This booklet is prepared to help the
youth born outside of Ethiopia, or who came at an early age, to understand
the rite of the Divine Liturgy.
It is essential to know the meaning
of prayer, before praying. If we just recite prayers, without understanding
the meaning of prayer, we would just be saying words, and not feeling the
words. Therefore it is essential that we understand the essence of the
Understanding the Liturgy helps us to
be spiritually removed from this world, and be immersed in a spiritual
world, live through the events of Christ's birth, His journey to Golgotha,
His agony on the day of His crucifixion, and His glorious resurrection. When
we understand the Divine Liturgy, we feel the presence of angels. In the
Divine Liturgy, we enter into a communion with the hosts of angels in the
presence of God.
May God grant us the understanding to
know Him, and make us worthy to stand in His presence with all the Holy
angels and saints. Amen.
What is Kidasie
(The Divine Liturgy)?
The word Kidasie, when translated directly means Praise, or Liturgy. Liturgy
is a mass prayer. In the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, there are
different kinds of mass prayers. But the Divine Liturgy is unique in that:
It is a sacrificial prayer.
The sacrifice is the body and blood
of Jesus Christ.
"I am the living bread which comes down from heaven; if any
man eat of this bread he shall live forever: and the bread that I give is my
flesh which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:51)
The sacrifice was
instituted by Jesus Christ himself on the Thursday before His crucifixion on
the Cross on Friday.
"Jesus took the
bread, blessed and broke it, and gave thanks and gave it to the disciples
and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body.' Then He took the cup, and gave
thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. For this is
My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of
sins." Mathew 26:26-29
It is not just words, but involves
different actions, both real and symbolic of the Old and the New Testament.
The following actions have symbolic and real meanings.
The procession from Bethlehem to the Holy of Holies
Offering the Sacrifice on the Altar
Opening and Closing of curtains
The Raising of Incense
It is divine: the rite of the Holy
Liturgy is set in the image of angelic worship. Therefore, it is called the
There is a Tabernacle in the holy of holies, where the Divine Liturgy is
led by the priests, as there is one in heaven.
"And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of
the testimony in heaven was opened" Rev. 15:5
We praise Him in the same words as the angels:
”Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His
glory." Is. 6:3
Through the Divine Liturgy, we become
partakers of divine presence
We stand in the presence of Our Lord
Jesus Christ on the throne in the holy of holies, as angels stand around the
throne of God.
"A throne was set in heaven, and One sat on the throne ... the twenty
four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who
lives forever and ever." Rev.4:2, 10
Here is how Father Tadros Yacoub Malaty, a Coptic priest describes this
The Eucharist is a journey of the whole church - clergy and lay people
alike- towards heaven. It is a unique, enjoyable, joyful, holy and yet
fearful journey. In this journey the Holy Spirit carries us to the Throne of
Divine Blessing, where we find the open arms of the Father for us, his
children. We meet the Slaughtered Lamb in Whom we abide and Who abides in us
giving us His body and Blood so that we may bear His holy nature. The
journey begins with what is called "Praise" or the "raising of morning or
evening incense" (matins or vespers, respectively) ... We begin on the
heavenly path by entering into an angelic atmosphere that lifts up our
hearts, thoughts and senses and elevates us towards the heavenly King
(Sharing in Angelic Worship:
English Edition; Translated by; Samir F. Mikhail MD & Maged S.
Mikhail MD; 1994)
The Divine Liturgy is set in the
image of the Heavenly Worship of Angels. The prophet Isaiah explains his
vision of angelic worship as follows:
"In the year that king Uzziah died I
saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train
filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with
the two he covered his face, and with the two he covered his feet, and with
the two he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy,
is the LORD of hosts: The whole earth is full of His glory."
From the above verse we see the
angels praising God the same way we do in our Liturgy, saying, "Holy,
Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of His Glory."
The angels say these words covering their feet with two wings, their face
with two wings, and flying with the other two. These are symbolic acts that
indicate the following:
They cover their feet to indicate
that they are not worthy to stand in His presence.
They cover their face to indicate
they cannot see his glory.
They fly with the other two wings to
indicate that they cannot go anywhere where He is not.
These actions of the angels
show that they humble themselves in His presence. We are also constantly
reminded in the Liturgy to humble ourselves before the Lord. Below is
another description of angelic worship according to the Revelation of John
"I was in the spirit: and,
behold, a throne was set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. ... And
round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw
four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on
their heads crowns of gold. ... And in the midst of the throne, and round
about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. ...
