The Divine Liturgy:

The Enarxis

The Enarxis, or "entrance rite," is the first part of the Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite. This article describes the Enarxis and each of its parts. It also provides some historical background and liturgical explanations, and describes how to follow the service in our Divine Liturgies book. It does not, however, cover musical aspects of this part of the service. For these details, see Singing the Divine Liturgy: The Enarxis.

This part of the service is preceded by the preparation of the clergy and people, and of the gifts of bread and wine (the part of the Divine Liturgy called the "prothesis.") The prothesis ends with a complete incensation of the church by the priest or deacon. (These articles assume the presence of a deacon; in his absence, most of his tasks are performed by the priest.)

The opening blessing and litany

At the altar (called in our tradition the "holy table"), the priest intones the opening blessing of the Divine Liturgy:

Blessed is the kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
now and ever and forever.

to which the people respond, "Amen." This blessing is specific to the Divine Liturgy. Where other services begin with a glorification of the Trinity (at Matins) or a blessing of God (other services), the Divine Liturgy or Eucharist announces the presence of the Kingdom of God, and his benevolence toward us.

Immediately, the deacon (standing on the solea) begins the Litany of Peace, in which we pray for all the needs of the world. To each petition, the people respond, "Lord, have mercy." This repeated invocation is a prayer for God's help and protection, but also an acknowledgment that without God, we can do nothing, while with Him, nothing is impossible.

It is important to recognize that our responses to this Litany should be actual prayer: in other words, when the deacon tells us to pray for a particular need, we should lift up our hearts to God with that need in mind, as we sing, "Lord, have mercy!"

The Office of Three Antiphons

The Divine Liturgy continues with the three antiphons - and here it is useful to know what an antiphon is, and how antiphons entered the liturgy. (In general, these pages avoid much discussion of the history of the Divine Liturgy. But in this case, the history helps us understand why our liturgy is the way it is today.)

Antiphons in the city of Constantinople

In Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire (376-1453) where our liturgical tradition had its origins, was filled with churches. On any given Sunday or feast-day, the Divine Liturgy would be celebrated by the patriarch of the city at a particular church – but that is not where the people would assemble for the liturgy. Instead, they would meet at another church, form a procession including a reader, a deacon, and a priest, and begin making their way in procession toward the Divine Liturgy.

Along the way, a psalm would be chanted, one specially chosen for the theme of the day. The reader would sing the first verse of the psalm, and the people (led by chanters) would respond with a short refrain, or troparion. These refrains were short, theological, and easily memorized: "O Son of God, risen from the dead, save us!" or "Save your people, O Lord, and bless your inheritance!" The reader would chant the psalm, verse by verse, and the people would sing the refrain as they walked. At the end of the psalm, the reader would intone the Small Doxology ("Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever. Amen") and the people would sing the refrain once more. Then the procession would stop; the deacon would lead the petitions of a litany, and then the priest would say an appropriate prayer, and the people would respond, "Amen." These components – psalm verses with a refrain; Glory, now and ever, with the refrain; and a litany concluding with a prayer – made up one antiphon.

As people gathered, the procession would start up again, while a second antiphon was sung: a different psalm (often the next one in order), with a different refrain, followed by the doxology and final refrain, a litany, and prayer. More people gathered, joining the procession, which finally made its way to the church where the Divine Liturgy would be celebrated while singing one more antiphon. During the singing of the end of this third antiphon, the processions would converge at the church, and the clergy and people would make their way solemnly inside as the third antiphon concluded.

Long after processions no longer made their way through the streets of Constantinople, the practice of having three antiphons became a common practice in the Byzantine tradition. The refrains (troparia) became longer, and sometimes a different refrain was sung at "Glory.... now and ever..." to add some variety. This concluding refrain is sometimes called a perissos (a Greek word meaning a "superabundant" or overflowing: see John 10:10: "that they might have life, and have it in abundance"), and adds an additional theological thought or theme to a series of chants,

Sunday, weekday, and feast-day Antiphons

Eventually, specific psalms and refrains came to be used on particular occasions:

Here is a table of feast-day antiphons:

Feast of the Lord Psalms Title of Christ Troparion of the feast
Nativity (December 25) 110, 111, 109 born of the Virgin Your birth, O Christ our God...
Theophany (January 6) 113, 114, 117 baptized by John in the Jordan At your baptism in the Jordan, O Lord...
Transfiguration (August 6) 65, 47, 124 transfigured on the mount You were transfigured on the mountain...
Palm Sunday 114, 115, 117 seated on a colt Christ our God, before your passion...
Ascension 46, 47, 48 who ascended in glory You were taken up in glory, O Christ our God...
Pentecost 18, 19, 20 (O Good Comforter....) Blessed are you, O Christ our God....

