The Audible Recitation of Presbyteral Prayers

The Audible Recitation of Presbyteral Prayers

THE AUDIBLE READING OF THE PRESBYTERAL PRAYERS

1. It must be affirmed first that the restoration of the public recitation of the presbyteral prayers was a natural consequence of the translation of the Liturgy into the vernacular. In the second half of the twentieth century, the Liturgy transitioned into the vernacular, so that by the end of the century only some hymns were occasionally chanted in Church Slavonic. The passage into the vernacular was traumatic for some at the time, but it has probably saved the Church from becoming an ethnic museum piece. The reality of the Byzantine Catholic Church in America now is its diversity. The original Slav/Hungarian population has been diluted by demographic movement and inter-marriage: 1) in each generation, the youth after receiving vocational training, moved to cities where they could find jobs. Since our numbers are small this meant stretching the population over a vast country, and making it impossible to establish or maintain communities in any but the most populous metropolitan areas. 2) Likewise, people would not remain within their own ethnicity in marriage, leading to a less Slavic population in each generation.
This was augmented further by people from different backgrounds who were attracted by the Byzantine spirituality of worship to join the Church. This has resulted in an English-speaking Church that is diverse in ethnicity, with the Slavic population forming only one part of the Church, and in many cases, a minority of the population. It may be noted that the experience of the Ukrainian Church has been entirely different, as ethnicity is still considered the essential identity of the Church. Even among those of Slav origin, it must also be noted that the Liturgy was Church Slavonic was not in a vernacular language. The popular understanding of the liturgical texts was rudimentary and quite different from the spoken language. The result was that prayers said by the priest were often not articulated well, since the meaning was not understood. Fr. Robert Taft explains: “Hence, our problem is a new one, arising not only from the use of the vernacular in the liturgy, but from the use of the vernacular in modern cultures where most of the faithful are literate, have had at least some secondary schooling, and know the modern literary form of their language used in the liturgy even if they speak a dialect at home. Where that is not yet true, the whole problematic is pastorally irrelevant. One of the great figures of Vatican II, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Maximos IV Saïgh (1878-1967), urged the West to allow the vernacular in the liturgy, following the lead of the East, “where every language is, in effect, liturgical.” But that, taken literally, is flatly false. Modern Russian is not a “liturgical language” in the Christian East, nor is Demotike or Modern Greek. In Russian and Greek Orthodoxy the liturgy is celebrated in an older, now dead form of language the people no longer understand, so it makes little difference whether the prayers are said aloud or not unimportant.”

2. The bishops of the Pittsburgh Metropolia made the conscious and informed decision to restore the public recitation of most of the presbyteral prayers. In this they followed the directive of the Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches § 54: “Considering that the Anaphora is a true masterpiece of mystagogical theology, it is appropriate to study the ways in which, at least in some circumstances, it could be pronounced aloud, so as to be heard by the faithful.” The Council of Hierarchs seriously considered this recommendation, and did restore the public recitation of the prayers, so a way was found to unfold this “true masterpiece of mystagogical theology.” Very few complaints have been heard from the faithful, who, if they are serious about the Liturgy, find the unfolding of the texts to perfect their liturgical spirituality. While some have pointed out that this was not mandated, the Sacred Congregation was avoiding to legislate for churches sui juris. Clearly, this option was preferred, and the practice of priestly prayers aloud was the ultimate goal for the Eastern Churches. Our bishops should be commended for their wisdom and pastoral concern in restoring this practice, which is also being done in many of the Orthodox Churches. It is being done in other Byzantine Catholic Churches. Bishop Nicholas Samra of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, commenting on the Melkite Synod, wrote: “I emphasize again, as I did last year and before, that the Anaphora must be completely chanted in a loud voice—this is a restoration of what was done but got lost over the centuries, mainly by accident and not for spiritual reasons. Certain other prayers should be prayed aloud: antiphon prayer, offering prayer, thanksgiving prayer. To chant the priestly prayers aloud is now mandatory; it is not what you like but what the Church tells you to do.” At the time of the writing of the Liturgical Instruction (1996), we must remember that this renewal was just beginning, that the Instruction was written for many various Eastern Churches, which had different anaphoral practices. (For example, in some Syrian rites, not all of the Anaphora was designated for public recitation.) Finally, the normative texts for the Eastern Catholic Churches were in Church Slavonic or koine Greek, which were not vernacular tongues, and hence would not have been easily understood by the faithful. Fr. Robert Taft again explains, “our problem is a new one, arising not only from the use of the vernacular in the liturgy, but from the use of the vernacular in modern cultures where most of the faithful are literate, have had at least some secondary schooling, and know the modern literary form of their language used in the liturgy even if they speak a dialect at home.” Since clearly the average faithful is able to understand the vernacular anaphora, this “true masterpiece” should not be hidden from them.
The bishops were able to make this decision with no change in the actual rubrics in the liturgical books. In the Slavonic tradition, the word taino (Greek, mysticos, English, “quietly”) does not appear explicitly for any of the prayers, except for a few words between the two formulas of the Prayers of Institution. Trembelas points out in his article that the rubric mysticos does not appear until the eleventh century, and is then used sparsely. He continues, “The word mysticos is not found in the printed liturgical books except as a weak support in certain codices, so that the majority ignore it completely.” The sparse use of this rubric is a witness to the normative practice that the prayers were to be said aloud.

3. The catechetical or, as the Liturgical Instruction says, the mystagogical value of the prayers cannot be underestimated. Mystagogy is catechesis of the baptized, and through the anaphora of the Liturgy and the other presbyteral prayers the faithful learn the true content of the Paschal mystery of our faith. Our faithful do need catechesis, and the reality is that knowledge of the faith, for most people, will come from their attendance at the Liturgy. The proposal that the faithful be instructed in adult classes outside the Liturgy ignores the pastoral reality that less than a third of the people who regularly attend liturgy will come to an adult class. They will learn the faith by participating more fully in the Liturgy.

4. Some have complained that the public recitation of the priestly prayer compromises the mystery. The common definition of “mystery” is “something hidden.” The Christian Gospel turns this upside down, as St. Paul writes, “I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory. (Colossians 1:25-27)” The recitation of the priestly prayers, particularly the anaphora, is the revelation of the Paschal mystery to the faithful. The very revelation of God’s plan (economia) deepens the mystery, for in it we see God bringing wisdom out of the foolishness of the cross, strength out of weakness and life out of death. In hearing this good news proclaimed in our worship, we come to a deeper knowledge of God’s providence, which transforms our life and the way we act. The Liturgy consists of prayer, of hymns of praise, of the reading of God’s word and of petition (the litanies). To make the prayers silent is not “mystery,” but “obscurantism,” removing an essential component of the Liturgy from the consciousness of the faithful and restricting it to an elite. To think that we, as human beings, must put mystery into our worship by hiding the message is a form of hubris. Fr. Taft states strongly and clearly, “Such a view, of course, may meet with resistance from self-appointed “preservers of the mystery,” for whom secrecy was a necessary adjunct to the mystery nature of the anaphora. That view is both historically false and theologically untenable. Long after all the prayers have been heard and studied, and all the theologians have had their say, the divine mysteries remain mysteries because of their very nature, and not because we seek to make them unintelligible by hiding them under a camouflage of silence!” In the modern situation of a vernacular Liturgy, to suppress the public recitation of the presbyteral prayers would reduce the people’s participation to a series of relatively unconnected hymns.

5. The objection may be made that mystery is a manifestation of the “disciplina arcana” of the Church, where certain mysteries were kept hidden from the catechumens until they were baptized. The rationale here, however, is exactly the opposite. The mysteries were kept hidden from the “learners” until they experienced them to show that the practice of the faith was not entirely intellectual, and to heighten their reverence for the mysteries when they were revealed. Here we are speaking here not of the “learners,” but of those who have been baptized and thus entered into the mystery, for them the economia of God is fully revealed.

6. Another objection that is sometimes raised is that the public recitation of the priestly prayer is a “romanization.” Both the East and the West kept the prayers hidden until the Second Vatican Council, when, to foster the fuller participation of the faithful, the prayers of the Roman Liturgy began to be said aloud. This objection, however, is simply untrue. An article written by the Greek Orthodox theologian Pangiotis Trembelas in 1955 reveals that this question was indeed being raised by Orthodox theologians long before the Vatican Council. There is no doubt that for many centuries the prayers of the priest have been said silently, either during a hymn of the Liturgy or when the deacon says a litany. Have we been doing it wrong for so many centuries? The answer is, of course, not entirely. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the priest has been saying the words of commemoration. All the centuries have seen a valid Liturgy in which Christ transforms us through the sacrificial presence of his holy Body and Blood. But why do we ask the question now? The reality is that the question has been asked many times in tradition, but with special urgency now that the people can again understand the words of the Liturgy in the vernacular. For many years now, there has been a movement to restore the presbyteral prayers. The kollyvades, a movement on Mt. Athos, said the anaphora aloud in the eighteenth century. Mojzes, in his recent book Il movimento liturgico nelle chiese bizantine (Rome 2005, 112-123) describes the movement towards the public recitation of the Anaphora in the Russian Church from 1905, as preparation for the Synod of 1917. Bishops Nazarius of Nižnij-Novgorod and Sergius of Finland supported the proposal, along with theologians A, P. Golubtsov and V.I. Eksemplarskij and others. He quotes Tikhon, the future Patriarch, on page 112, “it is not undesirable to read some of the prayers aloud.” This proposal was also very active in the Greek Church. The Zoe (“Life”) movement dominated Greek liturgy life for almost fifty years (1907-1960) and proposed the public recitation of the anaphora. (cf. Mojzes 159-162) The proposal has not faded since. In Greece today, the Major Archbishop Christodoulos founded the Special Synodical Committee on Liturgical Rebirth. Among its first recommendations (Encyclical 2784, March 31, 2004) was the public recitation of the prayers, “In order to restore the Eucharist as a vital dialogue of life and love between God and His people, Celebrators, Bishops and Presbyters, are advised to read most of the Priestly Prayers of the Holy Eucharist with audible voice, so that the participation of the faithful in all that takes place is made possible, so that by hearing the Prayers they can actually pray through them, and reply ‘Amen’, consciously and willingly.” (Pavlos Koumarianos, Liturgical Rebirth in the Church of Greece Today, p. 4)

