Seeing that bodily disposition is important in worship and spiritual life, in general, great emphasis is placed in the Orthodox Church on fasting; if one should add up all of the fasting seasons and days of the Church calendar, he would find that more than half of the year is devoted to this ascetic labor. The question might rightfully be asked, then, as to why this is so.
According to St. Basil the Great, Adam, the first-created man, loving God of his own free will, dwelt in the heavenly blessedness of communion with God, in the angelic state of prayer and fasting. The cause of this first man's fall was his free will; by an act of disobedience he violated the vow of abstinence and broke the living union of love with God. That is, he held in scorn the heavenly obligations of prayer and fasting by eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Lack of abstinence, then, was the cause of the Fall and, as a result, because of this original greed, the soul becomes dimmed, and is deprived of the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
Our Lord Jesus Christ calls all of us to salvation through self-denial (Luke 14:26) and this is addressed to the free will of fallen man: If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me (Matt. 16:24). Thus, the Savior calls man to the voluntary fulfillment of those heavenly obligations, which he freely forsook, of observing prayer and fasting.
Repentance without fasting is made ineffectual since fasting is the beginning of repentance. The aim of bodily fasting is the enslavement of the flesh, for fasting bridles the lust of the stomach and of that below the stomach, meaning the removal of the passions, the mortification of the body and the destruction of the sting of lust. Thus it is necessary to overcome the stomach for the healing of the passions.
The personal example of the Lord Himself bears witness to the absolute necessity of bodily fasting. Did not the Savior fast for forty days and nights after His baptism to prepare for His earthly ministry (Matt. 4:2)? So too, many of the Saints of the Church were especially noted for their ascetic labors, which saw fasting as being of especially great importance.
In fasting the flesh and the spirit struggle one against the other. Therefore bodily fasting leads to the triumph of the spirit over the body, and gives a man power over the stomach, subdues the flesh and permits it not to commit fornication and uncleanness. Abstinence is the mother of cleanliness, the giver of health and is good for rich and poor, sick and healthy, alike. It strengthens the seeker after godliness in spiritual battles and proves to be a formidable weapon against evil spirits. As the Lord Himself said, concerning the casting-out of certain demons: This kind never cornea out except by prayer and fasting (Matt. 17:21).
This fasting, however, is not to be done out of pride or self-will; It must be observed in the praise of God and must be in accordance with the canons of the Church, since it consists in the complete renunciation of self-will and of the desires. At the same time, we must realize that for fallen man to attain perfection, even intensive fasting is insufficient, if in his soul he does not abstain from those things which further sin. Fasting is not only the abstinence from food, but also from evil thoughts and all passion, for, as the Savior says: Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on? But what conies out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man... (Matt. 15:17-20). Thus exterior fasting, without the corresponding interior fasting is in vain.
The fasting rules, found for the most part in the Typikon (mainly Chapters 32 and 33), and repeated in appropriate places of the Menaion and Triodion, are dependent on the Church's cycle of feasts and fasts. In general, with a few exceptions, all Wednesdays and Fridays (Mondays also, in some monasteries) are kept as days of fasting, with no meat, eggs, dairy products, fish, wine or oil to be eaten. This includes, as well, the four canonical fasting periods (Great Lent, the Apostles' Fast, the Nativity Fast and the Dormition Fast), and certain other days, including the Eve of Theophany, the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, and the elevation of the Cross. It must be noted, however, that there are many local variations in the allowances of wine and oil (and sometimes fish), such as on patronal feast days of a parish or monastery, or when the feast of a great Saint (or Saints) is celebrated which has particular local or national significance.
While most Orthodox Christians are perhaps aware of the rules of fasting for Great Lent, Wednesdays and Fridays, the rules for the other fasting periods are less known. During the Dormition Fast, wine and oil are allowed only on Saturdays and Sundays (and sometimes on a few feast days and vigils). During the Apostles' Fast and the Nativity Fast, the general rules are as follows (from Chapter 33 of the Typikon):
It should be noted that in the Fast of the Holy Apostles and of the Nativity of Christ, on Tuesday and Thursday we do not eat fish, but only oil and wine. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday we eat neither oil nor wine.... On Saturday and Sunday we eat fish. If there occur on Tuesday or Thursday a Saint who has a Doxology, we eat fish; if on Monday, the same; but if on Wednesday or Friday, we allow only oil and wine.... If it be a Saint who has a Vigil on Wednesday or Friday, or the Saint whose temple it is, we allow oil and wine and fish.... But from the 20th of December until the 25th, even if it be Saturday or Sunday, we do not allow fish.
In another place the Typikon prescribes that if the Eve of Theophany or the Eve of the Nativity fall on Saturday or Sunday, wine and oil are permitted.
The rule of xerophagy is relaxed on the following days:
1. On Saturdays and Sundays in Great Lent, with the exception of Holy Saturday, two main meals may be taken in the usual way, around mid-day and in the evening, with wine and olive oil. Meat, animal products and fish are not allowed.
2. On the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) and Palm Sunday fish is permitted as well as wine and oil, but meat and animal products are not allowed.
3. Wine and oil are permitted on the following days, if they fall on a weekday in the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth or Sixth Weeks: First and Second Finding of the Head of St. John the Baptist (Feb. 24), Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (Mar. 9), Forefeast of the Annunciation (Mar. 24), Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel (Mar. 26), Holy Greatmartyr George (April 23), Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark (April 25), as well as the Patronal Feast of a Church or Monastery.
4. Wine and oil are also allowed on Wednesday and Thursday of the Fifth Week, because of the Vigil for the Great Canon. Wine is allowed and, according to some authorities, oil as well on Friday in the same week, because of the Vigil for the Akathist Hymn.
It has always been held that these rules of fasting should be relaxed in the case of anyone elderly or in poor health. Personal facts also need to be taken into account, as, for example, the situation of an isolated Orthodox living in the same household as non-Orthodox, or one obliged to take meals in a factory or school lunchroom. In cases of uncertainty, however, one should always seek the advice of his or her spiritual father.
At all times, however, it is essential to bear in mind that you are not under law but under grace (Rom. 6:14), and that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:6). The fasting rules, while they do need to be taken seriously, are not to be interpreted with the strict legalism of the Pharisees of Holy Scripture, for the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17).
Fasting Seasons and Days
1. Meatfast the week before the beginning of Great Lent
2. Great Lent and Holy Week
1. Nativity (St. Philip's) Fast Nov. 15 through Dec. 24
2. Apostles' (Peter and Paul) Fast from the Monday after All Saints Sunday through June 28
3. Dormition (Theotokos) Fast Aug. 1 through Aug. 14
1. The Wednesdays and Fridays of the Year, except for Fast-free Weeks
2. The Eve of Theophany Jan. 5
3. The Beheading of St. John the Baptist Aug. 29
4. The Elevation of the Cross Sept. 14
1. Afterfeast of the Nativity of Christ to Theophany Eve Dec. 25 through Jan. 4
2. The week following the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee
3. Bright Week the week after Pascha
4. Trinity Week the week after Pentecost, concluding with All Saints Sunday
Glossary of Liturgical Terms
The first three hymns sung at the Divine Liturgy (Ps. 103; Ps. 146 and Only-begotten Son... the Beatitudes) are called Antiphons (steps) because they are sung in steps or stages by two Choirs singing opposite each other. Hence this type of singing in steps is called antiphonal.
These are Stikhera accompanied by verses usually taken from the Psalms. The Apostikha is found at the end of Vespers and also at the end of Matins on ordinary weekdays.
The Canon is a series of nine Canticles (or Odes) containing a number of Troparia in each, as well as a Theme Song (Irmos). The Canons are found at Matins, Compline, and certain other services in the Liturgical Cycle. Originally the nine Biblical Canticles were sung and short refrains inserted between each verse of the Canticle, but in time the Canticles themselves dropped out of general usage (except during Great Lent) and only the Theme Song (or Irmos), based on the theme of the original Canticle, and the refrains (now expanded) remained. The Second Ode is sung only as part of the Lenten Cycle and a tenth Biblical Canticle, the Magnificat is almost always sung after the Eighth Ode of the Canon.
This is a musical composition sung at Vespers and are so named because they speak of the dogma of the Two Natures of Christ.
This is a short composition that follows the Kontakion, between the Sixth and Seventh Odes of the Canon.
Irmos. This is the Theme Song of each Ode of the Canon. The word Irmos means link, since originally the Troparia that followed it were sung in the same rhythm, and thus were linked to it.
This is the concluding stanza of a Canticle of the Canon, so-called because, as the title implies (to go down), the Choir members came down into the center of the church to sing it. These are found after each Ode of the Canon on major Feasts and on ordinary days, the Irmos of the last Canon sung (there are usually several Canons sung together) is sung as Katavasia after Odes Three, Six, Eight and Nine.
From the word kathizo I sit, these are selections from the Psalter, read at Vespers, Matins, and various other services, during which the Faithful are permitted to sit.
These are short hymns sung after the Kathisma readings, during which the Faithful are permitted to sit (except for certain prescribed days). These are sometimes referred to as Sedalens or Sessional Hymns.
The word means pole, since the Kontakion was originally a long poetic composition rolled up on a pole. Now only the brief preliminary stanza remains and is sung before the Ikos after the Sixth Ode of the Canon, at the Liturgy, Hours, and various other services.
These are verses from the Psalter sung immediately before Scripture Lessons, primarily at Liturgy, Vespers and Matins. [Except for Feasts and during Great Lent, the Scripture Lessons themselves have generally fallen out of use at Vespers.] The Prokeimenon sung immediately before the Gospel Lesson is called the Alleluia.
A Stikheron is a stanza sung between verses taken from the Psalms, primarily at Vespers (at Lord, I have called... and the Apostikha) and Matins (at the Apostikha).
These are Troparia or Stikhera sung in honor of the Theotokos. On Wednesdays and Fridays, these Theotokia usually take the theme of the Theotokos at the Lord's Crucifixion, and thus are called Cross-Theotokia (or Stavro-Theotokia).
This is simply a short musical composition similar in length and style to the Kontakion. They are sung at the end of Vespers, after God is the Lord... and the Apostikha at Matins, at the Liturgy and other services.
This is a short Troparion sung at Matins on Great Feasts and Sundays.
Great Lent and Pascha
The Feast of Feasts the Holy Pascha the Resurrection of the Lord-is the climax of the Church's liturgical year and is also the most glorious, most joyful and bright festival of the Christian Church. On it Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ arose as victor over death, destroying the power of death over man once and for all and annulling the curse pronounced upon man in Paradise. But, before the bright joy of Pascha, the Church has ordained a lengthy period of repentance and spiritual searching a period of preparation, so to speak the 40-day Great Lent.
The Forty Days of Great Lent commemorates Israel's forty years of wandering in the Wilderness the forty years of painful struggle as Israel longed for and then received entrance into the Promised Land (Ex. 16:35) Moses remained fasting on Mt. Sinai for forty days (Ex. 34:28) and the Prophet Elijah fasted for forty days as he journeyed to Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:8). Great Lent also recalls the forty days the Lord spent in the Wilderness after His Baptism, when He contended with Satan, the Temptor.
The time of Great Lent encompasses forty days, to which must be added Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday and Passion Week. In addition, the Holy Church prescribed three weeks of preparation for the Great Lent itself the Sundays of the Publican and the Pharisee, Prodigal Son, Meatfare and Cheesefare. In all, the Orthodox Church prescribes ten weeks of spiritual and bodily preparation for the joyous Pascha of the Lord.
The Date of Pascha
The time of the Great Lent is dependent on the date of Pascha, which varies from year to year. According to a Canon of the First Ecumenical Council (Nicea 325), Holy Pascha is the first Sunday after the first Full Moon which falls upon or immediately after the Spring Equinox (according to ancient reckoning March 21). In addition, this Council decreed that Pascha cannot precede or fall on the Jewish Passover (14th day of the Month Nissan). The Full Moon used for the purposes of calculating the date of Pascha is the fourteenth day of a Lunar Month reckoned according to an ancient ecclesiastical computation and is not the actual astronomical Full Moon.
The number of days between each Full Moon (the Lunar Month) is not exact according to the Solar Calendar (usually about 29V& days) and ancient calendars added or subtracted a period called an epact to harmonize the Lunar and Solar Calendars. These epacts as calculated by the Orthodox Church, vary from those calculated by the Western Churches. In addition, the Western Churches do not follow the Nicean Council's decree that Pascha must not precede or fall on the Jewish Passover, and it is for these reasons that there is often a great variance from one year to the next between the Orthodox Church and the Western Churches concerning the date of Holy Pascha.
Sundays of Preparation
Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee.
The first Sunday of Preparation (three weeks before the start of Great Lent) is the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, in which we are exhorted to true repentance and encouraged to follow the self-abasement of the Publican rather than the spiritual pride of the Pharisee. At the Matins Service we sing for the first time the beautiful Lenten hymn, Open to me the gates of repentance.../'reminding us of the open gateway through which all must enter on the way to Pascha. We also note that this week is fast-free.
Sunday of the Prodigal Son
The next Sunday of Preparation (two weeks before Great Lent) is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, which reminds us that not only must we repent and undergo a change of heart, but that we must also exercise an act of will, in that we must get up and actually set off on our journey. In our own lives we can see a parallel; for how often do we repeat the cycle of the Prodigal son willful departure from God's house, a life of wantonness, misery at our fallen state, repentance, return to god the Father and divine forgiveness? On this Sunday, at the Matins Service we also sing the beautiful hymn of remembrance, By the waters of Babylon... (also sung the next two Sundays), reminding us of the heavenly Zion from which we have been exiled.
