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1
The Byzantine Daily
Office
INTRODUCTION
2
Introduction
To Prayer and the
Byzantine Daily Office
When you pray, go to your inner room, close
the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And
your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who
think they will be heard because of their many
words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows
what you need before you ask him.This is how
you are to pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors,
And do not put us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Matthew 6:6-13
3
	 The evangelist Matthew describes Jesus
imparting the Our Father during the Sermon
on the Mount. In the gospel according to Saint
Luke, the disciples of the Lord Jesus witness
him at prayer. When he was done praying, one
of the disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to
pray just as John taught his disciples.” It is at
this point in Saint Luke’s account that the Lord
teaches them the Our Father (Luke 11:1-4).
When he was on earth, the Lord taught us to
pray by his example of frequent prayer. He re-
veals to us the way the Son of God communi-
cates with the Father through the words of the
Lord’s Prayer. As adopted sons and daughters of
God, the heavenly Father, we have the privilege
to utter this prayer. It is a prayer simple enough
for a child to memorize, yet profound enough
for a person to meditate upon for an entire life-
time.
	 The Twelve and the other disciples learned
from the example and the teaching of the Lord
“about the necessity for them to pray always and
without growing weary’’ (Luke 18:1). Likewise,
the apostle Paul, repeating the Lord’s command,
enjoins Christians to “pray without ceasing’’ (1
Thessalonians 5:16).
Introduction to Prayer
4
	 The Lord’s command and the apostolic
counsel were obeyed by praying at set times
during each day, thereby allowing prayer to di-
rect one’s life. Later, the hesychast movement
in the Byzantine Church would attempt to fol-
low Saint Paul’s dictum by the use of the Jesus
Prayer, literally praying every moment of night
and day.
	 The first Christians followed the Jewish
practice of praying at set hours.The primary
hours of prayer were the natural divisions of the
day: the morning and evening. In addition, Jews
and Christians prayed at other times of the day,
chiefly noon and in the afternoon.
These Christians prayed for practically every
reason.They offered praise and thanksgiv-
ing to God.They prayed for the coming of the
kingdom of God in power, for the forgiveness
of their sins, and for their persecutors. In their
prayers they professed their faith and asked
God to assist them to announce the Gospel.The
Acts of the Apostles describes the life of the
first believers:
Introduction to Prayer
5
They directed themselves to the teaching of the
apostles, and to the communal life, to the break-
ing of the bread and to the prayers.
(Acts of the Apostles 2:42)
The result of this style of life was:
And every day the Lord added to their number
those who were being saved.
(Acts of the Apostles 2:47)
	 Thirty to sixty years after the Lord’s as-
cension, a writing was compiled entitled The
Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles, through
the Twelve, known simply as the Didache (i.e.,
The Teaching). In referring to prayer, the Di-
dache says: “Pray as the Lord enjoined in His
Gospel, thus: Our Father...”The entire Lord’s
Prayer is given, but with a doxology at the end:
“For Thine is the power and the glory forever
and ever. Say this prayer three times every day’’
(Maxwell Staniforth, Early Christian Writings).
Although this work appeared at the same time
as the epistles and the gospels, it was not in-
cluded in the Bible, but it reveals the prayer life
of the very first generations of Christians.
Morning Prayer
6
	 The heart of the corporate prayer of the
Byzantine Church Morning Praise (Matins)
and Evening Praise (Vespers) as well as the
prayer at the third, sixth, and ninth hours is the
Lord’s Prayer. From that foundation, psalms,
canticles from the Bible, and prayers based on
Biblical themes and quotations, comprise the
remainder of each prayer service.
	 The eighth century witnessed the begin-
nings of a period of tremendous composition of
liturgical poetry, as troparia, stichera, and canons
were introduced into the liturgical services.This
was a way to express and interpret the Gospel,
to speak of God and his saving economy.
Two centers of ecclesiastical poetry, the monas-
tery of Saint Sabbas in Palestine and the Stu-
dion monastery in Constantinople, produced
a vast quantity of poetic texts which found
their way into the daily prayers.These were ar-
ranged in an eight week cycle the Octoechos, or
the Lenten period (Lenten Triodion) and the
Paschal observance (Pentecostarian); later, the
collection of the observance of feasts and the
commemoration of saints the Menaion.The in-
troduction of the stichera, troparia, and canons
Introduction to Prayer
7
into daily prayer added to their length.
	 In the early Christian world, monks in
monasteries were able to follow these expanded
prayer services on a daily basis because they
were supported by imperial or royal patronage
to accomplish this prayer. It was, indeed, their
chief work.The laity and the parish clergy, too,
were able to pray a portion of the main hours of
prayer in this culture, supported by a Christian
world view and with an agrarian based society
and its cycles.
