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Question 83.

Your blessing, Father Christopher.
I hope you had a blessed and joyous Christmas.
Is it possible that the Divine Liturgy may be served twice on the same day, in the same temple, and on the same altar, but by different priests?
I wish you a happy and fruitful 2013.

Answer to Question 83.

Dear Evangelos,
Christ is born!

In many places a second Liturgy in performed on the same day in the same Church and this is totally acceptable provided certain requirements are observed. In our parish of St. Andrew we also serve a second Liturgy on Sundays. The first begins at 6.30am with matins followed by the Divine Liturgy and ends at 9-9.30am and the second begins at 11am with only the Divine Liturgy and ends at 12.15am. The reason we have a second Liturgy is to cater for the many people who cannot attend the first which begins very early as do all Liturgies in Cyprus. In the past, this early start was acceptable because people's lifestyles were different: they rose early from bed, but also went to their beds very early because there was nothing else to do. Lifestyles have changed considerably. Young people, especially on Saturdays, stay up with friends till the early hours and many others work shifts into the night, like doctors, nurses, police, and many other occupations that need to be manned 24hrs a day so that the rest of us can live the quality of life we have been accustomed to. The Church during the second Liturgy is just as full as it is in the first, but full of young people and young families.
As already said, to have a second Liturgy certain requirements must be observed. Simply, everything used during the first Liturgy cannot be used again for the second Liturgy. There must be a second antimension, a second paten and chalice, a second spoon and lance, a second zeon, a second maktron and most important a second priest who did not officiate during the first. In our parish we go all the way and place a portable altar in front of the main altar so that we don't use the same altar twice and also a second Gospel Book. In fact everything used for the first Liturgy is not used again for the second Liturgy.
In my opinion a second altar is a must, but there are many that believe that if the antimension is changed then this is enough. I think this happens because we have lost the original meaning of the antimension and is nowadays just thought of as a portable holy altar. In the early Church the bishop was the normal celebrant of the Eucharist and the priests were only his helpers similarly as deacons are today to priests. A priest could not offer the Liturgy on his own. As the Church grew and more churches were built, priests were appointed to serve the Liturgy on behalf of the bishop and as his representative. But there was a danger that deposed or heretical priests could also offer the Liturgy on their own, so a system giving authority to the canonical priest had to be invented. This is where the antimension came into use. It was consecrated and signed by the Bishop during the Consecration service of a Church and given to the priest as a letter of authority. The bishop’s signature on the antiminsion signified the bishop’s permission to the priest to serve the Liturgy on his behalf. This is why even today we do not serve the Liturgy directly on the holy altar, even if it has been consecrated, but first unfold the antimension kept on the altar and serve the Liturgy on this. Before the Great Entrance with the Holy Gifts, the priest kisses the icon of the Epitaphion printed on the antimension, but also the bishop's signature, signifying his recognition that he serves the Liturgy only as the bishop's representative, although I wonder how many priests do this without actually knowing why. When a Metropolitan bishop dies, the new bishop must consecrate many new antimensia so that all the churches under his jurisdiction can obtain a new antimension signed with the new bishop's name. The antimension also has a practical use because it safeguards any particles of the holy body should they fall from the paten. The particles fall directly onto the antiminsion and are easily retrieved by the Priest. Today the meaning of the antimension as the bishop's authority to the priest has been forgotten and is just considered as a portable holy table where we can take and use to serve the Liturgy in other places other than the permanent holy altar. But with this understanding it makes the consecration of the main altar of no consequence. Yes, we use the antimension as a portable holy altar but it is not the holy altar, but rather the permission to the priest to serve the Liturgy. With this understanding a second altar or table that can be used as an altar must be used for a second Liturgy. This is not difficult to do and most churches that offer a second Liturgy have a sanctuary big enough to allow a small table to be placed in front of the main holy altar and in places where there is no room, the table can be placed on the solea in front of the iconostasis. Of course, all this is being strict to the rule without allowing for economia. I think at all times we should keep in mind what St Paul says, that “we are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6: 14), and that “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. 3: 6).
If there is a need for a second Liturgy then I think this necessity of offering the Liturgy to people who cannot attend the first Liturgy outweighs the strictness of rules, especially when the bishop under whose jurisdiction the second Liturgy is offered has given his blessing.

May God grant you a wonderful New Year 2013

With love in the Newborn Christ
Fr. Christopher