The Messenger of Sts. Theodore Orthodox Church
A Parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
96 Los Robles St., Williamsville NY 14221 (716) 634-6712
Rev. Dr. Peter Jackson, rector
Rev. Peter Irfan, attached
Vol. XIV, No. 2
Vigil Saturday, 5:00pm
Divine Liturgy Sunday, 9:30am
"The Way" video course Sunday after coffee hour
Akathist Wednesday, 6:30pm
Vespers Friday, 6:30pm
Moleben for the Conversion of the Non-Orthodox: First Sunday of the month, after Divine Liturgy.
Feast of the Meeting of the Lord (Candlemas)
Vigil: February 1/14, 6:00pm
Divine Liturgy: February 2/15, 9:00am
Candles will be blessed at the end of Divine Liturgy.
This is a Great Feast. All should prepare to receive Holy Communion.
Name Days This Month
Лета! Many Years!
The All-night Vigil Service, Part 5
Fr. Victor Potapov
The All-night Vigil is an integral part of Christian worship. It is really the first half of any worship cycle, and goes hand-in-hand with the Divine Liturgy. But why do we serve Vigils? What is their purpose? What happens during this service? And what is the meaning behind what goes on? Without knowing these things, it is difficult to appreciate the Vigil service. We can always find a reason to miss a Vigil, but we deprive ourselves of so many blessings if we do.
The following is the fifth part of an excellent article by Fr. Victor Potapov, rector of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Washington DC. We will be publishing this article in installments over the coming months. The article in its entirety can be found at: http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/vigil_v_potapov.htm .
Fr. Peter Jackson
The Nativity of the Son of God was the answer to the repentance and hope of the people of the Old Testament. A special Theotokion sticheron, sung immediately after the stichera for Lord I have cried, tells us of this. This sticheron is known as a Dogmatikon or a Theotokion-Dogmatikon. There are eight dogmatika; one for each tone. The dogmatika are comprised of praises of the Theotokos and the teachings of the Church about the incarnation of Jesus Christ and about how His two completely distinct natures; divine and human, dwell in Him.
What sets the dogmatika apart is their profound catechetical meaning and their sublime poetry.
Here is an English rendering of the Dogmatikon in the First Tone:
"Let us hymn the Virgin Mary, the glory of the whole world, who sprang forth from men and gave birth unto the Master, the portal of heaven, and the subject of the hymnody of the incorporeal hosts and adornment of the faithful; for she hath been shown to be heaven and the temple of the Godhead. Having destroyed the middle wall of enmity, she hath brought forth peace and opened wide the kingdom. Therefore, having her as the confirmation of our faith, we have as champion the Lord born of her. Wherefore, be of good courage! Yea, be ye of good cheer, O people of God, for He vanquisheth the foe, in that He is almighty!"
This Dogmatikon sets forth, in concise form, the Orthodox teachings about the human nature of the Savior. The principal theme of the Dogmatikon in the first tone is that the Mother of God was born of common people, and herself a common person, and not a superhuman. The common people of whom she was born, though sinful, preserved their spiritual essence to the extent that, in the person of the Mother of God, they were worthy of taking the Divinity, Jesus Christ, into their heart. The Holy Fathers of the Church taught that the all-holy Theotokos is man’s justification before God. In the person of the Mother of God, humanity was raised to heaven; and God, in the person of Jesus Christ, Who was born of her, came down to earth. This, considered from the perspective of Orthodox Mariology (teachings with respect to the Mother of God), is the actual purpose of Christ’s Incarnation.
The English translation of the Dogmatikon in the Second Tone declares:
"The shadow of the law passed away when grace arrived; for, as the bush wrapped in flame did not burn, so did the Virgin give birth and yet remained a virgin. In place of the pillar of fire, the Sun of righteousness hath shone forth. Instead of Moses, Christ is come, the salvation of our souls."
The meaning of this Dogmatikon lies in the fact that through the Virgin Mary, grace came into the world and liberated the faithful from the weight of the Old Testament law, which was a mere shadow and symbol of the future good things of the New Testament law. The Dogmatikon in the Second Tone also underscores the ever-virginity of the Theotokos, depicted in the Old Testament symbol of the burning bush that was not consumed. This burning yet unconsumed bush was the thorn bush which Moses saw at the base of Mt. Sinai. According to the Bible, the bush burned but was not consumed, that is, it was engulfed by flame, but did not burn.
The singing of the Dogmatikon at the Vigil represents the uniting of earth and heaven. During the singing of the Dogmatikon, the Beautiful Gates are opened to show that heaven, in the sense of man’s communion with God, which was closed by Adam’s sin, was opened once more with the coming to earth of Jesus Christ; the Adam of the New Testament. At this point, the Evening or Little Entrance takes place. The priest, preceded by a deacon, comes out of the altar through the North (deacon’s) door, just as the Son of God, preceded by St. John the Forerunner, appeared to man in the world. The choir concludes the evening/little entrance by singing the prayer O Gentle Light, portraying in words what the priest and deacon have portrayed in the action of the entrance; the gentle, humble Light of Christ, which appeared almost unnoticed in the world.
O Gentle Light (rendered as O Gladsome Light by some) is known, in the cycle of chants of the Orthodox Church, as the evening hymn, since it is sung at all the vesper services. In the words of this hymn the children of the Church "having come to the setting of the sun, having beheld the evening light, we praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; God." It is apparent from these words that the chanting of O Gentle Light was intended to coincide with the appearance of the soft light of sunset, a time when the soul of the believer should be close to feeling the touch of another kind of light, a light from above. This is why, in ancient times, Christians, on observing the setting of the sun, poured out their feelings and turned in prayerful attitude of soul to their Gentle Light, Jesus Christ, Who is described by the Apostle Paul as the brightness of the glory of the Father (Hebrews 1:3) and by the Old Testament prophet as the true Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 3:2[LXX]), and the true light which according to the Holy Evangelist John appeared in the world to dispel spiritual darkness (John 1:4,9); a light which is eternal, an unsetting sun.
St. Cyprian of Carthage, who lived in the 4th century, wrote "Inasmuch as Christ is the true sun and the true day, when we pray at the setting of the sun and ask that light to come to us, we are praying for the coming of Christ, who possesses the grace to offer us eternal light."
The prayer, O Gentle Light, which appeared in the epoch when the Church of Christ was in the catacombs, is the third distinguishing feature of the Vespers. O Gentle Light also contains one of the most important of Orthodox dogmas, the confession of Christ as the visible face of the All-holy Trinity, a dogma which is the foundation for the practice of venerating icons.