Father Alexander Schmemann continues this sixth chapter of The Eucharist Sacrament of the Kingdom: Sacrament of the Kingdom, by locating the meaning of the censing of the gifts during their offering in the foreknowledge of what they and we are destined to become, for

it is not “simply” bread that lies on the diskos. On it all of God’s creation is presented, manifested in Christ as the new creation, the fulfilment of the glory of God. And it is not “simply” people who are gathered in this assembly, but the new humanity, recreated in the image of the “ineffable glory” of its Creator. To it, to this humanity, which is eternally called to ascend to the kingdom of God, to participation in the paschal table of the Lamb and to the honor of the highest calling, we also show reverence with the censing, signifying by this ancient rite of preparation, sanctification and purification that it is “a living sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” (118)

A similar foreknowledge is at work in the “hymn of offering” which has a particularly “royal” tonality. While this royal key and symbolism has specific historical roots, we should especially note that

the theological meaning of this royal “key” is rooted above all in the Church’s original cosmic understanding of Christ’s sacrifice. By his offering of himself as a sacrifice, Christ established his reign, he restored the mastery over “heaven and earth” that was “usurped” by the prince of this world. The faith of the Church knows Christ as the conqueror of death and Hades, as the King, who has already been manifested, of the kingdom of God, which has already “come in power.” … From here stems the breakthrough of the Church into the glory of the age to come, her entering into the eternal doxology of the cherubim and seraphim before the “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (119-120)

Turning to the Great Entrance itself, Father Schmemann notes that in contemporary practice it has two orders and that, when the liturgy is served by the bishop, he does not participate in the process, but his task instead to receive the gifts. This is a remnant of the more ancient practice in which it was the deacon who not only prepared the gifts in the proskomidē, but also conveyed them to the celebrant, and reflected the early Christian consciousness which

saw in the rites above all the Church’s revelation and fulfilment of her essence, and therefore also of the essence of every ministry and every calling. In the liturgy is revealed that image of the Church that she has been summoned to realize in her life. (121)

The contemporary practice in which the priest participates in the Great Entrance, arose as a result of the loss of this consciousness

when the deacon, or, to put it better, the ministry of the diaconate itself, ceased to be sensed as necessary and self-evident, when the experience of the Church as a community, linked through common life and active love, weakened, and the community was as it were dissolved into the “natural” society – the city, the village – became a “parish” or “congregation,” “those who congregate” in the temple for the satisfaction of their religious needs, but who cease to live apart from the world through the life of the Church. In this new experience of the Church the deacon proved to be in essence unneeded, certainly not obligatory; and with his gradual disappearance his liturgical functions were for the most part transferred to the priest. (121)

The older, pontifical order, stills retains something of this understanding of offering in which we see “the place of each, the participation of the whole Church, in this offering.” (122)
Father Schmemann argues that we need to rediscover this participation by all in the offering of the Eucharist and points to the importance of the offering of their own prosphora by each participant, and suggests that the monetary collection be linked to the offering of the prosphora so that the prosphora becomes an expression of our offering.

In any case, precisely here is the beginning of our offering, which, in the movement of the bread and the cup – from us to the table of oblation, from the table of oblation to the altar, from the altar to the heavenly sanctuary – is revealed as our entrance into the sacrifice of Christ, our ascent to the table of the Lord in his kingdom. (122)

The second part of this movement, the transfer of the gifts from the table of oblation to the altar, involves all of us and that is why even now when the table of oblation is found inside the sanctuary, the gifts are brought out into the assembly, and it is from the assembly that they “enter” the altar.

For the meaning of this consists in the fact that the offering of each, included in the offering of all, is now being realized as the Church’s offering of her very self, and this means Christ, for the Church is his body, and he is the head of the Church. (122-123)

Finally, the gifts are received by the celebrant and what we offer is seen to be offered by Christ so that

in this triumphant and royal entrance, in this movement of the gifts, is revealed the truly universal significance of the offering, the unification of heaven and earth, the raising up of our life to the kingdom of God. (123)

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