Project Canterbury

Pictures of Russian Worship

With introductory note by the Rev. J. A. Douglas, B.D.

London: The Faith Press, c. 1915.


Introductory Note

By the Rev. J. A. Douglas, B.D.

THE illustrations of Esperinos, Orthros, and the Liturgy in this portfolio, (and of the Seven Sacraments in its companion), are reproduced from two sets of large coloured prints, issued with the imprimatur of the Holy Synod of Russia, i.e., the supreme ecclesiastical authority of that country, in which they are widely used for educational purposes. In the original--for the Russian is pre-eminently a Bible-loving Church--each picture is accompanied by another showing the Scriptural source of the Doctrine symbolised by the Act of Worship portrayed. Since these two portfolios aim at helping to bring home to the ordinary English Churchman the substantial identity in Faith and Practice of the Holy Eastern-Orthodox Church with our own, a few words will be desirable in general preface.

ALTHOUGH these pictures are Russian they will serve (except for variations, such as the cut of the chasuble, quite unimportant in themselves) to illustrate Public Worship and the Ministering of the Sacraments in any part of the Eastern-Orthodox Church.

RUSSIA itself was converted to Christianity under King Vladimir in A.D. 988 by missionaries sent from Constantinople, which was then the capital of the Roman Empire of the East, and thus became a part of that Patriarchate. At that date the schism between East and West was practically accomplished. The Christianity of Russia was, therefore, entirely derived through Byzantine, i.e., Greek, sources and has always been entirely independent of Roman or other Western influence. The Russia of the Conversion was, of course, a comparatively small country. Its growth however, has been by assimilation and the unity of the Russian Church is real and not artificial.

IN spite of the final overthrow of the Eastern Empire at the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in A.D. 1453, and of the subsequent subjection of the Greek nation to Moslem masters, the Oecumenical Patriarch continued to claim jurisdiction over the Russian Church until A.D. 1589, when it was acknowledged to be autocephalous and the Metropolitan of Moscow received the title of Patriarch.

[The mark of an autocephalous Church is that its bishops elect and consecrate their own chief, who, under Christ, owes fealty to no ecclesiastical superior. The name Patriarch, which signifies the founder of a family, was given to the Bishops of those Churches which in Apostolic times had been, as it were, mothers of Churches. Such were originally Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. To these the Council of Nicwa added Jerusalem and Constantinople, thus fixing the number to five. The schism of Rome left only four in inter-communion, and, although without a Patriarch since 1700 A.D. and ruled by the Holy Synod, (a council composed of the Metropolitans of S. Petersburg, Kiev and Moscow, the Exarch of Georgia, and a layman representing the Czar) since 1723 A.D., the Russian Church is counted as the fifth Patriarchate. The Patriarch of Constantinople has been known as the Oecumenical Patriarch or Patriarch of the Roman Empire, i.e., Oikoumene, since the 6th century. The title seems originally to have connoted jurisdiction in the Emperor's name in all civil causes in which monks and clergy were engaged.]

AUTOCEPHALOUS, which may roughly be rendered "its own head," is a significant word. It is the peculiar happiness of the Eastern-Orthodox Church that in her faithfulness to the primitive principles of Christian Polity, she has never found place for a central coercive authority. It is, therefore, axiomatic with her that each independent and selfgoverning community of the faithful has a right to be free from outside jurisdiction and to be regarded as a self-governing unit. Such units are rightly called "Churches" without any confusion of mind in regard to the Holy Eastern-Orthodox Church in the Communion of which they all have part.

FAMILIARISED, however, as are our Western minds to the terms of papal controversy, we shall do well to note that, to an Eastern-Orthodox, an autocephalous Church is no more than a local organisation of the whole Church and that membership is regarded as being of the body and not of the part. The principle of this solidarity was thus happily expressed by Theophilus, Archbishop of Athens, in 1872:--"Union with the Orthodox Church . . . is not a slavish subjection of some to others; it is not a despotic raising up or a tyrannical levelling down of national peculiarities and differences--but a certain brotherly, harmonious binding together of spirit, manifested through a common Creed, voluntarily accepted, of the fundamentals of the Faith, which the Divine Scriptures, the Apostolic Tradition, and the (Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church have defined for us."

