Liturgy Prayers – Prayer of the First Antiphon

With Great Lent just around the corner I thought I would do some posting on the silent prayers of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. These are the prayers that the priest says while other things are going on during the Liturgy. Most priests I know do not say these prayers out loud, but I have made a practice out of saying them so the congregation can hear them. I do not have a deacon here in the parish so I am chanting the Litanies when the prayers would normally be read.

First up is the prayer of the First Antiphon:

O Lord Our God, whose might is incomparable and glory is incomprehensible, whose mercy is immeasurable and love toward mankind inexpressible, O master, in your compassion look on us and on this holy church and grant the riches of your mercies and compassion to us and to those that pray with us.

This seems an all encompassing prayer that begins by praising God for all that He has done and then asks for specific prayers for the church congregation. The line that I find most interesting is the last part, where we ask for compassion to us and to those that pray with us. Some have said that the “us” is the priest in the regal sense. He is asking for compassion for himself as well as for the congregation. I feel that by saying these prayers aloud and the congregation following along and praying with me, that we are praying not only for ourselves at this point but also for all those in the world. This puts a global face on the liturgy and brings us into the prayer of the church.
The previous litany, known as the great litany, is the common bond in all of the liturgical services in the church. Each of the services, Orthros, Vespers, and the Divine Liturgy, share this common element. In it we begin by praying: “In peace let us pray to the Lord.” Peace in necessary for the full and complete appreciation of the Liturgy. If we do not have peace of mind and peace in our hearts then we are not worthy to stand before the Altar and beg forgiveness and to offer thanks. We must be reconciled to all before we can ask for reconciliation. Not always and easy task.

1 Comment

  1. Fr Victor (RIP!) said all the prayers out loud – even during the Liturgy of St Basil – unless there was a need for a “rush job” (eg: 9AM for some Saint’s Day when people need to go to work). I miss – greatly – hearing them. Pretty much everyone else does it “the short way”. Careful, Father, they’ll be calling you a Modernist!

    Strangely enough, since I converted in that parish, I always heard the “Us” to be “all of us”. It was only later that I was confronted with the “regal sense” and I thought it so strange, and alien to Orthodoxy: sadly it was also the norm. I remember reading a Protestant person’s report of his first liturgy: he wrote “wow, we were all standing there watching the priest worship.”

    Your saying things out loud is a beginning of avoiding that.

    Even sharing more of the text with the congregation (rather than the “virtual congregation” of the readers/cantors (now that our population is, for the most part, more literate than 5th century Byzantium) would have been further steps along this rout.

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