Sunday of Meatfare Sunday of the Last Judgment
The next Sunday of Preparation, Meatfare Sunday, is the last day on which meat is permitted to be consumed until Holy Pascha. Otherwise, during the course of this week, on each day, all other animal products (including milk, cheese, eggs, butter, as well as fish) may be consumed. This is to remind us of the upcoming rigors of the Great Fast. The theme of this Sunday is the Last Judgment and the lot of those who turn from God, and those who return to Him.
Sunday of Cheesefare Forgiveness Sunday the Expulsion of Adam from Paradise
The last Sunday before the Great Lent, Cheesefare Sunday, is also the last day of preparation. It is called Cheesefare because on the next day we begin a total fast from all animal products, as well as from fish, wine and oil (fish, wine and oil will be allowed only on the Feasts of the Annunciation and Palm Sunday), continuing until Holy Pascha. An important theme of this day is the Expulsion of Adam from Paradise, which reminds us of that from which we have fallen. Another theme is forgiveness, since we cannot even begin our spiritual journey without granting forgiveness to those who have offended us and asking forgiveness of those whom we have offended. A special feature of this day is the very moving Forgiveness Vespers, at which we all ask and grant mutual forgiveness. At this Service, after the singing of the Great Prokeimenon, the liturgical vestments and furnishings are changed to dark colors, and the special Lenten melodies used.
On the Monday following the Sunday of Cheesefare, we formally begin the 40-day Great Lent and, of course, one of its features is its rigorous fasting (cf. the section entitled Fasting in this chapter). In addition, there are some special features of the liturgical Services. The usual Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is not served on the weekdays of Great Lent (with the exception of the Feast of the Annunciation), but is replaced by the special Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, at which the faithful commune of the Holy Gifts which were presanctified at the previous Sunday's Liturgy. In addition, the penitential Service of Great Compline is sung, at which, on the first four days of this first week (as well as on Thursday of the Fifth Week) the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is read. This Canon is a long penitential composition of 250 verses expressing the longings of a guilty and penitent soul.
This week we are also introduced to the moving Lenten prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian, setting forth the essence of spiritual life. This prayer is said at each of the liturgical Services throughout the weekdays of Great Lent and the first half of Passion Week.
The Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian.
O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, despair? lust of power and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant,
Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my Brother; for Blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.
All of the Sundays of Great Lent (with the exception of Palm Sunday) the usual Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is replaced by the longer Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. This Liturgy is especially characterized by its longer and very moving prayers.
First Sunday of Great Lent Sunday of Orthodoxy
The First Sunday of Great Lent is dedicated to the final triumph of the Church over the iconoclasts and the restoration of the Holy Icons to the churches, which took place on the First Sunday of Lent, March 11, 843. Thus it is called the Sunday of Orthodoxy. As the Orthodox triumphed during the iconoclastic controversy because of the dedication of the Martyrs and Confessors who suffered for the Faith, so too, we strive to imitate these Martyrs by our own ascetical self-denial. A special feature of this day is the Office of Orthodoxy, at which a procession with the Holy Icons is made, and sixty anathemas pronounced against various heretics and heresies of the 4th-14th Centuries.
Second Sunday of Great Lent St. Gregory Palamas.
The Second Sunday of Great Lent is dedicated to St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica. St. Gregory's triumph over the heretics of his time is seen as a renewal of the Triumph of Orthodoxy of the previous Sunday. Another theme of this Sunday is that of the Prodigal Son as a model of repentance, for which a special Canon is devoted at this Sunday's Matins.
Third Sunday of Great Lent Veneration of the Cross
The Third Sunday of Great Lent is dedicated to the Cross and the bringing-out of the Precious Cross, which closely parallels the ceremonies of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on Sept. 14. At this time we are reminded of the upcoming crucifixion of the Lord and strengthened to persevere in our Lenten struggles.
The Fourth Sunday of Great Lent St. John Climacus
The Fourth Sunday is dedicated to St. John Climacus (of The Ladder), Abbot of Sinai, who, because of his ascetical writing (The Ladder) serves as a model of a true Christian ascetic. The Ladder is appointed by the Church to be read during Great Lent. In the course of this week (the Fifth Week of Great Lent) the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is read on Thursday in its entirety, as well as a Canon to St. Mary of Egypt. In addition, St. Mary's Life is read. On Saturday of this week the Akathist Hymn to the Most-Holy Theotokos is sung with everyone standing (Akathistos means not sitting). It reminds us that we are dependent on the protecting intercession of the Holy Theotokos at all moments of crisis and danger.
The Fifth Sunday of Great Lent St. Mary of Egypt
The Fifth Sunday of Great Lent is dedicated to St. Mary of Egypt. St. Mary was a harlot living in the Egyptian city of Alexandria who later repented and lived the rest of her life in solitude in the Egyptian desert, serving as a model of repentance to all Christians. The end of this week the Sixth marks the end of Great Lent and the beginning of Passion Week.
Passion (Holy) Week
Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday
Immediately after the end of the forty days of penitence and before the days of darkness and mourning of Passion Week, the Holy Church celebrates the bright festivals of Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday. Lazarus Saturday commemorates the raising of Lazarus from the dead and serves as a reminder that Jesus is the Master of life and death, and foreshadows the
Lord's glorious Resurrection eight days later. Palm Sunday, of course, commemorates Our Lord's glorious entrance into Jerusalem. On this day Palm branches are blessed and held by the faithful (pussy-willow branches in the Russian Church) in remembrance of that joyous day.
Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday
The next three days (Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) are characterized by the beautiful and moving melody sung at Matins, Behold, the Bridegroom comes as midnight..., for which reason the Matins of these three days is called Bridegroom Matins. The theme is taken from the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) and serves to remind us of the urgency of the End it is near at hand and we must be watchful and repent while there is still time.
On this day we commemorate the washing of the disciple's feet, the institution of the Holy Eucharist (the Last Supper), the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the betrayal of Christ by Judas. In certain cathedrals and monasteries a special Service is celebrated in which the Bishop (or Abbot), taking the place of Christ, washes the feet of twelve Priests, representing the Twelve Apostles. In addition, the Holy Chrism is consecrated on this day by the various Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches.
On this day we commemorate Christ's suffering and death. The Matins Service is characterized by the reading of the Twelve Passion Gospels which relate events connected with the final hours from the Last Supper to the Lord's Crucifixion, Death and Burial. That morning the more solemn Royal Hours are said, and at the Vespers Service sung that afternoon, the Burial Shroud (Russian Plaschanitsa; Greek Epitaphion) is brought out in a solemn procession and placed in a specially-prepared place (the Grave) for veneration. On this day neither the full Liturgy (except if the Feast of the Annunciation falls on this day) nor that of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated.
On this day we commemorate the burial of Christ and His descent into Hell. At the Matins Lamentations Service the Praises are sung before the Burial Shroud in the center of the church and culminates in a solemn procession with the Holy Shroud around the church. On Holy Saturday (according to the Typikon, at 4:00 p.m.), the Vespers with the Liturgy of St. Basil is celebrated with the reading of fifteen Old Testament lessons which refer to Passover, the Resurrection and Baptism. At this time the liturgical vestments and furnishings are changed to white. [Here we must remember that in the ancient Church the Catechumens were baptized on this day, which accounts for the singing of As many as have been baptized into Christ... instead of the Trisagion at the Liturgy, and the changing of the liturgical colors to white the Baptismal colors.]
At the conclusion of the Service (which in ancient times ended about 8:00 p.m.) the Faithful assemble in the now-darkened church for the reading of the Acts of the Apostles. Shortly before Midnight, the Resurrection Nocturns is sung and all of the lights are extinguished. The faithful wait in silence for the moment when the Priest will come out of the Altar with a lit candle, symbolizing the Light of the Risen Christ and the beginning of the Holy Pascha of the Lord the Feasts of Feasts.
At the stroke of Midnight, the clergy come out of the Holy Altar, all of the candles are lit, and a joyous, festive procession circles the church three times with the singing of the hymn: Thy Resurrection, O Christ our Savior, the angels in heaven sing. Enable us on earth to glorify Thee in purity of heart. Stopping before the closed outer doors of the church, the Priest exclaims the Paschal verses, Let God arise..., while the Faithful sing the triumphant Paschal hymn, Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.
The Clergy and Faithful now re-enter the church and the singing of the Paschal Canon, This is the Day of Resurrection..., with numerous repetitions of the Paschal hymn, Christ is risen..., begins. At many points during the Service the Clergy exclaim, Christ is risen! and the Faithful respond, Indeed, He is risen! The church is filled with the Faithful holding lit candles and the Clergy in bright vestments. At the conclusion of the Matins, the catechetical address of St. John Chrysostom is read, summoning all, even those who have come only at the eleventh hour, to the great Paschal Banquet. Matins is then followed by the Paschal Liturgy.
The Catechetical Sermon of St. John Chrysostom
[The Catechetical Sermon of St. John Chrysostom is read by the Celebrant at the end of the Pascha Matins. No one sits during the reading, but all stand and listen with reverence.]
If any man be devout and loves God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal Feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him, with, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the Feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shad in no way be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, a(so, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, Who is jealous of His honor, will accept the Cost even as the first; He gives rest to him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as to him. who has wrought from the first hour. And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first, and to the one He gives, and upon the other He Bestows gifts. And He both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering.
Wherefore, enter all of you into the joy of your Lord, and receive your reward, both, the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both, you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the Fast. The table is fully-laden) all of you feast sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away. Enjoy all of you the Feast of faith: Receive all the riches of Coving-fondness. Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shone forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Savior's death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain, It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.
At the conclusion of the Liturgy, a special bread, called the Artos, is placed before the opened Holy Doors and the clergy and faithful proceed to the Blessing of the Paschal Baskets in which the faithful have placed specially prepared foods from which they had abstained during the Great Lent. A special item among these foods is the decorated Pascha bread (in Russian Kulich), as well as specially-prepared cheese and egg dishes. Thus we celebrate the Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In the Orthodox Church it is the custom for a single loaf of blessed bread (Greek Artos) to lie before the Iconostasis throughout Bright Week in memory of the Risen Christ, before it is shared out among the whole congregation. Depicted on the top of the Artos are either the symbol of Christ's victory over death the Cross, surmounted by a crown of thorns, or the Resurrection of Christ. On the first day of Pascha, during the Liturgy, after the Prayer Before the Ambo, the Artos is blessed by a special prayer and sprinkling with Holy Water. Throughout Bright Week, at the end of the Liturgy, the Artos is carried around the church in solemn procession. On the Saturday of Bright Week it is distributed as a blessing of the Archpastor to the congregation (sometimes after Sunday Liturgy on St. Thomas Sunday).
The significance of the Artos is that it serves to remind all Christians of the events connected with the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. While still living on earth, the Lord called Himself the Bread of Life, saying: I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and He who believes in Me shall never thirst (John 6:35). After His Resurrection, more than once Jesus appeared to His disciples, ate before them and blessed their own food. For example, as evening fell on the first day of His Resurrection, He was recognized in Emmaus by two of His disciples as He blessed and broke bread (Luke 24:13-35).
On the 40th day after His Resurrection, the Lord ascended into heaven, and His disciples and followers found comfort in their memories of the Lord: they recalled His every word, His every step and His every action. When they met for common prayer, they would partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, remembering the Last Supper. When they sat down to an ordinary meal, they would leave a place at the head of the table empty for the invisibly present Lord and would lay bread on that place.
Remembering this custom of the Apostles', the Fathers of the Church made it their custom to put out the Artos at the Paschal Feast in memory of the appearances of the Risen Lord to His disciples, and also in memory of the fact that the Lord Who suffered and was resurrected for our justification has made Himself the true Bread of Life and is invisibly present in His church always, to the close of the age (Matt. 28:20).
Whereas special Paschal breads, called kulichi are broken and eaten on the first day of Pascha, the Artos is kept whole throughout the whole of Bright Week as a reminder of the presence of the Risen Savior in the midst of those who believe in Him and is only divided and distributed on Saturday. In this way Bright Week begins and ends with the eating of especially baked and blessed bread.
The Artos may also be compared to the unleavened bread of the Old Testament, of which ancient Israel, delivered from their captivity in the land of Egypt, ate during the week of the Passover (Ex. 12:15-20). As Cyril, Bishop of Turov, who lived during the 12th Century in Russia, said in a sermon for the Sunday after Pascha: Even as the Jews bore the unleavened bread upon their heads out of Egypt through the desert (Ex. 12:34) until they had crossed the Red Sea, after which they dedicated the bread to God, divided it amongst all their host, and having all eaten thereof, became...terrible to their enemies, even so do we, saved by our Resurrected Lord from the captivity of that Pharaoh of the mind, the Devil, bear forth the blessed bread the Artos from the day of the Resurrection of Christ and, finally, having dedicated this bread to God, we eat of it and preserve it to the health of body and soul.
It is a custom among Russian Orthodox Christians to this day to keep the Artos throughout the year and with due reverence and faith to eat of it in time of illness or distress. This is eaten, often together with a drink of Holy Water, which had been blessed at the Feast of the Theophany of Our Lord.