7. I have focused on the key program of renewal in the Divine Liturgy – the restoration of the audible recitation of the presbyteral prayers. This renewal certainly increases the people’s understanding and participation in the Divine Liturgy. It gives meaning to their “Amen,” the seal they place on the prayer of the priest by opening to them the meaning of the prayer to which they are assenting. This is the direction that the Spirit is leading the Church, as in the Vatican II Council, in the decree on the Liturgy, “the Church “earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators. On the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action, conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 48, cited in the Liturgical Instruction 55.) This has always been the authentic consciousness of the church, as we see in the Emperor Justinian’s Novella, “This is confirmed for the patriarchate of Constantinople by Novella 167 of emperor Justinian I (527-565), dated AD 565, which legislates: “Moreover, we order all bishops and presbyters to say the prayers used in the the divine oblation and holy baptism not inaudibly, but in a voice that can be be heard by the faithful people, so that the souls of those who listen may be moved to greater compunction and raise up glorification to the Lord God…”

8. One of the wonderful results of the reading of the Anaphora aloud is that it answers two questions, if we indeed have been listening. Before the prayers were said aloud, the priest would suddenly intone, “Singing, shouting crying aloud and saying the triumphal hymn.” This left the listener with two questions: 1) who were “singing, shouting, crying aloud and saying,” and 2) why were they singing, shouting, crying aloud and saying?” The answers, of course were that the heavenly powers were “singing, shouting, crying aloud and saying,” and they were doing so because we were glorifying God, the Creator and Redeemer, who “loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him should not perish, but have life everlasting.” The second question came later when the priest would suddenly intone “Especially for our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary,” leaving us to ask the question” “What is especially for the Theotokos?” The answer is the offering of the spiritual sacrifice, in which the Divine Liturgy makes present again the real sacrifice of our Lord for the life of the world.

9. For too long priests in reality abandoned their own role in the liturgy, to take up the deacon’s role. They said the prayers proper to their office silently and the deacon’s office publicly. The translation of the Liturgy into the vernacular and the restoration of the order of deacon forced that situation to change. Priests again have to learn to be good proclaimers. The people’s hymns are a worthy part of the Liturgy, for our spiritual worship is the giving of glory to God. The deacon’s petitions are also a worthy part of the Liturgy, for our total dependence on God for “every good and perfect gift (James 1:17)” is also a part of our true religion. It is the prayers said by the priest in the people’s name, however, that bring us into the very center of the mystery. Here we stand before God, the Creator, “who has brought us from non-existence into being.” If these prayers reflect the truth of our relationship with God, then here, in this Liturgy, God, “does not turn away from his creatures, nor “does he not forget the work of his hands,” but he “raises us up when we had fallen, and has left nothing undone until he brings us to heaven and gives us the kingdom to come.” Here we are swept up into a host of thousands of archangels and tens of thousands of angels, cherubim and seraphim.” Today God loves the world with such intensity that he send his only Son, “so that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have life everlasting.” As we hear this prayer, echoing through the centuries, we sit with Christ at the mystical table, we recognize him in the bread and cup as did the disciples at Emmaus. Here the Holy Spirit begins to deify us, transforming our lives in a synergy with the divine, in a wind and fire that Chrysostom proclaims, “The priest stands, bringing down not fire, but the Holy Spirit; and he offers prayer at length, not that a fire may be kindled above and destroy the offering (1 Kings 18:34), but that grace may fall on the sacrifice through that prayer, and kindle the souls of all.”19 Like Job God answers us out of a whirlwind, and our prayer responds to the mystery, “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be hindered … I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you. (Job 42:1.3)”

10. I have been focusing on the reasons that the presbyteral prayers should be read aloud for the hearing of the people. However, there is some resistance to this principle. I see three problems which affect the practice:
1) There is a mentality-ideology that the content of the faith is less important than the fact of faith itself and the way that we express it through categories of beauty;
2) There is a mentality-ideology that the Liturgy partakes of the eternity of faith, and that any change in its practice will weaken that faith;
3) There are practical difficulties with the execution of the reading of the prayers.
11. In regard to 1). There is a mentality that the fact of faith is important, but that the content is not important. In this case, the execution of the Liturgy becomes more important than the words we use. It’s how we do the Liturgy – what are the proper rubrics, how do we execute the proper melodies or hit the right notes. The beauty of the Liturgy becomes a priority over its understanding. In this case, whether the people actually hear the words of the Liturgy is less important than that we be moved by its beauty. The goal of religion as such has always been access to esoteric knowledge of the reality of what exists – to mystery, one might say. The impulse toward gnosticism is very strong, exalted knowledge is for the elite. As a religion, Christianity also claims to answer ultimate questions – but it is not a “mystery religion” like others. St. Paul tells us, “the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past … has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory. (Colossians 1:26-27)” St. John tells us, “you have the anointing that comes from the holy one, and you all have knowledge. (1 John 2:20)” For us the mystery is clear, and it is expressed in words from the Word of God, in the foolishness of the cross, there is wisdom, in the weakness of love for one another, there is strength, in death there is life, for as Jesus said, “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:25 et al.)” In the Divine Liturgy, in both the Anaphoras of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great, we proclaim this mystery in perfect clarity, it is not to be hidden by obscurantism, or restricted to an elite by clericalism. Moreover, in the very proclamation of the mystery in perfect clarity, the depth of the true mystery becomes manifest. This is why the Anaphora must be proclaimed.
At the same time, our past history is complicated. We know that the truth of the faith is not relative, it is expressed in words, and we have fought bitterly over how to express the faith. We have accused those in err of heresy, and have often punished them. Yet at the same time, the proclamation of the mystery in the Liturgy has become less and less important. The Liturgy became couched in sacred language, known only to an elite. The beauty of execution has become dominant over understanding. I’ve seen this over and over again. Often when I attend a Liturgy, I put the book aside and only listen to the hymns. More than half the time, I cannot understand what is being said, because the singer is more interested in hitting the notes correctly than in enunciating the words. This is true not only in the Byzantine rite, but in all religious expression. Execution is the important value and precedes enunciation. This is, of course, complicated. We want a beautiful Liturgy, and my whole professional career has been built on properly celebrating – beautifully performing – the Liturgy, but I say now, that the proper articulation of the text must be the first priority in execution. We need the prayers to be said clearly and understood as well as our human minds are able. In the mid-twentieth century, a very important change took place. In the Orthodox and Catholic worlds, the value of understanding the Liturgy emerged, and there was a turn to the vernacular. Once the Liturgy was in an understandable language, it was inevitable that the proper articulation of the priest’s prayers, particularly the Anaphora, would arise. This is recognized by many who see the value of our liturgical renewal today, though many fought the vernacular and many still do. Many times, people born in America and speaking colloquial English have told me, “I don’t understand the Liturgy in English.” They don’t mean that, what they mean is “I don’t understand why the Liturgy should be in English.” In response to my posts on Facebook, one man even told me that we laypeople really don’t want to hear the prayers. There is a story – probably an “urban myth” of a man in Eastern Pennsylvania who left the Church when he first heard the Creed in English, saying, “I don’t believe that.” Over my fifty years as a priest, people have often told me that it doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you have faith in something. This is what I mean by a mentality that does not value the content of faith – for them certainly the words of the prayers become unimportant. But does this not mean then that we really don’t believe the mystery. In 1957, the Liturgy began to be celebrated in English at my home parish, St. Eugene’s. My old and wise grandmother, who didn’t know English that well, welcomed this. She said, “The young people need to know what the Liturgy says.” To my grandmother, I respond, “Amen!” “Let it be so!” We need this today, we need to know what our faith is telling us, both intellectually and in our hearts.

12. 2) There is a mentality-ideology that the Liturgy partakes of the eternity of faith, and that any change in its practice will weaken that faith.
Number 2 deals with the mentality of liturgical change. The celebration of the Liturgy is one of the most important things we do in life, and so it is one of the things we are most reluctant to change. We say, with Hebrews, that “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8)” We have the tendency, therefore, to sometimes conceptualize the Liturgy as it was in our youth as the way it has always been and as sanctioned, if not revealed, by God. The Liturgy in the Roman Church became very rigid after the Council of Trent, because the Catholic Church dug in its heels against the Protestant reformers, particularly the introduction of the vernacular. A similar thing has happened in Russia. In the mid-17th century, the Russian Patriarch Nicon reformed the Liturgy to be more in step with Constantinople, which caused a major – and sometimes violent – reaction from the group now known as the “old Believers.” In reaction, the Liturgy in Russia froze, while some changes were introduced in Greece. Today in both Greece and Russia there is agitation to put the Liturgy in colloquial Russian and demotic Greek, but this has so far been resisted by the authorities. Change is always difficult. When the Roman Church reformed the Liturgy following Vatican II, I think the majority felt it was necessary for the times, but others have strongly resisted and blame all the problems of the Church on liturgical change. In the Eastern Church, then, therefore, there are those who resist any change, feeling that it will open the door to devastating change. However, Vatican II did observe that the Church is always in need of reform, and the truth is that the Liturgy has changed in the last two generations, sometimes for the better, in the re-introduction of the vernacular and the public recitation of the presbyteral prayers, and the elimination of latinizations. Where it has gotten worse is in the general area of the lowering of religious knowledge and training among the population. This does not imply that up to now, we’ve been doing it all wrong, because the reality is that the Church has always responded to the needs of the time. Today we need a better participation of the people in the Liturgy, we need the people to hear the mystery of our faith. In this, I quote again Father Alkiviadis C. Calivas, Professor emeritus of Liturgy of Holy Cross Hellenic College in his recent book, The Liturgy in Dialogue (Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2018), page 103:
“The fundamental aim of both renewal and reform is to help the Church maintain the vibrancy and the beauty of the liturgy, as well as its dynamic, logical, and spiritual character, so that the people of God, clergy and laity alike, may be drawn into the mystery of salvation and behold and experience the love, the righteousness, and the glory of God.
The ultimate purpose of liturgical renewal and reform, aided by effective catechesis, is to produce good, spiritual worship (… Romans 12:1). Good liturgy glorifies God and sanctifies those who glorify him. Good liturgy, good catechesis, and good preaching make it possible for the people to be more active and more conscious participants in worship so that they are better able to extract and absorb the doctrinal, ethical, and devotional riches of the liturgy and apply them to their everyday lives and experiences.”
13. 3) There are practical difficulties with the execution of the reading of the prayers.

