Why Theophany Was Weird This Year

Finally! Why on earth was Theophany so weird this year? You can see my last post for some basic background on the feast of Theophany, its services, a little about how it relates to other feasts. Now let’s talk about what happened this year. The information in the last post applies to years in which the Eve of Theophany does not fall on a Saturday or Sunday. So if Theophany (or Nativity) falls on a Sunday (Old Calendar this year) or a Monday (New Calendar this year), the order is changed a bit. I’ll discuss how the services are different, and also why.

What are the differences?

According to the Typikon, neither the Royal Hours nor a Vesperal Liturgy can be served on a weekend. This is due to the fact these services are served on strict fast days, and when Saturdays and Sundays are fast days, the fast is never a complete strict fast. In fact, when the Menaion gives instructions for the Eve of Theophany, it says, in several places “if there is a fast,” (meaning a weekday) or “if there is not a fast” (meaning a weekend). We do always fast on the Eve of Theophany, in the sense that we abstain from meat, dairy, and fish (and in the Typikon itself, instructions are given to this effect). However, this instruction from the Menaion demonstrates the different significance of the fast day when it falls on a weekend.

Wine and oil are allowed on every Sunday that falls on a fast day, and on every Saturday except one, Holy Saturday, which is a strict fast. (Wine is allowed on this day, but not oil.) Because of this, and also because of the specific significance of Saturday, the “blessed Sabbath on which Christ has fallen asleep,” Holy Saturday is the exception to the rule, and a Vesperal Liturgy is always served on this day. There is a lot more to be said about Holy Week, but that will have to wait for another time.

To return to the feasts of Nativity and Theophany, the main services of the Eves of Nativity and Theophany (Royal Hours and Vesperal Liturgy) cannot be served if the feast falls on a Saturday or Sunday. Therefore, the Typikon appoints the following order:

The Royal Hours are served on the preceding Friday (and no Liturgy is served that day). Perhaps you were wondering why Royal Hours cannot simply be served before Liturgy on Saturday or Sunday, even if the Liturgy is not Vesperal.  The reason for this is the service of the Royal Hours combines the 1st, 3rd, 6th, and 9th hours in one service, followed by the service of the Typica, which contains certain psalms and hymns from the Divine Liturgy, especially the beginning part. A regular, non-Vesperal Liturgy occurs after the 6th hour, in the daily liturgical schedule (technically, the 3rd Hour corresponds to 9 am, and the 6th to 12 noon, but according to well-established common liturgical practice, these are usually served together before Liturgy, in the morning–I can write more about that in the future). Also, the Typica is not served preceding a non-Vesperal Liturgy. Since the Royal Hours is a composite service, which flows seamlessly from one hour to the next, and is followed by the Typica, it is not possible to serve a non-Vesperal Liturgy in conjunction with it. Since the Royal Hours are an important part of the preparatory services for Christmas and Theophany, there are moved to the preceding Friday, and not skipped or changed, if the Eve of the feast falls on a weekend.

In this situation, a regular, non-vesperal Liturgy is served on the Eve, with regular hours read before it. Vesperal Liturgies are always Liturgies of St. Basil, but this liturgy served on the Eve on a weekend is the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, again emphasizing the different nature of a weekend day. The Liturgy of St. Basil is still served, but is moved to the feast itself.

When the Eve of Theophany falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the Vespers service is served at the conclusion of Liturgy that morning. After the entrance, prokeimenon, and readings, Liturgy would begin, if it were a weekday (and a Vesperal Liturgy was appointed. However, in this instance, after the Old Testament readings, and an Epistle and Gospel, the regular litanies of Vespers are served, and then the service moves immediately into the blessing of water, normally served after Liturgy on both the Eve of Theophany and the Feast itself. The litiya, blessing of bread, and aposticha, which normally comprise the second part of festal Vespers, are served at Compline in the evening, as usual for these feasts.

But why?

Most people know that Sundays always commemorate the Resurrection of Christ. Sunday services always contain resurrectional hymns, and most commemorations and feasts falling on Sunday incorporate at least some of that material. The only exception to this rule is when one of the Great Feasts of the Lord falls on a Sunday (as Theophany did this year), in which case only the festal texts are used.