On the afternoon of Paschal Sunday, a special Paschal Vespers is served, characterized by the singing of the Great Prokeimenon. All of the services of this Bright Week are characterized by the joyous Paschal Hymns which had been sung on Pascha itself and the constant, Christ is risen from the dead.... All of the Faithful, when encountering each other at home, at work, in church, etc., greet each other with the Paschal Greeting and Response, Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is risen! and the threefold Kiss of Peace. During the course of this week all the doors of the Iconostasis remain open, symbolizing our free access to the Holy of Holies that our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, opened to us by His Blood. The Burial Shroud remains on the Holy Table and the Liturgies are celebrated upon it. No fasting is permitted during this week and no kneeling until the Vespers of Holy Pentecost, fifty days hence.
Paschal Hymn to the Theotokos
[Sung after the 8th Ode of the Paschal Canon.]
The Angel cried to the Lady Full of Grace:
Rejoice, O Pure Virgin!
Again I say: Rejoice!
Your Son is risen from His three days in the tomb.
With Himself He has raised all the dead.
Rejoice, all ye people!
Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem,
The glory of the Lord has shone on you.
Exult now and be glad, O Zion,
Be radiant, O Pure Theotokos,
In the Resurrection of your Son!
The Liturgical books used in Orthodox worship fall into three main groups. The first of these are three books containing readings from Holy Scripture. These are the Book of Gospels, the Book of Epistles (Apostol), and the Book of Psalms (Psalter).
Book of Gospels.
This book contains the text of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) arranged in sections called pericopes (or zachalo in Russian). This book normally rests on the Holy Table, and is customarily treated in the same way as the Holy Icons, itself being regarded as an Icon of the Savior in His teaching ministry.
Book of Epistles (Apostol).
This contains the readings from the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles for the whole year i.e., the entire New Testament outside of the Gospels and the Apocalypse (Revelation) of St. John. It too is divided into pericopes and also includes the Prokeimena and Alleluia verses which precede and follow the Epistle readings.
Book of Psalms (Psalter).
The Psalter contains the 150 Psalms of David, divided into twenty Kathismas, as well as the text of the Nine Biblical Canticles sung at Matins.
The Division of the Psalter in Kathismas***
Kathisma Stasis 1 Stasis 2 Stasis 3
- 1 1-3 4-6 7-8 (D (4-6) (7-8)
- 2 9-11 12-14 15-17 (9-10) (11-13) (14-16)
- 3 18 19-21 22-24 (17) (18-20) (21-23)
- 4 25-27 28-30 31-32 (24-26) (27-29) (30-31)
- 5 33-34 35-36 37 (32-33) (34-35) (36)
- 6 38-40 41-43 44-46 (37-39) (40-42) (43-45)
- 7 47-49 50-51 52-55 (46-48) (49-50) (51-54)
- 8 56-58 59-61 62-64 (55-57) (58-60) (61-63)
- 9 65-67 68 69-70 (64-66) (67) (68-69)
- 10 71-72 73-74 75-77 (70-71) (72-73) (74-76)
- 11 78 79-81 82-85 (77) (78-80) (81-84)
- 12 86-88 89 90-91 (85-87) (88) (89-90) 127
- 13 92-94 95-97 98-101 (91-93) (94-96) (97-100)
- 14 102-103 104 105 (101-102) (103) (104)
- 15 106 107 108-109 (105) (106) (107-108)
- 16 110-112 113-116:9 116:10-19;! 17-118 (109-111) (112-114) (115-117)
- 17 119:1-72 119:73-131 119:132-176 (118:1-72) (118:73-131) (118:132-176)
- 18 120-124 125-129 130-134 (119-123) (124-128) (129-133)
- 19 135-137 138-140 141-143 (133-136) (137-139) (140-142)
- 20 144-145 146-147 148-150 (143-144) (145-147) (148-
The Kathismas are here divided into their respective Stases or divisions. They are numbered according to the Hebrew rendering. The Septuagint (LXX) divisions are to be found within the parentheses.
The Old Testament lessons, usually read at Vespers, are not normally found in a separate book. These are usually found in appropriate sections of the Triodion, Pentecostarion or Menaion, as the case may be.
The next grouping of Liturgical books are those pertaining to the fixed parts of the services, which usually do not change according to the season or Saint. Among these are the Euchologion and the Book of Hours.
The Euchologion (or Book of Prayers) is for the use of the Priest and Deacon and contain the Sacraments and other services, as well as many special prayers and blessings. The Euchologion is usually divided into several books:
This contains the fixed parts of Vespers, Matins and the Liturgy (primarily the Priest's parts), the six remaining Sacraments (Baptism, Chrismation, Holy Orders, Confession, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick), and other services (Monastic Profession, Consecration of a Church, Blessing of Waters, etc.).
Priest's Service Book. (Greek Ieratikon; Russian Sluzhebnik).
This is an Altar Book containing primarily the Priest's parts at Vespers, Matins and the Divine Liturgy.
Book of Needs. (Russian Trebnik).
This book contains five of the Sacraments (the Divine Liturgy and Holy Orders are omitted), the Funeral Service, and various other services commonly used.
Pontifical Service Book. (Greek Archieratikon; Russian Chinovnik).
This is a special book of prayers and blessings used by the Bishop.
Book of Hours.
The Great Book of Hours (Greek Horologion) is a Choir book for the use of the Reader and Singers. It contains the fixed portions of the Daily Offices (Vespers, Matins, etc.) with most of the Priest's and Deacon's parts omitted. It also contains a list of Feasts and Saint's days throughout the year as well as appropriate Troparia and Kontakia for each. In addition there is a section containing Troparia and Kontakia for Sundays and movable Feasts of the period of the Triodion and Pentecostarion, as well as Theotokia for the whole year. There are also contained in this book various Canons and other services in frequent use. In the Russian Church, there is also an abbreviated form of the Great Book of Hours, called simply the Book of Hours (Russian Chasoslov).
For the movable parts of the services (those which change every day) there are four volumes constituting the three main cycles of the Church Year: 1) the Weekly Cycle Octoechos; 2) the Annual Cycle of Movable Feasts Triodion and Pentecostarion; and 3) the Annual Cycle of Fixed Feasts the Menaia.
The Octoechos (or Book of the Eight Tones) contains the movable parts of the Daily Offices sung throughout the week. Eight series of Offices, one for each of the Eight Tones, are provided, within which are seven sets of services, one for each day of the week. The First Tone begins on St. Thomas Sunday and proceeds in sequence each week until Tone Eight is completed, at which time the whole cycle is repeated. The texts of the Octoechos are combined, more or less, with fixed Feasts from the Menaia, and on Saturdays and Sundays during Great Lent (except from Lazarus Saturday to the Sunday of All-Saints).
This book, characterized by its extensive use of Three-Ode Canons (although there are also some Four-Ode Canons contained within), is generally termed the Lenten Triodion, within which are found the Texts for the services of Great Lent.
This companion to the Lenten Triodion (often called the Flowery Triodion) contains the texts from Pascha to the Sunday of All-Saints (the first after Pentecost).
This book is divided into twelve volumes (corresponding to the twelve months) and contains the texts for the fixed Feasts of each day of the year. In addition, there is sometimes found two companion volumes which contain certain texts from the major Fixed Feasts (the Festal Menaion) or general Offices for certain classes of Saints (the General Menaion).
In addition to these three main groups of liturgical books, there are two further books the Irmologion and the Typikon.
This book gives the texts of all of the Irmosi (or Theme Songs) sung at the beginning of the various Canticles of the Canon. Often some editions of the service books, such as the Menaia and Triodion, only give the opening words of the Irmos, necessitating the use of the Irmologion, which provides the full texts.
This book contains the rules and rubrics governing every aspect of the Church services and their celebration throughout the year. According to Church Tradition, the Typikon was drawn up by St. Sabbas of Jerusalem (f532) and later revised by St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem (tea.638). A further revision was made by St. John of Damascus (tea.749), a Monk at St. Sabbas' Monastery, hence the name the Jerusalem Typikon of St. Sabbas' Monastery.
In 1888, a new edition of the Typikon was prepared at Constantinople, which, in modern times, is used primarily by the Greek-speaking Churches. The Church of Russia, as well as, for the most part, the Orthodox Church in America, still adheres to the Jerusalem Typikon, as do the older Greek monasteries, such as those of Mt. Athos, St. Sabbas at Jerusalem, and St. John on Patmos.
Orthodox worship is characterized by a complete utilization of the senses sight, smell, hearing, speech and touch. We see the candles, Icons, frescoes, etc., we hear the sounds of singing and reading, at times lifting up our own voices, and we smell the characteristic odor of the incense. The whole of the human person is involved in worship, and important among the senses is the actual deportment of the human body. The attitude of the Orthodox Believer to worship is reverential, and certain types of bodily movements are utilized to reinforce this sense of reverential piety we stand during the services, we make bows and prostrations, and with great frequency, we make the Sign of the Cross. Accordingly, there are several types of Bows, depending on the solemnity of the moment.
Prostration (Great Metanoia Great Poklon).
Here the worshipper prostrates the whole body, throwing the weight forwards onto the hands and touching the ground with the forehead.
Bow (Small Metanoia Poklon).
The worshipper bows from the waist, touching the ground with the fingers of the right hand. Both Prostrations and Bows are preceded by the Sign of the Cross.
At certain times the worshipper merely bows the head; sometimes this is accompanied by the Sign of the Cross.
Sign of the Cross.
The Sign of the Cross is made with the thumb and the first two fingers of the right hand joined at the tips (the third and fourth fingers being closed on the palm). By joining the thumb and the first two fingers, we express our belief in the Most-Holy Trinity. The two fingers closed on the palm represent the two natures of Christ divine and human. With the thumb and first two fingers joined, we touch first the brow, then the breast, the right shoulder and then the left, making on ourselves the Sign of the Cross and signifying by the four points that the Holy Trinity has sanctified our thoughts (mind), feelings (heart), desires (soul) and acts (strength) to service of God. By making the Sign of the Cross on ourselves we also signify that Christ has saved us by His sufferings on the Cross.
Bishops and Priests, in bestowing a blessing, make the Sign of the Cross from left to right (appearing to us from right to left), while holding the fingers in such a manner as to represent the Greek letters IC and XC the first and last letter of the name Jesus Christ.
In the Orthodox Faith, our singing in church is meant to be an Icon of worship. We sing our prayers. Our prayers are sung. And hardly ever do we hear prayers simply said. The Orthodox Church's tradition is to offer up prayers to God in uttered heightened speech called sacred singing. It is important to understand that liturgical music is not something added to prayer. Rather, it is the way we pray in church when we assemble together as God's People.
This tradition of sung worship is fundamentally Biblical. For both the people of the Old Testament as well as the New, worship means first to gather as a group, and then to sing praise with one mouth and one heart. As a matter of fact, more than two-thirds of the Bible is phrased in such a way that it is obviously meant to be sung. Especially the Book of Psalms the essential prayer-book of the Church in essence, is a song-book. Orthodox hymnody developed from the singing of Psalms and Scriptural Odes, first as simple responses and refrains, later developing into Troparia, Kontakia and strophic hymns on these Biblical verses.
The word antiphon in our prayer-books describes how the people originally divided themselves into two parts and sang the Psalm verses back and forth, from one side to the other. Our liturgical texts show that the assembly responds in a type of song to whatever is chanted by the Bishop, Priest, Deacon, or Cantor. St. Justin the Philosopher, writing in 150 A.D., calls special attention to the way the people sing the Amen as their assent to the great Eucharist Prayer. St. Augustine reflects on the Orthodox tradition of the 4th Century, when he remarks: ...truly, is there a time when the faithful assembled are not singing? Truly, I see nothing better, nothing more useful or more holy that they could do.
We can see from the earliest tradition that choirs developed later. Choirs, however, were never meant to completely replace the voice of the people in worship. Not only must the chants and music help the people make the prayer their own, but, clearly, somewhere in every Orthodox Divine Service, the people themselves must take some part in singing.
At first the Church melodies were probably very simple, resembling a rhythmic song-speech, following the natural inflections and nuances of word-groupings. From Hebrew and Hellenic beginnings, the melodic kernels, patterns and formulae have been expanded, enriched and developed according to local practices in specific cultures that became Orthodox. Each Orthodox nationality has adapted the verbo-melodic models to the natural rhythmic and melodic sounds of their own unique language and culture.
Yet, in this process of absorbing and making one's own a liturgical music, the inculturation does not make the sacred singing of one Orthodox culture unrecognizable to another. There are in all Orthodox sacred singing those elements that are ancient, universal and constant. These familiar elements are found particularly in what we call canonical chant.
Russian Orthodox church music has its particularly unique development. Byzantine music remains basically monophonic (single-line unison singing). But part-singing appeared in Lvov and began to spread in Southern Russia and the Ukraine as early as the 15th Century. From this we can trace early experiments with harmonization, and in the 17th Century the influence of the Kievan schools of harmony on Moscow. Choirs of sorts began to be schooled in the Imperial Court, although they sang in small groups and were made up of male singers only.
It was Peter the Great in the 18th Century who gave rise to the Imperial Chapel Choir. The movement to introduce Western European harmonization and the chorale style spread very quickly, initiating the new period of concert-like choir singing. Bortniansky, under the patronage of Catherine the Great, still remains the best example of the composer-conductors and their church choirs of the choral tradition.
