My beloved brothers,
after the Great Entrance, the deacon completes a series of prayers (the Litany of Completion), during which the Priest says in a low voice the Offertory Prayer, in which he asks God to be pleased to accept the Holy Gifts offered for his own sins and for the failings of the people; and for God to reveal the Grace of the Holy Spirit to all of us, and to sanctify the gifts and all the people present. The prayer ends with the exclamation: "Through the mercies of Your only-begotten Son, with Whom You are blessed...".
"The dialogue" between ministers and the congregation.
We have explained that the Divine Liturgy is the work of the people and for the people, and that the Holy Canons do not allow a Divine Liturgy to be performed alone by the priest without the participation of, at minimum, a few believers. The necessity of the presence and participation of the congregation in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy is clearly seen in the "dialogue" that follows the "Litany of Completion ".
The highest moment of the Great Mystery is approaching: the transformation of the offered Bread and Wine, by the Holy Spirit, into the Holy Body and Blood of Christ. These are wonderful moments! With a lasy effort the Church prepares the faithful to participate of the Holy Gifts a) with a peaceful conscience, b) with fervent prayer, c) with love for all, even enemies, and d) with confession of the Faith. In these actions the Fathers saw the whole of the preparation, which the Lord commanded, saying, " Therefore be ye also ready" (Matt. 24:44).
The Bishop or the priest ranking first addresses the congregation from the Royal Doors with the relevant exhortations-prayers-blessings:
"Peace be with all". What "peace" does he wish for the congregation? The one that the apostle Paul describes to the Philippians: "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4: 7). Without a peaceful conscience, we can not approach the Lord of peace, Christ. When we are peaceful we are close to God and enjoy His peace.
"And with your spirit". The congregation prays for the Celebrant, as he also is in need of the peace of God. During the Divine Liturgy the Celebrant often whishes upon the people the peace of God. "Because she is the mother of all good things," says St. Chrysostom. "It's the backbone of our joy. It paves the way for love ”(see PG 62: 322). In peace we walk towards love. We walk towards Him who is our true Peace and our true Love.
The Deacon then exhorts the congregation: "Let us love one another, that with oneness of mind we may confess:"
It is another reminder of the words of the Lord: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”(Matt. 5: 23-24) It is impressive how much the Lord insists on this. In the Mystery of the supreme sacrifice made out of love, no one can commune unless he has sincere and warm love. But also the confession of faith presupposes the love between us. Let us remember the Christian priest Saprikios (in the middle of the 3rd century, in Antioch, Syria) who during a persecution was led to Martyrdom. The young Christian Nikiforos had with his behavior given a reason for Saprikios to be angered. Despite Nikiforos' efforts to receive his forgiveness, Saprikios' heart remained hard as a stone. Even when they were going to beheSa aprikios, Nikiforos asked to be forgiven, but to no avail. And for a moment God took His grace from His unworthy Priest and then Saprikios denied Christ and sacrificed to the idols. And his place in Martyrdom was taken by Saint Nikiforos. The words of the apostle Paul are relevant here: "If I… give over my body to flames that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." (I Cor. 13: 3)
After love being fixed in our hearts, the Deacon raises us to the level of true faith: "that with oneness of mind we may confess".
And the people answer: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - Trinity, one in essence and undivided. Because those who do not have the faith of the holy catholic and Apostolic Church can not participate in the divine Eucharist, the Deacon instructs those who have responsibility over the Church building to intensify their attention and guard the doors of the temple, in order not to let irrelevant people enter.
"The doors! The doors! In wisdom, let us be attentive!", the Deacon exclaims. But this admonition also means something deeper. It means the closing of the senses and the removal of the mind from all earthly thoughts. Thus man, liberated from all temporary things, which come and go, arrives with a clear mind and a warm heart to the contemplation of things Divine.
The Symbol of Faith, which we all recite together, both Clergy and people, is the enumeration of the gifts of God and the confession of the gratitude of man. For all the divine gifts we have received from the Lord, nothing else is asked of us than to "confess those great gifts and to give thanks to God for them" (John Chrysostom PG 53:80). The eternal confession of the Creed ("I believe in one God, Father, Almighty") will be the proof of our love in response to His love, the proof that His love for us has not been in vain. Amen.