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Re: [orthodox-readers] Book of Akathists

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  • Philip Silouan Thompson
    ... I love that book - several of the akathists in that volume have been of great value to me. The akathist for the departed has been a source of great
    Message 1 of 9 , Sep 20, 2009
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      natwoon wrote:
      > I recently received a copy of the Book of Akathists published by Jordanville. I wonder who put the book together and who wrote the various Akathists. It is obviously a very useful volume as the Akathists could be used for folks like us here in Malaysia who are without a full time priest esp when we need to keep a feast. The Akathist for the Dormition would have been most useful to have a few weeks back for example.
      >

      I love that book - several of the akathists in that volume have been of
      great value to me. The akathist for the departed has been a source of
      great consolation to many people in our parish, since most of our
      departed died outside the Church; it has immensely helped us put words
      to our desire to remember them to the Lord.

      But that akathist, like many other new ones, isn't formatted to be able
      to be sung according to an akathist melody. I also haven't received a
      blessing to add any of these akathists to our parish calendar. So those
      of us who are so inclined read these in addition to our daily prayer
      rule at home. We don't use them at church.

      > On another note, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev seems to have reservations about the use of akathists. I have thus far only heard this being said by him and wonder if the clergy on this forum might be ablet to tell me more.
      >

      The Metropolitan has a point, although I think any of these new
      akathists has a very long way to go before it falls to the depths of "I
      come to the garden alone" or "Jesus, there's just something about that
      name." (Protestant flashback)

      The regular services of the Church, if they're served in anything like
      their fullness, are our best source of catechesis about the Holy
      Trinity, salvation and holiness, and the heart's approach to God. I've
      written before that in my first few months of attending daily Matins and
      Vespers years ago, it felt as if the furniture in my head were being
      rearranged.

      The original Akathist, too, is a gold mine of christology; it's sung to
      the Theotokos, but the entire hymn obliquely teaches about the
      incarnation of God the Word, and in glorifying her, it affirms His
      divinity and humanity.

      The later akathists follow the style of the original to one degree or
      another, but they are of varying quality. I've never seen one I'd call
      bad, but not all are as profitable for teaching doctrine or forming a
      genuinely Orthodox understanding. Slavonic was not universally
      understood before Communism, and hasn't been taught since, so the value
      in popular akathists and canons is that they can be prayed in one's own
      language. That's naturally going to make them appeal to the pious
      churchgoer who wants to pray with understanding.

      By God's mercy, our parish has always served daily Matins and Vespers.
      One priest travels a lot and the other works long hours, so about half
      our services are served by a reader (usually me.) I have a blessing to
      serve Matins, Vespers, and when appropriate Compline with the Akathist
      and/or Paraclisis; if I wanted to add any other service I would need the
      express blessing of my priest. I don't know if your mission has one
      visiting priest, or is served by area clergy, but before adding a new
      service to the schedule you'll want your priest's or bishop's blessing.
      Even in their absence, they're the captain and navigator, and the guy at
      the cantor stand is only the driver :-)

      My Greek was learned in a Protestant school and I'm barely literate in
      Slavonic, so I suppose I miss many subtleties by reading only English
      translations of the services - but I'd have to agree that the most
      instructive, profitable, and spiritually formative prayer option open to
      the average believer is to immerse himself in the liturgical life of the
      Church - Matins, Vespers, Compline and the Liturgy. While nothing
      compares to the bodily and spiritual profit of receiving Christ in the
      Eucharist, it's the daily hymns of the Octoechos and Menaion that change
      both what we think and *how* we think about God, the saints, ourselves,
      our sins and our salvation.

      Nowhere outside a monastery are all the services done in completeness;
      laymen haven't got five or six hours a day to spend in church. Even
      daily Matins is an exception - it requires a few people willing to make
      the commitment (and undeterred by often singing the service in an empty
      chapel.) But if your mission is able to arrange to serve Matins and
      Vespers at least a few weekdays every week, and then serve the Saturday
      and Sunday services as fully as possible, then I suspect that will be
      more profitable in the long run than adding additional services that
      aren't part of the usual rotation.

