When we examine the ancient documents dealing with the Antiochene and Byzantine Liturgies, the writings of St. John Chrysostom, for instance, we find that the Liturgy began with a greeting of the bishop to the people: «Peace be with you.» Immediately after responding to this greeting, the people sat down and the Holy Scripture was read to them.
But in today’s celebration of the Byzantine Liturgy, rather lengthy ceremonies and prayers precede the reading of the Epistle. In very solemn circumstances these ceremonies can fill an entire hour, as in fact they did in the patriarchal Liturgies celebrated on Mount Athos during the commemoration of the 1000th anniversary of the founding of the Great Lavra. Thus we see that from the time of St. John Chrysostom, when the Liturgy began with the readings, until the present day, the Byzantine Liturgy has acquired many elements that did not belong to it in its original shape.
Liturgy of His Holiness, Pope Saint Pius X.
"The Holy Mass [The Divine Liturgy] is a prayer itself, even the highest prayer that exists. It is the Sacrifice, dedicated by our Redeemer at the Cross, and repeated every day on the Altar. If you wish to hear Mass as it should be heard, you must follow with eye, heart, and mouth all that happens at the Altar. Further, you must pray with the Priest the holy words said by him, in the Name of Christ and which Christ says by him. You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings which are contained in these words and in this manner you ought to follow all that happens on the Altar. When acting in this way you have prayed Holy Mass
of St. John Chrysostom
In the Byzantine Rite of the Catholic Church, the bread and wine used for the Divine Liturgy (The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass) are prepared by the priest at a small table located on the left side of the Altar (The Table of Preparation). After he has completed this rite (called Proskomedia) the priest leaves the prepared chalice and paten on the Table of Preparation and goes to the Altar to begin the Divine Liturgy.
Some of the elements of the Liturgy have undergone a particular evolution and development. Pieces added to the Liturgy in order to meet specific needs or purposes have been kept in the celebration long after these needs or purposes ceased to exist. Conversely, certain older ways of doing things, rites and ceremonies long ago fallen into disuse might today be preferable to the later developments that replaced them.
In order to uncover the additions and replacements and evaluate them in their proper context, we must first try to get a general view of the historical evolution of the Byzantine Liturgy—and that is not an easy task. But at least some aspects of this evolution will be dealt with in the following lectures. Today we shall consider the development of the so-called «Little Entrance.»