What is the little cloth that Father opens on the Holy Altar Table during the singing of the Cherubic Hymn?
The antimension serves as a portable altar and in which are sewn and sealed relics (part of the body of a saint). On it is depicted the entombment of Christ. On Holy Thursday at his cathedral, the bishop of an eparchy consecrates antimension(s) at the same Divine Liturgy in which he consecrates the Holy Chrism used for the Mystery of Chrismation. At the Chrism Liturgy the bishop anoints the antimension with chrism and pours some wine on it. Then he sprinkles it with holy water. The relics of saints are fixed into a pocket in the cloth with a seal of wax and signed by the bishop. During this same Liturgy, the bishop washes the feet of twelve men in remembrance of the washing of the Apostles' feet by Jesus at the Last Supper.
The bishop then sends the antimension(s) to the parishes of his diocese. The antimension is a sign that the Divine Liturgy is only celebrated in communion with the Bishop and under his authority. The antimension is a very real symbol of a bishop's authority as arch pastor of the whole church (eparchy). The priest is appointed and delegated by the bishop to serve the people of the parish and to celebrate the Divine Liturgy.
The antimension is left folded in the center of the Holy Altar Table under the Gospel Book. During the Divine Liturgy, while the Cherubic Hymn is being sung, the antimension is unfolded to prepare the Holy Altar Table for the arrival of the gifts of bread and wine. The holy gifts are placed upon the antimension and they are consecrated upon it. On the antimesion is placed a corporal. After Holy Communion, the antimension and corporal are folded, set into the middle of the altar and the Gospel Book is replaced on top of it.
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