Great Vespers of Saint Nicholas

the Wonderworker (with chant)

The Schola Cantorum of Saint Peter the Apostle, J. Michael Thompson, Director

1. Introduction, Beginning Prayers, Psalm 103
2. Litany of Peace
3. The First Kathisma
4. The Lamplighting Psalms
5. Hymns on "O Lord, I Have Cried," part 1
6. Hymns on "O Lord, I Have Cried," part 2
7. Hymns on "O Lord, I Have Cried," part 3
8. Festive Entrance & Phos Hilaron
9. Litany of Supplication & Litany of Fervent Supplication
10. Hymns of the Litija
11. Aposticha
12. Prayer of St. Simeon the God-Bearer & Trisagion
13. Troparion of St. Nicholas, Blessing of Bread
14. Dismissal
15. Magnification & Bolharskij Pripiv of St. Nicholas

Saint Nicholas Byzantine icon
Saint Nicholas
Byzantine Catholic Seminary of SS Cyril & Methodius
Used by permission

About Saint Nicholas
The great veneration with which this saint has been honored for many years are testimonials to his holiness and of the glory which he enjoys with God. He is said to have been born in Patara in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor. Myra, the capital, was an Episcopal See, and Nicholas was chosen its bishop. As bishop, he was renowned for his extraordinary piety and zeal and many astonishing miracles—to such an extent that he is listed in the calendar as "the wonderworker." The Greek histories of his life agree that he suffered imprisonment for the faith, and made a glorious confession in the latter part of the persecution of Diocletian, and that he was present at the First Ecumenical Council (at Nicaea, AD 325) which condemned Arius and his heresy. He died at Myra and was buried in his cathedral. Many of the miracles and events of the life of Saint Nicholas are related in the hymnody of his feast, some of which is recorded here.

About the service
The service of Great Vespers begins almost all feast days in the Byzantine Church. All days start with Vespers, since the account of creation in Genesis 1 says, "And there was evening, and there was morning . . . ." The service consists of the singing of psalms and hymns, and the praying of intercessory litanies. On more important feast days, the service is augmented with hymnody connected with the subject of the feast, as well as readings and an intercessory procession (litija).

About the music
Most of the local churches which make up the Byzantine liturgical family have their own set of melodies called 'chant.' The chant which is utilized on this recording is prostopinije, the plain chant of the people of Carpatho-Rus' (divided in current geography between Slovakia and Ukraine). Prostopinije is derived in part from the plainchant tradition called Znammeny chant, and part from the local creativity of the people of Carpatho-Rus'. Melodies which are used more rarely tend to have forms which are easily traceable back to Znammeny sources; melodies used every day are more likely to have evolved and changed. The music of this service falls into four distinct groups:

  1. The music of the unchanging portions of the service. This would include
    1. the melodies of the responses to the litanies;
    2. the 'psalm tone' used to chant the portions of the service not governed by the cycle of eight tones;
    3. the melodies sung to the Proemial Psalm, the First Kathisma, the Prayer of Saint Simeon and to the 'Blessed be the Name of the Lord.'
  2. The music of the changing portions of the service involves three organizational units:
    1. those sung to samohlasen melodies;
    2. those sung to resurrectional melodies;
    3. those sung prokeimenon melodies;
    4. those sung to bolhar melodies; and
    5. those sung to podoben melodies. Samohlasen melodies are used to sing the introductory verses of the Lamplighting Psalms and the hymns which trope them, and the hymns of the Aposticha. There are eight melodies (tones) for the samohlasen. Resurrectional melodies are used at Vespers for the Troparion of the Day and the Theotokion associated with it. There are eight melodies of the Resurrectional tones. Prokeimenon melodies are sung with the Prokeimenon of the Day. There are eight melodies of the Prokeimenon tones. Bolhar melodies, at Vespers, are sung with the hymns sung in the procession of the Litija. In Carpatho-Rus'ian prostopinije, there are only four (in some countings, five) Bolhar melodies, for Tones I, II, IV, V (and, in one source, VI). Podoben melodies are used by the Church as a form of increased musical solemnity. The melodies were written to go with one particular text, and have an association with one of the Eight Tones. When one of these melodies is intended by the Typikon (the book which orders the conduct of services), it is indicated by its tone designation, and the text for which it was written. On this recording, there are three podoben melodies: a, Tone II podoben, Jehda of dreva; b, Tone II podoben, Kiimi pochval'nimi; and c, Tone V podoben, Radujsja zhivonosnyj Kreste.

