We are continuing today in this series, Worship in Spirit and in Truth, our commentary and reflection on the Divine Liturgy as it is served in the Orthodox Church and churches of the Byzantine rite today in our time, how this is done, and how we are to understand it. What I’d like to do today is to go back a bit and to just speak about how this entrance with the gospel book and the singing of the various hymns and the entrance into the altar area and the singing of the thrice-holy hymn, how this is done when the celebrant is a priest, a presbyter. Then the next time we will comment on how this is done, how it is executed, when the celebrant is a bishop, because there’s a significant difference between how it’s done when a priest is serving, presiding at the holy Eucharist, and when a bishop is presiding.
There are very large differences, and, because of this, in various traditions of the local Orthodox churches, like the churches of the Greek-speaking churches or the Arabic Byzantine type of Orthodoxy, and then the Russian tradition, which of course is the same, but it’s done in Slavonic language and done by Russians—there are differences here between the practices of the various churches, and certainly these differences are both apparent when the celebrant is a presbyter, a priest, and when the celebrant is the bishop. They are just done differently in different places. This is what I would like to comment on today. As I said, we’ll comment today on when the celebrant is a priest, a presbyter, and then next time we’ll make our commentary on what is done when the celebrant is a bishop.
We’ve already mentioned that during the singing of the third antiphon, whatever it might happen to be according to the church’s tradition, when a priest is serving and if he’s serving alone, he will pick up the gospel book from the altar table, and he will circle the altar with the book, come out the north door of the icon screen, [and] take a position in the middle of the church. Sometimes in the Russian tradition, the priest stays on the amvon, on the solea; sometimes in the churches of Byzantine tradition, the priest will go down onto the floor of the church, but in any case he will stop and stand before the royal doors until the third antiphon is finished.
Then he will raise the gospel book on high and say, “Wisdom! Let us stand aright!” or “Wisdom! Let us attend!” or “Wisdom! Arise!” and then he will enter into the sanctuary through the royal doors, the central doors, and place the gospel book on the altar table.
If a deacon is serving with a priest presiding, a presbyter presiding, this movement takes place in the same way, but the presbyter, the presiding priest, gives the gospel book to the deacon, if there is a deacon. Then it’s done the same way except that the procession is led by the deacon holding aloft the gospel book, [who] goes into the center of the church. The deacon asks the presbyter to bless the entrance, and, of course, [even] if there’s no deacon the priest will bless the entrance, saying, “Blessed be the entrance of the holy, always, now and ever, to the ages of ages. Amen.”
Then the deacon, if the deacon is serving, will raise the gospel on high, say, “Wisdom! Let us arise!” or “Let us stand up!” or “Let us attend!” and then the entrance will be made to the altar table with the deacon carrying the gospel, followed by the presbyter or several presbyters as the case may be.
In some churches, the deacon will give the gospel book back to the presiding priest, and he will place it on the altar table. In some traditions, like the Russian Church, the deacon will come in with the gospel book, and he will just simply set it down himself in its place on the altar table. So this is the execution of that actual movement: around the altar, into the middle of the church, asking for the attention and for the people to stand and be still, then you’ll have “Wisdom! Let us attend!”, they’ll sing, “O come, let us worship and bow down,” the clergy enter the altar, and the gospel book is placed on the altar table where it was taken from in the beginning. So that’s the movement of that entrance.
Here there are already several differences that exist among different traditions, how that’s done. Like, if there’s a concelebration of priests and no deacon, who carries the gospel book: those kind of things have their kind of local tradition and practice. But one practice that exists in the Russian tradition that does not exist in the others is that, when the clergy enter into the altar area, if they’re led by the deacon carrying the gospel book, he just enters through the doors and places the book on the altar. If there is no deacon, the priest will carry the book himself and enter into the altar.
But the difference now in the Russian tradition from the others is… I don’t know the origin of this; I don’t know how it happened. And by the way, in the Russian rubrics, if you take the rubrics of the Russian Church, there’s no mention of this in the rubrics at all; it’s not indicated anywhere in the rubrics.
