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Akathists/Canons - General Questions + Bonus Question


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#1 Isaac_L

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 02:34 PM

Christ is in our midst!

 

So I think I'm just going to throw a bunch of questions out here, please bear with me.

 

1) Is there a distinction to be made between Akathists and Canons? I'm obviously not referring to the canon law, but various canons that are found in prayer books, etc.

 

2) When are they to be read/chanted? 

 

3) Why are they to be read/chanted?

 

4) In the Jordanville prayer book, it asks the pious Christian to read three canons (I think, I don't have it in front of me) as preparation for communion. Is this on top of the "order of preparation for holy communion?" Is this something to aspire to? Because my discipline is simply not there yet. It would be my assumption that there's not a "one size fits all" kind of thing?

 

OK, so not as many questions as I originally thought, but I may have more based on responses. And finally, a bonus question:

 

5) Who arranged the prayers that we have in most of our prayer books? How was it determined that these are the prayers to be said in the morning, in the evening, before communion, etc.?

 

I'm just simply not familiar with akathists/canons because I have not encountered them in the life of my parish, so hence my questions.

 

Thank you all very much!

 

Grace and peace,

Isaac



#2 Phoebe K.

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 05:14 PM

Hi,

 

Cannons and Akathists are different, the Primary Akathist most people know is the one to the Mother of God which is sung during Lent, although there are a large number of other ones to the Mother of God, to Christ himself and to the saints.  Akathist mean a set of prayes said without sitting down, they can be said or sung depending on the ability of those doing it, mostly they are meant to be sung however many parishes do not have enough singers who are caple of this as they are not short prayers.  Cannons on the other hand are most often sung as part of Matins every day of the year has between one and three set cannons although mostly these are not sung or only sung in part in parishes when matins is served (before liturgy or in a vidual).  At some points of the year cannons are also set to be sung in complean though this is normally only practiced in monestetys due to the time commitments involed.

 

The cannon of preperatin for Communion is said by those who do it (unforchantly many do not) during the complean service int he night before receiving communion, with the rest of the preparation prayers being said on waking after morning prayers but before going to Church.  I was tort this by my catichst while a caticumin as he had me say the cannon initially then all the prayers as part of my preparation for baptism.  I have been tort that the preperation for receving communion in to observe the fasts in the week (Wednesday and Friday along with any other fast days of seasons which my be set by the church calendar, to the ability of out heat as agreed with our Spiritual father) confess when needed (though different jurisdiction say different things in this area), to say complean on the night before approaching with the cannon of preparation and then the prayers of preparation after the normal morning prayers on the day of approaching the Chalice.

 

As I understand it (and I am shore someone else who knows more history can correct me if I am mistaken in anything) the Prayers as we currently use them have come together over a number of centerys, the Prayer book I use refers to various saints as the origins of the prayers used in the morning and evening along with the other offices.  What most lay people do as morning and evening prayers are a much reduced form of Matins and Vespers which are the offices of the Church for morning and evening, counting the full cyical of Psalms and often biblical readings.  Matins and vespers being said together with the offices of the hours and complean of night prayers, the full cyical did take time to come into it's current elaborate monastic form developing mostly in large monasteries and cathedrals (a simplified form being used in smaller village churches where there was not the clergy to do it all.  The shorter forms used by laity now have been complied by various people in varios languages in responce to changes in the way people live and to make it less scary to pray in the church's way as through much of history most were illiterate so memorized things like the Lord's prayer and some of the Psalms and prayed these at home but relied on the Church services for most of their prayer, however when people began to be literate they wanted to do more than this yet apart from the very devout found the full or even some of the church services too much, the church seeing this created shorter services which could be said by families at home to answer this need, never in stead of the Church services but in addition to them (though in the week they may take there place especially when it was difficult to get to church due to work commitments or persecution).  Most of the Prayer books used by the laity now are post WW2 in origin (many for the populations in exile and converts form the western traditions to orthodoxy) although there were popular devotional texts cercualting in the 19th century in Russia, before the invention of the Printing Press however they did not exist as written texts were done by hand so reserved for Church text and such prayers were committed to memory by the faithful. 

 

I hope this helps

 

Phoebe



#3 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 10:24 PM

To add to Phoebe's excellent post, I would just add a few observations. An akathist is a hymn in praise and honour of the saint to whom it is dedicated. Canons, on the other hand, chanted during Matins, are expositions of the theology of the week or of the saint or feast celebrated.

 

Preparation for Holy Communion varies from one local Church to another. Thus, in the Russian tradition (where partaking of Holy Communion is typically less frequent), more extensive preparation is prescribed including saying three canons (to Christ, the Mother of God and to the Guardian Angel) as well as the canon of preparation and the prayers before communion. In reality, many of the laity do not all do all of this but say the canon of preparation and the prayers before communion. Confession before communion is the general rule also.  In the Greek tradition, one should say the canon of preparation and the prayers before communion and confession is not insisted upon before every communion. The Jordanville prayer book reflects the Russian tradition, whilst the Holy Transfiguration Monastery prayer book the Greek tradition.  