      Al the above is my own opinion. Bottom line, though: Whatever you have a
      blessing to do, do: Then it's obedience, not self-will, and you're
      covered by Vladyka's prayers :-)

      In Christ,

      Rdr Silouan
    • natwoon
      Hi Silouan, Thanks for the reply. I am coming to love the book too - it is definitely something for personal use at the moment.We don t do that many services
      Message 2 of 9 , Sep 21, 2009
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        Hi Silouan,

        Thanks for the reply. I am coming to love the book too - it is definitely something for personal use at the moment.We don't do that many services at the moment - just Mattins and Typika on Sundays and occasionally Little Compline,the Paraklesis and the Akathist to the Theotokos( i.e. the original). I would like to know though more about the other akathists in the Book of Akathists and who put them together etc. Seems to me that such information is often not to be found in publications by Jordanville.

        I am quite happy to do just a few things and learn to them properly first - the rest can wait for later. At the moment we are mulling over the idea of starting a Saturday service for inquirers. Our priest has heard from us but we are waiting his blessing before proceeding. Part of our problem has to do with the fact that we are borrowing a room from another church right now and need to find our own place soon.

        Keep us in your prayers,

        Nathaniel
      • polychrony
        Dear Nathaniel, My recollection is that the Akathists were gathered from various sources, though some effort was made to standardized the language, so that it
        Message 3 of 9 , Sep 22, 2009
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          Dear Nathaniel,

          My recollection is that the Akathists were gathered from various
          sources, though some effort was made to standardized the language, so
          that it did not appear too disparate. I simply cannot recall clearly,
          but it was largely the effort of one individual, it certainly had
          then-Abp. Laurus' positive support. During its compilation, it put some
          other publication efforts on hold, or deferred them. I had done the
          original musical appendix, but it was replaced by a expanded version in
          a later compilation. That's largely all that I recall.

          Polychronios


          --- In orthodox-readers@yahoogroups.com, "natwoon" <natwoon@...> wrote:
          >
          > Hi Silouan,
          >
          > Thanks for the reply. I am coming to love the book too - it is
          definitely something for personal use at the moment.We don't do that
          many services at the moment - just Mattins and Typika on Sundays and
          occasionally Little Compline,the Paraklesis and the Akathist to the
          Theotokos( i.e. the original). I would like to know though more about
          the other akathists in the Book of Akathists and who put them together
          etc. Seems to me that such information is often not to be found in
          publications by Jordanville.
          >
          > I am quite happy to do just a few things and learn to them properly
          first - the rest can wait for later. At the moment we are mulling over
          the idea of starting a Saturday service for inquirers. Our priest has
          heard from us but we are waiting his blessing before proceeding. Part of
          our problem has to do with the fact that we are borrowing a room from
          another church right now and need to find our own place soon.
          >
          > Keep us in your prayers,
          >
          > Nathaniel
          >
        • pravoslavney
          I worked in the typographia of St. Job of Pochaev press between 84-88. The Book of Akathists was my idea and I proposed it to Vladyka Laurus in 1987 since we
          Message 4 of 9 , Sep 23, 2009
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            I worked in the typographia of St. Job of Pochaev press between 84-88. The Book of Akathists was my idea and I proposed it to Vladyka Laurus in 1987 since we were already preparing and printing a Church Slavonic "Akafistnik" for the Milennium of Russia. The English publication of 'Orthodox Life' since the 70's had translated and published many Akathists. I gathered them all up and of course many of them had some archaic phrases and syntax. It was through the tireless efforts of Rassaphor monk Lawrence who was in charge of most of the English language publications said they needed to be worked over. It took him 6 years! He did have some help in the beginning from the other Fr. John Shaw of England. It was a formidable task in trying to format these texts into useful service texts. Fr. Lawrence's edition of the Jordanville prayerbook was a re vamping of the first English prayer book, being criticized for it's `unreadable language'. Having tried to sing all of them, and yes, some do not fit sometimes the meter of the certain Akathist melodies.
            There is nothing wrong in just reading them. For instance in Reader services I would rather have complines with an akathist and canon than matins.
            Were you to buy the loose leaf editions of the Menaion by Rdr. Isaac Lamberson and printed by St. John of Kronstadt press, they include the many Akathists. Fr. Lawrence did not use these but may have consulted Rdr Isaac's translations on some Akathists, because his were copywrited and Fr. Gregory Williams would not release them. You still can buy these from SJKP.com

