Love and Faith
Before the Divine Liturgy can proceed further, there are two conditions which must be fulfilled by the faithful. These are the solemn expressions of love and of faith which are essential to the Christian life, and without which there can be no self-offering and no communion with God. Therefore at this time the proclamation is made from the altar: “Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess” . . . the faithful people continue . . . “Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Trinity, one in essence and undivided.”
Love is the foundation of life. This is the fundamental Christian truth. Without love there can be no life, no truth and no communion with God, for God is Love (1 Jn 4.8,16). Thus Jesus Christ has taught that the whole Old Testament Law and the Prophets depend on the two great commandments of love for God and men, and He has given his own “new commandment” that His disciples should love “even as I have loved you” (Jn 13.34).
Thus at the Divine Liturgy the Christians are continually called to love. The outward expression of this love in the liturgy today is the kiss of peace exchanged by the celebrating clergy, which in times past was certainly exchanged among the faithful people as well. Without this love, the liturgy cannot go on.
Following the call to love, the Symbol of Faith, also called the Creed, is chanted. The traditional introduction to the recitation of the creed in the liturgy is the exclamation: “The Doors! The Doors! In wisdom, let us attend!” The doors referred to here are the doors of the church building, and not the doors of the iconostasis as some have been known to think, since this is a call to assure that all catechumens and non-communicants have left, and that now no one may enter or leave the liturgical assembly. The historical reason for such an exclamation in the Divine Liturgy was not only that order might be kept in the church, but that the Creed might be pronounced only by those who had already officially pronounced it at baptism, and continued to confess it within the life of the Church.
The recitation of the Symbol of Faith at the Divine Liturgy stands as the official acknowledgment and formal acceptance by each individual member of the Church of his or her own baptism, chrismation and membership in the Body of Christ. The recitation of the Creed is the only place in the Divine Liturgy, with the exception of the very similar pre-communion confession of faith, where the first person pronoun is used. All through the liturgy the community prays in the plural we. Only here does each person confess for himself his own personal faith: I believe.
No person can believe for another. Each must believe for himself. A person who believes in God, in Christ, in the Holy Spirit, in the Church, in baptism and in life eternal, in short, a person who affirms and accepts his baptismal membership in the Church, is competent to participate in the Divine Liturgy. A person who cannot do this, cannot participate. He simply is not able to, since this specific faith is the specific requirement for membership in the Orthodox Church and for participation in its Divine Liturgy. Without this faith, the movement of the liturgy cannot proceed further. With it, and its official acknowledgment in the chanting of the Creed, the liturgical action goes on.
It is the custom in the Church for the clergy to fan the eucharistic gifts during the singing of the Creed. This fanning was an act of veneration used toward the earthly emperor in the Byzantine period, during which time it was incorporated into the Church’s liturgy, and used as an act of veneration toward the “presences” of the Heavenly King in the midst of His People, namely towards the book of the Gospels and the eucharistic gifts. (In some churches special liturgical fans are carried by the altar servers at all processions and expositions of the Gospel book and the eucharistic gifts.)