Rituals

 

Praise the Lord my soul

Part I

Praise is the language of angels (Luke 2:13) and the discipline of saints (Psalms 22:26) and the spiritual person is always praising the Lord (Psalms 146:2) since out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matt 12:34)… and the more a person enjoys a pure relation ship with Christ our Savior, the more that person’s soul increases its desire for that heavenly way of life and therefore it becomes deeper in him until that person’s life becomes a wonderful living symphony of praise that always links him to God and the angels and saints.  “In the midst of the assembly will I praise you” Psalms 22:22 and Heb 2:12.

As one of our contemporary church fathers says the priest and deacons are responsible for conveying the worship spirit to the congregation, therefore when we find a spiritual church, it is because of the spirituality of its priest and deacons.

Praise is worship, no a program presented upon the church stage.  It is also not a duty it is a way of life that is spiritual and superior and a means to bond us through holy asceticism to Christ our God.

Divisions of Praise

  • Vespers Praise

  • Midnight Praise

  • Morning Praise

The components of Vespers Praise

  • Prayers begin with the Ninth hour from the Agpeya (If not already prayed in the morning), followed by the Eleventh and Twelfth hours.
  • The Agpeya is followed by the chanting of the Hymn “Nieqnoc throu” which means “praise the Lord all ye nations” Psalm 117.
  • Next, the fourth canticle (Hoce) is chanted, which is composed of Psalms 148, 149 and 150.  Please note that Psalm 150 is chanted with the accompaniment of cymbals.  A short sentence is added to each verse during the month of Kiahk.
  • The “Psali” of the day or “Hymn” of the day (according to the weekday).  It is preceded by a feast Psali if there is a feast.
  • The “Theotokia”, which is praise for the mother of God.  It is also according to the day of the week.
  • The end of the Theotokias.

After the priest prays the Thanksgiving prayer, the congregation chants the Verses of Cymbals, either the “Adam” or the “Watos” depending on the weekday.  After the litanies of the reposed or the sick and the travelers, the congregation chants the Doxologies and the priest continues the prayers as usual.

Terminology

1.  Hoce: A Coptic word meaning “Glorify”

2.  Psali: is a spun-off word from “yalmoc” meaning Psalm which is a hymn of praise and glory to the Lord Jesus.  It’s composed of verses of poetry arranged in alphabetic order.  There is some Psalis for the martyrs and saints.

3.  Theotokia: Taken from the word Qeotokoc Theotokos “The mother of God”.  It’s a glorification to the Lord with his mother.

4.  Watos: It means “Bush”.  It’s the first word in the Thursday Theotokia.  The watos is a distinct tune used in hymns Wednesday through Saturday

5.  Adam: It means “Adam”.  It’s the first word in the Monday Theotokia.  It’s a distinct tune used in hymns Sunday through Tuesday.

6.  Verses of Cymbals: They are arranged verses in which we ask the Virgin Mary and all the saints to pray for us.  The verses are chanted using the accompaniment of the cymbals.

7.  Doxologies:  These are verses of glorifications for God, the Virgin Mary, the angels, the martyrs and all the saints.  We praise and commemorate their pure names.

Please Note:

  • The ends of the Theotokias are also chanted in Watos and Adam tune depending on the day of the week.
  • After the Theotokia, The Defnar can be read.  The Defnar is a book similar to the Synaxarium. It contains a condensed commemoration for the saint of the day.
  • The tune of the Psali and Doxology changes according to the ecclesiastical seasons as follows:
  • Kiahk Tune:  Is used for prayer during the month of Kiahk prior of the feast of Nativity.

  • Fasting Tune: is for the duration of the Great Holy Lent and the Jonah Fast. It's divided into 2 tunes (a. days of the week, b. Saturdays and Sundays)

  • Sha’aneen tune: Used for prayer on Palm Sunday.  The tune is also used for the two Feasts of the Cross.  The first one is celebrated on the 10th of Baramhat (March 19) and the second on e is celebrated on the 17th of Tute (September 27).

  • Joyful Tune:  It is the tune for prayer in the minor and major feasts of the Lord except for the Feast of the Annunciation if it fell during Holy Week.  This tune is also used for the entirety of the fifty holy joyful days after the Resurrection.  It’s also used on the 29th day of each Coptic month except Toba and Amshir.

What are the Lord’s Feasts?

They are the Feasts that pertain to the Lord our God.  These Feasts are divided into two categories:

  • Major Lord’s Feast and they are 7.

  • Minor Lord’s Feasts and they are also 7.

The Major Lord’s Feasts are:

  • Annunciation: Baramhat 29th (April 7th).
  • Nativity: Kiahk 29th (January 7th).
  • Theophany: Tooba 11th (January 19th).  The revelation of the divine nature of the Lord.
  • Palm Sunday: The 7th Sunday of the Great Lent.
  • Resurrection: The 8th Sunday of the Great Lent.
  • Ascension: 40 days after the resurrection (The 6th Thursday of the holy 50 days).
  • Pentecost: 50 days after the resurrection (The 7th Sunday of the holy 50 days).