And the four beasts had each
of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they
rest not day and night, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, which
was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honor and
thanks to him that sat on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, The four
and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship
Him that lives for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne,
saying, You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for
You have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were
On both verses we have above there is a throne,
with God sitting on it. The twenty-four elders and the four beasts are
angels. We can see here also the angels worshiping Him with the same words
we say in our liturgy. We also worship God in the same manner in our
Liturgy. We have the body of Jesus Christ, God incarnate on a throne in the
holy of holies, and the entire congregation, dressed in white, worship Him
falling down before him like the angels. Our use of censer and incense is
also angelic as we can see from the following passage of the Bible:
" And another angel came and stood at
the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much
incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the
golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense,
which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the
angel's hand." Revelation
As we have seen in the previous
section, there is also a Tabot (Tabernacle of Testimony) in heaven.
So, we can see from the above
verses that there are many similarities between the angels and our worship.
There is a temple in heaven, as there is a church on earth. There is an
altar in heaven and also in our church. There is a tabernacle of testimony
in both, and there is a throne with God on it. We fall down in front of God
as the angels do in worship. We also offer incense with our prayers as
angels do. Therefore, when we worship God in the Divine Liturgy, we are in
the same presence of the glory of God, as the angels. There are few
The angels can't look upon God, for
no one can see him in his glory. Here is how the Apostle John describes how
God is manifested on the throne: "out of the throne, proceeded
lightening and thundering and voices." But, we look upon him and
touch him through the priest, and also receive Him, because He gave us His
body and His blood for our Salvation.
Angels carry the throne of God, but
God has made our body His temple. That is why the apostle Paul wrote,
"Don't you know that you are the temple of God?" 1 Corinthians 3:16.
God through His merciful love allows
us to worship him in the Divine Liturgy like the angels, yet bestowed
something greater upon us for He manifested Himself in body for us, and gave
us His body and blood so that we may receive Him and have communion with
Him. The apostle John marvels and describes the love of God by saying,
"Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we
should be called the sons of God." 1 John 3:1
If God has given us such love, what
should we do in return for the grace of such angelic presence?
How to Prepare
ourselves for the Divine Liturgy
We should prepare ourselves
spiritually and physically before we come to the Divine Liturgy.
Spiritual preparation before coming to Liturgy begins with the knowledge of
what the Divine Liturgy is. So it is important that we understand the
essence of the Divine Liturgy, as discussed in the previous section.
Spiritual preparation involves submitting our will to the will of God,
repentance and confession. The Apostle Paul describes spiritual preparation
"Yield yourselves unto God, as
those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of
righteousness unto God."
How do we make our "members as
instruments of righteousness"? Our members are our bodily senses. We do
this by dedicating our eyes to see good, our ears to hear the word of God,
our tongues to praise God and to speak well of others, and our heart to love
God and others...
we have seen in the previous section, the Divine Liturgy is a journey to
heaven, to be in the presence of God's glory. How do we prepare for such an
We should be clean and wear clean
clothes. God ordered Moses to sanctify the people and have them wash their
clothes before He came down in the presence of the congregation:
Lord said unto Moses, Go unto
the people, and sanctify them today and to morrow, and let them wash their
clothes, And be ready against the third day: for the third day the
Lord will come down in the
sight of all the people upon mount Sinai." Exodus 19:10-11
should be especially clean and wear clean clothes to present ourselves in
front of God. This in turn reminds us of the spiritual purity with which we
should present ourselves to God.
We should be dressed appropriately
when we come to the Divine Liturgy. Jesus Christ once told the apostles a
story of a king who made a feast for his Son's wedding. When the king came
to see the guests, he saw a man who didn't have wedding cloths. He asked the
guest why he didn't have wedding cloths, but the guest was speechless. So,
the king told his servants to take guest out of the wedding. (Mathew
The story is a good
example of how we should come dressed to the house of God. Christ told this
story when teaching about the kingdom of God. He began the story by saying:
"The Kingdom of Heaven is like
a certain King who arranged a marriage for his son."
The church is an image of the Kingdom
of Heaven. The King is God the Father, and the marriage feast is a call to
receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the Son, Whom we offer to the
Father on the altar. Therefore, we should have a 'wedding' cloth when we
come to a divine rite.
