He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Priestly Prayers: St. Gregory the Great

Now that I have read through the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great and also participated in it, I want to examine the Divine Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great.  As a Roman Rite Catholic, this has particular interest for me because it is the venerable ancestor, so to speak, of the liturgy used today in Roman Rite parishes I've attended for the last 15+ years.

The particular version of it that I will be using is one put out by the ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia), and as such is slightly modified to suit their purposes in establishing the Western Rite Vicariate.  Those changes have in no way diminished the extraordinary beauty of the sung prayers or the unsung prayers specific to this Divine Liturgy.

As with other liturgies, much prayer goes into the preparation, as we can read below:

The Preparation of the Gifts for the Liturgy
Before a Solemn Liturgy, the sacred vessels stand upon a Table of Preparation, or at the Credence Table, prepared with bread, wine, and water for the Holy Liturgy.
Before a Simple Liturgy the sacred vessels may stand, veiled, upon the outspread antimensium (or upon an outspread Corporal if the antimensium is kept permanently beneath the altar cloths) in the midst of the altar. In such case, the gifts are prepared at the time of the Preparation during the Liturgy.
At a convenient time before a Solemn Liturgy, the Deacon or Priest, vested in amice, cincture, alb, maniple, and stole, and standing at The Table of Preparation, makes the sign of the cross saying: 
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever,
for all ages of ages. Amen.
Taking as much bread as is needed for the Liturgy, he now lightly scores each on the underside, in the form of a cross and places it on the paten, saying nothing, or:
Accept, most Holy Father, this bread, let it become for us the holy Body of your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Taking the chalice, he pours into it first wine saying:
Accept, most Holy Father, this wine, let it become for us the holy Blood of your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. For from his side came forth blood and water for the forgiveness of sins.  
and then a little water saying:
By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.
Bowing, the Deacon or Priest says quietly:
With a spirit of humility, and a contrite heart, let us be acceptable to you, O Lord; and let these gifts be so offered in your sight this day, that they be pleasing to you, our Lord and our God.
If a Deacon prepared the gifts he now turns to the Priest and says:
Father (Master) Bless!
The Priest says quietly
Come, O Sanctifier, and bless these gifts set apart for the glory of your Holy Name.
Then the veils are placed upon the vessels.
The above prayers for preparing the gifts are from the venerable Ambrosian Rite.

The Preparation of the Sacred Ministers in the Sacristy

When all are vested the Priest may use these or other prayers:
Priest: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Server: Amen.
Priest: I will go to the altar of God.
Server: To the God of my joy and gladness.
Priest: Send out your light and your truth that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling-place;
Server: And I will go to the altar of God, the God of my joy and gladness; and on the harp I will give thanks to you O God my God.
Priest: Why are you so sorrowful O my soul? And why are you so disquieted within me?
Server: Put your trust in God! For I shall yet praise him who is the help of my countenance, and my God.
Priest: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
Server: As it was in the beginning, is now and ever, for all ages of ages. Amen.
Priest: I will go to the altar of God.
Server: To the God of my joy and gladness.
Priest: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Server: The maker of heaven and earth.
Priest: I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the saints, and to you, brethren that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, through my fault, through my very great fault. Therefore, I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the saints, and you, brethren, to pray to the Lord our God for me.
Server: May Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you your sins, and lead you to life everlasting.
Priest: Amen.
Server: I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the saints, and to you, Father, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, through my fault, through my very great fault. Therefore, I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the saints, and you, Father, to pray to the Lord our God for me.
Priest: Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you your sins, and lead you to life everlasting.
Server: Amen.
Priest: Turn to us, O God, and bring us to life.
Server: And your people shall rejoice in you.
Priest: Show us, O Lord, your mercy.
Server: And grant us your salvation.
Priest: O Lord, hear my prayer,
Server: And let my cry come to you.
Priest: The Lord be with you.
Server: And with your spirit.
Priest: Let us pray: Purify us, O Lord, we pray, that we be accounted worthy to go into the holy of holies with cleansed minds through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Server: Amen
Priest: Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit that we may be worthy to serve you and fittingly magnify your holy name through Christ our Lord.
Server: Amen
Priest: Peace be with you.
Server: And with your spirit.
Deacon: Let us go forth in peace!
All: In the name of Christ. Amen!  
The Procession now forms and proceeds to the Altar. The traditional order is Thurifer, Subdeacon with the cross, two acolytes with candles, Master of Ceremonies, Deacon carrying the Gospel, and Priest.

