This is the third week of the Great Fast. At noon each day, we continue to hear from the prophecies of Isaiah, and in the evenings, at Vespers or the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, the story of the Great Flood and the salvation of Noah in the Ark. As Father David Petras explains, “This is a foreshadowing of our baptism, at which we are saved from sin by the mystery of water, a sign of death to sin and life to God.”
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is appointed for Wednesday and Friday evenings. If you look at the Presanctified propers for Wednesday in the third week of the Fast, you will see that the first and third of the stichera or hymns at “Lord, I have cried” urge us to seek repentance, as did the Prodigal Son; the sticheron in the middle is directed to the apostles, since on Wednesday evening in the Byzantine Rite, we are beginning the celebration of Thursday, and Thursday of each week is dedicate to the apostles and to Saint Nicholas. The final hymn, as usual is to the Mother of God.
On Friday night, the hymns of the Presanctified consist of a single hymn for this particular Friday (again, concerning the Prodigal Son); this is followed by the hymns for the martyrs and the departed in the tone of the week, which is tone 6. So after singing the initial hymn on page 82 of the Presanctified book, turn to the Friday hymns in Tone 6 on page 162: one hymn in honor of the martyrs, one for the faithful departed, and finally the dogmatikon or incarnational hymn to the Theotokos, all in the Tone 6 samohlasen melody.
Here is how they sound:
This Saturday is the third All Souls Saturday for the faithful departed; the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom is celebrated for the departed, and this may be followed by a Parastas or Panachida.
This Sunday, the third Sunday within the Great Fast, is the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross. Before Vespers on Saturday evening, a cross is placed on the holy table in the sanctuary, in place on the Gospel book. At the Great Doxology of Matins, this c cross is brought out and incensed while the people sing the Troparion of the Cross three times; then we sing, also three times: “We bow to your cross, O Lord, and we glorify your holy Resurrection.” Then the faithful come forward to venerate the cross by kissing it or praying before it.
Note that in Byzantine tradition, the cross is not simply a symbol of suffering, but also of Christ’s love for us and his victory over sin and death.
At the Divine Liturgy, we sing the troparion of the Resurrection in the new tone of the week (that is, Tone 7), followed by the troparion and kontakion of the cross:
(troparia and kontakion)
Then, in place of the Trisagion, or “Holy God,” we sing “We bow to your cross” following the pattern of the Trisagion at the Divine Liturgy: that is, we sing it three times; then Glory, now and ever; the second part (only) of “We bow to your cross”; then the entire hymn one more time.
Our Divine Liturgies book contains two versions of this hymn; cantors should be able to sing either one.
Here is the first or A version, from the Rusyn tradition:
(We bow to your cross A)
Here is the second or B version, from the Galician or Ukrainian tradition:
(We bow to your cross B)
We combine the prokeimenon in the tone of the week and its verse with the prokeimenon of the cross:
The Alleluia is the same one we sing for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14:
The Liturgy of Saint Basil is celebrated, as on all the Sundays of the Great Fast.
Finally, at Communion, INSTEAD of the normal Sunday communion hymn, we sing the communion hymn of the Cross:
(We have been signed)
This hymn is from Psalm 4, so this Psalm may be sung during Holy Communion with the refrain, “Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”
In the afternoon or evening, we celebrate Vespers once more, returning us to the rigors of the Fast. See the “Music for the Great Fast” article for a recording of the propers for this Vespers service.