“Litany of Fervent Supplication”


The “Augmented Litany” also referred to as the “Litany of Fervent Supplication” (Slavonic: Сугубая ектения /Suhabaja Ektenija) is chanted after the reading of the Holy Gospel during the Divine Liturgies of Saint John Chrysostom, Basil the Great and the Presanctified Liturgy, after the Great Prokimenon of Saturday evening Great Vespers (old Testament lessons if appointed) and at the conclusion of Matins. During daily Vespers, its position is placed immediately after the Troparia beginning with the third petition. It is also intoned during special services such as a Moleben beginning with “Have mercy on us, O God according to Your great mercy…”

The purpose of this Litany during the Divine Liturgy is to intensify our supplications and add petitions for people and situations not previously mentioned during the Great Litany. The first petition invites those gathered to unite their whole minds and souls; the second reminds us of God’s sovereignty and our spiritual connection with all who have gone before us in the Faith. A single “Lord have mercy” is the response to the first two petitions, and a triple response for the remaining.

In “The Orthodox Faith, Volume 2 – Worship” the “Litany of Fervent Supplication” is explained by the late Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko who writes: This litany is the one through which the people pray for their own particular needs, as well as those of the entire Church, their neighbors, their country and the entire world. At this time the intercessions are not made generally, as in the Great Litany, but very specifically on behalf of all persons in need of God’s blessings, strength and guidance. Thus prayers are made for the sick, the suffering, the needy, the afflicted and the departed by name; as well as for such specific things as national guidance, deliverance from some particular threat, etc. Also at this time special prayers of thanksgiving and praise may be offered in response to some particular blessing of God. Because the offertory will follow, prayers are also made at the end of the litany “for those who bring offerings and do good work” in the particular community.”

While all Churches place this Litany within the Divine Liturgy after the proclamation of the Gospel, the current Greek practice omits it altogether by proceeding directly to the Cherubic Hymn.

The number of petitions differs in various liturgical recensions. For those who follow a northern Slavic practice, after mid-point in the litany, the celebrant may also offer unique petitions for special intentions.

The text I chose for the “Litany of Fervent Supplication” is taken from ACROD. The deacon or priest begins:

Let us all say with our whole soul and with our whole mind, let us say.

People: Lord, have mercy.

O Lord Almighty, God of our Fathers, we pray to You, hear us and have mercy.

People: Lord, have mercy.

Have mercy on us, O God, according to Your great mercy, we pray to You, hear us and have mercy.

People:  Lord, have mercy. (three times)   (and after each petition)

Furthermore we pray for our holy Ecumenical Patriarch (Name), the Archbishop of Constantinople, for our Most Reverend Metropolitan (Name), for our God-loving Bishop (Name), for our spiritual fathers and all other clergy and for all our brethren in Christ; for their welfare, peace, health, salvation and for the remission of their sins, and that the Lord, our God, may prompt and help them in all things.

(The following petition is included in Ruthenian books:)

Furthermore we pray for the honorable government of our country and all civil authorities and for our armed forces.

Petitions of Special Intention may be offered at this point.  The usual ending for each petition is “We pray to You, O Lord, hear us and have mercy.”

Furthermore we pray for those who give their offerings and do good works in this holy and venerable church, for those who labor in its service, for those who sing, and for all the people here present who await Your great and abundant mercy, for those who have shown us kindness and for all Orthodox Christians.

The priest prays inaudibly:  O Lord our God, accept this fervent prayer from Your servants and have mercy on us according to the multitude of Your mercy, and bestow Your compassion upon us and upon all Your people who await the abundant mercies that come from You.

Exclamation:  For You are a merciful God who loves mankind, and we give glory to You, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever.

People:  Amen.

Page 46 of Andrew Sokol’s “Plain Chant” contains eight sets of triple “Lord have mercy” entitled “Occasional.” Three out of the eight are used regularly by ACROD and two by the Ruthenian-Byzantine Catholics. There are other melodies not shown on that page such as for the first and last of the Fervent Supplication petitions, Ordination, Requiem, Exaltation of the Cross, and before a reading from the holy Gospel. Only the eight that Sokol transcribed are included here.