These preparations may seem lengthy, but in comparison to the preparations traditionally performed before some other liturgies, they are not onerous.  Of course, when performed with great love as all liturgical prayer should be, we will rarely notice the length of it unless our body fails and brings attention to it.

Another thing I noticed while reading the Divine Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great is that unlike some others, the music is embedded in the document and clearly notated as chant so that it can be sung.  This is because the liturgy is meant to be sung prayer, at least in large part.

The Preparation of the People: The Asperges with Holy Water

The Sacred Ministers process to the Altar
The priest wears a cope.
The priest receives the vessel of Holy Water from the minister; and after intoning the following Antiphon, which all continue. He sprinkles the altar, himself, the other ministers, the choir, and the people. The following is used except for the Paschal season:

Having returned to the altar, the priest stands before it, and sings the following:
V. Show us your mercy, O Lord. (Alleluia)
R. And grant us your salvation. (Alleluia)
V. Lord, hear our prayer.
R. And let our cry come to you.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.
Let us pray. O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, Everlasting God, hear us we pray and send your Holy Angel from heaven to guard, cherish, protect, visit and evermore defend all who gather in this dwelling place; Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Though all of these prayers are sung, not all need chant notation, because the members of the parish are all accustomed to chanting those common responses that do not change with the liturgical cycle of seasons such as Advent, Lent, and Ordinary time.

One of the things that is commonly chanted is the Introit for the day, which is something I've been singing in chant recently at Mass myself.  The Introit, Offertory, and Communion chant are largely straight from Sacred Scripture and easy to sing.  It also adds a wonderful dimension to my personal prayer.

The Introit

The Introit is sung as the procession goes to the altar; if the Asperges is used it is begun at the conclusion of the final prayer.
The priest arrives at the altar; he uncovers his head, and silently prays:
O Lord, take our sins from us that we be worthy to enter into the Holy of Holies with pure minds through Christ our Lord. Amen
The clergy kiss the altar where the antimensium is, saying:
We beseech You, O Lord, by the prayers of Your Saints whose relics lay here, and of all the Saints, that you mercifully forgive all our sins. Amen
The Priest sets on incense and blesses the thurible saying:
Let this incense be blessed by him in whose honor it is burned. Amen.
The priest now censes the cross, bows, and censes around the altar counterclockwise returning to the middle. As he hands the thurible back to the minister he says quietly:
Lord, kindle in us the fire of your love, and the flame of everlasting charity.
The Kyrie and the Gloria follow these prayers, both of which are also traditionally sung and are incredibly prayerful and beautiful when they are sung.  Also, the Collect, the Old Testament reading, a reading from the Epistles, and a reading from the Gospels.  This sequence of readings will be very familiar to Roman Rite Catholics who celebrate the post-Vatican II reformed Mass of Pope Paul VI.

What may not be as familiar are the prayers of the priest as he prepares to proclaim the Gospel or the prayers over the Catechumens.