 

The Minor Lord’s Feasts are:

  • Circumcision:  Tooba 6th (January 14th).

  • Wedding at Canaa:  Tooba 13th (January 21st).

  • Presentation of the Lord in the Temple:  Amshir 8th (February 15th).
  • Transfiguration:  Mesra 13th (August 19th).
  • Covenant Thursday:  The 8th Thursday of the Holy Great Lent.
  • Thomas Sunday:  The 1st Sunday of the holy 50 days.

The church Rituals during these Feasts:

  • The prayers are in the joyful tunes (Except the Annunciation if it fells during the Holy Pascha week).
  • During the liturgy, only the Third and the Sixth hours of the Agpeya are prayed.
  • If a feast falls on a Sunday, the readings will pertain to the feast readings instead of the usual Sunday reading.

 

Praise the Lord my soul

Part II

Last time we discussed the rituals of vespers praise and the different tunes of the hymns in relation to the ecclesiastical calendar. We also discussed the Lord’s feasts. We will now continue on with our series on rituals.

Adam and Watos:

Before Sunday liturgy, we pray the Saturday night praise. Verses of the cymbals are chanted in the ‘Watos’ tune, whereas verses of the cymbals on Sunday are chanted in the ‘Adam’ tune. In the same way, the Saturday vespers praise is chanted in the ‘Watos’ tune, whereas Midnight praise in chanted in the ‘Adam’ tune.

The order of Midnight praise

Midnight praise on the eve of Sunday is different than the rest of the week.  We will discuss in this article the eve of Sunday.

  • First we start by praying the midnight prayers (from the Agpeya).

  • We then chant ‘Ten Theno’ or ‘Arise children of light’.

  • Then comes ‘Ten Nav’. It is chanted from the Feast of the Resurrection through the month of Hator

  • Now comes the first Hoce and its ‘lopsh’ or a ‘response hymn’. For this hoce, it’s the Song of Moses the prophet in which he praises the Lord who rescued his people from the enemy, found in Exodus 15.

  • The second Hoce comes now and its ‘lopsh’ and it is based on the 136th Psalm which is a deep meditation on God’s greatness and His glorious deeds.

  • The third Hoce comes next and it is the praise of the three youths thrown into the fiery furnace by king Nebuchednezer.

  • Next, the Watos praise or ‘psali’ called “Aripsalin” or “praise the One who was crucified for us”. It is praise to the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • The “Commemoration” and it is to praise the heavenly witnesses and includes the Holy Virgin Mary, the angels, the apostles, the martyrs and the saints all mentioned in their proper order or status due them assigned by the church. In this praise we ask them for their intercessions and prayers in our belief that they are alive in the Lord and see us and know our needs. The victorious church in heaven is tied to the struggling church on earth through one goal and that is holy love and when we remember them we remember their struggle and what they obtained which makes our souls burn with longing for the eternal kingdom and our faith deepens for Christ and His glory and we received renewed strength for our struggle.

  • The Doxologies are next, and they are glorifications previously explained in part one of this series.

  • Now is the fourth Hoce “Esmo Epchoice” and it is made up of Psalms 148, 149 and 150 which invoke all of creation to praise the name of the Lord.

  • The ‘Adam’ psali to the Virgin Mary, “Ai nahti”. In it we praise the Mother of God according to the Orthodox dogma giving her her blessed status and revealing theological meanings through that praise such as ‘the golden lantern’, ‘the vessel of the Cherubim’ and the “door that Ezekiel saw in the east’.

  • Next is the ‘Adam’ psali, in which we glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and we appeal to His mercy because of our weak human nature.

  • The Sunday Theotokia follows “Ce moti” and it is one of the longest and most magnificent of the Theotokias of the week in its tune and beautiful arrangement revealing the Virgin Mary in her rightful position in the church and recounting all the spiritual and theological symbols of her in the Bible. Notice how distinctive this Theotokia is in its tune from the others.

  • Next is the finale of the Adam Theotokias “Nek nai” and it is the praise meaning “Your mercies Oh God”. This praise carries tender feelings of repentance and remorse for sins committed.

  • Finally, the congregation recites the Orthodox creed “We exalt you true mother of God” and “We believe in one God” and close with “Kyrie Eleison” and the conclusion of prayers as usual.

The arrangement of Prime Praise

  • Prayer begins with the First Hour from the Agpeya.
  • Then Prime doxologies in the Adam tune which begin with prostration to the Holy Trinity. At this time the worshipper feels immense joy in his/her intimate relationship with the Virgin Mary, the angels and saints as verses are chanted in a highly spiritual and wonderful symphony hailing the Virgin Mary, the angels, the cherubim, the seraphim, St. Mark the Evangelist and so on. After that portions are chanted in praise of the works of the heavenly orders and requesting their intercessions for us.
  • The praise is concluded in the same way of the Sunday Theotokia by chanting “Nek nai”.