The third problem is practical difficulties in the reading of the prayers. In the 1950’s, when our Church made the decision to go into the vernacular, there was a trauma for many of our clergy. They were taught to celebrate the Liturgy in a dead language, Church Slavonic. When I was in the seminary we were taught the Cyrillic alphabet in which the liturgical books were written. We were explicitly told, “Don’t worry about what you are saying, just learn to pronounce the characters (reasonably) correctly.” The faithful, in general, couldn’t read Cyrillic, and if you look at all the prayer books they had in Slavonic, the alphabet was transcribed in Latin letters. Since we didn’t understand what we were saying, the simple execution of the prayers was the norm, sometimes as quickly as possible. The faithful didn’t mind either, just so it was in “our beautiful Slavonic tongue.” Of course, when the Liturgy moved into the vernacular, we realized that we had never been taught enunciation. Priests really had a hard time making the transition, and they often continued to pray as swiftly as possible with little concern for clarity. Of course, now, after fifty years, the situation has changed. The inevitable result was that the prayers began to be read aloud, but very often the execution was poor. Even today, some priests simply are not skilled in public reading, and the prayers are droned or enunciated unclearly. This gives people a poor experience of the Liturgy.
We also have a shortage of clergy, so many priests are imported from abroad, and English is not their first language. Many certainly have very excellent language skills, but for some it is difficult and unpleasant to hear them. I remark here very explicitly that I do not in any way resent our fellow clergy from Slovakia or Ukraine, and I welcome them to our community and I admire their willingness to be of service to our people. However, I am pointing out practical difficulties that can limit their pastoral work. Even outside of the Liturgy, to pastorally counsel faithful can be very difficult and even native English speakers can find it difficult to pick up nuances and hidden meanings in someone’s narrative.
What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t simply tell priests – now read, without some awareness or program to help them read in the best possible way.

14. It was probably inevitable that the question of the presbyteral prayers should arise when the Divine Liturgy was translated into the vernacular. This was already a significant question as early as 1964, when Ouspensky noted: “Certainly the secret reading of prayers hinders the participation of the faithful in the Liturgy. All liturgical worship, and in particular its highest expression, the Eucharistic Canon, is the prayer of the whole Church, the whole congregation, the ecclesia, including both clergy and laity. In the secret reading of the prayers the people are allowed to hear only fragmentary exclamations torn out of context: ‘Let us give thanks unto the Lord . . .’ ‘. . . singing, crying out, calling aloud and saying the hymn of triumph . . ‘ ‘Take, eat . . .’ ‘Thine own of thine own . . .’ etc. In this sense worshipers are deprived of the most essential part in the Liturgy, and it then slips beyond their understanding, its structure becomes incomprehensible, and the restoration of vocal prayer seems quite necessary. Everybody seems to agree with that.” As Ouspensky points out, once people could understand the basic words, they realized they were hearing only “fragmentary exclamations torn out of context.” Taft also notes that there is no doubt that the prayers were originally said aloud.
This certainly is the only logical conclusion if the prayers were improvised. It was the way the faith was expressed and grew in worship, the primary theological source. Bouley observes,
“To a very great extent it was in their worship gatherings and in their celebration of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper that Christians came gradually to a deeper understanding of the meaning of Jesus, of his promised Spirit and of themselves as the people of the new dispensation. Prayer, like preaching and instruction, not only led to new insights, but it was also the vehicle of their expression.”
Taft also notes that in the early centuries, everyone always read aloud. In the Acts of the Apostles, Phillip hears the Ethiopian eunuch reading from the prophecy of Isaiah in his chariot. How would he know this unless he was reading aloud. The first record of “silent reading” was by Augustine, who said of the Archbishop Ambrose, “When he read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart sought out the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still … we found him reading like this in silence, for he never read aloud.”
From this, we may conclude that the prayers of the liturgy were said aloud until the fifth century as a matter of fact.

15. Why, indeed, did the prayers become silent? Grisbrooke7 and Taft both report that the silent recitation began in Syria at the end of the fifth century. Here the liturgical commentator Narsai writes, “The bright(-robed) priest, the tongue of the Church, opens his mouth and speaks with God as a familiar.” Grisbrooke gives a reason, “The custom appears to have arisen from the desire to express and evoke an attitude towards the eucharistic mystery of awe and fear.” He later judges that “the silent recitation of the eucharistic prayer is undoubtedly a corrupt practice … This need (i.e. for silence and for its psychological fruits in worship) should, however, be provided for in other ways.” This reason is often advanced today by those who wish to keep the prayers silent. This is often extended to the character of the priesthood. The prayers, they say, are a part of the mystery and belong to the priesthood. The priest alone should say them. Taft disagrees with this position, “Today most Christians would agree that since the liturgy is for everyone, not just for a professional coterie of clergy, all the baptized have the right to hear and make their own the liturgy’s holy words.” I would go a step further. Yes, it can be admitted that the prayers of the Liturgy are “priestly” prayers, but the fact is that the whole community is “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. (1 Peter 2:9)” It is only reasonable that the congregation, which “seals” the prayers said by the presbyter with its “Amen,” should hear the words they are affirming. Today, the church teaching on the general priesthood and the ministerial priesthood is common to both Catholic and Orthodox. The Second Vatican Council was quite clear on this, “Though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchial priesthood are none the less ordered one to another; each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ.” One of these differences, manifested by the liturgical practice of the Church, is that the ministerial priest (the presbyter) reads the prayers publicly in the name of the community, and the people (the common priesthood) listen and affirm them with their “Amen.” St. John Chrysostom is quite eloquent on this point: “One sees that the people contribute much to the prayer…during the fearful mysteries, the priest speaks for the people, and the people speak on behalf of the priest, as can be seen from these words, ‘And with your spirit.’ The prayer of thanksgiving is again a common prayer offered by the priest and by all the people. The priest begins, and the people join him and respond that it is just and right to praise God: this is the beginning of the thanksgiving. Why are you surprised if the people mix their voice with that of the priest? Do you not know that these holy hymns rise to the heavens, where they mixed with those of the angels, the cherubim and the heavenly powers?”
Though I have found no direct evidence, I think there could have been other reasons for the prayers becoming silent. Perhaps one factor was the slow change in the nature of the vernacular language. The scriptural texts and liturgical prayers, however, would not have changed. They were written in a sacred language. How could the original of scripture be modified? It would be a betrayal of the word of God. Prayers would likewise be almost as conservative, for some were attributed to the apostles, and others to Fathers whose authority could not be challenged. As time went on, of course, even prayers that were composed later were written in a very classic style. We see this same conservatism even today. For many Bible Christians, the King James translation cannot be touched. It is seen as virtually inspired by God, and written in what is explicitly called a hieratic language. As The Patriarch of Moscow, Alexis II, recently rejected proposals to translate the Liturgy into modern Russian, stating that, however difficult it may be, the people could still understand Church Slavonic. As the prayers became more and more unintelligible to the common populace, their public recitation would have become less and less important.

16. It is remarkable that throughout the history of the Byzantine Church, there was an explicit awareness of the importance of the priest’s prayers. Taft observes that “in the Early and Late Antique Church one finds scant evidence that anyone was much concerned with how much of the service the congregation could or could not see or hear or participate in …, “13 but I would put a different spin on this. We do see an explicit concern, rarely attested to, to be sure, but constant, that people do hear the prayers. Therefore, in a time when silent praying must have been spreading, Justinian in his Novella 167, in 565, prescribes, “we order all bishops and presbyters to say the prayers used in the divine oblation and holy baptism not inaudibly, but in a voice that can be heard by the faithful people, so that the souls of those who listen may be moved to greater compunction and raise up glorification to the Lord God.”14 Five hundred years later, we see the same concern expressed, even more clearly, in the liturgical commentary entitled the Protheoria. The prayers are being “whispered softly” by the bishop, and the people ask what the aim of this practice is, adding that to know the prayers this way is like trying to know a garment from touching the fringes.15 And after a few centuries more, Trembelas invokes the opinions of the kollyvades, a reform movement on Mt. Athos from the eighteenth century, who also held for the public recitation of the presbyteral prayers, though by that time liturgical Greek was certainly no longer the vernacular.16 I think such explicit testimony from such different eras points to a consciousness of the importance of these prayers.

