Communion is preceded by the fraction of the Lamb. The Priest and concelebrating Cler-gy, if any, communicate from the portion XC and the portions NI and KA are for the Commu-nion of the laity. The portion IC is placed in the Chalice last. Hot water is poured into the Chalice after the IC portion, symbolizing the water that poured forth from the Lord’s side, showing that although He was dead, His body was not devoid of divine virtue — that is, the warmth and vitality of the Holy Spirit.
After the Communion of the Clergy, the curtain is opened and the Priest comes out with the Chalice, at the exclamation, “In the fear of God and with faith, draw near!” Before the Com-munion of the Faithful, the Communion Prayer — a brief Symbol of Faith in Christ — is recited.
I Believe, O Lord and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, Who earnest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first, I Believe also that this is truly Thine own most pure Body, and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood, There-fore, I pray Thee: have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions, both. voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, of knowledge and of ignorance. And make me worthy to partake wit/tout condemnation of Thy most pure Mysteries; for the remission of my sins, and unto fife everlasting. Amen.
Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant for I will, not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies; neither like Judas wilt I give Thee a kiss; But like the thief wilt I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.
May the communion of Thy holy Mysteries Be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, O Lord, But to the heating of soul and Body.
All the Faithful, adults and infants, alike, are communicated, partaking of the mingled Holy Body and Blood by means of a special spoon. Infants receive Holy Communion by virtue of their having received Holy Chrismation immediately after Baptism, which makes them full members of the Church of Christ. The approaching faithful receive the Holy Gifts with arms crossed on the breast; after receiving, very gently, they kiss the edge of the Chalice, as if it were the side of Christ Himself. As the Priest communes each of the faithful, he says, “The servant (handmaid) of God (name) partakes of the precious and holy Body and Blood of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins and unto life everlasting.” During the Communion the Choir sings, “Receive the Body of Christ…” (or another hymn at certain other times).
After the Communion, the Priest carries the Chalice into the Altar and places it on the Holy Table, after which he turns and blesses the people, “O Lord, save Thy people…,” at which the Choir sings the hymn setting forth what mercies the people have received: “We have seen the True Light….” Then, taking up the Chalice, the Priest faces the people, saying quietly, “Blessed is our God…/’and then aloud, “Always, now and ever…,” which symbolizes the Lord’s Ascension into Heaven. As the Priest carries the Chalice to the Table of Oblation, the Choir sings the Hymn of Thanksgiving, “Let our mouths be filled with Thy praise, O Lord….” Thus, in the Liturgy the earthly life of Jesus Christ passes before us.
The Liturgy concludes with a short Litany of Thanksgiving and the Prayer Before the Ambo, “O Lord, Who blessest those who bless Thee….” The Choir responds with, “Blessed be the Name of the Lord…” (thrice) and (rarely done now), the first eleven verses of Psalm 34: “/ will bless the Lord at all times….” The final blessings are bestowed, and the Faithful come up to kiss the Handcross held by the Priest. Those who had not communed, then receive a piece of the bread which remained after the Lamb was cut out at the Proskomedia, for which reason it is called Antidoron (in place of the Gifts). The communicants remain after the Dismissal to listen to more prayers of thanksgiving for Communion. The Holy Gifts, if not consumed by a Deacon, are consumed by the Priest. The particles which had been taken out at the Proskomedia, other than the Lamb — i.e., for the Theotokos, Saints, living and dead — having by now been placed in the Chalice, are likewise consumed.
The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great.
The Liturgy of St. Basil differs from the usual Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in the fol-lowing particulars. The Prayers at the time of the Eucharistic Canon are substantially longer and the hymns sung at this point are sung to special melodies to accommodate the length of the Pray-ers. The Words of Institution, “Take, eat…” and “Drink of it…” are somewhat different and in-stead of “It is truly meet…,” the hymn, “All of Creation rejoices…”is sung. At the Proskomedia and at the final Dismissal of the Liturgy, St. Basil is commemorated rather than St. John Chry-sostom.
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
The Holy Fathers considered that it was unbefitting the contrition of Great Lent to serve the full Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil the Great, so that these Liturgies are allowed only on Saturdays and Sundays of the Fast, as well as on the Feast of the Annunciation and Holy Thursday. In its place, on Wednesdays and Fridays of Great Lent, as well as on Thursday of the Fifth Week and the first three days of Passion Week, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated. [If the patronal feast of a church or monastery falls on a weekday of Great Lent, or if one of a small handful of major feasts fall thereon, the Presanctified Liturgy is celebrated on that day.] This Liturgy is called Presanctified, since the Holy Gifts were presanctified (or conse-crated) on the previous Sunday. This Liturgy consists of Vespers, followed by a portion of the full Liturgy, omitting the consecration of the Holy Gifts.