    1. Introduction and Beginning Prayers

    Blessed is our God always, now and ever and forever. Amen.
          Glory to You, O God, glory to You!
    O heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, You are everywhere present and fill all things, Treasury of blessings and Giver of life: come and dwell within us, cleanse us of all stain, and save our souls, O gracious Lord.
         Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us! (three times)
    Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
    now and ever and forever. Amen.
         O most holy Trinity, have mercy on us;
         O Lord, cleanse us of our sins;
         O Master, forgive our transgressions;
         O Holy One, come to us and heal our infirmities for Your Name's sake.
    Lord, have mercy. (three times)
         Glory to the Father . . . .
    Our Father . . . forgive us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever. Amen.
    Lord, have mercy. (twelve times)
    Glory to the Father . . .
         Come, let us adore the King, our God.
         Come, let us adore Christ, the King and our God.
         Come, let us adore and bow down to the only Lord Jesus Christ, our King and our God.

    Psalm of Introduction (Psalm 1O3)

    Bless the Lord, O my soul!
    O Lord my God, You are great indeed.
    You are clothed with glory and majesty;
    You clothe Yourself with light as with a cloak.
    You stretch out the heavens like a canopy;
    You lay the beams of Your chambers in the waters.
    You make the clouds Your chariot;
    You walk upon the wings of the wind.
    You make Your Angels spirits,
    Your servants a flaming fire.
    You laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed forever.
    Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever.
    Amen. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
    Glory to You, O God! (three times)

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    2. The Litany of Peace

    3. The First Kathisma

    Blessed is the man, alleluia, who has not walked in the counsel of the wicked.
    Alleluia! (three times)
    For the Lord knows the way of the just, but the way of the wicked shall be lost.
    Serve the Lord with fear, exult in Him with trembling. Alleluia!
    Blessed are those who trust in Him! Alleluia!
    Arise, O Lord! Save me, my God! Alleluia!
    Salvation is of the Lord!
    Upon Your people, Your blessing! Alleluia!
    Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit! Alleluia!
    Now and ever and forever. Amen. Alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
    Glory to You, O God! (three times)

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    4. The Lamplighting Psalms

    [Psalm 140]
    These verses are sung in Tone II, samohlas.
    O Lord, I have cried to You: hear me! Hear me, O Lord!
    O Lord, I have cried to You: hear me!
    Receive the voice of my prayer when I call upon You. Hear me, O Lord!
    Let my prayer rise like incense before You,
    and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. Hear me, O Lord!
    These verses are chanted on the psalm tone.
    Set a guard, O Lord, before my mouth, and a portal around my lips.
    Incline my heart away from evil doings, from finding excuses for sinful deeds.
    In company with those who work iniquity, let me not partake of what they choose.
    May the just chasten me with justice and reprove me;
    may the oil of the wicked never touch my head.
    Yet even then shall I pray for their welfare.
    Their rulers were swallowed near the rock.
    My words will be heard, for they were sweet. As a lump of clay broken on the ground, so their bones were strewn near the grave.
    To You, Lord, O Lord, my eyes are lifted up.
    In You have I hoped; let not my soul be lost.
    Keep me from the snare that was set for me, and from the stumbling-blocks of the wicked.
    The wicked shall fall into their own nets, while I remain alone until I can escape.
    [Psalm 141]
    With my voice I cried to the Lord; with all my voice I implored the Lord.
    Before Him I pour out my supplications; before Him I declare my distress.
    When my breath was escaping me, then You knew my paths.
    On the road upon which I was walking, they set up snares for me.
    I looked to my right and observed: there was no one friendly to me.
    Even flight was denied me; there was no one to take care of my life.
    I cried out to You, O Lord, and said:
    "You are my hope, my share in the land of the living."
    Listen to my supplication, for I am laid very low.
    Deliver me from my oppressors; for they have overwhelmed me.
    Lead my soul forth from prison, that I may give thanks to Your Name.
    The just shall gather around me when You have been good to me.

