Nov 23, 2021
Now that it is getting closer to the blessed event of the Consecration of our Church, we would like to offer you a brief summary of what will be happening at our Church from the night before.
The Consecration of a Church
Great Vespers of Consecration
The evening's services begin with the procession of the Holy Relics into the Church. The Holy Relics will be carried by the Archbishop, who will enter the church together with all the clergy in attendance. The Archbishop will bring the Holy Relics to the Holy Altar Table on a Paten (Diskarion). The Paten will then be covered with an ornamental red covering.
The Archbishop will then conduct a short Prayer Service honoring the memory of the Martyrs, followed by the Great Vespers of Consecration.
The Consecration Vespers service features hymns that emphasize the central theme of the Consecration, which is renewal, as well as hymns from the Church’s patron saint’s feast day.
The day of Consecration will begin early on Thursday morning at 6.30 a.m with Archbishop Makarios officiating the Orthros service. As the faithful will enter the church, the altar will still be uncovered. The only items upon it are the relics on the covered paten and a vigil light.
Following the Orthros service the Consecration service will begin. After the reading of Psalm 143 and the Small Litany, the Archbishop will read the prayer:
Lord our God, at the intercessions of our Holy Lady, Mother of God, and of all Your Saints, direct the works of the hands of Your unworthy servants, and make us worthy to be well-pleasing to your goodness.
Blessed and glorified be the power of Your kingdom, of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages.
Following the prayer, His Eminence, all 8 Hierarchs of our Holy Archdiocese and clergy, together with all the faithful, will prepare for the three processions around the church. The three processions represent the setting aside of an area which will be separate and sacred from all other areas, especially and exclusively for the purpose of worshipping God.
The procession will be led by the altar boys, the choir and chanters, the priests, the Archbishop carrying the relics, and the faithful. The church is left completely empty.
As the procession begins, the chanters and choir chant the following hymn:
Holy Martyrs, who fought the good fight and received your crowns, intercede with the Lord to have mercy on our souls.
Glory to You, Christ God, the boast of Apostles, the joy of Martyrs, whose preaching was the consubstantial Trinity.
As everyone will exit the Church the outer doors will be closed and locked. No one will remain inside except for one person, the chanter, who will assist with the Dialogue of the Entrance.
When the procession will reach the main doors of the church, the Archbishop will place the Holy Relics on the table that has been placed before the doors. After the Gospel reading, the Archbishop will raise the Holy Relics and process around the church with the clergy and the faithful a second time.
The Archbishop will raise the Holy Relics a third time and process around the church with the clergy and the faithful. At the end of the Third Procession He will again place the Holy Relics on the table.
The Archbishop, standing in front of the doors of the church that were still closed, will begin a short dialogue. The words of this dialogue are taken from Psalm 24. This represents Christ the King entering and proving His authority in and over His Church. The Archbishop will raise his Hierarchical staff (Ravdos) and knock on the doors of the Church.
From inside the Church and behind the closed doors, the chanter will reply.
At the third response the metropolitan once again will lift the Holy Relics from the table and make the sign of the Cross with them three times in front of the closed doors. As soon as the third response is completed, the doors of the church will open.
The Archbishop will enter the church carrying the Holy Relics followed by the clergy, the chanters, the choir, the altar boys, and the congregation.
The Archbishop will then place the Holy Relics on the Holy Altar. Uncovering the Paten and placing the Holy Relics in the small reliquary (a small silver box) prepared for them. The relics are very small bone fragments that are adhered to the paten by wax so as to remain affixed during the procession. Holy Myron is poured over them three times representing the union between our Lord and His Martyrs. While doing this the Archbishop will pray for the founders of the Church.
He will then put on a white linen garment called a Savanon. In addition to protecting his vestments, the white cloth represents the cloth with which Joseph of Arimathea wrapped the body of Jesus before placing It in the tomb.
With great care He will place the reliquary containing the Holy Relics into the cavity that has been cut into the center of the Holy Altar Table, where it will remain permanently. The Archbishop will use wax-mastic to seal the Holy Relics into the cavity of the Holy Altar Table. Mastic is a resin used to make incense. The mastic is mixed with wax, myrrh, aloe, incense and labdanum to create and cementing compound. The Archbishop will first pour the wax-mastic over the silver box, and then will place in the cavity the names of parishioners, both living and departed, that have been printed on tiny scrolls. The parishioners, as members of the undivided Body of Christ, are thus sealed together with the Martyrs for all ages. He will then fill the cavity with powdered marble. A final layer of wax-mastic is poured to fill the entire cavity. The marble slab is placed over the opening and sealed with the wax-mastic.
The Archbishop will then remove the excess wax-mastic. A Psalm is read that refers to Baptism, Holy Chrism, the Cup and the Table which bears the Holy Bread. The deposition of the Holy Relics now completed, He prepares to wash and anoint the Holy Altar Table.
While the faithful kneel, He will read the prayer of Consecration. This prayer emphasizes renewal, referring to the power of God that causes nature to renew itself and helps man through the working of the Holy Spirit to renew himself. The word “renewal” in Greek is “Engainia” and the ritual of Consecration is called “Engainia” in Greek.
