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HOLY MYSTERY - EUCHARIST
The Eucharist comes from the Greek word, eucharistia, meaning ― thanksgiving.
It is also known as the Divine Liturgy, Mystic Supper, the Holy Offering, and Holy Communion. In practice, it is the taking of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ during the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
The Holy Eucharist commemorates the Last Supper at which Christ instructed His Apostles to offer bread and wine in His memory.
The Last Supper is the first Eucharistic celebrations by the early Christians.
The Divine Liturgy is the sacred Byzantine Rite by which the Melkite Catholic Church celebrates the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist.
The term Divine Liturgy comes from two Greek words, theia―pertaining to God, so divine and leitourgia―leitos (people) and ergon (work)―the work of the people. When a Melkite participates in the Divine Liturgy, it is not as a single person but as a member of the community of faith.
As Melkites, we believe that the Eucharist is the central part of the Divine Liturgy, that Christ is truly present with us in the celebration of the Eucharist. The Eucharistic gifts of bread and wine become for us the Body and Blood of Christ. It is a deep experience of worship and praise, because through the Eucharist, the Church gathers to remember and celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, the Eucharist is the life of the Church and the path of spiritual development, both for the individual and the Church.
Before the Divine Liturgy begins, the bread and wine are prepared by the priest, in a service called the Proskomida, at a small table―The Table of Preparation―located to the left side of the altar. After the priest has completed the Proskomida, he leaves the prepared chalice and paten on the Table of Preparation and goes to the altar to begin the Divine Liturgy. The bread is known as Prosphora, from the Greek and means, offering. Before baking the large round shaped dough is stamped five times with the words, Jesus Christ Conquers. The dough used for our bread is leavened, so the bread rises when baked unlike the West which uses unleavened dough, so the bread does not rise.
Our Byzantine Rite is to give both the bread and wine to communicants, by intinction, that is, the Eucharistic bread is dipped into the wine. Only those who have been baptised and chrismated may receive the Eucharist―babies and children are carried to the chalice to receive the Holy Eucharist.
There are three Divine Liturgies of the Eucharist used in our Byzantine Rite:
The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom (5th century)―this is the most frequently used liturgy.
The Divine Liturgy of St Basil the Great (4th century)―used 10 times a year. On the five Sundays of Great Lent and on St Basil's feast day (January 1), on the eves of the Nativity and Theophany and on Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday.
The Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts (6th century)―used during Great Lent on Wednesdays, Fridays, and a handful of other occasions, and also on the first three days of Holy Week.
The foundations of how the Divine Liturgy is celebrated today, dates from the time of Christ and the Apostles. Through the centuries, prayers, chants, and gestures have been added. The liturgy is mainly sung and normally only takes place once a day, but dispensation can be given for it to celebrated more frequently.
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