17. One might divide the Divine Liturgy into a symphony of three parts: the prayers presented by the bishop or presbyter; the litanies, the prayer petitions proposed by the deacon, and the hymns of glorification offered by the people. In the course of history, one of these elements has become mute: the prayers of the priest. We might better call them the prayers of the priestly people, for the congregation is expected to ratify them by their “Amen,” the seal of the prayer. How, indeed, can the people assent to these prayers without hearing them. One might object that the prayers are too difficult for the people to understand and just add time to the Liturgy. I simply do not accept this. They may be too difficult for some people, but most of the congregation is sufficiently intelligent to understand them, and their language is no more difficult than many of the Scripture readings or hymns, or perhaps even the homilies. I may offer an anecdote. I have become accustomed to proclaiming the presbyteral prayers aloud, and in one of my parishes one Sunday, my eyes skipped a whole phrase of one of the prayers. Immediately after the Liturgy, one of the servers, a high school student, asked me why I had skipped those words, and cited them to me out of memory, a modern reflection of John Moschos’ observation from around 600 ad, that a group of boys had memorized the anaphora from hearing it said aloud. Obviously, these prayers impress many people and I agree entirely with Father Taft that their public recitation adds to and does not detract from the mystery, “Long after all the prayers have been heard and studied, and all the theologians have had their say, the divine mysteries remain mysteries because of their very nature, and not because we seek to make them unintelligible by hiding them under a camouflage of silence!”

18. For too long now priests have in reality abandoned their own role in the liturgy, to take up the deacon’s role. They say the prayers proper to their office silently and the deacon’s office publicly. The translation of the Liturgy into the vernacular and the restoration of the order of deacon will force that situation to change, though some will surely resist. Priests will again have to learn to be good proclaimers. The people’s hymns are a worthy part of the Liturgy, for our spiritual worship is the giving of glory to God. The deacon’s petitions are also a worthy part of the Liturgy, for our total dependence on God for “every good and perfect gift (James 1:17)” is also a part of our true religion. It is the prayers said by the priest in the people’s name, however, that bring us into the very center of the mystery. Here we stand before God, the Creator, “who has brought us from non-existence into being.” If these prayers reflect the truth of our relationship with God, then here, in this Liturgy, God, “does not turn away from his creatures, nor “does he not forget the work of his hands,” but he “raises us up when we had fallen, and has left nothing undone until he brings us to heaven and gives us the kingdom to come.” Here we are swept up into a host of thousands of archangels and tens of thousands of angels, cherubim and seraphim.” Today God loves the world with such intensity that he send his only Son, “so that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have life everlasting.” As we hear this prayer, echoing through the centuries, we sit with Christ at the mystical table, we recognize him in the bread and cup as did the disciples at Emmaus. Here the Holy Spirit begins to deify us, transforming our lives in a synergy with the divine, in a wind and fire that Chrysostom proclaims, “The priest stands, bringing down not fire, but the Holy Spirit; and he offers prayer at length, not that a fire may be kindled above and destroy the offering (1 Kings 18:34), but that grace may fall on the sacrifice through that prayer, and kindle the souls of all.” Like Job God answers us out of a whirlwind, and our prayer responds to the mystery, “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be hindered … I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you. (Job 42:1.3)”

19. I can believe there can be no reform, nor even a whisper of a reform of the Liturgy, without the restoration of the presbyteral prayers for the whole community. The Second Vatican Council has called our Church to a rediscovery of its tradition, and in all the Churches of the East, Orthodox and Catholic, that use the vernacular, the presbyteral prayers are being restored for public hearing. In the Council, the Church was proclaimed to be always in need of reform. “The Church … at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.” Thomas Potts wrote a book recently on liturgical reform in the Byzantine Church. He defines reform as “the idea of a free effort, intentional and always perfectible, multiple, prolonged and always repeated which one does to reaffirm and augment pre-existing values in the spiritual-material order of the world.” What is important is that reform is not a new creation, it is the restoration of a pre-existing value. Reform is to be distinguished from spontaneous evolution, it is instead an active and reflective human intervention. Potts notes that “the nature of the liturgy and the mechanism of its transmission confers a great conservatism upon its forms. At certain moments its evolution can follow a path which does not originate in the synergy between faith and human identity, but the sinful nature of humanity which takes over that which is done in liturgy.” When this happens, an active and reflexive intervention made be needed to restore the liturgy to its authentic task.

20. The Council of Hierarchs of the Pittsburgh Metropolia made the decision, confirming the provisional translation of the Eparchy of Parma in 1987 and of Passaic in 1997 and the recommendations of the Inter-eparchial Liturgy Commission, to mandate the public recitation of most of the presbyteral prayers of the Divine Liturgy. This included the Prayer of the First Antiphon; the Prayer of Offering (better styled as the prayer of Access to the Holy Table); the Anaphora itself, except for the commemorations said during the chanting of the Hymn to the Mother of God, the Prayers before the Our Father, the Prayer of the Bowing of Heads, and the Prayer of Thanksgiving. In his article for the Question Box, published in the Eastern Churches Journal, Taft notes24 “the prayers to be said aloud should include the anaphora and those others that mark the pristine structure of the liturgy and define the meaning of its respective liturgical units, but exclude those that are later duplications of the early prayers fulfilling that function, or are private devotional prayers of the priest … “ For the record, by his criteria, prayers that may be said aloud, but which have not been included in the list above are the Prayer of the Second Antiphon, the Prayer of the Trisagion, the Second Prayer of the Faithful25, the remainder of the anaphoral commemorations. Prayers that were intended for private recitation are: the Prayer of the Third Antiphon, the Prayer before the Gospel, the First Prayer of the Faithful, the Prayer of the Cherubicon, the Prayer before “Holy Gifts …,” and the Prayer of the Consuming of the Gifts. The Ambon Prayer, of course, has always been said aloud. The system proposed by the Council of Hierarchs has been approved by the Sacred Congregation for Oriental Churches and corresponds to the practices of most Catholic and Orthodox Churches today that use the vernacular in the Liturgy.

21. “In the case of the Eucharist or Divine Liturgy, the crucial word accompanying the liturgical action is the anaphora, or main prayer of the Eucharist recited by the presiding priest or bishop at every Divine Liturgy, recounting all the salvific works of the Son of God, according to the will of the Father, in the Holy Spirit, throughout the ages. This prayer is not audible to the congregation in most Orthodox churches, in perplexing defiance of the Apostle Paul’s insistence on intelligibility in Christian worship, because in our churches the celebrant reads the prayer silently within the altar room or sanctuary. For this reason, a large part of our liturgical remembrance—the all-important-word part—falls through the cracks. And yet it is there to remind us—all of us—of the mysteries of our salvation through Christ. It is not there to remind just the celebrating priest of these things and certainly not to remind God of his salvific works. It is there for us who “do this in remembrance of him.”

Sister Vassa Larin, Greek Orthodox Theological Review 61:1-2 (2016), pp 230-231

22. “Liturgical renewal safeguards against abuses of liturgical practice and allows for the correction of erroneous liturgical practices that have found their way into the liturgical books. The secret or silent recitation of the prayers of the Divine Liturgy by the celebrant has long been a tradition; however, liturgical scholars have strongly challenged its use. This practice has led to some very significant abuses; for example, I have witnessed celebrants skimming through or mumbling the prayers, or even skipping the prayers instead of reading them, only chanting the ecphonesis (the doxological conclusion) of each! But even if all the prayers were to be properly read silently, two significant consequences would ensue: the dramatic elongation of chanted elements and responses and the mobility of prayers within the Divine Liturgy. In the first case, longer and thus more difficult chants inhibit the participation of the congregation in the responses; in the second case, prayers are read out of their sequence and in isolation from their proper place and context within the Divine Liturgy. In this way the structure of the Divine Liturgy and of each particular prayer is not respected, as the prayer is separated from its doxological conclusion, the ecphonesis. What is even more striking is that this theological and structural abuse of the Divine Liturgy found its way into printed editions, thus codifying and mainstreaming a clearly erroneous practice stemming from the secret or silent recitation of the prayers of the Divine Liturgy.”

Stephanos Alexopoulos, “Liturgical Renewal in the Church of Greece: Past, Present, Future?” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 61 (2016), 215-216

THE ANAPHORA: TRANSLATION ISSUES

23. “Offering you your own from your own. Always and Everywhere.”
The 2006 translation differs great from the 1965 Liturgicon. This phrase, one of the most ancient in the Liturgy, is left unspecific, because it intentionally has many layers of meaning. First, elevating in a sign of offering the gifts of bread and wine, we offer to God his own creation (wheat and grapes) which have been transformed into bread and wine by human labor, but the intelligence and bodies used for this transformation are also God’s own creation. We offer to God, therefore, what he has given us. The gifts, moreover, become the body and blood of Christ in the anaphora. We offer to God, then, his own Son, who has given us this liturgical, unbloody sacrifice so that he may be distributed to us in Holy Communion. Since we have entered the Body of Christ, which is the Church, by baptism and Communion, we, in turn, offer ourselves to God as now “God’s own people.” (Cf. Romans 12:1-3).
Louis Ligier, S.J. has shown that “in behalf of all and for all,” actually means “always and everywhere,” which phrase was attached not to “Offering you…,” but to the hymn that follows, “we praise you, we bless you….” In most Syrian rites, it is still attached to the hymn. His explanation of the translation is:
“Our formula however is distinguished by the use of the accusative: therefore it is to be interpreted as an adverbial locution. Then, “all” is not matter or a reason for praise, but the collateral circumstances in which God is to be praised. The prepositions kata and dia are to be given a temporal and local meaning which they admit with the accusative. A. Couturier translates them into French as “en tout temps et partout.” Then the Byzantine formula corresponds to the Latin formula of the Preface: “nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere.”
A proposed Pan-Orthodox translation also follows this explanation, translating it as “at all times and places,” without, however, attaching them to the hymn that follows. The words we sing in response: “we praise you, we bless you, we thank you, and we pray to you,” are very important. They are an integral part of the anaphora, and are the finite verbs on which the participles, “remembering” and “offering” depend.

