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Theodore of Mopsuestia, Commentary on the Lord's Prayer, Baptism and the Eucharist



Chapter V


Translation. By Alphonse Mingana



Synopsis of this Chapter

We must first of all realise that we perform a sacrifice of which we eat, and that it is the office of the priest of the New Testament to offer this sacrifice, as it is through it that the New Covenant appears to be maintained. We must think that the priest who now draws near to the altar performs the image of the (heavenly) sacrifice, and we must also think that the deacons represent the image of the service of the invisible hosts. They have an apparel which is consonant with their office, since their outer garment is taller than they are. They place a stole on their left shoulders, and it floats on either side equally.

We must think of Christ being at one time led and brought to His Passion, and at another time being stretched on the altar to be sacrificed for us. This is the reason why those deacons who spread linens on the altar represent the figure of the linen clothes of the burial (of our Lord), while those who stand on both sides (of the altar) agitate all the air found upon the holy body with fans. These things take place while everybody is silent, then comes prayer —not a silent prayer—announced beforehand in the loud voice of the deacon. When everyone is silent the priest begins with the appointed service.

And the priest finishes his prayer, after which he offers thanksgivings for himself; and all the congregation says: "Amen." And the priest prays: "Peace he to you" and for this the congregation answers: "And to your spirit" And the priest begins to give peace, and the Church crier shouts and orders all to give peace one to another. While this is taking place the priest washes his hands first, and then all those who, whatever their number, are counted in the assembly of priesthood. Then the names of the living and the dead are read from Church books. After this the priest draws near to the service while the Church crier shouts: "Look at the oblation."


It is the habit of men to wrap the newborn babes in swaddling clothes so that a freshly constituted and still soft body may not receive any injury, but that it should remain firm in its composition. They first stretch and place them restfully in swaddling clothes, and then bring to them a natural food that is fitting and suitable to them. In this same way we have also tightly wrapped in our teaching, as in swaddling clothes, those who were newly born of baptism so that the memory of the grace promised to them might be firmly established in them; and we soothed them by the cessation of our speech, because the measure of things that were said was adequate. To-day, however, I am contemplating to draw you, by the grace of God, to the nourishment of a bread, the nature of which you must know and the greatness of which you must learn with accuracy.

When we shall have received the true birth through the resurrection, you will receive another food that cannot be described with words, and you will then be clearly fed by the grace of the Spirit whereby you will remain immortal in your bodies and immutable in your souls. It is a food such as this that is suitable to that birth; and the grace of the Spirit will grant those who shall be born of the resurrection to remain firm, so that their bodies shall not suffer dissolution and their souls shall not be affected by any change that may incline them to evil. And because we are born now symbolically through baptism, in the hope of that other birth which we are expecting, we receive at present, in form of an earnest, the firstfruits of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which will then be given to us, as we expect to receive it fully in the next world through the resurrection. It is only after its reception that we hope to become immortal and immutable, and it is right for us now to eat symbolically, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, a food suitable to the present life.

For this reason the blessed Paul said: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do remember the Lords death till He come." He shows that when our Lord shall come from heaven, and make manifest the future life, and effect the resurrection of all of us—from which we shall become immortal in our bodies and immutable in our souls—the use of sacraments and symbols shall by necessity cease. Since we shall be in the reality itself, we shall be in no need of visible signs to remind us of the things that shall take place. Inasmuch as in this world we exist by two acts: birth and food—in birth we receive our existence and in feeding ourselves we are enabled to maintain our existence, as those who are born will surely die if they are short of food—so also is the case with the next world, in which having been born of resurrection we shall receive our existence, and having become immortal, we shall continue to remain in that state.

The blessed Paul therefore said: "For we know that if this our earthly house were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." In this world we contrive to feed ourselves by the labour of our hands, and so we maintain our existence; but when, at the resurrection, we have become immortal and received the heavenly abode, we shall have no more need of this food of the labour of our hands, because immortality, which we shall then assume, will maintain us in our existence by the power of grace, as with food. This is the reason why the blessed Paul calls our abode of that time "an house not made with hands, and a building of God in heaven."

These things will, as I have said, happen to us in the future, at the resurrection; and because we are now born in baptism through symbols and signs, it is right for us also to take our food according to the same symbols, so that we may be enabled to maintain the existence which we receive from baptism. Indeed, every animal is born of another animal and feeds on the body of the animal that brings it forth, and God has so arranged it at the beginning, with the creatures, that every animal that brings forth possesses food suitable to those that are born of it. In this same way it is necessary for us, who have symbolically received the grace of God, to receive our food from where we had our birth, and the death of Christ our Lord, when abolished by His resurrection, showed to us the birth that will come to us in the next world through the resurrection.

