Thursday, June 11, 2009

THE LITURGICAL YEAR AND CANONICAL PRAYERS OF THE CHURCH

THE LITURGICAL YEAR AND CANONICAL PRAYERS OF THE CHURCH - An Introduction
- Rev. Fr. Dr. George Pulikottil & Rev. Fr. Dr. Mathew C Chacko

According to the practice in the Indian Orthodox Church, on Sunday October 30th we once again are entering into another Liturgical Year by celebrating the Feast of the Purification/Sanctification of the Church. We are glad to receive the invitation of ICON to provide some guidance on liturgical year and canonical prayers to its readers. We do thank God and ask for His grace and mercies to do our best in this important aspect of the Church's celebration. Your prayers will be our strength.

First of all we plan to have a brief introduction to the Liturgical year and canonical prayers of the Church. Then we will discuss each seasons of the liturgical year, each Sundays and other feasts and fasts during the course of the year. In this first posting we are giving a brief introduction to the whole subject, and a brief description of the importance of the first period and the first Sunday of the year.

The liturgical year of the Church is mainly divided into six parts, they are:
1. Period before the Birth of our Lord - The Season of Advent
2. From Birth to Public Ministry. - The birth of the Savior and his growth
3. Public Ministry, Passion and Redeeming Death of our Lord and Savior.
4. Resurrection, Ascension and the Coming of the Holy Spirit [Pentecost]
5. Season of Pentecost to the Eve of the Feast of the exaltation of the Cross
A sub division may be distinguished from August 1st to Holy Cross Eve
Days of the Mother of God
6. Exaltation of the Holy Cross and Holy Cross Days - Eschatological Period

According to the music system and meters that we use, we have eight basic tunes for liturgical songs. Each of the above periods we start with the first tune and go till to the eighth. We need then eight Sundays, about two months, in each period which constitutes the year.

The six periods are arranged in such a way that the members of the Church can celebrate the redemptive history of the universe each year. This chronological setting has the salvific Incarnation of our Lord at the center. We start from His Story [history] of creation on the first Sunday, going through the Redemption through Christ and ends with the hope of His Second coming on the last Sunday of each year.

Why do we the Orthodox have the start of the New Year at an odd time? Or why do not we start on 1st

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ICON DEVOTIONAL THOUGHTS
January? Why the Orthodox Church wanted the things in a unique way? Many such questions may arise at this juncture. Facing those questions and answering them, we hope, will give a good introduction to the first period.

The reason is so simple. We want to start with the birth of our Lord and observe His Incarnation and redemptive work for humanity each liturgical Year. It gives us eight Sundays to prepare ourselves in a meaningful way before the Feast of the salvific Birth of our Lord.

The first Sunday is hence meant for a complete purification of the Church. Members of the Church should take the Holy Confession and purify themselves to enter the new liturgical year. The Church specially remembers the history of the creation of the universe and cosmic order. Since it is done for the well-being of humanity, on this day, by reading those portions form the holy Bible and reciting special prayers of the day, the Church would like to give unceasing thanks to the Creator. Obey Him and do His duty is the best way of giving thanks to Him according to the Scripture. Personal purification and dedication is the only way that one could stand before Him and giving thanks to Him.

After being purified we rededicate ourselves on the second Sunday of the Year. The readings are taken from the books of Moses and the theme is the divine protection and guidance that our forefathers have received from above. To be with Him and to walk in His precepts, we need a complete dedication of our lives. That?s why the Feast of Dedication comes next after the Feast of Purification. No doubt, we, the members of the Indian Orthodox Church, are blessed that at this time of dedication it happened the Feast of remembrance of our great Saint Mar Gregorios of Parumala. He is a perfect model for dedicated being. Let us thank God for this Saint and let us also dedicate our lives.

After this initial fortnight and two important feasts, feast of purification and re dedication, we begin to meditate on the themes and incidents related to the birth of Christ. Hence the third Sunday is remembrance of the revelation to Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, about the birth of John, the forerunner of Christ. The fourth Sunday is the Feast of the Annunciation to Mary about the birth of our Lord; the fifth: Meeting of Elizabeth with Mary, the mother of Christ; sixth: birth of John the Baptist; seventh "revelation to Joseph about the Incarnation of our Lord, and eighth: the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

1st Sunday of the Liturgical Year "Sanctification of the Church" October 30, 2005

Co-authored by Fr. Dr. George Pulikottil - St. Gregorios OC Chicago] &
Fr. Dr. Mathew C. Chacko -Sts. Basilios-Gregorios OC New Jersey]

source: http://www.icon.org.in/church_lityr.icon

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