Saturday 7 February 2009 is visitors night at St Nicholas of Japan Orthodox Church in Brixton, Johannesburg. Here are some notes to help visitors know what is happening.
Vespers begins at 6:30 pm on Saturday, but is actually the first service of Sunday, so the themes of the hymns belong to the Sunday.
Sunday 8th February 2009
- Tone 1 – 34th SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
- SUNDAY OF THE PUBLICAN AND THE PHARISEE
- (Beginning of the Lent Triodion)
- Sunday of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia
- Afterfeast of the Meeting of Christ in the Temple
Tone 1 – this refers to the Octoechos, eight sets of melodies for hymns which are used in succession, so that after eight weeks we begin again at Tone 1. These are called the Resurrectional Tones, because every Sunday is a commemoration of Christ’s resurrection. A hymn from the Octoechos, called a Troparion or Apolytikion, is repeated at every service. The Troparion of Tone 1 is:
When the stone had been sealed by the Jews;
While the soldiers were guarding Thy most pure Body
Thou didst rise on the third day, O Saviour,
Granting life to the world.
The powers of heaven therefore cried to Thee, O Giver of Life:
Glory to Thy Resurrection, O Christ!
Glory to Thy Kingdom!
Glory to Thy dispensation, O Thou who lovest mankind.
This Sunday marks a transition – the feast of the meeting of Christ in the Temple (Feb 2nd), forty days after his birth, looks back to Christmas. The Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee looks forward to Great Lent, which begins with Vespers on Sunday 1 March, which is known as the Vespers of Forgiveness, where all members of the congregation ask and offer forgiveness to each other.
You will notice that the prayer of the Publican, Lord have mercy, is very prominent in public Orthodox worship. In private prayer it is often expanded into what is sometimes called the “Jesus Prayer”: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
The hymns of Vespers therefore follow these themes: First, the resurrection (which we remember every Sunday); Second, the Publican and Pharisee; Third, the Meeting of Christ in the Temple. Some of the saints of the day may also be commemorated:
- Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates (“the General”), of Heraclea (319)
- Prophet Zechariah (c 520BC)
- St Sava (Sabbas) II, Archbishop of Serbia (1268-1269)
- St Kegwe, Monmouthshire (6th)
- St Oncho (Clonmore 600)
- St Cuthman of Steyning, Hermit (8th)
- St Elfleda, Abbess of Whitby (714)
- Martyr Conitus of Alexandria (249)
- SS. John and Basil of the Kiev Caves
From the Revised Julian (New Style) Calendar
OCA – Lives of all saints commemorated on this day: “Afterfeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple
The sixth day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 8. The hymns of the day speak of Christ fulfilling the Law by being brought to the Temple, and of how the Theotokos ‘reveals to the world its Creator, and the Giver of the Law.'”
OCA – Lives of all saints commemorated on this day: “Greatmartyr Theodore Stratelates ‘the General’
The Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates came from the city of Euchaita in Asia Minor. He was endowed with many talents, and was handsome in appearance. For his charity God enlightened him with the knowledge of Christian truth. The bravery of the saintly soldier was revealed after he, with the help of God, killed a giant serpent living on a precipice in the outskirts of Euchaita. The serpent had devoured many people and animals, terrorizing the countryside. St Theodore armed himself with a sword and vanquished it, glorifying the name of Christ among the people”
The structure of Vespers
The core of Vespers goes back to the Old Testament: “When Aaron sets up the lamps in the evening, he shall burn it, a perpetual incense before the Lord from generation to generation” (Exodus 30:8).
So at the heart of Vespers are lights and incense. There is a procession of priests, deacons and other ministers with lighted lamps and incense, which comes from the north door of the sanctuary, and goes to the holy (central) door, and the altar and its lamps are censed by a deacon, while the congregation sings the hymn:
O gladsome light of the holy glory of the immortal Father: heavenly holy blessed Jesus Christ!
Now that we have come to the setting of the sun, and beheld the light of evening, we praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For meet it is at all times to praise Thee, Son of God and Giver of Life
Therefore all the world doth glorify Thee.
Then is sung:
The Lord is King! He is robed in majesty
For he has established the world so that it should never be moved!
Holiness befits Thy house, O Lord, for evermore!
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Followed by intercessions and led by a deacon, after which it is sung again, interspersed with hymns (Aposticha) on the themes of the day.
You can find more information on Vespers here:
If you don’t have time to read them all, at least try to read the first one.