Monday, May 16, 2016

Pentecost Monday 2016

On this day all the nations saw incredible things in the city of David, when the Holy Spirit came down in fiery tongues, as Luke, one who discoursed of God, declared. For he sayeth: When the disciples of Christ were gathered together, there came a noise, as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the house where they were sitting, and all began to speak forth with new tongues, with new doctrines, with new teachings, of the Holy Trinity. (The first sticheron of Vespers of Pentecost Monday in the Byzantine Rite.)

An 18th-century Russian icon of Pentecost. (public domain image from Wikipedia.)
The Holy Spirit ever was, and is, and will be; he had no beginning, and shall have no end, but is ever ranked together with the Father and the Son, and numbered with them; Life, and the maker of life, Light that leadeth unto light, wholly good, and the source of goodness, through whom the Father is made known, the Son is glorified, and known by all: one power, one unity, one adoration of the Holy Trinity. (Second sticheron.)

The Holy Spirit, light, and life, and the living font of reason, the Spirit of wisdom, and the Spirit of understanding, good, righteous, rational, ruling us, and purifying our faults; God, that maketh us like God, fire, that comes forth from fire, speaking, acting, dividing graces, through whom all the Prophets, and the Apostles of God, together with the Martyrs were crowned. Wholly new is this which we have heard and seen, a fire divided unto distributions of graces. (Third sticheron.)

In the Byzantine Rite, a “synaxis” (“σύναξις” in Greek, “собóръ – sobor” in Old Church Slavonic) is a commemoration held the day after a major feast, to honor a sacred person who figures prominently in the feast, but who is, so to speak, overshadowed by its principal subject. The most prominent example is the feast of the Holy Spirit, celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost, since Pentecost itself is the feast of the Holy Trinity. For those who read Greek, you can read all of the proper texts of this Vespers by following this link:; an English translation is available here.

Since it is a long-standing custom of the Rite never to kneel in Eastertide, a custom which goes back to a decree of the First Council of Nicea, this Vespers also includes the ritual known as the “gonyklisia - the bending of the knee.” This consists of the recitation of a number of prayers interpolated between the regular Litanies (some of them extraordinarily long, even by Byzantine standards), which the priest ordinarily says while kneeling down done before the iconostasis, facing the people. Every Vespers in the Byzantine Rite belongs to the day following it; there is no such thing as Second Vespers, even for a Sunday or a major feast like Pentecost. There, although this Vespers is sung on the evening of Pentecost Sunday, it is liturgically part of Monday, and therefore outside the 50 day period in which kneeling is prohibited in the liturgy. Here is the shortest of the kneeling prayers; the full texts are included in the links given above.

His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych and leader of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, reciting the kneeling prayers in the cathedral of the Resurrection in Kyiv. (Image from the website of the UGCC Seminary of the Three Holy Hierarchs in Kniazhychi.)
“Lord, Lord, who are wont to save us from every arrow that flieth by day, deliver us from everything that goeth about in darkness. Accept as an evening sacrifice the lifting up of our hands, and make us worthy to pass the course of the night blamelessly, untempted by evil, and release us from every disturbance and fear that cometh to us from the devil. Grant contrition to our souls, and to our thoughts due care for our trial in Thy fearful and just judgment. Transfix our bodies with the fear of Thee, and mortify our earthly members, so that even in the silence of sleep, we may be cheered by the contemplation of Thy judgments. Put far from us every improper imagining and harmful desire, and raise us up at the hour of prayer strengthened in faith, and advancing in Thy commandments.”

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