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Melkite Greek Catholic Church Information Center

Great Vespers

Great Vespers is the first prayer of the day. The first prayer of the day is the evening prayer. The reason is that the Church worship day begins in the evening with the setting of the sun or at sunset. This pratice follows the tradition of the Old Testament which says in the story of creation: “And the evening and the morning were the first day. . .” (Gen1:5).

Great Vespers consists of psalms hymns, biblical canticles and litanies.

Great Vespers is celebrated at sunset on Saturday evening and the evening before an important feast.

Great Vespers is more complex than Vespers.
Great Vespers includes the Artoklasia. The Artoklasia is the blessing of bread, wheat, wine and oil performed for major feasts.
This food was orginally used to sustain those who would spend the whole night of the feast as a vigil of prayer.

Theme

The theme is the creation of the world.

Time

The proper time is sunset. The traditional time is 7 p.m. The modern time is between 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

Name

The name "Vespers" means “Evening Time”.

Explanation

The article below was written by Rev. Fr. James Graham, Pastor of Saint Elias the Prophet Melkite Greek Catholic Mission, San Jose, CA. The article appeared in Saint Elias the Prophet Melkite Greek Catholic Mission Bulletin, July 7 and July 14, 2002

What is Great Vespers and Why Should You Come?
In addition to the Divine Liturgy, the Church has three other main daily prayer services: Vespers at sunset, Compline before bed, and Orthros in the morning. Monasteries also have the Prayers of the Hours-First Hour at 6 am, Third Hour at 9 am, Sixth Hour at noon, and Ninth Hour at 3 pm and Midnight Prayer. Chanting of Psalms is an important part of all these prayer services. These times and services of prayer are based on passages in the Bible that refer to praising God at night, in the morning, and in the middle of the day, and the injunction to "pray without ceasing."
The Church day begins at sunset. In church, the lighting of the lamps symbolizes the coming of Christ the Light into the world. So Vespers is the first prayer of the day. It praises God for sending the Light of Christ into the world and it announces the themes of the feast or saint of the day.
Great Vespers, celebrated on Saturday evening, has the Resurrection as its main theme, because every Sunday we celebrate the Resurrection. On the evenings before feast days of Christ, The Theotokos, and important saints (like St Elias or St Barbara or St George), we also celebrate Great Vespers.
During the chanting of the Lamplighting Psalms (140, 141, 129, and 116) the priest or the deacon incenses the altar, the holy place, the iconostasis, and the whole church. Between the last ten verses of the psalms, the cantor chants short verses, called stichera, that describe or praise the feast or the saint of the day. After the verses, the celebrants make an entrance with the incense (and sometimes the Gospel book). Then everyone sings the Hymn of the Evening, a very ancient song praising the "joyful light" of God.
On most feast days, three readings from the Old Testament come next. We don't read from the Old Testament at the Divine Liturgy, so Vespers gives us the chance to hear the prophecies and stories of the Old Testament that have been fulfilled with the coming of Jesus Christ. For the feast of St Elias, the readings from the First and Second Books of Kings tell the whole story of this great prophet's life and mission.
After the litanies that we also chant in the Divine Liturgy, called the Insistent Litany and the Aitesis, comes the beautiful Prayer of Bowed Heads, acknowledging God as Master and as Savior, and praying for protection in the coming night. A procession (called the Lity) with the ikon of the saint or the feast follows, with comprehensive prayers for the living and the dead, the Church and the world, and calling on the intercession of all the saints. Later the priest prays the Song of Simeon, which the ancient priest said when he received Jesus in the Temple: "Now You shall dismiss your servant in peace, O Lord, according to your word." We then chant the Trisagion ("Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One") and the "Our Father." The singing of the troparion (theme song) of the saint or the feast follows, then the Artoclasia-the blessing and breaking of bread, along with wheat, wine, and oil, recalling how Jesus fed the 5000 men in the wilderness.
After the Artoclasia, the priest gives the final blessing, and everyone comes forward to kiss the ikon, to receive a piece of blessed bread, and often to be anointed with the blessed oil.
Vespers is a holy and prayerful way to start the day in the presence of the Lord, and Great Vespers is a beautiful and inspiring experience, truly completing the celebration of a feast or of the Lord's Day.

Vespers

When Great Vespers is not celebrated, Vespers is celebrated.

Text

Vespers The Order of the Evening - Sunday and Feast Days Saint Ignatios of Antioch Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Augusta, Georgia, Click on The Knew and Sometimes Unusual, Eastern-rite Services


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Melkite Greek Catholic Church Information Center
Martha Liles
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Melkite Greek Catholic Church Information Center is dedicated to my cousins: Bucky (Richard C. Liles) and Shirley (Shirley Jean Liles Buck). Bucky fell asleep in the Lord on Dec. 12, 2000 and Shirley fell asleep in the Lord on Nov. 8, 2001.
O God of all spirits and of all flesh, who have destroyed death, overcome the devil, and given life to the world: grant, O Lord, to the souls of your servants Bucky and Shirley, who has departed from this life, that it may rest in a place of light, in a place of happiness, in a place of peace, where there is no pain, no grief, no sighing. And since You are a gracious God and the Lover of Mankind, forgive him/her every sin he/she has committed by thought, or word, or deed, for there is not a man who lives and does not sin : You alone are without sin, your righteousness is everlasting, and your word is true. You are the Resurrection and the Life, and the repose of your departed servants Bucky and Shirley. O Christ our God, and we send up glory to You, together with your eternal Father and your all-holy, good and life-givng Spirit, now and always and for ages upon ages. Amen.

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