This is the reason why the blessed Paul said also: "As many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death, because we were buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of His Father, even so we also should walk in the newness of life. For if we have been planted with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall also live in His life." He shows here that resurrection was made manifest in the death of Christ our Lord, and that we are buried with Him in baptism, and after we have been here partakers of His death in faith, we shall also participate in the resurrection. As we receive birth of baptism in the death of Christ our Lord, so also we receive food symbolically in death. The blessed Paul bears witness to this when he says: "As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do remember the Lord's death till He come." He shows that in our communion and participation in the Sacrament we remember our Lord from whom we receive resurrection and happiness of immortality. Indeed, it is right for us who have received a sacramental birth in the death of Christ our Lord, to receive the sacramental food of immortality in this same death, and to feed ourselves in the future from where we had also received our birth, as it is the habit of all the animals which are brought forth to be in a position to feed themselves from those which bring them forth.

Our Lord also testifies to this, because in the institution of the Sacrament He said: Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you for the remission of sins," and: "Take, drink, this is my blood which is shed for you for the remission of sins." He said this because in His death He gave us the next world in which there will be abolition of all sins. As to us it is right for us to perform symbolically the remembrance of His death by our participation in the Sacrament, from which we derive the possession of the future benefits and the abolition of sins. The food of the holy Sacrament possesses such a power, and fits the birth of those who eat it. Indeed, as in this world we take the spiritual food in signs and symbols, it is necessary that the nature of these signs and symbols should fit our present condition in which we take the symbolical food.

As we received the second birth in water, which is useful and necessary to life in this world—so much so that we are not even able to make bread without water—so also we take our food in bread and in wine mixed with water, as they eminently fit this life and sustain us to live in it. As we are sufficiently enabled to maintain ourselves in this life, and to remain in it by necessity through the suitable symbols of that spiritual food which shall be ours, let us think in our mind that it is from this food that we are expecting to become immortal and remain for ever. These are the things in the hope of which we partake of this holy food of the Sacrament.

Indeed, He (our Lord) gave us the bread and the cup because it is with food and drink that we maintain ourselves in this world, and He called the bread "body" and the cup "blood," because, as it was His Passion that affected His body which it tormented and from which it caused blood to flow, He wished to reveal, by means of these two objects through which His Passion was accomplished, and also in the symbol of food and drink, the immortal life, in which we expect to participate when we perform this Sacrament from which we believe to derive a strong hope for the future benefits. It is with justice, therefore, that when He gave the bread He did not say: "This is the symbol of my body," but: "This is my body"; likewise when He gave the cup He did not say: "This is the symbol of my blood" but: "This is my blood," because He wished us to look upon these (elements) after their reception of grace and the coming of the Spirit, not according to their nature, but to receive them as if they were the body and the blood of our Lord. Indeed, even the body of our Lord does not possess immortality and the power of bestowing immortality in its own nature, as this was given to it by the Holy Spirit; and at its resurrection from the dead it received close union with Divine nature and became immortal and instrumental for conferring immortality on others.

This is the reason why, when our Lord said: "He that eats my body and drinks my blood has eternal life," and saw that the Jews were murmuring and doubting the things that were said, and thinking that it was impossible to receive immortality from mortal flesh, He added immediately for the purpose of removing this doubt: "If you see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before." It is as if He were saying: the thing that is being said about my body does not appear now true to you, but when you see Me rising up from the dead and ascending into heaven, it will be made manifest (to you) that you were not to think that what had been said was harsh and unseemly, as the facts themselves will convince you that I have moved to an immortal nature, because if I were not in such a nature I would not have ascended into heaven. And in order to show from where these things came to Him He added quickly: "It is the Spirit that lives, the flesh profites nothing," as if He were saying: these things will come to it from the nature of the vivifying Spirit, and it is through Him that it will be given to it to become immortal and to confer also immortality on others. These things it did not possess, and was not, therefore, in a position to confer upon others as coming from its nature, because the nature of the flesh is not able by itself to grant a gift and a help of this kind. If, therefore, the nature of the vivifying Spirit made the body of our Lord into what its nature did not possess before, we ought, we also, who have received the grace of the Holy spirit through the symbols of the Sacrament, not to regard the elements merely as bread and cup, but as the body and the blood of Christ, into which they were so transformed by the descent of the Holy Spirit, by whom they become to the partakers of them that which we believe to happen to the faithful through the body and blood of our Lord. This is the reason why He said: "I am the bread which came down from heaven," and "I am the bread of life"; and to show them what was that which He called bread, He said: "And the bread that I will give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world."

