreated and divine-the eucharistic gifts are lifted up and elevated towards the heavens. It is the sign that the faithful Christians have been exalted together with their Lord into the Kingdom of God.
For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands… but into heaven itself now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf… we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all… for when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God… for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. (Hebrews 9:24, 10:10-14)
Heaven and earth are now blended into one, filled with the glory of God. The ages past and the ages still to come are brought into unity. The night, the supper, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection, the ascension, the kingdom to come… all merge together in the eucharistic moment of the Divine Liturgy. Man is with God in a holy communion which is “not of this world.” All boundaries of time and of space are utterly broken. All walls of division are totally destroyed. Man’s sins are forgiven in Christ, his impurities are cleansed, his corruption is healed. His mortal nature is restored to immortality with God. His created humanity is filled with the Uncreated Divinity of the All-Holy Trinity. it only remains now to seal this action by the invocation of the Spirit of God.