"homily 17 an Exposition of the Mysteries

Translated into English with an introduction by   
Texts and studies (Cambridge, England) vol. 8, no. 1. CAMBRIDGE AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS 1909


In a mystical manner the Church depicts the glorious mysteries; as if by an image it shows to all what has happened. What came to pass in the death of the Son it commemorates by the mysteries. Also, his resurrection from the dead it reveals to all. [… ]
The Church carries out its mysteries in secret, apart from those who are without; the priest celebrates privately within the sanctuary. Only the Church’s children, the baptized and the signed, are allowed to enjoy
Communion in the venerable mysteries it performs.
And so it is through the deacon that the Church cries out before the hearers, having them bow to receive a blessing from the priest: “Bow your heads, O hearers, believers, the baptized, and receive a blessing from the laying on of the hands of the bright [-robed] priest.” And when they have been blessed, another proclamation is made: “Let all who have not been baptized depart; go forth, all the unbaptized, you shall not share in the mysteries of the Church; only members of the house-hold are allowed to do so.”
A further proclamation then occurs: “Let all who have not received the sign of life depart; all who have repented and returned from heresy shall not partake of the mysteries of the Church till they have been signed [with chrism). Furthermore, all who have denied the faith and returned to their [former] condition shall not partake till absolved by the sign of the Church.” Another proclamation:
“Let all who will not receive the Body and Blood depart; all who have been prescribed by the priest are forbidden to receive, and they are not to remain when [the mysteries] are offered. Also those whom the canon has forbidden to receive the Sacrament; they are not even permitted to stand in the place where the mysteries are being offered. The sick and the ailing who are unable to receive may not even stand in the place where the mysteries are being consecrated. Sadly all of these depart the nave; they show sorrow, standing with great mourning in the [outer] court of the church, congratulating those who remain to gladly share in the mysteries, and lamenting over their own exclusion. […]
The proclamation concerning the hearers follows. They should go and attend to the doors of the church, keeping watch by them: “Go, hearers, see diligently to the outer doors where no member of any alien religion may enter.” They stand next to the doors as if they were hirelings, like those not partaking in the mysteries of the Church, like those who are not members of the household. At such a time may we shun anger and hatred; may we see Jesus who is being led to death for our sake. On the paten and in the cup Jesus goes forth with the deacon [deacons?] to suffer. The bread on the paten and the wine in the cup are a symbol of his death, a symbol they bear in their hands; when they have set these on the altar and covered them, they symbolize his burial. [-]
The priests now process into the sanctuary, standing there in great splendor and wearing beauteous adornment. The priest chosen to celebrate this sacrifice bears in himself the image of our Lord at this time. Our Lord was a mediator between us and his Father; in like fashion the priest is a mediator. [.]

All the priests in the sanctuary bear the image of the apostles who gathered at the tomb. Undoubtedly the altar is the symbol of the Lord’s tomb; the bread and wine are the body of the Lord which was embalmed and buried. The veil covering them is a type of the stone sealed by the ring of the priests and the executioners. And the deacons, standing on both sides and brandishing [fans], symbolize the angels at the head and feet [of the tomb]. All the deacons who minister before the altar are like the angels who surrounded our Lord’s tomb.

The sanctuary is a symbol of the Garden of Joseph from which life flowed for all the people and angels. On another level it is a type of that kingdom entered by our Lord and into which he will collect all his friends. Its venerable altar is a symbol of the throne of the Great and Glorious One, upon which he will be seen by watchers and others on the day of his revelation. The apse stands for things that are below and above, calling to mind what has been and spiritually standing for what is to be.

As soon as the priests and deacons have taken their stand, they begin to recite the Faith of the Fathers [the creed]: “Now we believe in one God the Father who is from eternity, who holds all by the hidden nod of his Divinity.” . . . The Church confesses according to the confession of the fathers, and it employs their confession also at the time of the mysteries when its children thunder forth with their Faith, reciting it with mouth and heart, without doubting.

And when the Faith has been recited in due order, at once the Church’s herald commands all to pray: “Pray,” he says, “commemorating the fathers, the bishops with the doctors, and with them the priests, the deacons, and all in orders as well as all who have departed this world in faith, that they may be crowned on the day when they rise from the dead; and that we may join them in inheriting life in that kingdom. Pray, brethren,

over the sacrifice we offer that it may be acceptable before God to whom it is offered, that by the brooding of the Holy Spirit it may become for us a cause of life in the heavenly kingdom.”

