Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and stand with fear and trembling, and consider nothing earthly;
for the King of kings and Lord of lords comes forth to be sacrificed and given as food to the faithful.
On Holy and Great Saturday morning, during the Vesperal Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, the above-mentioned hymn replaces the usual Cherubic Hymn sung at the Great Entrance with the Holy Gifts.
There are a few elements of this hymn we should consider:
- Why are we to keep silence at this moment? The silence spoken about is a silencing of the mind to distractions so that one may focus on the mystery at hand, so as to “consider nothing earthly.” Attention is to be on the procession with the Holy Gifts, and that they are soon to be placed on the Holy Altar where the mystical sacrifice will take place: the changing of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, “shed for the life and salvation of the world.” Furthermore, this hymn is reserved for Holy and Great Saturday, the Sabbath rest of our Incarnate God Who is bodily at rest in the tomb. And so we practice silence not only at this moment of the Liturgy but on this Great and Holy Sabbath.
- The “King of kings and Lord of lords” is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. He is given this title in Revelation 17:14 because He is both the Lamb Who was sacrificed on the Cross and the victorious Lamb Who rose from the dead. At the Last Day He will conquer the beast (the Antichrist) and the world leaders who will “give over their power and authority to the beast and make war on the Lamb” (Revelation 17:13). While many will wage war against Christ and His Church, “those with the Lamb will be His called, chosen, and faithful followers.”
- This same King of kings and Lord of lords is mystically sacrificed in the Divine Liturgy “and given as food for the faithful.” This is cause for silence, fear, and trembling, because what we experience in the Liturgy, “even angels long to look into” (1 Peter 1:12). As our Lord has said of Himself, He is “the Bread which comes down from heaven” (John 6:50). Not just came down one time at the Incarnation, but Who continually comes down for us at the celebration of the Eucharist to be offered to us as the Bread of eternal life.
Considering these things, brethren, on this Lord’s Day let us contemplate the most powerful thing in the created universe – the celebration of the Holy Liturgy – and ceaselessly cry out together with the sleepless heavenly beings, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, Who Was and Who Is and Who Is Coming!” (Revelation 4:8).