BESIDES the four ancient Patriarchates, the Russian Church and the ancient autocephalous Church of Cyprus, the Church of each independent nationality in the EasternOrthodox Communion is autocephalous. Thus there are autocephalous Churches for Greece, Roumania, Serbia and Montenegro, and for certain Slav and Rouman communities in Austria Hungary. [Now that Bulgaria is theoretically as well as completely independent of the Sultan, there would be no difficulty as to the Bulgar Church being recognised as autocephalous, if it were not for its claim to have an Exarch in Constantinople holding jurisdiction over all Bulgars in European Turkey.] Each of these may develop its national character but carefully safeguards the same fundamentals as its sister churches--the penalty for a departure from which would be the loss of their communion.

THUS, throughout the whole of the Eastern-Orthodox Communion the Apostolic Faith (as set forth in the Creed of Nicaea and by the Seven Councils) is held in its entirety and without addition. The Apostolic Ministry is essential. The Seven Sacraments are duly administered. The living and the dead are united by prayer and intercession, the Blessed Virgin, as Theotokos, being invoked with great devotion. [A Greek word meaning Bearer, or Mother, of God.] The Eucharist is the focus of all spiritual life. It is offered for the departed and reserved for the sick. It is administered to little children and is the bounden act of worship for the adult. It may be celebrated every day but must be so "quite indispensably every Sunday . . . and on every Feast of Christ, of the Mother of God and of the other Saints." [Bernadakis.]

MOREOVER, seeing that each autocephalous Church jealously safeguards, and is inspired by, the traditions of the whole, this identity of Faith eventuates in, and is met by, a unity of Practice. Accordingly, throughout the whole of the Eastern-Orthodox Church, although in Greek or in the different Slav languages, the same Liturgy and Offices are used. The same Fasts, viz:--before Christmass, Easter, the Feast of the Holy Apostles and the Falling-asleep of the Theotokos, are kept in the same manner. And so forth.

APART from minute local variations, the Ceremonies and Ornaments are the same everywhere, the division and arrangement of the churches presenting the same features. For this reason anyone who has gained familiarity with the services of a Greek Church in Alexandria will find himself at home with those of a Russian in Petrograd. Though the language is different, he will be able to follow every detail of the Liturgy and will never be at a loss in regard to what is being said or done. This happy state of things is the effect of intrinsic harmony and not of a constraint towards uniformity. The Eastern-Orthodox Church is, thus, not only a witness to us in England of the Faith and Practice of the East in the days of the undivided Church. She is also the exemplar of a true Catholicity, which, without injury to the whole, gives the freest play to national life, character and initiative.

THE following notes will be of service in general explanation of our illustrations:--

THE CLERGY. Priests and deacons, who are not monks, must be married. Bishops are always chosen from the monasteries. The ordinary dress of the clergy is a large-sleeved black gown (Gk. rasos, Slav. rhiassa) worn over a cassock-like undergarment, and a tall black cap shaped like a brimless top-hat. According as the latter is worn or not, the hair, which, “after the manner of a Nazarite" is uncut, is rolled up under it or hangs down the back.

THE VESTMENTS are (1) The Alb (Gk. sticharion--Slav. stichar) worn by the three orders--a sleeved tunic or gown, reaching to the feet, properly of linen, but for deacons sometimes of other material and coloured. (2) The Cuffs (Gk. epimanika--Slav. naroukawnitza)--armlets worn by the three orders. (3) "The Stole"--i. For Bishops and Priests (Gk. epitrachelion--Slav. epitrachil) worn in front, a wide strip of embroidered silk, sewn into one and leaving a hole at one end for the head. ii. For Deacons (Gk. orarion--Slav. orar) a narrow strip of silk worn sometimes hanging loose, back and front, over the left shoulder, and at other times with the two ends passed under the right arm and thrown over the left shoulder. (4) The Girdle (Gk. zone--Slav. poyas) worn by bishops and priests--not a cord but a waistband. (5) The Chasuble (Gk. phelonion--Slav. felon) worn by priests--a semicircle like a cope, sewn up in front and shortened, but still covering the arms. In Russia the front is cut away, leaving a fall of about nine inches from the neck, the back being stiffened. (6) The Sakkos, worn by bishops--a loose-sleeved tunic, identical in form with our Dalmatic. No sequence of colours exists.

