See 2017 Schedule Below
During Lent¹, five Wyoming Valley Byzantine Catholic Churches join together for Vesper (prayer) services held five consecutive Sunday afternoons. The services rotate to a different parish each week giving everyone a wonderful chance to make a small pilgrimage to each host site and to worship in community with each other. It is a way for faithful to spend a little extra time in an act of worship during the penitential period of Lent, known as the Great Fast.
The services take the form of what is traditionally Vespers (an evening prayer vigil) in Eastern Christian churches. It is a prayer vigil that dates back to the practices of the early Christian church when the lighting of lamps took place as evening approached. The service has many historical influences from the early Church Fathers. See also: The prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian
Vespers are a continuous blend of verses from the Psalms with hymns and prayers based on Scripture that are chanted (sung) in the Eastern liturgical style. The tones and patterns are easy to quickly learn for anyone to immediately join in the singing. Also traditional to the Eastern rite of the Catholic Church, symbolism plays a key role. The symbolic use of light, incense, icons, and frequently making the sign of the cross, are some of the ways a spirit of prayerfulness is enhanced.
- Anyone who attends will quickly experience being spiritually involved.
- Anyone who may not be familiar with Byzantine liturgical chant will find the chant style very easy to learn quickly.
- It is the traditional chant that makes this service an experience so very unique and moving. It is frequently described as being powerfully transcendent.
The service closes with a deeply penitential Lenten hymn traditional to the Byzantine Ruthenian rite. ²It is a hymn earnestly imploring God’s mercy, and it is sung alternately in English and in Church Slavonic. Church Slavonic is the language developed solely for church liturgical use in the Eastern European region of our parish founders’ ancestry. While it is also traditional for everyone to make prostrations (bows on the floor) during this hymn, our local parish custom usually reserves the need to do so to the clergy and altar servers present. Those faithful in the pews may show their reverence by making the sign of the cross and a bow.
The theme heard in the chanted verses of the Lenten Vesper services takes the faithful on a journey through salvation history. It begins with the creation of the world and the Old Testament period. The journey continues to where all witness the hope offered to mankind through Jesus. This hope is fulfilled with God’s promise made complete through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins and our redemption.
We welcome EVERYONE in our Wyoming Valley Community to join us at one or many of our Lenten Vespers Services
This is a great opportunity for everyone to experience the richness of our Eastern tradition.
If you have never been to a Byzantine church, this is an inspiring service to witness and participate in.
The liturgical chanting of the Psalms and litanies (prayers) are beautiful and easy to follow.
2017 Lenten Vespers Schedule – 3 pm
Confessions and A Lenten Social sponsored by each host parish follows the services
Sunday, March 5 St. Michael, Pittston – with children’s icon procession
Sunday, March 12 St. John, Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Sunday, March 19 St. Nicholas, Swoyersville
Sunday, March 26 St. Mary, Wilkes-Barre
Sunday, April 2 St. Mary, Kingston
¹In Eastern Christian churches, Lent does not begin on Ash Wednesday (as in the Western church), but instead two days earlier on the Monday of that same week. The first day of Lent (and Good Friday) is one of strict fast in which meat, eggs, dairy products are not allowed. Byzantine Catholics are required to abstain from meat on both Wednesdays and Fridays. Faithful are encouraged to expand fasting throughout Lent if possible, though not mandatary. The final week before Easter is known as Great and Holy Week. It is considered a separate time apart from the previous six weeks of Lent. During Great and Holy Week there is an elevated intensity each day and a different focus. Great and Holy Week is such a special week in Eastern churches that brings all of our Christian faith to a climax. We are given this time to make changes in our lives, to renew our spiritual direction so we can fully celebrate our joy and fullness in our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
²Traditional Lenten Hymn (sung three times)
Having suffered, the passion for us,
Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Have mercy, have mercy, have mercy on us.
Now do I go – to the cross,
No where else shall I find You,
Jesus Lord, peace of my soul.
There shall I find the Mother of God
Sorrow and pain piercing her heart.
Sorrow now is all I feel.