Benediction and Dismissal
After giving thanks to God for his gift of Holy Communion, the people are commanded by the celebrant of the liturgy to depart in peace. They respond to this command with the words: In the Name of the Lord.
A final prayer is read in the center of the Church, or at the icon of Christ, called the ambo prayer, in which the priest asks God’s blessing and peace upon all of his people, the Church and the world. In this prayer the believers also affirm with the Apostle James that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights” (Jas 1:1 7). Following this prayer which gives God “glory, thanksgiving, and worship,” the people sing three times: Blessed be the Name of the Lord henceforth and forevermore.
At this point the pastor of the community normally makes his announcements, greets his people and gives them his own personal blessing. The final benediction of the Divine Liturgy is then pronounced following the exclamation of glory to Christ as “our God and our Hope.”
The final liturgical blessing is the blessing of Christ. It always begins on the Lord’s Day with reference to his resurrection from the dead. On other days other references may be made to some saving aspect of the Lord’s person and work. In this final benediction the mercy and salvation of Christ, the Lover of Men, is called down upon his people through the intercessions of the Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary, and by the prayers of the saints of the day, the saint whose liturgy is served, the saints of the particular church, as well as all other saints especially venerated by the local community, such, for example, as St. Herman of Alaska in the American Church.
After the final benediction, the people venerate the Cross held by the celebrant, and receive pieces of the bread from which the eucharistic offering was taken at the beginning of the liturgy. This bread is called the antidoron which means literally “in place of the gifts”, since it used to be given only to those who did not actually receive Holy Communion at the liturgy. Today usually all of the people take pieces of this bread for themselves, as well as for others absent from church.
The act of dismissal in the Divine Liturgy is as much a liturgical and sacramental action as was the original act of gathering. It is the final critical step of the entire movement of the liturgy. In their dismissal from the liturgical gathering, the People of God are commanded to go forth in peace into the world to bear witness to the Kingdom of God of which they were partakers in the Liturgy of the Church. They are commanded to take everything that they have seen and heard and experienced within the Church and to make it alive in their own persons within the life of this world. Only in this way can the presence and power of the Kingdom of God which is “not of this world” extend out of the Church and into the lives of men.
Those who have seen the True Light, who have received the Heavenly Spirit, who have found the True Faith at the liturgy of the Church; those who have partaken of the holy, divine, immortal and life-creating mysteries of Christ, become competent to make the very same proclamation and testimony that was made by the apostles and by all true Christians in every age and generation. It is for this reason that the Church of God and its Divine Liturgy exist.