This explains why some feasts (and not others) have their own antiphons.

Four further changes took place:

And over the past century, the small litany and prayer that followed each antiphon came to be omitted, or said silently by the priest (especially when there was no deacon to lead the litany).

The Sunday, Weekday, and Feast-day Antiphons Today

And thus we have the antiphons of the Divine Liturgy as we know them today.

On Sundays:

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; sing praise to his name, give to him glorious praise. (Ps. 65:1,2)
Refrain: Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Savior, save us!
Glory.... now and ever... Amen.
Refrain: Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Savior, save us!

Be gracious to us, O God, and bless us; let your face shine upon us and have mercy on us. (Ps. 66:2)
Refrain: O Son of God, risen from the dead, save us who sing to you: Alleluia!
Glory.... now and ever... Amen.
Perissos: O Only-begotten Son....

Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us acclaim God our Savior. (Ps. 94:1)
Refrain: O Son of God, risen from the dead, save us who sing to you: Alleluia:
(Entrance hymn) Come, let us worship and bow before Christ. (Ps. 94:6)
Refrain: O Son of God, risen from the dead, save us who sing to you: Alleluia:
Perissos: the Sunday troparion
Glory... now and ever... Amen.
Perissos: the Sunday kontakion

On weekdays:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to your name, O Most High. (Ps. 91:2)
Refrain: Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Savior, save us!
Glory.... now and ever... Amen.
Refrain: Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Savior, save us!

The Lord reigns, he is clothed in majesty; robed is the Lord and girt about with strength. (Ps. 92:1)
Refrain: O Son of God, wondrous in your saints, save us who sing to you: Alleluia!
Glory.... now and ever... Amen.
Perissos: O Only-begotten Son....

Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us acclaim God our Savior. (Ps. 94:1)
Refrain: O Son of God, wondrous in your saints, save us who sing to you: Alleluia:
(Entrance hymn) Come, let us worship and bow before Christ. (Ps. 94:6)
Refrain: O Son of God, wondrous in your saints, save us who sing to you: Alleluia:
Perissos: the troparion of the day
Glory... now and ever... Amen.
Perissos: the kontakion of the day

On feast-days, the refrain of the third antiphon is the troparion of the feast:

feast-day psalm verse
Refrain: Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Savior, save us!
Glory.... now and ever... Amen.
Refrain: Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Savior, save us!

feast-day psalm verse
Refrain: O Son of God, title of Christ, save us who sing to you: Alleluia!
Glory.... now and ever... Amen.
Perissos: O Only-begotten Son....

feast-day psalm verse
Refrain: troparion of the feast
(Entrance hymn) feast-day psalm verse
Refrain: troparion of the feast
Glory... now and ever... Amen.
Perissos: kontakion of the feast

Admittedly, it is a long road from processions in Constantinople to our modern Divine Liturgies book. But now I hope you can see that:

Post-festive Antiphons

There are two more variations in the Office of Antiphons. During post-festive periods (that is, the fixed number of days after each feast in which we continue to celebrate the feast) for feasts of the Lord, the second and third antiphons (and the entrance hymn, which as we have seen is really just a verse of the third antiphon) use the refrain of the second antiphon of the feast, as a reminder:

Refrain: O Son of God, title of Christ, save us who sing to you: Alleluia!

This continues through the last day, or "leave-taking," of the feast.

The Typical Psalms and Beatitudes

In monastic liturgy, Psalms 102 ("Bless the Lord, O my soul") and 145 ("Praise the Lord, O my soul"), together with the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12) were used as a preparation for Holy Communion; they formed part of the service called Typika, and so Psalms 102 and 145 came to be called the "Typical Psalms."