	 The Industrial Revolution inaugurated the
current age and brought great changes in daily
life to the people of industrialized nations. AB
new technologies developed in the second half
of the twentieth century, marking the arrival of
the in formation age, lives of people have been
altered in revolutionary ways.The life of a be-
liever is very different today in the industrial
and communications-driven West, compared to
the agrarian and faith-centered culture of early
Christendom. In fact, the faithful in the current
secular world find a situation akin to the first
three centuries of the Church when, alternately
persecuted or ignored, it found Roman society
Introduction to Prayer
8
openly hostile to the Gospel.
	 As a result, the practice of corporate daily
prayer in the Western and Eastern Churches
has become difficult to accomplish.The Ro-
man Church responded by a reform of its daily
prayer and the issuance of a whole series of
prayer books based on that official prayer geared
for the various states of its clergy, religious and
laity.
	 These texts have as their purpose to present
the earliest part of the daily cycle of prayer of
the Byzantine Church so that the faithful might
again meet its richness, be nourished by this
communication with God, and be educated in
this school of prayer. By offering the early ker-
nel of daily prayer without the later additions
of liturgical poetry, believers might find time to
spend a few moments in prayer each day.This
prayer book is a kind of primer, an introduction,
for those who desire to enter the Prayer of the
Church, which is, in truth, the Prayer of Christ,
and to pray without ceasing.
	 The hours of prayer presently offered in the
Byzantine Church are Vespers and Matins, the
first, third, sixth, and ninth hours, compline, and
Introduction to Prayer
9
the midnight service.This prayer book presents
Vespers and Matins, which are the chief hours
of prayer, and prayer at the third, sixth, and
ninth hours of the day (the first hour was a later
addition). Compline, a monastic duplication of
Vespers, and the midnight service are not given.
Included are the private prayers from the Book
of Hours, namely, morning and evening prayers,
prayers for communion, and the Jesus Prayer.
Morning and Evening Praise
	 With the Holy Eucharist (Divine Lit-
urgy), morning praise (Matins) and evening
praise (Vespers) have been the principle ways
the Church of Jesus Christ has expressed the
liturgy or work of thanksgiving for salvation
and celebration of one’s life in Christ. We frame
the beginning and end of each day of the new
creation in thanks, celebrating the way God has
saved his people through the renewal of creation
in Christ. As the start and conclusion of each
day it is logical to select these points to express
the quality the whole day possesses as part of
the new, redeemed creation that is life in Christ.
Introduction to Prayer
10
We begin the day, offering our life to God, and
we end the day with thanks for his gift of life
and another day.
A.	 Morning Praise
	 The morning is a natural expression of the
resurrection of Jesus Christ and of the new life
which flows from his rising to the baptized.
As we rise from sleep we experience a symbol
of the resurrection from the dead. As we have
been saved by the death and resurrection of Je-
sus Christ, the rising sun suggests to us the Sun
of Justice who grants us enlightenment (salva-
tion). As the sun warms and lightens the earth
and is the source of life, we recall that God is
the true Source of Life. We pray for the forgive-
ness of our sins, celebrate God’s saving work in
the past and present and express ardent hope in
the future fulfillment, and consecrate the day to
God. We exercise the priestly ministry of Jesus
in which we have been given a share by offer-
ing intercessory prayer for the whole world, the
Church, and for our intentions.
Morning Prayer
11
	 The Vigil: Research indicates that the first
half of Matins as it is presently served is really
the remnant of the old Midnight Service which,
at a certain point, became joined to Morning
Praise. As such, it is not truly a morning prayer,
and has been omitted from daily orthros. Sun-
day and feast-day orthros as is presently served
is com posed of Morning Praise preceded by
two night vigils: a monastic vigil, and the vigil
of Jerusalem called the vigil of the Myrrh-bear-
ing Women.
	 Since these Sunday vigils are eschatologi-
cal signs sign of the fulfillment of the end times
as well as our profession of faith in the resur-
rection of Jesus Christ and thereby of our own
resurrection (the vigil forms part of the funeral
service for this reason), a small selection is ap-
pended to Sunday Matins.
	 Psalm 50 Our Expression of Repentance:
Saint Basil the Great attests that Psalm 50 is
prayed at the beginning of morning prayer in
Cappadocia in the fourth century. He enjoins
all to pray “with one voice and one heart, each
one making his own the words of repentance.”
Psalm 50 functions as the prayer of penance
in the morning just as Psalm 140 serves that
Introduction to Prayer
12
purpose at vespers. We begin the day by asking
God to forgive our sins and make us worthy to
stand in his presence.
