Family Study of the Divine Liturgy: The Anaphora
The Holy Anaphora is the very core of the Divine Liturgy. This portion of the text is, indeed, the oldest portion of the service which remains unchanged in the Liturgy’s various forms.
The Deacon beings: Let us stand aright, let us stand with fear
These are the very same words the archangel Michael used to call together the ranks of angels when they began to fall, following Lucifer. It seems ironic that the deacon says this because the faithful are already standing at this point, having just finished the Creed. However, as in other instances the Deacon is reminding us that we should be paying attention to this moment in time. We are literally in the presence of God and the consecration of the gifts is fast-approaching. The completion of the prayer is
“let us be attentive, that we may offer the Holy Anaphora in peace”
and the response, “a mercy of peace a sacrifice of praise”
Anaphora is Oblation, or offering. By stating “in peace” we are making a distinction from the offerings or sacrifices from Jewish times. We are not slaughtering a live creature, rather we are participating in the ongoing, eternal sacrifice of our Lord. We recall the words from Psalm 50 “For You do not delight in burnt offerings, a sacrifice to God is a broken spirit, a broken and humbled heart Oh God You will not despise” (50:16-17).
The priest then offers the blessing, invoking the entire Trinity then tells us to “lift up your hearts” and we say in response “we lift them up unto the Lord”
In case you missed it when we were told to “lay aside all earthly cares” now we have been instructed to lift up our hearts, that is our whole selves, mind body and spirit to the Lord and what is at hand in the Divine Liturgy.
Recently a young girl, about four years old, from my parish turned to me and said, “at my school everyone puts their hands in the air and says “praise the Lord!” they all look so silly!” and she giggled. I knew exactly what she was talking about. It is easy to look at protestants who put their hands in the air and say that’s “silly” but this is an ancient practice of ours which stems back to the Jewish tradition of prayer. Lifting our arms with palms open so that we may receive Christ. Today in our churches we maybe see this from the congregation during the Lord’s prayer. We are even instructed by St. Paul in Hebrews “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees” (12:12). We should not feel silly to do this!
Shortly thereafter the priest says the Great Anaphora Prayer of Thanksgiving. For your spiritual edification I have placed in below, as this prayer is usually recited inaudibly:
It is proper and right to sing to You, bless You, praise You, thank You and worship You in all places of Your dominion; for You are God ineffable, beyond comprehension, invisible, beyond understanding, existing forever and always the same; You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit. You brought us into being out of nothing, and when we fell, You raised us up again. You did not cease doing everything until You led us to heaven and granted us Your kingdom to come. For all these things we thank You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit; for all things that we know and do not know, for blessings seen and unseen that have been bestowed upon us. We also thank You for this liturgy which You are pleased to accept from our hands, even though You are surrounded by thousands of Archangels and tens of thousands of Angels, by the Cherubim and Seraphim, six-winged, many-eyed, soaring with their wings…
We can summarize this prayer into three points:
1) We are thanking God for who He is. This is something we are almost incapable of putting into words because He is more than Good, He is more than loving, He is more than awesome.
2) We thank God for creating us. God is our creator, and having breathed life into us through breathing into Adam, we all become part of the respiration system of Christ.
3) We thank God for re-creating us through His sacrifice on the cross which allows us to restore our perfection with Him. By so doing, we may enter His Kingdom, which we already did in a small way when we began the Liturgy. The goal, of course, is to enter His Kingdom permanently at the end of our earthly life.
Together With Your Child
Read and recite the prayer of the anaphora together if the choir or chanters go on covering the words of the priest. This prayer was not done quietly until the 8th century and as the core of the Liturgy should be properly recognized.
Together go through the three ways in which we thank God.
Make it a tradition to raise your arms and hands in prayer at least during the Lord’s prayer at home in private. Begin here if you do not already do this in your parish.