            Rdr Timothy Tadros


            --- In orthodox-readers@yahoogroups.com, "polychrony" <Polychrony@...> wrote:
            >
            > Dear Nathaniel,
            >
            > My recollection is that the Akathists were gathered from various
            > sources, though some effort was made to standardized the language, so
            > that it did not appear too disparate. I simply cannot recall clearly,
            > but it was largely the effort of one individual, it certainly had
            > then-Abp. Laurus' positive support. During its compilation, it put some
            > other publication efforts on hold, or deferred them. I had done the
            > original musical appendix, but it was replaced by a expanded version in
            > a later compilation. That's largely all that I recall.
            >
            > Polychronios
            >
            >
            > --- In orthodox-readers@yahoogroups.com, "natwoon" <natwoon@> wrote:
            > >
            > > Hi Silouan,
            > >
            > > Thanks for the reply. I am coming to love the book too - it is
            > definitely something for personal use at the moment.We don't do that
            > many services at the moment - just Mattins and Typika on Sundays and
            > occasionally Little Compline,the Paraklesis and the Akathist to the
            > Theotokos( i.e. the original). I would like to know though more about
            > the other akathists in the Book of Akathists and who put them together
            > etc. Seems to me that such information is often not to be found in
            > publications by Jordanville.
            > >
            > > I am quite happy to do just a few things and learn to them properly
            > first - the rest can wait for later. At the moment we are mulling over
            > the idea of starting a Saturday service for inquirers. Our priest has
            > heard from us but we are waiting his blessing before proceeding. Part of
            > our problem has to do with the fact that we are borrowing a room from
            > another church right now and need to find our own place soon.
            > >
            > > Keep us in your prayers,
            > >
            > > Nathaniel
            > >
            >
          • starina77
            ... Greetings, all This is my first post on this forum, although most of you are probably familiar with me from other forums (Ustav, Typikon, Podoben,
            Message 5 of 9 , Sep 24, 2009
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              --- In orthodox-readers@yahoogroups.com, "natwoon" <natwoon@...> wrote:
              >
              > On another note, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev seems to have reservations about the use of akathists. I have thus far only heard this being said by him and wonder if the clergy on this forum might be ablet to tell me more.
              >
              > The test is taken from his paper - Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: Orthodox Worship as a School of Theology, written in 2002 under the sub heading "Canonical" and "uncanonical" services

              <snip>

              Greetings, all

              This is my first post on this forum, although most of you are probably familiar with me from other forums (Ustav, Typikon, Podoben, etc.). I'm a Russian Old Believer, and we follow the pre-Nikonian rite (Old Rite = pre-1655) of the Russian Church. In our liturgical books there is only one Akathist Hymn -- the Akathist to the Theotokos read on the 5th Saturday of Great Lent. Our hierarchs have expressly forbidden the introduction of any other Akathists into public liturgical use.

