O Christ, our God, accept from those who call upon You with all their heart this spiritual sacrifice without the shedding of blood as a sacrifice of praise and true worship. You are the Lamb and Son of God who bears the sins of the world; the blameless calf who does not accept the yoke of sin and who freely sacrificed Yourself for us. You are broken but not divided. You are consumed but never spent. You sanctify those who partake of You. In remembrance of Your voluntary passion and life-giving resurrection on the third day, You have made us partakers of Your ineffable and heavenly and awesome mysteries of Your holy Body and precious Blood.
(Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, p. 48)
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, for He was before me.’ I myself did not know Him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that He might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness, “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on Him. I myself did not know Him; but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
John 1: 29-34
Towards the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, the priest offers a prayer in front of the icon of Christ, called “The Prayer of the Ambon” which in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom begins, “O Lord, Who blesses those who bless You.”(Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, 2015 Translation, p. 83) In the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, the prayer is different, both in content and in length. As with some of the other prayers of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, this prayer provides yet another summary of Christ and Christianity.
Even though the Divine Liturgy is now in its final moments, with the Gifts presented, consecrated and received, the beginning of the prayer asks Christ to accept this “sacrifice” which can also be translated or thought of as “offering,” so accept this offering, and since it is a concluding thought, it can even be thought of as “accept what we have offered,” this offering without shedding blood, as an offering of praise and true worship. (Some prayers are address to individual persons of the Trinity, this one is specifically addressed to Christ. Most prayer conclude with a Trinitarian ekphonesis even if they are addressed to one person of the Trinity. And some prayers are addressed to the Trinity, such as prayers that address “God,” or “Lord, our God.”) Remember that in the Old Testament, before the coming of Christ, the sacrifices that were offered always involved bloodshed of animals. We are reiterating that the sacrifice we have offered is as Christ told us to offer it, without shedding blood, for His blood has now been shed for all. It is not necessary to offer the blood from anything in creation, since He has shed His blood for us. And what we have presented is accepted as an offering of praise and true worship.
This is confirmed in the next phrase of the prayer where Jesus is “the Lamb and Son of God who bears the sins of the world.” This restates the endorsement of John the Baptist in John 1:29, where John points to his disciples “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” John’s role was to prepare the way for the Messiah and his last role was to endorse Jesus as the Messiah to his followers, the ones who were living in expectation that they would one day see Him.
“You are broken but not divided. You are consumed but never spent.” This phrase is used earlier (in both Divine Liturgies) as the priest breaks apart the Lamb, the Body of Christ, prior to distributing it as Holy Communion to the faithful. When we break something in half, whatever we have broken is “divided” into two parts. When we break apart the Lamb, the Body of Christ, into small portions to distribute to the faithful, what has been “broken” still remains unified, as there is one Christ, distributed individually to as many people as commune, not only in one particular church but around the world. When we “consume” something, that generally means that it is “spent,” there is no more of it. If we consume a glass of water, the glass is empty. We consume Christ, but He is never spent. We don’t finish Holy Communion, as in the case of the priest who consumes the remainder of the Gifts and say that Christ is now consumed, there is no more of Him. First, the physical presence of Christ remains in the church at all times, as a portion of Holy Communion is always in the tabernacle on the altar table. Second, we receive Holy Communion because this is how Christ told us to receive Him. Christ is risen, Christ is ascended, Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father waiting for us. So there is no “consuming” or “spending” Christ. Nor is there a one-time Communion with Christ. We may have received Christ in the Eucharist, and the priest may have consumed the remains of the Eucharist from one Divine Liturgy, but Christ remains on the Holy Altar Table, Christ is in heaven, and Christ can and will be offered again and again in the Divine Liturgy, so that we can receive Him often.
“You sanctify those who partake of You.” In other words, in summary of what we have done in the Divine Liturgy, those who partake of Christ take another step on their path to sanctification, to holiness. Heaven is set apart from earth, it is a place where there is no pain, sorrow, suffering or sin. Heaven is the destination for those who have set themselves apart for God on this earth, they are then set aside for eternity with Him in heaven. Thus, we partake of Christ to help set us apart for Him on this earth, and in preparation to be with Him in heaven.
A quick summary of why we receive Holy Communion follows in the next sentence—“In remembrance of Your voluntary passion and life-giving resurrection on the third day, You have made us partakers of Your ineffable and heavenly and awesome mysteries of Your Holy Body and precious Blood.” This goes back to the prayer right before the consecration, where the priest offered the words “Do this in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this Bread and drink this Cup, you proclaim My death and you confess My resurrection.” (Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, p. 29)
There is so much theology, and general information given in the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil (and remember, centuries ago, they did not have written books to study, as people could not read), so it is very appropriate that a prayer offering a summary of the Divine Liturgy comes near its conclusion.