By the beginning of the 20th Century there was already a great interest among Church musicians to return to the traditional roots of the canonical chant systems. Kastalsky particularly stands out among them. While choral compositions and choir singing remain popular to this day, among serious students of Church music more and more is sacred singing looked upon as a discipline of liturgical theology rather than simply as a musical art.
This is particularly so in America, as we accept the responsibility for an Orthodox inculturation of a new land, a new language and a new people. As we attempt to find our own style in response to new needs and situations (especially those of the small missions), above all we seek to be anchored to the great Tradition.
This great Tradition, however, insists neither on a rigid formalism nor a return to a hypothetically more primitive practice. There is room in Orthodox culture for both choir singing and congregational participation, for ancient chants and familiar harmonized works, as well as perhaps for new adaptations based on the timbre of the English language, developed from the local materials of our own particular time and place. All of this is possible so long as none of it contradicts our ecclesial identity as the Orthodox Church.
Indeed, what must be understood is the function of sacred singing in Orthodox worship. What is singing in Church supposed to do? A sacred song is not unlike a holy Icon; except that the holy Icon is seen and the sacred song is heard, the functions are the same. This painting of words and sounds has as its purpose the bringing of the community into the presence and the awareness of sacred mystery.
Bringing us together is no small part of sacred music's function. Just as receiving Holy Communion together is a sacred sign that all who partake become one body in Christ, so singing must be the expression of this same unity of hearts and minds, drawing us harmoniously together into one voice. For ultimately, it is Christ Who is our Song.
Services of the Daily Cycle
Services of the Daily Cycle
The services of the Daily Cycle are divided into three groups of three services each, conveniently entitled: Evening Service (9th Hour, Vespers and Compline), Morning Service (Nocturns, Matins and 1st Hour), and Midday Service (3rd Hour, 6th Hour and Divine Liturgy or Typical Psalms). In addition, on Saturday evenings, as well as on Major Feasts, All-Night Vigil, which consists of a joining of Great Vespers and Matins into one Service, may be served. In ancient times and now in many monasteries, this service literally lasts all night (from early evening until daybreak of the following day), but in parish life, as well as certain cathedrals and monasteries, the All-Night Vigil may last for only two to four hours.
The first service of the Evening Service is the 9th Hour, which is usually appointed to be said at 3:00 p.m. (the 9th Hour in antiquity). The structure of each of the canonical Hours is basically the same. The 3rd and 9th Hours begin with the full beginning O Heavenly King..., the Trisagion, etc., since they begin their respective Service groups whereas the 1st Hour (joined to Matins) and the 6th Hour (joined to the 3rd Hour) begin with the next part of all the Hours, Come, let us worship... and then three Psalms appropriate to that Hour. Then follows the Troparion of the day (connected with the Yearly or Weekday Cycle), the Theotokion (a hymn in honor of the Mother of God), the Trisagion and Lord's Prayer, the Kontakion of the day, Lord, have mercy! (40 times), the Prayer of the Hour, Thou Who at every season and every hour..., and the concluding prayers (one is especially appointed for each Hour). The general theme of the 9th Hour is the Passion and Death of Our Lord: And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?...And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit (Matt. 27:46-50).
The Church invites all her faithful children to make a journey with her, passing through the millenniums by Divine Providence in order to re-enter into communion with God's love and, by retracing the long way already trodden, to live again the sacred events of our salvation. Thus, the next service in the Evening Cycle, Vespers, begins with the exclamation, Blessed is our God... without the Trinitarian invocation of the All-Night Vigil, Glory to the holy, consubstantial and life-creating Trinity..., symbolizing that as yet, the name of the Holy Trinity has not been manifested. Vespers will lead through the Old Testament to the New and thus, appropriately, after the exclamation, the beautiful hymn of Creation, Psalm 104, is read.
At the All-Night Vigil, this Psalm is sung while the Priest censes the entire church, signifying that at the Creation, the Spirit of God, the True Light and Incense to the elect, moved over the face of the waters: And the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters (Gen. 2). The opened Holy Doors (closed at Daily Vespers) signifies that from the creation of the world, man was appointed to dwell in Paradise. This blessed condition, however, was of short duration, and the closing of the doors at the conclusion of the singing of Psalm 104, symbolizes the expulsion of man from Paradise and the barring of its gates by cherubim and a flaming sword: [God] drove out man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen. 3:24).
During the reading of Psalm 104 at Daily Vespers and at the conclusion of the censing at the All-Night Vigil, the Priest stands before the Holy Doors, reading silently the Prayers of Light, with head uncovered. He symbolizes Adam sorrowing before the closed gates of Paradise in penitence and humility. These prayers originally were called the Lamp-lighting Prayers, since the lamps in the church were lit at the setting of the sun. In these prayers the Lord Who dwells in the Ineffable Light is glorified as the Priest prays for the material light and the illumination of the soul.
This is followed by the Great Litany, which is sometimes called the Litany of Peace, since from the very first petition, In peace let us pray to the Lord, this theme is evident. Except for Sunday evenings and the evening after a Great Feast, the Great Litany is followed by a specially-appointed Kathisma (from kathizo I sit), one of the twenty divisions of the Psalter. On Feast Days and Saturday nights, the 1st Kathisma, Blessed is the man..., is sung either in part or in its entirety. This Psalm refers to the Savior and in it we sing, Arise, O Lord, save me, O my God..., which is addressed to the coming Resurrection.
This is followed by a censing of the whole church and the singing of Psalms 140,141,129 and 116, Lord, I have called upon Thee, hear me.... This expresses Adam's repentance for his sins, as well as his request for the Paradise which he had lost; it also is his exhortation to his posterity that they should utterly obey the will of God. The prophetic verses from the Psalm, Bring my soul out of prison... symbolizes Old Testament humanity awaiting liberation from the darkness of the Old Covenant. To these verses are joined special Stikhera (hymns) which expand the particular theme of the day (Monday angels, Tuesday St. John the Baptist, etc.). In addition, there are compositions of praise for a particular Saint or Saints venerated on that day. The Stikhera may expand on a particular Feast which may be celebrated on that day, or expound upon the Resurrection Gospel which will be read at Matins (if it be Saturday evening). These Stikhera are taken from the Octoechos and/or the Menaion. (During the time of Triodion and the Pentecostarion, special Stikhera from these books are also sung here.)
The censing, at this point, has particular significance apart from that done at the singing of Psalm 104 of the All-night Vigil. It is the expression of our desire that our prayers, which after the Fall were unable to ascend to heaven without the mediation of Christ the Son of God, now by His intercession, like the smoke soaring upwards from the censer, ascends to the Lord God. It symbolizes that the Holy Spirit, by Whom the censer is blessed, is always present in the church and particularly enlightens us at the time of prayer. It signifies that the angels bear our prayers to God by means of the censer: And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden cense; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne... (Rev. 8:3). It also is an imitation of the Old Testament ritual wherein God, through Moses, commanded Aaron to make such a censing in the tabernacle day and night (Ex. 30:7-8). The censing can also be seen as an image of the divine glory which came on the Tabernacle in the time of Moses (Ex. 40:27-35).
The last Stikheron, now sung at Now and ever... on Sundays or Great Feasts is called the Dogmatic, since, in addition to praise of the Most-Holy Theotokos, it contains certain dogmatic teachings concerning the person of Jesus Christ. On ordinary days, a Theotokion, a hymn of praise to the Theotokos, is sung at this point, which reminds us that the Theotokos was the Mediatrix of our salvation.
At the All-Night Vigil and Feast Days, the Holy Doors are opened and an entrance is made by the Priest, preceeded by a Deacon with the censer and a Candle-Bearer. The opened Holy Doors symbolize that with the coming of the Lord the gates of Paradise have been opened. The Deacon preceeds the Priest (who is an Icon of Christ) as if he were St. John the Forerunner, and the candle going before denotes the spiritual life brought to earth by the Savior.
The hymn, O Jesus Christ, the Joyful Light... (O Gladsome Light... in some translations), as the first ray of the New Testament light, is now sung. It tells us that the light of the sun, the created, creature light, is not the same as the light uncreated and divine. The golden light of evening is a symbol pointing to another Divine Light, in the same way as the world below is an image and likeness of the primary world above.
From this moment of the prayer, O Jesus Christ..., Vespers becomes more and more oriented towards the Savior and salvation. If, up till now, the prayers of Vespers have been basically penitential in character and have expressed the mood of the old nature which belongs to [the] former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts (Eph. 4:22) and has consisted of Psalm-singing and readings, largely from passages written before the birth of Christ, so now the captivity of the soul is coming to an end: the darkness is dispersed by the rising light of the New Testament.
Solemnly and joyously the Church glorifies the humble event of the Incarnate Word. The Old Testament supplications to and hope in the ever-springing fountain of life and truth are answered in the fulfillment of the New Testament, in the entry into the world, into the prayerful foregathering of believers, of the true Light of Life Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The entrance bearing a lantern which symbolizes the invisible rising and presence amongst the worshippers of Christ Himself and the singing of the prayer, O Jesus Christ, the Joyful Light... which teaches the true meaning of this light-symbolism are together the central moment of the Vesper Service.
At last peace reigns in the soul; the world sinks into darkness but the wondrous light in the soul grows and widens; and the Christian can no longer tear away his marveling eyes. Our eyes are lifted up to the Lord our God Who this day has shown great bounty towards us.
At the conclusion of this hymn, the Prokeimenon (Alleluia at certain other times e.g., the Service for the Dead on Memorial Saturdays) is appointed to be sung. These verses from the Psalms normally preceeded Scripture Readings and here is a remnant of the ancient practice of reading Old Testament lessons (preserved only on Great Feasts and the weekdays of Great Lent) at Vespers. There are appointed special Prokeimenon verses for each day of the week, which are connected with the particular theme of that day. For example, on Saturday evening the Prokeimenon, The Lord is king... stresses the coming of the Lord Who reigns in supreme beauty and majesty.
The Old Testament Readings (Paramaea Parable) which are read at this point on Great Feasts contain prophecies of the event commemorated on that day, or certain relevant materials pertaining to the Saint whose festival it is. [For certain Apostles, e.g., Sts. John, Peter, James and Jude, selections from their New Testament Epistles are read.]
At Great Vespers (All-Night Vigil) the Litany of Fervent Supplication is now chanted (characterized by the three-fold Lord, have mercy), although at ordinary Vespers it is transferred to the end of the Service. In this Litany we entreat mercy for all Christians.
After the Prokeimenon (Daily Vespers) or the Litany of Fervent Supplication (Great Vespers), the prayer, Grant, Lord, that we may be kept this evening without sin... is read. In abbreviated form, it corresponds to the Doxology which is read (Daily) or sung (Festal) at the end of Matins. After Grant, Lord... the Evening Litany (or Litany of Supplication) is chanted, wherein we specify which mercies we desire, and is characterized by the refrain, Grant it, O Lord!
After the Litany of Supplication, special hymns are sung in honor and memory of the person or event to which the services of that day are dedicated. These hymns are separated by verses taken from various parts of Holy Scripture which are related to the Saint or Feast and thus are called the Apostikha (or Stikhera (Verses) on Verses).
At Great Vespers (All-Night Vigil) the Apostikha is preceeded by the Litya (Lity a fervent prayer). The Litya, characterized by many repetitions of Lord, have mercy! is celebrated in the porch of the church or on the steps, or sometimes in the back of the church itself. In ancient times this was done in order that the Catechumens and Penitents who stood in the porch might participate in the gladness of the festival. The faithful and clergy came out with candles (symbolizing the Light of Christ come to sinners) to signify their humility and brotherly love towards those who had sinned. In our times the Litya serves to remind us that we must take care for our souls so that we may be worthy to enter into the House of God. After the Litya, the clergy return to the center of the church.
When the singing of the Apostikha has ended, the dismissal prayer of St. Simeon, Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace... (Luke 2:29-32) follows. Only now that we have traveled the long, hard road and seen at last the dawn of a new life, has our Christian soul acquired the right to ask leave to depart. The prayer is followed by the Trisagion and Lord's Prayer, after which are sung the Troparia (hymns) relating to that day of the week or celebration, as well as a hymn of praise (Theotokion) to the Mother of God.
On Feast days, at this point, before a table on which have been placed five loaves of bread and three vessels one with wheat, one with wine, and one with oil the Priest makes the Sign of the Cross over the loaves and prays that the Lord may bless and multiply them. In the early Church, when the All-Night Vigil lasted until the morning, it was customary to distribute the common offerings of bread, wine and oil after the Vespers. Thus the faithful who intended to remain throughout the Service would be strengthened and refreshed. After the Priest had pronounced the final Blessing upon the people, he and the Deacon descended from the Altar, and sitting down with the people, they consumed with them the food which had just been blessed, during this time selections from the Acts of the Apostles, or from the Epistles, were read aloud. The distribution of the blessed bread during Feast-Day Matins to the faithful who have received the blessing by the anointing with the blessed oil, commemorates this in ordinary churches.
Vespers then concludes with the Litany of Fervent Supplication and the usual Dismissal (if Daily Vespers) or the response to the petition, Blessed be the Name of the Lord, henceforth and for evermore The blessing of the Lord be upon you... (if Great Vespers). The Vesper Service is thus filled with memories of the Creation, the Fall, the Expulsion from Paradise and the anticipation of the Coming of the Savior Who brings light to the world.