Nothing corresponding to the surplice is worn, but, at certain Offices and in the absence of ceremonial, bishops, priests and deacons wear the Stole over their walking dress.

IMAGES are forbidden, but sacred pictures--eikons--are everywhere in evidence, and, by act of the Seventh Council, are the frequent objects of ritual devotion. For example, it is usual to kiss certain eikons on entering and leaving church, to burn votive tapers in front of them, etc.

THE CHURCHES are carefully orientated and are most frequently divided into nave and aisles. A gallery above the aisles, or only over the west end, is theoretically the place for women, but in most places they use the nave in common with the men. An Englishman could not fail to remark the bareness of the nave, which is destitute of all seating and is furnished only with a Throne for the Bishop on the south side of the Royal Gates, a pulpit, candlesticks, stands for eikons, etc. A large Corona generally hangs from the centre of the roof. The salient outside feature of an Eastern-Orthodox Church is the dome. With the Greek this is of the type with which we are familiar. With the Russian buildings, which frequently have five, this is something like an inverted Spanish onion. The Turks, having appropriated all ancient Churches as Mosques, forbade the Greeks to build any which might be mistaken for them. Consequently Greek Churches in Turkey and many outside that country have no domes.

THE EIKONOSTASIS is a lofty screen which cuts off the East end of the Church, called the Bema, and is divided into three parts, generally corresponding with the nave and aisles. The centre chamber to the East of the screen is the widest and forms the Sanctuary, being called the Altar. The chamber on the North side is the Chapel of the Prothesis. The chamber on the South is generally used as a Sacristy. The Eikonostasis is pierced in the middle by large folding doors, which, because the Blessed Sacrament is brought in and out through them, are known as the Royal Gates. The upper part of each of these doors is cut away and the space left is covered by a curtain which is drawn back at certain parts of the Liturgy, and on which is usually a representation of the Annunciation. The Eikonostasis is so called from the eikons placed upon it, of which there may be one or more rows according to its height. These always include, on the south of the Royal Gates, an Eikon of our Lord and to the right of it, that of the Patron Saint of the Church. On the north of the Royal Gates is that of the Virgin and Child. An eikon of the Baptist or Forerunner is usually included, and a Calvary generally surmounts the Royal Doors.

THE AMBO, a term which formerly designated the pulpit, is now applied to a double-stepped platform running out into the nave from the Royal Gates with a semicircular ending. It is usually covered with a carpet.

THE HOLY TABLE, the top of which is square, and which is as near a cube as may be, stands in the centre of the Altar without any footpace. It is furnished with Cross, Candlesticks, Eikon of the Theotokos, The Ark with the Holy Sacrament reserved by intinction in both kinds, and a linen cloth covered by another of brocade. At the time of Celebration another cloth is spread, the Eileton or Corporal, which contains the Antiminsion, a cloth consecrated by the Bishop, on which alone the Eucharist may be celebrated. The Eileton is always embroidered with the Entombment.

Along the East wall of the Altar is a row of twelve seats with a throne in the centre for the Bishop. These are called the Synthronos, and both typify the Apostolic government of the Church and are used by those clergy present who are not officiating.

THE HOLY ELEMENTS. In the Chapel of the Prothesis is a smaller table for the preparation of the Holy Elements. The Eucharistic Bread is always leavened and is baked in loaves shaped something like cottage loaves and about the size of a very small roll. These are called prosphori, are flat on top and are sealed with the letters IC. XP. NIKA, i.e. "Jesus Christ conquers." Five prosphori are cut up at each Celebration. The part taken from the first is the size of the seal and is called the "Lamb," this being used at the Consecration. The parts from the others vary in size and are pyramid shaped. They commemorate respectively the Theotokos, the Forerunner, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs and other Saints, the Living and the Dead.

The Eucharistic Wine is ceremonially mixed with warm water.

THE HOLY VESSELS. The Paten has a foot. The Chalice is narrow and deep. In addition a spear-shaped Knife (the lonche) is used to cut the Bread, and a Star (the aster) to hold up the paten veil and keep the Bread in place. The people are communicated with a Spoon, and the water for the Mixed Chalice is brought in a metal Bowl with a handle.