The phrase  “Aki” and its various uses  

 A lot of the hymns and responses end in the phrase “because You came and saved us”.  That phrase will change according to the occasion and season of the ecclesiastical calendar as follows:

  • During fasting days and ordinary times the phrase is “aki’ or You came”.
  • During the paramon or the day before the feast of the Nativity until the Circumcision feast, the proper phrase is “ avmac’k” meaning “You were born”.
  • During the paramon of the Epiphany until the 12th of Toba, the phrase is “akch’i’om” meaning “You were baptized”.
  • During the feast of the Cross and from the eve of Good Friday until Saturday of Light the phrase is “av ash’k” or “You were crucified”.
  • From the eve of the Resurrection feast until the end of the month of Hator, the phrase is “aktonk” meaning “You have risen”.

Praise the Lord, My Soul

Part III

 

After going over the order of vespers praise, midnight praise and prime praise, let us now go over some features of praise in our church. 

Permanent monthly rituals 

The church celebrates three (3) feasts every month. They are:

-          The feast of the Archangel Michael on the 12th day of every Coptic month

-          The feast of the Mother of God. St Mary on the 21st day of the every Coptic month

Please note that during these feasts, the tune of the hymns do not change and they do not have an effect on the services of the church with regards to the readings, fasts, etc.

They only require the respective glorifications and spiritual celebrations. It is beneficial however, for us as worshippers to meditate on the reason for the feast, i.e. the Virgin Mary and the Archangel. We do this by remembering their virtues, their prayers and works on our behalf, their purity and holiness.

-          The remembrance of the three Feasts of our Lord every 29th day of every Coptic month

Except for the month of Tobi and Amshir. The three feasts are: The annunciation, the Nativity of our Lord, and the Resurrection. 

Because that day is a celebration of the Lord’s Feasts, therefore it applies then that during communion we sing the response of the 150 Psalm which is “Jesus Christ took flesh from the Virgin, was born and is risen from the dead”. The church cares so much for our spiritual lives, that every month it wants to remind us of the incarnation of the Son of God, His birth and His glorious resurrection.

For the incarnation, it reminds us of the truth about ourselves. It allows us to feel our value before the heavenly Father, how He took on flesh like us and gave us as an inheritance his loving nature and that’s why we shouldn’t allow sin to corrupt our body because it was sanctified at Baptism in order to become a sanctuary for the Holy Spirit. 

In commemorating the birth of our Lord, we are reminded of the dangers of pride and how we allow ourselves to rise above everyone in arrogance. In His incarnation we live in the honor of communion with the newborn Christ who is humble enough to allow Himself to be born in a lowly manger. 

In His resurrection, the commemoration brings to our minds the hope of victory over all forces of evil while we look forward to the crown of glory, our reward after the walk of painful strife and struggle. 

The Feast of Our Lady, The Virgin Mary 

1-      The entry of our Lady, the Virgin Mary into the temple in Jerusalem. The third (3) of Kiahk

2-      The commemoration of her departure. The 21st of Tobi

3-      Her Birthday. The first of Bashans

4-      The dedication of her first church in Philippi. The 21st of Baounah

5-      The Assumption of her pure body. The 16th of Misra 

Feast days for Our Lady, St. Mary which pertain to Egypt: 

1-      The consecration of her church at Muharraq where the Holy Family stayed, 6 Hatur

2-      The consecration of her church at Al Mihma, 8 Baounah

3-      The commemoration of her apparition at Zeitun, 24 Baramhat 

Angels 

Angels are spirits that are sent to serve us and they are pure and holy and work in many matters

Pertaining to us. They are a large army with numerous troops with chiefs and specialties. Some

Are guardians, some are divine messengers. Some also participate in the work towards eternal life and judgment and the reaping of the harvest at the end of the age. See Matthew 13:39.

They also pray and intercede on behalf of all of creation. As this is a wide subject matter so we will suffice by giving the names of the Archangels, and they are:

1)   Michael. He is the first and the great Archangel. He is known as the chief of the heavenly armies as well as the “angel of the resurrection” who rolled away the stone from the opening of the tomb of the Savior.

2)   Gabriel. He is known as the “angel of the Annunciation”. He also known as the “angel of His presence” Isaiah 63:9 “ In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the Angel of His Presence saved them” .

3)   Raphael.      4) Souriel.         5) Sedakiel.       6) Serathiel.      7) Ananiel. 

There is also a difference between the Archangels and the ranks of angels. There are the Cherubim, the Seraphim, the Thrones, the Dominions, etc.  

“Prayer” vs. “Intercession” In the Psalmody 

In the Commemoration of the Psalmody, notice there is the usage of the word “Intercession” and the usage of the word “prayers for”. Is there a difference between the two phrases?  

There is a difference. All the saints and martyrs pray for us before God. Those who have the right of “intercession” are only three. They are:  

The Holy Virgin Mary,

St John the Baptist and Forerunner,

The angels, archangels and all the other hosts of angels.