	 The Old and New Testament Canticles
and the Psalms of Praise: The Byzantine psal-
ter or Book of Psalms consists of the one hun-
dred fifty psalms and the nine biblical canticles
which were sung daily by monks so as to last
through the whole night. Like the last three
psalms, 148, 149, 150, the canticles were origi-
nally part of the vigil of the night and were
moved to Morning Praise, although early wit-
nesses state that at this point there were songs,
canticles, and psalms which were displaced by
the poetic canons. In this prayer book the can-
ticles are restored although just one Old Testa-
ment canticle with the New Testament canticle
is assigned per day.
	 God reveals himself not only in his cre-
ation but in his actions in history. God has in-
tervened in the history of the Chosen People
which was then seen as a pre-figurement and
prophecy of the way he intervened through the
Son, and which awaits completion at the escha-
ton.These canticles celebrate God’s work and
Introduction to Prayer
13
Introduction to Prayer
thank him for it.
	 The Hymn of Light Eucharist for the
Light of the World: The present eight hymns of
light were expanded from a few ancient hymns
in order to serve the needs of the eight tone sys-
tem of Palestine. As Christ is the Light of the
world who enlightens (i.e., saves) us, we observe
the rising of the sun and recall the saving work
of the Sun of Justice. Our response to God’s
work is to offer a prayer of eucharist, thanksgiv-
ing, to God and to join in the sacrificial work of
Jesus Christ.
	 The Great Doxology-A Hymn of Praise:
Saint John Chrysostom says that the Great
Doxology is sung at morning praise in the
city of Antioch during the fourth century.
This hymn, a composite of scripture verses, is a
mighty hymn of worship, praise, and thanksgiv-
ing to God. Chrysostom states that worshippers
would rise from sleep and with one voice sing
hymns of praise to God. ‘’What is the differ-
ence,” he queries, “between the angels and this
company of them who on earth sing and say,
‘Glory to God in the highest...?’”
	 Prayers of Petition: Traditionally, at the
end of morning and evening prayer as well as
14
Introduction to Prayer
at the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word
(the first half of the Divine Liturgy), the priest-
ly People of God offer prayers and interces-
sions for the needs of the whole world, for the
Church God’s servant of the world, their com-
munity, and for their loved ones and for their
needs. At present, the typical editions have the
litanies scattered throughout the services; it was
not so originally.The litanies are grouped at the
end of the services to serve as a guide to formu-
late our intercessions when praying privately.
Another possibility is a traditional method. In
place of the litanies we recite the prayer “Lord,
have mercy’’ twelve times, once for each litany.
	 The Lord’s Prayer -- The Heart of Daily
Prayer: The Didache, written thirty to sixty
years after the Lord’s ascension, commands the
followers of the Lord Jesus to pray the Lord’s
Prayer three times per day, morning, noon,
and evening. It is the wonderful privilege of
the baptized, those who have been adopted as
brothers and sisters by Jesus Christ, to be able
to call God our Father.The core of morning
and evening praise, then, from the beginning of
Christianity, is the Lord’s Prayer, prayed at the
conclusion of the service.
15
Introduction to Prayer
B.	 Evening Praise
	 At the end of the day, as night falls, we of-
fer thanks and praise to God for the gift of the
day which has passed. We recall, also, our fail-
ings committed this day and ask God to pardon
our sins.This provides us with the opportunity
to forgive those who have offended us so God
will forgive us: “forgive us our trespasses,” we
pray, “as we forgive those who trespass against
us.”
	 As daylight fades and the darkness of night
deepens we are reminded of the darkness of the
passion of Christ as He conquers sin and death,
the power of the Evil One. We consider the
temporary, passing nature of this world and our
time upon it. Recalling all this to mind, we light
a lamp, offering a prayer of thanksgiving, and, as
it dis pels the darkness, it is a sign that Christ is
the Light who “shines in the darkness, and the
dark ness could not overcome it” (John 1:5)
	 The purpose of evening praise is to offer
thanks to God the Father for Christ, the Light
of the world, to petition for the forgiveness of
our sins, and to request protection at the hour of
16
Introduction to Prayer
our judgment.
	 Psalm 103 -A Psalm of Praise and Thanks
for Creation: When we place ourselves before
God in prayer, our first act is to praise Him for
being God, and to thank Him for the wonder
of our being and the wonderful universe. It is
in creation that God first reveals Himself. Cre-
ation is the first Theophany or encounter with
the living God.
	 Psalm 140 Our Expression of Repentance:
Saint John Chrysostom testifies that Psalm 140
is prayed daily during evening praise. He men-
tions that not only is this psalm appropriate for
this time of day, that is, it is an evening hymn
(“the lifting up of my hands like an evening sac-
rifice”), but also he calls it a saving and healing
medicine.Those who pray it with sincerity while
recalling their faults and sins of the day gone by
are forgiven their sins and healed by this me-
dicinal psalm.
	 Hymn of the Evening Eucharist for the
Light of the World: Christ is the Light of the
world, the true God who “enlightens (i.e., saves)
everyone who comes into the world” (John 1:9).
