Offertory: Great Entrance
It is now time for the sacrificial offering to God. There is only one true and acceptable offering with which God is pleased. It is the offering of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God Who offers Himself eternally to the Father for the sins of the world.
In Christ men can offer themselves and each other and all men and the entire world to God. Christ has united all things in Himself, and has taken all things upon Himself. Thus, in and through Him, men can offer all that they are, and all that they have, to God the Father. They can do this because they are in Christ, and have received the Holy Spirit from Him.
At this moment in the Divine Liturgy the celebrant prays for himself, confessing his personal unworthiness and affirming that the only Priest of the Church is Jesus:
For Thou art the One who offers and the One who is offered, the One who receives and the One who is given, O Christ our God . . .
The altar table, the icons and all of the people are incensed once again as the Cherubic Hymn is sung:
Let us who mystically represent the cherubim and sing the Thrice-holy Hymn to the life-creating Trinity, now lay aside all earthly cares.
The Gifts of bread and wine which stand for Christ, and in him, for all men and the entire world of God’s creation—for Life itself—are now offered to God. They are carried in solemn procession from the table of oblation, into the middle of the church, and through the royal doors of the iconostasis to the altar table. This procession is called the Great Entrance as distinct from the Small Entrance that was made earlier with the Book of the Gospels. In some Orthodox Churches the offertory procession of the Great Entrance is made around the entire nave of the church building, and so it is actually of greater length and solemnity than the small procession with the Gospel Book.
During the offertory procession of the Great Entrance, the celebrant once again prays to God on behalf of all with the prayer of the Crucified Thief: “Remember, O Lord in Thy Kingdom.” The bread and wine are placed on the altar table and the people conclude the Cherubic Hymn:
That we may receive the King of all who comes invisibly upborne by the angelic hosts. Alleluia.
At this time the celebrant quietly recites verses which call to remembrance the absolute perfection and total sufficiency of Christ and His self-offering. For the Lord Who “fills all things” with Himself makes even His tomb “the fountain of our resurrection.”
The Cherubic Hymn and the meditative verses of the celebrant just mentioned are a late addition to the Divine Liturgy. They were added in the imperial era of Byzantium in order to enhance the essential liturgical act of the offertory which is the movement of the Church offering itself to God the Father through its Head, High Priest and King Jesus Christ who is also the Suffering Servant, the Lamb of God and the New Passover; the sole sufficient sacrifice which is perfect, total and fully acceptable to the Father.
In the liturgical offertory, the faithful give themselves in sacrifice to God together with Christ. They do so through the Holy Spirit as those who have died and risen with Christ in baptism. In order for the liturgical act of offering to be genuine and true, it must be the living expression of the Church’s constant and total self-offering to God. If each member of the Church is not in perpetual sacrifice with Christ to the Father and is not “bearing his cross” by the power of the Spirit, the offertory entrance of the Divine Liturgy becomes a sterile symbol devoid of reality. As such it is done not as a movement towards God, but unto condemnation and judgment.
Thus, once again a litany is chanted and a prayer is made that God would be merciful, because of the sacrifice of Christ, and would accept His people and their offering in spite of their sins; and would allow them worthily to offer the Gifts and to receive Holy Communion with God.
O Lord God Almighty, who alone art holy, who acceptest the sacrifice of praise from those who call upon Thee with their whole heart. Accept also the prayer of us sinners, and bear it to Thy holy altar, enabling us to offer unto Thee gifts and spiritual sacrifices for our sins and for the errors of the people. Make us worthy to find grace in Thy sight that our sacrifice may be acceptable unto Thee, and that the Good Spirit of Grace may dwell upon us, and upon these Gifts here offered, and upon all Thy People . . .
At this time in the Divine Liturgy the gifts of money for the work of the Church, the propagation of the Gospel and the assistance of the poor and the needy are collected and offered to God.