Welcome to Chant Notes, a weekly podcast from the Metropolitan Cantor Institute of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh. This week we will talk about church services and music for the seven days beginning Monday, January 18, 2016.
We have just celebrated the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the first of the four preparatory Sundays for the Great Fast whose hymns are found in the liturgical book called the Triodion. Next Sunday, January 24, will be the Sunday of the Prodigal Son – and with the celebration over the Prodigal’s return in mind, there is no fasting during this coming week.
(This is one of the so-called compact weeks on the church calendar, when meat may be eaten on any day of the week, including Wednesdays and Fridays. The others are Bright Week, from Pascha to Thomas Sunday; the week from Pentecost to the Sunday of All Saints; and the days from December 25 to January 4 – that is, from Christmas up to the vigil of Theophany.)
Wednesday, January 18 is the feast of our venerable and god-bearing father Euthymius the Great. As I mentioned last week, “venerable” in Byzantine terminology refers to a monk or nun, and “god-bearing” means that the saint in question carried God in his heart. The Greek word for “God-bearer” in this sense is “Theophoros”, just as the word for “Christ-bearer” is Christophoros, or Christopher. Several saints were referred to as “God-bearers”, and this is one reason our church stopped using the same word to refer to the Mother of God when translating her title, “Theotokos”. Theootokos refers to the woman who carried God in pregnancy and gave birth to him, while Theophoros refers to someone who carries God to others in a spiritual manner.
Saint Euthymius came from Armenia to Jerusalem in the 5th century, living in solitude but eventually gathering a community of monks around him before he died in 473 AD. His feast is of vigil rank – that is, in monasteries it is celebrated with an all-night vigil; he was famed for his miracles, his cheerful steadfastness in monastic discipline, and his influence in convincing the monks of Palestine to accept the decrees of the Fourth Ecumenical Council in the year 451.
The hymns at the Divine Liturgy for his feast can be found in the January volume of the MCI Byzantine Catholic Menaion.
(troparion and kontakion)
Since this IS a major feast on the Church’s calendar, it would be especially appropriate to use these hymns in honor of our venerable and God-bearing father Euthymius at any weekday Divine Liturgy that is held on his feast day, this coming Wednesday.
If you don’t have a copy of the menaion, use the hymns for a venerable saint, on pages 376-377 of the Divine Liturgies book. In these hymns, you fill in the saint’s name where indicated. For example, the common troparion for a venerable saint goes like this:
According to the church calendar, we are presently in the 34rd week after Pentecost. Now, the number of weeks between one Easter and the next varies from year to year, but the Typikon adjusts our readings, sometimes skipping or repeating a week, so that in these last weeks before the Great Fast we are always reading the last few letters of the New Testament, along with the Gospel of Mark. This week, we finish reading the second letter of Saint Peter on Tuesday, and begin reading the letters of Saint John the Apostle on Thursday. (On Wednesday, the epistle is for Saint Euthymius, and comes from Hebrews.)
During most of the year, we hear the letters of Saint Paul at the Divine Liturgy; these final weeks before the Great Fast allow us to experience the pastoral letters of the other apostles, which follow Paul’s writings in the New Testament. These letters are very short; consider reading them privately if you don’t attend weekday Liturgies this week.
On Saturday evening at Vespers we begin Tone 2, singing the Tone 2 hymns of the Resurrection along with the Vespers hymns for the Sunday of the Prodigal Son.
We continue to sing Psalm 136, “By the waters of Babylon”, and the penitential stichera at Matins. And at the Divine Liturgy, we sing the Sunday hymns in Tone 2, but replace the kontakion in Tone 2 with the kontakion of the Prodigal Son:
(troparion of the Resurrection in Tone 2)
This week is fairly quite, as our liturgy goes, so enjoy the fast-free period. Next week, we will celebrate a major feast and the first All-Souls Saturday (and see what happens to the calendar when they collide) before arriving at the third pre-Lenten Sunday, the Sunday of Meat-eating, or Meat-fare. So please join me next Sunday for the next installment of Chant Notes.