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Notes for the Serving the Divine Liturgy

A. Hymns for the Synaxis
(the Liturgy of the Catechumens, the Liturgy of the Word)

1. The Blessing and the Litany of Peace

(See the notes for Vespers.)

2-4. The Enarxis (The Introductory Hymns)

There are two separate traditions of hymnody for the first portion of the Divine Liturgy, which is known as the Enarxis. According to both the Great Church and Sabbaitic Typicons, the Antiphons are intended to be used at the Liturgy on festal commemorations and celebrated saints of the annual calendar and Triodion-Pentocostarian cycles. There is ample evidence that demonstrates that just because we have a Sunday Liturgy, it does not necessarily follow that the Antiphons are to be sung; such a determination is based solely on the rank of the day's commemoration. (Indeed, the Typical Psalms and Beatitudes are clearly appointed in the Great Church Typicon for the 2nd, 4th and possibly 5th Sundays of Great Lent.) However, the modern Greeak and Antiochian Churches in the USA and other countries have taken a path of liturgical convenience by decreeing that Sunday is a "Little Pascha" and thus the Antiphons are appointed to be sung on all Sundays, and the Typical Psalms and Beatitudes are essentially eliminated.

According to the Great Church (Constantinopolitan) Typicon:

We sing the First and Second Antiphons in Tone 2, with their appointed psalm verses and refrains. There are specific psalm verses appointed for Sundays and other verses for weekdays (which are commonly, but incorrectly omitted in modern parish practice). However, if a Liturgy is served on ordinary weekdays and Saturdays (and on Saturdays of the Dead), the Daily Antiphons are not used, but instead the Typical Psalms and Beatitudes are appointed to be sung.

For the Third Antiphon, the appointed psalm verses may be sung on all days of the week; on Sundays the Apolytikion/Troparion of the Tone of the week is sung as the refrain (and if we sing the verses, they too may be sung in the Tone of the refrain, although these are usually just intoned by a reader), but on weekdays we sing the short refrain (in Tone 2): “O Son of God, Who art wondrous in the saints, save us who sing to Thee: Alleluia.” [In modern parish practice, the psalm verses are usually omitted and the Troparion is simply sung once, proceeding immediately to the Small Entrance, but this is contrary to the Typicon; ideally, it would be good for parishes to restore the practice outlined in the Typicon.]

For several of the Great Feasts of the Lord, there are special festal verses and refrains appointed to be sung, which replace all of the daily Antiphons.

According to the Sabbaitic Typicon (St. Sabbas Monastery near Jerusalem):

Regardless of the day of the week, we normally sing the Typical Psalms (Psalm 102: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and Psalm 145: I will praise the Lord in my life) and the Beatitudes. The Festal Antiphons are sung only on Great Feasts of the Lord. (The modern Greek Church has added newly-selected Antiphons for feasts of the Theotokos, but these are innovations.) It is interesting and remarkable that the Russian Old Believers preserve the same tradition of singing Antiphons only on Great Feasts of the Lord, but they permit the Antiphons only at Hierarchical Liturgies, according to their preservation of the early Russian rites.

Note: In both traditions, the Little Litany follows the First Antiphon or Psalm 102, the Hymn of Justinian (“O only-begotten Son…”) is sung in Tone 2, and the Little Litany always follow the Second Antiphon or Psalm 145.

5. The Little Entrance

At the Little Entrance we sing the Entrance Hymn (the Eisodikon). On a number of Great Feasts and celebrated (Vigil rank) saints the Entrance Hymn includes an extra verse and has a variant text. While the official texts issued by the Archdiocese include these texts, the choir director should be aware of these texts and prepare appropriate music ahead of time. (However, when a bishop is serving, the clergy will sing the hymns of the Little Entrance; see Appendix 6: Hymns for the Hierarchical Liturgy.)

6. The Troparia (Apolytikia) and Kontakion

According to the Typicon, we sing the Troparion (or Troparia) of the day, followed by the Troparion for the temple (church) or chapel (if it be dedicated to a saint), followed by the Kontakia of the day and of the Theotokos. (If the temple is dedicated to a feast of the Lord or Theotokos, that troparion is sung first). If it is a Sunday of the Triodion or Pentecostarion period which has a Troparion, that is included as well, in which case, the troparion for the saint of the day is usually omitted.

As a rule, the troparion of a temple feast and of any secondary saints are omitted on all Great Feasts.