The light of Christ is salvation, and it is received
17
in baptism.Therefore, our Christian ancestors
would light a lamp as daylight declined and of-
fer eucharist, that is, thanksgiving, to the risen
Christ, present, working, and illumining the
world.The response of the believer to the work
of Christ is to offer ceaseless thanksgiving to
God and to join in the sacrifice of Christ, our
God.The hymn of thanksgiving, 0 Joyful Light,
which Saint Basil the Great, writing in the
fourth century, says is very old even at that time,
is one of the earliest Christian hymns.
	 Prayers of Petition Evening praise has peti-
tions offered to God for the world, the Church,
the community and its needs, and for our loved
ones, as does morning praise and the Liturgy of
the Word.
	 The Lord’s Prayer -- The Heart of Daily
Prayer. As already mentioned in the section for
morning praise, the Lord’s Prayer forms the
core of the cursus of daily prayer from the earli-
est days of the Church. On this prayer as on a
foundation, the other prayers of morning and
evening praise were added, so this prayer, taught
us by the Lord Jesus Himself, is truly the heart
of these services of prayer.
Introduction to Prayer
18
	 The Third, Sixth, and Ninth Hours of
Prayer. The Acts of the Apostles indicates that
the apostles prayed at the third (2:1, 15), sixth
(10:9), and ninth hours (3:1, 10:3, 30), 9:00
AM., 12 Noon, and 3:00 P.M., respectively.
	 Christians probably prayed at these hours
because they were the principle parts of the
ancient Roman day, rather than in any imita-
tion of the Jewish course of prayer.They func-
tioned, then, as points of reference, as remind-
ers to “pray without ceasing.”The idea was that
whether at home or at work one paused for a
prayer-break. Of course, the Didache mentions
that noon is one of the times to pray the Lord’s
Prayer. Most probably, the Lord’s Prayer was
prayed at the third and ninth hours, too, as it is
today.
	 Later writers would devise meaning sys-
tems for these hours, assigning various reasons
why these hours should be marked with prayer.
While each writer devised a different set of
meanings, one set gained acceptance and were
worked into the prayer and the troparia.The
descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles
at Pentecost was observed at the third hour of
Introduction to Prayer
19
prayer. At the sixth hour the nailing of Jesus
to the cross was marked, while prayer of the
ninth hour was understood as solemnizing the
time when Jesus died on the cross. Although
this system of commemorations of the events
of salvation has merit for our prayer life, still,
as mentioned before, the original purpose is to
pray at mid-morning, noon, and mid-afternoon
as a way to permeate our daily work with God’s
presence and so to pray without ceasing.
Cassian witnesses to the practice of praying the
hours in Bethlehem at the end of the fourth
century. He writes that the hours were services
com posed of three psalms and three prayers.
In this prayer book, then, the three psalms and
three prayers along with the Our Father are
retained.The other prayers and the troparia are
not included.
Private Prayers
	 The first Christians made no distinction
between personal or private prayer and public,
corporate prayer. If they were alone at morn-
ing or evening, or at the hours of prayer, they
Introduction to Prayer
20
prayed alone; if they were with other believ-
ers, they prayed with them. Nevertheless, the
normal practice was to assemble together
to pray since those who live in Christ are
members of his body and members of each
other.The principle parts of the public, com-
munal prayer of the Church, and therefore
of Christ himself, is morning and evening
praise and the prayer at the third, sixth, and
ninth hours.
	 The Church also provides a collection
of prayers for morning and evening, for the
reception of holy communion, and prayers
for other times and needs.They are provided
in this edition for one’s personal use.
The personal prayers for morning and eve-
ning have been arranged in imitation of
Matins and Vespers according to the re-
ceived text as found in the typical editions
of the Casoslov, the Book of Hours. In that
order of the service, the priest prays privately
a series of prayers eleven at Matins and
eight at Vespers all grouped together. In the
personal prayers for morning and evening,
groups of prayers composed by spiritual
Introduction to PrayerIntroduction to Prayer
21
masters are collected together in a similar
way.
	 Likewise, a collection of prayers to as-
sist us in preparing for the reception of holy
communion and to help us offer thanksgiv-
ing after receiving communion are taken
from the Casoslov.These prayers are medi-
tations upon holy communion by the great
saints of the Church.
	 It is natural for each person to be
drawn to certain prayers which are favorites,
and to pass over others which do not seem
to express our thoughts. We must remem-
ber that one function of the Church’s official
prayer is that it serves as a school of prayer,
teaching us to engage in an ever more per-
fect practice of this intimate meeting with
God. Bearing this in mind, we should try
to use even the less favored prayers since
they too have something to teach us about
dimensions of ourselves and others and our
relationship with God and about prayer.
