Reader Services

Each of the liturgical services of the Byzantine Catholic Church, with the exception of the Divine Liturgies and the sacraments, can be celebrated without a priest; the priestly prayers and blessings are omitted, and certain other traditional changes are made.  This article provides a (proposed) order for these celebrations, which are referred to as Reader Services.   This order of services is also suitable for use in the home.

This order of services assumes the presence of:

In keeping with the traditions of the Carpathian Rus', all singing at services is done, as much as possible, by the entire congregation, except for those parts appointed to individuals.  In some cases, the faithful may be divided to form two "choirs", singing in alternation (antiphonally).

Preparing for Services

In church, a tetrapod may placed in the nave before the Royal Doors, according to custom, with two candle, a cross, and an icon.  If a layperson is to lead Matins, the Gospel Book is placed on the tetrapod before the service.  

In the home, the service should be held before the family icon corner. 

General Guidelines for Reader Services

When reader services are held:

Vespers in the Absence of a Priest

The ecclesiarch stands in the nave, facing East, and says: "Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us."  The people answer, "Amen."  

The ecclesiarch and the people, or the people all together, according to custom, say the beginning prayers as usual, from "Glory to You, our God" onward.   The Lord's Prayer concludes with ".. and deliver us from evil.";  the exclamation "For thine is the Kingdom..."  and "Amen"are omitted.
 
After the beginning prayers, the reader, or the people, sing Psalm 103, "Bless the Lord, O my soul", and the concluding "Alleluia" as usual.
 
In place of the Litany of Peace, the people sing "Lord, have mercy" (12 times), "Glory", "Now and ever."

Then the ecclesiarch may say the Prayer of the Hours:

O good God, in all times and places you are worshipped and glorified both in heaven and on earth.  You are long-suffering and generous in your mercy and compassion.  You love the just and show mercy to the sinner, calling all to repentance through the promise of blessings to come.  Deem, O Lord, at this very hour, to receive our supplications and to direct our lives in the path of your commandments.  Sanctify our souls, purify our bodies, set right our minds, cleanse our thoughts; deliver us from all affliction, trouble and distress; surround us with your holy angels so that, guided and guarded in their camp, we may obtain oneness of faith and the knowledge of your unspeakable glory.  For you are blessed, forever and ever.  Amen.

The people do not respond "Amen."

The service continues with "Blessed is the man", or the appointed readings from the psalter (if taken).  Instead of the Small Litany, all sing "Lord, have mercy" (three times), "Glory", "Now and ever."

The Lamp-lighting Psalms and stichera are sung as usual.

Then the people sing the Hymn of the Evening, "O Joyful Light", followed by the Prokeimenon of the day; the ecclesiarch or reader chants the verses. If there are readings, the Reader announces the title, and begins to read.  

If it is a Sunday or feast day: in place of the Litany of Fervent Supplication ("Let us all say with our whole soul..."), the people sing "Lord, have mercy" (12 times), "Glory", "Now and ever".

The Hymn of Glorification ("O Lord, keep us this evening without sin") is sung by the people, either all together or in alternation.

In place of the Litany of Supplication, the people sing: "Lord, have mercy" (12 times), "Glory", "Now and ever."

Then the ecclesiarch may say the following evening prayer of St. Basil the Great:

Blessed are you, O Almighty Master, for you have lighted the day with the brilliance of the sun and the night with the fiery stars.  You have counted us worthy of the length of this day and to come to the beginning of night.  Hear our prayer and forgive the voluntary and involuntary sins of all your people.  Accept our evening prayers and send down in return the greatness of your mercy and kindness upon us, your inheritance.  Guard us with your holy angels, clothe us in righteousness as a defense, protect us in your truth, and keep us in your strength.  Deliver us from all our enemies and their hostile attacks.  Grant that this evening and the approaching night and all the days of our life may be perfect, holy, peaceful, sinless, without violence and free of nightmares.  Through the prayers of the holy Theotokos (Fr. David has "the holy God-bearer") and of all the saints who from all ages have been pleasing to you.  Amen.