Because we sustain ourselves in this life with bread and food, He called Himself the bread of life that came down from heaven, as if He were saying: I am truly the bread of life and give immortality to those who believe in Me through this visible (body) for the sake of which I came down and to which I granted immortality, which through it will extend to those who believe in Me. While He might have said: "It is I who give life," He did not say it, but said "I am the bread of life," because as we would be receiving the promise given us here of the immortality, which we expect in sacramental symbols, through bread and cup, we had to honour also the symbol which became worthy of this appellation. He called Himself bread as an allusion to the things that were to be given, as He wished to convince us, from things belonging to this world, that we shall receive also without doubt the benefits that are high above words. The fact that in order to sustain ourselves in this life we eat bread, and the fact that bread cannot fulfil this function by its nature, but has been enabled to do so by order of God who imparted this power to it, should by necessity convince us not to doubt that we shall receive immortality by eating the sacramental bread. Indeed, although bread does not possess such a nature, yet when it receives the Holy Spirit and His grace it is enabled to impart to those who eat it the happiness of immortality. If it is capable of sustaining us in this life by a decree of God, although not possessing this power by nature, how much more will it not be capable, after it has received the descent of the Holy Spirit, of helping us to assume immortality. It does not do this by its own nature but by the Spirit who is dwelling in it, as the body of our Lord, of which this one is the symbol, received immortality by the power of the Spirit, and imparted this immortality to others, while in no way possessing it by nature.

(Our Lord) chose, therefore, very fittingly bread as food, and the cup—which consists of wine mixed with water—as drink. The Old Testament had already taken blood to mean wine: "He gave him to drink the blood of the grapes," while in another passage it says: "He shall wash his garments in wine and his clothes in the blood of grapes." That what He gave was wine He made perfectly clear by saying: I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until I drink it new with you in my Father's Kingdom." He alludes by the Kingdom of God to the resurrection, because it is for those who shall rise from the dead in the next world that He has established the Kingdom of God. And since He was about to commune with them in food and drink after His resurrection, and before His ascension into heaven, as the blessed Luke said, He meant by the above words that His Passion was near and that He would not be taking any food with them before this Passion, but that after His resurrection from the dead He would be eating and drinking with them in order to confirm this resurrection.

This is the reason why He said: "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until I drink it new with you in the Kingdom of God." As if He were saying: I shall not take food or drink with you before my Passion, because it is very near, but when I have risen from the dead I shall both eat and drink, and in this I shall do a novel thing. It is indeed a novel thing for one who rose from the dead and became immortal in his nature to eat and drink, but I shall do violence to the natural laws so that you may possess a strong faith about Me that I rose from the dead. It is I—whom you previously knew to have eaten and drunk with you—who rose. Because you will have much doubt about my resurrection, it is necessary that I should do violence to the natural laws in order to confirm it to you, and that I should perform a novel thing that has never happened before, namely to eat and drink after having assumed immortal nature. A firm knowledge of my resurrection is all the more required of you because you will be the teachers of this resurrection to others.

That what is given to you in the cup by Christ our Lord as a symbol of His blood is wine, one is able also to see from the fact that it is mixed with water. This is either due to the fact that it is generally drunk in this way, or to the fact that having already taken bread it was fitting as a counterpart of it to take a cup of water—as bread cannot be made without a mixture of water—or also to the fact that having made use of this symbol in the birth of baptism we do likewise make use of it for the delight of the Sacrament of our nourishment. As it was necessary to remember the death of our Lord in our participation in the holy Sacrament, as the blessed Paul said, in the same way as we remember it in the things that take place in baptism, what was necessary for us to find in the elements of the gift of the holy baptism, from which we believe that we symbolically receive the second birth, had also to be found in the elements of the symbols of the Sacrament.

This is the power of the Sacrament, and these are the symbols and the signs of the Sacrament in its twofold side of eating and drinking. It is useful now to speak to you, for the sake of your sound teaching, of the way in which they are effected.

We must first of all realise that we perform a sacrifice of which we eat. Although we remember the death of our Lord in food and drink, and although we believe these to be the remembrance of His Passion—because He said: "This is my body which is broken for you, and this is my blood which is shed for you"—we nevertheless perform, in their service, a sacrifice; and it is the office of the priest of the New Testament to offer this sacrifice, as it is through it that the New Covenant appears to be maintained. It is indeed evident that it is a sacrifice, but not a new one and one that (the priest) performs as his, but it is a remembrance of that other real sacrifice (of Christ). Because the priest performs things found in heaven through symbols and signs, it is necessary that his sacrifice also should be as their image, and that he should represent a likeness of the service of heaven. It would be impossible for us to be priests and do priestly service outside the ancient law if we did not possess the likeness of heavenly things.

The blessed Paul said about Christ our Lord that "if He were on the earth He should not be a high priest, seeing that there were priests of the law who offer gifts according to the law and who serve to the example and shadow of heavenly things." He means by this that all the priests according to the law performed their priestly service on earth, where all the law was made to suit mortal men, and the sacrifices consisted of irrational beasts led to be slaughtered to death, which meant that they were fit for this mortal sojourn on earth. It is indeed clear that all the injunctions and ritual of the law were only partially suitable. Circumcision, Sabbath, holy days, observances of days, and distinctions in food: all these suited a mortal nature, and none of them has any place in an immortal nature, and to people who performed such things even sacrifices of irrational beasts are not suitable, as these are slaughtered and die in the act of sacrifice. As to Christ our Lord, if He were about to perform His priestly service on earth, it was necessary that He also should perform this service according to the Divine law, which was something that harmonised with the (Mosaic) law; and if He did not perform a priestly service according to the law, He would not have been a high priest, as He would then be performing a priestly service not according to the law of God. Now, however, He performs the priestly service in heaven and not on earth, because He died, rose, ascended into heaven in order to raise us all up and cause us to ascend into heaven, and made a covenant with those who believe in Him that He will grant them participation in the resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven.

