BENEFIT FROM THE HOLY LITURGY”

 

 

 

 

This book has been translated especially for the benefit of all the children and youth in the lands of immigration.

 

I  believe  this  book  is  very  important  for  every  deacon  and member of the congregation who dearly loves the Lord and earnestly   seeks   to   benefit   from   every   moment   spent   in church, so that they may feel comforted by the heavenly joys the  church  offers  and  receive  spiritual  fullness  from  the

‘meals they partake of :-

 

V   the meal of doctrinal liturgy of the catechumens

V   the   meal   of   spiritual   worshipping   in   the   liturgy   of believers, or the sacrificial liturgy

V   then the communion of the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord God Emmanuel, which we partake of in a worthily manner  and  have  Christ  abiding  in  us,  as  the  Lord promised : “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him” (John 6:56).

 

May this book be a source of blessing for all who read it, so that they may learn how to benefit from the Divine Liturgy.

 

 

Through  the  intercessions  of  our  mother  St.  Mary  and  the prayers  of  His  Holiness  our  beloved  father  Pope  Shenouda III.

 

The grace of the Lord bless us.

 

 

 

Bishop Mettaous

Abbot of El Syrian Monastery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5


 

 

 

 

HOW TO BENEFIT FROM THE HOLY

LITURGY

 

 

By His Grace Bishop Mettaous, Abbot of St. Mary

& El Syrian Monastery

 

 

 

Introduction To The First Edition

 

In  our  Coptic  Church,  the  Holy  Mass,  in  her  essence  of group prayer and worship, is the house of God and the door of heaven, the house of angels and the congregation of the saints.

 

During the Holy Mass, angels and archangels, the Cherubim and  the  Seraphim,  together  with  all  the  heavenly  hosts  are present and are surrounding the altar with great glory. At the awesome moment when the priest calls on the Holy Spirit to transform  the  bread  and  wine  present  on  the  altar  into  the holy Body and Blood of our Lord, He is present amidst the praising of His holy angels.

 

The  time  we  spend  in  church  during  the  Mass  is  a  slice  of heaven  on  earth.  The  glory  might  be  hidden  from  our  eyes because we are still in the flesh, but many desired to see His glory and indeed did see and are witnesses to their testimony.

 

Yet despite all these glories, many express that they do not benefit  from  attending  the  Holy  Mass.  So,  how  can  one benefit from the Mass?

 

 

6


 

 

Before answering this, we must first understand what hinders

receiving benefit ...

 

i.  Coming  late  to  Church  -  If  one  comes  to  church  late, they          will          deprive             themselves   of   receiving   the   Holy Communion.  They  will  also  deprive  themselves  of  listening

to the Gospel readings, the beautiful hymns, and the deeply spiritual prayers said during the Divine Liturgy; prayers that uplift  one’s  heart  and  spirit  to  heaven,  giving  comfort  and peace  from  all  worldly  cares.  For  this  reason,  the  Lord Himself  advises  us  to  come  to  church  early  :  “Those  who seek Me early will find Me (Proverbs 8:17).

 

ii. Not  participating  in  the  responses  during  the  Mass  - One  may  come  early,  but  attend  as  a  spectator  and  not  a participator. Hence they will not feel a part of the liturgy and leave  feeling  they  have  not  received  any  spiritual  benefit. Whoever  attends  the  Mass  is  an  important  servant  of  the Mass,  and  this  is  clarified  during  the  Servant’s  Absolution when the priest says : “May Your servants, the ministers of this day, hegumens, priests, deacons, clergy, all Your people and my weak self be absolved...”. Hence the congregation is one  of  the  three  important  personalities  present  during  the Mass - the clergy, the deacons, and the congregation. If one of  them  is  absent,  it  is  not  possible  to  celebrate  the  Holy Mass.

 

Everyone present during the Divine Liturgy should share and participate  in  the  responses  with  all  their  heart,  soul  and senses in order to receive from God the overflowing comfort and  peace  He  will  provide  for  us.  Therefore,  before  the

 

 

 

 

7


actual    responses    are    the    words,    ‘The    congregation responds,’ not ‘The deacon responds’.

 

iii.  Lack  of  concentration  or  contemplation  during  the responses - Many times the hymns and responses are said in recitation  instead  of  in  contemplation,  and  hence  our  mind may become distracted from focusing on the prayers of the Mass. Every participant, whether clergy, deacon or believer should  pray  with  attention,  understanding  and  in  a  spirit  of contemplation,  so  that  together  with  the  Apostle  Paul  we say, “I  will  pray  with  the  spirit  and  I  will  also  pray  with understanding,  I  will  sing  with  the  spirit  and  I  will  also sing with understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15).

 

iv.  Occupation  with  administrative  matters  instead  of with  spiritual  matters  -  Some  people,  during  the  Mass, occupy  their  minds  with  administrative  matters,  like  the selling of the ‘korban(small holy breads), or collecting alms, donations, and so on. Amidst these thoughts they do not give themselves a chance to listen to the Mass and partake in the hymns  and  responses.  To  those,  the  Lord  Jesus  says  :

“These you ought to have done without leaving the others undone” (Luke 11:42), and also, “To everything there is a season...”  (Ecclesiastics  3:1).  Hence,  although  the  Apostle Paul  tells  us,  Those  who  lead,  with  diligence”  (Romans

12:8), and at the same time, they participate in prayers and

worships, according to what the Apostle also tells us in the same       chapter:           “fervent   in              spirit,          serving   the   Lord, continuing steadfastly in prayer” (Romans 12:11,12).