In this way the whole of Vespers, beyond which lies a new kind of creation, of spiritual life in God, passes beneath the Sign of the Cross, of repentance, of separation from the old, and ends in expectancy and acceptance of the new, true Light that is Christ. This Light shone steadily and peacefully, drawing to itself those who had formerly wandered in darkness and who had been sunk deep in the night, experiencing what it is to be apart from God, that they might come to a true awareness of their own weakness and learn humility.
Compline, most often served in monasteries, is the Service of Prayer before retiring to bed and thus it is sung after Supper (Greek Apodeipnon after supper). As sleep is the image of death, Compline is filled with the thought of death and repentance. On Great Feasts and Saturday evenings, if All-Night Vigil is served, Compline is omitted. There are two types of Compline: Great Compline and its shorter form, Small Compline.
Great Compline consists of three parts, each of which begins with the introductory Come, let us worship... and ending with a concluding prayer and the Priest's blessing. The first part begins with a special set of six Psalms and then the special hymn, God is with us..., taken from the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the Savior Who was to come into the world. Then follows prayers addressed to the Holy Trinity, the Creed, the Invocation of the Theotokos and all the Saints and the Prayer of St. Basil the Great. Thus, in this first part of Compline, we give thanks to God for the day that has just passed and we express the hope that He will grant us a restful sleep during the coming night, as well as a peaceful repose after death with all the Saints.
The second part of Compline is penitential, and here we find the penitential Psalm of David, Have mercy on me, O God... (Ps. 51) and the moving penitential Prayer of Manasseh the King, followed by the hymns (based on Ps. 51), Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us....
The third part of Compline consists of glorification of God and His Saints. A Canon is sung in honor of the Saint of the Day or the Mother of God and shortly after, the hymns, O Lord of Hosts, be with us.... This part ends with the Prayer of the Hours, Thou, Who at every season and every hour..., a prayer to the Undefiled Theotokos, as well as a prayer to Christ, asking for a peaceful sleep.
The Small Compline is considerably shorter, and is simply an abridgment of the Great Compline. Besides the usual beginning, it consists of three Psalms, the Small Doxology (read), the Creed, a Canon to the Theotokos or Saint of the Day, Troparia of the Day or Feast (if it be), the Prayer of the Hours, the two final prayers of Compline to the Theotokos and the Savior, and the Dismissal. Small Compline usually replaces Great Compline in parish use and is prescribed on the weekdays outside of Great Lent. Thus the Evening Service is ended.
Nocturns (or the Midnight Service) is the first service of the Morning Cycle. This is a service of prayer which is appointed to be said at Midnight in remembrance of Our Lord's Midnight prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. It also reminds us of the angels who glorify God, night and day. A primary theme of Nocturns is death and judgment, and thus it serves to remind us that we must always be ready to give an answer at the dread Judgment of Christ, Who will come unexpectedly, just like the bridegroom who comes in the night in the Gospel Parable (Matt. 25:1-13).
There are three types of Nocturns (besides the very special Resurrection Nocturns celebrated once a year just before the Paschal Matins): Daily, Saturday and Sunday Nocturns. Daily Nocturns consists of two parts, each beginning with the customary Come, let us worship.... After the exclamation, Blessed is our God... and the usual introductory prayers, the first part begins: Come, let us worship..., Psalm 51, and the 17th Kathisma, Blessed are the undefiled..., which, in parish life, is usually recited in full only at the Lamentations Service of Holy Saturday and in part at the burial of laymen and Priests. Then follows the Creed, the Troparia, Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight..., two morning prayers, the Prayer of the Hours, and the final prayer of this first section. The second part begins with two Psalms (121 and 134) and a prayer for the dead, serving to remind us of the Last Judgment and death. Then follows a short litany and the Dismissal.
On Saturdays, the 17th Kathisma is replaced by the 9th, and other Troparia are sung in place of Behold, the Bridegroom.... Certain other prayers are also changed, in keeping with the diminished penitential character of the weekend services. Sunday Nocturns has no Kathisma at all, but after Psalm 51 there follows a Canon to the Most-Holy Trinity as well as Trinitarian Troparia. This Sunday Service ends with a long prayer to the Holy Trinity.
The Light of Christ which shone at Vespers now begins to shine at the next service of the Morning Cycle Matins. It shines faintly, at first, through the Star of Bethlehem, Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will to men! (chanted at the beginning of the Six Psalms) and then, as Matins proceeds, this Light gradually burns brighter and brighter and then flares up into an all-encompassing divine flame. It renews, communicates itself so that men may become bearers of light. It fills all creatures with love and tenderness; and then all Christians cry out anew to the Lord in gladness, Glory to Thee, Who hast shown us the Light! Here in the Great Doxology immediately following this exclamation, is the high point and culmination of the Matins cycle.
Daily matins begins with the exclamation, Blessed is our God..., and then two Royal Psalms (20 and 21) addressed to the rulers, according to the command of St. Paul on prayer for the Emperor and those who are in power (Rom. 13:1-7; cf. 1 Pet. 2:13-14). The Psalms are followed by the Trisagion and the Lord's Prayer, and then the Troparion and Kontakion of the Cross, followed by a short litany and then the beginning of Matins proper. At the All-Night Vigil, this introductory part is omitted.
Matins proper begins with the Trinitarian exclamation, Glory to the Holy, Consubstantial and Life-Creating Trinity... (transferred to the beginning of Vespers at the Ail-Night Vigil) which, in contrast to the Old Testamental character of Vespers, gives to Matins the content of a New Testament prayer. This is especially seen in the opening exclamations of the Reader at this point, Glory to God in the Highest... (the Song of the Angels at the Birth of Christ Luke 2:14) and the verse from Psalm 51, O Lord, open Thou my lips.... Now follows the Six Psalms, which are penitential in character and refer to the wretched condition of the human race in the Old Testament days, as well as the hope of a Savior from on High. The Six Psalms concludes with a Psalm expressing the firm hope of the righteous in all hostile actions, on God's help.
The Six Psalms (during which the Priest reads special Morning Prayers) are followed by the Great Litany (just as at the beginning of Vespers) and then God is the Lord and hast revealed Himself to us. Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord! [During the Great Lent and on Memorial Saturdays, this is replaced by Alleluia.] When the Lord revealed Himself to the people assembled beside the Jordan River, St. John the Baptist greeted Him with joy and reverence. At this point of Matins, the Priest (or Deacon) makes the proclamation beholding the Lord Himself coming to minister to the world. This is followed by Troparia dedicated to the Feast, Sunday or the Saints, depicting the flourishing of the Church after Christ's Coming to earth and it also constitutes the end of the first part of Matins.
The second part of Matins begins with the reading of the Kathismas, selections from the Psalter, at which the faithful are permitted to sit. This part of Matins, consisting of long, continuous readings of Psalms, interspersed only by brief doxologies in honor of Christ's coming into the world and in memory of the mercies which He brought by His coming, reminds us of the time when He already lived on earth, but was recognized by almost no one, while men continued waiting for His coming and prayed to God for mercy, listening in doubt and perplexity to the news that the Lord had already appeared on earth. Because of the primarily penitential nature of these Psalms, the Holy Doors are closed during this part of Matins.
At the conclusion of the Kathismas, there are appointed special Kathisma Hymns (Sessional Hymns Sedalens) related to the day or Feast. At the conclusion of the Kathisma readings, at the All-Night Vigil, the Polieley now follows. The Priest, preceeded by a Deacon bearing a lit candle, comes out of the Altar and censes the whole church and the faithful. This reminds us of the time when the holy Myrrh bearing Women, as well as the other Disciples of the Lord, came early to His sepulcher, before the dawn, and there learning of the Savior's Resurrection, brought to the remaining Disciples the joyous news. The incense typifies the sweet spices which the women brought to the tomb of the Lord and the candle typifies the light and joy of the glad tidings of the Resurrection, and the light of faith therein and in our future life. The procession of the Priest around the inside of the church typifies the return of the Myrrh bearers and the Disciples from the grave of the Savior, bringing the good news to the remaining Disciples.
The Polieley, consisting of Psalms 135 and 136, is so called, from the Greek words poll (much) and elea (oil or mercy), because the word mercy is frequently repeated in these Psalms and because all of the lamps, filled with pure oil, are lit, while the Psalms are being sung. On Feast days the Polieley is followed by a short verse (the Magnification) magnifying the person or event celebrated, and is sung before an icon placed on a stand in the middle of the church. The Magnifications are interspersed with the singing of special selected verses from the Psalms, which illustrate the inner meaning of the Feast.
The Polieley (and Magnifications, if any) are followed by a Little Litany, a short Kathisma Hymn glorifying the Saint or event commemorated, and then the 1st Antiphon of the 4th Tone, From my youth.... This moving hymn reminds us, in the midst of the festal celebrations, of how far we have fallen from the joys of the life with God that rejoices the soul, which we have lost because of our sins. Those who would wage war against God and His Church shall be put to shame by the Lord. And we, who have fallen, will again be enlivened by the Holy Spirit, be exalted and illumined by the bright radiance of the Holy Trinity.
On Sundays, whether a Great Feast or not, the Polieley (and Magnifications, if any) is followed by verses from Psalm 119, Blessed art Thou, O Lord... and special verses which speak of the Resurrection of Christ and invite the faithful to worship the Holy Trinity, ending with a hymn in honor of the Mother of God (Theotokion). These are followed by a Little Litany, the Ypakoe (a short hymn) and several Antiphons (sung alternately by two choirs in the ancient practice) according to the Tone of the Week.
On Great Feasts and Sundays, a Gospel Reading is prescribed, preceded by a Prokeimenon (as before all Scripture Readings). On Feast days, the text of the Reading is appropriate to the Feast, and on Sundays it is appropriate to the Resurrection. Our Lord Jesus Christ, after He had arisen from the dead, quickly showed Himself to His Disciples. Thus, the Church, by the reading of the Gospel after the Song of the Myrrh bearers, announces to the people one of the manifestations of the Risen Savior to His Disciples, in the form of eleven Resurrection Gospel Readings prescribed for Sundays.
At the conclusion of the Gospel Reading, on Sundays the Resurrectional Hymn, Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ... is sung, followed by Psalm 51 and special supplications to the Apostles and the Mother of God, as well as entreating the Lord to have mercy on us. On Great Feasts a special supplication is made to the Saint (s) commemorated that day and also a special Stikheron dedicated to the Saint (s) or event being commemorated. As at the Litya of Vespers, the Litya prayer, O God, save Thy people... is read. The faithful venerate the Gospel Book placed on a stand in the center of the church and if it be a Feast, the Icon of the day, after which, on Feast days, they are anointed with oil and given a piece of the holy bread (anointed with wine) which had been blessed at Vespers. On weekdays, the Polieley, Magnifications, Gospel, etc., are omitted and only Psalm 51 is read. This ends the second part of Matins.
The third part of Matins begins with the singing of the Canons. The Church has appointed to be sung the Nine Songs (or Odes) of the Canon, which contain the Hymns of those godly persons of the Old Covenant, from Moses to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, who magnified the Lord in spiritual songs. Each Song, in the vast number of Canons of the Holy Orthodox Church, is inspired by the Biblical Canticle appointed to precede it. These Canticles, however, are generally omitted, with the exception of the Song of the Theotokos, My soul magnifies the Lord..., which precedes Ode Nine. The second Song of Holy Scripture (Deut. 33) is not, properly speaking, so much a hymn as an announcement of God's judgments upon the Israelites. Therefore it is sung only on the Tuesdays of Great Lent.
In the shortened version of the Canons, as they are actually sung in modern practice, only the Theme Song (based on the Biblical Canticle which precedes it) is sung, here called the Irmos, and at the end of each Ode, the choirs normally came down from the soleas into the center of the church to repeat the Irmos of the Ode (or sometimes a special Irmos) for which reason this repeated Irmos is called the Katavasia (descent).
The singing of the Canon is divided into three parts by Little Litanies after the 3rd, 6th and 9th Odes. After the 3rd, a special Kathisma Hymn is sung (sometimes a Kontakion, too, or an Ypakoe) and after the 6th, the Kontakion of the Saint or event of the Day (on Saturday night the Resurrection Kontakion is usually sung) and the Ikos, if there be one. On Great Feasts, the Song of the Theotokos (the Magnificat) is often replaced by special magnifications.
At the conclusion of the Canon and the following Little Litany, the fourth part of the Matins begins. Here is sung the Hymns of Light, which are also called the Exapostilaria. They are called Hymns of Light because their subject is chiefly the illumination of the soul from on High, and because the singing of them at Matins precedes the daybreak and the Doxology. They are called Exapostilaria because in ancient times a Cantor was sent out into the center of the church to sing them (Greek: Exapostilarion one who is sent forth).
These are followed by the singing of Psalms 148, 149 and 150 the Praises (on weekdays they are read), Let every breath praise the Lord.... All God's creatures are summoned to praise the Lord their Creator. On Feast days and Sundays, the final verses of the Praises are interspersed with special stikhera in honor of the Saint or event of the day and end with a hymn to the Theotokos (Theotokion).
The Exapostilaria had anticipated one more part of Matins which praises the Light, and which now immediately follows the Priest's (or Deacon's) exclamation, Glory to Thee, Who hast shown us the Light! the Doxology. On Feast days and Sundays, the Doxology is sung the Great Doxology; on ordinary days it is read the Small Doxology. Each begins with the words, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men! The Great Doxology ends with the Trisagion.