 

In all such matters, however, we should not assume that we know what is best for us, just as we would not assume that we know best how to cure our illnesses. Rather, just as we go to see our physician when we are ill, so we have recourse to our parish priest/spiritual father and follow his guidance as to what we should know. I was taught that to seek to do more than what the books provide or what we may be advised to do is pride. With guidance, we find a rhythm which fits our soul.



#4 Father David Moser

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Posted 22 August 2014 - 02:01 PM

Christ is in our midst!

 

This particular greeting is traditionally used only by priests greeting each other.  It is not commonly used by laymen.

 

 

 

 


1) Is there a distinction to be made between Akathists and Canons? I'm obviously not referring to the canon law, but various canons that are found in prayer books, etc.

 

2) When are they to be read/chanted?

 

 

They are basically two different poetic forms. 

A canon has 9 Odes (of which the 2nd is almost always omitted (except during Great Lent - the Great Canon of St Andrew is a good example) due to its penitential character.,  Each ode begins with an irmos and then has a number of tropari separated by a common refrains; it then ends with a katavasia.  In parish practice the canon is normally part of the matins service.  In Byzantine tradition there is the tradition of singing a "small supplicatory canon" to the Mother of God as an occasional service.  In the Slav tradition this kind of service is more often the "molieben" (and an canon can be, but usually isn't, included in the molieben).  A common "abbreviation" in the services is to sing only the irmosi (often the way matins is sung in Byzantine practice) or only the refrains (often used in the Slavic molieben).

An akathist is a poem that has 12 parts.  Each part consists of a kontakion ending with the triple alleluia and an irmos with a set of refrains (it is frequently the case where the priest chants the kontakion and irmos and the alleluias and refrains are sung by the choir/people).  The common structure of the akathist is that each irmos will have 12 refrains, each different, that are then followed by a single line that is the same throughout the akathist.  The akathist is most often used as a part of one's personal prayers or can be sung as an occasional service in Church.  Example: When the Kursk Icon recently made the rounds in the diocese, there would always be an akathist to the Virgin sung before the icon in Church as a public service.  A short molieben (with no canon) would be sung at each home where the icon was brought to bless the house.


 

3) Why are they to be read/chanted?

 

 

They are used as prayers - either as a part of one's personal prayers  or incorporated in the communal prayers (services) of the Church.  I will sometimes "prescribe" the reading of an akathist to someone who is having a particular difficulty in their lives as a spiritual aid.  I have seen, for example, severe depression turned back with the daily reading of the akathist to the Mother of God.

 


4) In the Jordanville prayer book, it asks the pious Christian to read three canons (I think, I don't have it in front of me) as preparation for communion. Is this on top of the "order of preparation for holy communion?" Is this something to aspire to? Because my discipline is simply not there yet. It would be my assumption that there's not a "one size fits all" kind of thing?

 

 

The standard preparation for receiving communion in the Russian Church is to read three canons (Savior, Virgin, Guardian Angel) and one akathist (usually the Mother of God or the Savior - but there are others that can be used as well) the evening before one receives. These canons and akathist can be combined into a single unit and in the Jordanville Horologion such a service can be found (it can also be found and purchased in a separate booklet).  This combination service is sometimes read aloud in Church prior to the beginning of the All-Night Vigil for those who are preparing to receive the next day.  Then the morning that one receives a person will read the service of preparation which consists of psalms, troparia and a short canon followed by a standard set of prayers (about 10) culminating with the set of prayers "I believe O Lord and I confess ..." that is said in the Liturgy when the Gifts are presented.  Now keep in mind that in the Russian Church most people receive the Mysteries once or twice a year - the more pious receiving 4x a year with each fasting period.  For those who receive more frequently the rule can be lessened.

:

5) Who arranged the prayers that we have in most of our prayer books? How was it determined that these are the prayers to be said in the morning, in the evening, before communion, etc.?

 

 

The prayers were arranged by our old friend "tradition" - most likely based on monastic or clerical practice.  Keep in mind that general literacy was not common until after WWII (mid 20th century) and so written prayer books and prayer rules were not commonly used by the laity except by those who could read. Akathists and Canons, because they were poetic forms and were often sung, were more easily memorized and thus could be more easily learned and used by someone who was unable to read prayers from a book.

 

Fr David



#5 Isaac_L

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Posted 22 August 2014 - 03:19 PM

I sincerely thank you all for your very enlightening responses.

 

This particular greeting is traditionally used only by priests greeting each other.  It is not commonly used by laymen.

 

Fr David

 

My apologies Father David, I honestly have never heard that until this moment. Of course, I know there are other greetings used, but I've never known one that was typically only among clergy. Is this very well known? I know many laymen that use it.



#6 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 22 August 2014 - 07:16 PM

Keep in mind that general literacy was not common until after WWII (mid 20th century) and so written prayer books and prayer rules were not commonly used by the laity except by those who could read. Akathists and Canons, because they were poetic forms and were often sung, were more easily memorized and thus could be more easily learned and used by someone who was unable to read prayers from a book.

 

Though not really answering Isaac's question, it is, perhaps, worth pointing out that today most Russians in Russia do not understand the Church Slavonic language of the service and prayer books.


Edited by Reader Andreas, 22 August 2014 - 07:17 PM.





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