Ask your liturgical questions here!

I’m working on a new post about forefeasts and afterfeasts, and some interesting details about the current afterfeast of Theophany. There’s a lot of interesting information about this in general, and since we’re currently in the middle of an afterfeast, I thought it would be a good topic to write about. While I’m working on it, I’d love to hear what people want to know. Do you have something you always wondered about? Want to know how a particular service “works”? Let me know (either specifics or in general) what you’d like to read, and I’ll either answer questions now, or try to write posts about topics of interest.

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14 Responses to Ask your liturgical questions here!

  1. I know that there are different practices in this regard, but perhaps you could talk about when the Festal Icon is brought out. For example, when should it have been brought?

    • typicaliza says:

      This is a good question. I’ll address it soon–I also know there are different practices, and I’d like to look into it a little more. Do you mean specifically regarding Nativity/Theophany (for which I am aware of one issue) or for Great Feasts in general? Also, I wonder what you do!

      • On a normal feast, we put the icon of the feast in place before the vigil begins. When the Royal Hours are done for Nativity and Theophany, we put the Icon of the Feast out. On Holy Friday, this is done before the Cross. We did not do the Royal Hours for theophany this year, but when it is not done in conjunction with a liturgy, it seems like after the Royal Hours, you would put that icon away during the services for the Eve, and then bring it back out for the Vespers. But it does seem odd to take the icon out, and then put back, and then take it out again later.

        • typicaliza says:

          Hi Fr. John, I’m sorry it took me so long to get back. This an issue where there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer, but different traditions. What I have seen here, is that for Nativity and Theophany, the Tropar and Kondak are sung for the first time after the Vesperal Liturgy, and a candle is brought out (representing the “first star”–both the star on Nativity, but also because you are not supposed to eat till after the first star is seen in the evening, though many people wait till later to eat anyway). The icon is put out only for the festal vigil–maybe because of the idea that the “star” on Nativity was seen first, and then the Child in the manger. But in other places, the icon is put out at the beginning of Vesperal Liturgy (normally the icon for a feast is placed in the center of the church at the beginning of the Vigil, so that means the beginning of Vespers). I can see an argument for either one!

          If Royal Hours is served separately, I don’t think you’d bring the icon out at all till at least Vespers on the Eve. After all, after the Royal Hours, the normal services for whatever day it is are served in the evening–it’s not actually the Eve of the Feast yet, so there’s no reason to bring it out till the normal time (Vespers, or in the evening before Compline–whichever way you do it).

  2. abbamoses says:

    I’ve wondered for years about the rationale for when the Polyeleos vs. Ps. 118 is done at Sunday Matins. The schedule isn’t hard to find (it’s even in the back of the Holy Transfiguration Psalter) but I’ve never been able to detect a pattern that made sense to me. I’d appreciate any wisdom you have to offer on this!

    • typicaliza says:

      I have wondered about this question as well! Sometimes it’s easy to figure out the “why” for things, if you know the services really well, and sometimes less so. I have some ideas about this, and I’ll try to post my thoughts on it soon, probably as a separate post. I believe this coincides with the change in how many kathismas are read at Matins during the week–that is, the change, outside of Lent, happens at the same time.

      • I think one of the general rules for this is : when three kathismatas are assigned for Matins we sing Polyeleos on Sunday (the Polyeleos takes the place of the third Kathismata). When only two Kathismatas are assigned we sing Ps. 118 on Sundays. Note that three kathismatas are not only assigned during Great Lent. In the time from 9/22 to 12/20 and then from the day after the Afterfeast of Theophany to Palm Sunday three kathismatas are assigned.

  3. CG says:

    What is the significance of the date 22 September as the start for the two additional prayers said in the weekday Midnight Office from then until Palm Sunday?
    My uninformed guess is that this period roughly corresponds with winter in the northern hemisphere, when nights are longer (and colder) and perhaps more difficult to shake off sleep then?
    I asked elsewhere and received this reply:
    This is because September 21 is the leave-taking of the Exaltation of the Cross. The rule also applies to the Polyeleos, which according to the Slavonic Typicon is sung on Sundays on or after September 22 through December 19, and then after January 14 until the Sunday of Cheesefare (plus Palm Sunday).
    Is this correct?

    • typicaliza says:

      Hi CG, For one thing, I think you are correct in thinking that the adding of these prayers (as well as other things) has something to do with the length of winter nights. Maybe partly it’s harder to shake off sleep, but also, you have more “night” time available, so some of the services which were served in monasteries during the night may have been expanded to adjust to that. Generally, in an agrarian society (and most old monasteries were also farms!) there is less work that must be done in the winter.

      What you were told elsewhere is correct, but I don’t think it represents the whole story. For one thing, as I mentioned in a comment above, another change that happens at the same time as the beginning of singing the Polielei at Sunday Matins, is that 3 Kathismas are read at Matins instead of 2. This would confirm the idea that certain things were added in the winter when there was more time. However, I don’t think the fact that there is more time in winter is the whole reason for this–the way that the schedule of reading the Psalter/when you sing the Polielei is put together also works with the liturgical year and cycle. There may not be a perfect “why” answer to why these prayers are added at the midnight office specifically, but I think it fits into this whole topic. It’s too much to address in a comment (and will probably be interesting to others as well!) so watch out for a post in the next few days that addresses this issue–including the question above.

  4. Maximus says:

    Why do Greeks do Orthros and Russians do All-night Vigils? Which practice is older and when did they begin to differ?


    • abbamoses says:

      Not to answer the question but maybe to narrow it down: Greek practice certainly has vigils for great feasts. I think the difference is that vigil (including orthros/matins) is standard Russian practice for the Saturday evening preceding Sunday Liturgy, where in Greek practice orthros is done on Sunday morning preceding Liturgy rather than as part of the vigil. When Vigil is done in full in the Greek practice, it continues straight into Divine Liturgy; in Russian practice I think there’s always a break, reconvening the next morning for liturgy. Do I have this right?

      • Panagiotis says:

        You’re definitely right on the Greek side. Take into account also that, due to the longer nature of Byzantine chant, the Orthros needs about 1.5 (or 2 hours on a feast day, without cuts), so it would make for about a 3 to 4 hour Saturday night vigil.

      • typicaliza says:

        Yes, that is the difference as I understand it! It’s basically a question of whether Sunday qualifies as a Vigil rank on its own, or is something different.

    • typicaliza says:

      abbamoses’ comment below is pretty much correct. Both Greeks and Russians have All-night Vigils appointed, but as I understand it, in the Greek tradition this is only for Vigil-rank feasts, whereas in the Russian tradition, every Sunday is counted as Vigil rank, basically. Even the Slavic Typikon gives instructions about how to serve Sunday with Matins separately. I imagine the Greek practice is probably older, given the evidence in the service books, but it’s likely that a difference in practice was in evidence pretty early. I don’t know details about that, though I’d be interested in researching it. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, historically, and certainly both are valid traditions.

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