Let it be remembered that if we do not have
all the time we desire to pray the prayers
given here, pray the Lord’s Prayer morning,
Introduction to Prayer
22
noon, and evening, as the Didache instructed
almost two thousand years ago.
For Further Reading:
Robert Taft, S.J. The Liturgy of the Hours in
East and West. Collegeville, MN: The Litur-
gical Press, 1986.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa. The Lord’s Prayer.
The Beatitudes. Ancient Christian Writers, #18.
New York: Newman Press, 1954.
Introduction to Prayer
23
In consultation with
Very Rev. John Basarab
FOR PRIVATE USE ONLY
Compiled, Designed and Produced by
Eastern Christian Publications
Fairfax, Virginia
www.ecpubs.com
Introduction to Prayer

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Bdo introduction lf

  • 2. 2 Introduction To Prayer and the Byzantine Daily Office When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.This is how you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, And do not put us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:6-13
  • 3. 3 The evangelist Matthew describes Jesus imparting the Our Father during the Sermon on the Mount. In the gospel according to Saint Luke, the disciples of the Lord Jesus witness him at prayer. When he was done praying, one of the disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” It is at this point in Saint Luke’s account that the Lord teaches them the Our Father (Luke 11:1-4). When he was on earth, the Lord taught us to pray by his example of frequent prayer. He re- veals to us the way the Son of God communi- cates with the Father through the words of the Lord’s Prayer. As adopted sons and daughters of God, the heavenly Father, we have the privilege to utter this prayer. It is a prayer simple enough for a child to memorize, yet profound enough for a person to meditate upon for an entire life- time. The Twelve and the other disciples learned from the example and the teaching of the Lord “about the necessity for them to pray always and without growing weary’’ (Luke 18:1). Likewise, the apostle Paul, repeating the Lord’s command, enjoins Christians to “pray without ceasing’’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Introduction to Prayer
  • 4. 4 The Lord’s command and the apostolic counsel were obeyed by praying at set times during each day, thereby allowing prayer to di- rect one’s life. Later, the hesychast movement in the Byzantine Church would attempt to fol- low Saint Paul’s dictum by the use of the Jesus Prayer, literally praying every moment of night and day. The first Christians followed the Jewish practice of praying at set hours.The primary hours of prayer were the natural divisions of the day: the morning and evening. In addition, Jews and Christians prayed at other times of the day, chiefly noon and in the afternoon. These Christians prayed for practically every reason.They offered praise and thanksgiv- ing to God.They prayed for the coming of the kingdom of God in power, for the forgiveness of their sins, and for their persecutors. In their prayers they professed their faith and asked God to assist them to announce the Gospel.The Acts of the Apostles describes the life of the first believers: Introduction to Prayer
  • 5. 5 They directed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, and to the communal life, to the break- ing of the bread and to the prayers. (Acts of the Apostles 2:42) The result of this style of life was: And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts of the Apostles 2:47) Thirty to sixty years after the Lord’s as- cension, a writing was compiled entitled The Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles, through the Twelve, known simply as the Didache (i.e., The Teaching). In referring to prayer, the Di- dache says: “Pray as the Lord enjoined in His Gospel, thus: Our Father...”The entire Lord’s Prayer is given, but with a doxology at the end: “For Thine is the power and the glory forever and ever. Say this prayer three times every day’’ (Maxwell Staniforth, Early Christian Writings). Although this work appeared at the same time as the epistles and the gospels, it was not in- cluded in the Bible, but it reveals the prayer life of the very first generations of Christians. Morning Prayer
  • 6. 6 The heart of the corporate prayer of the Byzantine Church Morning Praise (Matins) and Evening Praise (Vespers) as well as the prayer at the third, sixth, and ninth hours is the Lord’s Prayer. From that foundation, psalms, canticles from the Bible, and prayers based on Biblical themes and quotations, comprise the remainder of each prayer service. The eighth century witnessed the begin- nings of a period of tremendous composition of liturgical poetry, as troparia, stichera, and canons were introduced into the liturgical services.This was a way to express and interpret the Gospel, to speak of God and his saving economy. Two centers of ecclesiastical poetry, the monas- tery of Saint Sabbas in Palestine and the Stu- dion monastery in Constantinople, produced a vast quantity of poetic texts which found their way into the daily prayers.These were ar- ranged in an eight week cycle the Octoechos, or the Lenten period (Lenten Triodion) and the Paschal observance (Pentecostarian); later, the collection of the observance of feasts and the commemoration of saints the Menaion.The in- troduction of the stichera, troparia, and canons Introduction to Prayer