I have a wonderful book written by an alumnus of St. Vladimir’s. He’s a Russian who studied at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. He came to America with Communist parents who were working for the government, and while at Oberlin College he converted to Orthodoxy. He was never baptized [before]; he was baptized there at Oberlin by Fr. Basil Stoyka in Lorain, Ohio. He became a Christian here in America; then he went back, and he spent a couple years in Greece studying, and now he is working in Russia. He wrote a book which is his master’s thesis when he studied at Thessaloniki. His name is Valentine Pechatnov, and the book that he wrote is called Bozhestvennaya Liturgiya v Rossii i Gretsii: Sravnitel’noye Izucheniye Sovremennogo China, and I’m using this book quite a bit. It’s in Russian language. Translated into English, the book is called The Divine Liturgy in Russia and in Greece: Comparative Study of Contemporary Order [or] Contemporary Practice. It’s quite a valuable book.
He says, Valentine tells us in his studies, that there’s no rubric about what I’m going to say right now in any of the books, but it is practiced in the Russian Church everywhere, and in the Orthodox Church in America in those churches that are from the Russian tradition they will also do this particular action. For example, I am a presbyter. When I serve the Divine Liturgy, I will do this particular maneuver, this particular action.
This is the action. When the clergy enter into the altar area, the presiding presbyter, the celebrating priest, will kiss an icon of Christ that is just like the large icon of Christ on the icon screen. There is placed on the pillar of the inside of the royal doors a small icon of Christ. The presiding priest will make the sign of the Cross and kiss that icon. If there isn’t a separate icon put on the pillar of the royal doors, on the right side, he will just kiss the actual icon, on the icon screen, of Christ.
Then he will turn around, facing the people, and will bless the altar servers (or altar server, if there’s only one) who are carrying the candles on the Little Entrance, or the fans. They will line up in front of the royal doors, and he will bless them.
Then he will go to the left icon, of the Theotokos and the Child, and there will be a special little icon on the pillar of the entrance of the royal doors on that side, and again he will make the sign of the Cross and kiss that icon. Then he will enter into the sanctuary. If there’s no deacon, he’ll be carrying the altar gospel book in his left hand while he makes the sign of the Cross and kisses first the icon of Christ on the right side, then he blesses the altar servers, then he kisses the icon of the Theotokos and Child, the Incarnation icon, on the other side, and then he enters into the altar area. This is not done in any of the Orthodox churches except those of Russian tradition.
But here there has to be a very important commentary, because, in some Russian churches—and I’m also tempted to say in most Russian Orthodox churches—this activity, this action, is not done properly. It’s not done properly. What is done is that the celebrant will kiss the icon of Christ on the right side, and then, when he turns and faces the people, he’ll say, “Peace be to all” or “Peace be to you,” loudly, and everyone in the congregation will bow their head, and they’ll think that he is blessing him. And perhaps in the mind of the priest himself, he’ll think that he’s blessing all of the faithful, the whole people, and then he’ll kiss the icon of the Theotokos and Child and enter the altar area.
Very important: that blessing is not for the entire congregation. It is not. The first blessing and the first “Peace” to the entire congregation is given from the High Place behind the altar table, after the singing of the Trisagion is completed. That blessing, again, is not for the entire congregation. It is a blessing solely for the altar server, or the altar servers) who are carrying the candles and the fans on the procession. He’s blessing the servers, those who are serving him, the acolytes. It is a blessing for the acolytes.
For example, in the monastery here where I now serve, that practice is done. This monastery is of Romanian origin; however, when priests of OCA or Russian tradition, like me, serve there, we do that particular action. In the monastery, the candle is carried on that procession by one of the nuns who is blessed to serve in the altar if there are no other altar servers present; no altar boys, let’s say. She will carry the candle, and as a matter of fact in the monastery, after she leads the celebrant—let’s say I’m serving—after she leads me with the gospel book, and I bless the entrance, and I say, “Wisdom! Arise! Let us attend!” and start going in, when I kiss the icon of Christ, she’s standing a little bit to the side, and I make it very obvious that it is she whom I’m blessing, not the entire congregation. I look at her, she’s bowing to me, I make the cross over her head, and then she bows and enters into the altar with the candle.