With these [words] the Church’s herald urges the people, exhorting them to pray to God with a pure heart. Full of awe and covered with fear and great dread, the priest now offers the mystery that redeems us.

In this frame of mind the priest stands to officiate, doing so with reverence, great awe, and trembling. Like Jacob he worships three times and three; then he draws near to kiss our Lord’s tomb [the altar]

He asks the deacons surrounding him to pray so that by his humility he may receive mercy from the Merciful One. He now prays with a contrite heart before God and confesses his sins and those of the ecclesiastical body. The priest asks for hidden power as well as [divine] help that he may use his gift according to God’s desire. In all that the priest says before God the people concur, sealing his ministry with Amen. In this way the people endorse what is said by the priest, joining him by their prayers and by their word [the Amen].

Then the priest blesses the people using the words the life-giving mouth prescribed: “Peace be with you” says the priest to the children of the Church, for peace is multiplied in Jesus our Lord who is our peace… The people answer the priest lovingly and say, “With you, O priest, and with your priestly spirit.”

They call “spirit” not the soul which is in the priest but the Spirit which the priest has received by the laying on of the hands. By the laying on of hands the priest receives the power of the Spirit that thereby he may be able to carry out the divine mysteries. That grace the people call the

“Spirit” of the priest, and they pray that he may attain peace with it and it with him. This shows that even the priest needs prayer, and it is necessary that the whole Church should intercede for him.

Then the Church’s herald commands all the people to give the Peace, each one to his or her companions, doing so in the love of our Lord. First the priests exchange the Peace in the sanctuary; the people give it in the nave in the same manner…

While the Peace is being shared in the church from one person to another, the book of the two (sets of] names, namely, those of the living and the dead, is read. The Church commemorates the living and the dead at this time so that it may declare that the living and the dead profit from the sacrifice.

The Church’s herald now cries out and admonishes every one to confess to the Lord and to entreat the Lord with purity of heart. “Stand well,” he says, “look carefully upon what is being done. Great is the mystery in which you minister, O mortal ones; the awesome mysteries are being consecrated by the hands of the priest: let every one be in fear and awe while the mysteries are being carried out. The priest has already advanced alone to pray: pray with him so that your peace may be increased through his

mediation. Lower the eyes of your hearts and stretch to the height the secret glance of your minds; earnestly entreat and make supplication to the God of all at this time which is full of trembling and might.” [.]

At this point the priest uncovers the venerable mysteries and places on one side the veil that covers them. Removing the veil does not symbolize the Resurrection since the stone was not rolled away at the very moment of the Resurrection. It was afterwards when a watcher rolled away the stone. But the priests remove the veil before the symbol of the Resurrection.

The priest first blesses the people. [.. ] “The grace,” he says,

“of Jesus our Lord and the love of the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us’-may the grace which our Lord has granted us by his coming give us confidence before his Majesty. May “the love of the Father, who sent us the Son, who is from him- open for us the door of mercy in the day of his coming. May the communion of the Holy Spirit, of which we have been made worthy, sanctify and purge us from the filth of our sins.’

Then he prepares the people with an exhortation, saying: “Let your minds be aloft in this hour when the royal Messiah is sitting at the right hand. Be not filled with vain thoughts of earthly things. Look upon him who is now mystically slain upon the altar, who sits on high and requests mercy for sinners.”

The people answer: “Unto you, Lord, our hearts are raised, to you the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the glorious King- the glorious King whom the just and the fathers have glorified, in whom they have been glorified and in whom they give glory without end.”

The priest adds: “This acceptable and pure oblation is offered to the Lord–the Lord of the heights and the depths. He is the Lord who has taken away and who takes away the sin of the world. May this sacrifice blot out and forgive your sins. Behold, it is offered on behalf of the angels and people everywhere so that all together may delight, namely, with body and soul. Behold, it is offered for sinners and for the just that it may cleanse them from the stains of their sins. Behold, it is offered for the deceased and for the living that all peoples may find mercy in this sacrifice.

