Orthodox Archives

A Praise Hymn … Eastern Style

Rebecca (blogging wonderfully here) and other Christian bloggers often cite their favorite hymns. This isn’t exactly “my favorite” but it was exemplary of the Bridegroom service tonight. Tonight’s service focused on the woman, a prostitute “a filthy woman” who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and then washed them clean with her hair and tears. Judas, planning his betrayal and who watched (and stole?) from the communal funds for Jesus and his followers, was mostly affected/mindful of the expense of the myrrh being poured out. This is then put into the context of our lives during the hymn. The prostitute herself is exalted in hymn and liturgy as “equal to the Myrrh bearing women” who first discover the empty tomb during the Paschal dawn.

Oddly enough tonight’s service is actually Wednesday morning’s Matin service. So the readings are “screwed up”, as it were. We read the Tuesday gospel, but the Wednesday morning matins (morning service) on Wednesday night. Apparently this was done to get the “meat” and the best of the Holy week services translated from the Monastic tradition into the lay busy schedule of work and life. Monks devote substantially more time to their services … these services are somewhat shortened … and the Matins services are read/chanted/sung in the slot normally assigned to Vespers (evening) services because they are better attended. The “Chant” in the below is done by readers (Cantors in the West) and is Psalm 150 just preceding this the chanters have read/sung 148 and 149. In the following the choir leads the people in singing the “sung” portion.


Praise God in His saints,
praise Him in the expanse of His power.

Praise Him for His mighty acts,
praise Him for His infinite greatness.

Sung (Actually a sort of melodic chant to one of 8 the “standard” melodies):

A harlot recognized you as God, O Son of the virgin.
With tears equal to her past deeds, she besought You weeping:
loose my debt as I have loosed my hair.
Love the woman who, though justly hated, loves You.
Then with the publicans will I proclaim You,
benefactor and Lover of mankind.


Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet,
praise Him with psaltery and harp.


The harlot mingled precious myrrh with her tears.
She poured it on Your most pure feet and kissed them. At once You justified her.
You suffered for our sakes:
forgive us also, and save us.


Praise Him with drum and dancing,
praise Him with strings and bells.


As the sinful woman was bringing her offering of myrrh,
the disciple was scheming with lawless men.
She rejoiced in pouring out her precious gift.
He hastened to sell the precious One.
She recognized the Master, but Judas parted from Him.
She was set free, but Judas was enslaved to the enemy.
How terrible is slothfulnessl
How great her repentance! O Savior,
You suffered for our sakes:
grant us also repentance, and save us.


Praise Him with well-tuned cymbals,
praise Him with cymbals of victory!
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!


O, the wretchedness of Judas!
He saw the harlot kiss the footsteps of Christ,
but deceitfully he contemplated the kiss of betrayal.
She loosed her hair while he bound himself with wrath.
He offered the stench of wickedness instead of myrrh,
for envy cannot distinguish value.
O, the wretchedness of Judas!
Deliver our souls from this, 0 God.


Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,


The sinful woman ran to buy the precious myrrh with which to anoint her Savior.
She cried to the merchant: Give me myrrh,
that I may anoint Him who has cleansed all my sins.
The woman who was engulfed in sin found in You a haven of salvation.
She poured out myrrh with her tears and cried to You:
Behold the One who brings repentance to sinners!
Rescue me from the tempest of sin,
O Master, through Your great mercy.


To You, 0 Lord our God, belongs glory, and to You we ascribe glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

A Joyous Easter To All

To all you in the Western tradition. In the East, on Pascha/Easter the homily has been the same for over 1500 years. St. John Chrysostom preached this one Pascha morn and it was decided it couldn’t be improved upon. This is what he preached see what y’all think of it:

If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.
For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour’s death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.
By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.


Time Was …

For this months Carnival of Christian Reconciliation, the topic Mr Platypus suggests is:

All of this prompts me to propose “Reconciliation and Liturgical Time” as the special topic for this Carnival. How are divergent or competing understandings of the liturgical year an obstacle to reconciliation? Conversely, how does the idea of liturgical time open up possibilities for greater unity? In any event, how do we live out our Christian discipleship among fellow believers who approach liturgical time differently?

As I write this most of the readers of this entry will likely be entering their Holy week celebrations. Many will be looking forward to finally breaking their fast, to celebrating, “getting their alleluia’s back”, and in general filling their own traditional ways of celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord and our God.

In A Secular Age philosopher Charles Taylor begins by noting the secular comes from the Latin: saeculum which relates to an “age” a specified length of time. Secular consequently is bound up in time. The Sacred is not. And this is true of our worship. Sunday worship “connects” and is “closer” to other Sunday’s and specifically that first Easter Sunday, than it is to Monday even though “in time” it is not. Our liturgical calendar pierces our secular time lines as the tines of a fork pinning us to the Eternal. The Orthodox teaching is that there is no time in liturgy. That in the divine liturgy we participate in the eschaton, in the timelessness of God.

But it is true there is division and unity in our liturgical calendars. Having the same calendar does aid ecumenical union. Last week, on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, while traveling on business I visited and had a wonderful experience at a very small rural ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) parish in Northern Georgia (web site here). Orthodoxy does not precisely share the same calendar … but for Lent/Pascha/Pentacost we do. Orthodoxy is split between the Julian and Gregorian calendar for the rest of the year. But because we share the same calendar in this season, I heard the same readings, and the homily was preached on the same subject. There were some differences, no parade of Icons and a little over half of the service was in old Slavonic … which was something of a challenge to sing. But … enough about me (or alternatively … I digress). The point is ecumenical connections between myself as a new OCA (Orthodox Church of America) member were eased by our liturgical similarities including our calendar. I would have felt out of place, having just finished my first week of Lenten fasting in joining a Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic, or other Protestant church which was celebrating Palm Sunday … not “the Triumph of Orthodoxy” and the victory over iconoclasm.