 

v.  Prayer  of  the  whole  Mass  in  the  Coptic  language  - Some  complain  that  they  do  not  understand  anything  or benefit because they do not understand the Coptic language

 

 

8


it is prayed in. Hence, the preference is for praying the Mass

in the language most common to all, and leaving a part to be said  in  Coptic,  for  it  is  our  original  language  and  our heritage, and so it is important for us not to neglect it. It is important  however,  that  the  congregation  try  to  learn  the Coptic  language,  for  it  is  the  language  of  our  fathers  and grandfathers.

 

vi.  Lack  of  partaking  of  the  Holy  Communion  -  Some people  attend  the  Mass  only  out  of  habit,  and  deprive themselves  from  receiving  the  Holy  Sacraments,  sometimes for months or years. The church advises that all those, who have  confessed  and  are  spiritually  prepared  should  receive the Holy Communion according to the words of our beloved Lord:  “Drink  from  it  all  of  you... (Matthew  26:26,27). Those who do not partake of the Holy Communion deprive themselves from the community of believers and from a great blessing.

 

vii.   Taking    the    Holy    Communion     without    having confessed   -   A   person   may   come   to   receive   the   Holy Communion,  while  having  on  their  conscience  sins  that  are not  confessed.  This  guilty  feeling  deprives  the  person  from receiving   spiritual   consolation   and   benefit.   The   person receiving  the  Holy  Communion  should  be  repentant,  pure and ready.

 

This book, my beloved reader, is a humble trial to overcome the  obstacles  which  prevent  you  from  gaining  the  spiritual benefits  of  attending  the  Mass.  It  is  also  a  journey  to  take you   to   the   depth   of   the   unity   of   the   Mass   and   Holy Communion. It explains how you can prepare yourself to be ready  and  deserving  of  the  holy  sacrament  of  Communion,

 

[Bishop_Mattaous/GoogleSq_Access.htm]

 

9


and   it   also   explains   the   responses   of   the   deacon   and congregation, in addition to some spiritual contemplations.

 

This  book,  “How  to  benefit  from  the  Holy  Mass”, compliments   my   last   book,   “The  Spirituality  of  the Rites of the Holy Mass”, which  focuses  on  the  prayers and rituals of the priest. This book, however, focuses more on   the   responses,   practices   and   contemplations   of   the deacons and congregation during the Holy Mass.

 

“For  those  who  worship  Him  must  worship  in  spirit  and truth” (John 4:24).

 

We  ask  our  beloved  God  to  bless  this  book  so  that  it  may become a source of blessing to all who read it, so that it may encourage  contemplation,  understanding,  concentration  and depth of prayer during the Holy Mass, and so that we may proceed to receive the Holy Communion in worthiness with

a  contrite  spirit;  hence  attaining  uncountable  blessings  and comfort.

 

With the blessings of our beloved father His Holiness Pope

Shenouda III.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10


 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Many   complain   that   they   do   not   receive   benefit   from attending the Divine Mass. In this book we will try to walk you   through,   my   beloved   Christian,   step   by   step   the procedures  before,  during  and      after    the                     Mass,     and contemplate  together  the  rituals,  and  fervent  prayers  which must be understood in order to benefit.

 

We record all these contemplations and practices from what we  read,  hear  and  experience,  in  the  hope  of  providing  for you  benefit  and  solving  some  of  the  problems  many  of  us face.

 

The Liturgy of St. Basil will be the focus of our discussion and contemplation, for it is the one most commonly used.

 

 

 

1.       PREPARATORY PRACTICES

 

The day in the church rite, starts from the evening prior to the celebration of the Holy Mass, so, for example, in order to attend  the  Sunday  Mass  you  must  be  prepared  from  the Saturday.

 

How do we prepare?

 

The  church  rules  necessitate  your  coming  clean  and  pure, both from within and on the outside; you must be in the best image externally and internally, as you are appearing before

 

 

 

11


God,  the  King  of  kings,  Lord  of  lords  and  Master  of  all earthly masters.

 

External cleanliness means bathing, clean clothes, and decent dressing. Internal cleanliness means purity of heart, through peace  and  reconciliation  with  others,  then  repentance  and confession.  If you have an appointment with your confession father  you  must  be  prepared  beforehand  by  sitting  with yourself, and remembering the sins you committed with and without intention.

 

You  make  a  note  of  them  with  all  honesty,  remembering what St. Antonious said, “If we remember our sins God will forget  them,  if  we  forget  our  sins  God  will  remind  us  of them.”

 

You can write your sins on a piece of paper, as well as any questions  you  may  have  to  ask  your  confession  father. Therefore,  having  made  a  note  of  all  the  sins  you  have committed since your last confession, you repent before God for these sins.

 

For those who are new or beginners in the life of repentance, the  best  period  for  confession  is  fortnightly,  then  gradually every   month.      It   is   very   dangerous   for   the   believers, especially  youth  and  beginners,  to  be  neglectful  in  their confessions,  and  delay  the  period  between  confessions,  for this neglect leads to spiritual lukewarmness, lack of scrutiny

in self examination and forgetfulness of certain sins intended

to  be  confessed.  And  the  greatest  danger  is  a  person  who often receives Holy Communion without regular confession.

 

 

 

 

 

[Bishop_Mattaous/GoogleSq_Access.htm]

 

12


Going To Church

 

When   you   hear   the   bells   of   the   church   declaring   the beginning  of  the  Vesper  Prayers,  or  you  know  the  time  at which   these   prayers   begin,   change   to   wearing   modest clothing so that you may attend the prayers and hymns of the Vespers.

