Author Topic: Great Vespers  (Read 767 times)

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Offline Story

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Great Vespers
« on: July 29, 2017, 01:01:29 AM »
I'm an inquirer into Orthodoxy and I really want to start attending services, hopefully regularly (I have only attended a service once so far). Because I don't drive yet and my family still goes to a Protestant church, being able to go to the Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings will be difficult. Do you think it would be a good idea to just attend Saturday Vespers instead for now? And is there anything special I should know about the Vespers? I will work towards making the goal of attending on Sundays happen (such as by learning to drive, for example!).

Offline Mor Ephrem

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Re: Great Vespers
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2017, 01:04:43 AM »
I'm an inquirer into Orthodoxy and I really want to start attending services, hopefully regularly (I have only attended a service once so far). Because I don't drive yet and my family still goes to a Protestant church, being able to go to the Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings will be difficult. Do you think it would be a good idea to just attend Saturday Vespers instead for now? And is there anything special I should know about the Vespers? I will work towards making the goal of attending on Sundays happen (such as by learning to drive, for example!).

Attending Vespers to start with is just fine!  That's how I first began to learn more about Eastern Orthodoxy. 

I'll let others chime in on things to keep in mind, I'm drawing a blank.  Try to pray?  :)
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Offline hecma925

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Re: Great Vespers
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2017, 01:26:40 AM »
Vespers is good.  Its structure is easy to learn and it's not a long service.  For a long time, Vespers is what I could attend with regularity.
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Offline scamandrius

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Re: Great Vespers
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2017, 08:55:36 AM »
And is there anything special I should know about the Vespers?

Great Vespers on Saturday evening anticipates the next liturgical day, i.e. Sunday and so the hymns you will hear will mainly be about the Crucifixion, Entombment and Resurrection of Christ.  You will also hear a few hymns of the saint who is also commemorated on the calendar for the next day, but hymns of the Resurrection are the main show.  I don't know what jurisdiction the parish you are interested in is, so their particular celebration of Great Vespers will be particular to that church as far as music, language, etc.

Because of its variable nature with hymns there may or may not be a service book. If there is a service book, it will probably contain the basic structures which do not change in a typical Great Vespers.  You will hear a lot of psalms, particularly 103 "Bless, the Lord, O My Soul", Psalms 140 "Lord, I have Cried", psalm 141, psalm 129 and psalm 116 the latter two with hymns for the resurrection and saint in between each of the verses (Called stichera) and psalm 92 "The Lord Reigns" again with hymns for the resurrection between the verses. You may possibly (depending on the jurisdiction) selections from psalms 1-3, but that is customarily heard in monasteries. It all depends.   You will hear a lot of litanies with the response of "Lord have mercy."  You will also hear special hymns dedicated to the Virgin after the Psalms of "Lord I have Cried" and Psalm 92.  Though they are hymns of the Resurrection they also will ask Mary for her intercessions as the Mother of God as we consider her the seal of the faith.  The end of the service has a hymn of the Resurrection (called an apolytikion ) which sets up the theme of the day as well as one for the saint commemorated and one for Mary.  It all depends on the day.

Next week is the Great Feast of Transfiguration so, should you go to Vespers, you would not hear the standard hymns of the Resurrection, but the hymns of the feast. 

The typical posture is to stand throughout the service, but most people will not do that.  As others sit and stand, do likewise. If you do want to stand throughout, then I would go towards the back so as not to block anyone.  Also, don't be surprised if next to no one shows up. My church, for instance, has done Great Vespers every Saturday and we're lucky if we have 10 people there.  It's just not a priority for many, unfortunately.  But, like my Bishop says, the real "meat" of the celebration is heard at Vespers and the next day at Orthros.  People will make the sign of the cross frequently during the service and you may also see people coming in later and lighting candles in front of icons of the Lord, the Mother of God and the saints. THat is typical.

The priest will be censing several times during the service.  Some may have reactions to the incense, especially if the priest uses a lot.  Generally, priests do not preach at Great Vespers so the length of the service can range from about 30 minutes (if the choir/chanters rush through the hymns) to 50 minutes.  Again, every service can be difference depending on whether there is a feast or other major commemoration.

Hope this helps.  Welcome to the forum.
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Offline Sharbel

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Re: Great Vespers
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2017, 04:07:44 PM »
Attending Vespers at an Orthodox parish has been my plan, but I haven't been able to do it because they have all been canceled.  I'm hoping to be able to attend it next Saturday for the feast of the Transfiguration, since this service has been announced, followed by some food and drinks.  I guess that food and drinks make it officially a go.  :)
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Offline Hinterlander

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Re: Great Vespers
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2017, 06:12:37 PM »
I attend Vespers 1-2 times a month as an inquirer. It really helps to gain familiarity with the liturgical life of the Church. It is powerful to experience the connection between the prayers of Vespers and the prayers of the prayer book. Be aware that it is not common for many people to attend.

Offline Justin Kolodziej

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Re: Great Vespers
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2017, 10:18:41 PM »
It seems to be Greek tradition around here not to do Vespers. I have to go to the Antiochian or OCA parish instead, which actually have 20 or 30 people at them each.

Or the ROCOR has a "vigil service" which takes 3 hours according to the website. I think I read it's Vespers and Orthros and First Hour.
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Offline JTLoganville

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Re: Great Vespers
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2017, 10:41:15 PM »
Great Vespers was a vital component of my family's journey into Orthodoxy.

I attended by myself for the usual Protestant reasons for about a year; the one week my adult living-at-home son announced that, because I always returned home in such a good a peaceful mood, he wanted to go with me.

Eventually my wife decided to go with us.

The man who ultimately became my son's Godfather counsels all serious inquirers "begin with Vespers!".   It is very sage advice.

Offline Story

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Re: Great Vespers
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2017, 09:13:17 PM »
Thank you so much for your replies, everyone!! It's very helpful.  :)

I realized there's actually a reason I may not be able to attend  the Vespers. One of our family members has to stay at our Catholic grandparents' house while they attend church on Saturdays, due to the fact that we have a disabled aunt who lives there so they don't want to leave her home alone. Oftentimes, I have to do it, and it does overlap with the time when I could go to Orthodox Vespers. I certainly do not begrudge the task at all and am very happy to be able to enable my grandparents to be able to go to church together. Still, I have hope the opportunity will open up soon and I'll keep praying.

Offline WPM

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Re: Great Vespers
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2017, 09:14:54 PM »
Just Sunday Liturgy for me.
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