              While we have some freedom in our private prayers, Old Ritualists by nature are not drawn to new liturgical items which are outside our spiritual tradition. We are brought up to be content with and rely upon a stable traditional prayer rule, and not to seek out or pounce on every novelty that appears in our sights. A prayer rule that is constantly changing and being added to is considered to be a demonstration of a lack of spiritual stability and inner discipline, which are essential elements in a healthy spiritual life. Instead of collecting Akathists like a magpie collects shiny objects (a type of behavior we sometimes see among zealous converts), our spiritual fathers have encouraged us to stick to the traditional rules of prayer (the Pachomian Rule, the 3 Canons, silent Jesus prayers, prostrations or bows with the Jesus Prayer, or reading the Psalter). We need nothing else in the process of working out our salvation; all else is a distraction of novelties.

              On the other hand, there certainly are occasions where our temporal needs need to be addressed, and where we wish to give honor or thanks to Christ, the Theotokos or one of the saints., etc. In the pre-Nikonian tradition, the appropriate method of doing this is the Moleben (or Panykhida), which is derived from the Studite Rule Pannychis (Vigil). While the modern form of the Russian Moleben has eliminated the Canon and retained only the refrains, the Old Rite Moleben and the Greek Paraklesis have preserved the full Canon. I would like to see the full Canon restored in the modern Russian practice, but that seems unlikely. However, if folks would read the appointed Canons (for whatever occasion), which are already in the liturgical books and have an established place in the existing liturgical practice of the Church, there would be little need for introducing all these paraliturgical Akathists into our private prayers. A Moleben *with the full Canon* to St. Nicholas has a traditional place in both public and private worship; an Akathist to St. Nicholas does not.

              I really do not wish to criticize all these Akathists, either for their quality or lack thereof. My point is that if the Russian Church had not eliminated the full Canon from the Moleben during the past couple hundred years, we would already have a "canonical" method of expressing our special devotion to the saints. But since that vehicle of prayer was taken away from us, the popular response to fill the gap was accomplished by composing and reading Akathists. Speaking as someone who represents the Old Rite viewpoint, we teach that Canons have a place in the church and at home, but these extra (spurious) Akathists do not. They are not part of our spiritual tradition, and we reject them completely, no matter how lovely they may be.

              Nikita Simmons
            • starina77
              ... ... ... I am appalled to read such a statement from such a well-respected and well-educated hierarch. I can point to a specific place in the
              Message 6 of 9 , Sep 24, 2009
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                --- In orthodox-readers@yahoogroups.com, "natwoon" <natwoon@...> wrote:
                <snip>
                > The test is taken from his paper - Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: Orthodox Worship as a School of Theology, written in 2002 under the sub heading "Canonical" and "uncanonical" services
                >
                > http://orthodoxeurope.org/page/12/1.aspx
                >
                <snip>
                > What exactly is a moleben? The Orthodox Typicon knows of no such service.

                I am appalled to read such a statement from such a well-respected and well-educated hierarch. I can point to a specific place in the Typicon (in both the modern and pre-Nikonian editions) where the Moleben is appointed: on the first Friday in Great Lent following the Pre-sanctified Liturgy, in honor of St. Theodore Tyron.

                Metropolitan Hilarion must have slept through his Liturgics class on the day they covered molebens. The fact that he regards them as "uncanonical" is astounding, especially when we have clear proof that they do have a canonical usage and origin. Several famous liturgists have traced the history of the Moleben to the Studite Rite Typikon (and subsequently borrowed by the Jerusalem St. Sabbas Typikon).

                Since the Studite Typikon performed all the services in the daily cycle at strictly appointed hours, there was never an "All-night Vigil" as we have in the Sabbaitic Typikon (which the Russian Church follows). To compensate for this, an extra prayer service in the form of an abbreviated Matins service was tacked onto the end of Vespers. At the end of Vespers there was a procession to the narthex or around the church or to a special chapel, and this extra service (called the "Pannychis") was sung, lasting perhaps about an hour. This "Pannychis" is the origin and form of both the traditional Moleben (Paraklesis) and the Panykhida (Parastasis).