 

Take  with  you  three  small  books:  the  Agbia,  the  Coptic Liturgy, and the book of Doxology. (In some churches, these books may be available for you to use during the service).

 

Along  the  way  to  church,  recite  certain  psalms,  and  bring your senses and mind to concentrate on them so that you are not distracted by anything useless. Learn psalms by heart so you can pray them inaudibly, at any time, and wherever you are.

 

There are three short, beautiful psalms from the Agbia...

 

V   Psalm 121, from the Sunset Prayer :

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of  the  Lord.”  Our  feet  have  been  standing  within  your gates  O  Jerusalem!  Jerusalem  is  built  as  a  city  that  is compact together. Where the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord,  to  the  testimony  of  Israel.  To  give  thanks  to  the name of the Lord. For thrones are set there for judgment, the  thrones  of  the  house  of  David.  Pray  for  the  peace  of Jerusalem.  “May  they  prosper  who  love  you.  Peace  be within your walls. Prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake  of  my  brethren  and  companions,  I  will  now  say,

“Peace be within you.” Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good. Alleluia.

 

 

13


V   Psalm 83, from the Sixth Hour Prayer :

How  lovely  is  Your  tabernacle,  O  Lord  of  hosts.  My  soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord. My heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found  a  home,  and  the  swallow  a  nest  for  herself,  where she may lay her young. Even Your altars O Lord of hosts, my King and my God, blessed are those who dwell in Your house. They will still be praising You. Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. As  they  pass  through  the  valley  of  Baca,  they  make  it  a spring.  The  rain  also  covers  it  with  pools.  They  go  from strength  to  strength.  Every  one  of  them  appears  before God  in  Zion.  O  Lord  God  of  hosts,  hear  my  prayer,  give ear O God of Jacob! O God, behold our shield, and look upon the face of Your anointed. For a day in Your courts

is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in   the   house   of   my   God   than   dwell   in   the   tents   of wickedness.  For  the  Lord  is  a  sun  and  shield:  The  Lord will give grace and glory: No good thing will He withhold: from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You! Alleluia.

 

V   Psalm 14, from the First Hour Prayer :

Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in  Your  holy  hill?  He  who  walks  uprightly  and  works righteousness,  and  speaks  the  truth  in  his  heart,  he  who does  not  backbite  with  his  tongue,  nor  does  evil  to  his neighbour  nor  does  he  take  up  a  reproach  against  his friend.  In  whose  eyes  a  vile  person  is  despised,  but  he honours  those  who  fear  the  Lord.  He  who  swears  to  his own hurt and does not change. He who does not put out his money at usury. Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. Alleluia.

 

14


 

 

Upon reaching the church, make the sign of the cross, then

quietly enter so as to disturb anybody. Enter the church, the house of God, in reverence and righteousness remembering what  the  gospel  mentioned  about  Simon  the  Elder,  “He came  by  the  Spirit  to  the  temple,  he  took  Him  (Jesus)  in his arms and blessed God” (Luke 2:25-28).

 

When entering the church, say with the Psalmist, “But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy.  In  fear  of  Your  I  will  worship  towards  Your  holy temple"  (Psalm  5:7).  When  you  reach  the  altar,  make  the sign of the cross, and prostrate three times saying, "I worship You  Christ  our  God,  with  Your  gracious  Father,  and  the Holy  Spirit,  because  You  have  come  and  saved  us."   Then reverently   stand   before   the   altar   and   pray   the,   “Our Father...” Touch the hem of the curtain's veil and reverently kiss it as it is a symbol of Christ’s garment about which the woman with the flow of blood said, ‘“If only I may touch His  clothes,  I  shall  be  made  well.”            Immediately  the fountain of her blood was dried up and she felt in her body that  she  was  healed  of  the  affliction”’  (Mark  5:25-34). Take a blessing from the priest by kissing the cross and his right hand holding the cross. Then quietly take your place in the  church  and  start  partaking  in  the  prayers.  You  can  use the Coptic Liturgy book.

 

If you enter the church at the time of the Gospel reading, you must stand reverently at the door of the church, listen to the gospel with the others and after the gospel is read you may go forward and kneel before the altar.

 

 

 

 

 

15


In the book of, 'The Mystery of the Trinity in the Ministry of Priesthood',  it  mentions  that,  "If  anyone  approaches  the door of the church and hears the reading of the gospel, he should stand still until the end of the reading."

 

 

 

2.       PRAYERS AND HYMNS OF THE MATINS AND VESPERS

 

These     are     groups     of     prayers,     supplications    and thanksgivings,  requesting  the  Lord’s  blessing  for  the  Mass service, so that the minds and souls of the believers may be prepared  to  enter  worthily  to  attend  the  Mass  with  all  its spirituality.  For  every  Mass  there  is  a  Matin  and  a  Vesper Prayer,  preceded  by  the  wonderful  Tasbeha  prayers.  The only exception are the weekday Masses, (Monday to Friday), and  during  the  Holy  Lent  for  they  conclude  late  in  the afternoon.

 

 

 

Canonical Hours

 

Those commonly said in Vespers are the prayers of the Ninth Hour, the Sunset Prayer, the Prayer before Sleeping, as well as the Prayer of the Veil which is said in the monasteries.