24. “We offer you the holy Body and Blood of your Christ in this form.”
This the translation of what literally would be, “We offer you the antitypes of the Body and Blood of your Christ.” It has been pointed out, and correctly, that “antitype” does not mean “symbol,” or “figure.” The Greek word, “antitype,” means the reality from which a symbol or “type” derives. This translation expresses the concept that what we are offering is, in reality, the Body and Blood of Christ, and not a symbol of it, that is, “We offer you the Body and Blood of your Christ,” “In this form,” that is, by way of the liturgical mystery, retains the idea of “antitypos,” since “typos” can be rendered “form.” That the gifts we are in the process of offering is implied by the text of Basil, “show,” that is, reveal or manifest, by the power of the Spirit, that the bread and wine is the Body and Blood of Christ. It should be noted that the Ruthenian recension retains the integrity of the original Basil Epiclesis, other recensions have added the words, “changing them by the Holy Spirit,” in a polemic against the Roman teaching on the Words of Institution.

25. Epiclesis: The first fruit of the epiclesis is, in Greek, nepsin psyches, which translates literally as `vigilance (or sobriety) of soul. Fr. Juan Mateos was of the opinion that this was a misreading of nipsis, “washing, purification,” in Greek, since nepsis is a specialized ascetic word never found in reference to the soul. However, since that time, scholars have receded somewhat from that position. George Wagner has pointed out that Chrysostom does speak of the spiritual watchfulness and once uses the phrase nepsis psyches, which Mateos thought was a unique reading. Therefore, while Mateos’ thesis is still a possibility, Taft concludes that “it is preferable to adhere to the reading of the textus receptus. Therefore, the first fruit of the Holy Spirit in the epiclesis, in the present translation, “the purification of the soul,” has been retranslated, “a spirit of vigilance.”

Sunday of Zacchaeus

SUNDAY OF ZACCHAEUS

VESPERS

Stichera at Psalm 140: 7 resurrection stichera

3. Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand, the Lord thus begins his message. The kingdom of God is not power and wealth, it is not human vanity nor the collection of taxes, but mercy and forgiveness. Forgive us, O Lord, in the abundance of your tender mercy.

2. The Lord led his disciples to climb a high mountain, and there was transfigured by divine glory. Today Zacchaeus climbs the sycamore tree, and beholds the glory of God’s mercy. Forgive us, O Lord, in the abundance of your tender mercy.

1. Compassionate Lord, you chose the lowly and despised of the world to shame the wise, that where sin increased, grace abounded the more. Forgive us, O Lord, in the abundance of your tender mercy.

Glory. Hide not your light under a bushel, Jesus warned. Today the light of Zacchaeus’ search for God illumines the whole world from the height of the sycamore tree. As the rays of this light warm the zeal of repentance, we implore: Come under the roof of our hearts as you came to the house of the tax-collector, O all-compassionate Lord.

v. Glory … Now and ever … Dogmaticon

Apostichera:
Resurrection Tone
v. Glory ….
When Elijah ascended in his fiery chariot, Elisha received double of his spirit. Today Zacchaeus climbs the sycamore tree, and gives back fourfold from his wealth, repenting for those he defrauded. Follow his example, O my soul, that you may receive infinite mercy from Christ the Savior.
v. Now and ever … (Theotokion in the tone of the doxasticheron, TBD)

MATINS

Canon, Acrostich, “Zacchaeus is saved by Christ.”

Ode 1:
Irmos: Christ is born; glorify him, Christ from the heavens; go out to meet him. Christ on earth; exalt him. All the earth, sing to the Lord and praise him with joy, all peoples, for he is glorified.

Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree, to see his Lord, his healer, his Savior. But Jesus cried aloud, “Come down today, for I must now stay in your house.

At Jordan’s bank, the Lord proclaimed, “Today Adam’s nature is reclaimed.” Zacchaeus the tax man cheated, stealing, but today he shares in Adam’s healing.

Chariots of Egypt are drowned with fear, while humanity’s sins are washed away by tears. Zacchaeus descends from his post, to be a gracious host for Salvation.

Katavasia: The sun shed its rays upon dry land in the middle of the sea. The water on both sides stood firm as a wall while Israel walked across. They sang this hymn pleasing to God: Let us praise the Lord, for he has been greatly glorified.

Ode 3:
Irmos: Let us sing to the Son begotten of the Father without change before all ages. Let us cry aloud to Christ our God, incarnate from the virgin without seed in these latter days: you have exalted our horn, holy are you, O Lord.

Chase far from us the ancient errors. Remove from us death’s fearful terrors. Zacchaeus surrenders his money and power, finding life in the towers of the sycamore.

“Hasten down, Zacchaeus, my friend, make amends now to all your victims.” The Teacher says: Now Life will eat dinner with a repentant sinner.

Anna’s prayers were heard by Immanuel, who granted her a son, the prophet Samuel. Zacchaeus sealed his prayers by an ascension, and was healed by divine condescension.

Katavasia: O Lord, the solid rock of those who place their trust in you, strengthen the Church which you have purchased with your precious blood..

Sessional Hymn
O all-compassionate Creator, in your mercy you made Zacchaeus short of stature. O happy lack of height, which drew the tax-collector to climb the sycamore tree to see the Messiah. It brought him to repentance as he heard the sweet words of Jesus, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
Glory, Now and ever …

Ode 4:
Irmos:
O Christ, the rod from Jesse’s root and its flower, you blossomed from the virgin; praiseworthy one, from the overshadowed shady mountain. You came in the flesh from her who knew not man. God, not made of matter, glory to your power, O Lord!

Emmaus welcomed a stranger who opened the eyes of Luke and Cleopas. Though God was a stranger to the tax-collector, in Jericho Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus, who forgave his trespasses.

Under the sycamore tree with its silly fruit, Zacchaeus began the folly of repentance, for through the foolishness of the Cross, you have filled the whole world with wisdom.

Sister to Mary, Martha troubled herself with household tasks, but my soul is in need of such a cleansing that I may hear the Lord when he asks, “Today I must stay at your house.”

Katavasia: O Christ, your virtue has filled the heavens. You were born from an all-pure Mother, the Ark of your majesty, and you now enter the Temple of your glory as an infant in arms; and the whole world has been filled with your praises.

Ode 5:
Irmos:
O God of peace and Father of mercies, you sent us the angel of your great counsel to grant us peace. Thereby, we have been led toward the light of divine knowledge and rising out of the night, we glorify you, O Lover of us all. .

In Jericho, two blind men received their sight because of their faith. Today in Jericho repentant Zacchaeus sees the Son of God and receives enlightenment.

Seeking God by climbing a tree, Zacchaeus was amazed to find him here below, for the Lord has lowered the heavens and took human flesh.

Shamefully Zacchaeus committed idolatry, worshiping money rather than the one true God, but today he throws off the burden of wealth, welcoming the Son of God into his house, with prostitutes and his fellow tax collectors entering first into the kingdom of heaven.

Katavasia: In a vision Isaiah saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, surrounded by angels of glory, and he cried out: Woe is me! For I have seen in advance the incarnate God, the light that knows no evening, and the King of peace.

Ode 6:
Irmos: Taking pity on Jonah, the sea monster that took him kept him like an infant from the womb. The Word which inhabited the Virgin and took flesh, came forth from her and kept her incorrupt. He underwent no change, and kept intact the one who bore him.

Ascending the pine, the cedar and the cypress, Jesus works salvation in the middle of the earth. Zacchaeus ascends the sycamore and receives divine salvation.

Victory over sin! Jesus’ path through the Jordan to Jericho crushes the heads of the serpents in the water. Zacchaeus ascends with Jesus, each branch of the tree a step to higher virtue. The sycamore becomes a tree of life, a vantage point for God.

Eating the fruit of the tree, Adam and Eve were cursed. Zacchaeus, however, climbed the tree and was blessed by the Creator of all.

Katavasia: When Simeon beheld with his own eyes the salvation which was to come to the people, he cried out to God: O Christ, who comes from God, you are truly my God..

Kontakion:
Today Jesus sees the tax-collector in the sycamore tree. Today the Son of Man saves the repentant son of Abraham. Today the Lord baptized in the Jordan seeks and saves what was lost. Rejoice, O city of Jericho, you beheld the entrance of Joshua but now receive the Lord Jesus who takes away the sin of the world. Rejoice, O Zacchaeus, for salvation has come to your home.

Ikos:
O Lord, you are good and forgiving, full of love to all who call. Today you forgive the repentant Zacchaeus, who has turned from his love of money and, with great desire, has sought you, the Seeker of the lost. Therefore, we cry out:
Rejoice, all you children of Abraham, for God’s promise has been fulfilled;
Rejoice, all who receive God’s mercy;
Rejoice, for the Savior has overlooked our sins;
Rejoice, O Jericho, for you are now the city of salvation;
Rejoice, Zacchaeus, for you once loved riches but now you love the poor;
Rejoice, Zacchaeus, for you restore righteousness with those you once cheated;
Rejoice, Zacchaeus, for by climbing the sycamore tree you have seen what the prophets longed to see;
Rejoice, O Zacchaeus, for salvation has come to your home.

Ode 7:

Irmos: The youths brought up together in piety, despised the order of the impious king. Undaunted by the threat of fire, they stood in the midst of the flames and sang this hymn: Blessed are you, O God of our fathers.

Disdaining the crowd, O Lord, you gazed upon the tax collector high in the sycamore tree. The crowd was astonished that Jesus entered the house of a sinner, but the Physician of souls revealed: Today salvation has come to this son of Abraham.

Behold, salvation now enters the city of Jericho. Behold, salvation has come to the house of Zacchaeus, the son of Abraham. May that same Salvation enter our hearts and our homes.

You came to Jericho through the waters of the Jordan, accepting baptism for our sake. You cleansed the sins of the tax collector, purify us as we pass through the dry bed of the waters of the fast.

Katavasia: We praise with fervor the Word of God who sent down dew upon the youths in the furnace as they spoke about heavenly things and who has now taken flesh from the pure Virgin. We sing to him: blessed are you, O God of our fathers.

Ode 8:

Irmos: The fire cooled like dew, miraculously, foreshadowed a great marvel. For it did not burn the youths it received, nor did the fire of divinity burn the Virgin’s womb by entering it. Therefore, let us strike up a hymn and sing: Let all creation bless and exalt the Lord forever.