                The modern form of these two services for the living and the reposed have not changed in the Greek and pre-Nikonian traditions, but over the past couple hundred years the mainstream Russian Church has eliminated the full Canon (and often the appointed Gospel reading) and retained only the Canon refrains. Perhaps this misunderstanding has lead to Metropolitan Hilarion making such an inaccurate statement, but the fact remains that the Moleben, even in its modern truncated form, is considered as a "canonical" service by Orthodox liturgists.

                Nikita Simmons
              • natwoon
                Dear Rdr Timothy, Thanks for the information. It s just waht I have wanted to know. It s obvious that a lot of work went into the compilation and translation
                Message 7 of 9 , Sep 29, 2009
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                  Dear Rdr Timothy,

                  Thanks for the information. It's just waht I have wanted to know. It's obvious that a lot of work went into the compilation and translation of the akathists before that.

                  Nathaniel
                • polychrony
                  Excellent post; a shame that it did not receive any replies. Polychronios
                  Message 8 of 9 , Sep 29, 2009
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                    Excellent post; a shame that it did not receive any replies.

                    Polychronios

                    --- In orthodox-readers@yahoogroups.com, "starina77" <starina77@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > <snip>
                    >
                    > Greetings, all
                    >
                    > This is my first post on this forum, although most of you are probably familiar with me from other forums (Ustav, Typikon, Podoben, etc.). I'm a Russian Old Believer, and we follow the pre-Nikonian rite (Old Rite = pre-1655) of the Russian Church. In our liturgical books there is only one Akathist Hymn -- the Akathist to the Theotokos read on the 5th Saturday of Great Lent. Our hierarchs have expressly forbidden the introduction of any other Akathists into public liturgical use.
                    >
                    > While we have some freedom in our private prayers, Old Ritualists by nature are not drawn to new liturgical items which are outside our spiritual tradition. We are brought up to be content with and rely upon a stable traditional prayer rule, and not to seek out or pounce on every novelty that appears in our sights. A prayer rule that is constantly changing and being added to is considered to be a demonstration of a lack of spiritual stability and inner discipline, which are essential elements in a healthy spiritual life. Instead of collecting Akathists like a magpie collects shiny objects (a type of behavior we sometimes see among zealous converts), our spiritual fathers have encouraged us to stick to the traditional rules of prayer (the Pachomian Rule, the 3 Canons, silent Jesus prayers, prostrations or bows with the Jesus Prayer, or reading the Psalter). We need nothing else in the process of working out our salvation; all else is a distraction of novelties.
                    >
                    > On the other hand, there certainly are occasions where our temporal needs need to be addressed, and where we wish to give honor or thanks to Christ, the Theotokos or one of the saints., etc. In the pre-Nikonian tradition, the appropriate method of doing this is the Moleben (or Panykhida), which is derived from the Studite Rule Pannychis (Vigil). While the modern form of the Russian Moleben has eliminated the Canon and retained only the refrains, the Old Rite Moleben and the Greek Paraklesis have preserved the full Canon. I would like to see the full Canon restored in the modern Russian practice, but that seems unlikely. However, if folks would read the appointed Canons (for whatever occasion), which are already in the liturgical books and have an established place in the existing liturgical practice of the Church, there would be little need for introducing all these paraliturgical Akathists into our private prayers. A Moleben *with the full Canon* to St. Nicholas has a traditional place in both public and private worship; an Akathist to St. Nicholas does not.
                    >
                    > I really do not wish to criticize all these Akathists, either for their quality or lack thereof. My point is that if the Russian Church had not eliminated the full Canon from the Moleben during the past couple hundred years, we would already have a "canonical" method of expressing our special devotion to the saints. But since that vehicle of prayer was taken away from us, the popular response to fill the gap was accomplished by composing and reading Akathists. Speaking as someone who represents the Old Rite viewpoint, we teach that Canons have a place in the church and at home, but these extra (spurious) Akathists do not. They are not part of our spiritual tradition, and we reject them completely, no matter how lovely they may be.
                    >
                    > Nikita Simmons
                    >
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