‘Come let us worship and fall down before God’
The hymn ‘Only-begotten Son’, which ends the second Antiphon, was originally the Entrance Hymn, Eisodikon, of the Liturgy, as it still is in the Liturgy of St James. Originally this was the beginning of the Liturgy and the clergy came, not from the Altar, but from Narthex, or vestibule, through main door of the church. This is traditionally known as the Royal Gate, Vasiliki Pyli. Today when the singers begin the third Antiphon, the Priest takes up the book of the Gospels and going round the holy Table anti-clockwise he leaves the Altar by the north door of the icon screen, preceded by a server with a lighted candle, and goes to the centre of the church. Standing in the middle of the church the Priest blesses the Entrance, with the words, ‘Blessed is the entrance of your holy ones, always, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages’. We are ‘holy ones’, the ‘saints’.
Come, let us worship!
pontifical liturgy Entrance
In the Old Testament, God says to his people a number of times, ‘Be holy, because I am holy’ [Leviticus 11:44], and St Peter repeats this in his first Letter to his fellow Christians. In a number of places St Paul calls the Christians ‘saints’. By our baptism we have been ‘sanctified’, ‘made holy’, as the prayers of the service of Baptism make clear. Our task as Christians is to become what we already are. In the Liturgy, just before Communion, we are reminded of this again, when the Priest raises the holy Bread, the Body of Christ, saying, ‘the Holy Things for the Holy [ones]’. That is, us.
During the Entrance it is usual to sing the Apolytikion of the Sunday or Feast. The Apolytikion is the hymn that precedes the Dismissal (Greek Apolysis) at Vespers. It is the characteristic hymn of the day or the feast, and is used at all the offices and at the Liturgy. It is often a brief summary of the meaning of the feast. We should become familiar with the Apolytikia of the great feast and of our own patron Saint.
If a Bishop is the celebrant, he stays outside the Altar for the whole of the opening Litany and the Antiphons. The clergy, with the Gospels, join him in the middle of the church. The deacon, or the priest, if there is no deacon, raises the Gospel book high and exclaims, ‘Wisdom! Stand upright!’ The Gospel book is an icon of Christ, the Wisdom of God. It is never bound in leather, that is in the skin of a dead animal, but if possible in metal, sometimes gilded or silver, and frequently ornamented with jewels and enamelled. One cover is normally adorned with an icon of the Crucifixion, and the other with one of Descent of Christ into Hades, the traditional Orthodox image of the Resurrection.
book of the holy gospels
As we begin the Liturgy proper we are invited to stand up and give all our attention to where we are and what we are doing. Standing and facing East is the traditional Orthodox posture of prayer. Indeed the First Synod of Nicea in 325 forbade kneeling on Sundays and during the fifty days from Pascha to Pentecost.
‘Wisdom. Stand upright!’
Clergy and Singers chant the Entrance Hymn, while the clergy enter the Altar through the Holy Door, or Beautiful Gate, Oraia Pyli, to begin the Liturgy of the Word.