Liturgy of the Assyrian Church of the East

 

These selections are from the liturgy used by the Assyrian Church of the East. It is a very ancient Church which uses classical Aramaic (the language used by our Lord) for its liturgy. Recently their Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV signed a Common Declaration on Christology with Pope John Paul II healing a doctrinal dispute dating from the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. The Church of the East is centered primarily in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Syria (and has suffered much persecution from those predominately Moslem lands.) In the past couple of decades many thousands have emigrated to Canada, America, Australia and Sweden. The current Patriarch resides in the USA. The text followed for these extracts comes from Australia. Breaks in sequence are indicated by a line. 

Priest: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, for ever.

Glory to God in the highest (three times)
and on earth peace and good hope to men of all times for ever. Amen.

All pray: Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name,
Thy kingdom come.

Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, our Father in heaven.
Heaven and earth are full of the greatness of Thy glory;
angels and men cry out to Thee:
Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed by Thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
as in heaven so on earth.
Give us the bread of our need this day,
and forgive us our offences,
as we have forgiven those who have
offended us.
And bring us not into trial
but deliver us from the evil one.
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.


 

Priest: Strengthen, our Lord and our God, our weakness by Thy grace that we may administer the holy mysteries which were given for the renewal and redemption of our nature, through the mercies of Thy beloved Son, Lord of all, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen.

Here follows verses from Psalms 96 or 144, the choir responds by singing alternative clauses. After each clause is said: Hal-le-lu-Yah.

Priest: Before the glorious throne of Thy majesty, my Lord, and the high and exalted seat of Thy honour and the awesome judgement seat of the power of Thy love, and the absolving altar which Thy will has established and the place where Thy honour dwells, we, Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture, with thousands of Cherubim which sing halleluiahs to Thee, ten thousand Seraphim and Archangels which hallow Thee, do kneel and worship and confess and glorify Thee at all times, O Lord of all, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen.


 

Prayer for the placing of the incense

Priest: When the sweet savour of the fragrance of Thy love is wafted upon us, our Lord and our God, and our souls are enlightened by the knowledge of Thy truth, may we be accounted worthy to receive the revelation of Thy beloved who is from heaven, and there may we confess Thee and praise Thee without ceasing in Thy crowned Church which is full of all helps and blessings, for Thou art the Lord and Creator of all; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen.


Here follow other prayers and the "Holy God" (similar to the Byzantine liturgy). There are readings from the Old Testament or the Acts of the Apostles, from the letters of St Paul and finally a reading from the Gospels. Before the Gospel reading the choir sings this hymn (with responses from the deacons)

O, ye who believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, come and listen to the words that cure the body and give life to the soul.
The Son of God became like man among men, and with His command loosened the sin that had taken hold of men.
The treasure of the Spirit opens before you this discourse, and this book is all full of life and beatitudes.
The devils scatter and the demons proceed in fear, when they hear these life-giving tidings.
This is the gate through which a man enters into the Kingdom and this is the way which is all clear from stumbling blocks.
These are the words, that if the living treat with contempt, they will die. This is the voice that when the dead hear, they come to life.
This is the Light, this is the Truth, this is the Life and He of who it speaks is the Judge of the dead and the living.
It is necessary that you should know that all the people through Him shall be saved, believe and be assured that all sins through Him shall be remitted.
The Sower went out, that instead of seed, He may sow the word. Instead of earth, offer to Him your hearts.
Life, blessedness, compassion and mercy is His discourse. Hope and life, and life to the dead, is His voice.
Blessed is he who believes in Him and confirms his words, for if he is dead he shall live, and if he is living he shall not die in his sins.
The only-begotten Son of God came into the world, above nature, and contrary to custom, shone forth from the Virgin.
The sick He cured, the lepers he cleansed, devils He drove out, and death He vanquished
He died, He came to life and He rose and ascended into heaven.
He sent the Spirit upon the apostles and made them wise, and unto the four corners to preach the gospel, He sent them.
And now [Evangelist] is interpreting the things he saw and heard, therefore, whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.

The Gospel reading

The Offertory

The deacons enter the altar saying:

Let him that has not received baptism, depart.
Let him that has not received the sign of life, depart.
Let him that does not accept It [the Holy Communion], depart.
Let the hearers go, and watch the doors.

The priest and the deacons kneel three times towards the place of the paten and the chalice. The priest proceeds and takes the paten, and the deacon the chalice. The priest begins the anthem:

Priest: I waited patiently for the Lord.