If there are altar boys, they usually line up across the church building, in front of the royal doors. But, again, the celebrant, should make it very clear: they bow their heads to him, he blesses them for leading the entrance as acolytes, as servers at the altar, and then he, after kissing the icon of Christ, he blesses them, they bow, they then re-enter the altar area to continue serving at the altar, and then he kisses the icon of the Theotokos and Child and enters the altar [area].
Why is this so important? Why am I kind of making a big deal about this? The reason is [that] it is important liturgically for the significance of the service that the first time that the main celebrant, the presiding priest or especially when a bishop is serving, the first time that he blesses the entire congregation, it has to be when he is behind the altar table on the High Place, and the procession is completed with the singing of “Holy God,” and he is already, during the singing of the “Holy God,” which I’ll mention in a minute more in detail, he completes the entrance by going behind the altar and standing in the High Place.
Now, if a bishop is celebrating, as we’ll see, he will go to that Place during the singing of the Trisagion, which is done differently—we’ll talk about that next time—and the bishop will stand right in front of the throne that is behind the altar table in the altar area, and there should be a throne behind the altar for the bishop to sit on when he’s serving. If there’s one there permanently, he sits on it, and the priest never sits on it; he always stands a little bit to the side. And even when the bishop is not there, the priest stands a little bit to the side. He doesn’t stand directly behind the altar, in front of the bishop’s throne, and he certainly never sits on the bishop’s throne.
But when the bishop is there, he does go right to the center. He goes to the High Place sometimes; it’s a couple of steps higher than where the presbyters will be around him, or the other bishops if there are more. But the presiding bishop will go to the throne, and there will be a blessing of it, as we’ll see, and that’s where the completion of the Small Entrance is done. The completion is not in front of the altar table. The completion of the entrance is after the “Holy God,” the Trisagion, is sung and the celebrant is behind the altar table, standing on what is called, liturgically, the High Place or the Elevated Place.
What has to be seen here—very important—is that that is the first giving of the peace to all of the faithful. It is not at the royal door when the celebrant blesses the altar servers (or the altar server, if there’s only one). That blessing is only for the altar servers; it’s not for everybody, and the priest who’s doing that blessing should make it very clear that that is what is happening so that the meaning of the peace being given from behind the altar, after the “Holy God” will have the significance that it is supposed to have in the Divine Liturgy.
But this leads to other areas for commentary, because, in some churches of the Greek tradition, the Byzantine tradition, the celebrant never goes to the High Place. He simply stops in front of the altar table and stays there right through the Trisagion, the reading of the Epistle, the reading of the Gospel. He never goes to the High Place. Sometimes when a bishop is serving, in the Byzantine tradition, he also does not go to the High Place, to his throne behind the altar. This is very sad, because that’s a very meaningful part of the Liturgy, when the procession is completed and the celebrant faces the people for the first time from the High Place. If it’s a bishop, from the throne; if it’s a presbyter, from standing right next to the throne, at the High Place. That is the first formal “Peace” of the celebrant to the entire congregation at the Divine Liturgy, and that has to be retained.
If we move back again, let’s get to the point where the priest, either following the deacon or by himself, goes through the royal doors and takes his place in front of the altar. In Russian tradition, he’ll kiss the icon of Christ, bless the servers, kiss the icon of the Theotokos, and take his place in front of the altar. In other traditions—Byzantine, Carpathian, Ukrainian—that is often not done, and the celebrant simply goes directly and stand in front of the altar table.
