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Vespers

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*Great Vespers opens with the [[Priest]]'s exclamation ''Blessed is our God ...''
* The Reader reads "Come let us worship..." and the Proemial Psalm 103 ''Bless the Lord, O my soul ...'' is read, during which the priest quietly prays the seven prayers at the "Lighting of the Lamps."
*The [[Deacon ]] intones the Great Litany, at the end of which the [[Priest ]] exclaims "For unto Thee..."
*The Psalter Kathisma appointed for the day is read. On Saturday afternoon, the 1st Kathisma of the Psalter is read. Following the Kathisma, the Deacon intones the Small Litany, at the end of which the Priest exclaims "For Thine is the Dominion..."
*The Choir chants "Lord I have Cried...", in the Tone of the week if it be Saturday afternoon's Great Vespers, or in the Tone of the first Stikheron of the celebrated Saint if it be another day of the week. "Let my prayer by set forth as incense..." is chanted after, and then the verses "Set O Lord..." are chanted alternately by the right and left Choirs. On Saturday afternoon they insert the Resurrectional Stikhera beginning from the tenth to last verse "Bring my soul out of prison...". On a Saint's memory that falls on a weekday, they begin usually from the sixth to last verse, "If Thou, O Lord shouldst mark...", and sometimes from the eight to last verse, "Out of the depth have I cried unto Thee...". On Saturdays, as mentioned, 10 Stikhera are chanted, six to the Lord's [[Resurrection]] in the Tone of the week from the Octoechos, and then four to the Saint of the day from the Menaion. During the chanting of "Let my prayer be set forth...", at the point when the Choir chants "As incense..." the Deacon performs the great censing of the whole church.
*The Priest exclaims, "Peace be unto all...", and the Deacon intones, "Let us bow our heads...".
*The Priest reads silently the "Prayer at the Bowing of the Heads..." and then exclaims "For blessed is Thy Name, and glorified is Thy Kingdom...".
*If the Saint's service is festal, the [[litia|Litya ]] follows here. If no Idiomela are prescribed, (in which case, the service is not festal, and there are no readings, and at Matins, no Polyeleos, and no Gospel for the Saint), then we proceed to the Aposticha immediatlyimmediately. The Idiomela of the Litya are chanted with the "Glory. Both now." The Priest and Deacon exit the Sanctuary, and make a reverence to the Saint's icon. The Priest takes it in his hands, and the Deacon censes the Icon, as they make their way to the [[Narthex]]. There, when the chanting of the Idiomela has been completed, the Deacon exclaims the prayer "Save O God Thy people..." The Choir responds with "Lord have mercy..." three, forty, and three times. The usual petitions "Have mercy upon us O God..." are exclaimed, to which the Choir responds with "Lord have mercy..." three times to each. Then, the petionspetitions, "Let us again pray for every suffering Christian soul..." and "Let us again pray that the Lord God may deliver..." are intoned. The Choir responds to each of these with "Lord have mercy..." three, forty, and three times. The Deacon exclaims "Let us again pray that He may...", to which the Choir responds with "Lord have mercy...", once. The Priest exclaims the prayer "Hearken to us O God our Saviour the hope of all..." and then exclaims "For Thou art..." The Choir responds with "Amen." The Priest "Peace be unto all...". The Choir "And with Thy spirit..." The Priest "Let us bow our heads unto the Lord..." The Choir "To Thee, O Lord..." The Priest exclaims the prayer "Master rich in mercy..." after which the Choir responds with "Amen." The Litya with its festal Idiomela, and prayers for the salvation of the world now is finished. The Deacon and Priest now process with the festal Icon back into the main church. The Choir begins to chant the "Aposticha..."*The Aposticha are now chanted. If it be Saturday afternoon's Great Vespers, the Aposticha of the [[Resurrection ]] are always chanted. If the [[Saint ]] also has Aposticha (Festal Service), these are abandoned.
*"Glory" is chanted, followed by the Saint's Doxasticon, if there be one.
*"Both now" is chanted, followed by the Theotokion in the Tone of the Saint's Doxasticon. The Saint does not have a Doxasticon, then "Glory. Both now." is chanted followed by the Theotokion in the Tone of the week.
*'''''Forgiveness Vespers''''' is served on the evening of [[Forgiveness Sunday]] and is the first service of Great Lent. Forgiveness Vespers follows the order of Lenten Sunday Vespers but after the Great Prokeimenon the clergy exchange their bright vestments for dark and the choir begins to use distinctive lenten tones. Following the dismissal, the community celebrates the moving and beautiful rite of mutual forgiveness. See also [[Great Lent]].