Women should wear decent dresses, and
men should were decent pants. Remember in the Divine Liturgy, we are in the
presence of God, with the host of angels.
When the apostle John explained how
the angels worshipped God, he also gave details of their clothing, because
appropriate appearance is part of divine worship: "I saw four and
twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment." (Rev. 4:2)
Wearing white raiment (Netela)
reminds us of our angelic presence. White is also a symbol of spiritual
purity. So, we are reminded of the need to have spiritual purity, and to
examine our spiritual life.
We should humble ourselves like the
angels. We should prostrate ourselves with the cross, fall down and worship
him when we enter the church.
We should take off our shoes inside
the church for the place where we worship him is holy. God commanded Moses,
"Take the shoes of your feet for the ground on which you stand is
holy." Exodus 3:5. This by itself is an act of worship and humbling
oneself before God.
Physical preparation for a neat and
appropriate appearance before the throne of God begins before we come to the
Divine Liturgy, but spiritual preparation is a perpetual act of spiritual
work in faith in our daily life. In the words of the apostle Peter,
“just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” 1 Peter
Steps of the
There are different
preparations before the Divine Liturgy. These include different prayers,
including the Prayer of Incense, prayers over holy Liturgical Items,
Preparation of the Altar, Reading of the Miracles of Jesus, the Virgin Mary,
and other holy books according to the patron saint of the church and the
commemoration of the day's saint. In this section, we are going to cover
only most of the major parts the Divine Liturgy from the Procession of the
Lamb, to the end of the Liturgy.
Preparation of the
sacrifice in Bethlehem.
Bethlehem is the birth - place of Jesus Christ (Matthew 2:1). The
place where the sacrifice is prepared is called Bethlehem because it is
symbolic of this city, which is also known as the city of David.
Procession of the
Entry into the Holy of Holies
The procession of
priests and deacons carrying the sacrificial bread and wine from Bethlehem
to the Holy of Holies is called Procession of the Lamb. The priests and
deacons take the sacrifice prepared in Bethlehem to the holy of holies.
There are many symbolisms in this procession:
sacrificial lamb is carried in what we call Mesobe Worq, which
is a symbol of the Virgin Mary, who carried Jesus Christ in her womb for
nine months and five days.
procession from 'Bethlehem' to the Holy of Holies symbolizes the life of
Jesus Christ from His birth in Bethlehem to His crucifixion at Golgotha. The
Holy of Holies, where the sacrifice is offered, symbolizes Golgotha.
procession also symbolizes Entry into the holy of holies - symbolic of our
Lord's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and ultimately to His crucifixion at
deacon goes in the front ringing a bell during the procession. and another
deacon carries an umbrella.
i. The umbrella is a symbol of
the glory of God that was manifested through Jesus
ii. The umbrella also is a symbol of
the glory of God that appeared to the Israelites in the form of a cloud. It
also symbolizes God's protection over us. (Exodus 13:21-22; 16:10;
iii. The bell is called
Kalle-Awadi in Geez, which means Voice of Declaration. It is a
symbol of the voice of John the Baptist: "I am the voice of one
calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'"(John 1:23).
As John the Baptist declared the coming of the kingdom of God, and
called the people into repentance, the ringing of the bell is a declaration
of the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, and an entrance into an angelic
presence, and it also is a call for all in the congregation to repent and
come into this divine presence to receive the body and blood of Jesus
Once inside the holy of holies, there
are certain steps that are symbolic of the transfer of Jesus from Gethsemane
to Hanna, from Hanna to Caipha, from Caipha to Pontius Pilate, and finally
to His crucifixion on the Cross.
After the sacrifice is set on the
altar, the presiding priest stands facing east in front of the altar, and
the deacon stands on the opposite side. They symbolize the two angels who
were seen in the tomb after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (John
Worship and prayer
1. Doxology: Once the
sacrifice is on the altar in the holy of holies, the priest and the
congregation enter into a heavenly worship of praise. But before this, the
presiding priest and the assistant priest pray to one another so that God
would be pleased with them, as He was with Joseph and Nicodemus, who wrapped
the body of Jesus Christ with linen after His crucifixion. The priest also
prays that God may accept his offering, as He as accepted the offerings of
Abel, Noah, Abraham, Elijah, David, and the widow's coins in the sanctuary.
He also asks all the congregation to pray for him, and the assistant priest
prays for him saying: "May God hear you in all that you have asked and
accept your sacrifice and offering like the sacrifice of Melchisedec, and
Aaron, and Zachariah ..."