Behold, it is offered to the God of all as a pledge that he will save us from the torments of Gehenna.”

The people answer, “It is meet, right, worthy, and becoming to offer this sacrifice for all creatures.”

The whole ecclesiastical body now observes silence, and all prepare to pray earnestly in their hearts. The priests are quiet, and the deacons stand in silence. All the people are silent, still, subdued, and calm. The altar stands crowned with beauty and splendor, and upon it are the Gospel of Life and the adorable wood [the cross]. The mysteries are prepared. The censers are smoking. The lamps are shining. And the deacons like watchers are hovering and brandishing [fans]. Deep silence and peaceful calm settles on that place. It is filled and overflows with brightness and splen-dor, beauty and power.
The bright [-robed] priest, the tongue of the Church, opens his mouth and speaks in secret with God as a familiar. He recounts the glory of that incomprehensible Divinity, which is the cause of intelligible and sensible beings, which cannot be comprehended, searched out, or scrutinized, which cannot be known by corporeal beings. [. . .]
The priest adds: ” All the watchers are standing in fear to praise the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The angels too offer worship to that Majesty, and the army-leaders [of heaven] send up praise continually.
The cherubim applaud, the seraphim make holy with their sanctifications, the authorities and dominations with their praises; all at once cry out and say to one another.”
The people reply, “Holy Lord who dwells in light. Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of whose glories the heavens and all the earth are full.” [. . .] With these [words] the whole Church cries out and then returns to silence.
The priest begins to commune with God. He confesses [or gives thanks for] the mercy and the grace that have been wrought in us by the revelation of the Word, the Word who was revealed in a body [taken] from us.
The Creator, adorable in his honor, took a human body so that by it he might renew the image of Adam which was worn out and effaced. [. . .]
Our Lord Jesus Christ went forth from us to the place above so that at his coming he might raise us up with him to the kingdom on high.
Because he departed to a place that is unknown to us, he was pleased to comfort us by his Body and his Blood until his coming. And because it is not possible that he give his [physical] body and blood to his Church, he commanded us to perform this mystery with bread and wine. Happy are the Christian people! [. . .]
When the time of the passion of the Life-giver of all arrived, he ate the required Passover meal with his disciples. He took bread and blessed and broke and gave it to his disciples and said, “This is truly my Body, without doubt.” And he took the cup and gave thanks and blessed and gave it to his disciples and said, “This is my true Blood which is for you.” And he commanded them to receive land drink of it, all of them, that it might ever atone for their debts. [. . .]
The priest gives thanks before God and raises his voice at the end of his Prayer so that all the people can hear him. He makes himself heard, and with his hand he signs the mysteries that are set [on the altar]; with an Amen the people concur and acquiesce in his prayer.
Then the Church’s herald commands the people and says, “With your minds you are to pray. Peace be with us.” In mind and in thought now pray, for great peace is made to come about through carrying out of the mysteries.
The priest begins to make earnest supplication before God, asking God in his love to graciously accept the living sacrifice that is being offered to him. He mentions the ecclesiastical orders, one after another, for whom the Church offers the venerable mysteries. First he commemorates the glorious Church that is in every place, asking that they [its members] may be of one mind and faith. He mentions the priests who are standing around and the deacons, entreating that they be made holy and pure. He recalls the martyrs, confessors, and doctors that they may be remembered in the Church during the mysteries. He commemorates kings and judges everywhere so that throughout the whole world they may be judged with equity. He commemorates in his prayer [lit. “word”| all mourners and ascetics that their prayer may daily be acceptable to God. He recalls the just and the righteous everywhere, asking that they keep the covenant they have made in [its] integrity. He commemorates the sons of Holy Church in all their grades, asking that they guard their faith with watchfulness. He also commemorates all the deceased who have departed in faith without doubting. He mentions himself, who has been accounted worthy of this mediation. He requests mercy for all creatures collectively. He also mentions those who pour out alms upon the poor, asking that they receive a double reward for their alms. He also mentions those who have fallen, sin-ners, and transgressors, asking that they return to penance and the pardon of transgressions. He mentions those for whom he is offering the sacrifice, that they may find mercy and forgiveness of the debts of their offenses.
He mentions the heathen, the apostates, and those in error, entreating that they may come to know the faith of Holy Church. He mentions the whole world and its inhabitants so that battles, wars, and strife may cease. He mentions the weather and the crops of the whole year, asking that the crown of the year may be prosperous and blessed. He mentions his own place and all places together, requesting that there may be peace and quiet in the midst of their habitations. He mentions those who are sailing on the seas and [those] in the islands, praying that all may be saved from storms.
He mentions those who are distressed and persecuted, asking that they receive solace and respite in their afflictions. He mentions those in prison and in bondage, asking that they may be loosed from their chains and grievous torments. He mentions those who have been cast into distant exile, begging that they may escape tribulations and temptations. He mentions those afflicted with sickness and disease, imploring that they recover bodily health and healing. He mentions those tempted by the accursed demons, asking that they find the Lord’s mercy and compassion. In his prayer he also mentions those who hate the Holy Church, asking that their impieties before God may come to an end. He mentions the sins of the whole ecclesiastical body, entreating that its members be made worthy of the forgiveness of sins and offenses.