For those interested in choir arrangements, here is a 4-part SATB version of the “Litany of Fervent Supplication” fervent as adapted by the late Professor Michael P. Hilko. It should be noted that in common practice, #3 in that set is reserved for a special intention petition. The late Very Reverend Joseph A. Havriliak in his “Liturgy – Mass of St. John Chrysostom of the Uhro-Carpatho-Russian Common Church Hymnology” on page 54 also gives eight melodies used for this litany arranged in 4-part harmony.

Today, various parish communities often sing “Lord, have mercy” in a variety of languages due to the diverse ethnic backgrounds of the faithful.


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Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

– Matthew 18: 19-20

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First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all.”

– 1 Timothy 2:1


The “Magnificat”


My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” or commonly called the “Magnificat” are the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the Archangel Gabriel at the time of Annunciation as recorded in the Gospel according to Saint Luke (1:46-55). It is here that Mary gives her famous consent (fiat) and becomes the Mother of God. The term “Magnificat” is derived from the Latin which is the first word of the hymn Magnificat anima mea Dominum” It is called “Velicanije” in Church Slavonic.

At daily and Sunday Matins, the “Magnificat” is sung in between Odes 8 and 9 of the Canon. It is introduced by the deacon or priest, who first incensing the altar area, emerges through the North Door of the iconostas to incense its south side. He waits at the icon of the Mother of God until the conclusion of the eighth Ode of the Canon. Raising the censer, he intones: “The Birth-giver of God and Mother of the Light, let us magnify in song.” He incenses the icon thrice and then the remaining part of the iconostas, the people and the icons in the rest of the church.


The “Magnificat” is then sung with much solemnity with “More honorable than the Cherubim” as the refrain. This canticle is omitted rarely, except on the great Twelve Great Feast Days when the “Magnification/O my soul, magnify…” is substituted for it. The Ninth Irmos honors the Mother of God and the Incarnation of Christ.

The text for this rendition is taken from the “Revised Standard Bible” while the words for the refrain are taken from ACROD. It is adapted here to a Tone 6 Kontakion melody featuring a not very well known variant from present-day Slovakia where many of the parishioners of Saint John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Passaic, New Jersey originated. It was later transcribed by the late Professor Michael P. Hilko, the parish choir director who used its pattern in adapting “O Undisputed Protectress of Christians/Zastupince.” into English. It follows and simple A, B pattern with an ultima. This adaptation is offered here for your consideration. Please note that the traditional melody for the “Magnificat” may be found on page 28 in the bi-lingual “Marian Hymnal” published in 1984 by the Byzantine Seminary Press; Bokshaj’s Tserkovnoje Prostopinije (The Church Plain Chant) and Andrew Sokol’s “Basic Chant” both on page 48.

The “Magnificat” is also a perfect piece on how to apply the eight samohlasen melodies. Since it consists of six scriptural verses (pripivi) and a refrain (stichera), it reinforces the chant patterns in a practical way. A few years ago for my chant class practicum in Wilkes-Barre, PA. we did exactly that with good results. We will discuss this in a later blog entry.


“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

– Luke 1:35

Burying the Departed


The Rusyn/Ruthenian liturgical tradition has a unique Rite of Interment for the Departed” not found in other service books.

As the family, friends and faithful proceed in solemn procession to the place of burial with the earthly remains of the departed loved one, the Trisagion Holy God” is sung. When all have assembled, the priest intones the customary introduction, and the final reading from the Holy Gospel (John 11:1-45) is chanted recounting the death, burial and resurrection of Lazarus, Friend of Christ.