Note that in the modern received practice, we omit all of the Kontakia except one, and this is often sung by the clergy. If it is a Great Feast, its Kontakion will be sung, but if it be a normal Sunday or weekday, we sing the Kontakion “O protection of Christians…”

While the order of singing all these hymns varies considerably according to the day of the week, the Tone of the week, the rank of the feast, the dedication of the temple, the Lenten, Paschal and Pentecostarion periods, the coinciding of feasts, etc., the choir director should follow the daily instructions issued by the Antiochian Archdiocese or Greek Orthodox Archiocese web sites. (ROCOR and the OCA follow a slightly different ordering, which includes all the Kontakia.)

7. The Trisagion (or Anti-Trisagia)

The musical setting of the Trisagion presented in this book is self-explanatory, although it might be beneficial to develop a local tradition of singing special melodies for some of the Great Feasts. (There are several alternate melodies available; a small sampling of them is offered in Appendix 1.) However, on feasts of the Cross, we replace the Trisagion with: “Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship, O Master, and we glorify Thy holy resurrection.” Likewise, on occasions where a newly-illumined person is attending the Liturgy, and on a few appointed Feasts during the year, the Trisagion Hymn is replaced with: “As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia.” (These “Anti-Trisagia” hymns are found in Appendix 1: Hymns of the Synaxis.)

We should be aware that the order of singing these hymns will be dramatically expanded when a bishop is serving, in which case we should follow instructions issued by the Archdiocese (see also Appendix 6: Hymns for the Hierarchical Liturgy).

8. The Prokeimenon (and Epistle reading)
9. The Alleluia (and Gospel reading)

In modern times, the Prokeimenon (a short series of verses sung before the Epistle reading) and the Alleluia (a short series of verses sung before the Gospel reading) have been drastically reduced, with the reader intoning only the first Prokeimenon verse before reading the Epistle, and the choir singing “Alleuia” without any verses before the priest reads the Gospel. (In some parishes these have unfortunately been discarded entirely.) However, since the Typicon clearly appoints these to be sung, we will attempt to fully restore the singing of these brief verses of devotion before the Scripture readings.

There are verses appointed for the days of the week and for the departed (see Appendix 2), for Sundays in each of the eight Tones (see Appendix 3), for all the Great Feasts and vigil rank feasts (see Appendix 4, which also includes materials for general ranks of saints), for Sundays and various occasions in the Triodion/Pentecostarion cycle (see Appendix 5), as well as for some of the services for special occasions and needs (Appendix 6).

While we may not observe all of these strictly according to the Typicon (especially for the coinciding of feasts, when the verses may become too complex for our humble community), we will at least attempt to restore some of the appointed hymnody that properly belongs to the service. As it is said, “something is better than nothing”. (These hymns will all be found in the appropriate appendices.)

Note, however, that in this primary Liturgy book, we have made it easy to fall back on the established parish practice of omitting the Prokeimenon and Alleluia verses, for those occasions when we do not have a priest or reader who is familiar with the full tradition, and where it would be too much of an imposition on a visiting priest or reader to learn to read these without adequate preparation.

10. The Litanies

The Litanies are commonly omitted altogether in some parishes, and indeed some bishops and even entire jurisdictions have deliberately suppressed their use, but this elimination or abbreviation of the prayers of the Divine Liturgy is considered by liturgists as harmful for the spiritual life of a parish. In our parish we sincerely attempt to observe all the traditionally appointed litanies: The Litany of Fervent Supplication, the Litany of the Catechumens (when appropriate), the First and Second Litanies of the Faithful, and the Litany of the Departed (when appropriate).

B. Hymns for the Eucharist
(the Liturgy of the Faithful, the Communion Rite)

11. The Cherubic Hymn (Cheroubikon)

The Cherubic Hymn may be sung in the Tone of the week (particularly in cathedrals and monasteries), but most parishes choose only a few melodies and use them consistently. (Other hymns are used on Thursday and Saturday of Holy Week; see Appendix 5.) Our humble choir will attempt to learn a small selection of easy melodies to be used for regular Sundays and for significant feasts. (Since all hymns in Byzantine Chant adhere to the system of eight Tones or Modes, additional musical settings will be found in Appendix 3: Hymns of the Octoechos, rather than in Appendix 2.)

For the ease of our community, almost all the settings included in this series of books will represent a “simplified Byzantine Chant” tradition, designed for the full choir and congregational participation. We will include only a few “classical” (papadic genre) Byzantine Cheroubika, since the bulk of this repertoire is too challenging for most choirs to perform. While highly ornate settings of Cheroubika were traditional in centuries past, their performance by specialized singers (only) is at odds with the goal of our parish to include the congregation as much as possible. Still, it is good to have a few options, depending on the occasion.

