Liturgical Handbook of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
At the blessing of the loaves during the Litya, when is the loaf kissed by the Priest?
Category: All-Night Vigil and Evening Services

The incorrect practice of kissing the topmost of the five loaves at the Litya, before the loaves have been blessed, is one of the most frequently-observed errors in the service of the festal All-Night Vigil. This is not a new phenomenon, but has been observed for many decades, and has long been commented upon by our Godly liturgists in the Church Abroad (most notably, perhaps, by Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov, who writes about this error explicitly).

When the Priest approaches the table with the five loaves, wheat, wine and oil at the end of the Litya, he takes the top loaf and, holding it in his right hand, silently makes the sign of the Cross with it, over the table. He then returns it to the tray with the other loaves, without kissing it. The Priest then reads the prayer of the blessing of the loaves with his right hand extended, palm-upwards, towards the tray; but he does not make the traditional ‘IC XC’ sign of blessing with his hand or again make the sign of the Cross over the loaves when speaking the blessing itself, for in this prayer he petitions the Lord: ‘Do Thou Thyself bless these breads, this wheat, this wine and oil’. Once the prayer is complete and the Priest has crossed himself as is customary at the conclusion of every exclamation, he then takes the principal loaf in his right hand, raises it to his lips, and kisses it out of veneration of the blessing that it now bears, then lays it again atop the others without using it to once again make the sign of the Cross over them.

The incorrect practice of kissing the loaf before it has been blessed, or of making the sign of the Cross with it over the other loaves once they have already been blessed, represent failures to understand the nature of the blessing itself. Priests must be diligent to do this properly.

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