When he enters into the altar area or re-enters, if he’s alone, because he has come out of there on the Little Entrance, so he’s back there at the end of the entrance, at the singing of “O come, let us worship,” then, while the people and the chanters, the singers, the choir, whoever, are singing the hymns of the day, then the celebrant reads the prayer of the Trisagion, the prayer of the Thrice-holy hymn. This is usually done quietly. While the hymns are being sung, the celebrant reads that prayer.
Sometimes he reads it in a loud enough voice so that the people could hear with the songs over him. In very few churches today, but it does happen sometimes, the celebrant, when he’s a priest or even a bishop, will simply wait till the kontakia, troparia, the hymns of the day, are sung, and then read the prayer in a voice that the people can hear. But I would say most of the time this long prayer that introduces the singing of the Trisagion is done quietly at the altar by the celebrant, with the other priests following along the prayer with him.
What does this prayer say? Of course, I have many different translations here of this prayer, and I will read it first from the service book of the Orthodox Church in America. This is what it says.
O holy God, who dost rest in the saints, who art hymned by the seraphim with the thrice-holy cry, and glorified by the cherubim, and worshiped by every heavenly power, who out of nothing has brought all things into being, who has created man after thine own image and likeness, and has adorned him with thine every gift, who givest to him who asks wisdom and understanding, who does not despise the sinner but instead has appointed repentance unto salvation, and who has vouchsafed to us, thy humble and unworthy servants, even in this hour to stand before the glory of thy holy altar and to offer worship and praise which are due unto thee.
Now the prayer continues, but I’m going to stop here and reflect on what I just read, because it seems to me that there can be certain points needing commentary. For example, the first line says, “O holy God, who dost rest in the saints.” Well, here we have the same issue that we spoke about before, when we spoke about blessing the entrance. Is it the entrance of the saints, or is it the entrance of the sanctuary, the holy things? We’ll see that other translations don’t think it means “who rests in the saints,” but who think that it means “who rests or abides in the sanctuary,” in other words, in the holy place of the church, like the presence of Yahweh in the Old Testament was abiding and dwelling in the holy of holies in the temple. So that “saints” could be “holy place” or “holy people.” So I think if we just say, “in the holy,” that’ll cover both: “O holy God, who dwells or rests in the holy,” both the holy place and the holy people.
Then, of course, “hymned by the seraphim with thrice-holy cry,” that’s the Trisagion hymn, and it refers to the seraphim and the cherubim singing this “Holy, holy, holy!” around the throne of God as Isaiah saw in the Old Covenant and as is depicted in the book of Revelation in the New Testament Scripture. So it’s the thrice-holy hymn being sung eternally, everlastingly by the angels [that] is referred to right at the beginning of this prayer.
Then it says that the Lord is “worshiped by every heavenly power.” That means the whole nine ranks of angels. And that this same holy God “has brought all things into being out of nothing,” so all things that exist were called into existence by him. This is a quotation of the Letter to the Romans by St. Paul: “who called into being that which was not.” It’s a reference to the creation: “who calls into being that which before was not.”
And then it says, “who has created man.” In some of the modern translations, and certainly here at the monastery, at least when I’m serving, we say, “who has created human beings after your own image and likeness, and has adorned them with your every gift,” because we wouldn’t want people to think that it just means males. Now, of course, when we say “man” or “mankind” in our churches, we all know that that means women, too; that means all of humanity. Just because it’s such an issue today with feminism and political correctness and so on, sometimes it’s made plural, and we’ll see that that’s what they have done in the ecumenical patriarchate also. I will read that prayer in a minute, the different translations.
But then it says that we’re made in God’s image and likeness and are adorned with every gift, and that we are given: “you give to us who ask wisdom and understanding.” That’s obviously a reference to the fact that this is still at the Liturgy of the Catechumens; it’s at the Liturgy of the Word. The Apostle reading and the Gospel reading will be made very shortly. Very soon, right after the singing of the Trisagion, you’re going to have the readings. I’m virtually certain that this reference to “who gives to those who ask wisdom and understanding” has to do with the reading of the word of God that’s going to take place immediately. Virtually right away, we’re going to hear the word of God in the Gospel.
