Following on from the interest shown in learning more about the meaning of the liturgy, I’ve dug out a little passage from my own little personal book of contemplations. It refers to the part at the end of the liturgy where the priest has finished dividing the Body into smaller pieces and lifts the paten high twice before he takes it away from the altar to give Communion to the congregation:
From facing the altar, the priest turns around and raises the paten twice towards the congregation, saying “The Holies for the holy”, and the people respond, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord”.
This is an announcement to all that this is indeed the Holy Body of Christ. We are reminded, as we were during the last part of the prayers, that those who wish to partake of the Holy Body and Blood must themselves be holy. As the priest holds the Holy Body high, our eyes are drawn upward in longing and desire to be made worthy to share in this Heavenly Feast. But we know that we can never make ourselves worthy of such a privilege, so our upward gaze is also a prayer, a request, a supplication:
Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens.
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the LORD our God, Until He has mercy on us.
But it is also a reminder of the Second Coming, hence the two raisings of the paten. Christ is raised high in the air, since He shall come back “as the lightning flashes from the East to the west”. At His first coming, many refused to say, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord”, but we now affirm that we are ready to receive Him by saying those very words. Then we are all gathered to Him as we approach for Holy Communion, as all peoples will be gathered to Him on the last day. We then receive Him so He dwells in us and we in Him. Thus do we taste the Kingdom of Heaven while we are yet on earth.
But let all those who approach Communion make sure they are prepared, for the unprepared wedding guest was cast out, and there will be those on the last day who will approach Him, only to find themselves thrust to His left hand side.
I will try to share a few more of these contemplations over the coming months, and I would love to hear your own contemplations on your favourite bits of the liturgy.