  • 7. 7 into daily prayer added to their length. In the early Christian world, monks in monasteries were able to follow these expanded prayer services on a daily basis because they were supported by imperial or royal patronage to accomplish this prayer. It was, indeed, their chief work.The laity and the parish clergy, too, were able to pray a portion of the main hours of prayer in this culture, supported by a Christian world view and with an agrarian based society and its cycles. The Industrial Revolution inaugurated the current age and brought great changes in daily life to the people of industrialized nations. AB new technologies developed in the second half of the twentieth century, marking the arrival of the in formation age, lives of people have been altered in revolutionary ways.The life of a be- liever is very different today in the industrial and communications-driven West, compared to the agrarian and faith-centered culture of early Christendom. In fact, the faithful in the current secular world find a situation akin to the first three centuries of the Church when, alternately persecuted or ignored, it found Roman society Introduction to Prayer
  • 8. 8 openly hostile to the Gospel. As a result, the practice of corporate daily prayer in the Western and Eastern Churches has become difficult to accomplish.The Ro- man Church responded by a reform of its daily prayer and the issuance of a whole series of prayer books based on that official prayer geared for the various states of its clergy, religious and laity. These texts have as their purpose to present the earliest part of the daily cycle of prayer of the Byzantine Church so that the faithful might again meet its richness, be nourished by this communication with God, and be educated in this school of prayer. By offering the early ker- nel of daily prayer without the later additions of liturgical poetry, believers might find time to spend a few moments in prayer each day.This prayer book is a kind of primer, an introduction, for those who desire to enter the Prayer of the Church, which is, in truth, the Prayer of Christ, and to pray without ceasing. The hours of prayer presently offered in the Byzantine Church are Vespers and Matins, the first, third, sixth, and ninth hours, compline, and Introduction to Prayer
  • 9. 9 the midnight service.This prayer book presents Vespers and Matins, which are the chief hours of prayer, and prayer at the third, sixth, and ninth hours of the day (the first hour was a later addition). Compline, a monastic duplication of Vespers, and the midnight service are not given. Included are the private prayers from the Book of Hours, namely, morning and evening prayers, prayers for communion, and the Jesus Prayer. Morning and Evening Praise With the Holy Eucharist (Divine Lit- urgy), morning praise (Matins) and evening praise (Vespers) have been the principle ways the Church of Jesus Christ has expressed the liturgy or work of thanksgiving for salvation and celebration of one’s life in Christ. We frame the beginning and end of each day of the new creation in thanks, celebrating the way God has saved his people through the renewal of creation in Christ. As the start and conclusion of each day it is logical to select these points to express the quality the whole day possesses as part of the new, redeemed creation that is life in Christ. Introduction to Prayer
  • 10. 10 We begin the day, offering our life to God, and we end the day with thanks for his gift of life and another day. A. Morning Praise The morning is a natural expression of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and of the new life which flows from his rising to the baptized. As we rise from sleep we experience a symbol of the resurrection from the dead. As we have been saved by the death and resurrection of Je- sus Christ, the rising sun suggests to us the Sun of Justice who grants us enlightenment (salva- tion). As the sun warms and lightens the earth and is the source of life, we recall that God is the true Source of Life. We pray for the forgive- ness of our sins, celebrate God’s saving work in the past and present and express ardent hope in the future fulfillment, and consecrate the day to God. We exercise the priestly ministry of Jesus in which we have been given a share by offer- ing intercessory prayer for the whole world, the Church, and for our intentions. Morning Prayer
  • 11. 11 The Vigil: Research indicates that the first half of Matins as it is presently served is really the remnant of the old Midnight Service which, at a certain point, became joined to Morning Praise. As such, it is not truly a morning prayer, and has been omitted from daily orthros. Sun- day and feast-day orthros as is presently served is com posed of Morning Praise preceded by two night vigils: a monastic vigil, and the vigil of Jerusalem called the vigil of the Myrrh-bear- ing Women. Since these Sunday vigils are eschatologi- cal signs sign of the fulfillment of the end times as well as our profession of faith in the resur- rection of Jesus Christ and thereby of our own resurrection (the vigil forms part of the funeral service for this reason), a small selection is ap- pended to Sunday Matins. Psalm 50 Our Expression of Repentance: Saint Basil the Great attests that Psalm 50 is prayed at the beginning of morning prayer in Cappadocia in the fourth century. He enjoins all to pray “with one voice and one heart, each one making his own the words of repentance.” Psalm 50 functions as the prayer of penance in the morning just as Psalm 140 serves that Introduction to Prayer