After the first series of praise the
deacon the congregation and the priest say the following:
Deacon: Stand up for prayer.
People: Lord have Mercy.
Priest: Peace be unto you.
People: With Thy Spirit (Let it be done unto us.)
Adam said "Stand up for
prayer" first when Jesus Christ came to the departed souls on the
day He was crucified to preach salvation to them. (1 Peter 3:18-19).
The departed souls responded by saying, "Lord have mercy."
Jesus Christ preached salvation to all by saying, "Peace be
unto you." And the souls responded saying, "Let it be done
unto us." The deacons says, "Stand up for prayer"
repeatedly during the Liturgy to remind everyone the presence of the Lord,
and to be alert during the worship service. The congregation responds in the
words shown above in acknowledgement of His presence and the priest blesses
the congregation in the words of Jesus Christ, saying, "Peace be unto
2. Thanksgiving of St. Basil:
The priest recites the prayer of St. Basil, thanking God for protecting us,
strengthening us, and bringing us closer to Him.
3. Prayer of Oblation:
This is a prayer the head priest recites for those who bring gifts to
church, and also for those who wished to bring gifts, but couldn't bring
any. The deacon asks the congregation to pray for those who bring oblations,
and the congregation in response sing to the Lord to accept the gifts of
brothers and sisters.
4. Prayer of Absolution of the
Son: This is a prayer by
the assistant priest asking Jesus Christ to absolve all those in the
congregation of their sins, and also the sins of all those who departed
before this day in faith. If a bishop or a high ranking priest is present,
he prays this prayer. The deacon declares for everyone to worship (falling
down on the ground) God in fear before this prayer.
5. Litany of Petitions:
The head deacon leads the Litany of Petitions, beseeching the Lord to grant
us forgiveness, faith, purity, to grant knowledge and preserve in
faithfulness and purity, the patriarch, the bishops, the priests, the
deacons, the readers, and all those who serve in the church, that he may
grant freedom to the prisoners and those who are in captivity, for the safe
return of those who are traveling, for the rain, the rivers, the harvest,
for our country ...
During the Litany of Petitions, the
presiding priest (head priest) prays the raising of incense.
After the Litany of Petitions and another doxology, there are three readings
from the New Testament:
The Pauline Epistle: A reading from one of the eight epistles of St.
General Epistle: A reading from one of the Epistles of Peter, John,
James, Judah, or from the Book of Revelation
Reading from the Book of Acts
7. Prayer of The Covenant:
This is a prayer from the Book of the Covenant which Jesus Christ had taught
the Apostles. There are three sections of this prayer, each having three
parts. The priests conduct either of the last two sections of this prayer
depending on the time of the Divine Liturgy.
8. Hymn from Psalm: The deacon
sings a hymn from the book of Psalms appropriate for the day. The
congregation repeats this hymn after the deacon.
9. Reading of the Gospel:
After the hymn from Psalms, the deacon declares the reading of the Gospel,
by asking everyone to prayer for the holy gospel, and to stand and listen to
the reading. The congregation responds saying, "May we be worthy to
hear the holy gospel." The head priest then reads the day's reading
from one of the four gospels: Mathew, Mark, Luke, or John.
After the reading of the gospel, the main deacon orders the catechumen to
leave, before the prayer of the faithful (the Anaphora) begins.
10. Litany of Ministers, Peace,
Unity, and Love: The deacon asks the congregation to pray for the
patriarch, bishops, priests, deacons, and thefor peace of the church, the
unity of the congregation in it, and for love. The congregation responds
asking the Lord for forgiveness, and to bless the congregation.
11. Creed: This is an article
of faith which the congregation, with the ministers pray together. There are
two readings of the Creed. The Creed of the Apostles, and the Nicean Creed
of the 318 fathers of Nicea (the fathers who met in Nicea because of the
heresy of Arius.) The creed of the apostles is prayed if the days Anaphora
is of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, the Apostles, or John. The creed of the 318
fathers is prayed with all the another anaphora.
The Nicean Creed
I believe in
one God, the Father, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all
things visible and invisible. And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only
begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light,
true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father,
through whom all things were made. For us and for our salvation, He came
down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became man.
crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and He suffered and was buried. On
the third day He rose according to the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will have no end. And in the
Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who
together with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who spoke
through the prophets. In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. expect the resurrection
of the dead. And the life of the age to come. Amen.