Sometimes the Typical Psalms and the Beatitudes were used in place of the three antiphons of the Divine Liturgy, and in some places the liturgical books actually direct that this be done. However, the custom never caught on in the churches of southwestern Rus' from which our church derives its traditions; in these churches, the antiphons of Pascha were used on Sundays, the common antiphons were used on weekdays, except when feast-day antiphons took precedence over them.

Our Divine Liturgies book (2006) includes the Typical Psalms and Beatitudes, and directs that they may be used in the Office of Three Antiphons on any Sunday that does not have special antiphons of its own. When this option is chosen, the Psalms 102 and 145 replace the First and Second Antiphons (keeping "O Only-Begotten Son" as usual), and the Beatitudes are sung in place of the Third Antiphon, then followed by the usual entrance hymn and the Sunday troparion and kontakion.

The Small Entrance

But the Enarxis is not over! During the singing of "O Only-Begotten Son" (the perissos at the end of the Second Antiphon), the clergy carry the Gospel book from the sanctuary and through the church. This procession is done during the singing of the Third Antiphon, and preserves a memory of the time when a procession into the church began the service; it is called the Small Entrance.

The Small Entrance is not strictly speaking necessary, but it gives a focal point to the Enarxis rites, and allows the faithful to venerate the Gospel book as it passes. Some interpreters have suggested a symbolism to this procession: the clergy coming forth with the Gospel book represent Christ during his earthly ministry, going forth to preach the Good News. Another meaning for this entrance, however, can be seen in the prayer which the priest recites quietly while the Third Antiphon is being sung:

Lord, our Master and God, who established orders and armies of angels and archangels for the service of your glory in heaven, make this our entrance an entrance of holy angels, concelebrating with us and glorifying your goodness. For to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is due all glory, honor, and worship, now and ever and forever. Amen.

Then the deacon interrupts the singing of the Third Antiphon to lift the Gospel book and exclaim:

Wisdom! Be attentive!

Then the cantors and people sing the rest of the third antiphon – entrance hymn, troparia, and kontakia – while the clergy enter the sanctuary.

The Trisagion ("Holy God")

The ancient processional hymn at this point in the Liturgy was a short troparion used by the 5th century:

Holy God, Holy and Mighty [or Holy Mighty One], Holy and Immortal [One], have mercy on us!

In all likelihood, this was sung as the refrain of an antiphon, from which all the verses of the psalm have dropped out, leaving only the refrain and the doxology. This is how it is sung today:

Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us!
Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us!
Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us!
Glory.... now and ever. Amen.
Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us!
Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us!

This hymn is called the Trisagion Hymn or Trisagion (from the Greek roots for "thrice [three times] holy.") Where it once accompanied the clergy as they entered the sanctuary, now it is sung as they enter the sanctuary with the Gospel book at the end of the Small Entrance procession.

(The Trisagion is also used as a processional hymn at two other points in Byzantine Rite liturgy: at Matins on Holy Saturday, when the burial shroud of Christ is carried in procession, and at the burial service for a Christian, when the body is carried in and out of the church.)

On days associated with baptism (Nativity, Theophany, Lazarus Saturday, Pascha, the days of Bright Week, and Pentecost), the following hymn is sung in place of the Trisagion, following the same pattern of repetition as above:

All you who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. Alleluia!
All you who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. Alleluia!
All you who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. Alleluia!
Glory... now and ever... Amen.
Have been clothed with Christ. Alleluia!
All you who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. Alleluia!

And on the two feast-days of the Cross (the Third Sunday in the Great Fast, and September 14), the following hymn is sung in place of the Trisagion at the Divine Liturgy:

We bow to your cross, O Lord, and we glorify your holy Resurrection.
We bow to your cross, O Lord, and we glorify your holy Resurrection.
We bow to your cross, O Lord, and we glorify your holy Resurrection.
Glory... now and ever... Amen.
And we glorify your holy Resurrection.
We bow to your cross, O Lord, and we glorify your holy Resurrection.

For the music used for these hymns, see Singing the Divine Liturgy: The Trisagion.

With the solemn entrance of clergy into the sanctuary, it is time for the readings of the Divine Liturgy.

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