Those who have had the blessing of attending a monastic Vigil might admit that one of the most moving parts of the liturgical tradition is the so-called "Elevation of the Panagia" which occurs in the refectory after the service. After the meal, the monastics raise a piece of bread and all partake of it, in honor of the Panagia who is in their presence. The following is the history and the text of this beautiful tradition, which according to the Church dates back to the Apostles after Christ's Resurrection.
Concerning the offering of the Panagia, how it came to be, and for what reason.
"After the awesome Resurrection of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, and before the dispersal of the holy apostles for preaching, all the apostles were together; and when, after prayer, they reclined at dinner; they left a place at the head (of the table) empty, and placed at the head a portion of bread from which they partook as being Christ's portion. After dinner; when they had stood up and given thanks, they partook of the portion of bread which is called "the Lord's portion." Then they lifted this up, they said: "Glory to Thee, O our God, glory to Thee. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit." And instead of "Great is the name," "Christ is risen" until the Ascension. Thenceforth: "Great is the name of the Holy Trinity. O Lord Jesus Christ, come to our aid." This then is how things were performed. And each of them performed this wherever he happened to he, until the Dormition of the Theotokos. But when the clouds accomplished the worldwide gathering for the sake of the repose of the Lady Theotokos, who had reposed in majesty, on the third day after her burial they were having a commemorative meal. And after arising from dinner, and lifting up, according to custom, the portion of bread which lay in Christ's name, and saying, "Great is the name," they added, "O Wonder most glorious!" The one who had died [the Theotokos], with a cloud and light bearing angels, appeared as alive, in the air; saying: "Rejoice! for I am with you all days," granting them this joy-creating event from her Son. The disciples, marveling at this wonder; instead of "O Lord Jesus Christ," cried out: "O most holy Theotokos, come to our aid!" Having come to her tomb and not finding her most holy body, they came to believe truly that she who had lived in the body was resurrected after three days like her Son, and she who had reposed had passed into the heavens, and reigneth with Christ unto the ages of ages. Amen."
(http://www.prosphora.org/page41.html; Greek text available here: http://voutsinasilias.blogspot.com/2010/04/blog-post_09.html)
From Holy Transfiguration Monastery. The Great Horologion (1998). Pp. 161-165
THE SERVICE OF THE REFECTORY
"...After eating, we arise and give thanks to God, saying:
Blessed is God, Who hath mercy and nourisheth us from our youth. O Thou who givest food to all flesh, fill our hearts with joy and gladness; that always having all sufficiency, we may abound to every good work, in Christ Jesus our Lord; unto Him and Thee is due glory; dominion, honour, and worship, together with the Holy Spirit, unto the ages. Amen.
Glory to Thee, O Lord; glory to Thee, O Holy One; glory to Thee,
O King, for Thou hast given us food for our enjoyment. Fill us also with the Holy Spirit, that we might find favour before Thee and not be put to shame when Thou wilt render to every man according to his deeds.
Glory; both now. Lord, have mercy (thrice).
And making a reverence, he that is to lift up the Panagia saith: Bless, holy Fathers: forgive me a sinner.
And we say: God forgive thee and have mercy on thee.
And taking the Panagia with the tips of his fingers,* he lifteth it up a little, saying with a great voice: Great is the Name...
*-(When the priest lifts up the panagia above the panagarion and says, "Great is the Name," he forms the upright shaft of the cross. At the words "Of the Holy Trinity," the priest moves the panagia over and above the icon of the Hospitality of Abraham in order to begin the cross-piece. Saying the words All-holy Theotokos, help us," he moves the panagia over the icon of the Mother of Cod, thus completing the horizontal bar of the cross.)
And we say: Of the Holy Trinity.
And completing the sign of the Cross with it he saith: All-holy Theotokos, help us.
And we say: By her intercessions, O God, have mercy and save us.
All we the generations call thee blessed, O Virgin Theotokos, for in thee He, the Uncontainable One, Christ our God, was pleased to be contained. Blessed are we also who have thee as protection, for day and night dost thou intercede for us, and the sceptres of the kingdom are strengthened by thine entreaties, wherefore, with hymns we cry to thee: Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.
It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, the ever-blessed and immaculate and Mother of our God. More honourable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, thee who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word, the very Theotokos, thee do we magnify.
And after all have partaken, the priest saith:
Merciful and compassionate is the Lord: He hath given food to them that fear Him; and His righteousness abideth unto ages of ages.
And we say the following: (Ps 121)
Holy God. All-holy Trinity, Our Father.
The priest: For Thine is the kingdom.
The reader: Amen.
And if it be a Feast of the Master we say the Kontakion thereof but if not, say the following:
Even as Thou camest in the midst of Thy disciples, O Saviour, and gavest them peace, come also amongst us and save us.
O God of our Fathers, ever dealing with us according to Thy gentleness: take not Thy mercy from us, but by their entreaties guideour life in peace.
Both now. Theotokion
By the intercession, O Lord, of all the Saints and the Theotokos, do Thou grant us Thy peace and have mercy on us, since Thou alone art compassionate.
Lord, have mercy (thrice). Holy Father, bless.
And the priest saith: Blessed is God who hath mercy and nourisheth us from His abundant gifts, by His grace and love for man, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.
And we say: Amen."
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, bestowing life!
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