At the All-Night Vigil, the Great Doxology is followed by petitions for all Christians and the asking of special mercies in the words of the Litany of Fervent Supplication and the Morning Litany (just as did the Litany of Fervent Supplication and the Evening Litany at Vespers), after which the Dismissal is made. At Weekday Matins, the Doxology is followed by the Morning Litany, Apostikha, Trisagion, Lord's Prayer, Troparia and the Litany of Supplication, just as at Daily Vespers. At the All-Night Vigil the 1st Hour follows immediately after the Matins Dismissal and after the Litany of Fervent Supplications at Daily Matins. Thus we have now come into the full Light of Christ, the Dayspring from on High.
The 1st Hour is served just as the 9th Hour (but beginning with Come, let us worship...), with its own Psalms. In it we thank God for the light of day which He has given us and we beseech Him that we may pass the day without sin. In Church time, the 1st Hour corresponds to about 7:00 a.m. Thus ends the Morning Service.
The next cycle of Daily Prayer is the Midday Service which consists of 3rd and 6th Hours, and the Divine Liturgy. If the Liturgy is not served, an abbreviation, Typical Psalms, is served in its place. Here we must note, however, that in the Greek tradition, 3rd and 6th Hours are usually omitted before the Liturgy, which comes immediately after the Matins.
3rd and 6th Hours
In structure the 3rd and 6th Hours are the same as the 9th and 1st Hours, corresponding to 9:00 a.m. (3rd Hour) and 12:00 Noon (6th Hour) in ancient times. The 3rd Hour, which has a full beginning, just as the 9th, commemorates the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Disciples at the Third Hour. When some of the assembled people supposed that the Disciples were drunk, Peter chided them, saying: Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the THIRD HOUR [emphasis added] of the day (Acts 2:14-15). The 3rd Hour also commemorates Pilate's judgment of Christ, as well as the scourging and mocking of the Lord. The 6th Hour commemorates the Crucifixion of Christ (death coming at the Ninth Hour). It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed (Luke 23:44).
When the Divine Liturgy is not served, it is usually replaced by the Typical Psalms, which consists of Psalms 103 and 146 (the First and Second Antiphons of the Liturgy, including Only-begotten Son and Immortal Word of God...), as well as the Beatitudes (the Third Antiphon), the Creed, and certain other hymns and prayers. As this, in a sense, typifies or is a type of the Liturgy itself, it bears the title Typical Psalms.
In certain monasteries and cathedral churches, a further service, called the Interhours, is also served. These are constructed like the regular Hours and each has its own special three Psalms. These are celebrated between the regular Hours (hence the title Interhours) and bear the titles 1st Interhour, 3rd Interhour, etc.
On the Eves of the Nativity of Christ and Theophany, as well as on Holy Friday, all of the Hours, as well as the Typical Psalms, are sung as one Service, characterized by special Psalms and hymns, as well as special Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel Readings, relating to the particular Feast or events of that day. In ancient times, it was customary for the Byzantine Emperor to be present for the whole Service, hence the title Royal Hours.
The Divine Liturgy
The Divine Liturgy has its origins in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, instituted by the Lord Himself: Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Where will You have us prepare for You to eat the passover? He said, Go into the city to a certain one, and 'say to him, 'The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.' And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, He sat at table with the twelve disciples.... Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat; this is My body. And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, Drink of it, all of you; for this is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins... And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives (Matt. 26:17-20; 26-28, 30). This Eucharistic Supper and the Lord's commandments concerning it were held sacred by the Apostles; for when they met together, they spent the time in prayer, in the singing of sacred hymns, and the breaking of bread in memory of Christ. That is, they celebrated the Holy Eucharist. This custom became the cornerstone of the new Christian community, and is witnessed to by St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians: / received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, This is My body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of Me. In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me (1 Cor. 11:23-25).
In the course of time the Eucharistic gathering became more developed. Originally the public portion of the Liturgy (the Synaxis, or gathering), consisting of instruction, Scripture readings, etc., primarily for the Catechumens who were about to receive Baptism, and the Eucharist (a private gathering of the faithful only) were celebrated separately; but about the 4th Century they were linked together, and eventually expanded. In time, the Service of Preparation (or Proskomedia) was joined to it.
Customarily three Liturgies are celebrated by the Orthodox the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. The first two are entitled ...of Saint John..., ...of St. Basil..., since each contains prayers undoubtedly composed by St. John and St. Basil, respectively. The Presanctified Liturgy (at which no consecration takes place, since the Holy Gifts are presanctified on the previous Sunday) probably contains prayers composed by Pope St. Gregory Dialoges, to whom this Liturgy is attributed. In addition, in a few places, such as at Jerusalem, the Liturgy of St. James the Brother of the Lord is celebrated only on the patronal feast day of St. James (Oct. 23).
The Divine Liturgy can be celebrated only by a Bishop or a Priest, and neither can celebrate more than one Liturgy in one day. This is because they must partake of the Holy Gifts, having, of necessity, prepared themselves beforehand by fasting, prayer, etc. [If the Holy Gifts would be consumed before another Liturgy, the fast would therefore be broken!] The Liturgy can be celebrated only at an Altar (Holy Table) upon which is placed an Antimension consecrated by a Bishop this constitutes his permission to serve the Liturgy although the Liturgy may be served at another place, as long as the Antimension is present. Not more than one Liturgy may be celebrated at one Altar (Holy Table), upon one Antimension, in one day.
Upon entering the church before the Divine Liturgy is to be served, the Priest (and Deacon) stand before the Holy Doors and say the Entrance Prayers. Then, after asking for and receiving in turn forgiveness of the faithful, they enter the Altar; and having made three prostrations before the Holy Table, they kiss the Holy Gospel (Priest) and the Table itself (Priest and Deacon). After this they vest with appropriate prayers and blessings the Deacon in Stikharion, Cuffs and Orarion (Stole), and the Priest in Cassock, Epitrachelion, Belt, Cuffs, Nabedrennik and Palitsa (if so awarded), as well as the Phelonion. Then both wash their hands and prepare to celebrate the Liturgy of Preparation (the Proskomedia).
Liturgy of Preparation
The first part of the Divine Liturgy (not really part of the Liturgy proper) is the Proskomedia (Greek the bringing of gifts). In ancient times the faithful brought gifts of bread and wine and from these the Priest selected that to be used at the Holy Eucharist. At the present time, the Priest usually prepares five loaves (one loaf in the Greek tradition), in remembrance of the five loaves that fed 5,000 people in the Gospel, called Prosphora (oblations) made of wheat flour, mixed with plain water, and leavened. On the top of each loaf is a Cross with the Greek inscription IC, XC, NI, KA, in the four corners, meaning (in Greek) Jesus Christ conquers. The wine must be made from the juice of red grapes with nothing added.
From the first loaf a cube, the size of the entire seal on top, is cut out. This cube, called the Lamb, signifies Jesus Christ, the Paschal Lamb. This is placed on the center of the Paten. A Cross is incised on the top of the Lamb and with the spear the side is pierced in remembrance of the piercing of the Savior's side. At the words ...blood and water came out, wine and water are poured together into the Chalice.
From the second loaf a particle is taken out, signifying the Mother of God, and placed at the Lamb's right (the left, looking down at the paten). From the third loaf, nine particles are taken out, signifying nine classes of Saints: 1) St. John the Baptist, 2) Prophets, 3) Apostles, 4) Sainted Hierarchs, 5) Martyrs, 6) Holy Monks and Nuns, 7) Holy Unmercenaries and Physicians, 8) the Ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna, the Saint whose church it is, the Saint of the day (one particle for all), and 9) the Saint whose Liturgy it is. These are placed in three rows of three particles each, at the Lamb's left (the right, looking down).
From the fourth loaf particles are taken out for the living and placed in a row below the Lamb, and from the fifth loaf particles are taken out for the departed and placed in a row below that of the living. Thus all of the particles are arranged on the Paten around the Lamb, depicting the Church Militant and Triumphant, united in the Liturgy as in common divine service.
The Star (or Asterisk) is then placed over the particles to keep them in place, at the same time signifying the Star of Bethlehem which came over the place where the Christ Child lay. Then the Paten and Chalice are covered by veils, respectively, and both covered by a larger veil the Aer signifying that Christ was clothed in glory, that His glory covered the whole world and that He covers us also with His grace. The prepared elements are then censed by the Priest, who prays that the Lord may bless the gifts and accept them in memory of those offering them and on behalf of those for whom they were offered and also that he, the Priest, be worthy to celebrate the Holy Mystery.
Liturgy of the Catechumens
The second part of the Divine Liturgy (the Liturgy proper) is called the Liturgy of the Catechumens (or the Liturgy of the Word). In ancient times, not only the faithful, but also the Catechumens (those preparing for Holy Baptism) and Penitents (those excluded from Holy Communion for a time) were present at this portion of the Divine Liturgy, which consists of prayers, hymns in honor of the Holy Trinity, and readings from the Word of God. This, of course, was taken over from the old Synagogue worship with which the earliest Christians were familiar. It begins with the opening of the Holy Doors, signifying the heavens opened at the Baptism of the Lord, and the exclamation of the Priest, Blessed is the Kingdom..., which is a glorification of the Kingdom of the Most-Holy Trinity, which Jesus has come to establish on earth.
The Deacon (or Priest if no Deacon; this holds true for most of the Deacon's parts) begins the Great Litany (often called the Litany of Peace because of the words, In peace let us pray to the Lord!) which consists of twelve petitions dealing with man's most pressing needs peace, seasonable weather, God's help for travelers, the sick, etc. After the Priest's exclamation at the end of the Great Litany, For unto Thee are due all glory, honor and worship..., ideally two Choirs sing the Antiphons (Greek sounding in answer responsive singing of two Choirs standing opposite each other), which are divided by the Little Litanies into three parts, in honor of the Holy Trinity.
One of three types of Antiphons are sung, depending on the importance of the day. The type most frequently sung are the Typical Antiphons (Ps. 104, 146 and the Beatitudes, Matt. 5:3-12), so-called because they form part of the typical service. These are sung on Sundays and major Feast Days. On Great Feast Days, special Antiphons are sung, consisting of prophetic verses selected from the Psalms, appropriate to the particular Feast being celebrated, to which are joined hymns relating to the Feast. For this reason, these Antiphons are commonly called the Festal Antiphons. On ordinary weekdays, if it not be a major feast, the Daily Antiphons are sung, consisting of Psalm 92, 93 and 95. To the Second Antiphon of the Typical group is joined a hymn glorifying the Incarnation of the Son of God Only-begotten Son and Immortal Word of God....
During the singing of the Third Antiphon, the Holy Doors are opened, signifying the going-out of the Savior to preach to the world. The Priest, preceded by the Deacon holding the Holy Gospels, and a Candle-Bearer, make a solemn entrance (the Little Entrance), going out through the North Deacon's Door and entering the Altar again through the opened Holy Doors. The Book of the Gospels here represents Christ Our Lord, and the candle going before signifies that Christ, represented by the teachings of the Gospels, is the Light of the World.
In ancient times, during the persecutions, the Gospel Book was borne out from a secret place (where the sacred vessels also were kept). This also marked the first entry of the Celebrant into the Sanctuary (the main body of the Church) and signaled the beginning of the Liturgy. The clergy vested in a separate room, called the Sacristy, where the Gospel and Cross were kept and then proceeded to the Sanctuary. The Catechumens were then commanded to depart and the Celebrants, headed by the Bishop, entered into the Sanctuary itself.
According to ancient rules of the Jerusalem Church of the Resurrection and the Church of St. Sophia in Constantinople, the Liturgy of the Catechumens was held in a separate place from the Liturgy of the Faithful. After the entrance into the Sanctuary, breads, etc., were selected from among those offered by the faithful and the Proskomedia performed. Later the Proskomedia was transferred to the beginning of the Liturgy, although in a room separate from the Altar; the Little Entrance was made from this room, to the Sanctuary and then into the Altar. This ancient practice is preserved somewhat in the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, although the Proskomedia is now usually performed at the side of the Altar itself, the Procession proceeding through the North Deacon's Door.
After the Little Entrance, which is an expression of entering into the Sanctuary and joining there the Saints, the Church glorifies those Saints or the sacred event of the Feast Day by singing triumphant hymns in their honor Troparia and Kontakia. The Troparia and Kontakia are special short hymns sung in one of the Eight Tones composed in honor of the Feast or Saint (s) commemorated and express the essence of the Feast or the life and spiritual feats of the Saint (s).
The Troparia and Kontakia are similar to each other in length, literary form, etc., but each stresses a different aspect of the essence of the commemoration. While the Troparion provides us with a picture of the external side of the commemorated event, the Kontakion draws attention to the inner aspect, and vice versa. The Kontakia, however, usually reflect more fully the essence of the sacred event. This can be seen, for example, in the following Troparion and Kontakion of the Feast of Holy Pentecost:
Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, Who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit; through them Thou didst draw the world into Thy net. O Lover of Man, Glory to Thee! [Troparion]
When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, He divided the nations; but when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to unity. Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the All-Holy Spirit! [Kontakion]
After the Troparia and Kontakia, the Choir sings the Trisagion Hymn: Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal, have mercy on us! According to Church Tradition, the origin of the Trisagion is as follows. At the beginning of the 5th Century there was a great earthquake in Constantinople. In connection with this, services were held in all the city churches, followed by a procession around the city. Among the worshippers was a young boy who heard the miraculous singing of the Angels: Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal! He recounted what he had heard to all those around him, whereupon the Christians began to sing the hymn, adding the words, Have mercy on us! and the earthquake stopped. From this time, the prayer was adopted by the Holy Church.
