Thursday, November 1, 2018

Vigil – Let Us Attend?

There are 9 Divine Services appointed to be served each day of the year. Those are:

Midnight Office
First Hour
Third Hour
Sixth Hour
Divine Liturgy or Typica
Ninth Hour

In parishes generally Compline and Midnight Office are served very rarely, as is the Ninth Hour. Not never – just rarely. The typical parish cycle of Divine Services is:

=== Evening Services ===
First Hour
=== End of Evening Services ===

=== Morning Services ===
Third Hour
Sixth Hour
Divine Liturgy
=== End of Morning Services ===

Sometimes the evening services are served separately, one right after the other. But sometimes, if the commemoration of the saint or feast is a significant one (and always on Saturday evenings in the Russian Church) the three evening services are combined into a Vigil. It is still the same three services – these are just combined a little differently than when they are served separately.

Typica is served on days when there is no Liturgy appointed, or when the Liturgy is Vesperal in nature (Presanctified Liturgy, or one of the combined Vespers/Liturgy services like on the eve of Nativity or Holy Saturday or other similar days).

It is important for us to fight the idea that the evening and morning Divine Services are “separate”. Of course, they are separated by time. We can’t deny that. Although there is no time in the Heavenly Kingdom and we should not forget that when we discussing the Divine Services, where earth and Heaven meet...

Rather, we need to strive to see the evening and morning Divine Services as one whole, with the evening services being an important (and by important we mean “crucial”) part of preparing for the Divine Liturgy. That is especially true if one is communing, but also important if one is not. Why is that?

The reason is this: the vast, vast majority of educational material found in the Divine Services is located in the evening services. About 60% of the evening services is changeable – every day is different. On the contrary, about 80% of the morning Divine Services DO NOT CHANGE – every day is the same. The Divine Liturgy is the the most important Divine Service from a theological point of view – this is without question. The Angels marvel at the Eucharist, which does not exist in the Heavenly Kingdom. When we are present at the Divine Liturgy we are present at the events in the life of our Lord commemorated there. There is no more important service from that point of view – this is the ultimate expression of the incarnational reality of our Orthodox Faith.

But just because the Divine Liturgy is the ultimate Divine Service does not mean that the others are somehow useless. And if we are honest – this is how we treat the other services. I don’t mean this is how we think about them. At least hypothetically. We don’t despise them in our thoughts. But in our deeds we do. Because we do not come to God’s House for these important educational services. These services are important for those preparing to join the Church from a catechitical point of view, but they are important for the rest of us too. And if we are honest – the level of our spiritual/theological education is rather low from a historical perspective. In Byzantium one could find people arguing on corners and in the marketplace about the nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the place of icons in the Church, etc. I do not think that we will soon return to those days, nor do I think that is necessarily a goal for which we should strive. But to know our faith: to read the Nicean Creed with complete understanding, to know the lives of the saints, to know the major theological beliefs of our faith, to build an Orthodox ethos and filter that allows us to live in the world without becoming part of the world – all these are strengthened greatly by attending the evening Divine Services. It is said that if one were to attend all the Divine Services every day of the year one would never have to open another book – all these things would be part and parcel of our lives. That time is probably not coming again soon – when most of us could attend most Divine Services every day. But I would suggest that we can and should strive to move more towards that place. Towards making the Divine Services more important in our lives. And we can begin by more diligently and zealously attending the evening Divine Services whenever we have the chance to do so.

Evening Divine Services: Educationally Most Important

Morning Divine Liturgy: Theologically Most Important

Thank God we have the opportunity to have many Divine Services in our parish. And I sincerely thank all of you that make that possible! But that does not mean there is an expectation that everyone would attend every service. Rather, what it means, is that there are many opportunities to be in God’s House, the parish church, and that for most people there are opportunities that correspond to their free time outside of their usual work schedules. It is understood that not all free time outside of work can be 100% dedicated to attending the Divine Services. But how about 10%? What about 5%? If we work 40 hours per week that means we have 128 hours of time every week we are not working. Yes – we have to sleep. Yes – we have to eat. Yes – we have to do chores. All understood and expected. 5% of 128 is 6.4 (we’ll round this to 6.5 to make things mathematically easier). That would be 6.5 hours for the Divine Services if we dedicate 5% of our free time to this pious pursuit. Saturday evening services are about 2.5 hours. That leaves 4 hours left. Sunday morning Liturgy is about 2 hours. That leaves us 2 more hours every week that we could dedicate to the Divine Services if we decided we would spend just 5% of our non-working time in God’s house. Do you know what takes about 2 hours? One weekday evening cycle of the Divine Services. Or one weekday Divine Liturgy (actually these are more like 1.5 hours, but who is counting?). Perhaps for some thinking about this mathematically is helpful...

As we prepare for the Nativity Lent, which begins on November 28, let us also prepare ourselves to make a renewed effort in this regard: to attend the evening Divine Services more often (especially if partaking of Holy Communion the next day – this is really a must unless one lives very far away, is very sick, or very young): on Saturday evenings, on other evenings, or even at Midnight Liturgies. Your sincere efforts in this regard – to draw nearer to the Lord through the Divine Services that He has guided in their development for our salvation – WILL pay spiritual dividends. And it is the right thing to do. It is the Orthodox thing to do. It is a direct investment in our striving for transfiguration into the sons and daughters of God. And if you teach your child to attend the Saturday evening Divine Services you will never wonder where you child is on Saturday night – even when they leave the nest of the family home to strike out on their own. Good spiritual habits taught in childhood tend to be practiced in adulthood as well. May the Lord strengthen us to be zealous to attend and participate (via our attendance, for we are always participants in the Divine Services when we attend – never spectators) in the Divine Services for the good of our salvation and to teach our children to do so as well!

Fr. Gregory


Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky: “The Holies are for the Holy” - On the Divine Liturgy

Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy: “The Divine Services” (Excerpt from “Law of God”)

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