The Liturgy of the Catechumens. The Divine Liturgy is technically broken up into three major portions - the Proskomedia (preparing the Gifts), the Liturgy of the Catechumens (sometimes also called the Liturgy of the Word), and the Liturgy of the Faithful (or Liturgy of the Eucharist). This week we’re going to discuss the Liturgy of the Catechumens, which is itself split into the Rites of Entrance and the Rites of Proclamation. The Divine Liturgy begins with the exclamation by the priest, “Blessed is the Kingdom, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!” and the faithful’s response, “Amen!” Then we have the Great Litany, called that because it’s the longest one we do, in which we pray for all needful things, closing with commending ourselves and one another to Christ, and a prayerful exclamation by the priest. Next there are three antiphons (today we use all one choir, but traditionally these were sung by two alternating, i.e., antiphonally). The antiphons themselves vary by the day, and generally by the jurisdiction also, and the first two are followed by short litanies, the second of which is overlapped, i.e., the priest just keeps going, not waiting for responses. The third antiphon (usually the Beatitudes) is followed by the Little Entrance with the Gospel. The troparia (single stanza hymns) and kontakia (thematic hymns) assigned for the day, the season, and (most of the time) the temple, follow. Next we all chant the Trisagion together, closing out the Rites of Entrance.
The Rite of Proclamation begins with the prokeimenon - a responsorial psalm or canticle between the reader and the choir. Next the Apostolic reading is given from the Epistles or Acts of the Apostles. A triple Alleluia is then sung in the same manner as the prokeimenon before the short exchange between the priest and the people, and then the Gospel is chanted. If there’s going to be a homily/ sermon (there doesn’t have to be), it’s usually given here - I tend to favor a brief excursus on the Gospel for the day; this can also happen following Holy Communion or the dismissal, but I find that throws the service off. Then we have the Litany of Fervent Supplication in which we’re praying specifically for those folks who are directly or indirectly involved in our local church community. On certain days this is followed by a Litany for the Departed, but never on Sundays or Feasts. The Liturgy of the Catechumens is closed out by a litany specifically for them as they prepare for Holy Baptism, and we pray this even if we don’t have any catechumens in the parish at the time, reminding us that we are praying for all catechumens everywhere in the world.