Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On vesperal liturgies

In his recent clergy conference, Bp. Matthias of Chicago (OCA) is quoted as saying he "wants the use of Vesperal liturgies eventually to be discontinued, perhaps in one year..." Below Fr. John Whiteford espouses a similar opinion in his most recent blog post entitled "Why doing Vesperal Liturgies in the place of the appointed services is a bad idea."

Vesperal Liturgies are appointed by the Typikon to be done only on days of strict fasting, and they are preceded by either the Lenten Hours or by Royal Hours. It is done in the evening because on days of strict fasting you do not break the fast until vespers -- though the latest that these services are actually appointed to be done is about 3 p.m. So to use this liturgical form for a day of feasting is to set the form on its head. Also, if you were doing a vesperal liturgy for the feast of the Dormition for example, you should do it on the day of the feast, not on the eve. Another problem is that on a feast day, you normally have a Vigil, and then the hours and the Liturgy. The Vigil usually consists of Vespers, with a Litia, Matins, and the first hour. When you reduce a feast to a Vesperal Liturgy you are taking about the first 30 minutes or so of the Vigil, and slapping it on to the second half of the Liturgy, and skipping everything in between, which is the bulk of the liturgical material appointed for the feast.

Now the issue of people attending the Liturgy on a weekday is a problem, but there are better solutions. The Antiochians (at least under Bishop Basil) have started doing Vespers, Matins, and the Liturgy all straight through in evening prior to the feast.... which is consistent with the Greek Style Agrypnia (amusingly I know this term primarily from medicine, where it means insomnia). More traditionally, an Agrypnia begins in the evening, and the Liturgy concludes after midnight, but at least this solution actually celebrates the festal services in a fairly full manner.

Complete post here.


  1. It's been reported that in the DOM baptismal divine liturgies will no longer be celebrated (though churches which celebrate them already can grandfather them in until their current priest retires or dies), the traditionally (since like the 700s) 'secret' prayers of the priest that have been read aloud in the Diocese 'recently' are to be read silently again, and that women are not allowed to hold the communion napkin (assuming, presumably, there are typically altar servers, subdeacons present).

    I for one applaud some consistency being reintroduced into at least one jurisdiction. One can already get the diversity of different local church customs by visiting the multitude of other jurisdictions in the US. There's no need for us to add idiosyncrasy to diversity, even if someone wrote a really good book about some Father somewhere who did x, y, or z. We should, as much as possible, be about the consensus of the Fathers and about passing on only what we have received, with discretion for repenting of errors that have become too common but have not gone completely out of use altogether (e.g., the Kollyvades', et al reintroduction of frequent communion, the cessation of prayers for the dead on Sundays, and the 'rediscovery' of the almost lost practice of prayer of the heart, revelation of thoughts, and eldership.)

  2. This should be interesting. The church I visit is in the Diocese of the Midwest and makes frequent use of vesperal liturgies. I had a long conversation with the presvetera about a year ago and she specifically mentioned them as one of the things she loved about the OCA.

  3. From Fr. John's keyboard to God's inbox. May it happen swiftly.

  4. Another reason to be thankful for Bishop Matthias' consecration, though in response to the first comment on this post, I'd heard just the opposite, namely that the priest's prayers are to be read aloud.