28 May 2013

Meso-Pentecost or Mid-Pentecost

Mid-Pentecost or Midfeast, also Meso-Pentecost (from Greek: Μεσοπεντηκοστή); Russian: Преполове́ние Пятидеся́тницы is a feast day which occurs during the Paschal season in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Mid-Pentecost celebrates the midpoint between the Feasts of Pascha (Easter) and Pentecost. Specifically, it falls on the 25th day of Pascha. At the feast of Mid-Pentecost, a Small Blessing of the Waters is traditionally performed after the liturgy of the feast.

Mid-Pentecost is a one-week feast which begins on the 4th Wednesday of Pascha, and continues until the following Wednesday. That is to say, it has an Afterfeast of seven days. Throughout these eight days (including the day of the feast) hymns of Mid-Pentecost are joined to those of the Paschal season. Many of the hymns from the first day of the feast are repeated on the Apodosis (leave-taking of the feast). Although it is ranked as a Feast of the Lord and has an Afterfeast, Mid-Pentecost itself is not considered to be one of the Great Feasts of the church year.

The liturgical texts for the feast are found in the Pentecostarion (the liturgical book containing propers for the period from Pascha to Pentecost). There are three Old Testament readings appointed for Vespers; but, uniquely, no Matins Gospel. In some places an All-Night Vigil is celebrated for this feast, though a Vigil is not called for in the Typicon (book of rubrics). At the Divine Liturgy, the reading from the Apostle is Acts 14:6-18.

The theme of the feast is Christ as Teacher, based upon the words from the Gospel of the day (John 7:14-30): "Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught...Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself."

While the Gospel refers to the Feast of Sukkot (Greek: Σκηνοπηγία), the icon of the feast depicts the young Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem speaking with the Elders (Luke 2:46-47), the first biblical example of Jesus as teacher (Rabbi). In traditional Orthodox icons of this subject, the figure of Jesus is depicted larger than those of the Elders, showing his superior spiritual status.

The Troparion of the Feast hints at the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan Woman, which will be celebrated on the following Sunday:
In the middle of the Feast, O Savior, fill my thirsting soul with the waters of godliness, as Thou didst cry to all: 'If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink' (John 7:37). O Christ God, Fountain of our life, glory be to Thee!
The scripture verse from John 7, quoted by the Troparion, will be read on the day of Pentecost.

A Small Blessing of Waters and Fields happens on this day.

Mid-Pentecost, has historically been the Altar Feast of the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (Istanbul).

12 May 2013

The Repose of St. John the Theologian according to the testimony of St. Prochorus, his disciple and one of the original seven deacons of the Church

In our first visit to Ephesus, we were there for nine years, and then spent fifteen years of exile in Patmos. After twenty-six years had passed from the time we came from Patmos to Ephesus again, John came out of the house of Domnus and assembled seven of his disciples – myself and six others – and said to us: “Take spades in your hands and follow me.”

So we did as we were instructed and followed him outside the city to a certain place, where he said: “Sit down.” He then went a little apart from us to where it was quiet and began to pray. It was very early in the morning; the sun had not quite risen. After his prayer he said to us: “Dig with your spade a cross-shaped trench as long as I am tall.” So we did it while he prayed. After he had finished his prayer, he laid himself in the trench we had dug, and then said to me: “Prochorus my son, you will go to Jerusalem. That is where you must end your life.” He then gave us instructions and embraced us, saying: “Take some earth, my mother earth, and cover me.” So we embraced again, and taking some earth, covered him only up to his knees. Once more, he embraced us, saying: “Take some more earth and cover me to the neck.” So we embraced him again and took some more earth and covered him up to the neck. Then he said to us: “Bring a thin veil and place it on my face, and embrace me again for the last time, for you shall not see me anymore in this life.” So we embraced the apostle again, grief-stricken.

