Vespers, Compline, Midnight Office, Matins, the Hours (Vol IV, Ch 2)

From Michael Ruse:

Earlier in Chapter 1, subsection on Worship and Theology, Metropolitan Hilarion said that despite any talk or desire of simplifying or changing Orthodox worship for today’s age, “Not a single local Orthodox Church …has deemed it possible to revise the liturgical Typikon, even though in the Church’s experience, certain essential changes have been made in the Typikon’s use …” (Chp.1, p.11). 

 In Chapter 2, the Typikon – essentially the Church’s liturgical book for divine services – will draw us into the order and rich subject matter that “makes Orthodox worship a veritable school of theology.” It orders the psalms, Old Testament Biblical canticles, troparia, aposticha, and the various services of Vespers, Compline (apodeipnon=after dinner prayers), Midnight Office, Matins (a.k.a. Orthros), and the Hours (primarily the 3rd, 6th, 9th hours). We have been touching on the concept of time in our weekly discussions. Everyone has make decisions daily not only how to spend time (it is an important thing to spend) but also how to order one’s use of time. 

 The Church Typikon makes an encounter with Christ in liturgical prayer possible literally at any time, day or night, as much as we are able to do that. Much of the content of the Typikon comes from the Psalms and how they were used in early Christian and monastic traditions. If you ever wondered why certain Psalms are being sung, why they happen at certain points in the services, this chapter will not let you down in giving you that answer. Out of all of the non-Eucharistic services, Matins is uniquely the most monastic in character. Metropolitan Hilarion offers us a great benefit by easily outlining some of the themes and concepts behind the selection of readings from the Psalms so that we can attune ourselves to the that rich content, since even the most attentive worshipper can often miss a lot of what is being spoken or sung during the liturgical service. Another important aspect of this chapter touches on both the ancient practices that focused on set times, forms and gestures of prayer. Sitting down, stretching out one’s arms upward, and rising up early or standing at night are not nice suggestions, but essential bodily and timely ways of prayers.

 Join us this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. to either introduce yourself to the heart of Orthodox worship or to keep deepening your own understanding of liturgical services and become fluent in its poetic language and structure.