The body of Christ and His precious blood are upon the holy altar. Let us all draw near unto Him in fear and love and with all the angels sing aloud unto Him: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God.

The deacons respond:

The poor shall eat and be satisfied.

The body of Christ and his precious blood are upon the holy altar. Let us all draw near unto Him in fear and love and with the angels sing aloud unto Him:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God.

Let us pray. Peace be with us.

The priest then holds the paten in his right hand and the chalice in his left hand in the form of the cross and says:

Let us send up praise to Thy glorious Trinity at all times for ever. May Christ, Who was sacrificed for our salvation and Who commanded us to make a commemoration of His death and burial and resurrection, accept this sacrifice at our hands by His grace and mercy for ever. Amen.

The priest strikes the paten on the chalice three times, and each time he says:

By Thy command, our Lord and our God [thrice], these glorious, holy, lifegiving and divine mysteries are placed and ordered on the absolving altar, until the coming of our Lord the second time from heaven, to Whom be glory at all times for ever. Amen.

The priest arranges the mysteries upon the altar and covers them carefully with a veil and says:

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. On the holy altar let there be a memorial of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ.

Deacon: From everlasting and for ever. Amen. O apostles of the Son and lovers of the Only-Begotten, pray that there may be peace in creation.

Priest: Let all the people say Amen and Amen.

Thy memorial, O our father [the patron saint], is upon the holy altar with the just who have overcome and the martyrs who have been crowned.

Deacon: Lo, all the departed have fallen asleep in Thy hope, that in the glorious resurrection Thou will raise them up in glory.

Deacons: Bless O my Lord....Let us pray. Peace be with us.

Priest to the Deacons: May God the Lord of all be content with your ministry, and adorn you with all beauty and enrich you with all the benefits of His gifts, for ever and ever. Amen.

Deacons: Let us pray. Peace be with us.

The priest worships and stands stretching forth his hands and says:

Having our hearts sprinkled and clean from an evil conscience, may we be accounted worthy to enter into the Holy of Holies high and exalted; and in purity, watchfulness and holiness may we stand before Thy holy altar and offer to Thee spiritual and reasonable sacrifices in the true faith.

And he proceeds:

Thou art good and dost not always chide, neither keep Your anger for ever.

Turn Thy face from my sins and blot out all my offences in the great multitude of Thy mercifulness; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen.

or he says:

Our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all in His grace and mercy for ever. Amen.

The priest stands facing the altar and worships stretching forth his hands and begins to recite the Creed. The deacons and the people also recite the Creed--the Creed of Nicea.

Following the Nicene Creed:

The priest prostrates himself before the altar, and says: God the Lord of all be with us all, in us all, by His grace and mercy for ever. Amen.

Here the priest washes his hands, and he makes the sign of the cross (in the air with joined hands) towards all the four consecration crosses of the altar.

Priest: Bless, O my Lord. My brethren, pray for me.

The Deacons: May Christ hear your prayers and be pleased with your supplications, and by His grace and mercy accept your offering, for ever and ever, Amen. Let us pray. Peace be with us. Pray for the memorial of our fathers the catholici and bishops and of all the priests and deacons and young men and virgins and of all who have departed and passed from this world in the belief of the truth and of all our fathers and brethren

The priest turns and faces the altar and offers three genuflexions, he beseeches, praying in a low voice, the prayer of Kashapa:

Priest: Bless, O my Lord. My brethren, pray for me that this offering be accomplished at my hands.

Deacon: God, the Lord of all, strengthen you to fulfill His will and receive your offering and be well-pleased with your sacrifice, for us and for yourself and for the four corners of the world by the grace of His compassion for ever. Amen.

Priest: Glory be to Thee.

The Deacons [continuing from above]: ...and of all our sons and daughters and of all faithful and Christ-loving kings and of all.

Priest: Bless, O my Lord. Pray for me, my brethren and my beloved, that I be accounted worthy to offer before our Lord Christ this sacrifice living and holy, for myself and for the body of the holy church by the grace of His compassion for ever. Amen.

Deacon: God the Lord of all be well-pleased with your sacrifice and receive your offering, which you offer for us and for yourself by His grace and mercy for ever. Amen.

Priest: Glory be to Thee.

The Deacons [continuing from above]: ...prophets and apostles and of all martyrs and confessors of this and every place, that God crown them in the resurrection from the dead, and give us with them a good hope and portion and inheritance and life in the kingdom of heaven.

Priest: This offering is offered for all the living and the dead. May it be received of my sinfulness before the dread tribunal of Thy majesty, O our Lord, with openness of face.