The acolyte moves the Missal to the Gospel Side of the Altar, the acolytes get candles, and the thurifer brings incense and boat to the priest. 
All stand as The Alleluia is sung: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
In Lent the Tract is sung in place of the Alleluia with the response:
Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ King of endless glory.
The Deacon takes the Gospel Book from the altar, bows to the altar, and quietly says:
Cleanse my heart and my lips Almighty God, as you cleansed the lips of the prophet Isaiah with a burning coal. Send me, purified by your gracious mercy, that I may worthily proclaim your holy Gospel, through Christ our Lord, Amen.
The Deacon takes the book to the Bishop/Priest and asks a blessing.
Deacon: Master/ Father, ask a blessing.
Priest: The Lord be in your heart and upon your lips that you may worthily and fittingly proclaim the Holy Gospel.
Deacon: Amen
He then kisses the bishop’s / priest’s hand and the Gospel Book. He then bows and goes to the place appointed accompanied by a Subdeacon, Acolytes with lights, and a Thurifer with incense carried before. Standing, all turn toward him, as he announces the Gospel:
Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spir-it.
The Deacon traces a cross on the book then his forehead, lips and chest.
Deacon: The Con-tin-u-a-tion (Be-gin-ning) of the Ho-ly Gos-pel ac-cord-ing to N.
People: Glo-ry to You, O Lord!
He incenses the book forward, right, left, and sings the Gospel.  At the conclusion is sung:
Deacon: The Gos-pel of The Lord!
People: Praise to you O Christ!
The Gospel Book is kissed by the Celebrant and he may bless the people with the Gospel Book.

The Sermon

If Baptism and Chrismation is administered here the Creed is not repeated.
A priest may use the traditional dismissal of the Catechumens if he sees fit. They approach him when the Deacon dismisses them as he stands at the head of the nave.
They receive the priest’s blessing and quietly leave.
Today, in many churches they withdraw to the Narthex or the last pew.

The Dismissal of the Catechumens

Deacon: All catechumens, depart! Depart, catechumens! Let no catechumen remain.
Deacon: Rise up, ye catechumens, beg for yourselves the peace of God through His Christ: a peaceable day free from sin, now and for the rest of your life, and a Christian end of it; the compassion and mercy of God and the forgiveness of your transgressions. Dedicate yourselves to the only unbegotten God, through His Christ. Bow down your heads, and receive the blessing. 
As the deacon calls out the name of each catechumen the people say, Lord, have mercy upon him/her and each comes forward and bows his head. And when they have all assembled, let the priest bless them saying:
Priest: O Almighty God, inaccessible and un-begotten, who alone are the true God, the God and Father of your only begotten Son: the Christ; the God who sends forth the Comforter, and Lord of the whole world; who by Christ appointed your disciples to be teachers of piety.  Look down upon your servants, who are receiving instruction in the Gospel of your Christ, and “give them a new heart, and renew a right spirit within them” that they may both know and do your will with full purpose of heart, and with a willing soul. Grant them a holy admission and union with your holy Church, and make them partakers of your divine mysteries, through Christ, who is our hope, and who died for them; by whom glory and worship be given to you in the Holy Spirit for all ages of ages. Amen. And after this, let the deacon say: Go out, catechumens, in peace.

After the prayer for the Catechumens, the Nicene Creed is sung, the Prayers of Supplication are sung, and then the sign of peace is given.  The length of the service may seem prodigious at this point to the average 20th century Catholic accustomed to 1 hour Masses, but this is actually quite expedient for an ancient liturgy.

The climax of the liturgy is at least close by this point:


In a Simple Liturgy the celebrant uncovers the vessels, quietly places bread upon the paten, takes the chalice, pours in some wine and then a little water saying:
From the side of the Lord Jesus Christ came forth Blood and Water for the forgiveness of our sins.
Placing the chalice behind the paten, he extends, elevates, and joins his hands saying:
In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
In a Solemn Liturgy the Priest goes to the sedilia. The Deacon spreads a white linen cloth on the altar while the Offertory Chant is sung. The Subdeacon, wearing a humeral veil, and two Acolytes bearing lights, preceded by a Thurifer, go to the credence table, then, bearing the prepared gifts and offerings go to the sanctuary step. The Deacon receives the gifts and arranges them upon the altar then while the hymn below is sung:

