Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Another Chant for the Byzantine Liturgy of the Presanctified

Now the powers of heaven invisibly worship with us, for behold, the King of Glory entereth! Behold, the mystical sacrifice, being perfected, is carried forth in triumph. With faith and love, let us come forth, that we may become partakers of eternal life, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! (Recording made last year at the Greek-Catholic cathedral of St George in Lviv, Ukraine.)

Нынѣ Силы Небесныѧ съ нами невидимо служать, се бо входитъ Царь Славы: се Жертва тайнаѧ совершена дориноситсѧ. Вѣрою и любовию приступимъ, да причастницы жизни вѣчныѧ будемъ. Аллилуїа, аллилуїа, аллилуїа.

Last week I posted a setting of the Psalm 140 “Let my prayer rise as incense etc.”, composed for the Byzantine Liturgy of the Presanctified gifts, along with a brief description of the first part of the ceremony. For the second part, the Litany of Fervent Supplication and special litanies for the catechumens are said, after which the royal doors are opened. The first part of the chant above is sung, then the Presanctified gifts are carried out the side-door, and back through the royal doors, followed by the second part (“With faith and love...”). This chant, therefore, replaces the hymn “We who mystically represent the Cherubim,” which is sung at the Divine Liturgy as the bread and wine are brought to the altar. The rest of the service is basically identical to the regular order of the Divine Liturgy.

Here is the Greek version:

Νῦν αἱ δυνάμεις τῶν οὐρανῶν σὺν ἡμῖν ἀοράτως λατρεύουσιν· ἰδοὺ γὰρ εἰσπορεύεται ὁ Βασιλεὺς τῆς δόξης. Ἰδοὺ θυσία μυστικὴ τετελειωμένη δορυφορεῖται· πίστει καὶ πόθῳ προσέλθωμεν, ἵνα μέτοχοι ζωῆς ἀιωνίου γενώμεθα. Ἀλληλούϊα, Ἀλληλούϊα, Ἀλληλούϊα.

I also make note here of two particularly beautiful prayers which are said in this second part of the service. The first of these is read silently by the celebrating priest while the deacon chants the litany that leads into the Lord’s Prayer.
“O God of ineffable and unseen mysteries, with whom are the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge, who did reveal the service of this liturgy to us, and appointed us hast appointed us sinners through Thy great love for mankind, to offer unto Thee gifts and sacrifices for our sins and for the deeds of ignorance of the people: do Thou Thyself, unseen King, who dost great and inscrutable things, glorious and extraordinary, of which there is no number, look upon us, Thy unworthy servants, who stand at this Thy holy altar as if at Thy cherubic throne, upon which rests Thy only-begotten Son and our God in the dread mysteries set forth thereon; and having delivered us and Thy faithful people from every impurity, sanctify all our souls and bodies with the sanctification which cannot be taken away, so that, partaking of these divine, hallowed things with a pure conscience, with an unashamed face, and with an illuminated heart, and being enlivened by them, we may be united to Christ Himself, our true God, who said, ‘He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, abideth in me, and I in him,’ so that as Thy Word, O Lord, dwelleth in us and sojourneth among us, we may become a temple of Thy all-holy and adorable Spirit, redeemed from every wile of the devil, done either by deed or word or thought, and may obtain the good things promised to us with all Thy saints who from the beginning have been well-pleasing to Thee.”
The second prayer, said just before dismissal at the end of the rite, is known as “the prayer behind the ambo” (ὀπισθάμβωνος εὐχή in Greek, молитва заамвоннаѧ in Church Slavonic), because in Hagia Sophia, it was said by a priest who exited the main sanctuary and recited it while standing behind the great ambo in the nave. (It is seen in this digital reconstruction of the Great Church at about 3:55.)
This prayer originally could vary according to the liturgical occasion, and often included references to the day’s Gospel; many texts of it are preserved in ancient manuscripts. It is now reduced to only two forms, one which is said at the Eucharistic liturgy, and the other at the liturgy of the Presanctified, as follows.
“O Master almighty, who made all creation in wisdom, who through Thy ineffable providence and great goodness hast brought us to these all-revered days for the purification of souls and bodies, for the restraint of passions, for hope of resurrection, who during the forty days didst hand over to Thy servant Moses the tablets (of the Law), letters divinely carved: grant also to us, o good one, to fight the good fight, to complete the course of the fast, to preserve the faith unchanged, to crush the heads of the invisible serpents, to shine forth as victors over sin, and without condemnation to attain unto and worship the Holy Resurrection. For blessed and glorified is Thy all-honorable and magnificent name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.”

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