The structure of the Vesperal part of the Presanctified Liturgy is identical to the first half of ordinary Vespers — regular beginning, Psalm 104, Great Litany, Kathisma (usually the 18th), “Lord, I have called…,” with ten appointed Stikhera, accompanied by a censing of the whole church, Entrance with either the censer or Gospel Book (if there will be a Gospel reading because of a Feast), “O Jesus Christ, the Joyful Light…,” and then the Prokeimenon. During the reading of the Kathisma, the Presanctified Gifts are solemnly transferred from the Holy Table to the Table of Oblation.
After the Prokeimenon, an appointed Old Testament Lesson is read, followed by another Prokeimenon. Then, as everyone makes a prostration, the Priest turns and faces the Faithful with a candle and censer, intoning, “The Light of Christ illumines all!” This signifies that the Prophets, from whose writings we have heard and shall hear were illumined by the same light (the Light of Christ) that still enlightens all men. A second Old Testament lesson is now read. At the conclusion of the second Old Testament Lesson, the moving hymn of supplication, “Let my prayer arise…” is sung, with the Faithful and Clergy on bended knees:
Let My Prayer Arise:
Let my prayer arise in Thy sight as incense, and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.
Lord, I have called to Thee, hear me! Attend to the voice of my prayer when I colt to Thee!
Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, a. secure around my lips!
Incline not my heart to words of evil, to invent excuses for my sins.
Let my prayer arise in Thy sight as incense, and let the lifting up of my hands Be an evening sacrifice.
This is followed by the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian and three prostrations. If Gospel and Epistle lessons are prescribed (usually if it be a feast), they are said here. Then, whether Gospel and Epistle lessons or not, the Litany of Fervent Supplication is chanted, as well as a Li-tany for the Catechumens and finally their dismissal. [In the ancient Church, among the Cate-chumens there were some who were soon to be baptized (illumined) — usually on Holy Saturday — and after the mid-point of the Great Lent, a special Litany was inserted for them at this point at the Presanctified Liturgy: “All catechumens, depart. Depart, catechumens. As many as are preparing for illumination, draw near. Pray, you who are preparing for illumination,” etc.]
With the Dismissal of the Catechumens, the Liturgy proper begins. After two Litanies for the Faithful, as at the full Liturgy, the Choir sings the special Cherubic Hymn: “Now the powers of heaven do serve invisibly with us. Lo, the King of glory enters. Lo, the mystical sacrifice is upborne, fulfilled.” A Great Entrance is made from the Table of Oblation to the Altar by the Priest bearing the Presanctified Gifts, in profound silence. At this time the faithful make a pro-stration before Christ, Who passed before them in the Sacrament. At the conclusion of the Che-rubic Hymn and the “Alleluia,” the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim is again recited with three pro-strations.
The Holy Doors are now closed and the Preparation for Communion begins with the Li-tany of Supplication (which begins, “Let us complete our evening prayer to the Lord,” since this is an evening service) and the Lord’s Prayer. During this the curtain is drawn only half-way, sig-nifying that this is not the full Liturgy. After the Lord’s Prayer and the usual exclamations, the Holy Gifts are not elevated, since this was done previously at the Sunday Liturgy, but the Priest only touches them, saying, “The Presanctified Holy Things are for the holy!” The Choir responds, “One is holy…,” as usual, and then the Communion Hymn, “O taste and see that the Lord is good! Alleluia!”
The Communion of the Clergy and Faithful take place, as usual, except that instead of “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord…,” the Choir sings, “I will bless the Lord at all times….” A special Prayer Before the Ambo, “O Almighty Master, Who in wisdom hast fa-shioned all creation…,” is said after the usual Litany of Thanksgiving and then the Dismissal is said, as usual, except that St. Gregory Dialoges, Pope of Rome, is commemorated instead of St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil the Great.
In the Orthodox Faith, our singing in church is meant to be an Icon of worship. We sing our prayers. Our prayers are sung. And hardly ever do we hear prayers simply said. The Orthodox Church’s tradition is to offer up prayers to God in uttered heightened speech called sacred singing. It is important to understand that liturgical music is not something added to prayer. Ra-ther, it is the way we pray in church when we assemble together as God’s People.