The Deacons [continuing from above]: May this offering be accepted with openness of face and be sanctified by the Word of God and by the Holy Spirit, that it may be to us for help and salvation and life eternal in the kingdom of heaven by the grace of Christ.

Priest [to the Deacons]: Christ make true thy words and receive the fruit of thy lips and pardon the trespasses and sins of all them that hearken to thee.

The priest turns his face to the altar and kneels and says the prayer of Kashapa, quietly in his heart, supplicating: Yes, O our Lord and our God...

Then he stands and says: Bless, O my Lord; bless, O My Lord; bless, O my Lord; my brethren pray for me.

Deacon: Christ hear your prayers, Christ receive your offering, may Christ make your priesthood shine in the kingdom of heaven and be well-pleased with this sacrifice, which you do offer for yourself and for us and for the whole world which looks for and expects His grace and His mercy for ever. Amen.

The Kiss of Peace follows. The people give each other the Kiss of Peace and the deacons and the priest give several short prayers. After the Priest censes the altar he says to the deacon:

Priest: Christ strengthen thee to do His will continually.

Priest [to all]: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and for ever and ever.

Here he makes the sign of the cross over the mysteries.

People: Amen.

Priest: Lift up your minds.

People and Choir: Unto Thee, O God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Israel, O glorious King.

Priest: The offering is being offered to God, the Lord of all.

Choir: It is fit and right.

Deacons: Peace be with us.

Priest: Bless, O my Lord; bless, O my Lord; bless, O my Lord; my brethren pray for me.

Deacon: Christ hear your prayers, Christ receive your offering, may Christ make your priesthood shine in the kingdom of heaven and be well-pleased with this sacrifice, which you do offer for yourself and for us and for the whole world which looks for and expects His grace and His mercy for ever. Amen.

The priest kneels down and prays in his heart the prayer of Kushapa:

Priest: O Lord, give us openness of face..

He then rises and kisses the altar, stretches forth his hands and says the prayer of G'han'tha:

With the cheribum and spiritual seraphim, offering adoration to Thy Majesty...shouting and praising without ceasing and crying one to another and saying:

The priest, the deacons and the people sing:

Holy, Holy, Holy
Lord God of hosts,
heaven and earth are full of His praises
and of the nature of His being
and of the excellency of His glorious splendour.
Hosanna in the highest,
Hosanna to the Son of David,
Blessed is He that came and cometh in the name of the Lord,
Hosanna in the highest.

Priest: Bless, O my Lord; bless, O my Lord, bless, O my Lord; my brethren pray for me.

Deacon: Christ hear your prayers, Christ receive your offering, may Christ make your priesthood shine in the kingdom of heaven and be well-pleased with this sacrifice, which you do offer for yourself and for us and for the whole world which looks for and expects His grace and His mercy for ever. Amen.

Priest: Our Lord Jesus, in the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread and blessed and broke it, and said: "Take, eat: This is My Body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me." Likewise, after they had supped, He took the cup, saying: "This cup is the New Testament in My Blood: This do as often as you drink of it, in remembrance of me."

Priest: And for all Thy helps and graces towards us, let us raise to Thee praise and honour and confession and worship now and for ever and ever.

The priest signs the mysteries.

Deacons: Amen. Pray in your minds. Peace be with us.

The priest kneels down and says in a low voice the prayer of Kushapa:

O Lord God of hosts, accept this offering.

The choir recites a consolatory hymn (Mad'ra'sha) for the memorial of the departed.


The priest prays silently, he then strikes his face with his hands and says three times:

Priest: ...and we also, O My Lord.

The sitting congregation kneel and bow their heads. The priest continues with the prayer and then he raises his voice and says:

Priest: ...and may there come, O My Lord.

The Deacons [say to the people:] In silence and awe, stand ye and pray.

Peace be with us.

The people stand.

The priest continues with the prayer and says in a loud voice:

Priest: ...and may there come, O My Lord, Your Holy Spirit, and rest upon this offering of Thy servants and bless it and hollow it and that it may be to us, O My Lord, for the pardon of offences and for the forgiveness of sins and for the great hope of resurrection from the dead and for new life in the kingdom of heaven, with all those who have been well-pleasing to Thee. And for all this great and marvellous dispensation towards us, we give Thee thanks and glorify Thee without ceasing in Thy Church redeemed by the precious blood of Thy Christ, with open mouths and unveiled faces.

Lifting up glory and honour and confession and worship to Thy living and holy and life-giving Name, now and for ever and ever.

The priest signs the mysteries.

The Deacons: Amen.

