Reader Paul Fowler
Updated: Feb 27, 2021
The Orthodox Church has a very different approach to The Bible than the Western Church. If, like me, you were brought up to go to Church, you would be used to the BIble being freely available in Church - either a person brought their own one, or there would be one provided by the Church for you to use.
However in the Orthodox Church, this does not really happen. So the question is this: is the Orthodox CHurch less respectful of the Bible than Western Churches?
Simply put: no. It is just that in the Orthodox Church we manage things slightly differently.
The first time we, the Laity, see the BIble in a Liturgy is during the part of the service that we call “The Little Entrance”. This is the point,during the Third Antiphon, when the Priest (if there is no Deacon) comes out of the Deacon’s Door on our left as we face the altar. He is escorted by servers holding candles. The priest or deacon then holds the Bible in the air (actually it is just The Gospels) and in front of the Beautiful Gate (that is the doors in the centre of the iconostasis, sometimes incorrectly called The Royal Doors) and he proclaims “Wisdom, Stand alright”. The priest/deacon then enters the Altar through the Beautiful Gates. The servers go back into the Altar via the Deacon’s Door on the right.
Shortly after that, when the choir finish singing the Troparia and Kontakia of the Day, during the singing of the Trisagion Hymn, the Reader takes the Apostol (The Apostol is a book which contains The Acts of the Apostles and the New Testament Epistles) for a blessing from the Priest.
Returning to Nave, the Reader faces the iconostasis. At this the deacon calls on everyone to attend, and the priest pronounces the Peace (“Peace be with you all”) and the Reader responds “And with thy spirit”. The deacon says “Wisdom” and then the Prokeimenon is sung.
What is the Prokeimenon? The Prokeimenon is a liturgical verse or scriptural passage sung or read before the reading of the epistle. It can also serve as an introduction to the theme of the particular reading on feast days.
I will leave it at that for the moment, although you may notice that in some Parishes the Prokeimenon is sung by the choir and in others by the Reader.
After that, the Reader then chants the epistle reading for the day.
When the Reader has finished the epistle, he then chants the Alleluia for the day with the choir. The Alleluia acts to introduce the Gospel Reading, and consists of the Reader proclaiming the Alleluia and announcing the particular tone of the day. The Choir then respond by singing a threefold Alleluia in the correct tone and the Reader then chants the Alleluia verses.
Following this the Deacon (or Priest if no Deacon) then chants the daily reading from the Gospel. The Priest then follows this up by preaching a sermon.
I mentioned “Daily Readings” , by this I mean that the Church has a planned Lectionary of daily readings.
The ever-memorable Fr Thomas Hopko of blessed memory once said that 80-90% of an Orthodox service was straight from Scripture. We have just discussed the service readings in the Liturgy. But the Prokeimenon and the Alleluia verses themselves are from the Psalms. When the service starts, the Priest takes the Gospels and as he proclaims “ Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and unto ages of ages”, and he uses the Gospels to make the sign of the cross on the altar.
The first antiphon that the choir sings is Psalm 103, the second antiphon is Psalm 146 and the third antiphon is The Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. Towards the end of the service, the last prayer that we all pray together, is the prayer that Jesus taught us: Our Father, who art in Heaven.
As you can see from this brief introduction, even the Liturgy, the most common of our regular services is full of Holy Scripture. We can pick up Scripture by just concentrating on the service but for many of us that is not enough.
I would like to suggest a couple of websites that you might find useful if you want to know more about the Bible.
This is a very useful Church Calendar, which will not only give you the readings for the day-click on the reference and it will give the actual verse to read-but also tells you the names of each day’s saints, whether or not it is a fast day and what kind of fast it is. It will also give you the troparia and kontakia for the day!! (Webmaster's note: you can access this calendar at the top of the page www.orthodox-luton.org/more).
This one is slightly different. Fr Alexis Kouri is reading through the Bible in one year. He reads every day from the Old Testament, The Psalms, Proverbs and the New Testament. He starts at Genesis chapter one, Psalm one, Proverbs one and Matthew one on January 1st. You can join in whenever and wherever you want. It does not follow the Church Lectionary (The Church Lectionary does not include all of the Old Testament or the Book of Revelation), but in fact includes all of the BIble. I do know that some of the Parish already use this resource.