All these the priest mentions before God. [. .] To this effect the priest prays before God, asking God to graciously accept the sacrifice which the priest offers him. On behalf of all is the living sacrifice offered within the Church, a sacrifice that assists and profits all creatures. By the priest’s supplication on behalf of all classes their sins and offenses are forgiven.
After this the priest makes confession before God as our Lord Jesus taught his twelve. “Lo, we typify,” says the priest, “and commemorate the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.” He summons the Spirit to come down and dwell in the bread and wine, making them the Body and Blood of the royal Messiah. He calls upon the Spirit to light down upon the assembled congregation that by its gift its members may be worthy to receive the Body and Blood. The Spirit descends upon the oblation without change [of place] and causes the power of its Godhead to dwell in the bread and wine, completing the mystery of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. These things the priest says in earnest entreaty; and he draws himself up and stretches out his hands toward the height.
Boldly looking upwards, the priest calls the Spirit to come and celebrate the mysteries he has offered. He requests the Spirit to come and brood over the oblation and bestow upon it power and divine operation. The Spirit comes down at the request of the priest- no matter how great a sinner the priest may be and celebrates the mysteries by the mediation of the priest whom the Spirit has consecrated. It is not the priest’s goodness that celebrates the venerable mysteries, but it is the Holy Spirit who does so by its brooding. The Spirit broods, not because of the worthiness of the priest but because of the mysteries that are set upon the altar. As soon as the bread and wine are set upon the altar they show forth a symbol of the death of the Son, also of his resurrection. So it is that the Spirit, who raised the Son from the dead, now comes down and celebrates the mysteries of the resurrection of his body. Thus does the Holy Spirit celebrate by the hands of the priest; and without a priest they [the mysteries] are never celebrated. They are not celebrated without a priest, for the Holy Spirit has not permitted [any other] to celebrate them. The priest receives the power of the Spirit through the laying on of hands, and by him are performed all the Church’s mysteries. The priest consecrates the waters of baptism, and the Spirit bestows the adoption of children on those who are baptized. Without a priest a woman is not betrothed to a man; and without a priest their marriage festival is not accomplished. Without a priest the dead are not interred, nor is a deceased lowered into the grave without a priest. Common [unclean] water is not consecrated without a priest; and If there were no priest the whole house would be unclean. These things the Holy Spirit celebrates through the hands of the priest. I .
The priest summons the Spirit, which comes down on the oblation; and he worships with quaking, fear, and harrowing dread.
Then the Church’s herald cries out at that time: “In silence and awe stand up; peace be with us. Let all the people be in fear at this moment when the venerable mysteries are being accomplished by the descent of the Spirit.
Then the priest makes his voice heard by all the people and signs with his hand over the mysteries as before. He signs now not because the mysteries have need of a signing but to teach by the last sign that they are ac-complished. Three signs the priest makes over the oblation; and by them he mystically perfects and completes it. Three bows does the priest make before God; and by them he openly adores the divine majesty. With one he praises, with one he confesses [or gives thanks], with one he prays; and he calls upon the Spirit to dwell and come down upon the offering. Three days did our Lord remain within the earth, and on the third day he rose and was resuscitated in great glory. In like manner the priest bows three times, the third [bow] symbolizing the resurrection of our Lord Jesus.
Genuflections also the priest makes three times; and he typifies thereby our Lord’s stay in the tomb. Three times he genuflects before the descent [of the Spirit]; yet he does not genuflect again because the mystery of the resurrection has been accomplished. He accomplishes the mystery of the resurrection by completing the mysteries; and he does not again symbolize the mystery of the Lord’s death by a genuflection. The 318 bishops enjoined that on all Sundays and feasts there should be no kneeling.« No one therefore is allowed to bow the knee at the mysteries, only the priest who by genuflecting signifies a mystery. The priest may bow the knee before the descent but afterwards he may not [so] worship.
Then the priest takes into his hands the living Bread and, looking up-ward, confesses his Lord. He breaks the Bread in the name of the Father and the Son and the Spirit, and, uniting the Blood with the Body, mentions the Trinity; with the same words he signs the Body with the living Blood. He unites them–the Body with the Blood and the Blood with the Body -so that all may confess that the Body and the Blood are one.
Thus the priest, after all the ceremonies have been completed, blesses the people with the formula used by our Lord to bestow the blessing.
He now begins to break the Body little by little that it may be easy to distribute to all who receive it. The resurrection of the Son the priest symbolizes by the completion of the mysteries; and most suitably does he break the Body so that he may distribute it since our Lord also, risen from the tomb in glory, appeared ten times to the women and to the dis-ciples. [. . .]