Charged with corruption, the philosopher of old drank hemlock from the sycamore and died. The corrupt tax-collector climbs the sycamore and lives, for he saw Christ, the Redeemer of creation.

Home to Mary and Martha, Bethany welcomed the Master, the Giver of life for his friend Lazarus. In Jericho, Zacchaeus welcomed the Lord, who dined at his home in a banquet of life.

Repentance is a long and difficult road, yet when the divine Eye saw you, O Zacchaeus, in a flash, in an instant you distributed the fruits of your transformation to those whom you before had cheated.

Katavasia: The three youths stood together in the unendurable fire, unharmed by the flame. As defenders of righteousness, they sang a hymn of praise: O all you works of the Lord, bless the Lord and glorify him above all forever.

Ode 9:
Irmos: I see a strange and marvelous mystery: heaven is a cave; the cherubic throne, a virgin; the manger has become the place in which Christ the incomprehensible God lies down. Let us praise him and extol him.

In Jericho, the blast of trumpets is not heard, for it is not Joshua the Warrior who enters the city. Jesus now comes, to conquer the sins of the tax-collector who desired to see God.

Shortness of stature forced Zacchaeus to climb a tree to see the Savior. May the lowliness of our sins move us to climb the ladder of repentance.

There is no one who touches Christ and remains unchanged. Zacchaeus, clinging to the sycamore tree, sees Jesus and becomes a saint. Bring us to the land of holiness as we struggle to chant worthy hymns.

Katavasia: O faithful, let us recognize the figure of Christ foreshadowed in the letter of the Law which says: Every male child who opens the womb is sanctified to God. Therefore, the first born Word and Son of the Father without beginning, the first-born of a mother who had not known man: him, let us extol.

Hymn of Light

Gospel Sticheron

Glory …
Zacchaeus imitated poorly the ascension of our Lord, yet found glory on the tree-top. O my poor soul, imitate his repentance, so that climbing the ladder of virtue by the grace of God, you may eat of the fruit of the tree of life.

Now and ever … (Theotokion of the Gospel)

At the Praises: 8 stichera of the Resurrection Tone
At sticheron 7:
v. I shall praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I shall declare all your wondrous deeds.
At sticheron 8:
v. I will rejoice in you and be glad, and sing psalms to your name, O Most High.
Then:
v. Arise, O Lord my God, lift up your hand, do not forget your poor forever

Leaving the banks of the Jordan for the city of Jericho, let us bury our sins of anger and fury and malice beneath the river’s waves. Let us climb the tree to catch a glimpse of our Savior, coming in due time to the day of Pascha. Bestow on us the grace of repentance, O merciful and compassionate Master.

v. Glory …. Gospel sticheron.

v. Now and ever … You are truly most blessed …

Christmas Fast

The Feast of Light: Meditations.
The Feast of Light, beginning with the preparation for Christmas on November 15 and consisting of the Holy Days of Christmas, Theophany
and the Encounter with Simeon and Anna, is a very large part of the spirituality of our faith in God: One in the Holy Trinity. It is not simply a sentimental feast, as outward celebration of events that happened in history, but an encounter with God in the depths of our being. This book is a series of meditations, in a world that is sometimes very dark and confusing, on what it means to be a follower of Christ, a Christian today.

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A MESSAGE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT

A MESSAGE ON THE ENVIRONMENT
Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch today, the foremost Christian leaders, said, in a joint statement:

“However, “in the meantime”, the history of the world presents a very different context. It reveals a morally decaying scenario where our attitude and behaviour towards creation obscures our calling as God’s co-operators. Our propensity to interrupt the world’s delicate and balanced ecosystems, our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources, and our greed for limitless profit in markets – all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation. We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead, we regard it as a private possession. We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs.”

In this paragraph, which I have chosen to cite, there is no mention of “climate change.” I make this observation because there are many on the political right who claim that climate change is a myth – though, in my opinion, these people would be like the medievalists who claimed the earth was flat. The statements of the two most prominent leaders of the church is not a scientific statement, it is a theological statement. How are we to interpret Genesis 1:28: “God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth,” or “The heavens belong to the Lord, but he has given the earth to men. (Psalm 115:16)” They are teaching us clearly that it does not mean to exploit the earth as we wish. We, instead, are stewards, co-operators with God, who wisely harvest the earth and preserve its beauty. This is the authentic teaching of the Church.

Did not Pope Francis say, “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” (Laudato Si 21) We who have lived in Detroit (auto factories); Pittsburgh (steel mills), Akron (rubber factories), or Cleveland (the pollution of Lake Erie, the burning of the Cuyahoga River) know from experience how ugly we can make the world and its air and water. I have a very dear friend who once lectured me for twenty minutes about the myth of “climate change,” but finally admitted that, yes, we should have ecological controls to insure clean air, clean water, healthy food. We cannot allow the gains we have made in these areas to be lost to an unbridled “profit motive” that would exploit the resources God has given us in His infinite wisdom.

On a political note, I am disheartened about some of the policies of Trump and his secretive EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, which J. R. R. Tolkien may have foreshadowed in his story of Saruman and Wormtongue in the Shire: “And looking with dismay up the road towards Bag End they (the hobbit travellers) saw a tall chimney of brick in the distance. It was pouring out black smoke into the evening air” (J. R. R. Tolkien, Return of the King, “The Scouring of the Shire.”) I meditated on this: Central to the Christian Gospel is the return to paradise and the removal of the curse on Adam and Eve. “No longer does the flaming sword guard the gates of Eden, for the tree of the cross has come to quench it wondrously.” (Kontakion, Veneration of the Holy Cross) Technology is a divine gift that can create a paradise, but could also be used for uncurbed exploitation of the world’s resources in order to make a profit. We deny climate change to justify this exploitation, which is a great sin. We must be good stewards of the gifts we have received, and not show partiality to the rich. (James 2:2) My prayer is that Mary’s gospel can be fulfilled, “He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty.” (Luke 1:52-53) This is sung daily in the Church.

The Orthodox Church has an office for this day (September 1). The Troparion: “Lord and Savior, who as God brought all things into being by a word, establishing laws and gioverning them unerringly to your glory, at the prayers of the Mother of God, keep secure and unharmed all the elements which hold the earth together, and save the universe.” (Tone 4, translation by Ephrem Lash.)

THE FEAST OF THE DORMITION

The feast of the Dormition is celebrated from August 14 to August 23. It has one day of Vigil (August 14) and a post-festive period of eight days. During this period the texts of the Octoechos are omitted, except on the Sunday after Dormition, August 20, which is the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost. Stichera from Resurrection Tone 2 and Gospel stichera for Gospel 11 are sung together with the post-festive stichera of the Dormition, according to the rules of the Typicon (Format 16).

August 14 is the pre-feast (vigil) of the Dormition. The Melkites and Greeks commemorate the Holy Prophet Micah on this day. The Holy Prophet Micah foresaw the birth of Christ from Mary: “But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathaha, least among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne, then the rest of his kindred shall return to the children of Israel. (5:1-2)” This is read on the vigil of the feast of Christmas. He is also a prophet of peace: “He shall judge between many peoples and set terms for strong and distant nations; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. (4:3)”

Slav Churches remember our Holy Father Theodosius of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev (Pecherskaya Lavra). His main commemoration is on May 3, his falling asleep in the Lord in 1074. This day is the commemoration of the transfer of his relics from his graves in the caves to the Church of the Theotokos that he had built. This transfer was in 1019 in the presence of the Great Prince Vsevolod and the Hegumen John. This feast is an optional celebration. If it is observed it is celebrated as a Polyeleos Feast (Common11), a rare occurrence on a day of vigil. As a result, at Vespers, instead of five stichera for the Saint, only three are sung, together with three of the pre-feast, and the apostichera are for the vigil pre-feast, with the doxasticheron for the saint.

August 14 is the final day of the Dormition Fast. The day of fasting lasts from midnight to midnight. This fast may be kept in our ordinary life by eating moderately and abstaining from meat or from meat and dairy products.

The Feast of the Dormition of Mary is called the Assumption (into heaven) in the Roman Catholic Church. “Dormitio” is actually a Latin word for “falling asleep,” which is “koimēsis,” (Κοίμησις) in Greek (“falling asleep’). ‘Falling asleep” is here “falling asleep in death in the Lord.” The Roman Catholic Church is not determinate as to whether Mary physically died, but the Byzantine Church is clear that she died and was then taken up into heaven. The event is not recorded in Scripture. The liturgy for the day is from apocryphal works: the Transitus Mariae from the sixth century (text in www.bibleprobe.com/transitusmariae.htm) and the Dormition of Mary by John of Thessalonica, in On the Dormition of Mary, edited by Brian Daley (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1998, ISBN-13:9780881411775.

Vestment colors are not a part of the regular typicon notices, which concern the order of the propers at services. Certainly, the Great Feast of the Dormition is celebrated in bright, festive colors. In many branches of the Byzantine Church, feast of the Theotokos are celebrated in blue vestments. This derives from the Spanish tradition of blue vestments for the Virgin Mary. However, many branches of the Byzantine Church, even Orthodox, now have blue vestments. Blue vestments are the color used in the Byzantine Ruthenian Church from August 15 to 23.

This feast is one of the Twelve Great Feasts, and as such, all texts for this day are from the Menaion. A particularity of this feast is that at the Stichera at Psalm 140 of Vespers, the doxasticheron (at “Glory … Now and ever … “) is a long and complicated hymn with each passage sung according to a different samohlasen tone. This is very difficult for a cantor to perform properly, so the Metropolitan Cantor’s Institute simply gives the music for the text in Tone 1 (http://mci.archpitt.org/sheetmusic/general/08-15_Dormition_Vespers_pod.pdf). The breakdown of the hymns in the various tones is found in The Festal Menaion (translated by Mother Mary and Kallistos Ware (Faber and Faber, London, 1969), p. 507.

