Hymns of the Church 4:
The Cherubic Hymn* Part 2
We are now approaching the presentation of the Precious Gifts in the Great Entrance. Christ comes with these Holy Gifts during the Great entrance to offer us His sacrifice for the salvation of the world. Here is an incredible story about Euthymios the Great that took place after the start of the Cherubic Hymn.
All the monks were present, all of them without exceptions, suddenly say a huge flame coming from above, from the temple’s dome, like a sheet that was covering, like a flaming cloud, surrounding Euthymios the Great along with Father Dometianos in the the Holy Bema… A fearful sight…and even more fearful, when they saw them realizing the Great entrance was surrounded by flames, moving within them and with them… Everyone fell on their stomach, for they could not bear the light and the brightness coming from the flames, in which those two worthy Celebrants were wrapped… This reminds us of the Lord’s Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. I should shout: “Oh, how miserable are today’s young priests!” The two celebrants, flame bearing and light bearing, remained in this state until the end of the Divine Liturgy. Indeed it was awesome, when it was time for the monks to receive Holy Communion, how did they go for communion while witnessing this fearful sight? With trembling feet, with dazzled eyes, with awe from within, amazement and in peace and rejoicing in their hearts…The heaven, paradise, the Triumphant Church, the Jerusalem Above, the Glory of our Christ, all were present, all within them…And all inside us…for that is how it happens, even if we do not see it. Inconceivable beauty and inexpressible blessedness, which was experienced by those who were partakers of that Divine Liturgy! How can one describe that which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard”? But in fact they saw, heard and experienced, that which was allowed by God to those chosen living earthen vessels.*
While the Cherubic Hymn is sung the priest recites one of the most powerful and dvinely-inspiring prayers of the Divine Liturgy beseeching the Lord to qualify him to perform this Great Mystery. “No one who is bound with the desires and pleasures of the flesh is worthy to approach, or draw near, or to serve Thee, O King of Glory; for to serve Thee is great and awesome, even to the Heavenly Powers. Yet, through Thine ineffable and boundless love toward mankind, Thou didst unchangeably and immutably become Man, and served as our High Priest, and as Lord of All, hast committed to us the celebration of this liturgical and bloodless sacrifice. For Thou alone, O Lord our God, rulest over all things in Heaven and Earth, Who art borne on the Throne of the Cherubim, Who art the Lord of the Seraphim and King of Israel, Who alone art Holy and resteth amongst Thy Saints. Wherefore, I implore Thee, Who alone art good, and ready to listen: Look down upon me, Thy sinful and unprofitable servant, and cleanse my soul and my heart from an evil conscience; and enable me by the power of Thy Holy Spirit, vested with the Grace of the Priesthood, to stand before this, Thy Holy Altar, and consecrate Thy Holy and Immaculate Body and Precious Blood. For to Thee I come, having bowed my head, and beseech Thee: Turn not Thy face away from me, nor reject me from among Thy Children; but make me worthy, Thy sinful and unworthy servant, to offer these Gifts unto Thee. For Thou art the Offerer and the Offered, Who accepts and is distributed, O Christ our God, and to Thee we ascribe glory, together with Thine Eternal Father, and Thine All-Holy, Good, and Life-giving Spirit; now and for ever, and from all Ages to all Ages. Amen.”
There is no priest who approaches the Altar trusting in his own holiness to serve the Divine Liturgy. The priest will also at this time cense the Altar and the people while reciting the 51st psalm. Incense is a strong urging for payer. When censed the people stand and bow. When this is complete the priest prostrates himself in front of the altar asking for God’s mercy as a sinner. He then turns facing the congregation and asks for their forgiveness as a sinner. He also asks God to forgive all those who hate us and those who love us. Then he proceeds to the Table of Oblation where the gifts have earlier been prepared.
* Lagghis Matthew, The Great Synaxarion of the Orthodox Church, vol 1, Athens 1992, p. 495 from Experiences in the Divine Liturgy, p. 221-222
Article extracted from the website of St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Greenville, SC: https://www.orthodoxprayer.org/Divine_Liturgy/Divine%20Liturgy-Cherubic%20Hymn.html