Then the Church’s herald cries out and proclaims. “Let us all approach with fear the mystery of the Body and the Blood. In faith let us recall the passion of Jesus our Lord, and let us understand also his resurrection from the dead. For our sake the Only-Begotten Son of the God of all took a perfect man and accomplished his dispensation; he suffered on the cross, died, was resuscitated, rose, and ascended; in his love he gave

us as a pledge his Body and Blood so that by them we might recall all the graces he has given us. Let us confess, worship, and glorify him at all times. Let us now draw near, doing so in pure love and faith so that we may receive the treasure of spiritual life; and with prayer, clean and pure, and with contrition of heart let us partake of the venerable mysteries of Holy Church; let us set the condition of repentance before God; let us have remorse and contrition for the abominable deeds we have done; let us ask mercy and the forgiveness of our sins from the Lord of all; and let us also forgive the offenses of our fellow-servants.”
The people answer: “O Lord, pardon the sins of your servants and purify our conscience from doubt and from strife. O Lord, pardon the offenses of those who offer praise. Cleanse our souls from hatred and slan-der. O Lord, pardon the sins of your servants who have confessed your name, and make us worthy to receive this sacrament with faith. O Lord, pardon your servants who call upon your name daily; and grant us, Lord, to be yours, even as you desire; may these divine mysteries, Lord, grant us confidence and courage before your Majesty.”
Then the priest prays and begs God to sanctify us and blot out our sins by his grace, to make us worthy to stand before him without blemish, and–on behalf of all–to confidently call him Abba, Our Father.
Then the people answer and say earnestly the prayer that the Living Mouth taught his beloved children: “Our Father, who [. . ]. And make us not enter into temptation nor trial, we who are feeble and without your power are nothing, but deliver us from the malice of the crafty Evil One, and suffer him not to draw near to us by his wiles: for yours is the power, the kingdom, and to you is due also glory forever and ever.” Then the priest says to the people, “Peace be with you.” The people answer, “And with you, O priest, and with your spirit.” It was with the Lord’s Prayer that the priest began the mysteries; now that all the mysteries have been completed, he concludes with the Our
“Peace be with you,” says the priest; here he reminds us of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead.
“Peace be with you,” said our Lord to his
Twelve, when, appearing to them, he announced his resurrection,
be with you” said our Lord. [. . .]
And when the children of the Church have been prepared to receive the mysteries, the priest declares, “Holy Things to the holy ones. To all the holy ones, sanctified by the Spirit of Adoption as children, are Holy Things fitting by consent of the fathers. To all the holy ones, whom baptism has sanctified, Holy Things are fitting according to ecclesiastical law.
Those who have been removed from within the Church may not take part in receiving the divine mysteries.”

