The Badarak Begins: Procession into the Church

Led by the candle-bearers and altar servers, the celebrant enters the sanctuary from the vestry while the people sing, Khorhoort khoreen, "Profound mystery."  The "mystery" is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became a human being in order to fill us personally with his divine blessings, and with eternal life.

The Divine Liturgy begins not in the elevated altar space known as the bema (khoran), but among the people.  Before the prayers at the altar, the priest again acknowledges his weakness and human frailty.  As a visible sign that he relies on God to forgive his sins and make him worthy to worship God, the celebrant washes his hands, silently reciting Psalm 26: "I will wash my hands in innocence; and will go around your altar, O Lord." [4].  He then turns toward the people and confesses his sinfulness, asking them to pray that God forgive him [5].

Only then, in the words of Psalm 100, does the assembly offer its first expression of praise, "Make a shout to the Lord, all lands; serve the Lord with gladness" [6].

Alternating the verses of Psalm 43, the priest and deacons go up to the altar, where the celebrant prays for the first time, "…in this dwelling of holiness, this place of praise; in this habitation of angels, this place of the expiation of mankind; before these holy signs and the holy place that hold God up to us and are made resplendent…" [7]

  • Behind the Closed Curtain
    The curtain is closed while the choir or a soloist sings a hymn appropriate to the feast or liturgical season.
    At the altar, the priest offers the exquisite prayer of St. Gregory of Narek (d. 1003) to the Holy Spirit, a profound reflection in preparation for receiving Holy Communion: "...Prepare us to be honored dwellings, always ready to partake worthily of the heavenly Lamb, to receive...this manna of life eternal..." [81].
    When he has finished this prayer, the faithful have been prepared, the priest receives the Eucharistic bread and wine from the deacon.  The priest prays that they be acceptable to God the Father, "who sent the Lord Jesus Christ, the heavenly bread, the food of the whole world, to be savior and redeemer and benefactor" [10].
    While the deacon offers incense, the priest proclaims over the bread and wine the very same words that the angel Gabriel said to Mary when he announced that she would miraculously give birth to the Son of God [10]: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" [Luke 1:35].
    While the priest and deacon attend to the preparation of the bread and wine, the other altar servers are busy lighting the altar candles and forming the procession into the church.  The main reason why the curtain is closed at this point in the Liturgy is so that the people will not be distracted from their prayer and reflection by the liturgical housekeeping taking place at the altar.