 

During  the  prayer  of  the  Ninth  Hour,  you  must  remember that this prayer was instituted by the church to commemorate the hour of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh on the Cross, which was for our salvation. Darkness fell on all the earth at the sixth hour until the ninth hour, indicating the end  of  Satan's  kingdom  when  our  Lord  trampled  him  and death through the cross, and God freed His people from the

 

 

16


bondage  of  sin  and  the  devil.  The  statement,  "The  Lord reigns," is repeated in many psalms. In Psalm 110 we pray,

"The  Lord  said  to  my  Lord,  'Sit  at  my  right  hand  till  I make  Your  enemies  Your  footstool.  The  Lord  shall  send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies.'"

 

When the psalms are distributed, pray them in reverence and understanding, and pray in spirit and truth.

 

During the reading of the gospel of the Ninth Hour, which is called the 'Gospel of Blessing', listen in reverence, for it tells of  the  blessing  of  the  five  loaves  and  two  fish  by  the  Lord Jesus.  This  Gospel  is  also  known  as  the  'Feeding  of  the multitudes'.  The  church  chose  the  gospel  of  feeding  the multitudes  to  be  read  at  the  ninth  hour,  as  most  of  the church’s fasts end at the ninth hour, reminding us that when we eat, we should request the blessing of our Lord Jesus.

 

Listen  carefully  to  the  Troparia  (prayers)  read  after  the gospel  as  they  are  very  spiritual.  Partake  in  their  responses

(Thoksa  batri  ke  euo...  Amen),  giving  glory  to  God  while bowing and making the sign of the Cross.

 

In the second part of the Troparia, we pray saying, "Let me partake  of  the  grace  of                                        Your  sacraments  so  that  when  I taste Your goodness, I offer You praise unceasingly."  Why don’t you my beloved, partake in these supplications humbly and reverently, if you intend to receive the Holy Communion the  next  day,  so  that  it  can  be  part  of  your  spiritual  and psychological preparation.

 

 

 

 

 

17


Prayer Of Lord Have Mercy

 

At the completion of every prayer of the Agbia, the church repeats, 'Lord have mercy' forty-one times. It is a marvellous example  of  perseverance  in  prayer  which  does  not  return empty, as the Lord Jesus taught us in the story of the unjust judge  who  avenged  the  woman  for  her  persistence  (Luke

18:1-7), and the story of the friend who came by at midnight

:  "I  say  to  you,  though  he  will  not  rise  and  give  to  him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. And I say to you,  ask  and  it  will  be  given  to  you,  seek,  and  you  will find,  knock,  and  it  will  be  opened  to  you.  For  everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Luke 11: 8-10).

 

The Greek for Lord have mercy is 'Kyrie-ley-son', which is composed of two words: Kyrie, meaning Lord, and ley-son, meaning  to  have  mercy.  My  advice  to  you  my  beloved,  is that whenever you pray ‘Lord have Mercy forty one times, try  to  remember  the  thirty  nine  lashes  that  grazed  the  holy back  of  your  beloved  Jesus  for  your  sake.  Remember  the crown  of  thorns  which  was  placed  on  His  holy  head  in mockery and scorn and remember how He was beaten on His holy head so that the crown of thorns pierced His bleeding forehead, and do not forget that cruel stab in His holy side which caused His pure Blood to be shed on the earth.

 

These are the sufferings that the church reminds us of while we recite this short but effective prayer of 'Lord have mercy.' Some people just repeat this prayer without knowing that it actually   represents   the   thirty   nine   lashes   on   the   Holy Saviour’s  back,  plus  the  crown  of  thorns  and  the  stabbing

 

 

18


spear,  so  the  total  is  forty  one  wounds  which  the  beloved Lord Jesus endured for our sake. So, its repetition reminds us always of Christ's incredible love for us. Let us pray 'Lord have mercy' saying :

 

V   You who were lashed for us, have mercy on us.

V   You who were stabbed by the spear for us, have mercy on us.

 

Try  my  beloved,  to  ease  the  severe  pain  which  the  Lord Christ   endured   for   you,   through   your   repentance   and persistence, pleading for His mercy.

 

Father Antonious Rageb says about this meaningful short prayer: "We recite, 'Lord have mercy' so many times. Our whole life is not enough to recite and beg the compassionate mercy from our loving God. Let your repetition in prayer become a beautiful incense, seek mercy for yourself, for all your matters and also for others. Specify each time a certain matter for which you need the Lord’s mercy :

 

V   Lord have mercy on me because of my evil thoughts;

V   Lord have mercy on me from mental distraction;

V   Lord have mercy on me in this tribulation;

V   Lord have mercy on Your church from corrupt foxes;

V   Lord have mercy on Your children from the seduction of sin.

 

Thus the incense of your prayers rises and is accepted by the

Lord.”

 

The prayer of 'Lord have mercy' includes all the requests and needs of the person, whatever they may be, and at all times.

'Lord  have  mercy'  said  41  times  is  then  followed  by  the

 

19


prayer,  "Holy,  Holy,  Holy  is  the  Lord  of  hosts..."  as  it incorporates many beautiful requests:

 

V   persistence  in  asking  for  God's  mercy,  "O  Holy  Trinity have mercy upon us";

V   asking  the  Lord  for  His  help  and  protection,  "O  Lord

God of hosts be with us";

V   asking  for  absolution  and  the  forgiveness  for  our  many sins, "Which we have done willingly and unwillingly, the hidden and the visible"

 

We then conclude with the Lord’s prayer, "Our Father who art in heaven...", for this is the prayer that was taught to us by our beloved teacher and Lord Jesus Christ.