He performs a real high priesthood and offers to God no other sacrifice than Himself, as He had delivered also Himself to death for all. He was the first to rise from the dead, and He ascended into heaven and sat at the right hand of God in order to destroy all our adversaries, as the blessed Paul said: "He offered one sacrifice for our sins for ever, sat on the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified." He calls His enemies those who fight against us, and their destruction is clearly seen in our perfection, as the work of a high priest consists in his drawing near to God first and then in drawing also the others to Him through himself. The blessed Paul rightly calls Him high priest because He was so in reality, as through His resurrection He was the first to ascend into heaven; and He sat on the right hand of God, and granted us through Himself to be near to God and partakers of good things. "The high priest of all of us is," as the blessed Paul said, "Christ our Lord, who did not, like the high priests of the law, serve to the example and shadow of heavenly things, but He is the minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which God pitched and not man," so that through them He might make manifest the heavenly things. He refers by the word "sanctuary" to heavenly things which do not contain anything that is contrary or reprehensible, and by the sentence "the true tabernacle which God pitched and not man" to the heavenly abode, because the tabernacle of the law was pitched by man, but heaven is made not by men but by God, and it is of it that the Apostle said that Christ is the minister, as He ascended into heaven and there performs service for all of us, so that He might draw us to Him by all means, according to His promise. It is for this reason that he said in another passage that "He is at the right hand of God and making intercession for us." He calls "intercession" not a supplication made for us in words, as this intercession is made in deeds, because through His ascension into heaven He makes intercession for us to God and is anxious that all of us should ascend into heaven to Him.

If, as the blessed Paul said, Christ our Lord should not be a priest if He performed His priestly service on earth, it follows that He does not perform His service according to the ritual of the law, but since priesthood and the service of the law were made manifest by God on earth, it was not necessary that it should be rejected by God and another one be substituted on the same earth. He is then rightly a priest because He performs priestly service in heaven, where there is not a single association with earthly things, and in this way no blame attaches to the priests of the law. Since these are said in another place to do their work among mortal and earthly men, while He performs His priestly service in immortal and heavenly things, which are much higher and loftier, is it not clear that neither can we be priests appointed to do priestly service for earthly things? It is indeed well known that the priesthood of the law suited earthly and mortal men, while Christ is the high priest of heavenly things, and will cause all of us to ascend into heaven at the right time.

As to us who are called to a new covenant, as the blessed Paul said, we received salvation and deliverance in hope, and although we have not seen them we expect "by our patience to be absent from the body and be with our Lord." We walk by faith and not by sight because we are not yet in the reality, as we are not yet in the heavenly benefits. We wait here in faith until we ascend into heaven and set out on our journey to our Lord, where we shall not see through a glass and in a riddle but shall look face to face. These things, however, we expect to receive in reality through the resurrection at the time decreed by God, and now it is only by faith that we draw near to the firstfruits of these good things: to Christ our Lord and the high priest of things that belong to us. We are ordered to perform in this world the symbols and signs of the future things so that, through the service of the Sacrament, we may be like men who enjoy symbolically the happiness of the heavenly benefits, and thus acquire a sense of possession and a strong hope of the things for which we look.

As the real new birth is the one which we expect through the resurrection, and we nevertheless perform this new birth symbolically and sacramentally through baptism, so also the real food of immortality is that which we hope to receive truly in heaven by the grace of the Holy Spirit, but now we symbolically eat the immortal food which is given to us by the grace of the Holy Spirit, whether in symbols or through symbols. It follows that a role of a high priest must needs be filled, and it is found in those who are appointed for the service of these symbols. Those who have been chosen as the priests of the New Testament are believed to perform sacramentally, by the descent of the Holy Spirit, and for the confirmation and admonition of the children of the Sacrament, these things which we believe that Christ our Lord performed and will perform in reality.

