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The Lity or Litiyá (Greek: Λιτή(Liti), from litomai, "a fervent prayer") is a festive religious procession, followed by intercessions, which augments great vespers (or, a few times a year, great compline) in the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches on important feast days (and, at least according to the written rubrics, any time there is an all-night vigil. ). Following a lity is another liturgical action, an artoklasia, and either of these terms may be used to describe both liturgical actions collectively.
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.
Intercession or intercessory prayer is the act of praying to a deity on behalf of others. In Western Christianity, intercession forms a distinct form of prayer, alongside Adoration, Confession and Thanksgiving.
The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 200–260 million members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods, although roughly half of Eastern Orthodox Christians live in Russia. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Bishop of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops. As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East.
At vespers, after the Prayer at the Bowing of Heads, the procession commences: the clergy, including a deacon with a censer and, when logistically possible, the chanters, process to the narthex of the church during which are sung stichera of the feast and/or of the patron of the church. Once the procession reaches the narthex and the stichera have been sung, the deacon begins a series of lengthy petitions (these are the "lity" proper), asking for the intercession of many saints, and praying for the church and the world:
A deacon is a member of the diaconate, an office in Christian churches that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. Some Christian churches, such as the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican church, view the diaconate as part of the clerical state; in others, the deacon remains a layperson.
The chanter is the part of the bagpipe upon which the player creates the melody. It consists of a number of finger-holes, and in its simpler forms looks similar to a recorder. On more elaborate bagpipes, such as the Northumbrian bagpipes or the Uilleann pipes, it also may have a number of keys, to increase the instrument's range and/or the number of keys it can play in. Like the rest of the bagpipe, they are often decorated with a variety of substances, including metal (silver/nickel/gold/brass), bone, ivory, or plastic mountings.
The narthex is an architectural element typical of early Christian and Byzantine basilicas and churches consisting of the entrance or lobby area, located at the west end of the nave, opposite the church's main altar. Traditionally the narthex was a part of the church building, but was not considered part of the church proper.
...For the salvation of the people; for the [governmental authorities]; for the clergy; for all afflicted Christian souls desirous of aid; for this city, the country and all Christians living therein; for our deceased fathers and brethren; for deliverance from famine, epidemics, earthquake, flood, fire, the sword, the invasion of barbarians and civil strife....".
"Lord, have mercy" is sung multiple times after each petition, and this is followed by the priest reciting a prayer summarizing the petitions.
After this, the priests and deacons proceed to the artoklasia table which will have been placed in the center of the nave, all others return to their usual places, and vespers continues as usual with the Aposticha (even if the Lity is celebrated in conjunction with compline, the services ends as vespers).
The Aposticha are a set of hymns (stichera) accompanied by psalm verses (stichos) that are chanted towards the end of Vespers and Matins in the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches that follow the Byzantine Rite.
Occasionally the lity is held outdoors. In places it is the custom to process around the church, the first and fifth intercessions being sung in front of the entrance and the other three intercessions being sung at each of the other three sides. For special festivity or on other occasions, e.g., or in times of public calamity, the lity may be held in fields (in case of famine) or in public squares or city halls,in which instance the procession that otherwise would be to the narthex of the church continues to wherever the lity is held.
After the lity the priests and deacons go to the middle of the church to a table prepared beforehand with five loaves of leavened bread, the artoklasia loaves, bottles of wine and olive oil and, in the Russian tradition, also a dish containing wheat kernels.
While the apolytikia (dismissal hymns) are sung — and the rubrics always mandate exactly three such hymns when there is a lity — the deacon circles the artoklasia table, censing the offerings thereon, during each, three times in all. Thereafter the priest uncovers his head and takes up one of the five loaves in his right hand, while he says the prayer:
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Who didst bless the five loaves and didst therewith feed the five thousand: Do Thou, the same Lord, bless these loaves, wheat, wine and oil; and multiply them in this holy habitation, and in all the world; and sanctify all the faithful who shall partake of them. For it is Thou, O Christ our God, Who dost bless and sanctify all things; and unto Thee we ascribe glory: with the Father Who hath no beginning, and Thine all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.
During the words "loaves, wheat, wine and oil" above, he points with the loaf he holds in his right hand to each item as he names it, making thereby the sign of the cross. Then he breaks the loaf he holds in his hand.