We then returned to the city and were asked: “Where is our teacher?” So we explained what had just occurred in great detail. They begged us that we show them the site. Therefore, we went back to the grave with the brethren, but John was not there. Only his shoes were left behind. Then we remembered the words of the Lord to the Apostle Peter: “If I will that he tarry until I come, what is that to you?” And we all glorified God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to Whom is due glory, honor, and worship, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

07 May 2013

HOW TO: How One Should Pray in Church

The below is from the ROCOR Jordanville Prayer Book and may vary slightly from your local practice.

Orthodox Christians have received from the Holy Fathers and observe the following practice throughout the world:

1. Entering the holy temple and making the sign of the Cross upon oneself thrice, one makes a bow with each, saying:
  • "Thou hast created me, O Lord, have mercy."
  • "God be merciful to me a sinner."
  • "Countless times have I sinned, O Lord, forgive me."
2. Then, having bowed to the right and the left, one stands in one's place and listens to the psalms and prayers read in church, but one does not say to oneself other prayers of one's own choosing nor read them according to books different from the church chanting, for such things the holy Apostle Paul condemns as having forsaken the assembly of the Church (Hebrews 10:25).

3. Prostrations and bows should not be made according to one's inclination, but according to the regulations of the holy apostles and holy fathers, namely: at the reading of the Trisagion ("Holy God,"), "O come let us worship," and the threefold "Alleluia," one makes upon himself the sign of the Cross thrice, concluding with bows; likewise also at the reading: "Vouchsafe, O Lord," as well as at the beginning of the Great Doxology ("Glory to God in the highest,"), and after the words of the priest: "Glory to Thee, O Christ God, our hope." After each exclamation of the priest, and also at the reading by the reader of. "More honourable than the Cherubim," one makes the sign of the Cross and a bow. On weekdays prostrations are made at the Liturgy:

  • at the beginning of the chanting of "it is meet and right";
  • when the prayer "We praise Thee" is finished;
  • at the end of the prayer: "It is truly meet," or its substitute megalynarion;
  • at the beginning of the prayer "Our Father";
  • at the bringing forth of the Holy Gifts for Communion;
  • and at the words "Always, now and ever."
  • At Matins or Vigil, when "The Theotokos and Mother of the Light let us magnify in song" is exclaimed, we make a prostration.

4. On Sundays, and likewise from the day of Holy Pascha until Vespers on the day of Pentecost (i.e., the "Kneeling Service"), and also from the day of the Nativity of Christ until Theophany, and likewise on the day of Transfiguration and on the Exaltation (except before the Cross), the Holy Apostles utterly forbid kneeling and prostrations, concerning which St. Basil the Great testified in a letter to the Blessed Amphilochius. Thus also the First and Sixth Ecumenical Councils established; for Sundays and other feasts of the Lord serve as reminders of our adoption by God, according to the word of the Apostle: "Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son" (Galatians 4:7); for it is not proper for sons to make servile adoration.

5. Customarily, Orthodox Christians do not kneel, heads upright, but at the words of the priest (or deacon,: "Again and again, on bended knee," and the rest, they bow the face to the ground; the custom of kneeling at will, folding the arms, and beating oneself on the breast comes from the Western heretics, and in the Orthodox Church it is not allowed. Orthodox Christians, in accordance with the Church rule, make prostrations at the appointed times, bowing prone upon the ground and again standing on the feet.

6. In church, whenever the people are blessed with the Cross or the Gospel, with an icon or the chalice, they all make the sign of the Cross, bowing the head; but when blessed with candles, or the hand(s), or censed, Orthodox Christians ought not to make the sign of the Cross, but only bow the head. However, during the week of Holy Pascha when the priest censes with the Cross in his hand, then all make the sign of the Cross and answer: "Truly He is risen!" In this way ought we to distinguish between reverence toward holy things and toward persons, although they be of priestly rank.

