- The antimension is a sign of communion between the hierarch and the priests of the Eparchy
Further, the antimension is a sign of the unity of the Church. The Antimension is consecrated and distributed by the Patriarch or bishop to priests of his Eparchy and is signed by the giver as a token of communion with him. The Antimension is never purchased.
Here is a close up of an antimension:
In the Melkite tradition, this cloth is given by the Bishop to each of his priests. The priests, theoretically, cannot say Divine Liturgy without it. It is a depiction of Christ being taken down from the Cross.
I mention this to you because the antimension is important to our worship. Many contain a small relic of a saint, as tradition has us always celebrating at the Holy Table over the relics of saints. It also means that Priests take theirs with them, when they travel. It is like a sign of office, or a hall pass or permission slip, in common parlance.
I love these traditions. It means there is continuity and a tie clear back to Our Lord Himself, in his Apostles and Saints. I have always been a lover of history and I love that feeling of belonging that comes over me, whenever I attend Divine Liturgy. It truly transcends time and place. Another tradition that I love is the scent of incense anytime you are near a Byzantine or Orthodox Church.
This is another photo from the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross Monastery and I can hear them intoning,
“Let my prayer rise like incense to You, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. Hear me, O Lord!”
The Church gives us so many things to focus on, to envelope us and to help us to see, feel, touch, and smell our faith. The Holy Icons that adorn our eastern Churches give our eyes further focus on the Saints, men and women, who have gone before us and who we seek comfort from, being in their midst. My youngest son always looks to the Icons for inspiration during Divine Liturgy, often looking directly overhead at the Icon of Christ.
Being in the presence of Holy Things, and with Our Lord present in His Word, His Eucharistic Presence, and in His People gives us time in this rushing world to absorb our faith through our many senses. I know I need to take a step off the whirlwind schedule now and then, and just sit in the presence of God, to quiet my inner self, and to just breathe….