The priest may pronounce a Prayer of Absolution if not said in church. The last section of the prayer is most fitting at the cemetery:

O Lord our God, we again humbly beseech You and Your eternal Father, and Your most-holy, consubstantial, and life-giving Spirit: do not reject Your servant, nor allow him(her) to be condemned to perdition, but rather allow his (her) body to return to the earth from which it was made, and to decay accord to Your word, “Dust you are and into dust you shall return.” Place his(her) soul in the dwelling-place with the Just in Your heavenly court until the general Resurrection; for You have said: “All that the Father gives to Me shall come to Me, and him who comes to Me I will not cast out.” You also said: “This is the will of My father Who sent Me, that of all which He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise them up on the last day.” You also said, “He who believes Him Who sent Me has everlasting life and does not come to judgment, but has passed from death to life.” For You are the resurrection, the life, and the repose of those who truly believe in You and who present themselves before You, O Christ our God, in the hope of resurrection and eternal life; and we glorify You, together with Your eternal Father, and Your all-holy, gracious and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and forever. Amen.

The priest now places earth from the grave on the top of the casket in the form of a cross while he says a verse from Psalm 24:1:

The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”

Immediately, the following Troparion “O Gaping Earth/Zemle zinuvši” is sung is Tone 8 (Samohlasen):

O gaping earth! Receive the body formed of you by the hand of God, and again returning to you as to its mother; for what has been in His image, the Creator has already reclaimed; receive then this as your own.”

In anticipation of the sealing of the grave, the priest makes the sign of the Cross over the grave and says:

This grave is being sealed until the Second Coming of Christ, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

The dismissal follows concluding with the singing of “Eternal Memory.”

Various burial hymns or “Nadhrobnyja Pisni” may also be sung along the processional route to and at graveside, however, they are not known as a general custom in the West, because such processions are done in automobiles today, except in those places where the parish cemetery is next to the church. These para-liturgical compositions concerned themselves with the futility of earthly existence and the relationship of the deceased to his or her survivors, eg: for a son or child. These songs, most of which were recorded in hand-written hymnbooks (pisenniki) from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries were lead by the cantor. In the English/Slavonic bi-lingual funeral bookHoly Services for the Dead” edited by Father Julius Grigassy in 1943, Part Five contains fourteen such hymns.

What interests me about this order is the uniqueness of the Troparion “O gaping earth” and the sound theology and catechetical strength it expresses. Ruthenians/Rusyns share the singing of this hymn with Galicians and Western Ukrainians and others in the Carpathian regions. Its absence in the practice of the Great Russian tradition is of great curiosity to me especially since this Troparion is mentioned as a rubric in theService Book of the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church” compiled and translated by Isabel Hapgood and published with the blessing of the Russian Church in 1906. It states for the burial of a layman, “the mortal remains are buried with thanksgiving and with joy: and with the song: “Open, O earth, and receive that which was made from thee.”It continues to say that “then the body is laid in the grave.”

The Rite of “Departure Office for Monks” (for monks and nuns) in the “Great Book of Needs – Volume 3 translated from the Church Slavonic and published by Saint Tikhon’s Seminary Press in 2002 on page 251 contains the same Troparion yet uses a different translation: O Earth, open wide”. The rubric specially states: “And they fill the grave singing these troparia.”  The monastic Typikon often reflects older usages and gives us “O Gaping Earth” in plain view.


In the Russian funeral tradition and renewed by many living in the West, the coffin is lowered into the ground after which each person assembled will take a shovelful of earth covering the casket. It is my humble suggestion that “O Gaping Earth” be interspersed with verses from Psalm 24(23) “The earth is the Lord’s” be sung at this time. The hymn is sung once followed by each verse of the psalm. The refrain “receive then this as your own” would be repeated after each verse. At the conclusion, the Troparion is repeated in its entirety. This would follow the pattern of the Troparia sung in between the Old Testament lessons during the Vesper-Liturgy of Saint Basil on the Feasts of the Theophany and Nativity of our Lord.

The grave is then sealed. Some argue that this is not an authentic Byzantine/Orthodox practice. However, within the context of our Typikon and diverse traditions, what liturgical act is performed without a blessing? One will be hard-pressed to find any.

This version of “O Gaping Earth” uses an updated wording of the late Father Grigassy and the Tone 8 variant melody of ACROD.