“Who gives to those who ask wisdom and understanding,” it means we are here to learn. This is the Liturgy of the Word; this is the Liturgy of the Catechumens. There are people here who are not baptized. There are seekers, there are visitors, whatever, but you give wisdom and understanding to those who ask you, and especially to understand the readings in the service.
We will see that, in between the reading of the Apostle and the reading of the Gospel, there will be a solemn singing of “Alleluia” with an incensing of the altar book and the sanctuary, right in the middle of the readings from Scripture. After the Epistle or Apostle reading, before the Gospel reading, you have a big “Alleluia” and an incensing. We’ll talk about that next time, or later in any case, but not today. But what we see in this prayer is that it seems to be clearly a reference that we’re at the Liturgy of the Word.
Then it continues: “who does not despise the sinner, but instead has appointed repentance unto salvation.” So we are allowed to serve because we are repentant. We’re sinners. Oh, yes, we’re definitely sinners, but God does not despise us, and he appoints us, through our repentance, to be able to serve this service unto our salvation. There will be a prayer at the Liturgy of the Faithful, before the Great Entrance with the bread and wine, which will say virtually identically the same thing. We’ll talk about that prayer when we get to it.
But what we want to see is that there’s a special prayer before the readings of the Liturgy of the Word and before the Eucharistic Anaphora and the consecration of the Gifts in holy Communion at the Liturgy of the Faithful, that the structure is the same; it’s parallel. You have the same things happening both times. You are saying what you are doing, and you are asking God to make it happen, really, and you are asking God to forgive the fact that you’re a sinner, but that you’re repentant. You are then blessed to carry on this ministry.
But we say, “You have vouchsafed to us, thy humble and unworthy servants, even in this hour, to stand before the glory of your holy altar table, and to offer worship and praise which are due unto you.” That could be interpreted as meaning that it’s only for the celebrants. The celebrants have entered the holy place. They’re standing before the altar. They are the ones who are entrusted with offering and leading the worship and praise. A case can be made that the “humble and unworthy servants” who at that very hour are standing before the glory of the holy altar to offer the worship and the praise, it means the clergy, or the bishop, the priests.
But I think by extension it can mean everyone who’s in the church. Why? Because everybody’s standing now before the holy altar. Spiritually, the whole congregation has entered into the holy place with the celebrants. The doors are open. They see him in front of the altar table. They see the altar table.
By the way, it has to be mentioned that in the Russian language, Slavonic liturgical language, the altar table is called “prestol,” which means a throne. So we’ve been counted worthy to stand before the throne. So we’re going to see that the altar table is called a throne, and there is actually a throne standing behind the altar table in the sanctuary of the church that a bishop is going to sit on when he is serving. That’s where he’s going to preach from; at least historically, that’s what used to be the case. But that shows that he is the image of Christ in the community and is manifesting Christ during this service.
In any case, what we see in this prayer is that you begin with these words of prayer. “You are to be worshiped. You’re worshiped by the angels. We who are created in God’s image are also worshiping you. You have given us every grace. You give us wisdom and understanding. You do not despise us being sinners. Instead you appoint repentance for salvation, and you count us worthy…” By the way, that’s what “vouchsafe” means literally in Greek kataxiōson; in Slavonic spodobi. It means: “You count us worthy; we the unworthy are now counted or considered to be or made worthy, even at this altar to offer the worship and the praise which are due to you.”
Then the prayer continues:
Do you yourself, O Master…
I’ll read it exactly as it’s written. It’s in “thee and thou.”
...thyself, O Master, accept even from the mouths of us sinners the thrice-holy hymn.
The Trisagion. Now, that obviously means everybody, because not only the clergy are going to sing it, the whole congregation is going to sing it. When a priest is serving alone and there’s no bishop present, it is sung by the congregation with the clergy singing along with them. We’ll see how that’s different when a bishop serves; we’ll see that next time or in the future. But for now, if there is no bishop and the presbyter is the presiding officer, he will say:
Do you yourself, O Master, accept even from the mouths of us sinners the trisagion hymnon, the thrice-holy hymn.
