The first Part of the Divine Liturgy, (known as "The Liturgy of the Word") reaches its climax in the hearing of the Word of God. As we know, the Lord Himself not only spoke to people directly, but also sent His Disciples to the surrounding towns and villages to preach His word. Similarly in the Divine Liturgy, the Reader first reads a passage from one of the Apostolic Epistles in the New Testament, and then the Deacon or Priest reads a passage from the four Holy Gospels. It is through this Gospel reading that Christ Himself speaks to us, so we must listen to Him carefully, and not in a passive way. We must also try to keep these words of Christ in our hearts, and conform our lives to them. The Church strives to help its children clear their minds of all outside things, and focus the people on the word of God, which will soon be read. Before the Epistle reading, the Deacon declares to all: “Let us be attentive!” and then comes a second exhortation: “Wisdom!” and another “Let us be attentive.” Before the reading of the Holy Gospel, similar and even more fervent calls to the people are made: "Wisdom. Arise. Let us hear the Holy Gospel. Peace be with all”. Additionally, the priest has a special Prayer which is offered before the reading of the Holy Gospel. It asks the benevolent Lord to give us the pure and radiant light of the knowledge of God, for our spiritual eyes to be open, and for our mind to be able to understand its meaning. It asks that our hearts be planted with a deep respect for His commands, so that we can conquer the carnal passions, and to think and do what pleases our Lord.

The Holy Fathers tell us that in order to proceed on the path of the knowledge of God, we should think of what is pleasing to Him and then do it. With Divine Grace, we are given the means to overcome sinful carnal desires. St. John Chrysostom writes: "Carnal desire is like fire, a fire unquenchable and unceasing; it is like an angry and furious dog which, even though you chase it away a thousand times, a thousand times it will approach you and does not leave" (PG 50: 677).

In this neverending struggle, the fear of God is our weapon. It leads us to purity of mind and heart, to knowledge of God, and fellowship with Him. After struggling against the carnal desires and pleasures, trampling them underfoot, we can pursue a spiritual life. It is in this pure way that we humbly approach our loving, benevolent Lord. With these conditions, the seed of the Gospel will fall into the fruitful field of the soul of the believer. Upon hearing the Gospel, this soul will produce a hundred times more fruit, as the Lord said in the Parable of the Sower (see Luke 8:8).

After the Epistle reading, the joyful revelation that the Word of God brings to the faithful is made manifest with the hymn “Alleluia” (which means “praise God”). While the Alleluia is being sung slowly, along with the set verses from the Psalms, the Deacon censes the Holy Altar and the Church from the Royal Doors. In this way we prepare to receive the Lord and to listen to Him "after censing and being surrounded by spiritual odour". The Blessing of the Incense also reveals its own purpose: "We offer incense unto Thee, O Christ our God, for a sweetsmelling savour of spiritual fragrance, which do thou accept upon Thy most heavenly altar; and send down upon us the grace of Thy most Holy Spirit".

The Deacon, after receiving the Holy Gospel from and being blessed by the Priest, ascends to the Ambon with lighted candles being carried ahead. The Priest exclaims from the Royal Doors: "Wisdom. Arise. Let us hear the Holy Gospel". Peace be with all. And the people answer: "and your spirit".

This declaration to stand up and listen to the Lord speaking to us through the Holy Gospel is important, in that the word of God can only be understood when the mind is freed from worldly thoughts and pursuits. Let us put all of that aside at this time, and feel that Christ has come before us in order to speak to us about much more important things. Christ left the glory of Heaven and came to earth not to talk about the ordinary, but the truths on which our happiness here and in eternity depend. Let us turn away from barren daydreaming, and listen carefully to every word that comes out of the graceful mouth of our Lord, words that amazed even His enemies. The Lord wants us to carefully focus on what He is saying, rejecting lazy and passive “hearing.” Doing this with zeal and reverence enables us to do what He asks of us.

The reading of the Holy Gospel is sealed with a powerful and melodic chant: "Glory to You Lord Glory to You".

At this point I would like to make a clarification. For centuries, the Church has chosen the readings (the individual passages that are read in our churches daily throughout the year) from the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Sometimes, this reading is set according to a movable feast. All of these passages are read in order, as they have been recorded in the Gospels. However, a year is not long enough to read everything recorded in the Gospels (as well as the Epistles). So a Christian’s knowledge of the New Testament is often limited to what they have heard in the church. In order to acquire a complete personal knowledge of the Bible, it is vital to take an interest in studying Scripture. This can be done as follows: Obtain a valid, Church-approved translation of the New Testament, and begin by carefully reading a chapter of the New Testament every day. From this the believer may draw a lot of strength and enlightenment every day for their daily spiritual struggle.


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