 

At the end of the Ninth Hour prayer, pray the absolution as it

is  a  powerful  prayer,  requesting  the  Lord  to,  "Raise  our minds   above   worldly   care   and   bodily   desires   to   the remembrance of Your heavenly Commandments. Fulfil Your love  to  humanity  O  God.  Receive  our  prayers  at  all  times and this prayer of the ninth hour."

 

 

 

The Sunset Prayer and the Prayer before Sleeping

 

Contemplate on each word of the Agbia prayers, so that God can  give  you  understanding  and  consolation,  and  so  you may benefit from your Agbia prayers.

 

It is also important for us to remember why each hour of the

Agbia was instituted :

 

 

 

 

 

20


V   The Ninth Hour Prayer commemorates the atoning death of Christ on the Cross.

V   The Sunset Prayer commemorates the taking down of the Lord’s holy body from the Cross. It reminds us that the sun  of  our  lives  must  set  one  day  when  we  leave  this world  to  be  with  our  God  Jesus  Christ,  so  let  us  be prepared for this day with care, vigilance and repentance.

 

The  Gospel  of  the  Sunset  Prayer  narrates  how  the  Lord Jesus healed the mother in law of St. Peter from a fever and how He cast out demons. Let us take this opportunity to ask the Lord to heal our sicknesses, both physical and spiritual, and to cast away from us the power if the adversary and his evil hosts which cause us to sin.

 

At  the  end  of  the  Sunset  Prayer,  we  pray  the  absolution whereby  we  thank  the  Lord  for  He  granted  us  to  pass  the day in peace and brought us thankfully to the night and made us worthy of seeing His light until sunset. He did not allow for us to perish suddenly without repentance, but in His love He kept us alive so that we live to the end of the day to see and enjoy His light.

 

The Prayer before Sleeping is prayed after the Sunset Prayer as the church instituted it to commemorate the laying down of  the  body  of  our  Lord  Jesus  in  the  tomb,  for  sleep  is considered a little death and the bed we sleep on signifies the tomb  into  which  we  shall  be  placed  into  after  death.  A particular  saint  used  to  speak  to  his  bed  each  night  saying,

"O bed you might become my tomb this night."

 

The subject of death reminds us to always lead a repentant life, and this prayer is a prayer of repentance. The Troparia prayed after the Gospel of the Prayer Before Sleeping says,

 

21


"Behold I am about to stand before the Just Judge in fear, because of my numerous sins, for the life spent in pleasures deserves  condemnation.  Repent,  therefore,  O  my  soul  so long as you dwell on earth ... Yet I imitate the tax collector beating  on  my  chest  saying,  'God  be  merciful  to  me  a sinner!" The Troparia is then followed by the prayer, "Lord by Your grace protect us this night from sin..."

 

The   praying   person   presents   a   true   repentance   in   the absolution as they intend to sleep and surrender themselves

in  the  hands  of  the  Lord,  who  is  the  honest  guard.  For  as they intend on receiving Holy Communion the next morning, they must be repentant in order to be worthy of receiving the sacrament.   Therefore   in   the   absolution   we   pray,   "Lord forgive  us  for  the  sins  we  committed  against  You  this  day whether  they  are  by  action,  by  words... (think  how  many sins  you  have  committed  through  your  actions  or  words, whether  swearing,  lies,  insults  or  otherwise,  and  repent  to God),  “by  thought”,  (think  how  many  sins  of  thought  you committed  this  day.  You  might  have  condemned  someone, or  envied  or  angered  someone,  or  even  had  a  profane thought. Repent to God and say, Lord I have sinned forgive me my sins of...), “or  by  any  of  our  senses…”  (how many sins  did  you  commit  today  through  your  sense  of  sight, hearing,  touch  or  otherwise?  Remember  all  these  sins  and repent to God).   Then complete the absolution, in faith and persistence.

 

 

 

The Prayer of the Veil

 

This prayer is said in the monasteries by the monks after the

Twelfth   Hour   Prayer   (Prayer   before   Sleeping).   It   is

 

 

 

22


composed of twenty eight psalms, selected from the psalms

in the Agbia psalms. It also includes three parts from Psalm

118,  which  is  said  during  the  Midnight  prayer.  It  is  then followed by the Gospel, the  Troparia and the absolution.

 

The  Troparia  in  the  Prayer  of  the  Veil  reminds  us  of  the awesome  judgment  where  people  will  be  gathered,  angels standing,   books   opened,   works   revealed,   and   thoughts exposed. It is prayed with great humility, "Who will quench the  flame  of  fire  away  from  me?  Who  will  enlighten  my darkness if You do not have mercy on me O Lord?"   Then we  request  the  intercession  of  the  Virgin  Mary,  whose prayers  are  acceptable  on  our  behalf.  Thereby  we  will  be victorious against our enemies and the wicked one will flee from us.

 

The   absolution   in    the   Prayer   of   the    Veil   is   very contemplative, for we ask God to, "Give us rest in our sleep, repose for our bodies and purity of our souls. And protect us from  the  darkness  of  sin,  pitch  and  gloom,  soothe  the painful motions, quench the heat of the flesh and suppress the agitation of the body. Grant us a wakeful mind, humble thoughts, a virtuous life and an undefiled, unstained bed..."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23


 

 

 

 

 

 

1  Raising of Incense

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24


Raising of Incense

 

 

 

THE VESPERS

 

After completing the Agbia prayers, the choir starts the the Vesper (Tasbeha); it is shorter than the Midnight Tasbeha. It begins  with  a  beautiful  tune  :  Ni-Ethnos-Teero,  which  is Psalm  117,  ''Oh,  praise  the  Lord  all  you  Gentiles.  Laud Him  all  you  peoples!  For  His  merciful  kindness  is  great towards  us.  And  the  truth  of  the  Lord  endures  forever. Praise the Lord Alleluia.''  It is called the Sunset Psalm and

is the first psalm in the Sunset Prayer.