The vespers resumes as usual with "Blessed be the name of the Lord" but followed by Psalm 33(34), "I will bless the Lord at all times...".
The typicon directs that subsequently the reading of the life of the saint whose feast it is to be read or, on a Sunday, a selection from the New Testament.During this time all sit and the a piece of the blessed bread and a cup of the blessed wine are given to each to provide nourishment to sustain him through the rest of the vigil with the caveat that they are to be consumed straightway so as to keep the fast before Communion. While this custom is still observed in some monasteries, notably on Mount Athos, usually nowadays the blessed bread is simply distributed to the faithful when they exit the service; however, in the Russian tradition, at matins following the singing of Psalm 50(51), all come forward to venerate the Gospel Book (if it is Sunday) or the icon of the feast, and each person is anointed and given a piece of the blessed bread dipped in the wine.
By sundry local customs, the wheat may be ground into flour, often for making prosphora, or may be reserved until the time of sowing.
A modified artoklasia without any lity follows vespers on Holy Saturday. Since the rubrics for fasting proscribe oil that day, only bread and wine are blessed, and these are distributed to each together with "six dates or figs";nowadays, however, the dates and figs are generally only distributed in monasteries where they are typically consumed with other minimalistic sustenance in the refectory.
In some Catholic sources, artoklasia was wrongly identified with the Latin practice of "Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament," in which the consecrated Eucharist is exposed for the worship of the faithful. The service of artoklasia might have fallen into disuse for at time among Byzantine Catholics but never was it confused with "Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.At least in these days, lity with artoklasia is regularly celebrated among Byzantine Catholics for feasts, albeit with various degrees of fidelity to the rubrics.
The lity takes place in the narthex so that the catechumens and penitents, who in ancient times were not allowed to enter the nave could participate in the joy and blessings of the feast and the faithful would follow the clergy into the narthex to show their humility and brotherly love towards the catechumens and penitents.
Two possible explanations have been suggested for the origins of this procession. The fourth century pilgrim Egeria states that after Vespers at the Tomb of Christ a procession would go to the site of Calvary where further prayers were said after which the congregation were dismissed. At the monastery of Mar Sabbas in the Judaean wilderness at the end of Vespers the monks would go to the tomb of St. Sabbas where the lity prayers would be said. In fact, the latter tradition may have been a monastic adaptation of the Jerusalem practice and since the liturgical traditions of the monastic community of Mar Sabbas became of central importance in the development of the Byzantine liturgical traditions, especially after the thirteenth century, the lity would have spread to the rest of the Byzantine world from there. One should also note that the processions at the end of Vespers are also found in the Ambrosian Rite and formerly during the Easter Octure in the Norbertine Rite.
Great Lent, or the Great Fast, is the most important fasting season in the church year in the Byzantine Rite of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Byzantine Rite Lutheran Churches and the Eastern Catholic Churches, which prepares Christians for the greatest feast of the church year, Pascha (Easter).
Vespers is a sunset evening prayer service in the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgies of the canonical hours. The word comes from the Greek ἑσπέρα ("hespera") and the Latin vesper, meaning "evening". It is also referred to in the Anglican tradition as evening prayer or evensong. The term is also used in some Protestant denominations to describe evening services.
Divine Liturgy or Holy Liturgy is the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine Rite, developed from the Antiochene Rite of Christian liturgy which is that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox, the Greek Catholic Churches, and the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. Although the same term is sometimes applied in English to the Eucharistic service of Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, they use in their own language a term meaning "holy offering" or "holy sacrifice". Other churches also treat "Divine Liturgy" simply as one of many names that can be used, but it is not their normal term.
Holy Week in Christianity is the week just before Easter. It is also the last week of Lent, in the West, – Palm Sunday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday – are all included. However, Easter Day, which begins the season of Eastertide, is not. However, traditions observing the Easter Triduum may overlap or displace part of Holy Week or Easter itself within that additional liturgical period.
The Byzantine Rite, also known as the Greek Rite or Constantinopolitan Rite, is the liturgical rite used by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Greek/Byzantine Catholic churches, and in a modified form, Byzantine Rite Lutheranism. Its development began during the fourth century in Constantinople and it is now the second most-used ecclesiastical rite in Christendom after the Roman Rite.