The Divine Liturgy on this day is for a Great Feast of the Theotokos. The great feasts of our Lord have proper antiphons for the day, but the feasts of the Theotokos use the daily antiphons (unless, of course, they fall on Sunday). However, the modern Greek/Melkite tradition have proper antiphons also for the Marian feasts. For the Dormition:
“First Antiphon (Psalms 99:2,4;47:9;75:3)
Refrain. Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Saviour, save us!
v 1. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Know that the Lord is God. Bless his name.
v 2. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God.
v 3. His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling-place in Zion.

Second Antiphon (Psalms 86:1,2,3,5)
v 1. On the holy mount stands the city he founded. Glorious things are spoken of you, O City of God.
v 2. The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
v 3. The Most High himself will establish it for ever.

Third Antiphon (Psalms 56:8; 115:12,13)
v 1. My heart is steadfast, O Lord, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and chant praises.
v 2. How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done to me?
v 3. I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.

As these are mixed from various psalms, it is clear that they are of recent introduction. Moreover, there is no proper Entrance Hymn, but the daily Entrance Hymn is used.

The Melkites also have introduced a proper Antiphon Prayer for the feast, said in place of the Prayer at the Antiphons before the Entrance:
“O God Almighty, you gave us your most holy Mother Mary as a mother for us all and transferred her, body and soul, from this world to heaven’s glory. We ask you through her intercession to inflame our hearts with the fire of your love so that we may always seek the heavenly blessings and reach the glory of Resurrection. For you are our Life, and our Resurrection O Christ God, and to you we render glory and to your eternal Father and your All-holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit, now and always and forever and ever. Amen.”

At the end of the Liturgy, it has become the custom to bless flowers. Originally this was the blessing of first-fruits in the Church of the Theotokos at Blachernae in Constantinople by the Patriarch. There were two prayers. “O God our Savior, you were pleased to call … “ and 2) “Lord of powers, King of glory … , “ no longer used. (The Greek is in L’Euchologio Barberini gr. 336, edited by Stepfano Parenti and Elena Velkovska, Edizioni Liturgiche, Rome, 1995, pp. 200-201).
It was the custom on Mount Athos to bless olives on every major feast day at Vespers after the Blessing of the Bread and at the end of Matins. (cf. Placido De Meester, Rituale-Benedizioni Bizantino, Rome, 1929, pp. 504-507. This blessing then transformed into a blessing of medicinal herbs which were much needed to combat the increase of infections in the “dog days” of August. This is the blessing found in the Euchologion by Fr. Demetrius Wysochansky (Hamtramck, 1986), p. 301. It clearly states: “In your infinite goodness you ordained that these plants serve not onlyas food for the animals, but also as medicine for the sick.” Therefore, it evidently is not a blessing of “flowers.” However, since in modern times, the danger from infectious diseases has lessened, it has now been transformed into a blessing of flowers, in accord with the legend that the Holy Apostle Thomas came to the funeral of Mary late, on the third day after her burial, so the apostles opened the grave to show him her body, but it was not there, and the grave was filled with flowers. The Synaxarion only says that they opened the grave, and the body of Mary was not there, having been taken into glory, and the Transitus Mariae tells a different story, and mentions only that “a perfume of sweet savor came forth out of the holy sepulcher.” In any case, it is now a blessing of flowers, and the prayer for the blessing of medicinal herbs was rewritten:

Deacon: :Let us pray to the Lord.
People: Lord, have mercy.
Priest: All-powerful and eternal God, by your word you have made all things, visible and invisible, the heavens, the earth and the sea. You caused a countless variety of flowers, herbs and trees to sprout up to satisfy our need for nourishment, health and beauty. With our minds and hearts we ask of you: in your kindness bless these flowers which we bring before you on the feast of the falling asleep of the most blessed Virgin Mary. For we offer you not only flowers but the good works and prayers of the Virgin Mary, who was taken from us into heaven on this day, leaving in her tomb flowers as a sign of the fullness of life she has received with you. May these flowers, a sign of your love for humanity, be for us always a memory of the blessed and new and eternal life you have promised and given to the human race. As we give these flowers to each other, grant that we also give kindness and love to each other, that in our community and in our world there may be peace in our age and that we may always keep the world you have given into our care beautiful and healthful. Through the mercy, gace and loving-kindness of your only-begotten Son, with whom you are blessed, together with your all-holy, good and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and forever.
R: Amen.
Priest: Peace be to all.
People: And to your spirit.
Deacon: Bow your heads to the Lord.
People: To you, O Lord.
Priest: O our God, you took the rod of Jesse, the Mother of your Son into heaven on this day that by her help and prayers, we would be partakers of the fruit of her womb, your Son. We fervently pray that by the power of her Son, and by the help of his Mother, we who have the care of the fruits of this earth may be made worthy of eternal life. For you are our God, and we give glory to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever.
People: Amen.
Priest: These flowers are blessed by the sprinkling of this holy water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Melkite Church, with reservations, has approved two other prayers for the blessing of flowers on this day, noting that it was not a Melkite custom, but that has become a popular custom, especially in America. These two prayers are:
“Lord God almighty, You fill all things with Your Word. You commanded the earth to bring forth fruit in due season, and You gave it to mankind for our joy and life. By Your Holy Spirit, bless + now these flowers which have been brought before You in this holy temple to honor the Falling Asleep of the Mother of Your only Son. Purify from all defilement these, Your servants, who receive them, and fill their houses with all fragrance. May all who receive these flowers obtain protection of body and soul; and may Your healing grace be a remedy for our salvation.
-For all glory, honor and worship are Your due, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and always and for ever and ever.”
R. Amen.
“These flowers are blessed and sanctified by the descent of the all-holy Spirit and the sprinkling of holy water, in the name of the Father + and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
R. Amen.

Blessing of Flowers Prayer by Abouna Alam Alam

Deacon: let us pray to the Lord.
People: Lord have mercy.
Priest: Lord Jesus Christ, our God, You admired the lilies of the fields and asked us to imitate them by putting aside worldly cares and depending on your Divine Providence. We ask you to bless these flowers which were offered in honor of your All-holy Mother, the Ever-virgin Mary, on the occasion of her passing to the heavenly glory. Accept, O Lord, these flowers as a sweet fragrance. Fill the hearts of those who offered them and those who will receive them with love for You and for your Holy Mother who is also the heavenly Mother of us all. And through her intercession, make us worthy to cast off the old man and put on the new man created in your
likeness.
For You are the source of all holiness, O Christ God, and to You we render glory and to your Eternal Father and your All-Holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit, now and always and forever and ever.

There is another particular custom connected with the feast of the Dormition: the Procession of the Burial Shroud of the Theotokos. A Melkite web site recounts the evolution of this rite:
“The first record of such a service performed outside Jerusalem dates from the fifteenth century. In Russia rectors of churches dedicated to the Mother of God were encouraged to erect a tomb or bier on the solea in which the icon of the feast could be enshrined. Matins could then be served before this tomb. It was also in the fifteenth century that the lamentations on the burial of Christ were composed in Jerusalem. They are sung today in the Orthros of Holy Saturday, one of the more popular moments in the rites of the Holy Week in the Greek and Middle Eastern Churches. Due to the interaction of Greeks and Italians in this period we often see a burial of Christ service, including the Greek melodies of the Lamentations, used by Italian and Spanish Roman Catholics as well. Around one hundred years later, in 1541. the Greek Metropolitan Dionysios of Old Patras in western Greece composed the service for the burial of the Theotokos, in imitation of the service for the burial of Christ. It is this service which has spread throughout the Byzantine world today. At first the principal image used in this service was the icon of the Dormition, as in Jerusalem. As the burial of the Theotokos came to be celebrated as imitation of the Burial of Christ, use of the shroud of the Theotokos became popular.”
(melkite.org/faith/sunday-scriptures/the-burial-of-the-theotokos)

I have not inserted the rubrics for this service in my Typicon. The service is controversial because it draws perhaps too close a likeness between the resurrection of our Lord and the assumption of Mary. The service is modeled on Holy Saturday Matins. The Eparchy of Parma has a text for this service, without author or date. I believe it was put together by the monks at St. Michael’s in Akron, Ohio, sometime in the 1980’s. The booklet is entitled The Burial Service of Praise in Honor of the Ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of God: Feast of Her Dormition. The office is inserted into Matins of the Feast of Dormition in place of the Menaion Kathismata. The procession is done first, with the repeated singing of a Troparion, to which may be added versicles from the Song of Songs. Then, in place of the Kathismata, three stations are sung, the priests holding candle, in imitation of the Stations at Holy Saturday Matins. The faithful come forward to venerate the burial shroud of the Theotokos. The priest then censes around the tomb as the “Hosts of Angels” for the Theotokos is sung, the tomb and flowers are then blessed with holy water. The faithful come at the end of Matins to venerate the burial shroud with the image of the Theotokos in repose. There are actually many different versions of the service, including, for example, a procession at the Great Doxology as in Holy Saturday Matins for the burial shroud of our Lord. One may search the internet for information. A translation of the stations may be found at: http://www.monachos.net/library/index.php/liturgics/texts/678-theotokos-dormition-lamentations-burial.

The day after the Dormition, August 16 is the commemoration of “The Translation of the Icon of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, the Icon not made by human hands, from Edessa to Constantinople in the year 944. The image is called the “Mandylion.” It is called the third feast of our Lord in August (August 1, the procession of the Cross, in the Russian Church, the feats of the All-merciful Savior, and August 6, the Transfiguration are the first two. )The image itself is based on an apocryphal story found in Eusebius’ Church History. The king of Edessa, Abgar, was sick and asked for healing. Jesus could not go to Edessa, but imprinted an image of his face on a cloth which he sent to the king. It healed him by his touch. This icon was transferred by the Emperor Constantine Pophryogenitus (912-959). Edessa was held by Moslem Arabs, and the emperor ransomed it for a large sum and had it brought to Constantinople. It is this latter historical event that is commemorated today.

