Remaining in the Divine Liturgy until the End (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

NOTE: The following article is taken from The Rudder, pp. 117-119, 260-261; 1091-1092; 1111-1112

 Divine Liturgy of the Angels 1


All those faithful who enter and listen to the Scriptures, but do not stay for prayer and Holy Communion must be excommunicated, on the ground that they are causing the Church a breach of order. (Canon LXVI of the 6th Ecumenical Synod; Canon II of Antioch; Canons III, XIII of Timothy)


Both exegetes of the Holy Canons — Zonaras, I mean, and Balsamon — in interpreting the present Apostolic Canon agree in saying that all Christians who enter the church when the Divine Liturgy is being celebrated, and who listen to the Divine Scriptures, but do not remain to the end nor partake, [of Communion] must be excommunicated, as causing a disorder in the church. Thus Zonaras says verbatim: “The present Canon demands that all those who are in the church when the Holy Sacrifice is being performed shall patiently remain to the end for prayer and Holy Communion.”

For even the laity then were required to partake continually. Balsamon says, “The ordainment of the present Canon is very acrid; for it excommunicates those attending church but not staying to the end nor partaking.” 17


Agreeably with the present Canon II of Antioch ordains that all those who enter the church during the time of Divine Liturgy and listen to the Scriptures, but turn away and avoid (which is the same as to say, on account of pretended reverence and humility they shun, according to interpretation of the best interpreter, Zonaras) Divine Communion in a disorderly manner are to be excommunicated. The continuity of Communion is confirmed also by Canon LXVI of the 6th Ecumenical Synod, which commands Christians throughout New Week (Pascha Week) to take time off for psalms and hymns, and to indulge in the Divine Mysteries to their hearts’ content. But indeed even from the third canon of St. Timothy the continuity of communion can be inferred. For if he permits one possessed by demons to partake, not every day, but only on the Lord’s Day (though in other copies it is written, on occasions only), it is likely that those not possessed by demons are permitted to communicate even more frequently.

Divine Liturgy of the Angels 2

Some contend that for this reason it was that the same Timothy, in Canon III, ordains that on Saturday and the Lord’s Day that a man and his wife should not have mutual intercourse, in order, that is, that they might partake, since in that period it was only on those days, as we have said, that the Divine Liturgy was celebrated. This opinion of theirs is confirmed by divine Justin, who says in his second apology that “on the day of the sun” — meaning the Lord’s Day — all Christians used to assemble in the churches (which on this account were also called “Kyriaka,” i.e., places of the Lord) and partook of the Divine Mysteries. That, on the other hand, all Christians ought to frequent Divine Communion is confirmed from the West by divine Ambrose, who says thus:

“We see many brethren coming to church negligently, and indeed on the Lord’s Days not even being present at the Mysteries.” And again, in blaming those who fail to partake continually, the same Saint says of the Mystic Bread, “God gave us this Bread as a daily affair, and we make it a yearly affair.”

From Asia, on the other hand, divine Chrysostom demands this of Christians, and indeed, par excellence. And see in his preamble to his commentary of the Epistle to the Romans, discourse VIII, and to the Hebrews, discourse XVIII on the Acts, and Sermon V on the First Epistle to Timothy, and Sermon XVII on the Epistle to the Hebrews, and his discourse on those at first fasting on Pascha, Sermon III to the Ephesians, discourse addressed to those who leave the divine assemblies (synaxis), Sermon XXVIII on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, a discourse addressed to blissful Philogomos, and a discourse about fasting. Therein you can see how that goodly tongue strives and how many exhortations it rhetorically urges in order to induce Christians to partake at the same time, and worthily, and continually. But see also Basil the Great, in his epistle to Caesaria Patricia and in his first discourse about baptism.18 But then how can it be thought that whoever pays any attention to the prayers of all the Divine Liturgy can fail to see plainly enough that all of these are aimed at having it arranged that Christians assembled at the Divine Liturgy should partake — as many, that is to say, as are worthy?

Divine Liturgy of the Angels Detail 3


The present Canon teaches continuity of Divine Communion. Even though Balsamon in commenting on Apostolic Canon VIII says that it is impossible for Christians to commune every day, yet, behold, here he is forced by the present Canon to admit that it is “very acrid”, because it excommunicates those who leave without partaking. For how could the divine Apostles have made a law that would require one to do what is impossible? Besides, the Canon does not say every day, but those who do not stay for prayer and Holy Communion, when, that is to say, the Divine Liturgy is being celebrated. As for those who misinterpret this Canon and say that it excommunicates those who do not wait at Liturgy until the worthy partake, Matthew Blastaris closes their mouths in Element I, Chapter 25, by saying: “I think that the Christians of old, just as they took great care to believe correctly, also took great care also to conduct themselves correctly in public as well as in private life.

