Entrance Two of the most remarkable ceremonies of the Eastern Liturgies are the Lesser and the Greater Entrance — that of the word and that of the sacrament.
I. The Lesser Entrance is the bearing in of the book of the gospels in solemn procession.
Then the priest and the deacon, standing before the holy table, make three genuflections. Then the priest, taking the holy book of the Gospels, gives it to the deacon; and so, going out by the north side, with lights going befre. them, they make the lesser entrance." That is, the deacon and priest pass from the sanctuary into the chapel of the prothesis, which is to the north of it, and so out into the body of the church, where, by a devious path, they return to the holy doors, which are open; the volume, often decorated with great magnificence is laid on the holy table, whence it is again taken to the ambo, when the gospel is to be read.
This "Entrance" corresponds to the carrying of the gospel by the deacon to the ambo or rood-loft in the Western Church, once a rite of great importance; for the book was preceded not only by tapers, but by a crucifix.
II. The Greater Entrance. This ceremony has, like others, been developed from very small beginnings into great prominence and magnificence.
The liturgy of St. James simply alludes, in passing, to the bringing in of the elements. St. Mark's liturgy is even more vague.
In the Armenian rite the celebrant lies prostrate before the altar while the Great Entrance is made; in this rite (anomalously) the elements are spoken of as the body and blood of Christ before consecration.
In the much more developed rite of Constantinople, after the chanting of the Cherubic hymn, the ceremony proceeds as follows:
During the previous part of the eucharistic office, the elements have remained on the table in the chapel of the prothesis. At the proper point, the deacon censes the altar and the sanctuary, and then goes before the priest in to the prothesis. The priest then lifts the "aer," or covering, from the chalice and paten, and lays it on the deacon's shoulder, and then places upon it the paten, covered with the asterisk and veil. The deacon takes hold of these with his left hand, bearing the censer in his right; the priest takes the chalice and follows the deacon, and so, preceded by tapers, they move round to the holy doors, as in the lesser entrance. In great chuiches, where there are dignified clergy and many attendants, this procession is one of great magnificence. Where there is but a single priest and no deacon, he bears cthe paten on his shoulder, supporting it by his left hand, and the chalice in his right hand before his breast.
In the Coptic St. Basil, the Great Entrance is made at the very beginning of the liturgy; the directions for it are very curious and minute.
The priest goes to the Takaddemet (Prothesis) from which he shall take the lamb (i.e., loaf), looking attentively that there be no flaw in it... When he hath all that he needs, the lamb, the wine, and the incense,... he takes the lamb in his hand and wipes it lightly, as Christ the Lord was first washed with water before he was presented to Simeon the priest; then he shall bear it round to the altar in his hands, as Sineon bare him round the temple. At last the priest shall lay it down on the altar and shall place it on the paten, which signifies the cradle; and shall cover it with a linen cloth, as the Virgin did at his Nativity." A deacon seems to have borne the cruet. SEE INTROIT.