CEREMONIAL. No distinction, such as Low Mass and High Mass, is known, all celebrations being accompanied by the same ceremonial. [There is early and late Mass, however, in large Churches and since the congregation and Choir are larger at the latter, it takes longer.] If possible a Deacon must be present. Incense is freely used both as a fumigatory and to cense things. Lights are burned in procession as well as at the Holy Table. Fans, which are eikons of the six-winged Cherubim and are therefore so called, are carried in procession.

It is the strict rule that each Holy Table shall only be used once on each day and that no priest shall celebrate more than once daily. Large Churches sometimes contain two or more Holy Tables, each in a Sanctuary of a separate Dedication.

Fasting Communion is most rigorously observed. Communion is obligatory at Christmass, Easter, the Feast of the Apostles (June 29) and the Koimesis (Falling-asleep) of the Theotokos, August 15th, and is always prefaced by a strict fast for three or more days, and Confession.

THE CHOIR stands on the north side, or on both sides of the Ambo. No instrumental music is ever used. All singing is in unison and is confined to male voices. The Choir is led by a Reader who precents the Psalms and conducts the singing, etc. There is no special Choir dress. The black gown of the clergy, however, is frequently worn by the Reader and Choir. Acolytes in procession often wear the Alb.

THE PEOPLE stand throughout the whole Service, at Sermons and in prayer as well as to praise. The devout frequently kneel e.g. at the "Entrances" (see below) as a mark of devotion. The congregation, as a whole, does not join in the singing, but individuals do so throughout. It is sufficient to be there "to listen." Everyone follows the Service, but acts 'as devotion serveth.'

THE SIGN OF THE CROSS is made almost with the frequency enjoined by Tertullian. The thumb and two first fingers are used to touch first the forehead, then the lower chest, next the right shoulder (not as with us the left), and finally the left shoulder.

IN ITS WORSHIP the Russian Church has the same arrangement of ordinary corporate devotion as the Church of England, namely, a Daily Office (Evening and Morning) and, of course, the Divine Liturgy. But one difference should be borne in mind with regard to the Daily Office. Like the Jews and other Eastern peoples the Russians regard the sacred "Day" as beginning at sunset or what we should call the Eve. (see Gen. 1 5, Dan. 8 14). Consequently the first public service of a Feast is Evensong. [Esperinos, Orthros and the Divine Liturgy may be studied in any of the translations enumerated on page 63 of the Eastern-Orthodox Church Association's Report for 1912-14, to be had of the Secretary, 27 Finsbury Square, E.C. price 4d.]

ESPERINOS, or Evensong, consists of the recitation of Psalms, Troparia or short hymns, Invocation of the Theotokos, a Confession, Prayers, and the Nunc Dimittis. The illustrations are of Great Esperinos, when combined with Orthros on the Vigil of a Feast:--

1. The Censing of the Church at the opening of the Service. The 103 (our 104) Psalm is being sung.

2. The First Cathisma, sung by the choir, after a Litany recited by the Deacon.

3. The Entry of the Clergy at the Nunc Dimittis.

In Russia, when rendered separately Esperinos usually begins about 4 p.m. When combined with Orthros, which then follows and is joined to it, it usually begins about 6 p.m. Otherwise Orthros begins at 4 a.m. and immediately precedes the Divine Liturgy.

In the East the Septuagint is the "authorised version" of the O.T. The Psalms, therefore, follow its notation and count Psalms 9 and 10 as Psalm 9, after which one must always be subtracted from the number of a Psalm in our versions.

The Psalter for purposes of recitation is divided in the Eastern Hours into 20 Cathismata or sittings.

ORTHROS or Lauds, is of similar structure. The illustrations are of:--

4 The Ascription of Praise, “Glory to God in the Highest" at the beginning of the Office before the recitation of the Hexapsalmos, i.e., psalms 3, 38, 63, 88, 103, 142, according to our notation.

