After Abouna washes his hands, he takes a veil from the paten, folds it up so that it’s straight and puts it inside his sleeve. This is a symbol of the dagger that Abraham used when he was asked to offer up his son Isaac which is a symbol of the sacrifice of Christ. Abouna then stands at the altar and the lamb is presented to him along with the wine and water. Abouna takes the decanter of wine and does the sign of the cross three times on the bread and wine. Abouna and the deacons carrying the bread, wine and water then smell the wine to make sure it has not gone bad; if it is good, the deacon responds saying, “pure and precious”.
Abouna then starts choosing the best bread which is to become the lamb. He starts by placing his right hand over his left in the shape of a cross just like Jacob did in the Old Testament when he blessed his grandchildren – the sons of Joseph. While doing this he says, “may the Lord choose a Lamb without blemish”. He then examines all the bread and chooses the best one while always making sure to keep the best one in his right hand and on top of the rest. He then touches all the other bread in the basket with the chosen bread.
After this Abouna takes the veil out of his sleeve and wipes the chosen bread. He then dips his right thumb in the wine and does the sign of the cross first on the chosen bread and says, “Sacrifice of Glory” and then on the rest of the bread in the basket saying, “Sacrifice of blessing… Sacrifice of Abraham… Sacrifice of Isaac… Sacrifice of Jacob”. After that, he signs the chosen bread again saying, “Sacrifice of Melchizedek”.
There is great significance behind all of these actions. As Abouna crosses each of the remaining bread in the basket, he mentions one of the Old Testament sacrifices, showing that they resemble the Old Testament sacrifices. The chosen bread always remains on the top because the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is the ultimate sacrifice and is superior in honour and glory. When Abouna touches the remaining bread it is showing us that all the Old Testament sacrifices point to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross and this was their aim and objective. The last cross is done on the chosen bread to show us that this sacrifice resembles that of Melchizedek which was bread and wine unlike all the other sacrifices. It also shows us that Christ is beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last.
Think about it:
- What should the deacon respond after smelling the wine if it is good?
- Why does Abouna touch the rest of the bread with the chosen bread?
- What does Abouna say when he crosses the chosen bread with wine the first time?