It is generally recognized today that the story is apocryphal, but the image is greatly venerated in the Byzantine Church. In an article for the National Catholic Register, (http://www.ncregister.com/blog/tmcdonald/did-jesus-write-a-letter) Thomas L. McDonald writes:
“Although a fake, the Abgar Letter letter not only reveals something about an early Christian community, but was believed to be real by many in the early Church, and even found its way into liturgical use. Dismissing the entire story as mere legend is not only unhelpful but foolish. As historian Steven Runcimen sharply observes in “Some Remarks on the Image of Edessa”: “Historians should not be so much victims to their skepticism as to dismiss a legend as false, unless they can suggest how it was that the false legend arose; for legends are seldom born like Pallas Athene full-grown and fully accoutered from one inventive brain …. The connection of letter, legend, and Mandylion became important in the early Eastern church, and was given further credibility by John Damascene in his defense of icons. Abgar (who was certainly a genuine figure and a convert to Christianity) is regarded as a saint the Eastern Orthodox, Syrian, and Armenian Churches. He’s even shown on Armenian money with a flag bearing the Mandylion. The letter was used in liturgy, with mentions in collects as far away as Ireland in the 11th century. The letter doesn’t represent a genuine letter of Jesus Christ, but it has a rich and fascinating history all its own.”

Some modern writers have tried to identify this with the Shroud of Turin, taken by the Crusaders from Constantinople. The mandylion was indeed lost, but the circumstances are not historically known. One speculation is that the image was lost at sea. (See oca.org/saints/lives/2015/08/16)
It is also very similar to the legend of Veronica’s Veil, which appeared in the West in the early Middle Ages. A woman ministered to Jesus as he carried his cross, and when she wiped his face with a towel, his image was left imprinted. The woman’s name, “Veronica,” is from the words “vera icona,” that is “true image.” “Vera” is true in Latin and “icona” is image in Greek. Perhaps this story was inspired by the earlier Byzantine story.

In the Typicon, the feast is commemorated in all Byzantine churches, but there is an option to celebrate it either as a feast with a Vigil (Format 12), with readings, litija and a Matins Gospel, but it may also be observed as an ordinary commemoration, but with the singing of the Great Doxology at Matins, and stichera at the Praises (Format 10). It is combined with stichera for the post-feast of the Dormition, and blue vestments are worn. There is no commemoration in the dismissal, only for the feast of the Dormition. There is likewise, a choice of Epistles, either Colossians 1:12-18 or 2 Corinthians 3:4-11.

The Troparion for this feast, “We bow before your sacred image … “ is used frequently in the Byzantine Liturgy, e.g. for the Sunday of Orthodoxy, at the Prayers before the Icon Screen in the Divine Liturgy, and in the Octoechos for Tone 2, which perhaps is its origin, et al. The propers for the saint of this day, the Holy Martyr Diomedes, are sung at Compline.

There are other important commemorations in the post-festive days. August 20 is the feast of the Holy Prophet Samuel, who is commemorated in the stichera at Psalm 140, and after the Third Ode in Matins, as this day falls on Sunday this year. It is also the commemoration of the Holy Stephen, King of Hungary (997-1038). This feast has long been celebrated by the Byzantine Hungarians, but there is also a Slav office for him. St. Stephen first followed the Byzantine tradition, but became Roman Catholic for political reasons. He did live before the traditional date of the schism (1054), and is recognized by both Catholics and Orthodox. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has a great veneration of him, and has composed an office for his feast. Troparion (Tone 1): “O holy Stephen, you were recognized as a gentle and pious king who loved what is good. You dedicated the scepter of your kingdom to God. With the Cross as your weapon, you subjected the people of Hungary to him. Now you lead them in triumph in heaven with the angels. Glory to Christ who chose you. Glory to Christ who gave you strength. Glory to Christ who anointed you mystically with the oil of unction.”

August 21 is the commemoration of the Holy Father Pius X (1903-1914). He was a promoter of eucharistic reform, and lowered the age of First Communion, and fostered frequent Holy Communion, a liturgical principle supported by both East and West. He commended the Byzantine practice of giving Communion to all the baptized, even infants, but felt he did what he could at the time. He reformed the Canon Law of the Roman Church, and was also a staunch opponent of what was called “Modernism.” He was canonized by the Roman Church in 1954. One parish in the Pittsburgh Archeparchy is dedicated in his name, which would keep this day as its patronal feastday (Format 11). There is no office for him in the Byzantine Church that I know of, but liturgical texts would be found in the Common for a Bishop.

​THE CELEBRATION OF THE FEAST OF TRANSFIGURATION

The Transfiguration of our Lord is found in the Holy Gospels of Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8 and Luke 9:28-36. “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.” The Transfiguration is celebrated forty days before the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, according to the tradition that the divine glory of the Lord was revealed to his disciples forty days before his crucifixion, in order to strengthen them for the Passion which was to follow.

The feast of the Transfiguration is one of the Great Feasts of our Lord. This year, it falls on Sunday, and Great Feasts of the Lord supercede Sunday, since they are pre-eminent celebrations of the Paschal Mystery. Therefore, the texts of Sunday Resurrection Tone 8 are set aside on this day, and only the feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated. However, the First Kathisma, “Blessed is the man … “ is sung, even though this is not usual for a Feast of the Lord, and the Saturday evening Prokeimenon is also sung. At Matins, however, the Sunday texts of the “Host of Angels,” the Resurrection Prokeimenon and Gospel and its Hymn of Light and Doxasticheron at the Psalms of Praise, the Prayer, “Having beheld the resurrection of Christ …, “ and the Resurrection Troparion for Tone 8 at the Great Doxology are all omitted. The Divine Liturgy is all for the Feast of the Transfiguration, and only its Antiphons, Troparion, Kontakion, Prokeimenon, Epistle, Aleluia, Gospel, Exaltation in the Anaphora, Communion Hymn and dismissal are sung or read.

The texts from the Octoechos are sung during the entire post-feast (August 7-13), but the Octoechos for Tone 1 is sung together with the Feast on the day of leave-taking (August 13) according to the rules of the Typicon. Therefore, observe that Tone 8 and Resurrection Gospel 9 for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost are passed over.

At Matins, according to the Slav usage, the Irmosi of the Feast of the Transfiguration, the first Canon, are sung as the Katavasiai at the Odes of the Canon at Matins from August 7-13. On the Feast itself (August 6, as well as the preceding days, August 1-5) the katavasiai are from the Canon of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. In Greek usage, the irmosi are from the Feast of the Transfiguration are also sung from July 27, the Feast of the Holy Great Martyr Panteleimon until July 31.

The Feast of the Transfiguration has a proper Ambon Prayer, which is read on August 6, and may be read throughout the feast until August 13:

“Master Jesus Christ our God, lead us upon the all-holy mountain of love, just as you led your chief disciples upon a lofty mountain.  Open the eyes of our minds to a sight of  indescribable beauty, just as you did for your  apostles when you surrounded your bodily form with unexpected brightness, for you revealed the radiance  of your Godhead through your flesh.  Guide us also into higher things by your all-powerful  right hand. You changed your visible form beyond our power of understanding; now make our senses aware of the might of your Lordship witnessed by Moses and Elijah.  Give us an unfailing memory of the voice of your  eternal Father revealing you as his beloved Son, so that, putting your commandments into action, we may shine forth among those worthy of your immortal kingdom, and see in you the eternal Father, with whom you are blessed, together with your all-holy, good and life-creating Spirit, now and  ever and forever.”

On the Feast of the Transfiguration, it is customary to bless fruit.  This is done immediately after the “Amen” of the Ambon Prayer.  This is because the Ambon Prayer was the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, and the Hymn, “Blessed be the name of the Lord … “ was a part of the rite of the Antidoron and dismissal from the Liturgy which follows. The blessing of fruit is not immediately connected with the mystery of the Transfiguration, but this date was selected because it was around the time that grapes became ripe in Mediterranean lands.  The blessing of fruit was directed by Canon 84 attributed to the Patriarch Nicephor (11th century).  Fr. Placido de Meester in his work on Byzantine blessings (published 1929, in Italian) says that the date was established in monasteries as early as the tenth century. (p. 500).  Here he notes that the same blessing the Roman sacramentaries, the Gregorian and the Gelsasian, contain the same blessing, but that he believes the Greek text was the original, which was taken by the West and translated into Latin.

Most priests will probably use the blessing found in the Euchologion pubished in Hamtramck, by Father Demetrius Wysochansky.  The original blessing was of grapes, the main fruit in Greece, but the Russians also blessed apples, since grapes did not grow that well, and today, the blessing has been extended to all sorts of fruit.  The Hamtramck Euchologion gives two prayers of blessing for first fruits (pp. 298-299), then adds separately a Prayer for the blessing of grapes and a blessing for those who bring the first-fruits.  The priest may choose which prayers are best for the pastoral needs of the parish.

For The Lord To Act : A Catechetical Commentary On The Divine Liturgy

Corrections in the book:

P. 4 – third line from bottom: “Partial” should be “parcel”
P. 24 – 4th line from bottom – omit “a world” – should read, “another world, a truly divine and human habitat”
P. 26 – 5th line from bottom – add “that”: “but a mystery that has been solved”
P. 37, l. 2 – add “because”: “a real, living sacrifice because there is a spirit of sacrifice”
P. 89, final paragraph, line 5 – add “Church” – “the general position of prayer in the early Church was to … “
P. 129 – section, Holy Gifts to Holy People, section, line 4 – the Greek should be transliterated – “ta Hagia tois hagiois”
P. 140, last full paragraph, line 6: – replace “And so” with “Therefore, …
P. 142 – line 1 – omit “prayers or” – “There were originally no further blessings … “

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