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Offertory: Great Entrance

It is now time for the sac­ri­fi­cial offer­ing to God. There is only one true and accept­able offer­ing with which God is pleased. It is the offer­ing of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God Who offers him­self eter­nal­ly to the Father for the sins of the world.

In Christ men can offer them­selves and each oth­er and all men and the entire world to God. Christ has unit­ed all things in him­self, and has tak­en all things upon him­self. Thus, in and through him, men can offer all that they are, and all that they have, to God the Father. They can do this because they are in Christ, and have received the Holy Spir­it from him.

At this moment in the Divine Litur­gy the cel­e­brant prays for him­self, con­fess­ing his per­son­al unwor­thi­ness and affirm­ing that the only Priest of the Church is Jesus:

For Thou art the One who offers and the One who is offered, the One who receives and the One who is giv­en, O Christ our God…

The altar table, the icons and all of the peo­ple are incensed once again as the Cheru­bic Hymn is sung:

Let us who mys­ti­cal­ly rep­re­sent the cheru­bim and sing the Thrice-holy Hymn to the life — cre­at­ing Trin­i­ty, now lay aside all earth­ly cares.

The Gifts of bread and wine which stand for Christ, and in him, for all men and the entire world of God’s cre­ation — for Life Itself — are now offered to God. They are car­ried in solemn pro­ces­sion from the table of obla­tion, into the mid­dle of the church, and through the roy­al doors of the iconos­ta­sis to the altar table. This pro­ces­sion is called the Great Entrance as dis­tinct from the Small Entrance that was made ear­li­er with the Book of the Gospels. In some Ortho­dox Church­es the offer­to­ry pro­ces­sion of the Great Entrance is made around the entire nave of the church build­ing, and so it is actu­al­ly of greater length and solem­ni­ty than the small pro­ces­sion with the Gospel Book.

Dur­ing the offer­to­ry pro­ces­sion of the Great Entrance, the cel­e­brant once again prays to God on behalf of all with the prayer of the Cru­ci­fied Thief: Remem­ber, O Lord in Thy King­dom… The bread and wine are placed on the altar table and the peo­ple con­clude the Cheru­bic Hymn:

That we may receive the King of all who comes invis­i­bly upborne by the angel­ic hosts. Alleluia.

At this time the cel­e­brant qui­et­ly recites vers­es which call to remem­brance the absolute per­fec­tion and total suf­fi­cien­cy of Christ and his self-offer­ing. For the Lord who “fills all things” with him­self makes even his tomb “the foun­tain of our resurrection.”

The Cheru­bic Hymn and the med­i­ta­tive vers­es of the cel­e­brant just men­tioned are a late addi­tion to the Divine Litur­gy. They were added in the impe­r­i­al era of Byzan­tium in order to enhance the essen­tial litur­gi­cal act of the offer­to­ry which is the move­ment of the Church offer­ing itself to God the Father through its, Head, High Priest and King Jesus Christ who is also the Suf­fer­ing Ser­vant, the Lamb of God and the New Passover; the sole suf­fi­cient sac­ri­fice which is per­fect, total and ful­ly accept­able to the Father.

In the litur­gi­cal offer­to­ry, the faith­ful give them­selves in sac­ri­fice to God togeth­er with Christ. They do so through the Holy Spir­it as those who have died and risen with Christ in bap­tism. In order for the litur­gi­cal act of offer­ing to be gen­uine and true, it must be the liv­ing expres­sion of the Church’s con­stant and total self-offer­ing to God. If each mem­ber of the Church is not in per­pet­u­al sac­ri­fice with Christ to the Father and is not “bear­ing his cross” by the pow­er of the Spir­it, the offer­to­ry entrance of the Divine Litur­gy be comes a ster­ile sym­bol devoid of real­i­ty. As such it is done not as a move­ment towards God, but unto con­dem­na­tion and judgment.

Thus, once again a litany is chant­ed and a prayer is made that God would be mer­ci­ful, because of the sac­ri­fice of Christ, and would accept his peo­ple and their offer­ing in spite of their sins; and would allow them worthi­ly to offer the Gifts and to receive Holy Com­mu­nion with God.

0 Lord God Almighty, who alone art holy, who acceptest the sac­ri­fice of praise from those who call upon Thee with their whole heart. Accept also the prayer of us sin­ners, and bear it to Thy holy altar, enabling us to offer unto Thee gifts and spir­i­tu­al sac­ri­fices for our sins and for the errors of the peo­ple. Make us wor­thy to find grace in Thy sight that our sac­ri­fice may be accept­able unto Thee, and that the Good Spir­it of Grace may dwell upon us, and upon these Gifts here offered, and upon all Thy People…

At this time in the Divine Litur­gy the gifts of mon­ey for the work of the Church, the prop­a­ga­tion of the Gospel and the assis­tance of the poor and the needy are col­lect­ed and offered to God.