 

Why don't you learn these beautiful tunes and urge others to learn  it  so  all  those  in  the  church  can  pray  together  in  one voice.

 

After  this  tune,  the  Tasbeha  starts.  It  is  composed  of  the Fourth Hoas, then the day's Epsalia or anniversary (or both together),  then  the  Tazakia  of  the  day,  Lobsh,  Tarh  and conclusion.

 

Partake in the Tasbeha, normally said in Coptic, and praise together  in  one  voice,  just  as  the  Apostles  advised,  ''That you  may  with  one  mind  and  one  mouth  glorify  the  God and  Father  of  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ''  (Romans  15:6), resembling the heavenly hosts who praise before the Divine Throne.

 

If  you  do  not  know  the  Coptic  language  very  well,  or  the

Tasbeha  praises,  follow  the  chanters  with  your  Tasbeha

 

 

25


Book, and repeat the verses of the Psalia and Tazakia. These verses were instituted specifically as recitations for the whole congregation to say during the Tasbeha.

 

While  following  the  Tasbeha  praises,  you  may  contemplate on its deep meanings.

 

 

 

THE VESPER PRAYERS

 

After  completing  the  Tasbeha,  the  raising  of  the  Vesper incense begins.

 

Follow the prayers in the Liturgy book attentively. Partake in the responses with the congregation singing the hymns with the  choir,  as  the  congregation  are  to  be  active  participants, and not passive audiences during the Vesper service or Holy Mass.  The  responsibility  of  the  chanter  (deacon)  is  to  lead the  congregation  the  responses,  and  to  chant  the  special festive tunes.

 

The Vesper prayer starts with the Prayer of Thanksgiving as

it  is  an  important  prayer  by  which  the  church  starts  every service with.

 

We notice that the priest prays this prayer in the plural form saying,  “We  thank  You  for  You  have  protected  us…” Therefore, as the priest prays for us, every person ought to lift up their hearts and feelings in gratitude to our Lord.

 

After the priest proceeds to raise incense three times around the  altar,  he  says  the  Prayer  for  the  Departed.   During  the prayer, we must contemplate on the following :

 

 

26


 

 

V   The  prayer  for  the  departed  is  said  during  the  evening

incense (specifically at sunset) to remind us that we shall one day join the departed, so we must always be ready;

 

V   To ask the departed to pray for us that God will help us complete our earthly struggle peacefully;

 

V   To  remember  the  resurrection,  as  when  the  priest  says,

''Raise up their bodies also, on the day which You have appointed, according to Your true promises, which are without lie.'' We believe that the resurrection will come for  us,  as  God  will  appear  to  recompense  each  one according to their deeds.

 

After  completing  the  litany,  the  priest  proceeds  around  the altar with the censor once, then proceeds around the church, raising  incense  towards  the  gospels,  icons,  tabernacle  and congregation.

 

The  priest  places  his  cross  on  each  person  blessing  them saying, ''The blessing of the incense be with us. Amen.''

 

Meanwhile, the congregation must reflect a true repentance saying, ''I ask You my Master Jesus Christ to forgive my sins which were committed knowingly and unknowingly.''

 

The priest once again raises the incense at the altar, praying inaudibly for our repentance saying: ''O God who accepted the   confession   of   the   thief   on   the   cross,   accept   the confession and repentance of Your people for the sake of Your Holy Name that is called upon us, and according to Your mercy and not according to our sins.''

 

 

27


 

 

Solomon   prayed   a   similar   prayer   for   his   people   saying

''...each  one  knows  the  plague  of  his  own  heart,  and spreads  out  his  hands  toward  this  temple:  then  hear  in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to  everyone  according  to  all  his  ways,  whose  heart  You know (for You, only You, know the hearts of all the sons of  man)''  (1  Kings  8:  38-9).  This  prayer  of  repentance,  as well as the intercession of the priest are offered before God. So, my brethren, you should offer God a pure repentance in order  to  be  able  to  benefit  from  these  deep,  interceding prayers.

 

During  the  raising  of  incense,  the  congregation  sing  the doxologies  which  are  the  glorifications  to  the  holy  Virgin mother of God, the angels, the martyrs, the saints, and all the various church feasts and occasions.

 

May  we  all  partake  and  glorify  God  and  His  saints,  asking for their intercessions and prayers.

 

 

 

The  Prayer  of  'Evnoti-nay-nan'  (God  have  mercy upon us)

 

After   the   raising   of   incense,   the   congregation   says   the Orthodox  Creed,  chanting  the  last  sentence,  "And  we  look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come,   Amen."   Meanwhile,   the   priest   holds   the   cross together with three lit candles in his right hand. This signifies that the One who was crucified on the cross is Jesus Christ the  light  of  the  world,  who  sanctified  Himself  to  enlighten those  living  in  darkness  and  in  the  shadow  of  death.  Also,

 

 

28


through the cross, He took us into His wonderful light, from the darkness.

 

The priest makes the sign of the cross on the congregation on  all  sides,  three  times  inaudibly,  then  says  the  prayer  of

‘God have mercy upon us,’ making the sign of the cross in all   four   directions   with   the   cross   and   the   lit   candles, symbolising  that  Jesus  Christ  enlightened  His  people,  who live in all four corners of the earth, through the cross, saving them from the darkness of sin and granting them eternal life.