7. When receiving a blessing from either a priest or a bishop, a Christian kisses the right hand of him who bestows the blessing, but does not make the sign of the Cross before doing so. It is not proper to kiss the left hand of clergy, for this is a Jewish usage, but the right hand with which the blessing is given. (One should bow down, touching the ground before receiving a blessing from a bishop or monastic priest, but not for married clergy)

8. According to the teaching of the Holy Fathers, the sign of the Cross should be made in the following manner: the thumb and first two fingers of the right hand are joined at their tips and the other fingers folded across the palm. We then touch the brow, the belly, and the right and left shoulders, and make a slight bow. Of those who sign themselves with all five fingers, or who bow before finishing the Cross, or simply wave their hand in the air or before their breast, Chrysostom says: "The demons rejoice at these mad gestures." On the other hand, the sign of the Cross, properly made with faith and reverence, terrifies the demons, calms sinful passions, and calls down divine grace.

RULES FOR BOWS AND THE SIGN OF THE CROSS

The Sign of the Cross without Bows:
1. At the middle of the Six Psalms, at Alleluia, thrice.
2. At the beginning of the Creed.
3. At the dismissal: "May Christ our true God."
4. At the beginning of a reading from Holy Scripture: Gospel, Epistle, Parable (at Vespers, Royal Hours).
The Sign of the Cross with Bows from the Waist:
1. When entering or leaving a church (thrice).
2. At each petition of the ecteniae.
3. At each exclamation of the priest offering up glory to the Holy Trinity.
4. At the exclamations: "Take, eat"; "Drink of it, all of you"; "Thine Own of Thine Own"; and "Holy Things are for the holy."
5. At the words: "More honourable."
6. At each of the words: "Let us worship," "Worship," "We fall down."
7. During the words: "Alleluia," "Holy God," "O come let us worship," and after the exclamation "Glory to Thee, O Christ God," before the dismissal - thrice.
8. At the canon, at the first and ninth odes, at the first refrain to the Lord, the Mother of God, or the saint.
9. After each sticheron (at which time the choir that has finished chanting makes the sign of the Cross).
10. At the Litia, after each of the first three petitions we sign ourselves and bow three times; after the remaining two petitions we sign ourselves and bow once.
The Sign of the Cross with Prostrations:
1. During fasts, on entering and leaving the church, thrice.
2. During fasts, after each refrain to the Song of the Theotokos, "Thee do we magnify."
3. At the beginning of the hymn: "It is meet and right to worship the Father."
4. After "We praise Thee."
5. After "It is truly meet," or its substitute megalynarion.
6. At the exclamation: "And vouchsafe us, O Master."
7. At the bringing forth of the Holy Gifts, at the words: "With fear of God," and the second time, at the words: "Always, now and ever."
8. During the Great Fast, at Great Compline, at the chanting of "O most holy Lady," at each verse; at the chanting of "O Theotokos and Virgin, rejoice," and the rest, at Great Lenten Vespers, three prostrations.
9. During fasts, at the prayer, "O Lord and Master of my life."
10 During fasts, at the concluding chanting: "Remember us, O Lord, when Thou comest in Thy kingdom," - always three prostrations.
Bows from the Waist without the Sign of the Cross:
1. At the words: "Peace be unto all."
2. "The blessing of the Lord be upon you."
3. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ."
4. "And may the mercies of our great God."
5. At the words of the deacon: "And unto the ages of ages" (after "For holy art Thou, O our God").
The Sign of the Cross is not to be made:
1. During psalms.
2. Generally while chanting.
3. During Ecteniae by the choir that chants the responses.
Additionally:
The making of the sign of the Cross and bows should be done after the chanting is finished, and not during the closing words.

Prostrations are not allowed:
On Sundays; from the Nativity of Christ through Theophany; from Pascha until Pentecost Sunday; on the day of Transfiguration; and on the Exaltation of the Cross (except three prostrations before the Cross).

Prostrations cease from the Entry at the Vespers of a feast, until "Vouchsafe, O Lord," at Vespers on the day of the feast itself.

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