And I believe that he’s including all the people in that particular petition. And then he says:
Visit us in your goodness. (Visit us in thy goodness.) Forgive us every transgression, both voluntary and involuntary. Sanctify our souls and our bodies. (And it says here:) Enable us. (Or we could also say it should be translated:) And count us worthy to serve you in holiness all the days of our life.
That certainly can apply to the clergy. We are praying to be forgiven all of our sins, and that our bodies and souls would be sanctified, and that we would be counted worthy to serve in holiness all the days of our life. But that can by extension again be extended to the entire congregation. May everybody in the church be forgiven their transgressions, voluntary and involuntary. May everybody’s body in the church be sanctified, and may all be able and enabled or made worthy to serve you in holiness all the days of our life.
Then it ends in a very classical way:
Through the intercessions of the holy Theotokos (that’s Mary, the mother of God) and of all the saints who from the beginning of the world have been well-pleasing to you.
All of the holy ones, all of the holies who from the beginning of the world have been pleasing to you. Then the prayer ends with the exclamation:
For holy art thou, our God, and unto thee we ascribe glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Now, when the presiding priest gets to the end of this prayer, before he says the final doxology or the final ekphonesis, the final exclamation, the deacon, if there is a deacon, will come to him and will say, “Bless, Father!” and if it’s a bishop will say, “Bless, Master!” at the time of the Trisagion, the moment of singing the Thrice-holy. Then the celebrant will say, “For holy art thou, our God; unto thee we send up glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever.” Then the deacons will go unto the royal doors, if there is a deacon, and, making a movement which embraces the entire congregation, he will say, “And unto ages of ages.” Then the people with the leading singers will say, “Amen,” and they will sing, “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.”
That’s how it’s done to get us to that particular point in the Liturgy, but before we end for today—and we have more to say about this, of course: a lot more—what I’d like to do is to point out how this introductory prayer has been translated into English in different ways. First of all, I will read to you how it’s translated in the Antiochian Liturgikon here in America. It goes like this.
O holy God, who resteth in the holy place, who art hymned by the seraphim with thrice-holy cry, and glorified by the cherubim, and worshiped by every heavenly power, who out of nothingness has brought all things into being, who has created man according to thine image and likeness and has adorned him with thine every gift, who givest to him that asketh wisdom and understanding, who despises not the sinner but has appointed repentance unto salvation, who has vouchsafed unto us, thy humble and unworthy servants, even in this hour to stand before the glory of thy holy altar and to offer the worship and praise which are due unto thee, do thou thyself, O Master, receive even from the mouths of us sinners the thrice-holy hymn, and visit us in thy goodness, pardoning us every transgression, both voluntary and involuntary, sanctify our souls and our bodies, grant us to serve thee in holiness all the days of our life, through the intercessions of the holy Theotokos and of all the saints, who from the beginning of the world have been well-pleasing unto thee.
Then the deacon, if there is one, says, “Bless the time of the thrice-holy.” Sometimes he’ll say out loud, “Let us pray to the Lord,” the people will sing, “Lord, have mercy,” and then you have the finishing of the prayer:
For holy art thou, O God, and unto thee we ascribe glory, to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever.
And if the priest is alone, he finishes it:
And unto ages of ages.
If he has a deacon, the deacon finishes it by facing the people and pointing to all of them with his orarion, his stole:
Unto ages of ages. Amen.
And then the thrice-holy hymn is sung.
The difference in this prayer with the OCA is the opening line definitely says that God rests in a holy place, whereas the OCA says, “in the saints.” So there you see the two differences: one chose one way, and another chose the other way of translating this particular prayer. Then, of course, there are other ways in which this prayer is translated.
Looking at the prayer as it’s done in Great Britain, in the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the translation done by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) and Fr. Ephrem Lash and their colleagues there, this is how the prayer is translated into English.
