January 24, 2010

The Ceremony of the Opening of the "Triodion"

To be resurrected into a new life in Christ requires one also to suffer with Christ through crucifixion. This is precisely what the entire season of the Triodion, Great Lent, Holy Week and Pascha mean to Orthodox Christians. The Triodion prepares us to undergo this annual renewal process of our life in Christ. It is four Sundays of psychological preparation to undergo a more intense level of fasting and prayer during Great Lent which will serve as a means towards an end that will bear spiritual fruit.

I just became aware of a fascinating teleliturgical tradition which takes place annually on the island of Zakynthos that I believe should become a tradition in all Orthodox parishes in initiating this exciting and intense period of preparation. This beautiful ceremony takes place in the Church of St. Nicholas the Stranger and involves the sacred moment when the liturgical book known as the Triodion is first opened. The liturgical book known as the Triodion contains all the Services and Hymns which constitute the liturgical commemorations throughout the period of the Triodion, Great Lent and Holy Week, ending right before the midnight paschal service of Orthros which is contained in the liturgical book known as the Pentecostarion.

Here is how the ceremony takes place at the Church of St. Nicholas the Stranger. During Great Vespers on the Saturday evening of the commemoration of the Publican and the Pharisee, the Triodion book is placed under the despotic icon of Christ to the right of the Royal Gate on the iconstasis. It is placed on a stool which is covered in a black covering bearing a white Cross. During Great Vespers, following the Resurrection hymns and before the hymns from the Triodion are to be chanted, a member of the clergy takes the Triodion from its place and gives it to the bishop who is standing at his episcopal throne. After the bishop venerates the book it is handed to all the clergy who also venerate it. In the end the book is handed over to the protopsalti, or lead chanter, who after venerating the book opens it and begins chanting the appropriate hymns, thus inaugurating the season of repentance. In olden times a tray was passed around the church during this time among the parishioners and this money constituted the salary of the priest, but this practice no longer takes place since the priest is now payed through the State.


For more information on the Triodion, see
here, here and here.