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    5. Hymns on "O Lord I Have Cried," part 1

    Cantor, on 8, in Tone II:
    [Psalm 129]
    Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice!
    All, 8, Tone II podoben, Jehda of dreva:
    O holy Nicholas, bishop of Christ, you lived your life with the people of Myra.
    But since your spirit was anointed, your fragrance of sanctity was known by all.
    Now you anoint the faithful who show their love for you.
    O father, deliver us from all distress and sorrow, as you pray to the Lord for us.
    Cantor, on 7:
    Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my prayer.
    All, 7:
    O holy Nicholas, true servant of Christ,
    you are truly a protector of your faithful flock;
    and whenever you were asked for help, you gladly assisted those who sought your aid.
    Now you are also ready by day or night to deliver us from all distress and sorrow.
    Cantor, on 6:
    If You mark iniquities, O Lord, who can stand?
    But with You forgiveness is that You may be revered.
    All, 6:
    When you appeared in a dream to Constantine the King, you gave him this warning:
    "Release at once from prison those you have unjustly confined, for they are innocent;
    no murder did they commit as you claim;v O King, listen to me, or else I shall call upon the Lord."
    Cantor; on 5:
    I have waited for You as You have commanded;
    my soul patiently relies on Your promise, for it has trusted in the Lord.
    All, 5:
    O holy Nicholas, holy preacher of Christ, always ready to help all on land or at sea;
    whether they be near or far, you have compassion for all.
    You are a precious helper;
    therefore, we who gather here ask you to pray to the Lord
    that we may be delivered from all distress and sorrow.

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    6. Hymns on "O Lord, I Have Cried," part 2

    Cantor; on 4, still in Tone II:
    From the morning watch until night, let Israel trust in the Lord.
    All, 4, Tone II podoben, Kiimi pochavl'nimy:*
    What crowns of praise shall be confer upon the saintly Nicholas?
    Once present in the flesh in Myra, he is present in spirit to all who love him purely.
    He is the leader and defender of everyone, a comforter in distress, and a haven of all in danger;
    a pillar of piety, and conqueror for believers.
    For his sake, Christ overcame enemies and shows His great mercy.
    Cantor; on 3:
    For with the Lord there is mercy and with Him there is plentiful redemption;
    and He shall redeem Israel from all its iniquities.
    All, 3: repeat "What crowns of praise . . . ."
    Cantor; on 2: [Psalm 116]
    Praise the Lord, all the nations; proclaim His glory, all you people.
    All, 2:
    With what songs of praise shall we extol the most saintly Nicholas?
    He is the foes of wickedness.
    He is an outstanding leader, a most powerful defender in distress, and a great teacher of the Church.
    He confounds all those who show dishonor.
    He is the refuter of Arius and his companions.
    Because of him, Christ put down their ragings and showed great mercy.
    Cantor; on 1:
    Strong is the love of the Lord for us; eternally will His truth endure.
    All, 1:
    With what hymns of prophecy shall we extol the saintly Nicholas?
    Living in the present, he saw far into the future.
    He spoke truly about far-away things as though they were near.
    He oversees the whole world, and delivers the afflicted.
    He appeared in a dream to the God-wise king.
    He delivered prisoners who were unjustly accused of murder.
    Today he grants us the mercy of Christ.

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    7. Hymns on "O Lord, I Have Cried," part 3

    Cantor; in Tone VI:
    Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit!
    All, Doxastikon, in Tone VI samohlas:
    We have gathered to celebrate and to praise with song
    the model of bishops and a glory to the fathers,
    a fountain of mercy and a great helper of believers.
    Let us sing to the saintly Nicholas:
    Rejoice, O protector of Myra, who was revered as its leader and strongest pillar.
    Rejoice, O radiant star, who light of miracles shines throughout the world.
    Rejoice, O divine joy to those in sorrow.
    Rejoice, O defender of those who are oppressed;
    for even now, all-holy Nicholas, you still pray to God for us
    who celebrate your feast with faith and who honor you with zeal and joy.
    Cantor, in the same tone:
    Now and ever and forever. Amen.
    All, Theotokion, same tone:
    O cave, prepare yourself to receive the Mother who bears Christ within her womb.
    O manger, receive the Word Who destroyed the sins of all.
    O shepherds, keep watch and then bear witness to the awesome wonder.
    O Magi from Persia, now come, and bring your gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the King.
    For the Lord has appeared from a Virgin Mother;
    yet she bowed to Him as a servant, and spoke to Him in her bosom, saying:
    "How were You conceived in me? How did You grow in me, my God and Savior?"