  • 12. 12 purpose at vespers. We begin the day by asking God to forgive our sins and make us worthy to stand in his presence. The Old and New Testament Canticles and the Psalms of Praise: The Byzantine psal- ter or Book of Psalms consists of the one hun- dred fifty psalms and the nine biblical canticles which were sung daily by monks so as to last through the whole night. Like the last three psalms, 148, 149, 150, the canticles were origi- nally part of the vigil of the night and were moved to Morning Praise, although early wit- nesses state that at this point there were songs, canticles, and psalms which were displaced by the poetic canons. In this prayer book the can- ticles are restored although just one Old Testa- ment canticle with the New Testament canticle is assigned per day. God reveals himself not only in his cre- ation but in his actions in history. God has in- tervened in the history of the Chosen People which was then seen as a pre-figurement and prophecy of the way he intervened through the Son, and which awaits completion at the escha- ton.These canticles celebrate God’s work and Introduction to Prayer
  • 13. 13 Introduction to Prayer thank him for it. The Hymn of Light Eucharist for the Light of the World: The present eight hymns of light were expanded from a few ancient hymns in order to serve the needs of the eight tone sys- tem of Palestine. As Christ is the Light of the world who enlightens (i.e., saves) us, we observe the rising of the sun and recall the saving work of the Sun of Justice. Our response to God’s work is to offer a prayer of eucharist, thanksgiv- ing, to God and to join in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ. The Great Doxology-A Hymn of Praise: Saint John Chrysostom says that the Great Doxology is sung at morning praise in the city of Antioch during the fourth century. This hymn, a composite of scripture verses, is a mighty hymn of worship, praise, and thanksgiv- ing to God. Chrysostom states that worshippers would rise from sleep and with one voice sing hymns of praise to God. ‘’What is the differ- ence,” he queries, “between the angels and this company of them who on earth sing and say, ‘Glory to God in the highest...?’” Prayers of Petition: Traditionally, at the end of morning and evening prayer as well as
  • 14. 14 Introduction to Prayer at the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word (the first half of the Divine Liturgy), the priest- ly People of God offer prayers and interces- sions for the needs of the whole world, for the Church God’s servant of the world, their com- munity, and for their loved ones and for their needs. At present, the typical editions have the litanies scattered throughout the services; it was not so originally.The litanies are grouped at the end of the services to serve as a guide to formu- late our intercessions when praying privately. Another possibility is a traditional method. In place of the litanies we recite the prayer “Lord, have mercy’’ twelve times, once for each litany. The Lord’s Prayer -- The Heart of Daily Prayer: The Didache, written thirty to sixty years after the Lord’s ascension, commands the followers of the Lord Jesus to pray the Lord’s Prayer three times per day, morning, noon, and evening. It is the wonderful privilege of the baptized, those who have been adopted as brothers and sisters by Jesus Christ, to be able to call God our Father.The core of morning and evening praise, then, from the beginning of Christianity, is the Lord’s Prayer, prayed at the conclusion of the service.
  • 15. 15 Introduction to Prayer B. Evening Praise At the end of the day, as night falls, we of- fer thanks and praise to God for the gift of the day which has passed. We recall, also, our fail- ings committed this day and ask God to pardon our sins.This provides us with the opportunity to forgive those who have offended us so God will forgive us: “forgive us our trespasses,” we pray, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” As daylight fades and the darkness of night deepens we are reminded of the darkness of the passion of Christ as He conquers sin and death, the power of the Evil One. We consider the temporary, passing nature of this world and our time upon it. Recalling all this to mind, we light a lamp, offering a prayer of thanksgiving, and, as it dis pels the darkness, it is a sign that Christ is the Light who “shines in the darkness, and the dark ness could not overcome it” (John 1:5) The purpose of evening praise is to offer thanks to God the Father for Christ, the Light of the world, to petition for the forgiveness of our sins, and to request protection at the hour of
  • 16. 16 Introduction to Prayer our judgment. Psalm 103 -A Psalm of Praise and Thanks for Creation: When we place ourselves before God in prayer, our first act is to praise Him for being God, and to thank Him for the wonder of our being and the wonderful universe. It is in creation that God first reveals Himself. Cre- ation is the first Theophany or encounter with the living God. Psalm 140 Our Expression of Repentance: Saint John Chrysostom testifies that Psalm 140 is prayed daily during evening praise. He men- tions that not only is this psalm appropriate for this time of day, that is, it is an evening hymn (“the lifting up of my hands like an evening sac- rifice”), but also he calls it a saving and healing medicine.Those who pray it with sincerity while recalling their faults and sins of the day gone by are forgiven their sins and healed by this me- dicinal psalm. Hymn of the Evening Eucharist for the Light of the World: Christ is the Light of the world, the true God who “enlightens (i.e., saves) everyone who comes into the world” (John 1:9). The light of Christ is salvation, and it is received