On the Jewish calendar, the Sabbath, as the day of rest, the final day of creation, is the center of the week. In the Church, Sunday took its place as the main observance, but, at least in the Orthodox Church, Saturday did not lose its significance as the 7th day. On Holy Saturday, Christ descended into hades and conquered death, while “resting” in the tomb, thus mirroring God’s rest on the 7th day of creation. Saturdays, as mentioned above, are never strict fasting days, and the church services have certain special characteristics (perhaps I’ll post about that in the future). During Great Lent this is especially marked, as the Lenten order of services is performed from Monday to Friday, during which time Liturgy cannot be served, and the Divine Liturgy is celebrated on Saturday and Sunday of Lent.

Since both Saturday and Sunday have special significance, and both have a certain inherent festal nature, the services of the church are adjusted to acknowledge this fact. From this we can learn two important things about liturgical structure. Firstly, we see that Nativity and Theophany are uniquely important, which is shown by the fact that they are both commemorated in an unusual way (the Eve is celebrated as a strict fast day, with Royal Hours and Vesperal Liturgy). When we look at the structure of these services (as in my last post), we learn that the services have a lot in common with Holy Friday and Saturday (the “Eve” of Pascha). Secondly, the significance of both Saturday and Sunday in the weekly liturgical cycle is confirmed. These days are treated differently than weekdays due to their theological significance, and the fact that the preparatory order of service for such important feasts as Nativity and Theophany is significantly altered in deference to this makes clear the depth of this significance.

Trivia Question

How well do you know rubrics? Can you answer this question?

How many times is the hymn In Thee Rejoiceth/All of Creation Rejoices in Thee/О Тебе Радуется sung in a typical year (that is, the most possible times it can be sung)? What are the other possibilities? What is the fewest number of times it can be sung? You might need to check a calendar for this one!

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17 Responses to Why Theophany Was Weird This Year

  1. My guess for most possible times is 12.

    • typicaliza says:

      Hmmm, no. At least, this question refers to this hymn being sung at Liturgy… So, the number of times it’s sung at Liturgy in the year. ( I don’t *think* there is another time, not during liturgy, when you sing it, but I could be forgetting something. I know it is sometimes used as a sedalen, which you *could* sing, though Russians generally don’t, but I am not referring to that).

  2. Oops, you didn’t specify Liturgy. It is used as the theotokion at the kathisma hymns at Tone 8 Sunday Matins.

    • typicaliza says:

      Right, that is what I meant in my above comment, it can be a Kathisma Hymn/Sedalen!

      • You *read* it at Matins? Ach, my aching heart! It’s apparently so important that we’re supposed to sing it standing, with fear and devotion. (“Богородиченъ, не сѣдяще поемъ, но стояще, и со страхомъ и благоговѣнїемъ”.) I guess we all cut corners somewhere. 😉

        At least tell me that at Liturgy you only ever use Grecheski rospev, and never Obikhod Tone 6!

  3. I could still be wrong, since I didn’t crunch ALL the numbers with regard to Paschal dates. (I am not a number cruncher.)

    • typicaliza says:

      If you try to answer that question including the Kathisma Hymns, it becomes much more complicated–it could be a different number of times within a particular liturgical year depending on a *lot* of things.

      If you answer it only regarding its use at Liturgy, it’s actually a much easier question. We have 1) the number of times in a normal year (straightforward), 2) two other numbers of times it could be, depending on specific situations, both of which have occurred in the last two years (on the Old Calendar, anyway).

  4. Okay, back to the original question:

    In a normal year, 8 times (Jan. 1, Jan. 5, the five Sundays of the Great Fast, and Dec. 24).

    However, it seems the least number of times could be 6, if the eve of Christmas or Theophany is a Saturday or Sunday, and if Annunciation falls on a Sunday of Lent.

  5. This is a great blog. Thanks for your work on it!

  6. Panagiotis says:

    I don’t know if you have any posts related to 2010, when the Sunday after Theophany was the first Sunday of the Triodion! That was a crazy year. Also “The Encounter” (Feb 2/15) fell on the first day of Great Lent, making that service a very unique Typikon event!

    • typicaliza says:

      It was definitely a crazy year. In the Russian tradition, the Meeting of the Lord is transferred to the day before (Forgiveness Sunday) if it falls on the first day of Great Lent, so that is what we did. That was still pretty crazy though. I haven’t written anything about any of that, and it was basically a matter of combining services, which does happen a lot anyway, maybe just not so many things all together! 🙂

  7. Reblogged this on Zacchaeus Nifong and commented:
    This is a wonderful blog about the services (Typikon) on #Theophany & #Nativity

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