5. The Deacon exclaiming, “God is the Lord and He path appeared unto us. Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord," at the conclusion of the Hexapsalmos;

6. The Priest Censing the Church at the Polyelees;

7. The Bringing out the Gospel for Veneration and Kissing at Great Feasts;

8. The Great Doxology at the end of the Office.

THE DIVINE LITURGY consists of three parts:--

(1) The Preparation of the Elements, performed in the Chapel of the Prothesis, during which the Reader and Choir render the Hours--the Priest and Deacon only icoming out to them when their presence is necessary. [The Symbolism and movement of the Liturgy may be studied in Gogol's Meditations on the Divine Liturgy (Mowbray 1/6).]

(2) The Liturgy of the Catechumens, the chief features of which are a Litany recited by the Deacon at the Ambo--the recitation of the Beatitudes by the Reader and Choir -- the Little Entrance, i.e. the Bringing in of the Gospel by the Priest and Deacon--the Epistle read by a Reader and the Gospel by the Deacon--and the Dismissal of the Catechumens, at which, since it is nowadays an historical survival, there is of course no pause in the Service.

(3) The Liturgy of the Faithful, of which the chief features are the Great Entrance of the Priest and Deacon, bearing the Holy Vessels out of the Door of the Prothesis and passing to the Holy Table by the Royal Gates, while the Cherubic Hymn [The Cherubic Hymn is strictly Alleluia, but, in symbolism of the approach of the King of Kings, that word is prefixed with "Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim, and sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-giving Trinity, lay aside all worldly cares and receive the King of Glory invisibly surrounded by His Angel bodyguard." The symbolism is drawn from the Emperor's Entry into Agia Sophia.] is sung--a Prayer of Oblation and the Censing of the Elements--the recitation of a Litany by the Deacon at the Ambo--the Kiss of Peace [The Priests present all kiss the Paten and Chalice and the edge of the Holy Table and then one another's hand. Each Deacon present kisses the Cross on his orarion and then the other Deacons' shoulder. The people take no part in the ceremony.]--the Recitation of the Creed--the Sursum Corda, Tersanctus and Benedictus--the Consecration at which the Church Bell is rung--the Intercession for the Living and the Dead--the Lord's Prayer--the Communion of the Priest and Deacon--the Communion of the People in both kinds by Intinctionthe Showing of the Paten and Chalice and their taking back to the Prothesis in order that the Sacrament may there be consumed by the Deacon--the Blessing and the Dismissals.

The Antidoron, i.e. the unconsecrated bread, cut into cubes of about half an inch, is then distributed to the People in memory of the primitive Agape. Our illustrations are of:--

9. The Preparation of the Holy Elements;

10. The Little Entrance;

11. The Reading of the Gospel;

12. The Great Entrance;

13. The Consecration;

14. The Communion of the Clergy;

15. The First Appearance of the Consecrated Elements--The Communion of the People.

16. The Last Appearance of the Consecrated Elements before being carried to the Prothesis.

THE CALENDAR of the Eastern-Orthodox Church is fixed by the Old Style and is thirteen days behind our own, e.g. Christmass Eve thus falls on our Epiphany. Christmass, which is observed with great rejoicing, is prefaced by a fast of 40 days, during which, as in all fasts, no animal product, such as cheese may be eaten, the diet of the peasantry being very rigorous. The Epiphany or Feast of Lights (Jan. 6) is of great importance and chiefly commemorates our Lord's Baptism. Easter Day, as in the West, is the Sunday following the fourteenth day after the new moon next to March 6 (Mar. 13 O.S.), but is not often the same as our own. It is preceded by an abstinence from meat after the seventh Sunday before Easter and a fast after the sixth. The cycle of Holy Week is observed with many impressive ceremonies, eikons of the Crucifixion and the Entombment being exposed on a catafalque in the body of the Church and a Burial Dirge being sung on Good Friday. Easter is marked by the Lighting of the Holy Fire, the singing the Gospel in many languages and the distribution of Easter eggs, often beautifully painted and gilt, after the Liturgy. Ascension and Whit Sunday fall as with us; but the Sunday after Whit Sunday which is kept as All Saints' Day, is followed by the Fast of the Apostles which lasts until June 29 (SS. Peter and Paul). The Koimesis or Falling Asleep of the Virgin, Aug. 15, is kept with great devotion and is preceded by the Fast of the Theotokos from August 1st. Easter is pre-eminent as "the Feast." Next in importance come sixteen ‘great feasts,' Christmass, Epiphany, the Purification, the Annunciation, Palm Sunday, the Ascension, Whit Sunday, the Transfiguration, the Koimesis, the Nativity of the B.V.M., Holy Cross Day (Sept. 14), the Presentation, the Circumcision, the Nativity and Beheading of the Baptist, who is greatly honoured, and SS. Peter and Paul.

