Wednesday, July 31, 2019

About the Great and Small Supplication (Paraklesis) Services to the Theotokos


There are two forms of the Paraklesis (Supplication) Canon to the Theotokos (Mother of God), The Small Paraklesis which was composed by Theosteriktos the Monk in the 9th century (or some say Theophanes), and The Great Paraklesis. During the majority of the year, only the Small Paraklesis to the Theotokos is chanted. However, during the Dormition Fast (Koimisis Nesteia) (August 1-14), the Typikon prescribes that the Small and Great Paraklesis (Supplication) be chanted on alternate evenings, according to the following regulations:

  • If August 1st falls on a Monday through Friday, the cycle begins with the Small Paraklesis (Supplication), if August 1st falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the cycle begins with the Great Paraklesis (Supplication).
  • On the eves of Sunday (i.e., Saturday nights) and on the eve of the Transfiguration (Metamorphosis) (the night of August 5th the Paraklesis (Supplication) is omitted.
  • On the Sunday nights, the Great Paraklesis is always used unless it is the eve of Transfiguration (Metamorphosis).

In the Russian Orthodox Church, the equivalent of a Paraklesis (Supplication) is because the faithful gather to supplicate the Theotokos to intercede on their behalf to her Son and Our God for our salvation and for the relief of anything that burdens and ails us. They are the prayers of suffering and hurting children addressed to their compassionate Mother, who is their only hope, protectress, and surety in time of need.

According to liturgical Professor John Fountoulis, even though the two Canons to the Theotokos are differentiated with the title "Small" and "Great", in fact they have the same number of Troparia (Hymns), both having thirty-two with four in each Ode. However the Great Canon is more extensive, though this does not justify the epithet. The real reason seems to be that the Great Canon is chanted in a more festive tone during the Dormition (Koimisis) Fast than the Small Canon, as shown in the Dismissal Hymns which begin: "O you Apostles from afar, being now gathered together here in the village of Gethsemane, lay my body in burial; and You, my Son and my God, receive my spirit."

Little research has been done on the historical circumstances that led to the poetry of the two Canons and the final morphology of the two Supplications (Parakleseis).

Regarding the Great Supplication Service, we have sufficient testimony to its authorship. The poet was Theodore II Dukas Laskaris, Emperor of Nicaea. He was Emperor in exile who reigned from 1254 to 1258 AD following the Fall of Constantinople to the Frankish (Latin) Crusaders (4th Crusade) in 1204. [Personal note: The Latin (Roman Catholic) 4th Crusade was so vicious and destructive that it rendered the center of Orthodox Christianity, Constantinople, unable to defend itself against the Ottoman Turks and in 1453 it fell to them. Because of this defeat the Orthodox Christian East was enslaved to the Muslims (Ottoman Turks) for 400-500 years.) 

THE AUTHORSHIP AND ORIGIN OF THE SMALL PARAKLESIS (SUPPLICATION) CANON

The Small Supplication (Paraklesis) service is older than the Great Supplication Service and is authorship is attributed by some to Theosteriktos the Monk, who lived in the 8th century. Others speculate it to be the work of Metropolitan Theophanes the Confessor of Nicaea who lived in the same century. Some even put forward Saint John the Damascene as the composer.

In the liturgical book Horologion it simply states as the author: "A poem of Theosteriktos the Monk. Others support Theophanes." Some say that these two names actually belonged to the same person: Theophanes was the name of Theosteriktos before he became a monk.

Recent research on the authorship of the Small Paraklesis states that it was authored by Saint Theosteriktos the Confessor. He used the previously authored Canon to the Theotokos by Saint Theophanes the Branded and other liturgical and ecclesiastical sources to compose the Small Paraklesis (Supplication). The Canon of Theophanes the Branded used previously existent verses from the Canon of Saint John the Damascene which he wrote for the feast of the Raising of Lazarus to write his hymns. Specifically he borrowed the following Eirmos: 1, 3, 6, and 7 Odes. The rest he either composed himself or borrowed from other liturgical sources. In this way, the Small Paraklesis (Supplication) Canon took a similar form and shape as that of the Great Paraklesis Canon.

The reason these holy services are called 'Paraklesis' (Supplication) is because the faithful gather to supplicate the Theotokos (Mother of God) to intercede on their behalf to her Son and our God for our salvation and for the relief of anything that burdens and ails us. There is no one closer to our Savior Jesus Christ than His Holy Mother, the Ever-Virgin Mary, and therefore her intercessions on our behalf are a matter of life and death for us sinners. She is our Heavenly Mother who constantly prays for the salvation of all humanity.

Believing in her love and compassion for us, we turn to her to intercede for us. Every genuine Orthodox Christian believer takes the Supplication services to the Theotokos seriously and adheres to our Holy Tradition.

It is most alarming that so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are not aware of the great importance of the divine services and Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church in our lives and Christian spirituality. All divine services were formed for the purpose of strengthening our communion with the Almighty God, for spiritual renewal, for spiritual regeneration, for cleansing of soul and body, for spiritual restoration and forgiveness, for the reception of the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Our Holy Orthodox Christian Tradition must not be marginalized by the individual believer, especially by those who may not know anything of substance of our Christian Faith. Usually the people who ignore the Tradition, are people who are selective of what they like or don't like of our Church. They are those  who are referred to as 'Cafeteria' type of Christians. They are the same ones who do not teach their children anything about our Christian faith and values. Who are mostly secular and worldly, than committed Christians, who practice the Divine Teachings and Commandments of Christ, daily.

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