Priest: O Christ, the peace of those above and the great tranquility of those below.


Priest: Bless, O my Lord; bless, O my Lord, bless, O my Lord; The mercifulness of Thy grace, O our Lord and our God, bring us near unto these glorious and holy and life-giving and divine mysteries, though we are not worthy. [Repeated three times.]

The Deacons and the People: In truth, O my Lord, we are not worthy. Have pity on us, O my Lord, for we are not worthy through our frailty, by reason of our many sins. [Repeated three times alternatively following the priest.]

Then the priest takes the Bread in both hands, looks upwards and says:

Priest: Praise to Thine holy Name, O our Lord Jesus Christ, and worship Thy sovereignty at all times, for ever. Amen.

For Thou art the living and lifegiving Bread which came down from heaven and gives life to the whole world and they, who eat it, die not, and they who receive it, are saved and pardoned in it and live in it for ever. Amen.

The Deacons: Amen.

Priest: Glory be to Thee, O my Lord [repeated three times] for Thine unspeakable gift towards us for ever. Amen.

The Deacons: Amen.

Priest: We draw near, O my Lord, in true faith of Thy name to these holy mysteries and by Thy compassion we break, and by Thy mercifulness we sign the body and blood of our Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ; in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit for ever. Amen.

The priest with utmost care breaks the Bread.

The Deacons: See that it is I myself. I am the Bread which came down from on high, said our Saviour in the mysteries to His disciples. Whosoever approaches and receives it in love, lives for ever in me and inherits the kingdom.

Deacon: Bless the Lord his angels.

Choir: The cherubim and seraphim and archangels in fear and trembling stand before the altar, and gaze at the priest breaking and dividing the body of Christ, for the pardon of trespasses.

The Deacons: Open unto me the gates of righteousness.


Priest: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for ever and ever.

The Deacons: Amen.

Deacon: Let us all with awe and reverence draw near to the mysteries of the precious body and blood of our Saviour. With a pure heart and true faith let us remember His passion and consider his resurrection. For our sakes the only-Begotten of God took of mankind a mortal body and a reasonable, intelligent and immortal soul; and by His lifegiving laws and His holy commandments has brought us out of error to the knowledge of the truth. And after all His dispensation for us, He, the first-fruits of our nature was lifted up on the cross, He rose from the dead and was taken up into heaven. He has delivered to us His holy mysteries, that in them we might commemorate all His grace towards us. Let us then with overflowing love, and with an humble will, receive the gift of eternal life. With pure prayer and manifold sorrow, let us partake in the mysteries of the church and in penitent hope, turning from our offences and grieving for our sins, and asking mercy and forgiveness from God, the Lord of all.


When the priest gives the body of Christ to the people, he says:

The Body of Our Lord, for the pardon of offences.

Likewise the deacon says when he gives the wine:

The precious Blood for the pardon of offences.


Deacon: Amen. Bless O my Lord.

Priest: Christ our God and our Lord and our King and our Saviour and our Life-Giver and the Forgiver of our sins, who in His grace and His mercy has accounted us worthy to receive His precious all-sanctifying Body and Blood, grant us to be well-pleasing unto Him in our thoughts and words and deeds and actions. And, O my Lord, may this earnest, which we have received, be to us for the pardon of offences and the forgiveness of sins and for the great hope of the resurrection of the dead, and for new life in the Kingdom of Heaven, with all those who have been well-pleasing unto Thee by Thy grace and Thy mercy, for ever. Amen.


The priest stands at the right side of the altar, blesses the people and says:

He Who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heaven through Jesus Christ our Lord, and has bidden us to His kingdom, and called us and brought us near to His desirable blessings, which pass not away neither cease nor are destroyed, even as He promised and assured to us in His life-giving gospel, and said to the blessed company of His disciples: Truly I say unto you, whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me and I in him, and I will raise him up at the last day and He shall not come into judgement, but hath passed from death unto life eternal. May He then bless our congregation guard our assembly and make our people glorious, which have come and rejoiced in the power of His glorious and holy and life-giving and divine mysteries, and with the living sign of the cross of our Lord, be ye sealed and guarded from all harm hidden or open, now and always and for ever and ever.

All: Amen.

All: The Trinity that blessed the righteous believers and forefathers bless this church, and may it be blessed now and for ever. Protect, O my Lord those who dwell in it from all harm and tribulations. Let it be full of blessings, like the House of Abraham. And increase and multiply its benefits like that of righteous Job, and may it be protected by the prayers of the holy virgin Mary from now and for ever.


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