Liturgical Handbook of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
At the Little Entrance, how do the Deacons, Priests and others depart the Altar with the Gospel?
Category: Hierarchical Services

At the appointed time during the singing of the third antiphon, the senior Priest steps in front of the Holy Table with the senior Deacon to his right. These two clerics alone (without the involvement of any other concelebrating Priests, who remain in their places) make the sign of the Cross together twice, after which the Priest kisses the Gospel and the Holy Table while the Deacon kisses the Holy Table alone. During this time, the Subdeacons and Altar servers approach the High Place. As the Priest and Deacon make the sign of the Cross a third time, all the servers also do so, and all turn to the west and bow to the Bishop (seated upon the cathedra). The Subdeacons take up the dikiri and trikiri (the other servers already holding their appointed items), and the senior Priest hands the Gospel book to the Deacon, who kisses his right hand. The Deacon processes to the High Place, standing at the centre of the servers already assembled there, and asks the Bishop to bless the censer(s) held by the other serving Deacons, to his sides, who raise them as the senior Deacon petitions their blessing.

The Gospel thus having been taken up and presented to the Deacon, the Priests come forward to venerate the Holy Table, commemorate each other, and make their entrance. This is done as follows: If there are two or three concelebrating Priests, they all come together to stand before the holy table, cross themselves twice, together, before it and then kiss the table. They then turn, together, to bow to the Bishop on his cathedra; then they turn to each other and say ‘The Lord God remember thy priesthood in His Kingdom…’, while bowing slightly to each other. They then move to the High Place to join the procession.

If there are more than three concelebrating Priests, only the senior two come forward to to the above, together; once they have done so, the next pair comes forward to venerate the table, etc., and so until all the pairs of concelebrating clergy have venerated the Holy Table and each other.

During this period, when the final pair of clergy are making their bows before the Table, the entry procession itself may begin. The servers (candle- and fan-bearers) depart the Altar first, being led from the amvon by the candle- and zhezl-bearer, followed by the junior Deacons with the censers, then the senior Deacon and behind him the Priests. The Deacons bearing the censers do not swing them while processing. The Subdeacon with the dikiri goes directly before the Gospel book; the Subdeacon with the trikiri goes directly after it.

As the senior Deacon descends from the amvon he says quietly, ‘Let us pray to the Lord’, as the Bishop prays (mystically) for the Entry. The senior Deacon, together with all those servers destined to stand before the Bishop on the south (right) side, pass behind the cathedra (never in front of it) and form their ranks. When in place all servers and clergy face the Altar (eastwards) until the senior Deacon takes his place between the two ranks, also facing east and placing the Gospel upon his left shoulder; thereupon, and taking their lead from the senior Deacon, all make the sign of the Cross, turn and bow to the Bishop, and then face each other across the ranks. The senior Deacon, meanwhile, turns towards the north, pointing his orar towards the Altar, and says, ‘Bless, Master, the holy entrance’, whereupon the Bishop so blesses and the Deacon approaches him, holding the Gospel book for him to venerate and kissing the Bishop’s hand as the latter does so. The Deacon then turns back towards the east, moving several paces in front of the Bishop, while the other Deacons cense the Gospel book, ensuring their censers swing in a synchronised and even pace.

Once the choir has finished singing the Beatitudes, the senior Deacon exclaims, ‘Wisdom! Aright!’ and makes the sign of the Cross with the Gospel, facing eastward. He then immediately turns to face the Bishop, who now holds the dikiri and trikiri. The second and third Deacons should move in front of the senior Deacon and cense the Gospel, facing towards the east (taking care not to stand directly between the Bishop and the Gospel book), as all the clergy and servers begin to sing the entrance hymn, ‘O Come let us worship…’. During the opening of this hymn, the Bishop with the dikiri and trikiri slowly bows before the Gospel book which the Deacon holds aloft; when he straightens after this bow the second and third Deacons turn from the Gospel towards the Bishop, and they cense him as he makes the sign of the Cross with the dikiri and trikiri, facing eastwards. When the Bishop then turns to face west and bless the people (and likewise in the two other directions), the second and third Deacons turn back towards the Gospel and cense it continually.

After the Bishop has censed the people from each of the cardinal directions, as he turns back towards the Holy Altar, the senior Deacon likewise turns to face eastwards and leads the Bishop and other servers and clergy back into the Altar. He places the Gospel once again atop of the folded antimins, then immediately stands aside, turns towards the Bishop (who is venerating the icons on the Royal Doors to make his entry), and waits to receive the trikiri from him. The second Deacon should stand behind the first, censer in hand, ready to give it to the Bishop as soon as the latter enters the Altar.

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