This is the reason why they do not immolate at all times new sacrifices like the priests of the law. These were ordered to offer to God numerous and different sacrifices of oxen, goats and sheep, and offered new sacrifices at all times. When first sacrificial beasts had been slaughtered, had died and suffered complete dissolution, others were always immolated in the place of those which had been slaughtered a long time previously. As to the priests of the New Testament they immolate the same sacrifice always and everywhere, because one is the sacrifice which has been immolated for us, that of Christ our Lord who suffered death for us and who, by His offering this sacrifice, obtained perfection for us, as the blessed Paul said: "By one offering He perfected for ever them that are sanctified." All of us, everywhere, at all times, and always, observe the commemoration of that sacrifice, "for as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we do show the Lord's death till He come." As often, therefore, as the service of this awe-inspiring sacrifice is performed, which is clearly the likeness of heavenly things and of which, after it has been perfected, we become worthy to partake through food and drink, as a true participation in our future benefits—we must picture in our mind that we are dimly in heaven, and, through faith, draw in our imagination the image of heavenly things, while thinking that Christ who is in heaven and who died for us, rose and ascended into heaven and is now being immolated. In contemplating with our eyes, through faith, the facts that are now being re-enacted: that He is again dying, rising and ascending into heaven, we shall be led to the vision of the things that had taken place beforehand on our behalf.

Because Christ our Lord offered Himself in sacrifice for us and thus became our high priest in reality, we must think that the priest who draws near to the altar is representing His image, not that he offers himself in sacrifice, any more than he is truly a high priest, but because he performs the figure of the service of the ineffable sacrifice (of Christ), and through this figure he dimly represents the image of the unspeakable heavenly things and of the supernatural and incorporeal hosts. Indeed, all the invisible hosts did service to that Economy which transcends our words and which Christ our Lord accomplished for us. "They are all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" as the blessed Paul said. Matthew, the evangelist, showed also this when he said: "and the angels came, and ministered to Him." This is also attested by our Lord who said: "Hereafter you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending to the Son of Man." Incidents in the Gospel show also events that happened through them, whether it be through those who at the birth of our Lord sang: "Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and good hope to men," or through those who at His resurrection revealed to women what had occurred, or through those who at His ascension explained to the Apostles that which they did not know. It is necessary, therefore, that here also, when this awe-inspiring service is performed, we should think that the deacons represent an image of the service of these invisible spirits, and that they have been appointed to minister to this awe-inspiring service by the grace of the Holy Spirit which they received.

This is the reason why all of us are called the ministers of Christ, as the blessed Paul said: "Inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles I magnify my ministry." This name, however, is especially applied to those who perform this ministry, and are called by all "deacons," as they are alone appointed to perform this ministry, and represent a likeness of the service of the spiritual messengers and ministers. They have also an apparel which is consonant with their office, since their outer garment is taller than they are, as wearing such an apparel in such a way is suitable to those who serve. They place on their left shoulders a stole, which floats equally on either side, forwards and backwards. This is a sign that they are not performing a ministry of servitude but of freedom, as they are ministering to things that lead to freedom all those who are worthy of the great house of God, that is to say the Church. They do not place the stole on their neck in a way that it floats on either side but not in front, because there is no one serving in a house who wears such an apparel; it is only those who are masters of themselves and remote from servitude of any kind who wear it in this way, but the deacons place it on their shoulders because they are appointed for service. The stole is their only sign of that freedom to which all of us, who believed in Christ, have been called; and we hasten to go to, and be in, "the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth," as the blessed Paul says; and they are clearly appointed for the service of all things performed in it.

Because the things performed for us by Christ our Lord are awe-inspiring, and because we expect their complete fulfilment in the next world, we receive them now only by faith, and we proceed gradually in this world in a way that we are in nothing absent from our faith in them. This being the case, we are necessarily confirmed in the faith of the things revealed to us through this ministry of the Sacrament, as we are led through it to the future reality,2 because it contains an image of the ineffable Economy of Christ our Lord, in which we receive the vision and the shadow of the happenings that took place. This is the reason why through the priest we picture Christ our Lord in our mind, as through him we see the One who saved us and delivered us by the sacrifice of Himself; and through the deacons who serve the things that take place, we picture in our mind the invisible hosts who served with that ineffable service. It is the deacons who bring out this oblation—or the symbols of this oblation—which they arrange and place on the awe-inspiring altar, (an oblation) which in its vision, as represented in the imagination, is an awe-inspiring event to the onlookers.

We must also think of Christ being at one time led and brought to His Passion, and at another time stretched on the altar to be sacrificed for us. And when the offering which is about to be placed (on the altar) is brought out in the sacred vessels of the paten and the chalice, we must think that Christ our Lord is being led and brought to His Passion, not, however, by the Jews—as it is incongruous and impermissible that an iniquitous image be found in the symbols of our deliverance and our salvation—but by the invisible hosts of ministry, who are sent to us and who were also present when the Passion of our Salvation was being accomplished, and were doing their service. Indeed, they performed their service to all the Economy of Christ our Lord without any exception, and were present with their service at the time of the Passion, endeavouring to perform it according to the will of God. When our Lord was in deep thought and fear at the approach of His Passion, the blessed Luke said that "an angel appeared to Him strengthening and encouraging Him," and like those persons who are wont to stir up the courage of the athletes with their voices, he anointed Him to bear tribulations, and by encouraging words persuaded Him to endure pains with patience, and showed Him that His Passion was small in comparison with the benefit that will accrue from it, as He would be invested with great glory after His Passion and His death, from which He would be the cause of numerous benefits not only to men but to all the creation.