For this reason it is that many good customs that are mentioned in the divine canons, though followed in those times, have now in our times become changed and different. In fact, the perverted and negligent life which we are living has so far corrupted us, that we cannot even believe that Christians ever at all attain to such virtuousness as to partake continually at every Liturgy that was celebrated.”

Divine Liturgy of the Angels Detail 1


Great Gregory of Thessalonica, also makes it a law in his Decalogue according to Christ, for Christians to commune on every Lord’s Day and on every great feast day (page 951 of Philokalia). Symeon of Thessallikewise says for Christians not to let forty days pass, but to commune as soon as possible and on every Lord’s Day if a way can be found, and especially in the case of the elderly and the ill (Chapter 360). Moreover, the Orthodox Confession (Homologian on page 111) states the more reverent Christians should confess their sins every month. But if so, then it is plain that they must also commune every month. But of course, they should commune with the proper preparation of contrition, confession of sins, satisfactory atonement, and fasting according to their ability, concerning which see the footnote to Canon XIII of the Sixth Ecumenical Synod.

Divine Liturgy of the Angels Detail 2


As for all those who enter the church and listen to the sacred Scriptures, but who fail to commune in prayer together and at the same time with the laity, or who shun participation in the Eucharist, according to some irregularity, we decree that these persons be outcasts from the Church until, after going to confession and exhibiting fruits of repentance and begging forgiveness, they succeed in obtaining a pardon. Furthermore, we decree that communion with those excluded from communion is not allowed, nor is it to be allowed in any other church, to admit those who have been denied admittance to a church. If anyone among the Bishop, or Priests or Deacons, or of the Canon, should appear to be communing with those who have been excluded from communion, he too is to be excluded from communion on the ground of seemingly confusing the Canon of the Church.


The decree of the present Canon is in agreement with Apostolic Canon IX. For it asserts that those Christians must be excommunicated from the Church who go to church to attend liturgy and who listen to the Scriptures, but fail to pray along with the faithful, or shun the divine Communion, or, in other words, fail to no for a good reason, but on account of irregularity. Not on the ground that they actually hate loathe divine Communion, perish the thought! (for if they did so shun and abhor it, such persons would be condemned not only to excommunication, but even also to total anathema), but that they feign to avoid it on account of humility and reverence. For it was this that the Fathers meant by the word “shun,” according to superb Zonares. But these persons excommunicated only until they repent and beg to be forgiven. 7

Since, however, the Canon has mentioned excommunication, it goes on to say that no one is allowed either to pray, even in a private house together with those who have, been excommunicated from the Church, whether clerics or laymen, nor to admit them to church. If any bishop, or priest, or deacon, should join in communion with such persons who have been excluded from communion, either in a home or in church at services, he too is to be excluded from communion so far as other persons are concerned, because by doing so he is confusing and confounding and transgressing and violating the Canons of the Church which comprise decrees concerning this, viz. Apostolic Canons X and XI, which the reader should consult along with Apostolic Canon IX.

Divine Liturgy of the Angels Detail 4


The distribution of antidoron was introduced because everyone could not be present to receive the Holy Mysteries each Lord’s Day, and it was a means of providing means of sanctification to those not receiving. The antidoron is sanctified bread, since it has come from the loaf which has been offered to God and also because it is a type of the womb of the Theotokos. According to St. Germanos, “The Lamb which is to be mystically offered is taken from the offered bread, just as the Lamb of God came forth with a body from her womb.” Nicholas Kabasilas calls the antidoron pieces of the elevated bread offering. Concerning the antidoron Nicholas Kabasilas stated: “Then the offered bread, from which the sacred Lamb has been cut and offered to God, is broken in many portions and distributed to the faithful, who reverently receive it and kiss the Priest’s right hand which immediately before had touched the most Holy Body of the Savior Christ, thus receiving sanctification and imparting it to those who are able to touch it.”

Consequently, Christians must remain at the Divine Liturgy until the very end in order to receive sanctification from the antidoron. St. Germanos states: “It is believed that a spiritual blessing is imparted to those who elevate the bread of the Theotokos at the table on the feasts of martyrs and saints, which practice the Church has received from the times of the Holy Apostles according to St. Symeon of Salonika.

Η λειτουργία των αγγέλων12