The Divine Mysteries for the Sick


The instructions on how to reserve the Divine Mysteries for the sick can be found in the addendum to the service book for the Divine Liturgy.

However these instructions may be unclear for some, mainly because this procedure is performed very rarely in parishes.

When the mysteries were prepared at St. Jonah Orthodox Church on Holy Thursday 2011 several photographs and a short video were taken to provide visual instructions that we hope will be helpful for others. These instructions are published with the blessing of  His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland.

The main text for this publication is drawn from the service book “The Divine Liturgy of St. John  Chrysostom” published by Holy Trinity Monastery Jordanville, NY. Remarks are set in italics.

General Instructions concerning the reserved mysteries

First of all, the parish priest [or a priest in a monastery] must take care that the vessels, that is, the chalice, diskos, askerisk, spoon, and tabernacle be gold or silver or, in case of poverty, pewter, beautifully made for serving and for the reservation of the divine and life-giving Body of Jesus Christ, for in them is accomplished the awesome Mystery, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself manifestly abides in them.

Let all the other church articles, for example: priestly vestments, holy crosses, expensively decorated Gospel Books, be made beautifully, but let them be obtained after these things. When it is impossible, because of poverty, that these articles be of gold or silver, let them be at least of pewter, under threat of punishment and hierarchal interdict.

Let the tabernacle in which the Holy Mysteries must be reserved, that is, the Body of Christ, be covered by a cross on top and let it always stand with the Divine Mysteries on the Holy Table and not any other place.

Never let an unconsecrated hand touch it under mortal sin and a great epitimia, except in the greatest need. The Holy Mysteries may be consecrated, dried, and reserved not only on Great Thursday but, for a great need, on other days as well, according to the order written for Great Thursday.

If the tabernacle be gold or silver and gold-plated within, then the dried Holy Mysteries may be reserved without putting down paper. But when a tabernacle is silver and not gold-plated within or is pewter, then it is necessary and obligatory to line it with clean paper and upon this to place the Divine Mysteries.

Every day visit with veneration, with uncovered head, the Divine Mysteries which are reserved in the tabernacle, making a prostration and having clean hands. If this be not possible every day, then every day or two, having opened up the vessel, check whether through your carelessness and lack of concern the Divine Mysteries have become moldy or corrupt because of dampness, because then you seriously and mortally sin, and as an abuser of the Divine Mysteries you will fall under  punishment of deposition from your office. When you see that they are gathering moisture, then open up the antimension on the Holy Table and with all care take them from the tabernacle and place them on the holy diskos and, opening a window, dry them and watch them until they dry out, being careful that a fly or something else similar not touch them, so that in this you may not sin seriously and mortally.

When, while drying the Divine Mysteries because of lack of care you allow them to corrupt because of moisture, you sin mortally and you will fall under the punishment of deposition from your office.

And if such an accident happens [let it be nothing worse than this], do not dare to communicate anyone with these Mysteries, but without putting it off prepare yourself for serving and on the next day serve the Divine Liturgy, take out another Lamb, consecrate it, and having dried it, keep it and communicate the sick and others who need Communion. The corrupted or overburned Mysteries consume at this Liturgy on the table of oblation, having placed them into the chalice with what is left of the Divine Mysteries.

Instructions how to prepare the reserved Mysteries

If, O priest, you must prepare the Holy Mysteries for special needs on Great Thursday or at another time, then take out another Lamb and do according to the order as in the Great Fast for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts; moisten the holy Lamb with the life-giving Blood, holding it a bit above the holy chalice, with great care and caution, in order not to over-wet it, so that it not drip there because of superfluity. One must dry the moistened holy Lamb on the Holy Table thus: first, spread out the antimension, and having removed the Lamb from the tabernacle, put it on a diskos, cense around it, and then, making the proper reverence, cut it up with the holy spear into little particles with all reverence.

After cutting it up, place a flat rock or brick on the side of the antimension at your right hand and on the rock place a new cup or a clean iron or copper pot with burning coals

Note: in this case a ceramic bowl - not a copper or iron container - was used. Most important here is that the container withstand the heat of the coal. The coal is sitting on a bed of fine sand, the same kind that is used to fill candle boxes.

Note: the ceramic bowl is surrounded by a tin cylinder slightly higher than the ceramic bowl. It is made out of a small coffee can and is crimped  and acts as a “chimney” slightly extending over the sides of the brick. This provides airflow from the bottom for the coal.

Note: the plate on top of this tin cylinder is the bottom of a larger coffee can. Do not place the Holy Mysteries directly on this plate! Use a gold-plated plate that is regularly used to cut up the Gifts and place it on top of this tin plate. This tin plate is only there to avoid direct heat from the coal to the gold plate.

and, making the proper reverence, and with great attention, take the holy diskos with the cut-up Divine Mysteries, place it above the cup

Note: In this case instead of the diskos a gold-plated plate that is normally used to cut the Divine Mysteries was used.

and attentively watch that the Divine Mysteries dry out a little, stirring them with the holy spear so that they do not burn. Make sure that you have something to safely pick up the plate (a communion cloth will work), because it will be too hot to touch. 

Note: Here you can see how the Divine Mysteries are stirred during the drying-out process. This will take some time, depending on the humidity and temperature of your environment. If your environment is normally humid, make extra sure that the Divine Mysteries dry completely without being burned.

When the holy diskos is well warmed, remove it away and place it on the holy antimension or on the veil so that they do not become too hot and the Holy Mysteries are not burned.

When the diskos cools down a bit, again place it above the cup or other vessel with the hot coals set aside for this. Do this many times until the Gifts dry out. Put the dried particles with all heedfulness into the holy tabernacle, and, covering them, put them in their place, and making the proper reverence, fold up the antimension again.

Note: To make extra sure that the Divine Mysteries do not have any extra humidity that might cause them to spoil, place them on a diskos covered with a veil and leave them on the Holy Table from Holy Thursday to Pascha (change the veil to white when you change colors at the Vesperal Liturgy on Holy Saturday). When you finally put the Divine Mysteries into the tabernacle, do not close the drawer of the tabernacle completely for  several days.

Final Remarks

But where the Divine Liturgy is served every day, as happens in great cities or in monasteries, then even without drying the Holy Mysteries they might be preserved in this manner: two lambs are offered, but having taken part of one of them and moistened it with the Divine Blood as was said, keep it until morning for every serious case. Doing this daily

we shall not need to dry them and we avoid all unfortunate accidents.

Photographs and videos are the property of the author.


How to Reserve the Divine Mysteries for the Sick.