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Small Entrance

Dur­ing the singing of the third antiphon, whether it be the Beat­i­tudes or the Tropar­i­on of the day, the so-called Small Entrance is made. The Small Entrance is the solemn pro­ces­sion of the cler­gy to the altar led by the Book of the Gospels. If the bish­op is cel­e­brat­ing, the Gospel Book is brought out to him in the

cen­ter of the church in the midst of the peo­ple where he has been stand­ing from the begin­ning of the liturgy.

After the excla­ma­tion: Wis­dom! Let Us Attend! the cler­gy enter the roy­al gates of the iconos­ta­sis while all sing the Hymn of Entrance:

0 come, let us wor­ship and fall

down before Christ.

0 Son of God… Save us who sing unto

Thee: Alleluia.

A spe­cial line is added before the final phrase of the entrance hymn at each litur­gy, prop­er to the cel­e­bra­tion. Thus, for exam­ple, on the Lord’s Day this line would always be, Who rose from the dead.

If the priest is serv­ing the Divine Litur­gy alone, or with a dea­con, the Small Entrance is made by the cler­gy cir­cling the altar table and com­ing to the mid­dle of the church with the Gospel Book in order to enter through the roy­al gates of the iconos­ta­sis accom­pa­nied by the Hymn of Entrance.

The Small Entrance is the first sig­nif­i­cant move­ment of the Divine Litur­gy. It fol­lows the pri­ma­ry litur­gi­cal action which is the gath­er­ing of the faith­ful into the one com­mu­ni­ty of the Church of God. The Small Entrance is the move­ment of the entire Church through its Head Jesus Christ, in the per­son of the cel­e­brant, to the altar which sym­bol­izes the King­dom of God. It is the move­ment made pos­si­ble by the Gospel of Christ, the Way to the King­dom. It can only be accom­plished by fol­low­ing Jesus, the Liv­ing Word of God in human flesh. (John 1:1–18)

There can be no approach to God the Father but through Christ, the Son of God. (John 14:6) There can be no com­mu­nion with God the Father except by the ful­fill­ment of his com­mand­ments which are giv­en by Jesus and pro­claimed in the words of his Gospel. Thus it is the Gospel of Christ, the Son and Word of God, which takes us into the realm of the Father and into the eter­nal life of the Blessed Trin­i­ty whose King­dom we enter and expe­ri­ence in the Divine Litur­gy of the Church.

Tech­ni­cal­ly speak­ing, the Small Entrance is not com­plet­ed when the cler­gy enter the sanc­tu­ary and stand before the altar table. It is com­plet­ed only with the singing of the Thrice-Holy Hymn dur­ing which the cler­gy pro­ceed to the place behind the altar table (called the High Place), at which time the chief cel­e­brant turns and bless­es the peo­ple with the solemn bib­li­cal greet­ing: Peace be, unto all!

While the cler­gy are still before the altar table, the peo­ple sing the troparia and kon­takia of the day. These are hymns which praise the sav­ing events or holy per­sons cel­e­brat­ed litur­gi­cal­ly at the par­tic­u­lar gath­er­ing. On Sun­days these songs always praise Christ’s res­ur­rec­tion from the dead.

While these hymns are being sung, the cel­e­brant of the litur­gy prays before the altar for the gen­er­al abso­lu­tion and for­give­ness of sins of the entire assem­bly so that all of the peo­ple might be made wor­thy by God “to stand before the glo­ry of Thy holy altar and to offer wor­ship and praise which are due unto Thee.” There then fol­lows the singing of the Thrice-Holy Hymn of the angels which per­pet­u­al­ly resounds in the pres­ence of the King­dom of God. Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immor­tal! Have mer­cy on us! (Isaiah6:1–5)

This ver­sion of the Thrice-Holy Hymn is of very ancient ori­gin. It is a hymn to the Holy Trin­i­ty in whose pres­ence the Chris­tians now find them­selves at the litur­gy. It is with­in the pres­ence of the King­dom of God that men are made com­pe­tent by Christ and the Holy Spir­it to hear, to under­stand and to do the Word of God which will be announced to them from the throne of the Father.