The people do not respond "Amen."

If Litija is appointed, the Litija stichera are now sung, and the ecclesiarch and people process to the narthex.   Then all sing "Lord, have mercy" forty times, "Glory", "Now and ever" in place of the litany of the Litija.  

The prescribed aposticha are then sung, followed by "Now you shall dismiss your servant..." and the rest; if a procession was held, the ecclesiarch and people return to the nave during the singing of the aposticha.  After the Lord's Prayer, the exclamation "For thine is the Kingdom..." is omitted.  Then all sing the troparia of the day as usual.  

If Litija is appointed and bread has been previously blessed by a priest, then it is distributed at this point, accompanied by the singing of Psalm 33.  Otherwise this psalm is omitted.

If it is an ordinary weekday, then in place of the Litany of Supplication, the people now sing: "Lord, have mercy" (12 times), "Glory", "Now and ever."

At the dismissal, the faithful sing:

More honorable...
Glory, Now and ever
Lord, have mercy (three times)
Bless, O Lord!

Then the ecclesiarch says the dismissal, facing East:

O Lord Jesus Christ, through the prayers of your most pure Mother, by the might of the precious and life-giving Cross, through the prayers of the holy, glorious and praiseworthy apostles, and of the holy (patrons of the church and saints of the day), and of all the saints, have mercy on us.

And the people respond "Amen."

Matins in the Absence of a Priest

The ecclesiarch stands in the nave, facing East, and says: "Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us."  The people answer, "Amen."  

After the Hexapsalmos, in place of the Litany of Peace, the people sing, "Lord, have mercy" (12 times), "Glory", "Now and ever."

Then the ecclesiarch says the Prayer of the Hours:

O good God, in all times and places you are worshipped and glorified both in heaven and on earth.  You are long-suffering and generous in your mercy and compassion.  You love the just and show mercy to the sinner, calling all to repentance through the promise of blessings to come.  Deem, O Lord, at this very hour, to receive our supplications and to direct our lives in the path of your commandments.  Sanctify our souls, purify our bodies, set right our minds, cleanse our thoughts; deliver us from all affliction, trouble and distress; surround us with your holy angels so that, guided and guarded in their camp, we may obtain oneness of faith and the knowledge of your unspeakable glory.  For you are blessed, forever and ever.  Amen.

The people do not respond "Amen."

At "The Lord is God", the ecclesiarch chants the verses.

If the kathismata of the psalter are taken, then in place of each Little Litany, all sing "Lord, have mercy" (three times), "Glory", "Now and ever", followed by the sessional hymns.

In place of the Little Litany at the end of the third kathisma, all sing "Lord, have mercy" (three times), "Glory", "Now and ever".
     
The ecclesiarch chants the verses at the prokeimenon and "Let everything that lives...".

Standing in the nave, facing east, the ecclesiarch intones, "A reading of the Holy Gospel according to the holy apostle and evangelist ______", and the people sing "Glory to you, O Lord."  The ecclesiarch reads the Gospel in a normal speaking voice.  Then the people again sing, "Glory to you, O Lord."  The ecclesiarch closes the Gospel book, places it on the tetrapod, and venerates it.

After Psalm 50 (and its stichera, if any), the ecclesiarch says the prayer "Lord, save your people", and the faithful sing "Lord, have mercy" (twelve times); the ecclesiarch says "Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us.", and the people respond "Amen".   

While the Canon is sung, the faithful come forward to venerate the Gospel Book, but no anointing is done.  If bread was blessed at Vespers by a priest, it may be distributed as well.

In place of the Small Litanies after the third and sixth odes of the Canon, all sing "Lord, have mercy" (three times), "Glory", "Now and ever".

The exclamation "Let us greatly extol the Theotokos..." before the ninth ode of the Canon is omitted.

After the Canon, the people sing "Holy is the Lord our God", and the ecclesiarch chants the verse.

After the Psalms of Praise and the accompanying stichera, the priest's exclamation, "Glory to You who show us the light" is omitted, and the Doxology is sung or chanted as appointed.