But while, the non-shared liturgical calendar hurts the ecumenical meeting of Orthodox an non-Orthodox does it help for instance the meeting of main line Protestant churches and Catholic? And here, I must confess my ignorance of what praxis and calendars are followed by the non-liturgical Protestants. But it seems to me likely, in for the traveller or the visitor, the non-sharing of secular (set in time) of the Sacred events is a hindrance to the mixing of our sectarian splits.

And that is perhaps a most important point. For noting our ignorance we have an opportunity to fill that void. As we are widely ignorant of the “Others” calendar … we can try to share. So in the interests of informing the y’all, I’ll point to this program, a free download, provided by (yet another) Atlanta (this time OCA) church. It provides the hymns (troparia and kontakia) assigned for the day, the Scripture readings, and the Saints as well as the official record of those Saint’s life for each day.

If you could, leave as comments here, links or references to your liturgical year … so we can all share and by our differences find what we have in common.

On Repentance

Next week, Lent begins in the Eastern tradition and continues in the West. Traditionally, in the East, Lent begins with the Canon of St. Andrew, which takes 4 nights to complete. This service, in my opinion, is arguably the most, well, devastating expression of liturgical repentance that is performed. The canon is then followed by a Compline (Vespers/Evening Prayer) service which ends, in the Slavic tradition with the Prayer of St. Ephraim. As noted here:

 A basic distinguishing feature of the Great Canon is its extremely broad use of images and subjects taken both from the Old and New Testaments. As the Canon progresses, the congregation encounters many biblical examples of sin and repentance. The Bible (and therefore, the Canon) speaks of some individuals in a positive light, and about others in a negative one—the penitents are expected to emulate the positive examples of sanctity and repentance, and to learn from and avoid the negative examples of sin, fallen nature and pride. However, one of the most notable aspects of the Canon is that it attempts to portray the Biblical images in a very personal way to every penitent: the Canon is written in such form that the faithful identify themselves with many people and events found in the Bible.

So, if you are Catholic or Protestant practice Lent or not I’d like to recommend that you try to find and visit a local Orthodox parish and experience the Great Canon. I’m not saying this as an attempt to wrest anyone from their particular practice or tradition. Instead what I’m seeking is raise awareness of this powerful meaningful religious Lenten experience. If possible, find a Slavic (OCA, Romanian, Ukrainian or similar) parish to go to in order to see this as the above mentioned prayer caps the service very well and is absent in the Greek tradition. I don’t know about the Antiochian Orthodox tradition on whether they use St. Ephrem’s prayer or not.

Some notes for the non-Orthodox visitor:

  1.  Prostration will be practice by the Orthodox during this service. Nobody will be insulted if you don’t participate. Prostration physically involves kneeling and pressing your forehead to the floor between your hands. Those who perform this will say, this is how man should present himself before God. But for the visitor, remember prostration or not … is voluntary and don’t be surprised to see it.
  2. The Orthodox present will kiss icons. Veneration (kissing) of icons is at a basic level a way of offering respect, which is much more dignified than, say, an American high-five or thumbs up. This isn’t idol worship and again, it’s voluntary and nobody will be taken aback if you don’t also do that. Lighting of candles and kissing the priest’s hand are similar practices which again you don’t have to do, and nobody will censure you at all for not doing so.
  3. The music will be a capella voice and likely depending on the skill and number of choral members who are present possible a little shaky. The entire canon will be sung or chanted. Forgive mistakes, imagine how it would sound done as written, and more importantly try to let the chant help you find other ways of appreciating what is being said.
  4. There will be incense. In the Old Testament, worship always entailed incense. That remains the case in the Orthodox tradition.

Again, I’ll repeat, if you are of any Western tradition and are in Lent or want to connect in a personal way via liturgy with repentance … go to the Canon of St. Andrew next week … at the very least try it just on the first night and keep coming if it connects with you.

And if you do, and have either never witnessed the Canon before or an Orthodox service, email me or leave a comment here on how you found the experience. I’ll collect and repost any of those responses.

The prayer of St. Ephrem:

O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of sloth, idle curiosity/meddling, lust for power and idle talk.

But grant unto me, Thy servant, a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not to judge my brothers and sisters. For blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Eastern Orthodox Trivia

In the US (and the West) little is known about Orthodoxy. Did you know on a little street called Via Recta (the Street called Straight) see Acts 9:

Almost 700 meters to the west of Bab Sharqi is a Roman monumental arch that was excavated and rebuilt in 1947 by the Syrian Department of Antiquities. It is here that the intersection of Straight Street and the north-south Cardo Maximus has been located. On the right-hand side in ancient times stood a Byzantine church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and called Mariamyeh. Today, on the same site, stands a church which serves as the Seat of the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate. [emphasis mine]

The larger Orthodox church, from an church administrative standpoint is divided into autocephalus (independent heads) groups, e.g., the American Orthodox church OCA was granted autocephaly from the Russian in 1970. So what that quote above means is that the Greek Orthodox holds as its base of operations … a church on a street called “Straight”, that is one of not-just-a-little Biblical significance.

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