1. Evensong.

The Censing of the Nave. This ceremont takes place at the beginning of the Office, while the Choior sing Psalm 103 (our 104), the Priest and Deacon both being fully vested and the latter bearing a torch. The moment illustrated is when the Eikon of our Lord (called the Despotes) is censed.

2. Evensong

Recitation of the first Cathisma. The Deacon, raising his orar before the Despotes, has just sung the Great Litany. N.B. The Psalter is divided into twenty Cathismata or Sessions. Psalms 1, 2, 3 only are sung on most days.

3. Evensong

The Entrance of the Clergy. After the Cathisma follow a Lesser Litany and Psalms 140, 141, 129, 116. Then the Priest, preceded by the Deacon with the censer and a Reader carrying a torch, enters the Nave from the Prothesis, and stands, while the Deacon censes the Sanctuary, outside the Royal Doors. He then enters and the Doors are shut. Certain prayers, lections and hymns of the Feast, the Nunc Dimittis, Our Father etc. close the Office.

4. Morning Prayer

The Hexapsalmos. This is Psalms 3, 37, 62, 87, 102, 142, which the Reader and the Choir recite at the beginning of the Office, after saying thrice, Glory be to God in the highest. In earth Peace. Goodwill among men.

5. Morning Prayer

The Great Litany. After the Hexapsalmos the Deacon says the Great Litany, leading the four-fold exclamation, God is the Lord and hath appeared unto us. Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.

6. Morning Prayer

Psalms 134, 135 are followed by hymns of the Resurrection, etc., during which the Priest censes the Nave, the Choir singing, "The myrrh-bearing women, who came with their myrrh to Thy Tomb, O Lord, were weeping. But Angels said to them, 'Why seek ye the living with the dead? For as God He is risen.'"

7. Morning Prayer

The Bringing forth of the Book of Gospels for veneration and kissing. AFter the reading of the Gospel of the Feast, the Choir sing, "Having seen the Resurrection of the Lord, let us bow down before the Holy One, Jesus, the Sinless. Let all the faithful come and bow down before the Holy Christ's Resurrection."

8. Lauds

The Great Doxology. After Psalm 50, hymns proper to the Feast, etc., and the Magnificat, the Great Doxology is sung, "Glory to God in the Highest and in earth Peace, Goodwill among men. We praise Thee. We bless Thee. We glorify Thee. We thank Thee for Thy great Glory ... O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, Who takest away the sins of the World, ... receive our prayer .... have mercy upon us." The Office closes with Our Father.

9. The Liturgy (The Prothesis)

The Priest preparing the Bread. The Lamb is under the Asterisk on the Paten.

10. The Liturgy (The Mass of the Catechumens)

The Little Entrance. The Clergy bringing in the Book of the Gospels.

11. The Liturgy (The Mass of the Catechumens)

The Holy Gospel. Read by the Deacon standing on the Ambo, at a portable desk. N.B. The Gospel is sometimes read from the pulpit.

12. The Liturgy (The Mass of the Faithful)

The Great Entrance. The Priest and Deacon, bringing in the Holy Elements.

13. The Liturgy (The Mass of the Faithful)

The Consecration.

14. The Liturgy (The Mass of the Faithful)

The Communion of the Clergy. The Priest first takes the Sacred Body, and then, having given It to the Deacon, takes the Precious Blood. If the Deacon is not receiving, he stands at the Priest's right.

15. The Liturgy (The Mass of the Faithful)

Showing the Holy Sacrament before the Communion of the People. N.B. The Administration is illustrated in the companion portfolio, "The Sacraments in Russia."

16. The Liturgy (Mass of the Faithful)

This is the conclusion of the Service. The Residue of the Sacrament is consumed by the Deacon, if communicating.


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