We must think, therefore, that the deacons who now carry the Eucharistic bread and bring it out for the sacrifice represent the image of the invisible hosts of ministry, with this difference, that, through their ministry and in these remembrances, they do not send Christ our Lord to His salvation-giving Passion. When they bring out (the Eucharistic bread) they place it on the holy altar, for the complete representation of the Passion, so that we may think of Him on the altar, as if He were placed in the sepulchre, after having received His Passion. This is the reason why those deacons who spread linens on the altar represent the figure of the linen clothes of the burial (of our Lord). Sometime after these have been spread, they stand up on both sides, and agitate all the air above the holy body with fans, thus keeping it from any defiling object. They make manifest by this ritual the greatness of the body which is lying there, as it is the habit, when the dead body of the high personages of this world is carried on a bier, that some men should fan the air above it. It is, therefore, with justice that the same thing is done here with the body which lies on the altar, and which is holy, awe-inspiring and remote from all corruption; a body which will very shortly rise to an immortal nature.

It is on all sides of this body that persons, who are especially appointed to serve, stand up and fan. They offer to it an honour that is suitable, and by this ritual they make manifest to those present the greatness of the sacred body that is lying there. It is indeed clear to us from the Divine Book that angels sat upon the stone near the sepulchre and announced His resurrection to the women, and remained there all the time of His death, in honour of the One who was laid there, till they witnessed the resurrection, which was proclaimed by them to be good to all mankind, and to imply a renewal of all the creation, as the blessed Paul said: "Any man who is in Christ is a new creature. Old things are passed away and all things are become new.

Was it not right, therefore, that here also (the deacons) should represent as in an image the ministry of the angels? It is in remembrance of those who constantly came to the Passion and death of our Lord, that they also stand in a circle and agitate the air with fans, and offer honour and adoration to the sacred and awe-inspiring body which is lying there. In this they make manifest to all those present the greatness of the object that is lying there, and induce all the onlookers to think of it as awe-inspiring and truly sacred, and to realise that it is for this reason that they keep it from all defiling things, and do not even allow the dirty tricklings of birds to fall upon it and come near it. This they do now according to their habit in order to show that because the body which is lying there is high, awe-inspiring, holy, and truly Lord through its union with the Divine nature, it is with great fear that it must be handled, seen and kept.

These things take place while every one is silent, because when the service has not yet begun, every one must look at the bringing out and spreading of such a great and wonderful object with a quiet and reverential fear and a silent and noiseless prayer. When our Lord also had died the Apostles moved away and were in the house in great silence and immense fear; so great indeed was the silence that overtook every one that even the invisible hosts kept quiet while looking for the expected resurrection, until time came and Christ our Lord rose, and a great joy and an ineffable happiness spread over those invisible hosts. And the women who came to honour the body received from the angels the new message of the resurrection that had taken place, and when the disciples also learnt through them what had occurred they run together with great zeal to the sepulchre. We are drawn now by similar happenings to the remembrance of the Passion of our Lord, and when we see the oblation on the communion-table—something which denotes that it is being placed in a kind of a sepulchre after its death— great silence falls on those present. Because that which takes place is awe-inspiring, they must look at it with a quiet and reverential fear, since it is necessary that Christ our Lord should rise in the awe-inspiring service which is performed with the sacerdotal ceremonies, and announce our participation in ineffable benefits to every one. We remember, therefore, the death of our Lord in the oblation because it makes manifest the resurrection and the ineffable benefits.

Then comes prayer—not a silent prayer—announced beforehand in the loud voice of the deacon, who, as we ought to know, explains the sign and the aim of all the things that take place. The ceremonies that are to be performed by all those present are made known by the proclamation of the deacon, who orders and reminds every one of the statutory acts that are to be performed and accomplished by those who are assembled in the Church of God.

After he has finished his congruous service and admonished all with his voice and exhorted them to recite the prayers that are suitable to ecclesiastical gatherings, and while all are silent, the priest begins with the appointed service, and before everything else he offers prayer to God, because before all other things that are indispensable to religion he has necessarily to begin with prayer. This is especially the case with this awe-inspiring service in which we are in need of God's help, as He alone is able to perform things such as those (implied in it). And the priest brings his prayer to a close after having offered thanksgivings to our Lord for the great things which He has provided for the salvation and the deliverance of men, and for His having given us the knowledge of these wonderful mysteries which are a remembrance of that ineffable gift which He bestowed upon us through His Passion, in that He promised to raise us all from the dead and take us up to heaven. After this he offers also thanksgivings for himself for having been appointed servant of such an awe-inspiring Sacrament. With this he prays also for the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may be now made by Him worthy of the greatness of this service, as he had been rendered by Him worthy of priesthood; and so that he may perform this service free, by the grace of God, from all evil conscience, and not fearing any punishment, as he, being infinitely below the dignity of such a service, is drawing near to things that are much higher than himself.