*'''''Vespers of the Sunday of Orthodoxy''''' is served on the evening of the first Sunday of Great Lent ([[Sunday of Orthodoxy]]). Traditionally, this should follow the order of Sunday Lenten Vespers; however, it has become a popular custom in North America for all Orthodox parishes and missions in a particular locale to observe the Sunday of Orthodoxy at a special, joint pan-Orthodox Vespers service, concelebrated by the clergy of the various jurisdictions represented. Although the form of this joint service varies from place to place, it often includes a procession with holy icons and repeat an abbreviated form of the [[Synodicon of Orthodoxy]] adopted by the [[Seventh Ecumenical Council]]. Often a lenten fellowship meal is shared after the service.
*'''''Vespers of Holy Friday''''' (sometimes called the ''Unnailing Vespers'') follows the usual order of Great Vespers, but omits the kathisma and includes both an Epistle and Gospel reading after the Old Testament readings. During this service the clergy remove the [[corpus]] (soma) [[icon ]] of Christ from the cross in the middle of the nave, wrapping it with a white cloth. The [[epitaphios]] is then placed in the tomb and venerated by the faithful.*'''''Agape Vespers''''' is served on the evening of [[Pascha]]. It follows the order of Great Vespers. After the prokeimenon the Gospel account of the empty tomb ([[Gospel of John|John]] 20:19-25) is read. It is customary to read this [[pericope]] in many different languages, demonstrating the universal nature of the Good News of Christ's victory over sin and death. It is also customary for the [[clergy ]] and the people to make a procession around the Church during the chanting of the aposticha.
*'''''Kneeling Vespers''''' is served on the evening of [[Pentecost]]. In this service the posture of kneeling—a posture of penitence that is avoided during the glorious, joyful celebration of Pascha—is reintroduced to the liturgical life of the Church. Several "kneeling prayers" are prayed by the priest while the faithful kneel.
=== Evening Divine Liturgy ===
Since 1975 the [[Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America|Antiochian Archdiocese]] has permitted parishes in its [[jurisdiction]] to commemorate certain important feasts that fall on days other than Sunday and Monday at an Evening [[Divine Liturgy ]] served on the eve of (i.e., the night before) the feast. The Evening Divine Liturgy combines Great Vespers and the festal Divine Liturgy in a slightly different way than the traditional Vesperal Divine Liturgy. The form of the service was developed by the Archdiocese's Department of Liturgics and Translations.
The introduction of Evening Divine Liturgies has been viewed by some as a reasonable pastoral accommodation to the reality of American life—due to work and school commitments most families cannot order their schedules in such a way that readily permits attendance at weekday morning services. Others argue that the practice is an innovation that disrupts the liturgical cycle and continues a negative trend of shortening the divine services.
Some dioceses [[diocese]]s of the [[OCA]] also permit the celebration of Evening Divine Liturgies.
== Theological Meaning of Vespers ==
The Old Testament verses of these psalms of ''"Lord, I have cried"'' are alternated with New testament hymns composed in honor of the saint or feast of the day. The last verse is called the Theotokion, or Dogmatikon, since it is sung in honor of the Mother of God, and in it is set forth the dogma on the [[incarnation]] of the Son of God from the Virgin Mary.
During the chanting of the Theotokion the Royal Gates are opened, and the Vespers Entry is made. At this time the choir chants a hymn to the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ: ''"O Gladsome Light"''. In the hymn, the Son of God is called the ''Gentle Light that comes from the Heavenly Father'', because He came to this earth not in the fullness of divine glory but in the gentle radiance of this glory. This hymn also says that only with reverent voices, and not with sinful mouths, can He be worthily exalted and the necessary glorification be accomplished. The entry reminds the faithful how the Old Testament righteous, in harmony with the promise of God that was manifest in prototypes and prophecies, expected the coming of the Saviour, and how He appeared in the world for the salvation of the human race. The censer at the entry signifies that our prayers, by the intercession of our Lord the Saviour, are offered to God like incense. It also signifies the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church. The blessing with the sign of the Cross shows that by means of the [[Cross ]] of the Lord the doors into Paradise are opened again.
Christ is praised as the Light which illumines man's darkness, the Light of the world and of the Kingdom of God which shall have no evening.
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