Вѣчная Память



“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

– Genesis 3:19




The Ten Commandments of Congregational Singing


The Ten Commandments of Congregational Singing

  1. You shall sing!
  2. You shall sing with your heart, with all your soul and with all your might!
  3. You shall sing fearlessly, ignoring the possible wondering glances of your neighbors. They would like to sing with you if they had the nerve, and they will sing with you if you continue!
  4. You shall sing joyfully, as it is written by the prophet Isaiah; “Sing, O heaven, be joyful, O earth and break forth into singing, O mountains!”
  5. You shall sing reverently, for music is prayer!
  6. You shall not be afraid to sing, for although an individual may pray in prose or even in wordless silence, a congregation must sing!
  7. You shall not resist new melodies, for it is written in the book of Psalms:” O sing unto the Lord a new song!”
  8. You shall not mumble the melody, but shall sing it out loud, even if with occasional mistakes.
  9. You shall not hesitate to sing together with the trained chanters. They want you to join them!
  10. You shall not forget the words of the Psalmist: I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live!


source:  http://www.stlukeorthodox.com/html/orthodoxy/liturgicaltexts.cfm


” Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!” – Psalm 150: 6

The Beatitudes

The Beatitudes


The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) are sung at the Divine Liturgy and other liturgical services eg: Funerals, Typika, Moleben to the Cross. Various Byzantine churches of Slavic origin use them as the Third Antiphon during the Liturgy except on certain feastdays, while many who follow the Ruthenian practice reserve its usage to Great Lent for unknown reasons.

The restoration of the Beatitudes sung at Liturgy has brought a liturgical anomaly into practice by many well-meaning pastors and cantors who do not understanding proper liturgical order. The Beatitudes are sung when Psalm 103 (“Bless the Lord”) and Psalm 147 (“Praise the Lord”) are used.  Singing the Beatitudes when using the Paschal or weekday antiphons is not proper.

There are three settings for the Beatitudes in the beginning of the “Hymns of Great Lent” as edited by the late Monsignor William Levkulic of blessed memory.  The first is taken from standard “Russian” Tone 1 Troparion melody; the second, adapted from an old Rusyn Psalter melody by Professors Jerry Jumba and Michael Peresta; the third an adaptation from Tone 6 Irmos melody.  In 1988, another adaptation was published in the red Pew Book of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese.  It was cited as sung at the “Užhorod Cathedral” and used Tone 8 Kontakion as its basis.  Later, in 2006 with the promulgation of the new liturgical texts by the American Ruthenian-Byzantine Catholic Church, a setting was also published using the same melody yet slightly different reflecting Prešov and Užhorod styles.

It is unclear from either Bokshaj, Choma, Ratzin or Sokol which melody would have been utilized historically for the Beatitudes according to our system of plainchant.  However, a possible answer may be found from a monastic setting, where after “Blessed are the merciful,” sticheri are interspersed with the remaining verses and a “Glory…now and ever” according to the eight samohlasen tones. Those verses would naturally be sung to “pripiv” melodies and the stichera according to the proper samohlasen tonal pattern. Today, most parishes sing the Beatitudes straight through without troparia.

A “Lord’s Prayer” melody with a simply A-B pattern is used here as a basis for this arrangement. The text is from ACROD with a slight change to the opening line.


“Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up on the mountain, and when He sat down His disciples came to Him and He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:”

– Matthew 5:1-2

Enthronement of the Cross

exaltation3The Feast of the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross on September 14  offers the faithful an opportunity to express their love and gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ for shedding His Blood for the sake of our salvation.  It commemorates the Finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena in Jerusalem in the year 326 AD.  Did know that the Trisagion at the end of the Great Doxology at Matins is sung to a special melody on this day?  “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us” is sung solemnly as the priest carries the Cross from the main Altar to the the tetrapod (sacramental table) in the middle of the church.  Special petitions are offered and then it is venerated by the faithful.  This melody can be found on page 105 of Bokshaj’s Prostopinije and offered here in English, Slavonic and Greek.


“For the word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  – 1 Corinthians 1:18