The Lenten Tone

The Bokshai Prostopinije (1906) provides a special melody (actually a pair of melodies) for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. These melodies are sometimes used for responses at other services during the Great Fast. For lack of a better name, we will call it the Lenten tone.

This articles describes the use of the Lenten tone in the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, as well as in other services of the Great Fast. A complete set of recordings for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts can be found on the Recordings page of this website; the entire set can also be downloaded as a zip file to help you learn the Lenten tone.

Litany responses

For ordinary litanies, the prostopinije tradition uses a pair of melodies for "Lord, have mercy", sung in alternation, together with melodies for "To you, O Lord" and "Amen":

For the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, we use the following melodies instead: (listen)

Let's take a closer look at these melodies.

  1. The first "Lord, have mercy" melody is almost a simple scale (la ti do re do re do ti), but the first do is raised a half step, to keep it from ending too early. Practice this melody first.

  2. The second "Lord, have mercy" is even easier: it consists of a simple scale (mi re do re do ti). The middle do is not raised a half step; this is the most common mistake that that cantors make singing this melody. Now practice this melody by singing just mi re do, then adding re do ti.

  3. The melodies for "To you, O Lord" and "Amen" are simply repetitions of the two "Lord, have mercy" melodies.

When the Lenten tone is to be used, most clergy will indicate this by ending the opening blessing or litany petition on ti:

If not, and the cantor knows that the Lenten tone is to be used, go ahead and sing the Presanctified "Amen", and the priest and deacon will usually adapt.

At the Litany of Fervent Supplication, "Lord, have mercy" is sung three times at each response. Here is how this is sung at the Litany of the Presanctified Gifts:

At the Litany of Supplication (Angel of Peace litany) in the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, we sing "Grant this, O Lord" to the Lenten melody as well (listen):

Other uses of the melody in the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

At the reading of the Holy Gospel, we use the first part of the Lenten tone for the response when the priest extends peace to us:

and our response before and after the Gospel uses the second part: (listen)

There are two settings of the hymn at the Great Entrance, and the second one uses the Lenten tone: (listen)

Before Holy Communion, the Lord's Prayer can be sung to this melody: (listen)

As the priest prepares the chalice for Holy Communion, we sing: (listen)

The Lenten tone can be used for singing the Communion Hymn (Psalm 33:9) as Holy Communion is distributed to the clergy: (listen)


(In our Presanctified book, this is actually the second or "B" setting; the first setting uses the melody of the hymn at the Great Entrance, "Now the powers of heaven.")

When the priest or deacon tells us, "Come to receive", there are also two different settings, with the second or "B" setting using the Lenten tone: (listen)

Before the Ambon Prayer, when the priest directs us to go forth in peace, we respond: (listen)

After the Ambon Prayer, we sing "Blessed be the name of the Lord" to the same melody:

and just before the priest's dismissal:

The Lenten melody as a psalm tone

If you look at the music for "Glory... now and ever...." at the dismissal (the previous notated example), you will see that the opening notes of each phrase are omitted; the first phrase begins on the reciting note re, and the second phrase begins on the reciting note mi.

This makes it possible to use the two phrases of the Lenten tone for singing psalms, and our book for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts mentions this possibility (page 1):

Psalm 103, and the verses the precede and follow it, can be sung in the usual psalm tone (given here) or to the Lenten tone.

The MCI has prepared this handout for singing the psalms of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts to the Lenten tone.

Beginning the Lenten tone

Since this melody is only used during the Great Fast, it is always a bit of an effort to begin using it. Normally, the priest and deacon wil signal the use of the Lenten tone by ending their blessings or petitions on ti rather than do:

During the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, unless the celebrant has directed otherwise, go ahead and use the Lenten melodies even if the priest or deacon does not provide this signal; usually this will help them switch to following the Lenten pattern of petition and response.

The Lenten melody at other services

The Lenten tone can be used for the basic responses (e.g. "Amen") and litany responses ("Lord, have mercy", "Grant this, O Lord") at other services sung during the Great Fast, such as weekday Vespers and penitential molebens. This melody should not be used on Saturdays or Sundays; at Vespers on Sunday evenings, the Lenten tone is only used in the second half of the Vespers service.

At one time, this melody was used more widely in the books of the Metropolitan Cantor Institute for the Great Fast – for example, for singing the following at Vespers:

More recently, however, our Inter-Eparchial Liturgical Commission has asked that this melody not be used for these prayers and hymns. Metropolitan Cantor Institute publications are being edited to use ordinary melodies instead.