Divine Services Conducted During Holy and Great Lent

40 Holy Martyrs of Sebaste

40 Holy Martyrs of Sebaste

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ,

DIVINE SERVICES CONDUCTED DURING HOLY AND GREAT LENT (PART I)

Compline (Greek: Apotheipnon), literally, {'after-supper' prayer), is a service of prayers and Psalms read after dinner and following Vespers (Esperinon).

Compline is the final church service of the day in the daily liturgical cycle, prior to going to sleep. The English word Compline is derived from the Latin completorium, as Compline is the completion of the working day.

A text in Callinicus (between 447 and 450 AD), first introduced in Father Pargoire's argument, informs us that between Vespers and the Midnight Office there was celebrated in the Eastern Church, a canonical hour called in this text prothypnia, because it preceded the first sleep, being nothing other than what the Greek Orthodox call Apotheipnon, on account of the meal it follows. However, in the 37 questions of his Great Asketikion (Long Rules), Saint Basil the Great, also, speaks of an intermediate Hour between Vespers and the Midnight Office.

The belief is that the service was established by Saint Basil the Great in his retreat in Pontus (358-362 AD). This Hour did not exist prior to his time, that is, until shortly after the middle of the 4th century.

Compline takes two distinct forms: Small Compline and Great Compline. The two versions are quite different in length.

At Compline (whether Small or Great), a Canon to the Theotokos in the Tone of the Week will normally be read (these Canons will be found in the Octoechos). Services to Saints in the Menaion that, for one reason or another, cannot be celebrated on the day assigned to them, may be chanted on the nearest convenient day at Compline. In such cases, the Canon for the Saint would be read together with the Canon to the Theotokos, followed by the Stichera to the Saint from Vespers. There are also particular days (such as certain Forefeasts, Afterfeasts, and days during the Pentecostarion) that have special Canons for Compline composed for them.

The Office always ends with a mutual asking for forgiveness. In some traditions, most notably among the Russians, Evening Prayers (i.e., Prayers before Sleep) will be read near the end of Compline. It is an ancient tradition, practiced to this day on the Holy Mountain and in other monasteries, for everyone present at the end of Compline to venerate the Holy Relics and Holy Icons in the church, and receive the priest's blessing.

Small Compline is served on most nights of the year (i.e., those nights on which Great Compline is not served). On the eves of Sundays and feasts with all-night vigil, Compline may be either read privately or suppressed altogether. Among the Greek Orthodox, who do not normally hold an All-Night Vigil on Saturday evening, Compline is said as normal. (Source: OrthodoxWiki)

The Akathist Hymn

The Akathist Hymn is a profound, devotional poem or chant, which sings the praises of the Holy Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary (Theotokos). It is chanted in all Orthodox Churches throughout the world during the five Fridays in the Great Lent, and constitutes a very concrete spiritual preparation for the Holy Week and Pascha Services.

Devotional Hymns to the Theotokos are as ancient as the first Christian Church. The Byzantine Empire from its very inception at Constantinople during the fourth century closely allied itself to the Virgin Mary and always sort Her protection or intercessions. This we see from the Prayer Services to the Theotokos between the 5th and 8th centuries, and the reference to Constantinople as the 'Queen City'.

The Akathist Hymn, which in its present form was added to by many Ecclesiastical Hymnographers, existed for most part even before it was formally accepted by the Church in 626 AD. The Kontakion hymn "To the Invincible Champion...we ascribe the victory" was added then, and came to be recognized as the Akathist Hymn, because of the following described miracle attributed to the intercession of the Theotokos.

While the Emperor of Byzantium Heracleos was on an expedition to fight the aggression of the Persians on their own grounds, there appeared outside the walls of Constantinople barbaric hordes, mostly Avars. The siege lasted a few months, and it was apparent that the outnumbered troops of the Queen City were reaching desperation. However as history records, the faith of the people (Orthodox Christians) worked the impossible. The Venerable Patriarch Sergius with the Clergy and the Official of Byzantium Vonos, endlessly marched along the great walls of Constantinople with an Icon of the Theotokos in hand, and bolstered the faith of the defenders of freedom. The miracle came soon after. Unexpectedly, as the chronicler narrates, a great storm with huge tidal waves destroyed most of the fleet of the enemy, and full retreat ensued.

The faithful of Constantinople spontaneously filled the Church of the Theotokos at Vlachernae on the Golden Horn, and with the Patriarch Sergius officiating, they prayed all night singing praises to the Virgin Mary without sitting. Hence the title of the Hymn "Akathistos", in Greek meaning 'not seated'.

The Akathist Hymn is a very important and indeed an integral part of our religious and ecclesiastical life. When we are present during the first Friday Service, we firmly realize that we commence to ascend the spiritual steps of the lengthy Lenten period, to finally reach the peak with our Lord's Glorious Resurrection.

In any of our Service Books we can readily see that our Glorious and Ever-Virgin Mary the Theotokos is the center of our Orthodox Divine Services in which prayers about Her interceding to Her Son, and our God, for our salvation. The Virgin Mary is the Most exalted and Most Honored Person by God. She is the Most revered and Most loved by Orthodox Christians. She is the Unique Personality of the world, because of the unique fact of the Lord's Incarnation. She is the daughter of Grace and the Crystal Vessel of the Grace of the Holy Spirit (see St. Luke 1:26-56).

Faith in the Almighty God is primary and all important to the Holy Orthodox Church. Our dependence on God is always beyond question, and from this faith we should strive not to stray. Therefore, divine Services, like the Akathist Hymn, should be a must and attended by all. Moreover, this particular Service links us so beautifully with a great and glorious period of our Christian history; it is also a very live tradition, which has never ceased in the Orthodox Church since its official acceptance in 626 A.D.

Living in these trying times, when we are besieged by many forces of evil, it is hoped that the Akathist Hymn as well as our other divine Services may become the bulwark to withstand, and indeed to overcome these forces. (Source: The Akathist Hymn by Fr. George Papadeas).

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George