Friday, April 23, 2021

A Model Sermon for Children Attending a Presanctified Liturgy

 By Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Mani

First of all, I want to congratulate you for coming to church today and standing quietly, with reverence, here in the house of God.

I will tell you a few words about the Presanctified Divine Liturgy - this special Liturgy - which is performed only during this period of Great Lent.

The wise Fathers of the Church have instituted the Presanctified Divine Liturgy because at this time we cannot perform the normal, the glorious, the perfect, as we say, Divine Liturgy, and this is because this period is one of mourning, it is a period of fasting, of greater self-control and prayer, it is a period of greater spiritual struggles.

We say everything in a lower tone in our voice, the lights are dimmed, everything is more contrite. When we perform the normal Divine Liturgy, then everything is bright, joyful, glorious.

It is called "Presanctified" because the Holy Gifts, that is, the Bread and the Wine offered at the Holy Altar, have been changed into the Body and Body of Christ from the previous Divine Liturgy. It has been, therefore, sanctified beforehand.

During this service some of the most beautiful hymns are chanted, as you heard, such as the "Let my prayer rise as incense..." and "Now we worship invisibly with the powers of heaven...."

Wonderful hymns, with mystical and otherworldly grandeur that lift our hearts to heaven. And as the heavenly incense ascends to heaven, so our prayers go up to the heavenly throne of God.

But the Presanctified Divine Liturgy reminds us of something else. It reminds us of the first Christians. The ancient Church. Those faithful Christians who had great and ardent faith in Christ, who boldly confessed that they were Christians, who kept His divine commandments, who loved one another, who helped one another, who did not fear martyrdom and death on behalf of the true God.

And as you know, the persecutions against the Christians back then by the pagans, by the impious and by the enemies of Christianity were many and cruel.

Many of these martyrs, these saints, were revealed by our Church, such as Saint Ignatius who was martyred at the Colosseum in Rome, Saint Polycarp, Saint George, Saint Demetrios, Saint Paraskevi, Saint Barbara, Saint Marina, Saint Sebastian and many others whom we celebrate and honor.

The first Christians, therefore, who loved Christ with all their hearts, could not live without Holy Communion, without this spiritual nourishment which is the Body and Blood of Christ. They wanted the supplement of life.

They wanted Christ to dwell in them. To be Christ-like in their daily lives. If their desire at one point was to be baptized, now it was to receive Holy Communion.

A sacred desire, a holy desire, a desire that saved them from sin and united them with the Master of Life and Death, Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world.

This desire was depicted, that is it was painted in the Catacombs. Whoever visits them in Rome can see their depictions.

There you will see a container holding bread, and a Holy Chalice, further you will see the famous representation of Ι.Χ.Θ.Υ.Σ., which means fish, each Greek letter representing the following phrase: "Jesus, Christ, God, Son, Savior". You will also see a thirsty deer, a vine, and the Good Shepherd, ie Christ.

All these scenes are reminiscent of the Last Supper, the Holy Gifts, the Eucharist, the performance of the Divine Liturgy.

They symbolize this sacred desire and the holy longing that the early Christians had for Holy Communion. Therefore they communed at the normal Divine Liturgies and also when the Presanctified Divine Liturgies took place.

And in fact, let me add that they stood very orderly in the church, they all sang together, they all said the "Our Father", the "Lord have mercy", and the "Amen".

When the time came for them to receive they approached very carefully, without making noise, but instead they came with reverence and faith. First the priests communed, then the deacons, then the subdeacons, the readers, then the chanters, the deaconesses, then the children and finally all the people.

They sang that O so beautiful hymn: "Taste and see that the Lord is good" and their eyes filled with tears. They felt divine contrition, love and joy.

In fact, for those who could not go to church because they were sick, were in prison, were taken prisoner, and were still in the Colosseum facing their martyrdom, then, for them, they urged their fellow Christian brothers to bring them Holy Communion so they would not remain too long without it.

Remember the little boy, Tarsius, who was beaten and died on the street, on the Appian Way, just outside Rome, because he did not want to hand over the Holy Gifts that he hid on his chest under his shirt as he went to secretly bring them to imprisoned Christians, and the pagans had pressured him to throw them down on the ground but he refused.

I will end by telling you, my good children, some advice now as you are about to receive.

Whoever forgot and ate in the morning or drank water or something else will not receive communion today. You will come another time. I will wait for you another day.

When you come to commune you will not speak at all. We pray within ourselves. We will be moving slowly. We will not push each other. We come with respect and reverence. The holy angels are here and they are watching us.

When you get here, we make our cross, we put the red handkerchief under our jaw so as not to allow the slightest "crumb" to fall down, and we open up our mouths wide.

After we commune we wipe our mouths with the handkerchief, take the antidoron and leave again quietly for our place.

On this day that we communed we should be very careful to be of good behavior and to be happy.

This is because, my children, Christ is within us. We partook of the Body and Blood of Christ. We are His children. Be sure of this. Christ blesses us, He sanctifies us, and He loves us.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.