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Author Topic: Question about vespers (and midnight office)  (Read 1508 times) Average Rating: 0
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yBeayf
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« on: June 30, 2005, 11:24:32 AM »

Ok, I am still confused about the relation of the different parts of the evening and morning offices in the Coptic tradition. When I've attended vespers, there has been a half-hour or so "Vespers praises", and then a half-hour "Raising of incense." There is also in the agpeya the office of vespers, which doesn't seem to match either one of these services that are actually served in the church.

Likewise, at the midnight office, the office itself from the agpeya is prayed in church, and then there are the midnight praises which last for some time, and then the next morning there is the morning raising of incense. Are these three different services, or parts of one service? If the latter, how come the praises and incense aren't in the agpeya as part of the service?

The way it seems to me, is that there is a dividing of the service into three parts, of scriptural hymnody, non-scriptural hymnody, and incense and intercessory prayers, and that the three parts aren't really intertwined the way they are in the Byzantine or Western rites, but each have their own section. Is my understanding correct?
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Jonathan
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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2005, 11:53:30 AM »

Hi, there are the 7 cannonical hours in the Agpeya: Prime, Terse, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline, and Midnight.

There's also the Vespers service, or the raising of the evening incense.  It's confusing because this has the same name as one of the Agpeya hours, but vespers is just the evening paryer, so in the context of the Agpeya it's one of the hours, and in the context of the Liturgy it's the evening incense... I'm not sure how clear that was, sorry.

When you go to church on a typical Sunday (starting with the eve of Sunday) the first thing you should see is the prayer of the 9th hour of the Agpeya, the 11th hour (vespers) and the 12th hour.  If you're not seeing this and the first thing you see is the Vespers praise it's probably being done quickly by a deacon inside to "get it out of the way" so the evening service isn't too long.

After these hours are prayed the Vespers Praise is sung.

After the vesperse praise comes the raising of evening incense, or Vespers.

Next comes the prayer of the Midnight hour of the Agpeya.

Finally the Midnight Praise.

In most Churches all these are done as one long service, but if you went to a monastary you'd leave at the end of vespers and come back later for Midnight Praise, it's not all one service, it's just all done at once because that's the only feasible way to do it when people have to travel to Church.

In the morning, first Prime is prayed from the Agpeya, and then the Morning Praise or the Doxology of Prime is sung.  This is skipped in many churches.

After this comes the Raising of the Morning Incense, the the prayer of the 3rd and 6th hr of the Agpeya, and then the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

So basically the three parts of the Liturgy are the Raising of the Evening Incesne, the Raising of the Morning Incense, and the Liturgy.  Around these parts of the Liturgy, whatever hours of the Agpeya that relate to that part of the day are prayed.  And then there are also the three Priase services.  All three of these: the Liturgy, the Agpeya, and the Praise services together really make up the complete Liturgy for that day.

There are some variations: on days of fasting (which is never a Sunday) the Liturgy is later in the day, so the 3rd, 6th and 9th hours are prayed.  If there's vespers that night, you'd start with the 11th hr since the 9th is already done.  During the Great Lent, the Liturgy is even later in the day, so the 3rd, 6th, 9th, 11th, and 12th hours are prayed, and there are none left, so there is no Vespers for weekdays of Lent.

I don't know if that answered your question or not...
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Jonathan
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« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2005, 12:50:48 PM »

The way it seems to me, is that there is a dividing of the service into three parts, of scriptural hymnody, non-scriptural hymnody, and incense and intercessory prayers, and that the three parts aren't really intertwined the way they are in the Byzantine or Western rites, but each have their own section. Is my understanding correct?

I'm not sure what you mean by divided into Scriptural and non-Scriptural hymnody... The Agpeya doesn't have hymns, just chanted responses.  In Vespers there are doxologies... If you mean in the Psalmody (vespers/midnight/morning praise), here's a bit about how it's organized:

"The office of Midnight Praise is deeply rooted in Christian liturgical history.  The Roman governor Pliny wrote in his letter to the Emporer Trajan that the Christians gathered before sunrise to participate in antiphonal singing in which they sang 'a song to Christ as to a god.' Pliny tells us that the Christians disperesed after the first gathering before sunrise to come together again later for the Lord's Supper.  Any visitor to a Coptic monasatry will realize that the monks are observing the same tradition to this day.

Coptic Midnight Praise basically consists of four "Canticles", the "Psali" and the "Theotokia".  The "Canticles" are Biblical Old Testament hymns that are always the same.  In contast, the "Psali" and the "Theotokia" change according to the day of the week, the liturgical season or hte feast.

The "First Canticle" is the hymn Moses and the Isralis sang after they crossed the Red Sea.  To us Christians, it is a song of victory over Satan which we attained when we crossed the waters of the baptismal font.

The "Second Canticle" is a psalm of praise (Ps 136).  History tells us that when the Emperor constantius sent his General Syrianus to arrest St. Athanasius, he found him sitting in the church.  A deaocn was singing Ps 136, while the people chanted the response "For His mercy endures forever."

the "Third Canticle" is the song which the Three children sang in the firey furnace.  It has been preserved for us in the deuterocanonical part of the Book of Daniel.

The "Fourth Canticle" is made up of three psalms of priase, Ps 148, 149, 150.

The "Psali" is a hymn of glorificatioin of the Lord Jesus.  The response is generally a recital of the name of the Lord.

The "Theotokia" is a hymn honouring the "Theotokos" (the Mother of God).  It is a wonderful theological treatise explaning many of the Old Testament "types" of the holy Virgin Mary. ..."
--Preface to Coptic Psalmody by Heg. Fr. Athanasius Iskander
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yBeayf
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« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2005, 07:38:10 PM »

Quote
I'm not sure what you mean by divided into Scriptural and non-Scriptural hymnody... The Agpeya doesn't have hymns, just chanted responses. 

Well, psalms. From what I've seen, the Agpeya is almost all drawn from the Bible, but the bulk of the praises is made up of non-Biblical hymns.

However, you do appear to have answered my question. Thanks!
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