After the priest has finished his prayer with this and similar things, all the congregation says: "Amen," a word that signifies agreement with, and confirmation of, the prayer of the priest, as it is said: "He that occupies the room of the unlearned says Amen at your giving of thanks, while he does not understand what you say." The congregation must make use of this word to signify their agreement with the prayers and thanksgivings of the priest.

After the congregation has said this word the priest prays: "Peace be to you." It is appropriate to begin with this phrase every service that takes place in a Church gathering, and especially this awe-inspiring service which is about to be performed. The blessed Paul also placed at the beginning of all his Epistles: "Grace and peace be to you." (The priest) prays for us concerning the benefits granted for the happiness of all of us through the Economy of Christ our Lord, who by His coming abolished all wars, and completely destroyed all hatred and all fight against us, and by His resurrection delivered us from death, corruption, sin, passion, vexations of the demons and all harassing things, and made us completely immortal and immutable, and will take us up to heaven where He will give us His full confidence and prepare for us great friendship and fellowship with the invisible hosts, the trusted messengers of God. The reason why the blessed Paul writes at the beginning of all his Epistles the word "grace" before the word "peace" is found in the fact that it was not we who began or did anything by ourselves to merit the reception of such a gift, but it was God Himself who bestowed it on us by His grace.

There is an ordinance, found (in the Church) from the beginning, to the effect that all those who have been deemed worthy to do the work of priesthood, should begin all the functions performed in a Church assembly with the above phrase, which is more than anything else suitable to this awe-inspiring service. The priest prays for peace to all because it is he who makes manifest these great benefits, of which this Divine service, which is the remembrance of the death of our Lord, is a figure and a symbol, and because it is through him that the greatness of these and similar benefits has been promised to us.

And those present answer him: "And to your spirit." They requite him with an identical prayer so that it may be made manifest to the priest and also to all of them that it is not only they that are in need of the benediction and the prayer of the priest, but that he also is in need of the prayer of all of them. This is the reason why, by an ordinance found in the Church from the beginning, the priests are also mentioned in all the ecclesiastical prayers side by side with the rest of the congregation. Indeed all of us are one body of Christ our Lord and all of us are members one of another, and the priest only fills the role of a member that is higher than the other members of the body, such as the eye or the tongue. Lo, like the eye he sees the works of every one, and with the diligence pertaining to a priest he also leads and directs every one according to the rule of priesthood, to that which is necessary; and like the tongue he offers the prayers of every one; and as every one requires that the members that are attached to his body should perform their particular function, and as for this it is necessary that they should be healthy and sound in their structure so that they may be in a position to perform this function when asked to do so, in this same way the priest, who is also attached to the body of the Church, is required to be healthy in his office, so that after making manifest the health of good works and priesthood, which are required of him, he may be seen to be worthy of the honour that he possesses, and capable of filling helpfully and suitably the needs of every member of the community.

This is the reason why he blesses those present with the voice of greeting, and for this receives also blessing from them, when they answer him: "And to your spirit." In saying and to your spirit" they do not refer to his soul, but to the grace of the Holy Spirit by which those who are under him believe that he drew near to priesthood, as the blessed Paul said: "I serve Him with the Spirit in the Gospel of His Son." It is as if he were saying: so that, through the gift of the grace of the Holy Spirit which is promised to me, I may fulfil the service of the Gospel, and all of you may join with my spirit; meaning by this that "I received from God to be in a position to perform these and similar things and did not find peace for my spirit"; meaning also that "I was not able to do the thing that any one who serves with the Holy Spirit has to do for the utility of others, because the one who had to be my fellow-worker was absent."

It is in this sense that the phrase: "And to your spirit" is addressed to the priest by the congregation, according to the regulations found in the Church from the beginning, the reason for it being that when the conduct of the priest is good, it is a gain to the body of the Church, and when the conduct of the priest is unholy, it is a loss to all. All of them pray that through peace the grace of the Holy Spirit may be promised to him, so that he may strive to perform his service to the public suitably and rightly. In this way the priest obtains more abundant peace from the overflow of the grace of the Holy Spirit, and from it he receives help for the works required of him, because, as in other affairs so in service, the priest will appear to be doing the right thing when the blessing goes from him to the congregation and from it to him.

The priest, then, begins by giving peace, and the Church crier, who is the deacon, cries and orders all to give peace one to another so that they may do that which the priest is doing, and so that in giving peace one to another and in embracing one another they may make a profession of their mutual concord and of their love to one another. Every one of us gives peace as far as possible to the one next to him, but by implication all of us give peace one to another, because that which is taking place implies that all of us ought to be one body of Christ our Lord, to possess towards one another the harmony which is found between the members of one body, mutually to love one another, to help and assist one another, to count our private affairs as affairs of us all, and to suffer with the sufferings of one another and rejoice with the joys of one another.