The people answer: “One is the Father, the Holy One who is from eter-nity, without beginning and without end; he has graciously made us worthy to acquire sanctification from the spiritual birth of baptism. One is the Father, and one also is the Son and the Holy Spirit: one in three and three in one, without alteration. Glory to the Father and to the Son who is from him, and to the Holy Spirit, a Being who is forever and ever without end ” The priest is the first to receive the Sacrament so that he may teach the people that even the priest stands in need of mercy. The priest who has consecrated needs to receive the venerable mysteries that he also may be made worthy of the Communion, which is the pledge of life. The priest precedes the bishop in receiving the mysteries if a priest and not the high priest [the bishop] has consecrated them. In due order the other priests and deacons receive; then the people, men and women, little and great.
As he goes forth, the priest blesses the people and says, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
The Sacrament is carried on the paten and in the cup with splendor and glory, with an escort of priests and a great procession of deacons. Thousands of watchers and ministers of fire and spirit go forth before the Body of our Lord and lead it. All the Church’s children, all the people, rejoice when they see the Body brought forth from the altar. Even as the apostles rejoiced in our Lord after his resurrection, so do all the faithful rejoice when they see him. Great and unspeakable, dear brethren, is this mystery.
May those who are capable of describing it do so fully if they can. “I have a mystery, I have a mystery,” cried Isaiah, the marvel of the prophets, in regard to the revelation of God which he saw in the temple. If I should seek to write anything at all concerning this, all the parchments in this [world] would not suffice. Flesh, moreover, is fitting for the perfect and the full-grown; milk is for children till they reach maturity. “Whoever eats my flesh abides in me and I in him,” provided my commandments are diligently obeyed. For “whoever eats my Body and drinks my Blood unworthily eats and drinks unto condemnation,’
“4 thus doing so without profit.
Those who approach to receive the Body stretch forth their hands, lifting up their right hand and placing it over its companion. Each person receiving joins his or her hands in the form of a cross and thus receives the Body of our Lord upon a cross. Upon a cross our Lord Jesus was set at naught; and on the same cross he ascended and was exalted to the height above. With this type the person who receives approaches [and] receives.
And the priest who distributes says,
“The Body of our Lord.”
The communicants receive in their hands the venerable Body of the Lord of all. They embrace it and kiss it with love and affection. [. . .]
While the Body and Blood are being distributed to all who will receive, the Church cries out in honor of the mysteries and says: “Behold, the Medicine of life! Behold, it is distributed in the holy Church. Come, you mortals, receive and be pardoned your sins. This is truly our Lord’s Body and Blood, which the people have received and by which they have certainly been forgiven. This is the Medicine that heals diseases and festering sores. Receive, you mortals, and may it purify you from your sins. Come and freely receive forgiveness of sins and offenses through the Body and Blood, which take away the sin of the whole world.”
After the whole congregation has received the Body and Blood, the people reply and say with love and rejoicing: “Our Lord Jesus, King to be adored of all creatures, remove all harm from us by the power of your mysteries; and when you shine forth at the end of time for the redemption of all, may we go forth to meet you with confidence, with Hosannas. May we confess your name for your goodness toward us; you have pardoned our sins, blotting them out by your Body and Blood. May we everywhere be worthy to send up to your Godhead glory, comeliness, and praise forever and ever.”
Then the Church’s herald cries out, proclaiming and urging the people to give thanks. For this reason he says, “May all of us who have been made worthy of the gift of the mysteries give thanks to and worship and glorify the God of all.”
The people answer, “To him be glory for his gift, which cannot be re-paid, forever and ever. Amen and Amen.”
Then the priest prays and gives thanks to the God of all, who has made us worthy of unspeakable mysteries; he begs and entreats God to strengthen us that we may become acceptable to him in thought, word, and deed.
Then all at the altar and in the congregation pray the prayer which that life-giving mouth taught. With it [people] begin every prayer, morning and evening, and with it they conclude all the rites of Holy Church. This, it is said, includes all prayer, and without it no prayer is concluded.
Then the priest goes forth [and] stands at the door of the altar; he extends his hands, blesses the people, and says all the people the priest blesses at that time, symbolizing the blessing that our Lord Jesus gave to his twelve.
On the day of his Ascension he, the High Pontiff, lifted up his hands, blessed, and made priests of his Twelve, and was then taken up. [. . .