Holy God, at rest in the holy place (so they have “holy place” and not “saints”), hymned by the seraphim with the thrice-holy song (not hymn), glorified by the cherubim and worshiped by every heavenly power, out of non-existence you brought the universe into being and created male and female according to your image and likeness, adorning them with every gift of your grace…
So here, those in England, they make it very, very clear: “created male and female.” Not “man,” but “male and female, according to your image and likeness,” and it’s “you,” not “thee” and “thou,” and
...you give wisdom and understanding to those who ask (in plural), and you do not reject the sinner, but for our salvation you have established repentance.
So you have it clearly: “male and female” and “them” from England, translation for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Then it continues.
You have counted us, your humble and unworthy servants, worthy.
And that’s a very nice way to put it, rather than “vouchsafed.” I mean, what does “vouchsafed” mean nowadays? It means “make us worthy.” That’s what “vouchsafed” means. “Consider us as worthy”: that’s its literal translation. So they have done it that way.
You have counted us, your humble and unworthy servants, worthy to stand at this time…
Because everybody was told to stand up, remember? “Wisdom! Let us arise!”
...before the glory of your holy altar...
So they don’t say “table” or “throne,” but “altar.”
...and to offer you due worship and praise. Accept, Master, the thrice-holy hymn, even from the mouth of us sinners…
Here again it’s the people who are going to be singing it primarily.
...and visit us in your goodness. Pardon us every offense, voluntary and involuntary. Sanctify our souls and bodies, and grant that we may worship you in holiness all the days of our life. At the prayers (instead of “through” or “by,” but “at”) of the holy mother of God and of all the saints, who have been well-pleasing to you in every age...
It doesn’t say from creation or from the foundation of the world, but “in every age,” and the word there is “age,” not “world,” so this is most correct, literally.
...for you, our God, are holy, and to you we give glory, to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever.
And of course, if there’s a deacon, he will face the people through the royal doors and say, “Unto ages of ages.” The people will sing, “Amen,” and sing the thrice-holy hymn.
Let’s also just take a look at one more translation, namely, that done in America by the Greek Orthodox Church at Holy Cross, because their rendering is a little bit different also in places. This is how they translated it.
Holy God, you dwell among your saints.
So like the OCA, they say “saints,” whereas the Antiochians and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Europe say, “holy place.”
You are praised by the seraphim with thrice-holy hymn, glorified by the cherubim, worshiped by all of the heavenly powers. You have brought all things out of nothing into being. You have created men and women...
They write. The British say, “male and female.” Antiochians and OCA just say, “man.” But here they write:
You have created men and women in your image and likeness, and adorned them with all the gifts of your grace. You give wisdom and understanding to the supplicant, and do not overlook the sinner, but have established repentance as the way to salvation.
That is quite a different nuance given to that line in this translation from the other three. But they, again, use “enable.”
You have enabled us…
Rather than “counted us worthy,”
You have enabled us, your lowly and unworthy servants, to stand at this hour before the glory of your holy altar and to offer to you due worship and praise. Master, accept the thrice-holy hymn also from the lips of us sinners, and visit us in your goodness. Forgive us our voluntary and involuntary transgressions. Sanctify our souls and our bodies, and grant that we may worship and serve you in holiness all the days of our lives. By the intercessions of the holy Theotokos and of all the saints who have pleased you throughout the ages.
And then the exclamation:
For you are holy, O our God. To you we give glory: to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever.
And then he completes it with “And unto ages of ages” if there is no deacon, or, as I’ve already said three times, the deacon will go in the royal doors, facing the people, and say, “Unto ages of ages,” they will sing, “Amen,” and begin singing the Trisagion.
So we will stop here for today. There are several other things that have to be mentioned here at this point, which we will do next time. But next time, also, I will comment on how this is done when a bishop is celebrating, what is the difference there. But before we do that, there is still more to be said about this particular part of the Liturgy when the celebrant is a priest, a presbyter. That is what we will continue next time.