This tradition of sung worship is fundamentally Biblical. For both the people of the Old Testament as well as the New, worship means first to gather as a group, and then to sing praise with one mouth and one heart. As a matter of fact, more than two-thirds of the Bible is phrased in such a way that it is obviously meant to be sung. Especially the Book of Psalms — the essen-tial prayer-book of the Church — in essence, is a song-book. Orthodox hymnody developed from the singing of Psalms and Scriptural Odes, first as simple responses and refrains, later developing into Troparia, Kontakia and strophic hymns on these Biblical verses.
The word antiphon in our prayer-books describes how the people originally divided themselves into two parts and sang the Psalm verses back and forth, from one side to the other. Our liturgical texts show that the assembly responds in a type of song to whatever is chanted by the Bishop, Priest, Deacon, or Cantor. St. Justin the Philosopher, writing in 150 A.D., calls spe-cial attention to the way the people sing the Amen as their assent to the great Eucharist Prayer. St. Augustine reflects on the Orthodox tradition of the 4th Century, when he remarks: “…truly, is there a time when the faithful assembled are not singing? Truly, I see nothing better, nothing more useful or more holy that they could do.”
We can see from the earliest tradition that choirs developed later. Choirs, however, were never meant to completely replace the voice of the people in worship. Not only must the chants and music help the people make the prayer their own, but, clearly, somewhere in every Orthodox Divine Service, the people themselves must take some part in singing.
At first the Church melodies were probably very simple, resembling a rhythmic song-speech, following the natural inflections and nuances of word-groupings. From Hebrew and Hel-lenic beginnings, the melodic kernels, patterns and formulae have been expanded, enriched and developed according to local practices in specific cultures that became Orthodox. Each Orthodox nationality has adapted the verbo-melodic models to the natural rhythmic and melodic sounds of their own unique language and culture.
Yet, in this process of absorbing and making one’s own a liturgical music, the incultura-tion does not make the sacred singing of one Orthodox culture unrecognizable to another. There are in all Orthodox sacred singing those elements that are ancient, universal and constant. These familiar elements are found particularly in what we call canonical chant.
Russian Orthodox church music has its particularly unique development. Byzantine music remains basically monophonic (single-line unison singing). But part-singing appeared in Lvov and began to spread in Southern Russia and the Ukraine as early as the 15th Century. From this we can trace early experiments with harmonization, and in the 17th Century the influence of the Kievan schools of harmony on Moscow. Choirs of sorts began to be schooled in the Imperial Court, although they sang in small groups and were made up of male singers only.
It was Peter the Great in the 18th Century who gave rise to the Imperial Chapel Choir. The movement to introduce Western European harmonization and the chorale style spread very quickly, initiating the new period of concert-like choir singing. Bortniansky, under the patronage of Catherine the Great, still remains the best example of the composer-conductors and their church choirs of the choral tradition.
By the beginning of the 20th Century there was already a great interest among Church musicians to return to the traditional roots of the canonical chant systems. Kastalsky particularly stands out among them. While choral compositions and choir singing remain popular to this day, among serious students of Church music more and more is sacred singing looked upon as a dis-cipline of liturgical theology rather than simply as a musical art.
This is particularly so in America, as we accept the responsibility for an Orthodox incul-turation of a new land, a new language and a new people. As we attempt to find our own style in response to new needs and situations (especially those of the small missions), above all we seek to be anchored to the great Tradition.
This great Tradition, however, insists neither on a rigid formalism nor a return to a hypo-thetically more primitive practice. There is room in Orthodox culture for both choir singing and congregational participation, for ancient chants and familiar harmonized works, as well as per-haps for new adaptations based on the timbre of the English language, developed from the local materials of our own particular time and place. All of this is possible — so long as none of it contradicts our ecclesial identity as the Orthodox Church.
Indeed, what must be understood is the function of sacred singing in Orthodox worship. What is singing in Church supposed to do? A sacred song is not unlike a holy Icon; except that the holy Icon is seen and the sacred song is heard, the functions are the same. This painting of words and sounds has as its purpose the bringing of the community into the presence and the awareness of sacred mystery.
Bringing us together is no small part of sacred music’s function. Just as receiving Holy Communion together is a sacred sign that all who partake become one body in Christ, so singing must be the expression of this same unity of hearts and minds, drawing us harmoniously together into one voice. For ultimately, it is Christ Who is our Song.
To be continued…