12. The Litany of Supplication
13. The Kiss of Peace
14. The Nicene Creed
15. The Anaphora

Traditionally, starting at this point in the service, the Litany of Supplication, the hymn “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, the entire dialog of the Anaphora, (and later in the service, the hymn “It is truly meet” and the hymn “One is holy”) may all be sung in the Tone of the week, using consistent melodic formulas (particularly in cathedrals and monasteries). Most parishes cannot manage to learn this much music and prefer to choose only a few melodies (perhaps a set for Sundays, another for weekdays, another for funeral Liturgies, and yet another for Great Feasts) and use them consistently. (Others present the argument that maintaining fewer sets of melodies helps the congregation to be more involved in their participation in the service, which is a valid point.) Whatever the situation, it is imperative that the entire Anaphora be sung in one Tone, as it is a cohesive liturgical unit.

Regarding the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed: It is the tradition of the Greek and Antiochian Churches for the congregation to recite this (as well as the Lord’s Prayer) in a normal voice. This used to be the tradition of the Russian Church, but sometime in the medieval era in the Principality of Novgorod, the tradition arose of singing these to simple, recitative melodies, or on Great Feasts singing them to lengthy, elaborate melodies. The dichotomy of the Greek-influenced world reading these portions of the service, versus the Slavic-influenced world singing them, persists to this day.

The basic music setting of the Anaphora used in the Antiochian Archdiocese (which does not include the Litany of Supplication) is in the Plagal of Fourth Mode (Tone 8), but the default setting in the homelands of the Antiochian Church is in the Plagal of First Mode (Tone 5). There are slower settings of the Anaphora for the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, which are traditionally sung in Plagal of First Mode (Tone 5). (The default setting in the Plagal of Fourth Mode is included in this book; additional musical settings will be found in Appendix 3: Hymns of the Octoechos.)

There are two basic problems with the default setting of the Anaphora melodies in the familiar Plagal of Fourth Mode:

First, the default setting of the Antiochian Archdiocese (seen, for example, in the Antiochian Village Camp Book) has a vocal range that is unrealistic for most parish choirs. This causes the melodies to be very difficult to sing in the same “key” or starting pitch as the priest, often requiring the choir to sing the “dialogue responses” of the Anaphora at a lower pitch than the priest (usually a fourth); the result is an aesthetically jarring sound which is distracting for many listeners with discriminating ears. The solution is to either use overly-simplified melodies which avoid the higher notes, or choose a different setting in another Tone/Mode.

The second problem with the “default” Anaphora setting is that it is quite honestly a poorly-adapted version of traditional Byzantine Chant, simplified and westernized to the point that it is believed to be palatable for mainstream American ears; the end result sounds “dumbed-down”, trite and amateurish to anyone with even a rudimentary exposure to traditional Byzantine Chant. This “apologetic” and condescending attitude toward preserving the more traditional Byzantine and Syrian-Byzantine melodies is a part of our past which we should consider setting aside, in order for us to return to a more authentic use of the legacy and repertoire of traditional Byzantine Chant melodies.

As a possible solution to those occasions when matching the priest’s pitch is not realistically possible, I have offered a number of alternate melodies for the default Plagal of Tone 4 (Tone 8) setting of the Anaphora, which can help alleviate some of the pitch difficulties, and which might also eliminate the necessity of singing some of the hymns an interval of a fourth lower. These suggested alternatives are found in Appendix 2: Hymns for the Eucharist. Not all of these melodies are successful in resolving the pitch issues, but these alternate versions which I have found in chant books used by various Antiochian parishes may prove to be helpful in overcoming other problems (such as the need for simpler melodies for weekdays, or when the choir lacks a director or lead chanter).

16. The Megalynarion

The Megalynarion for the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is “It is truly meet”, which may be sung in the current Tone of the week or according to local custom. Only one “default” setting of this hymn is included in this book; see Appendix 3: Hymns of the Octoechos for additional settings according to the Tones. (By many standards, the “default” setting in this book is considered to be a poorly composed melody; we recommend singing alternate melodies. We include it here because it is usually expected to be sung when visiting clergy or hierarchy are serving.)

On the other hand, the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great has its own Megalynarion (“In thee rejoiceth all creation”, alternately translated: “In thee, full of grace”). For settings of this hymn, see Appendix 2: Hymns for the Eucharist.

Note that on several feasts the usual Megalynarion is replaced with the [Refrain and] Heirmos (Katavasia) of the Ninth Ode of the Canon (see the Appendices).

17. Preparation for Communion

The Preparation for Communion includes the Commemorations, the Litany of Supplication (which may be sung with the default melodies), the Lord’s Prayer (spoken by the congregation in the Byzantine tradition, or sung by all in other traditions), and the Bowing of Heads. This dialogue sequence needs no further explanation.