An artos is a loaf of leavened bread that is blessed during services in the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine rite catholic churches. A large Artos is baked with a seal depicting the resurrection for use at Pascha (Easter). Smaller loaves are blessed during great vespers in a ritual called Artoklasia and in other occasions like feast days, weddings, memorial services etc.
The Liturgy of Preparation, also Prothesis or Proskomedia, is the name given in the Eastern Orthodox Church to the act of preparing the bread and wine for the Eucharist. The Liturgy of Preparation is done quietly before the public part of the Divine Liturgy begins, and symbolizes the "hidden years" of Christ's earthly life.
Easter Vigil, also called the Paschal Vigil or the Great Vigil of Easter, is a service held in traditional Christian churches as the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. Historically, it is during this service that people are baptized and that adult catechumens are received into full communion with the Church. It is held in the hours of darkness between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Day – most commonly in the evening of Holy Saturday or midnight – and is the first celebration of Easter, days traditionally being considered to begin at sunset.
The Fraction is the ceremonial act of breaking the consecrated bread during the Eucharistic rite in some Christian denominations.
In the Byzantine Rite of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches, Orthros (Greek or Oútrenya is the last of the four night offices, which also include vespers, compline, and midnight office. In traditional monasteries it is held daily so as to end at sunrise. In many parishes it is held only on Sundays and feast days. It is often called matins after the office it most nearly corresponds to in Western Christian churches.
A prosphoron is a small loaf of leavened bread used in Orthodox Christian and Greek Catholic (Byzantine) liturgies. The plural form is prosphora (πρόσφορα). The term originally meant any offering made to a temple, but in Orthodox Christianity it has come to mean specifically the bread offered at the Divine Liturgy (Eucharist).
The Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is a Byzantine Rite liturgical service which is performed on the weekdays of Great Lent wherein communion is received from Gifts that are sanctified (consecrated) in advance, hence its name; this Divine Liturgy has no anaphora.
In Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches, an entrance is a procession during which the clergy enter into the sanctuary through the Holy Doors. The origin of these entrances goes back to the early church, when the liturgical books and sacred vessels were kept in special storage rooms for safe keeping and the procession was necessary to bring these objects into the church when needed. Over the centuries, these processions have grown more elaborate, and nowadays are accompanied by incense, candles and liturgical fans. In the liturgical theology of the Orthodox Church, the angels are believed to enter with the clergy into the sanctuary, as evidenced by the prayers which accompany the various entrances.
Easter Saturday, on the Christian calendar, is the Saturday following the festival of Easter, the Saturday of Easter or Bright Week. In the liturgy of Western Christianity it is the last day of Easter Week, sometimes referred to as the Saturday of Easter Week or Saturday in Easter Week. In the liturgy of Eastern Christianity it is the last day of Bright Week, and called Bright Saturday, The Bright and Holy Septave Saturday of Easter Eve, or The Bright and Holy Septave Paschal Artos and Octoechoes Saturday of Iscariot's Byzantine Easter Eve. Easter Saturday is the day preceding the Octave Day of Easter.
Acolouthia in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, signifies the arrangement of the Divine Services, perhaps because the parts are closely connected and follow in order. In a more restricted sense, the term "acolouth" refers to the fixed portion of the Office. The portions of the Office that are variable are called the Sequences. While the structure and history of the various forms of the Divine Office in the numerous ancient Christian rites is exceedingly rich, the following article will restrict itself to the practice as it evolved in the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.
The Euchologion is one of the chief liturgical books of the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches, containing the portions of the services which are said by the bishop, priest, or deacon. There are several different volumes of the book in use.
The Alexandrian Rite is the liturgical rite used by the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, as well as by the three corresponding Eastern Catholic Churches.
The Liturgy of Saint Basil or, more formally, the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, is a term for several Eastern Christian celebrations of the Divine Liturgy (Eucharist), or at least several anaphoras, which are named after St. Basil the Great. Two of these liturgies are in common use today: the one used in the Byzantine Rite ten times a year, and the one ordinarily used by the Coptic Church.
Eastern Orthodox worship in this article is distinguished from Eastern Orthodox prayer in that 'worship' refers to the activity of the Christian Church as a body offering up prayers to God while 'prayer' refers to the individual devotional traditions of the Orthodox.
A liturgical book, or service book, is a book published by the authority of a church body that contains the text and directions for the liturgy of its official religious services.