Saturday, February 26, 2022

Byzantine Great Compline: Second Part

As I described in an article in November of 2020, the Byzantine Rite has a feature called the Inter-Hours, a second Prime, Terce, Sext and None, which are said after the main Prime etc. These are now something of an archaism, and are rarely said, but have not, of course, been removed the liturgical books. The second part of Great Compline, which is much simpler than the first, originated as the Inter-Hour of Compline, as attested in a Horologion (the book that gives the basic structure of the Hours) of the 13th or 14th century at the monastery of St Catherine on Mt Sinai. (Sinai gr. 868, cited by Archimandrite Job Getcha, The Typikon Decoded, p. 93.)
The Usual Beginning is cut down to just its final element, as it normal when one Hour is said right after another. There then follow three Psalms, the first of which, Psalm 50, is also said at three other Hours almost every day. The second is Psalm 101; both of these form part of the group known as the Penitential Psalms in the West.
A lunette over one of the windows of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo and assistants in 1511-12, with King Manasseh on the right, and his wife Meshullemeth on the left, holding their son Amon. Notice that Manasseh’s head is bowed, in accordance with the words of his prayer “I am not worthy to look at the height of heaven”, which are said in one of the Office responsories from the books of Kings in the weeks after Pentecost.
The third psalm is the apocryphal text known as the Prayer of Manasseh, which purports to be the prayer of repentance offered by King Manasseh when he was deported to Babylon, as stated in 2 Chronicles, 33, 19: “His prayer also, and his being heard, and all his sins, and contempt, … are written in the words of Hozai.” In the West, it is found in most medieval manuscripts and early printed version of the Vulgate immediately after 2 Chronicles, before the canonical book of Ezra. The Tridentine editions of the Vulgate relegated it, along with the books known as Third and Fourth Esdras, to an appendix of the Old Testament. Although there is no Hebrew version of it, the standard criterion among the early Protestants for denoting a book as apocryphal, it was included in several of their early Bibles, including that of Luther himself, and the Geneva Bible, the most widely used English version before the King James.
Some liturgical books indicate that this is said by the priest celebrant, rather than the reader, and that all kneel at the words “And now I bow the knee of my heart …”
O Lord Almighty, God of our fathers, of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous seed; Who made heaven and earth with all the array thereof; Who bound the sea by the word of Thy command; Who shut up the deep and sealed it by Thy fearful and glorious Name; Whom all things fear, and before Whose might they tremble; for the majesty of Thy glory cannot be borne and the anger of Thy threatening toward sinners is unbearable; and yet measureless and unsearchable is the mercy of Thy promise; for Thou art the Lord most high, of great compassion, long-suffering, abundant in mercy, and repentest of the evil of man. Thou, O Lord, according to the fullness of Thy goodness, didst promised repentance and forgiveness to them that have sinned against Thee; and in the fullness of Thy mercies hast appointed repentance for sinners unto salvation. Thou, therefore, o Lord, God of hosts, did not appoint repentance to the just, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, those have not sinned against Thee; but Thou hast appointed repentance for me, a sinner; for my sins are greater in number than the sand of the sea. My transgressions, o Lord, are multiplied, my transgressions are multiplied, and I am not worthy to look up and see the height of Heaven for the multitude of mine iniquities, being bowed down with many iron bands, so that I cannot lift up my head, and I have no respite; for I have provoked Thy wrath and done evil before Thee, having not done Thy will, and not kept Thy commandments.
King Manasseh in Prison; engraving by Maerten de Vos (1532-1603). Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
And now I bow the knee of my heart, beseeching Thy goodness. I have sinned, o Lord, I have sinned, and I acknowledge mine iniquities; Forgive me, o Lord, forgive me, and destroy me not with my iniquities, and be not angry with me forever, reserving my evils for me; neither condemn me to the depths of the earth; for that Thou, o Lord, art God, the God of them that repent; and in me wilt Thou show all Thy goodness; for Thou wilt save me that am unworthy, according to Thy great mercy, and I will praise Thee for all the days of my life; for all the host of the heavens singeth Thy praise, and Thine is the glory unto ages of ages. Amen.
The Trisagion prayers are then said, followed by this group of tropars, which are the same as those of the Inter-Hour of Prime. On a major feast, they are replaced by one of its proper chants called a kontakion.
Have mercy upon us, o Lord, have mercy upon us; for lacking all apology, we sinners bring to Thee this supplication, as to our Master: have mercy on us. Glory be…
Lord, have mercy us, for in Thee we have placed our trust, be not exceedingly wroth with us, and remember not our iniquities, but look (upon us) even now, as one merciful, and ransom us from our enemies; for Thou art our God, and we are Thy people, all of us the works of Thy hands, and we have all called upon Thy name. Both now and forever…
Open to us the gate of mercy, blessed Mother of God; as we hope in Thee, let us not err; may we be delivered through Thy urgent prayers, for Thou art the salvation of the nation of Christians.
(A setting of the tropar “Open to us the gates of mercy” as a motet, recorded at the Greek-Catholic parish of the Exaltation of the Cross in Krakow, Poland.)
There follows a series of elements also said at the other Hours except for Vespers and Orthros, and which had previously been said in the first part of Great Compline: Kyrie, eleison 40 times, the Prayer of the Hours, Kyrie, eleison 3 times, Glory be, a brief prayer to the Virgin (“Higher than the Cherubim…”), and a conclusion said by the priestly celebrant. The reader then says a brief prayer attributed to a Saint called Mardarius, which is also said at Terce and the Midnight Office.
O Master God, Father Almighty, o Lord, Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit, one divinity, one power: have mercy on me a sinner, and by the judgments which Thou knowest, save me, Thine unworthy servant; for Thou art blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen.
The third part begins immediately after this, and will be described in a separate article.

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