I was recently reminded of a service of "Great Vespers" I attended last autumn that could have been referred to, not unreasonably, as turbo-Vespers. A conservative estimate would be that at least a quarter of the service was omitted, and quite possibly as much as one third. I'm really not sure how this could be justified, especially as so much of the content of our services is already shortened to allow for our weakness and the busyness of life.
As I have blogged about in the past, St John wrote some quite strong words about this, yet at the same time allowed for the difficulties of parish life, with many people travelling long distances, clergy who have to work and are self-supporting. This balance is what I think is important. Here are his words:
'The divine services in their composition contain all the fullness of the dogmatic teaching of the Church and set forth the path to salvation. They present invaluable spiritual wealth. The more fully and precisely they are fulfilled, the more benefit the participants receive from them. Those who perform them carelessly and who shorten them by their laziness rob their flock, depriving them of their very daily bread, stealing from them a most valuable treasure. The shortening of the services which comes about through lack of strength must be done wisely and performed circumspectly in order not to touch that which should not be tampered with.'- St John, Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco
In a number of churches, these are abbreviated to one degree or another. I have seen some editions of the Liturgy with only four or five verses of each. While my preference is for the psalms to be sung in full as I find them especially encouraging, and particularly find that psalm 102 properly disposes me for worship when I arrive flustered and ill prepared, I'm actually not too bothered by the abbreviations here. After all, these psalms came fairly late to the Liturgy anyway, replacing the antiphonal psalms (which are often still sung on weekdays and with different psalms on great feasts of the Lord), which were themselves originally sung in procession on the way to church - a procession which no longer takes place except in token form at the Little Entrance, so I can sympathise with those who shorten them. (I beg indulgence of my readers from the Greek tradition where the custom surrounding the antiphons developed differently from in the Slavic tradition.)
2. The troparia on the Beatitudes
Whenever the Beatitudes are sung in lieu of the third antiphon, there are troparia appointed to be sung/read between the Blessed verses. I have heard arguments that these unnecessarily lengthen the service but it is too easy to forget that there is actually comparatively little within the Liturgy that actually highlights the particular celebration of the day, and that those who were not present at Vespers the night before might well benefit from hearing them. I find the resurrectional troparia appointed for Sunday mornings to be particularly beautiful and think it a shame that in many places the people do not hear them.
3. The kontakia after the Little Entrance
Generally, on Sundays at least, the order of entrance hymns is very simple: the appointed troparia of the day are sung in order, followed by a number of kontakia corresponding to the troparia just completed, and concluding with a theotokion, (usually O Protection of Christians). In some churches, they only sing one kontakion, regardless of the number of troparia.
4. The readings
On a number of days - most Sundays in fact - in addition to the Sunday readings from the Apostle and Gospel, there are additional readings for the Saint(s) of the day. In many churches, these are omitted and there is only ever one Apostle and one Gospel reading.
5. The Litany of Fervent Supplication
This is the litany with the threefold Lord, have mercy after each petition, and is essentially the community's litany, in which the deacon inserts petitions according to the particular needs of the parish or monastery: for those who are sick, travelling, pregnant, in conflict or war, and such like, so that the people's prayers for those concerns may be offered along with the communal offering of the Eucharist. In some parishes, these additional petitions are omitted entirely and the deacon/priest simply rushes through the standard petitions while the choir continuously sings the Lord, have mercy.
6. The Litany for the Catechumens and the two Litanies of the Faithful
In some parishes, these litanies, which are not optional, are never done. The Litany for the Departed is also commonly omitted in many parishes but as it is not generally supposed to be done on Sundays, most readers may not be sure whether or not it is done in their parishes so I have left it out of the polls.
7. Psalm 33
This is appointed to be sung after the Prayer below the Ambo, during which the distribution of the antidoron is to take place and the deacon consumes the Holy Things. In most parishes and cathedrals today, however, the antidoron is distributed after the dismissal, (a custom that possibly started due to large numbers of the faithful being present - itself encouraging). Consequently, the psalm has disappeared from the Liturgy in many parishes and cathedrals, and the deacon is forced to consume the Gifts after the Liturgy.
I must say that, while we do leave out some things because of our origins and our current stage of development, my parish doesn't come out too badly here at all. Please do share your own comments and thoughts once you have taken part in the polls.
Tags : religion christianity worship
Tags : religion christianity worship