  • 17. 17 in baptism.Therefore, our Christian ancestors would light a lamp as daylight declined and of- fer eucharist, that is, thanksgiving, to the risen Christ, present, working, and illumining the world.The response of the believer to the work of Christ is to offer ceaseless thanksgiving to God and to join in the sacrifice of Christ, our God.The hymn of thanksgiving, 0 Joyful Light, which Saint Basil the Great, writing in the fourth century, says is very old even at that time, is one of the earliest Christian hymns. Prayers of Petition Evening praise has peti- tions offered to God for the world, the Church, the community and its needs, and for our loved ones, as does morning praise and the Liturgy of the Word. The Lord’s Prayer -- The Heart of Daily Prayer. As already mentioned in the section for morning praise, the Lord’s Prayer forms the core of the cursus of daily prayer from the earli- est days of the Church. On this prayer as on a foundation, the other prayers of morning and evening praise were added, so this prayer, taught us by the Lord Jesus Himself, is truly the heart of these services of prayer. Introduction to Prayer
  • 18. 18 The Third, Sixth, and Ninth Hours of Prayer. The Acts of the Apostles indicates that the apostles prayed at the third (2:1, 15), sixth (10:9), and ninth hours (3:1, 10:3, 30), 9:00 AM., 12 Noon, and 3:00 P.M., respectively. Christians probably prayed at these hours because they were the principle parts of the ancient Roman day, rather than in any imita- tion of the Jewish course of prayer.They func- tioned, then, as points of reference, as remind- ers to “pray without ceasing.”The idea was that whether at home or at work one paused for a prayer-break. Of course, the Didache mentions that noon is one of the times to pray the Lord’s Prayer. Most probably, the Lord’s Prayer was prayed at the third and ninth hours, too, as it is today. Later writers would devise meaning sys- tems for these hours, assigning various reasons why these hours should be marked with prayer. While each writer devised a different set of meanings, one set gained acceptance and were worked into the prayer and the troparia.The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles at Pentecost was observed at the third hour of Introduction to Prayer
  • 19. 19 prayer. At the sixth hour the nailing of Jesus to the cross was marked, while prayer of the ninth hour was understood as solemnizing the time when Jesus died on the cross. Although this system of commemorations of the events of salvation has merit for our prayer life, still, as mentioned before, the original purpose is to pray at mid-morning, noon, and mid-afternoon as a way to permeate our daily work with God’s presence and so to pray without ceasing. Cassian witnesses to the practice of praying the hours in Bethlehem at the end of the fourth century. He writes that the hours were services com posed of three psalms and three prayers. In this prayer book, then, the three psalms and three prayers along with the Our Father are retained.The other prayers and the troparia are not included. Private Prayers The first Christians made no distinction between personal or private prayer and public, corporate prayer. If they were alone at morn- ing or evening, or at the hours of prayer, they Introduction to Prayer
  • 20. 20 prayed alone; if they were with other believ- ers, they prayed with them. Nevertheless, the normal practice was to assemble together to pray since those who live in Christ are members of his body and members of each other.The principle parts of the public, com- munal prayer of the Church, and therefore of Christ himself, is morning and evening praise and the prayer at the third, sixth, and ninth hours. The Church also provides a collection of prayers for morning and evening, for the reception of holy communion, and prayers for other times and needs.They are provided in this edition for one’s personal use. The personal prayers for morning and eve- ning have been arranged in imitation of Matins and Vespers according to the re- ceived text as found in the typical editions of the Casoslov, the Book of Hours. In that order of the service, the priest prays privately a series of prayers eleven at Matins and eight at Vespers all grouped together. In the personal prayers for morning and evening, groups of prayers composed by spiritual Introduction to PrayerIntroduction to Prayer
  • 21. 21 masters are collected together in a similar way. Likewise, a collection of prayers to as- sist us in preparing for the reception of holy communion and to help us offer thanksgiv- ing after receiving communion are taken from the Casoslov.These prayers are medi- tations upon holy communion by the great saints of the Church. It is natural for each person to be drawn to certain prayers which are favorites, and to pass over others which do not seem to express our thoughts. We must remem- ber that one function of the Church’s official prayer is that it serves as a school of prayer, teaching us to engage in an ever more per- fect practice of this intimate meeting with God. Bearing this in mind, we should try to use even the less favored prayers since they too have something to teach us about dimensions of ourselves and others and our relationship with God and about prayer. Let it be remembered that if we do not have all the time we desire to pray the prayers given here, pray the Lord’s Prayer morning, Introduction to Prayer
  • 22. 22 noon, and evening, as the Didache instructed almost two thousand years ago. For Further Reading: Robert Taft, S.J. The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West. Collegeville, MN: The Litur- gical Press, 1986. Saint Gregory of Nyssa. The Lord’s Prayer. The Beatitudes. Ancient Christian Writers, #18. New York: Newman Press, 1954. Introduction to Prayer
  • 23. 23 In consultation with Very Rev. John Basarab FOR PRIVATE USE ONLY Compiled, Designed and Produced by Eastern Christian Publications Fairfax, Virginia www.ecpubs.com Introduction to Prayer