Let Us Depart In Peace

The dismissal of many Orthodox service seems to be a series of faux-endings strung together as if they didn’t quite know how to bring it to a conclusion.  According to one humorous anecdote, one can know that one is Orthodox if in a liturgical service one is still standing and continuing in prayer 15 minutes after hearing the celebrant say, “Let us depart in peace.

Hieromonk Gregorios in his book, The Divine Liturgy: A Commentary in the Light of the Fathers, comments on the Liturgy’s dismissal – we have sojourned to join the angels in heaven, and then prepare to disembark once again into God’s earth.

“The Divine Liturgy is a journey whose purpose is man’s encounter and union with God. This goal has now been realized: we have reached the end of our journey, we have seen the true Light, we have seen the Lord transfigured on the Mount Tabor of the Liturgy, we have partaken of His holy Body and most pure Blood. And as we venture to utter to our exalted Visitor, Lord, it is good for us to be here (Matt. 17:4), our Mother Church reminds us that the end of the liturgical journey must become the starting-point for our spiritual journey: Let us go forth in peace.

We have to leave the Mountain of the Transfiguration in order to return to the world and tread the way of martyrdom of our lives. This journey becomes our martyria, our witness to Christ – the Way and the Life – who has become our guest. During the Divine Liturgy, we received Christ within us. Now we are invited to pass Him on to the world, to become witness to the life of Christ. ‘We should come out of the sacred assembly…as if we had descended from heaven itself’, so that when our family, our friends or our enemies see us, they will all understand the benefit we have received from the Church.

After Holy Communion, we go out into the world as Christ-bearers and Spirit-bearers. Thereafter, we strive to preserve the Light we have received ever-burning, and to keep undefiled the gifts of grace which we have received. Then, even without words, our presence will transmit the Grace we have received to the souls of our brethren who were not present at the Liturgy. For the Christ-bearing believer is earth that brings forth fruit of itself (Mark 4:28).” (p 309)