 

During   these   rounds   of    the   raising   of   incense,   the congregation say "Amen" three times, in humility, believing that   the   priest’s   prayers   ask   for   mercy,   blessings   and forgiveness.

 

The  congregation  then  chant  "Lord  have  mercy"  three times. It is a very beautiful tune that touches the heart and soul, as the congregation cry for mercy and compassion.

 

Prayers   using   special   tunes   are   heavenly   music.   The struggling church on earth partake with those who carry the golden  harps  in  the  victorious,  heavenly  church,  before  He who is seated on the Throne.

 

Our fathers were so fond of the tune, "Evnoti-nay-nan" and

"Kyrie-lay-son"  that  one  stated,  "It  is  impossible  that  God hears  this  marvellous  tune  without  having  mercy  on  His people."

 

My beloved, recite with the priest inaudibly during Vespers,

"Lord  have  mercy  upon  us.  Settle  Your  mercy  upon  us. Have compassion on us. Bless us, guard us, help us. Take

 

 

29


away  Your  anger  from  us.  Visit  us  with  Your  salvation. And forgive us our sins."

 

Also chant with the congregation the joyful tune of,  "Lord have  mercy,"  while  beating  your  chest  in  persistence  and humility like the tax collector. Do you feel you return to your house justified like the tax collector?

 

 

 

The Gospel

 

After granting peace to the congregation, the priest prays for hearing  the  holy  gospel.  It  is  a  powerful  prayer  which intensifies  in  power  and  spirit.  The  priest  mentions  the blessing of the Lord to His disciples for they saw and heard what prophets and righteous men had desired to see and had not  seen.  We  must,  therefore,  thank  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ because  He  made  us  worthy  to  hear  the  words  of  grace coming  from  His  Divine  mouth  and  recorded  in  His  Holy Gospel.  We  ask  Him  with  the  priest  to  make  us  worthy  to hear the holy gospel and act according to His word. In this way,  we  gain  the  blessing  promised  in  Revelation  saying,

"Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this  prophecy...  for  the  time  is  near"  (Revelation  1:3).  In this way, we thus become a dynamic fifth gospel, "You are our  epistle  written  in  our  hearts,  known  and  read  by  all men; you are manifestly an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart" (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).

 

The  priest  then  prays,  "Those  who  have  already  fallen asleep, repose them. Those who are sick, heal them...'' We

 

 

30


remember  our  departed  beloved  ones  and  the  sick,  so  that God  may  repose  the  former  and  heal  the  latter.  We  thus become  a  blessing  for  ourselves  and  others  too.  These contemplations  concentrate  our  thoughts  in  prayer,  so  we protect ourselves from boredom and evil thoughts. Then we repeat  with  the  congregation,  "Lord  have  mercy,"  bearing

in mind its previous meaning. We ask the Lord to bestow His

divine words in a heart with good earth, to bear good fruit.

 

The   deacon   now   says,   "Pray   for   hearing   the   Holy Gospel..."  Let  us  pray  fervently  so  that  the  words  of  the gospel  find  its  place  in  every  heart,  becoming  a  good  seed falling on good earth to bear fruits : "some a hundredfold, some  sixty,  some  thirty"  (Matthew  13:8).  Let  us  pray  that everyone in the church finds special spiritual food and divine consolation  in  the  words  of  the  gospel  when  opening  their hearts, mind and ears.

 

We must stand reverently to listen to the living word of God. We have to listen attentively for a special message God may be trying to tell us - as He did with St Anthony who sold all his  possessions  and  gave  to  the  poor.  We  may  find  certain answers  for  confusing  situations  and  spiritual  solutions  to our  problems.  This  can  be  said  in  confidence  after  much experience from spiritual people.

 

During  the  gospel  reading,  two  deacons  stand  beside  the reader with two lit candles to denote the light of the gospel which must shine on every heart leading to eternal life. "For the  commandment  is  a  lamp,  and  the  law  is  light...''

(Proverbs 6:23) and the Psalmist said, "Your word is a lamp

to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).

 

 

 

 

31


 

 

The Sermon

 

The sermon of the Vesper Prayer is :

 

V   About the gospel read during the Vespers. It introduces the  liturgy  gospel  and  all  the  oncoming  readings.  The liturgy gospel is the centre of all the readings throughout the Mass.

 

V   Sunday's sermon may be for a specific purpose, such as directed  to  youth,  servants  or  general.  The  topic  must have been previously agreed upon.

 

V   It may be a bible study and explanation on the holy Bible, or  explanation  on  doctrines  or  rites,  etc.  It  may  not  be related to the Vesper gospel.

 

In  any  case,  you  must  carefully  listen  to  the  sermon  and benefit  spiritually  so  that  you  may  grow  in  your  life  with God.

 

 

 

THE LITANIES

 

Litanies  (plural  of  litany)  is  a  Greek  word  meaning  prayer. After the Gospel and sermon, the priest prays five litanies :

 

i.          Peace

ii.        Fathers iii.   Place

iv.        Air, waters, plant v.            Gatherings

 

 

32


 

 

V   Litany of Peace  -  the priest says, "Remember, O Lord

the  peace  of  Your  one,  holy,  universal  and  apostolic church,"  which  is  repeated  by  the  deacon  in  order  to harmonise the prayers. The congregation respond, "Lord have  mercy."  The  Psalmist  exalts  the  mercies  of  God saying,  "Your  loving  kindness,  O  God  is  better  than life”  (Psalm  63:3).  Through  His  mercy,  "we  live  and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Without God's mercy and providence, there is neither earthly nor eternal life.  On  the  contrary,  there  is  death,  emptiness  and destruction. The mercy of God is followed by goodness, spiritual and material blessings, righteousness and beauty. St  Paul  the  Apostle  stated,  "But  God,  who  is  rich  in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  even  when  we  were  dead  in  trespasses,  made  us alive together with Christ..." (Ephesians 2:4-5). God full of  mercy  gives  us  this  grace  to  live  with  Christ.  "How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"

(Romans 8:32).