Owing to the fact that we received one new birth of baptism, through which we are joined as if into one natural close union, and owing to the fact that all of us partake of one food in which we receive the same flesh and blood and become more strongly united in the single body of baptism, as the blessed Paul said: "For we are all partakers of one bread, because the bread is one and we also being many bodies are one bread"—it is right that the rite of giving peace should be performed before we draw near to the Sacrament and to the service, as it is in it that we make our profession of mutual concord and love to one another. It is indeed unsuitable to those who fill the role of members of one ecclesiastical body to consider as an enemy a child of the faith, who through the same birth drew near to the same body, whom we believe to be like us a member of Christ our Lord, and who partakes of the same food from the holy communion-table. This is the reason why our Lord said: "Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be liable to judgment."

That which takes place is not only a profession of love but a reminder that we must remove and cast away from us every enmity, if it appears to us that we have aught against a child of our faith. Our Lord, who decreed that under no circumstances an undue anger should occur, gave also a remedy to those who sin in any way: "Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go and first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." He orders the one who has sinned to make haste and be reconciled to the one who has been sinned against, and not to offer the gift before he has placated the one who has been angered, and be reconciled to him with all his might. Indeed, all of us offer the gift with the priest, and although the latter stands up alone to offer it he nevertheless offers it, like the tongue, for all the body. Thus the gift that is being offered belongs to all of us in the same way as the grace which it contains belongs to all, and is placed before all of us so that we may partake of it equally. In this sense the blessed Paul said about a high priest that "he ought, as for himself so also for the people, to offer for sins" in order, to show that the priest offers the gift for all, and is ordered to offer both for himself and for the rest of the people.

It is incumbent, therefore, on the one who has sinned to placate with all his might the one against whom he has sinned, and to be reconciled to him. If the one who has been sinned against be near, he should put in practice the order of Christ literally, and if he be not near let him decide in his mind to do this to him at the right time, and then draw near to the communion of the offering. On the other hand, the one who has been sinned against must accept the reconciliation of the one who had sinned against him, because the one who has been sinned against must show the same promptness as the one who has sinned. Indeed, he must remove from his mind all the things in which he has been sinned against, while remembering the sentence: "If you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses. We must think of this greeting as an acceptance and a remembrance of all this, if we are, like the blessed Paul, to salute one another with a holy kiss, and not, like Judas, to kiss with our mouth while striving to show hatred and evil things against the children of our faith.

While this thing is taking place the priest washes (his hands) first, and then all those, whatever their number, who are counted in the assembly of priesthood. This is not done for the cleanliness of hands—if it were so all would be bound to do it, some on account of their service and some others because of the Sacrament which they are about to receive—but because the officiating priests offer the sacrifice for all, and in this they remind all of us to draw near to the Sacrament which is offered, with clean consciences. Having thus, after the giving of the peace, proclaimed that we have removed and cast away from us all hatred and enmity against the children of our faith, and having washed away the remembrance of trespasses, we may believe that we have freed ourselves, to the best of our ability, from all uncleanness. Then all rise, according to the sign given to them by the deacon, and look at what is taking place. The names of the living and the dead who have passed away in the faith of Christ are then read from Church books, and it is clear that in the few of them who are mentioned, all the living and the departed are implicitly mentioned. This is done for the teaching of what took place in the Economy of Christ our Lord, of which the present service, which is (Divine) help for all, living and dead alike, is the commemoration. Indeed the living look to the future hope, while the dead are not really dead but cast in a sleep in which they remain in the hope, for which our Lord received His death, which we are commemorating in this Sacrament.

When the above reading is brought to an end, the priest draws near to the service, while the Church crier, that is to say the deacon, whose voice is a clear indication of what the congregation has to do while following the priestly signs which are given to them—first shouts: "Look at the oblation." In this he exhorts every one to look at the sacrifice, as if a public service was about to be performed, and a public sacrifice was about to be immolated, and a public sacrifice was about to be offered for all, not only for those who are present but also for those who are absent, as long as they were in communion with us in faith and were counted in the Church of God and had finished their life in it. It is clear that we call also this service "offering the sacrifice" and "immolating the sacrifice," because an awe-inspiring sacrifice is being immolated, and if He is offered to God, "He did this once, when He offered up Himself" as the blessed Paul says, and another time now when (the priest) must needs have something to sacrifice. This is the reason why we call "sacrifice" or "immolating the sacrifice the likeness of the sacrifice (of Christ), and this is the reason why the deacon also rightly says before the offering of the sacrifice: "Look at the sacrifice."

When every one has been prepared to look at the object that is being placed (on the altar), and when all those things of which we have spoken are accomplished—things which had necessarily to be performed before the service, and which were indispensable to your instruction and your remembrance— the priest begins with the sacrifice itself. You must now learn the way in which this is done; but since a measure had to be fixed for the things already said, I will keep what I have to say on this subject and say it on another day, if God permit; and for all of them let us glorify God the Father, and His Only Begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, always, and for ever and ever. Amen.


Here ends the fifth chapter.