Hymns of the Church 3:
The Cherubic Hymn* Part 1
We are now beginning The Liturgy of the Faithful, the third and last part of the Divine Liturgy, which commences with the “Great Entrance” while the Choir chants the “Cherubic Hymn.”
This final part of the Liturgy begins with the priest chanting: “Grant, that being ever protected by Thy power, to Thee we may ascribe glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and from all Ages to all Ages.”
The Priest then unfolds the “Antimension” (meaning: “instead of the table”). On this Antimension we see imprinted the pious Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea taking down the Body of Jesus from the Cross. The Antimension usually contains the relics of a Martyr. The Antimension brings us back to the days of the early persecutions, during which the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in various and remote places, catacombs, and so forth, not having one designated Place and Table as we have today. It is the same today, even though we do have established places of worship, we still use the “Antimension” as a reminder that the Church of Christ is not confined to any certain place or section. It also contains the Signature of the Bishop authorizing the conduct of the Divine Liturgy.
The laity begins to sing the Cherubic Hymn: “Let us, who mystically represent the cherubim and sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-giving trinity, lay aside all worldly cares, that we may receive the King of all, invisibly escorted by the angelic hosts. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”
This hymn invites us to walk with Jesus Christ on the path of martyrdom that leads to the sacrifice on the Cross, setting aside every worldly care we may have. Saint John Chrysostom says, “The soul of a Christian who has not learned how to become alienated from worldly cares during the Divine Liturgy, will never be able to admire the all-heavenly… Mind and heart will not be glorified in splendor by the inconceivable grandeur of the heavenly Altar and the angelic hymns.” Now is the time to set aside all worldly cares and focus exclusively on Christ our Savior. This includes all the thoughts of family, our jobs, all our worries, and our trials and tribulations. Fill the mind instead with Christ: “Lord have mercy on me.” To be so attentive as to shed our worldly cares demands that we adopt a contrite state––one of extreme humility. We must recognize our unworthiness to receive the Precious Gifts that are about to be presented to us. We should realize how blessed we are to receive these gifts for our spiritual benefit. Our egoism must be crushed. This requires our attention and effort.
Why? So we can receive the “king of all.” Jesus Christ was the most powerful king of all, God Himself, One of Three, who came without an army but with total humility.
Having set aside our worldly cares we join with the multitude of angelic bodiless powers, and “mystically represent the cherubim,” who continually “sing the thrice-holy hymn.” At this time the entire church is transformed into a part of the heavenly Church––the Church Triumphant.
* Article extracted from the website of St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Greenville, SC: https://www.