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with awe and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descends, our full homage to demand.
He, himself, comes forth to be offered, in remembrance sacrificed;
Life and death and resurrection, here unfold before our eyes
As we enter now the timeless mystery, let us lay aside earthly cares.
King of kings, yet born of Mary, as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords in human vesture, in the Body and the Blood
He will give to all the faithful His own self for heavenly food.
Rank on rank the host of heaven, spreads its vanguard on the way,
as the Light of Light descends now, from the realms of endless day,
that the powers of hell may vanish, as the darkness clears away.
At his feet the six-winged seraph; cherubim with sleepless eye,
veil their faces to the Presence, as with ceaseless voice they cry,
* "Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Lord Most High!"
* During Lent: Ho-ly, Ho-ly, Ho- - - ly! Ho-ly, is the Lord Most High!
Having prepared the gifts, the Deacon bows to the Altar and Priest.  The Priest comes to the center, bows to the Church; he turns, goes to the altar and standing before it says quietly:
Sanctify O Lord, these gifts offered by us, and cleanse us from the stains of our sins; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Incensation
On Sundays and Feasts, the Celebrant sets on incense, offered by the Subdeacon or Thurifer which he blesses saying:
Through the intercession of Blessed Michael the Archangel, standing at the right hand of the altar of incense, and of all your elect, Lord bless this incense and receive from it an odor of sweetness; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
After incense is set, the Priest censes the gifts and the altar saying:
Let this incense arise before You, O Lord, and Your mercy descend upon us.
He walks around the altar with the Deacon before and Subdeacon behind him censing and saying:
Let my prayer, O Lord, arise like incense before You; the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice. 
He returns to the center and gives the thurible to the Deacon saying:
Lord enkindle in us the fire of your love and the flame of everlasting charity.
The Deacon then censes the Priest, the Subdeacon the Deacon, the Thurifer the Subdeacon. Then he censes the acolytes and the people. During which the Acolytes present water, basin, and a towel and the Priest washes his hands saying quietly:
Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.

The Priest at the midst, inclines, hands joined, and prays this quietly:
Accept, most Holy Trinity, this offering which we are making to You in remembrance of the passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, Our Lord; and in honor of blessed Mary, ever Virgin, and of all the Saints; that it may add to their honor and aid our salvation. May they deign to intercede in heaven for us who honor their memory here on earth. Through the same Christ our Lord.
Acolyte. Amen.

After all this preparation, the Anaphora is finally very close.  This may seem like a lot of preparation to go through for munching on a piece of bread, and it really is if we're just talking about a piece of bread.  The only way this liturgy makes any sense, or any ancient liturgy makes any sense, is if the bread is truly the Body of Christ as Jesus said that it was at the Last Supper.

After the preface, the prayers vary somewhat based on the feast day.  Here is an example from the Pascal season:

From the Vigil of Pascha to the Second Sunday of Pascha:
Father, we humbly ask that you accept this offering of our service and that of your whole family; especially those whom you have been pleased to give the new birth of water and the Holy Spirit, granting them forgiveness of all their sins. Order our days in your peace,
save us from eternal damnation, and number us among those you have chosen.
He joins his hands, places his left hand on his breast, blessing the offering:
Bless and approve our offering, O Father; make it acceptable to you.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, let it become for us the body and blood of Jesus Christ, your only Son, our Lord.
The Deacon removes the purificator and pall
The Priest joins his hands and prays:
On the day before his suffering and death,
He lifts the paten with the Lamb slightly.
our Lord Jesus Christ took bread into his holy and venerable hands; and with eyes lifted up to heaven, to you his almighty God and Father, he gave thanks to you, (pause) said the blessing, broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples, saying: 
He bows and sings the following words slowly:
"Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you."
He pauses for a moment then replaces the paten.
After supper, in a like manner, he took the cup into his holy and venerable hands;
He lifts the chalice slightly.
and when he again had given thanks, (pause) said the blessing, gave the cup to his disciples, saying,
He bows and sings the following words slowly:
"Take this all of you, and drink of it:  This is my Blood,  The Blood of the new and eternal covenant,  which shall be shed for you and for many  for the forgiveness of sins.
He pauses for a moment then replaces the chalice.
Do this for the remembrance of me."
The Deacon steps forward and replaces the purificator and pall. The Priest stretches out his hands keeping his thumbs and forefingers joined.
Father, we celebrate the remembrance of Christ your Son: We, your servants and your holy people, call to mind his passion, his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension,
until he comes again in glory. We offer to you, the God of glory and majesty, from the many gifts you have given us, this perfect and pure sacrifice: the holy bread of life and the chalice of eternal salvation. Look with favor upon these offerings, and accept them
as once you accepted the gifts of your just servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the bread and wine offered by your high priest Melchisedech.  
He joins his hands, places his left hand on his breast, and signs himself.
Father, we pray that you send down your Holy Spirit upon us
and blesses the offering,
and upon these offerings: make this bread the Body of your Christ, and the wine within this cup the precious Blood of Christ, being changed by that same Holy Spirit.
He crosses his arms on his chest touching his shoulders with his fingers and all bowing profoundly he prays:
Almighty God, we humbly pray that these Gifts be carried by the hands of your Holy Angel, to your altar on high in the presence of your Divine Majesty; then, as we receive from this altar the Sacred Body and Blood of your Son,
He stands upright, places his left hand on his breast and signs himself.
fill us with every grace and heavenly blessing; (through Christ our Lord.)
He joins his hands.  He extends his hands keeping his thumbs and forefingers joined
Remember, Lord, those who have died and have gone before us sealed with the sign of faith, and who rest in the "sleep of peace."
He joins his hands, prays briefly, then, with hands outstretched, continues
Let these, and all who rest in Christ, find in your Presence light, refreshment, and peace;
(through Christ our Lord.)  To us, also, your sinful servants, who hope in your abundant
mercies, graciously grant that we may share in the fellowship of your holy apostles and martyrs: with John the Baptist, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas [Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia] …and all your saints.  Though we are sinners, we trust in your love and mercy.  Do not consider what we truly deserve, but grant us your forgiveness and admit us, we beg you, into their company 
He joins his hands.
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Deacon and Subdeacon step up beside the Priest at the altar.  The Deacon removes the pall.
Through whom, O Father, you unceasingly create all these good things; sanctifying them,  and filling them with life; you bless them and bestow them on us.
Such a beautiful liturgy is not the work of one person, but rather an accumulation of Christian strivings to offer God the very best sacrifice of praise we can muster.  Sometimes those accumulations need reform, and sometimes they are wonderful and should be retained for the sake of offering our best and highest to the one who offered His only-begotten Son for us.

St. Gregory the Great, like St. Basil the Great, was a reformer of the liturgy, making changes to the sequence of the prayers, to the liturgical garb of subdeacons, and to the music as well.  Gregorian Chant, greatly enjoyed by many even today outside of any formal liturgical setting, is something he apparently had a hand in compiling.  There is good evidence that Gregorian Chant is not, as some have claimed, an achievement of later musicians that was attributed to him.

No doubt he was building upon the long tradition of chant already in the liturgy, a tradition we see in the many other Christian liturgies.  For example, the Ambrosian Chant attributed to St. Ambrose of Milan is another example from the Western tradition of sacred music.

In any case, I am grateful for their stewardship of the Divine Liturgy which has allowed me to offer a far better sacrifice of praise to God than I would by my own lights.  St. Gregory the Great, ora pro nobis!

St. Basil the Great - St. Gregory the Great - St. Mark the Evangelist

By Antonio Vivarini - https://www.art-prints-on-demand.com/a/vivarini-antonio/avivarini___jerome___greg.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6756274

Note: The above depicts St. Jerome and St. Gregory the Great, known as St. Gregory Dialogos in Eastern Orthodox churches.

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