The Beginning of Vespers

The prayers which mark the beginning of Vespers in the Byzantine Rite are the same ones which begin all non-sacramental services; they are sometimes simply called the "usual beginning", and should be known by heart to all Byzantine Catholics.

This article describes the beginning of Vespers in the Byzantine Rite. For musical details, see Singing the Beginning Prayers.

The opening blessing

The priest stands before the (closed) holy doors from the nave into the sanctuary, and intones:

Blessed is our God, always, now and ever and forever.

to which the people respond, "Amen." This is the ordinary blessing that begins all services EXCEPT the three Divine Liturgies and the baptismal and wedding services.

If there is no priest

If someone other than a priest or bishop leads Vespers, the leader begins as follows:

Through the prayers of our holy fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us.

and the people respond, "Amen". In this context, "holy fathers" refers to our priests and bishops, as well as to the "Church Fathers" from whom we inherited our liturgical services. For the other details of celebration without a priest, see Reader Services.

The "usual beginning prayers"

Then the following prayers are chanted by the cantor and faithful:

Glory to you, our God, glory to you.

Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, everywhere present and filling all things,
Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life,
come and dwell within us, cleanse us of all stain,
and save our souls, O gracious One.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us. (3 times)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever and forever. Amen.

Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us; Lord, cleanse us of our sins;
Master, forgive our transgressions;
Holy One, come to us and heal our infirmities for your name's sake.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever and forever. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Then the priest intones the doxology:

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever.

and the people respond, "Amen", and continue:

Lord, have mercy. (12 times)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever and forever. Amen.

These prayers serve as a sort of "spiritual warmup." They also illustrate and teach us important parts of the Byzantine approach to prayer:

Then we begin the psalms of Vespers.

Some variations

During the Paschal season (the forty days from Pascha to its leave-taking), we replace the first two prayers ("Glory to you" and "Heavenly King") with the troparion of Pascha, sung three times (usually once by the priest and twice by the people):

Christ is risen from the dead! By death he trampled death, and to those in the tombs he granted life.

From the feast of the Ascension to the eve of Pentecost, we omit "Glory to you" and "Heavenly King", with no replacement, to symbolize the absence of Holy Spirit.

The beginning prayers are customarily omitted when Vespers is combined with other services (e.g. when the All-Night Vigil or a Vigil Divine Liturgy is celebrated).

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