Pan-Orthodox Vespers on First Sunday of Great Lent

On Sunday evening, March 20, 2016, the faithful of Charleston’s Orthodox Christian parishes came together to greet the second week of the Great and Holy Fast with prayer. The Vespers service was held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on Race Street in Charleston where Fr. Aristotle Damaskos together with Deacon George Malanos serve the faithful. They were joined by Fr. John Parker and Deacon Mark Barna from Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in Mt. Pleasant, as well as Fr. Anastasy Yatrelis and Deacon Daniel Gregoire from Ss. Cyril and Methodius parish in Summerville. Parishioners from the different parishes were in attendance, prepared with icons brought from their homes.

Towards the end of the Vespers service, a procession with the holy icons was performed around the church to the singing of the dismissal hymn for the first Sunday of Great Lent, which commemorates the Triumph of Orthodoxy with the restoration of the icons after the decision of the Seventh Ecumenical Council convened by St. Patriarch Tarasius and with the support of the Empress Theodora and her son Michael.

We venerate Thine immaculate icon, O Good One,
asking the forgiveness of our failings, O Christ God;
for of Thine Own will thou wast well-pleased
to ascend the cross in the flesh,
that Thou mightest deliver from slavery to the enemy
those whom Thou hadst fashioned.
Wherefore we cry to Thee thankfully:
Thou didst fill all things with joy, O our Savior,
when Thou camest to save the world.

At the end of the procession, an excerpt from the Synodikon was proclaimed by the serving presbyters:

As the prophets beheld, as the apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the teachers have declared, as the world has agreed, as grace has shown forth, as truth has been revealed, as falsehood has been dispelled, as wisdom has become manifest, as Christ awarded; thus we declare; thus we affirm; thus we proclaim:

Christ our true God, and honor His saints in words, writings, thoughts, sacrifices, Churches, and Holy Icons; on the one hand, worshipping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord, and on the other, honoring the saints as true servants of the same Lord of all, and offering them proper veneration.

This is the faith of the apostles. This is the faith of the fathers. This is the faith of the Orthodox. This is the faith on which the world is established.

Therefore, with fraternal and filial love we praise the heralds of the faith, those who with glory and honor have struggled for the faith, and we say: to the champions of Orthodoxy, faithful emperors, most-holy patriarchs, hierarchs, teachers, martyrs, and confessors: May your memory be eternal.

After the service the faithful of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church hosted a quiet Lenten supper, to give members of the different parishes time to commune in conversation as they just had in prayer. Many thanks to Fr. Aristotle, Fr. Dcn. George, and the parishioners of Holy Trinity for hosting the first Pan-Orthodox Vespers in the Charleston area this Lent. For the rest of Great Lent, Holy Ascension parish in Mt. Pleasant will host Pan-Orthodox Vespers services on the third and fifth Sundays and Ss. Cyril and Methodius parish in Summerville will host on the fourth Sunday.

God bless you all during this Lenten spring for a continued prayerful and profitable fast as we prepare for the Light of Pascha!

Photos provided by Denny Remington

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