In place of the Litany of Supplication, the people sing: "Lord, have mercy" (12 times), "Glory", "Now and ever." Then the ecclesiarch says the following:

Arising from sleep, I thank you, O Holy Trinity; because of your great kindness you have not been angry with me, though I am lazy and sinful, nor have you destroyed me in my sins.  Rather, you have shown your customary love for us, and you have raised me up as I lay in neglect, that I may sing this morning hymn and glorify your dominion.  Enlighten now the eyes of my understanding, open my ears to receive your words, and teach me your commandments.  Help me to do you will, to glorify you, to confess you from my heart, and to extol your all-holy name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and even and forever.  Amen.

The people do not respond "Amen."

At the dismissal, the faithful sing:

 More honorable...   
Glory, Now and ever
Lord, have mercy (three times)
Bless, O Lord!

Then the ecclesiarch says the dismissal, facing East:

O Lord Jesus Christ, through the prayers of your most pure Mother, by the might of the precious and life-giving Cross, through the prayers of the holy, glorious and praiseworthy apostles, and of the holy (patrons of the church and saints of the day), and of all the saints, have mercy on us.

And the people respond "Amen."

Hours in the Absence of a Priest

The ecclesiarch stands in the nave, facing East, and says: "Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us."  The people answer, "Amen."  (This is omitted if Matins or another Hour was celebrated immediately beforehand.)

The ecclesiarch and the people, or the people all together, according to custom, say the beginning prayers as usual, from "Glory to You, our God" onward.  The Lord's Prayer concludes with ".. and deliver us from evil.";  the exclamation "For thine is the Kingdom..."  and "Amen"are omitted.
 
After the beginning prayers, the service continues as usual through the appointed kontakion, followed by "Lord, have mercy" (forty times).  Then the ecclesiarch says the Prayer of the Hours ("O good God, in all times and places"), concluding with "Amen."  The people do not respond "Amen" to this prayer.

Then "Lord, have mercy" (three times), "Glory, Now and ever", "More honorable", "Bless, O Lord", and the ecclesiarch reads the prayer that follows (either "May God be merciful to us" or "Through the prayers of our holy fathers", depending on the hour being celebrated).  The prayer of the priest which follows is omitted.

At the dismissal, the faithful sing:

Glory, Now and ever
Lord, have mercy (three times)
Bless, O Lord!

Then the ecclesiarch says the dismissal, facing East:

O Lord Jesus Christ, through the prayers of your most pure Mother, by the might of the precious and life-giving Cross, through the prayers of the holy, glorious and praiseworthy apostles, and of the holy (patrons of the church and saints of the day), and of all the saints, have mercy on us.

And the people respond "Amen."


Notes and commentary

The Casoslóv for the Ruthenian Recension contains a few rubrics for reader services;  these have been summarized above, and supplemented with certain traditional replacements for portions of the services which are omitted in the absence of a priest - in particular, the singing of "Lord, have mercy" and a doxology in place of each of the litanies. 

One point of variance from other orders of Reader Services should be noted:  in some traditions, the priest's exclamation after the Lord's Prayer is replaced with the common prayer, "Through the prayers of our holy fathers...."; in other traditions, the Jesus Prayer ("O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner") is used instead. Since the Ruthenian books do not indicate any replacement for this exclamation, we choose to omit it entirely.

During the Paschal Season, "More honorable..." at the dismissal is replaced by "Shine in splendor... Christ is risen from the dead..." as usual, and from Ascension to Pentecost, "Heavenly King" is omitted from the beginning prayers.

The rubrics given above assume that a deacon leads services as if he were a layman.  This is in accordance with the prescriptions of the Great Russian tradition, which considered it presumptive for a deacon to do anything proper to his order in the absence of a priest.  However, in these days when the deacon's role is being restored rather than minimized, it may be appropriate to allow the deacon to carry out his proper functions as a leader of the people's prayer (for example, by leading litanies, which are then concluded with a monastic prayer rather than with the priest's exclamation.)  For a proposed order of services when a deacon services in the absence of a priest, see Deacon Services.