18. The Elevation (“One is Holy”)

The Elevation (“One is holy…”) may be sung in the Tone of the Anaphora, but due to its separation from the Anaphora it may be sung with a different or “fixed” melody without introducing any noticeable awkwardness. (Some traditional Byzantine melodies put this into a “triple meter” rhythm, but it is not necessary to observe this, and it really has no significance for us.)

19. The Pre-Communion Prayers

The Pre-communion Prayers are traditionally recited by all in a speaking voice.

20. The Communion Hymns (Koinonika)

The practice of singing Communion Hymns varies considerably from parish to parish. However, we should be aware that there should be two separate Communion Hymns sung at the Liturgy:

The first communion hymn (the Koinonikon), which will change according to the day of the week, the feast or the season, is intended to accompany the communion of the clergy. There are two very different practices for singing the Koinonikon – both of which have their roots in antiquity:

In the practice of monasteries and cathedrals, where there might be a considerable number of clergy, the communion hymn is traditionally sung by the most skilled chanters with a lengthy and elaborate melody (in the papadic genre); this is the one portion of the Divine Liturgy in which it is appropriate for the choir to explore their chanting skills and to glorify God by making use of the talents that have been granted them. (Some would insist that the Cheroubikon and the Megalynarion are likewise moments in the Liturgy for the choir to “shine”, and there is considerable historical evidence that this is a legitimate concept.)

In the practice of smaller parishes, the same text which is used for the slow communion hymns is instead sung briefly as a refrain, and appropriate Psalm verses are intoned between the refrains. (This is the current practice of the Antiochian Archdiocese, in which congregational singing is encouraged for most of the service.) If the sequence is finished before the priest is ready for the communion of the faithful, we may either repeat some of the verses, or we may sing other hymns (such as a portion of the oldest communion hymn, Psalm 33), or a reader may read some of the pre-communion prayers.

The second communion hymn, which may be a repetition of the previous hymn, but more typically is a short verse which is repeated, is intended to accompany the communion of the faithful. (The short hymn “Receive ye the body of Christ…”, included in this book, is often sung in many parishes, especially according to the Russian rite.) We repeat the hymn(s) as needed until all have communed. As an alternative, the modern practice in the Antiochian Church is to sing the hymn “Receive me today” during the communion of the faithful; however, this may be problematic in small parishes where the singers need to leave the chant stand in order to partake of Holy Communion, leaving an insufficient number of singers to complete the hymn.

For both sets of communion hymns, we conclude with the three-fold “Alleluia”.

21. Thanksgiving after Holy Communion

The hymn “We have seen the true Light…” is sometimes replaced on Great Feasts by the Troparion of the Feast; during the entire Paschal season it is replaced by singing “Christ is risen…” once slowly or thrice quickly (to allow the priest time for his part in the post-communion rite at the altar table).

The hymn “Let our mouths be filled…”, and the Litany of Thanksgiving are fixed portions of the Liturgy, sung as simple dialogue with the priest.

Both of these hymns are sung in Plagal of 2nd Mode, which technically should have a flatted A. However, some parishes are hesitant to sing the A-flat (except in the last phrase), as it sounds a bit too foreign or sad to their ears. Whichever way the choir wants to sing this (A-flat or A-natural), everyone should agree to sing the same pitches. As a suggestion, we could sing these with A-flat on regular Sundays, and A-natural at festal Liturgies.)

22. The Conclusion of the Liturgy

The hymn “Blessed be the Name of the Lord…” is replaced by “Christ is risen…” (sung thrice) during Bright Week; in some traditions it is sung here during the entire Paschal period.

Following this, special services (e.g. processions, removal of marriage crowns, Trisagion prayers for the departed, etc.) may then take place at this point, before the Divine Liturgy is concluded.

23. The Dismissal
24. The Polychronion (Many Years)

Following the Dismissal, the “Polychronion” (Many Years) may be sung if someone in the parish has a Name Day, or if they were newly baptized or married, etc. In some traditions, this is sung for the priest who served the Liturgy (although this seems to be more appropriate if a visiting priest or bishop served).

During the Paschal season, “Christ is risen…” is exclaimed by the priest at the very end of the Liturgy, followed by the usual concluding dialogue.

25. Prayers of Thanksgiving After Holy Communion

Those who have partaken of Holy Communion should remain in the church to listen to the Prayers of Thanksgiving After Holy Communion. (Unless there is some truly compelling reason for someone to leave the church early, or to not remain in the nave and listen to them, there is no proper justification for neglecting or disregarding the reading of these prayers. These prayers are a sacred obligation.) If the priest is not able to start or lead the prayers, a layman may lead them, as instructed in the prayers.