 

We ask the Lord to have mercy on the Church and its people

-  including  the  leaders,  subordinates,  servants  and  general congregation. No one is divided, but united in love. We need that external peace to protect us from the evil hosts as it is,

"the  church  of  God  which  He  purchased  with  His  own blood" (Acts 20:28), "The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

 

V   Litany for the Fathers  -  the priest prays this litany and the deacon urges the congregation to pray for the fathers of   the       church.        They    say,      "Lord       have mercy," remembering  the  Patriarch,  Metropolitans  and  Bishops,

 

 

33


praying that the Lord give them health, strength and keep them for the Church for many years and peaceful times.

 

We ask the Lord to have mercy on the Church's fathers by giving them grace and wisdom to guide His holy Church. For them  to  keep  the  Orthodox  faith  until  the  end,  and  to shepherd their flock through example and teaching.

 

V   Litany for the Place  -  when the priest prays this litany, requesting  its  safety  and  peace,  the  deacon  asks  the congregation to pray for the safety of, "this  holy  place of  Yours,  and  of  the  world,  this  city  of  ours,  all  the cities,             districts,    islands    and    monasteries."    The congregation  respond,  "Lord  have  mercy,"  asking  for God to have mercy on the world; giving it peace, safety from  famines,  plagues,  earthquakes  and  other  disasters. We  pray  for  the  islands  surrounded  by  sea  that  God protects  it  from  sinking,  and  the  monasteries  in  the wilderness   that   God   protect   them   from   attacks   of barbarians  and  evil  wars.  We  pray  that  the  monks  and nuns have peace and safety, so that they may pray for the safety and salvation of the world.

 

Then  the  priest  prays  the  rest  of  the  litany  saying,  "And every   city,   every   region,   the   villages   and   all   their ornaments. Save us all from famine, plagues, earthquakes, fire,  captivity  of  barbarians,  sword  of  the  stranger  and rising  up  of  heretics."  We  should  inaudibly  repeat  these prayers  with  the  priest.  For  example,  if  he  says,  "Save  us from  famine,"  we  should  answer,  "God  save  us  from famine, plagues, floods, fire and wars. Save the faith and the   Church   from   heretics.   Amen."   At   the   end,   the

 

 

 

 

34


congregation  responds,  "Lord  have  mercy."  We  pray  with this gathering all that was requested throughout the litany.

 

V   Litany of air, water and plantations   -   (In Egypt, the litany prayers are said in accordance to the seasonal time of  cultivation  and  harvesting,  or  the  rising  of  the  River Nile). The priest prays for the waters of the rivers and for the cultivation of crops, seeds and herbs, and for the air of   the   heaven   and   plants   of   the   field.   The   deacon responds  accordingly,  urging  the  congregation  to  pray also.  We  then  respond  with,  "Lord  have  mercy"  three times.

 

·     Lord  have  mercy  on  the  waters  to  be  plentiful  to  make happy and fruitful the land by the Nile, to avoid drought.

 

·     Lord  have  mercy  on  the  plants  and  herbs  to  grow  and multiply  to  bear  much  fruit,  to  be  kept  from  worms  and stealing, so that happiness prevails on all.

 

·     Lord have mercy on the air of heaven so God may give it adequacy as it nourishes and matures the fruit in due time. As winds whether hot or sudden damage the fruit.

 

Note:

While  the  priest  prays  for  waters  of  the  river  in  the  due season,  the  deacon  recites  reverently  and  the  congregation respond,  "Lord  have  mercy,"  thrice,  not  once  like  the pervious litanies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

35


What is the reason?

 

First,   thrice   for   the   waters   of   the   river   to   request   its abundance,  in  persistence.  Repetition  of  one  prayer  many times  denotes  persistence  and  knocking  on  God's  door  to respond to the important and persistent request.

 

Second, while the congregation prays to God for mercy on the  waters,  they  do  not  forget  the  plants,  herbs  and  air  of heaven.  So  three  times,  one  for  the  waters,  second  for  the plants,  third  for  the  air  as  they  are  related  to  each  other. Water  needs  wind  to  carry  clouds  for  rainfall  into  the  Nile sources to flood, also the plants need water and air to grow and  mature,  also  air  needs  plants  to  intake  oxygen  and  the most important constituent is water to cool and modify the air.

 

All these factors are necessary for man's livelihood, for when he  is  in  need  of  nothing,  he  increases  in  every  good  deed, thanking God for being generous in giving and distributing, according to our needs.

 

V   Prayer of the Gatherings   -   when the priest prays for the      church's        meeting,   and            the    deacon            asks    the congregation  to,  "Pray  for  this  holy  Church  and  for our  congregation,"  the  congregation  responds,  "Lord have mercy", meaning :

 

·        Lord have mercy on all of us, and keep us from internal divisions that weaken and deteriorates our gathering;

 

·        Lord have mercy on us and make us regular in attending these spiritual meetings, "Not forsaking the assembly of

 

 

36


ourselves   together,   as   is   the   manner   of   some"

(Hebrews 10:25);