This translation into English of the services for the Dedication of a Church was made at the request of His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain. It is based on the fourth edition of the booklet issued by the Apostoliki Diakonia in Athens in 1992, though the older text in the Large Euchologion has also been taken into account. Since the translation was intended for practical use, it has been completed by the inclusion of many of those things that Greek liturgical books tend to take for granted, but which singers and readers often overlook. The role of the people has usually been indicated by using the word People, rather than Singers, or Choir, who represent them.
The rite in the Large Euchologion and the modern booklet includes the texts for Vespers and Matins as well as a number of other rites, such as those for consecrating Antimensia, chalices and patens, that for the washing of the Altar on Holy Thursday and the various rites for reconsecrating desecrated Churches. These last are not included here.
The present Greek rite for the Consecration of a Church seems to have undergone a radical revision at some time between the publication at Venice in 1638 of the Euchologion used by Goar for his edition and that published at Venice in 1862, which forms the basis of the current edition of the Large Euchologion, such as that published by Astir at Athens in 1970. The text of the rite in the Venetian edition of 1862 is in fact that of the edition published in Bucharest in 1703. In the earlier rite, which is still that found in the Slavonic books, the procession and solemn entry of the relics form the climax of the ceremony, which begins with the consecration and vesting of the altar. That this is the correct order is evident from the incoherent ending of the present Greek rite, in which, immediately after the final two prayers, the Deacon appears to announce a procession from the Church, Let us go forth in peace. No procession follows, but at once we have a Prokeimenon, Apostle and Gospel, the latter without an Alleluia. After this the Bishop fills and lights the first lamp in the new Church. Two stichera, the Trisagion prayers and the Apolytikia of the Saint and the Dedication are followed by the a litany and the Dismissal. The Apostle and Gospel are really those for the following Liturgy and are not part of the rite of Dedication. There is also some confusion over the final Litany. The text of the 1992 book gives the shortened form of the Litany of Fervent Supplication found in a number of rites, such as those for Baptism and Marriage, whereas the Diataxis given earlier in the book prescribes the closing Litany of Matins, Let us complete our morning prayer to the Lord. The relics, which have been solemnly brought to the Church earlier, were accompanied by lights and therefore, unless the latter were left outside the building, there seems little point in the solemn lighting of the first lamp in the new Church at the very end of the service, after which, the rubric informs us, The people are permitted to light lamps and candles.
The older form of the rite is that presupposed in the description by St Nicolas Cabasilas in his Book 5 of On Life in Christ and by his near contemporary, Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki. The latter specifically excludes from the building for the first part of the ceremony the laity [pg 145:309-312], who enter the newly consecrated building for the first time in solemn procession with the Bishop carrying the relics of the Martyrs.
The other notable difference is that the procession of the relics itself is much simpler in the older rite, without any Apostles or Gospels and without the singing of the third and sixth Odes of the Canon. In the Litany of Peace before the Consecration of the Altar, the current rite includes the petition For this holy house . This is not in the older rite, since the House has not yet been consecrated.
An interesting detail is that for the Liturgy on the day of the consecration, as well as on the annual Dedication feast, St Symeon notes that the Cherubic Hymn is Let all mortal flesh keep silent [PG 145:328D].
The Greek words meaning dedicate and dedication are not easy to translate into English, since they also have the connotation of newness, renewal. The opening Stichera for Vespers, for example, make frequent play on the ideas of new and old. David, in Psalm 50, asks God to renew a right Spirit within me, rather than dedicate a right Spirit. For this reason I have sometimes expanded slightly and used expressions like dedicate anew, but without great clumsiness it is not possible to express both these ideas of dedication and renewal in every instance. It is important, therefore, to bear in mind that the dedication of a new Church calls for the inner renewal, the rededication of all those who take part in it.
The booklet from the Apostoliki Diakonia divides the rite into six sections, to which we have added subtitles to explain the symbolism of the rite. The rite is really the consecration of the Altar, the Church being sanctified by the presence of the consecrated Altar. Without this, says St Symeon, a Church building is simply an oratory, or house of prayer. The anointing of other parts of the building is, in the Byzantine rite, almost an afterthought and according to the strict Typikon is done by a Priest, or another Bishop if one is present, following the consecrating Bishop as he goes round censing the whole Church towards the end of the whole ceremony.
At the end of Matins we have added a note from the Large Euchologion which supposes that the actual dedication takes place after Matins. The two long prayers by Patriarch Kallistos, which are to be said during Lauds in the present rite, are printed quite separately in the Euchologion before the Rite itself. In the Slav books the first of these forms the concluding prayer of the whole rite, while the second is not used at all.
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This page was last updated on 03 November 2008