Thursday, January 29, 2009

Last Sunday

Last Sunday I worshipped with the Russians, at the Russian Catholic Chapel of St Nicholas.  As the Russian Rite still keeps to the Julian calendar and the older method for calculating Easter, their Easter this year will be a week later than the Roman, and the Sunday just past - the 25th of January New Style (i.e. Gregorian) / 12th January Old Style (Julian) was the Sunday after the Theophany (since the Julian calendar is now thirteen days behind the Gregorian and hence the 6th of January O.S. is the 19th of January N.S.).  Being the 12th of January O.S., it was also the feast of St Tatiana, martyr at Rome (see icon at the top and details at the end of a Russian Orthodox web page).

This afforded much spiritual delight: the icon of the Baptism of the Lord was exposed for veneration, and at the Little Entrance was sung the Troparion and Kontakion of the Feast, after the Troparion of the Resurrection:
At Your baptism in the Jordan, O Lord, worship of the Trinity was revealed, for the Father's voice bore witness to You, calling You His "beloved Son", and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of these words.  O Christ God, Who appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You!

You have revealed Yourself to the world today, and Your light, O Lord, has shined upon us.  We recognize You and exclaim to You: "You have come and revealed Yourself, O Inaccessible Light."
It must be remembered that one common Eastern name for baptism is enlightenment or illumination - hence Christ shone out in the Jordan, shedding His healing rays on all men, manifesting Himself in His Epiphany.

After the service, Fr Lawrence said casually that he hadn't been sure whether it were the 32nd or the 33rd Sunday after Pentecost (as the Byzantine Rite enumerates all Sundays from one Pentecost right through until the pre-Lenten preparatory Sundays commence, there being no Advent as such, just the Nativity Fast), but that in any case the readings settled upon had been manifestly suitable!  I discover now that he was joking, since there are proper readings assigned for the Sunday after the Theophany, whatever Sunday after Pentecost it be, and the proper readings were those that were chanted.

The Gospel was taken from St Matthew iv, 12-17; the Epistle, from Ephesians iv, 7-13 (part of which I read in the Roman Breviary at Matins to-day, hence my being reminded of all this Liturgy) - and I have always found rather admirable the way the reader chants the Epistle, beginning on a very low note, and gradually ascending as he goes till he finishes on a very high one...

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