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    8. Hymn of the Evening

    Wisdom! Be attentive!
    O joyful Light!
    Light and holy Glory of the Father Immortal—
    the heavenly, holy, the blessed One, O Jesus Christ!
    Now that we have reached the setting of the sun, and see the evening light,
    we sing to God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    It is fitting at all times to raise a song of praise in measured melody to You,
    O Son of God, the Giver of life.
    Behold, the universe sings Your glory!

    Prokeimenon of the Day and Readings

    were not included on this recording.

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    9. Litany of Supplication

    Hymn of Glorification

    O Lord, keep us this evening without sin.
    Blessed are You, O Lord God of our Fathers, and praised and glorified is Your Name forever. Amen.
    Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us because we have set our hope in You.
    Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your commandments.
    Blessed are You, O Master; make me understand Your commandments.
    Blessed are You, O Holy One; enlighten me with Your laws.
    O Lord, Your mercy endures forever; do not despise the work of Your hands.
    It is proper to praise You, and hymns belong to You.
    Glory belongs to You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever. Amen.

    Litany of Fervent Supplication

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    1O. Hymns of the Litija

    1. Tone II, Bolhar:
    O holy father Nicholas, Christ has shown you to be the model of faith.
    Your humility inspired all in your flock.
    From Myra, your piety shines throughout the world.
    You are known as the protector of widows and orphans.
    Now we ask your unceasing prayer for the salvation of our souls.
    2. Tone II, Bolhar:
    O holy father Nicholas, your relics poured out myrrh and protected Myra.
    While you lived, you appeared in a dream to the king;
    by this appearance, you freed from lashes, prison, and death those who were condemned unjustly;
    now manifest yourself as then, imploring Christ to save our souls.
    Doxastikon, Tone VI samohlas:
    O good and faithful worker in the vineyard of Christ,
    you endured the hardships of daily labors;
    you did not complain of those who worked less than you.
    You increased the talent given you.
    Therefore, the gates of heaven opened to you, and now you share in the joy of the Lord.
    O holy Nicholas, pray for us!
    Theotokion, same tone:
    O Zion, be happy; rejoice, O Jerusalem, the city of Christ, our God;
    bid welcome the Creator who rests in a cave.
    Open your gates, O Jerusalem, and I will enter,
    so that I may see Him, who holds all creation in His hand,
    even though He lies in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes.
    The angels ever praise this life-giving Lord, who is the only Savior of all.

    The Litany of the Litija

    was not included on this recording.

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    11. Aposticha

    1, Tone V podoben: Radujsja, zivonosnyj Kreste!
    Rejoice, O priestly leader, spotless vessel of virtue, model of divine priesthood,
    great shepherd of your flock, bearer of victory's torch;
    you hear the prayers of those who call on you.
    You grant the petitions of the poor; you rescue all who praise your name.
    Now we ask you to beg Christ that He may shower abundant mercy on the world.
    Cantor, same tone:
    Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful.
    2, same tone:
    Rejoice, O saintly father, temple of the Trinity;
    pillar of the Church, protector of the faithful, help of all in trouble.
    You are a star whose rays of prayer dispel the darkest trouble.
    You are a quiet harbor for the storm-tossed, for all those adrift in the sea of life.
    Pray to Christ to save our souls with His great mercy.
    Cantor, same tone:
    Your priests shall be clothed with holiness;
    Your faithful shall ring out their joy!
    3, same tone:
    Rejoice, O zealous man of God!
    You appeared in a dream and you saved from death those unjustly sentenced.
    You are a fountain in Myra, overflowing with scented myrrh.
    You inspire us to keep us from sin.
    You are a sword that cuts the weeds of error; you proved Arius to be a false teacher.
    Pray to Christ to save our souls with His great mercy.
    Cantor, in Tone VI:
    Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit!
    Doxastikon, Tone VI:
    O man of God, O faithful servant of the Lord,
    you are a chosen vessel filled with desire for God.
    You are a pillar and a foundation of the Church; you are an heir of the Kingdom.
    O holy father Nicholas, pray to the Lord for us.
    Cantor, same tone:
    Now and ever and forever. Amen.
    Theotokion, same tone:
    O Virgin without a husband, from where do you come?
    Who gave you birth? Who is your mother?
    How can you cradle the Creator in your arms?
    How did you accomplish virgin birth?
    Most pure Lady, we see in you great wonders, awesome mysteries fulfilled on earth.
    We shall prepare a worthy cave for you. We shall ask the heavens for a star.
    We shall ask the Magi to come from the east to the west
    to behold your newborn Child in a manger,
    to behold the Savior of all.