12. Washing of Hands by the
Priest: The head priest announces that all should receive the holy-
communion with repentance, and confession, and absolves himself of the
consequences of anyone who approaches the holy communion without repentance
and confession, and also of anyone's failure to repent and confess. After
this the priest washes his hand with water, as Pontius Pilate washed his
hands, after declaring himself to be free of the blood of Jesus Christ.
The Anaphora (Liturgy of the
The rest of the
Liturgy is called the Anaphora or Liturgy of the faithful. There are 14
Anaphora in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and one is used at each
liturgical worship, depending on the day. The major sections and typical
orders of the anaphora's are as follows:
1. Declaration of the Anaphora:
The head priest announces the anaphora of the day.
2. Invocation of Intercession:
This is a hymnal recitation of a prayer by the deacon for the forgiveness of
our sins through the intercession of St Mary, the holy patriarch, the
metropolitan bishop, the apostles, and many other earlier saints.
3. Benediction of St. Basil:
The assistant priest prays the Benediction of St. Basil, beseeching for
divine help and blessing. A bishop or a higher ranking priest prays the
benediction if present.
4. Commemoration of Institution of
the Eucharist: This is a
reading from the anaphora about the first Institution of the Eucharist by
Jesus Christ Himself. (Matthew 26:26-28) The congregation
responds three times saying that they believe all this really happened.
5. Anamnesis: Remembrance of
Christ's agony, death, Resurrection, and Ascension:
Right after commemoration of the Institution of the Eucharist, the priest
calls on the congregation to remember the agony, death, resurrection and
ascension of Jesus Christ according to His commandment to remember all these
at the time of the Eucharist. (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25)
6. Invocation of the Holy Spirit:
After the commemoration of Institution of the Eucharist and the Anamnesis,
the priest, and the congregation - repeating after the priest - ask for the
forgiveness of our sins by receiving the Eucharist, praise the Lord, and
invoke the Holy Spirit to descend upon the congregation.
7. Prayer of Fraction:
This is a prayer by the presiding priest while breaking the sacrifice in a
certain symbolic manner. The act of breaking the bread is called Fraction,
and the prayer during this time is thus called Prayer of Fraction. This
prayer is different depending on which of the anaphora is used for the
Liturgy. Generally, it is a prayer beseeching the Lord that His body and
blood which we receive may be for our salvation, and not our condemnation
due to our sin.
8. The congregation sings the Our
father after the prayer of Fraction.
9. Prayer of Penance:
This is a prayer by the assistant priest, over all the congregation who have
bowed their heads in repentance. The deacon declares all those in penance to
bow down their heads before this prayer. The assistant priest beseeches the
Lord for the absolution of all those who have sinned.
10. The Lord's Prayer (Egziota):
After the prayer of penance, the priest leads the congregation in the Lord's
prayer. The priest and congregation repeat "Lord have mercy on us"
After Adam and Eve
were cast our of the Garden of Eden, they went into fasting. After fasting
for thirty five days, the devil came in the form of an angel and told them
that God has heard their prayers. So, they interrupted their supplication
and followed the devil towards the garden of Eden. But he showed them his
real identity, and told the it was he who caused their exile from the Garden
of Eden. They remained their wounded and afflicted for 6 days. The 35 days
in fasting, and the 6 days in affliction make 41 days. In remembrance of
this, the congregation and the priest pray saying, "Lord have mercy on
us" 41 times.
Before Jesus Christ
was crucified, it was ordered that he should be flogged 40 times. But they
flogged Him without counting and started over many times. To remember that
the agony of Jesus Christ, His suffering beyond the prescribed punishment
according to their law, we pray, "Lord have mercy on us" 41
time - one more than forty.
11. The presiding priest declares the
faith in the presence of Jesus Christ in body in the congregation,
acknowledging that the bread and wine on the altar are no longer bread and
wine, but the true body and blood of Jesus Christ. The congregation also
repeats saying Amen, meaning they too do believe that it
really is the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
12. Receiving the Eucharist (Qurban):
Finally, all the faithful who prepared themselves to receive the Eucharist
approach and receive it according to their age, sex and order.
Entry into the
holy of holies after Holy Communion:
The Eucharist returns to the holy of
holies after it is given to those who came to receive it. This is called
Erget (Ascension). It is symbolic of the Ascension of Jesus
Christ into heaven.
The Divine Liturgy is concluded with
benediction and declaration to go in peace.