The Archbishop, standing in front of the Holy Altar Table, will take three pieces of soap and makes the sign of the Cross over them. A basin of warm water will be brought to the Archbishop who will pray over it in a low voice. He will then pour the blessed water on the Holy Altar Table three times in the form of the Cross. After washing the Holy Altar Table with the pieces of soap, the Archbishop will take a new sponge and dry the Holy Altar Table.
Antimension, which means “in place of a table,” is a piece of cloth received from the Ecumenical Patriarch on which Christ’s Burial is depicted. The Divine Liturgy is always celebrated on the Antimension. The Antimensia are thus Consecrated along with the Church and the Holy Altar. The Archbishop will have inscribed the Antimensia with the name of the church for which they have been consecrated, signed them and stamped them with his official seal.
With the priests standing close, the Archbishop, placing theAntimensia on the four corners of the Holy Altar Table, will take rose water (a sweet smelling fragrance which was used to anoint the Body of Christ for burial) and fragrant wine, mingle them, and pour them on the Holy Altar Table three times, making the sign of the Cross, while chanting the following Psalm:
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which you have broken rejoice.
While the Psalm is repeated, the Archbishop will wash the Holy Altar Table with the rose water and fragrant wine, and then wipe it dry with the Antimensia.
He willnext take a vessel filled with pure Holy Myron mixed with olive oil. Holy Myron, also known as Holy Chrism, is Holy Oil which contains many fragrant ingredients. It is mixed and blessed by the Ecumenical Patriarch during a special service on Holy Thursday once every 10 years and distributed to all churches in his care. It is primarily used for the celebration of the sacrament of Holy Chrismation. He will pour the Holy Myron onto the Holy Altar Table in the form of a Cross and chants “Alleluia” three times, as at a Baptism. “Alleluia” is a prophetic hymn that signifies the presence and praise of God. He spreads the Holy Myron over the entire Holy Altar Table with his hands.
When the Holy Altar Table has been wiped with the Antimensia to absorb the excess Holy Myron, the Antimensia will be laid aside again by the priests on a designated table in the sanctuary. By absorbing the Holy Myron, the Antimensia become consecrated themselves.
Then at the four corners of the Holy Altar Table, the four clothes (Hyphasmata) with the icons of the four Evangelists, will be affixed with wax-mastic. The completed Altar represents the entire Church, which from the four corners of the world is held together by the Lord, and is built on Him through the preaching of the Gospel.
After this the Archbishop will wash his hands in a new vessel, so that not a single drop of the Holy Myron falls anywhere on the floor, and will dry them with a new towel with great care and devotion.
The Holy Altar Table will then be covered with the Katasarkion. This white linen cloth represents the Lord’s burial shroud. The Katasarkion is tied with a cord which represents the cord with which our Lord’s hands were bound as He stood before the High Priests. The Katasarkion will never be removed and will remain on the Altar for as long as the Church remains standing. The Archbishop will then cover the Altar Table with a brighter and more elaborate cover which symbolizes the Glory of God since the Holy Altar represents the Throne of God.
He will then place the Artoforion (Tabernacle) in which the Body and Blood of our Lord are placed and reserved for Communion for the sick on the Altar Table. The Artoforion, an elaborate gold and silver box with a Cross-bearing dome, is symbolic of the presence of our Lord. The candlesticks which will be placed next represent the Light of Christ that shines forth during the Sacred Services.
The Archbishop will then unfold the Antimensia on the Altar Table and place them one on top of another. He will then unfold on them the Antimensia of the Church. On top of this is placed the Holy Gospel Book that represents the teachings of Christ.
The Holy Altar, having been consecrated, sanctified, and adorned with all its furnishings, is censed by the Archbishop who will then cense the Sanctuary and the whole Church.
After censing, the Archbishop, carrying a reed on the tip of which a sponge dipped in Holy Myron has been placed, will draw the sign of the Cross in the apse of the Sanctuary (Platytera), on the four columns (Icons of the Evangelists) and on every icon in the church. This act symbolizes the sanctification of all creation with the Grace of Christ. Upon completion of the Anointing, the Archbishop will offer prayers for the Holy Altar and the Church. He will then bless the faithful and offer another prayer for the Holy Altar Table. He asks God to fill this Altar with His Grace so that the Bloodless Sacrifice may be offered upon it.
Towards the end of the service the Archbishop will then light the Vigil Lamp and place it on the Holy Altar Table near the Artoforion. This light will be kept burning at all times and is symbolic of the Church of Christ as it shines forth with the light of grace to enlighten all people.
The Archbishop together with the other Hierarchs will then remove the Savanon and have it cut into small pieces to be given to everyone in attendance as a Phylacton, a blessed keepsake of the Consecration.
(The contents of this article are adapted from the Consecration Booklet from Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church of Brockton, MA)
Very exciting times ahead for our Parish. We look forward to seeing you all at the St. Catherine's Consecration Day on Thursday the 25th of November starting at 6.30 a.m!