Through the singing of this prayer, the Church arouses believers to a spiritual contemplation of the Lord of glory Whom the heavenly powers extol, to repent of their sins and turn to Him for mercy and grace bestowing aid. During the singing of the hymn, Christians recall the vision of the Prophet Isaiah, who saw the Throne of God surrounded by the holy angels, singing: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory! Shaken by this vision, the Prophet cried: Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of people of unclean lips (Is. 6:3, 5)!
At Hierarchical services, the Trisagion is sung seven times, since, in Sacred Tradition, seven is seen to be a symbol of perfection: And on the seventh day God finished His work which He had done (Gen. 2:2). On certain Feast Days (Elevation of the Cross and the 3rd Sunday of Great Lent), the Trisagion is replaced by, Before Thy Cross, we bow down in worship, O Master.... On other Feast Days (Nativity of Christ, Theophany, Lazarus Saturday, Holy Saturday, Bright Week, Pentecost), the Trisagion is replaced by, As many as have been baptized into Christ....
Next comes the Epistle and Gospel lessons, which are preceded by special Prokeimena (Greek proceeding), which serve as an introduction to lessons from the Epistle and Gospel (the Prokeimenon before the Gospel being the Alleluia). These are usually taken from the Psalms, serving to prepare our minds to comprehend what is read, indicating in brief the significance and importance of the Scripture Lessons. In ancient times, Old Testament lessons were also read here (preserved at Festal Vespers).
During the reading of the Epistle lesson, the Deacon censes the Altar, Iconostasis, the Celebrant(s), Reader, Singers and Faithful. This is prescribed as a sign of reverence before the reading of the Gospel lesson and indicates that through the preaching of the Gospel, the grace of the Holy Spirit, which has spread to all corners of the world, fills men's hearts with the taste of life eternal (2 Cor. 2:14).
At the conclusion of the Epistle lesson, the Prokeimenon Before the Gospel is chanted (now called the Alleluia) with the threefold refrain Alleluia! Then the Gospel is brought out and the Gospel lesson is read by the Deacon. Before the Gospel is placed a lit candle as a sign of veneration for the Word of God 'and as a symbol of the Light of God which emanates from the Gospel, illumining the listeners to the attainment of saving mysteries. The Gospel is read from the Ambo (Greek anabaino I ascend), signifying an elevated spot a boat, or a hill from which the Lord preached to the people.
After the Gospel reading follows the Sermon (sometimes moved to the end of the Liturgy) and then the Litany of Fervent Supplication, since it is meet, that after hearing the Word of God, we should pray to Him with redoubled fervor for the things necessary for soul and body. On certain days this Litany is followed by the Litany for the Dead. Then follows the Litany of the Catechumens, referring to that ancient class of people the Catechumens who were being instructed in the Christian faith and prepared for Baptism. Immediately after this Litany, the Catechumens were dismissed, Depart, Catechumens! Catechumens, depart!.... The institution of the Catechumenate has now fallen into disuse, but the Litany still remains, to remind us of the vows made at Baptism and to arouse in the faithful a humble consciousness of sin. With the Dismissal of the Catechumens, who were not considered to be sufficiently prepared by the early Church to behold the Holy Mysteries without understanding them, this second part of the Divine Liturgy the Liturgy of the Catechumens ends.
Liturgy of the Faithful.
The third part of the Divine Liturgy is called the Liturgy of the Faithful, since only the Faithful in ancient times were permitted to be present for the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The Liturgy of the Faithful can be divided into four parts: 1) the final preparation of the Holy Gifts and the faithful for the Sacrament of the Eucharist; 2) the Sacrament of the Eucharist (primarily the Eucharistic Canon Anaphora); 3)the preparation for Communion and the partaking of Communion; and 4) the Thanksgiving for Communion and the conclusion of the Liturgy.
After two Little Litanies for the faithful, the Holy Doors are opened and the Cherubic Hymn is sung, so-called because we are preparing to minister at the Throne of God even as the Cherubim minister at the Heavenly Throne. During the singing of this hymn, during which the Deacon censes the Altar, Iconostasis, Clergy and Faithful, the Great Entrance is made, typifying the Lord going to His voluntary Passion and Death. The Angels are with us at Christ's going-out; for Christ, as King, is upborne invisibly by them.
In this Entrance, the Holy Gifts are borne from the Table of Oblation to the Altar, by passing out through the North Deacon's Door and then in through the Holy Doors. In the early days of the Church, during this Entrance all those who had brought or sent offerings for the use of the Church were mentioned by name. This is retained, but in expanded form, by the Russian Church. The Greeks retain only the last phrase, You and all Orthodox Christians, may the Lord God remember.... The Chalice and Paten are then placed on the Holy Table and covered with the large veil (Aer).
The removal of the Chalice and Paten from the Deacon's head symbolizes the removal of the Body of Christ from the Cross. We the faithful are present at the placing of the Body in the tomb (the Holy Table) and wrapped in linens (the Aer), which also symbolizes the stone rolled across the door of the tomb for which reason the Holy Doors are closed and the curtain drawn in the Russian tradition. At the same time, the conclusion of the Cherubic Hymn is sung, with the addition of Alleluia, followed by a Litany of Supplication, in which we ask for spiritual mercies.
After the Litany, the Clergy exchange the Kiss of Peace at the summons of the exclamation, Let us love one another.... In ancient times the faithful would also observe this Kiss of Peace, now only preserved by the Clergy. In response to the summons, the Choir sings the short confession of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Trinity, One-in-Essence, and Undivided! The Deacon then intones, The Doors, the Doors..., which, in ancient times, were guarded so that no unworthy persons or pagans might enter the Sanctuary during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. This custom is not adhered to now, but still serves to remind us to guard the doors of our soul against all evil thoughts as we prepare to confess our faith in the words of the Creed, and to give heed to the Holy Mysteries.
The Creed, which was formulated during difficult times in the Church's history, during the heretical divisions and the struggle for purity in her dogmas, is now sung. The first part of the Creed (which is discussed in more detail in a separate place in this book) is our confession of God the Father, and an extensive confession of the Son. This confession of faith is an introduction to the acceptance of our salvation and our participation in eternity.
The Eucharistic Canon (Anaphora)
Having sung the Creed together with the Congregation, the Deacon then turns to the people and intones: Let us stand aright.... These words are a summons to inner spiritual concentration, to be attentive and reverent towards the Sacrament about to be celebrated. We must bear in mind that the Holy Gifts must be offered to God in spiritual peace, as this Sacrifice is made to God not only for us, but from us; we are assisting at it as participants in the Divine Liturgy. With these words, begins the most sacred part of the Divine Liturgy the Eucharistic Canon (or Anaphora, Greek offer). The Choir responds, A mercy of peace..., signifying that the Eucharistic Sacrifice on God's part is His great mercy towards us and is the result of our reconciliation with God through Our Savior; while on our part it is our praise of God's Majesty, revealed in the Divine Economy of our salvation (Heb. 13:15; Ps. 50:14).
In keeping with ancient custom, the Priest turns to the people with St. Paul's words, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you (2 Cor. 13:14). By this blessing the Celebrant wishes the worshippers that the highest spiritual gifts grace, love and communion be sent down from the Throne of the Holy Trinity. On behalf of the Congregation, the Choir responds to the Priest's blessing with the mutual wish for spiritual well-being, And with your spirit! that is, they wish his soul the same gifts and blessings from God the Almighty.
In order to focus the feelings of the soul upon the celebration of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Priest summons all in the church to elevate their hearts from earth heavenwards, to the eternal and heavenly, to Our Lord God: Let us lift up our hearts! The human heart is that spiritual organ through which man perceives the spiritual world on high and enters into communion with God. As the Lord Himself says, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matt. 5:8). The Congregation responds through the Choir: We lift them up unto the Lord, which affirms that their hearts and minds are striving after the heavenly, God's Throne, and God Himself.
Following the example of Christ our Savior, Who thanked God the Father at the Last Supper (Luke 22:17-19), the Priest then summons the Faithful to give thanks to God: Let us give thanks to the Lord. The Choir responds: It is meet and right..., during the singing of which the Priest reads the First Eucharistic Prayer, It is meet and right to sing of Thee..., in which is contained a thanksgiving for the Sacrifice which was offered for us by the Son, and further, for making us ascend to Heaven, concluding with the exclamation, Singing the triumphant hymn.... The Choir responds with the Song of the Seraphim, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth..., taken partly from the Prophet Isaiah and partly from the Apocalypse (Revelation) of St. John.
As the Choir sings, the Priest reads the Second Eucharistic Prayer, in which, mentally among the hosts of Angels present at the celebration of the Eucharist, he praises the Lord for the Economy of Salvation of mankind: With these blessed powers..., ending with the exclamation, Take, eat... and Drink of it, all of you..., the words of the Savior at the Last Supper, when the Holy Eucharist was instituted. The Choir sings Amen after each; and during the second Amen, the Priest reads the Prayer of Commemoration: Remembering this saving commandment.... Then as the Deacon raises the Paten and Chalice with crossed arms, the Priest exclaims, Thine own, of Thine own, we offer unto Thee, on behalf of all and for all! We note here that what is being offered is not that which belongs to us, but that which belongs to the Savior.
As the Choir sings, We praise Thee..., the Priest prays, Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable and bloodless worship, and ask Thee, and pray Thee, and supplicate Thee: Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts here offered. Thus the Priest and worshippers fervently pray the Heavenly Father to send down the Holy Spirit both upon the worshippers and the Holy Gifts upon the worshippers to cleanse them of all evil and make them worthy to partake of Christ's Sacrifice; upon the Holy Gifts to consecrate them and make them into the precious Body and Blood of Our Lord.
This invocation of the Holy Spirit is called the Epiclesis (meaning invocation). In it the Church confesses her faith in the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, considering this to be the loftiest moment in the Prayer. In the Russian Church, the Troparion of the Third Hour, O Lord, Who didst send down Thy Most Holy Spirit upon Thine apostles at the third hour..., is recited thrice, and although it appears only about the 15th-16th Centuries, it well conveys the tender and penitent feelings with which the celebrants of the Eucharist accomplished the consecration of the Holy Gifts.
The next prayer is that of intercession, Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable worship..., in which the Priest commemorates the members of the Church, in whose behalf the Holy Eucharist has been offered, ending with a commemoration of the Most-Holy Theotokos, Especially for our Most-Holy, Most-Pure, Most-Blessed and Glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. The Choir sings, It is truly meet... (or some other hymn if it be a Great Feast).
While this is being sung, the Priest continues with the commemoration of St. John the Baptist, the Departed, the Episcopate and the ruling authorities, ending with the exclamation, Among the first, remember, O Lord.... This is a prayer for the Church in her earthly activity for the life of men. And grant that with one mouth and one heart... is a Trinitarian doxology which concludes the Eucharistic Prayer. The worshippers respond with Amen, symbolizing their participation in the offering of the Sacrifice and in the commemoration of the members of the Church.
Immediately after this part of the Liturgy begins the Preparation of the Faithful for Communion. The Deacon chants the Litany of Supplication which, appropriately, is followed by the Lord's Prayer, perfectly expressing the Eucharistic sense of the petition, Give us this day our daily bread. After the exclamation, For Thine is the Kingdom..., the Priest blesses the people: Peace be unto all! The curtain is drawn, and as the Lamb is elevated by the Priest, he exclaims: The Holy Things, for the holy! a call to the Saints (the Faithful) to communion after which the Choir responds, One is Holy... and then the Communion Hymn, which relates to the memories of the day and the Lessons from the Gospel and Epistle.
Communion is preceded by the fraction of the Lamb. The Priest and concelebrating Clergy, if any, communicate from the portion XC and the portions NI and KA are for the Communion of the laity. The portion 1C is placed in the Chalice last. Hot water is poured into the Chalice after the 1C portion, symbolizing the water that poured forth from the Lord's side, showing that although He was dead, His body was not devoid of divine virtue that is, the warmth and vitality of the Holy Spirit.
After the Communion of the Clergy, the curtain is opened and the Priest comes out with the Chalice, at the exclamation, In the fear of God and with faith, draw near! Before the Communion of the Faithful, the Communion Prayer a brief Symbol of Faith in Christ is recited.
I Believe, O Lord and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, Who earnest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first, I Believe also that this is truly Thine own most pure Body, and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood, Therefore, I pray Thee: have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions, both. voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, of knowledge and of ignorance. And make me worthy to partake wit/tout condemnation of Thy most pure Mysteries; for the remission of my sins, and unto fife everlasting. Amen.
Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant for I will, not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies; neither like Judas wilt I give Thee a kiss; But like the thief wilt I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.
May the communion of Thy holy Mysteries Be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, O Lord, But to the heating of soul and Body.