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    12. The Hymn of Saint Simeon the God-Bearer

    Now let Your servant depart in peace, O Master, according to Your word.
    For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
    which You have prepared before the face of all people:
    the Light of revelation for the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.

    The Trisagion Prayers

    Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us. (three times)
    The rest of the Trisagion prayers were not included on this recording.

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    13. Troparion of the Feast

    Resurrection Tone IV
    The sincerity of your deeds has revealed you to your people as a teacher of moderation,
    a model of faith, an example of virtue;
    therefore you attained greatness through humility and wealth through poverty.
    O father and archbishop Nicholas, ask Christ God to save our souls

    Festal Blessing

    Let us pray to the Lord.
    Lord, have mercy.
    O Lord Jesus Christ our God,
    You blessed the five loaves and fed the five thousand.
    Bless these loaves, this wheat, wine, and oil,
    and multiply them in this city and in the whole world;
    and sanctify all the faithful who shall partake of them;
    for it is You, O Christ our God, Who bless and sanctify all things.
    And we glorify You with Your eternal Father
    and Your all-holy, gracious, and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and forever.
    All: Amen.
    Blessed be the Name of the Lord, now and forever!

    Psalm 33

    was not included on this recording.

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    14. Dismissal

    Give the blessing!
    Blessed is the One-Who-Is; blessed is Christ our God,
    Always, now and ever and forever.
    Amen. O God, strengthen the true faith, forever and ever.
    O most holy Mother of God, save us!
    More honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare
    more glorious than the Seraphim,
    who, as a virgin, gave birth to God the Word,
    you—truly the Mother of God—we magnify!
    Glory to You, O Christ our God, our hope; glory to You!
    Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever.
    Amen. Lord, have mercy. (three times)
    Give the blessing!
    May Christ our true God have mercy on us and save us
    through the prayers of His most pure Mother,
    through the might of the precious and life-giving Cross;
    through the prayers of the holy, glorious, and praiseworthy Apostles;
    of Saints Cyril and Methodius, equals-to-the-Apostle and teachers of the Slavs,
    patrons of this holy church;
    and of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker,
    Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, whose feast we commemorate today,
    and though the prayers of all the Saints;
    for He is gracious and loves mankind.

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    15. Magnification (Velicanije) and Bolharskij Pripiv

    We extol you, O holy bishop Nicholas, and we venerate your memory,
    for you pray to Christ our God for us.
    Come now, all you dwellers of the earth,
    let us praise the hierarch Nicholas, the teacher of the people of Myra!

    *Notes from Director J. Michael Thompson
    This sound file is an example of how a podoben works:

    The melody "Kiimi pochval'nimy" was written for the feast of the holy apostles Peter and Paul. The Church Slavonic words are the beginning of that specific set of stichera, "With what praises . . ." That is called the "samopodoben," the original marriage of text and tune.

    When the same melody is used on a subsequent liturgical event, the melody is described as a "podoben." The Church assigns the melody to make a sonic "link" between the feast being celebrated and the feast from which the melody is derived. So the use of "Kiimi pochval'nimy" on the feast of St. Nicholas shows the understanding that St. Nicholas, as a bishop, stands in the footsteps of the apostles.

    This melody was transcribed by Professor Walter Obleschuk, cantor/choir director at the Orthodox Church in America Cathedral in Boston, Massachusetts, who is well known in Eastern circles as a true "podoben maven."

    CD cover

    Great Vespers of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, the Schola Cantorum of Saint Peter the Apostle, James Michael Thompson, Director. This recording was made in celebration of the completion of the Fiftieth Anniversary Year of the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Copyright © 2001 Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Saints Cyril and Methodius Used by permission. Purchase from Byzantine Seminary Press.

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