All the Faithful, adults and infants, alike, are communicated, partaking of the mingled Holy Body and Blood by means of a special spoon. Infants receive Holy Communion by virtue of their having received Holy Chrismation immediately after Baptism, which makes them full members of the Church of Christ. The approaching faithful receive the Holy Gifts with arms crossed on the breast; after receiving, very gently, they kiss the edge of the Chalice, as if it were the side of Christ Himself. As the Priest communes each of the faithful, he says, The servant (handmaid) of God (name) partakes of the precious and holy Body and Blood of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins and unto life everlasting. During the Communion the Choir sings, Receive the Body of Christ... (or another hymn at certain other times).
After the Communion, the Priest carries the Chalice into the Altar and places it on the Holy Table, after which he turns and blesses the people, O Lord, save Thy people..., at which the Choir sings the hymn setting forth what mercies the people have received: We have seen the True Light.... Then, taking up the Chalice, the Priest faces the people, saying quietly, Blessed is our God.../'and then aloud, Always, now and ever..., which symbolizes the Lord's Ascension into Heaven. As the Priest carries the Chalice to the Table of Oblation, the Choir sings the Hymn of Thanksgiving, Let our mouths be filled with Thy praise, O Lord.... Thus, in the Liturgy the earthly life of Jesus Christ passes before us.
The Liturgy concludes with a short Litany of Thanksgiving and the Prayer Before the Ambo, O Lord, Who blessest those who bless Thee.... The Choir responds with, Blessed be the Name of the Lord... (thrice) and (rarely done now), the first eleven verses of Psalm 34: / will bless the Lord at all times.... The final blessings are bestowed, and the Faithful come up to kiss the Handcross held by the Priest. Those who had not communed, then receive a piece of the bread which remained after the Lamb was cut out at the Proskomedia, for which reason it is called Antidoron (in place of the Gifts). The communicants remain after the Dismissal to listen to more prayers of thanksgiving for Communion. The Holy Gifts, if not consumed by a Deacon, are consumed by the Priest. The particles which had been taken out at the Proskomedia, other than the Lamb i.e., for the Theotokos, Saints, living and dead having by now been placed in the Chalice, are likewise consumed.
The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great.
The Liturgy of St. Basil differs from the usual Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in the following particulars. The Prayers at the time of the Eucharistic Canon are substantially longer and the hymns sung at this point are sung to special melodies to accommodate the length of the Prayers. The Words of Institution, Take, eat... and Drink of it... are somewhat different and instead of It is truly meet..., the hymn, All of Creation rejoices...is sung. At the Proskomedia and at the final Dismissal of the Liturgy, St. Basil is commemorated rather than St. John Chrysostom.
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
The Holy Fathers considered that it was unbefitting the contrition of Great Lent to serve the full Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil the Great, so that these Liturgies are allowed only on Saturdays and Sundays of the Fast, as well as on the Feast of the Annunciation and Holy Thursday. In its place, on Wednesdays and Fridays of Great Lent, as well as on Thursday of the Fifth Week and the first three days of Passion Week, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated. [If the patronal feast of a church or monastery falls on a weekday of Great Lent, or if one of a small handful of major feasts fall thereon, the Presanctified Liturgy is celebrated on that day.] This Liturgy is called Presanctified, since the Holy Gifts were presanctified (or consecrated) on the previous Sunday. This Liturgy consists of Vespers, followed by a portion of the full Liturgy, omitting the consecration of the Holy Gifts.
The structure of the Vesperal part of the Presanctified Liturgy is identical to the first half of ordinary Vespers regular beginning, Psalm 104, Great Litany, Kathisma (usually the 18th), Lord, I have called..., with ten appointed Stikhera, accompanied by a censing of the whole church, Entrance with either the censer or Gospel Book (if there will be a Gospel reading because of a Feast), O Jesus Christ, the Joyful Light..., and then the Prokeimenon. During the reading of the Kathisma, the Presanctified Gifts are solemnly transferred from the Holy Table to the Table of Oblation.
After the Prokeimenon, an appointed Old Testament Lesson is read, followed by another Prokeimenon. Then, as everyone makes a prostration, the Priest turns and faces the Faithful with a candle and censer, intoning, The Light of Christ illumines all! This signifies that the Prophets, from whose writings we have heard and shall hear were illumined by the same light (the Light of Christ) that still enlightens all men. A second Old Testament lesson is now read. At the conclusion of the second Old Testament Lesson, the moving hymn of supplication, Let my prayer arise... is sung, with the Faithful and Clergy on bended knees:
Let My Prayer Arise:
Let my prayer arise in Thy sight as incense, and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.
Lord, I have called to Thee, hear me! Attend to the voice of my prayer when I call to Thee!
Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, a. secure around my lips!
Incline not my heart to words of evil, to invent excuses for my sins.
Let my prayer arise in Thy sight as incense, and let the lifting up of my hands Be an evening sacrifice.
This is followed by the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian and three prostrations. If Gospel and Epistle lessons are prescribed (usually if it be a feast), they are said here. Then, whether Gospel and Epistle lessons or not, the Litany of Fervent Supplication is chanted, as well as a Litany for the Catechumens and finally their dismissal. [In the ancient Church, among the Catechumens there were some who were soon to be baptized (illumined) usually on Holy Saturday and after the mid-point of the Great Lent, a special Litany was inserted for them at this point at the Presanctified Liturgy: All catechumens, depart. Depart, catechumens. As many as are preparing for illumination, draw near. Pray, you who are preparing for illumination, etc.]
With the Dismissal of the Catechumens, the Liturgy proper begins. After two Litanies for the Faithful, as at the full Liturgy, the Choir sings the special Cherubic Hymn: Now the powers of heaven do serve invisibly with us. Lo, the King of glory enters. Lo, the mystical sacrifice is upborne, fulfilled. A Great Entrance is made from the Table of Oblation to the Altar by the Priest bearing the Presanctified Gifts, in profound silence. At this time the faithful make a prostration before Christ, Who passed before them in the Sacrament. At the conclusion of the Cherubic Hymn and the Alleluia, the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim is again recited with three prostrations.
The Holy Doors are now closed and the Preparation for Communion begins with the Litany of Supplication (which begins, Let us complete our evening prayer to the Lord, since this is an evening service) and the Lord's Prayer. During this the curtain is drawn only half-way, signifying that this is not the full Liturgy. After the Lord's Prayer and the usual exclamations, the Holy Gifts are not elevated, since this was done previously at the Sunday Liturgy, but the Priest only touches them, saying, The Presanctified Holy Things are for the holy! The Choir responds, One is holy..., as usual, and then the Communion Hymn, O taste and see that the Lord is good! Alleluia!
The Communion of the Clergy and Faithful take place, as usual, except that instead of Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord..., the Choir sings, I will bless the Lord at all times.... A special Prayer Before the Ambo, O Almighty Master, Who in wisdom hast fashioned all creation..., is said after the usual Litany of Thanksgiving and then the Dismissal is said, as usual, except that St. Gregory Dialoges, Pope of Rome, is commemorated instead of St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil the Great.
The Five Cycles
The Great Cycle of Life
The life of an Orthodox Christian can be seen as being composed of five cycles. There is, first of all, the great cycle of life, which embraces the whole life of a man from birth to death, and which consists in liturgical actions which are not repeated, occurring only once in a person's lifetime. These are Holy Baptism, Holy Chrismation, and the Burial Service. In addition, there also belongs in this great cycle the Sacraments or Sacramental Blessings which bestow special grace for a particular office or vocation with the community. These are Holy Matrimony, the Monastic Tonsure and Holy Orders.
The Daily Cycle
Another major cycle which involves the entire life of an Orthodox Christian is the daily cycle of prayers and praises offered by the Church, once every twenty-four hours. These services express our remembrance of events which happened at certain hours and contain petitions relevant to these memories.
In antiquity the day was considered to begin at sunset and thus was divided according to the following order. Night began at 6:00 p.m. (according to our reckoning) and was divided into four parts (called watches the time of changing guards): Evening (6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.); Midnight (9:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight); Cock-crow (12:00 midnight to 3:00 a.m.); and Morning (3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.). Day began at 6:00 a.m. (our reckoning) and it, too, was divided into four watches (or hours). First Hour (6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.); Third Hour (9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon); Sixth Hour (12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m.); and Ninth Hour (3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.).
Following this ancient pattern, Orthodox Christians begin each portion of the day with common prayer, which has resulted in the following eight Services, customarily divided into three groups: Ninth Hour, Vespers, and Compline; Nocturns (Midnight Service), Matins, and First Hour; Third and Sixth Hours. In addition to this daily pattern, in certain monasteries during certain periods of fasting, each of the Hours is followed by an intermediate Office called the Interhour. Also included in the daily cycle are the Offices for the Blessing of the Table and the Morning and Evening Prayers.
The Divine Liturgy is often included in this daily cycle, normally being served after the Sixth Hour (although, during Fast Periods it is celebrated after Vespers). Often treated as part of the daily cycle, the Divine Liturgy is not prescribed to be celebrated every day (as it is in many cathedrals and monasteries) and in a theological and mystical sense actually stands outside of chronological time since it also serves as a point of contact with the eternal, where its participants (by virtue of their partaking of the Holy Eucharist) are transported to a point outside of time where there is no past, present or future, but only the eternal Now [The Festal Menaion, trans. Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, p. 40]. On days when the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated, the Service of the Typical Psalms is celebrated in its place after the Sixth Hour (it also sometimes precedes the Liturgy), thus forming part of the third group of Daily Services with the Third and Sixth Hours.
In addition to these two cycles, there are also three others: The Weekly Cycle of the Eight Tones (Octoechos), the Annual Cycle of Movable Feasts (dependent upon Pascha), and the Annual Cycle of Fixed Feasts, beginning on the first day of the Church Year September 1. These three cycles are combined and superimposed on each other, giving the Liturgical Year a constant and unfailing variety.
The Weekly Cycle.
Each day of the Weekly Cycle is dedicated to certain special memorials. Sunday is dedicated to Christ's Resurrection; Monday honors the Holy Bodiless Powers (Angels, Archangels, etc.); Tuesday is dedicated to the prophets and especially the greatest of the Prophets, St. John the Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord; Wednesday is consecrated to the Cross and recalls Judas' betrayal; Thursday honors the Holy Apostles and Hierarchs, especially St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in Lycia; Friday is also consecrated to the Cross and recalls the day of the Crucifixion; Saturday is dedicated to All Saints, especially the Mother of God, and to the memory of all those who have departed this life in the hope of resurrection and eternal life.
Each week of the Weekly Cycle is centered around the Eight Tones (the basis for Orthodox Church music) and each Week has its appointed Tone. On Saturday Evening of Bright Week (the Eve of St. Thomas Sunday), the cycle of Tones begins with Tone One and, week by week, the sequence continues through the successive Tones, One to Eight, changing to a new Tone every Saturday Evening, throughout the year.
The Annual Cycle of Movable Feasts.
The yearly cycle of Movable Feasts is that centered around Holy Pascha and is called movable because, being linked with the Feast of Feasts, it shifts from year to year as Pascha itself falls on a different date each year. The Feasts which comprise this cycle are Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Pascha), Holy Ascension (the fortieth day after Pascha) and Holy Pentecost (the Descent of the Holy Spirit the fiftieth day after Pascha).
The Annual Cycle of Fixed Feasts.
Each day of the year is dedicated to the memory of particular events or Saints and these memorials always fall on the same Calendar date each year. Thus, in honor of each event or Saint(s), special hymns have been composed which are added to the usual hymns and prayers of the day.
The Great Feasts.
Among the feasts of the Church Year, a place of special honor belongs to the Feast of Feasts, Holy Pascha. Next in importance come the Twelve Great Feasts, which can be divided into two groups: Feasts of the Lord and Feasts of the Mother of God.
Great Feasts of the Lord:
1. The Universal Exaltation (or Elevation) of the Life-creating Cross (Sept. 14)
2. The Nativity of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ (Christmas Dec. 25)
3. The Theophany (or Epiphany) of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ (Jan. 6)
4. The Entrance of Our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday Sunday before Pascha)
5. The Ascension of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (40 days after Pascha)
6. The Descent of the Holy Spirit (Holy Pentecost 50 days after Pascha)
7. The Transfiguration of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ (Aug. 6)
Great Feasts of the Mother of God:
1. The Nativity of the Most-Holy Theotokos (Sept. 8)
2. The Entrance (or Presentation) of the Theotokos into the Temple (Nov. 21)
3. The Meeting of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple (Feb. 2)
4. The Annunciation to the Most-Holy Theotokos (Mar. 25)
5. The Falling-Asleep (or Dormition) of the Most-Holy Theotokos (Aug. 15)
All of the Feasts listed above, with the exception of Palm Sunday and Holy Pentecost are preceded by a period of preparation known as the Forefeast. In addition, The Nativity of Christ and the Dormition are preceded by a special fasting period (the Nativity Fast begins on November 15 and the Dormition Fast begins on August 1). Three of the Feasts are followed, on the next day, by a distinctive commemoration known as a Synaxis: The Nativity of Christ is followed, on Dec. 26 by the Synaxis of the Most-Holy Theotokos; the Theophany is followed, on Jan. 7 by the Synaxis of St. John the Baptist; and the Annunciation is followed, on Mar. 26 by the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel. In addition, all except one (Palm Sunday) are followed by a festal period called the Afterfeast, during which the prior Feast is continually observed. The last day of the Afterfeast the actual close of the Feast is called the Leavetaking.