In the Orthodox Church, the liturgical day begins in the evening with the setting of the sun. This practice follows the Biblical account of creation: "And there was evening and there was morning, one day" (Gen. 1:5). The Vespers service always begins with the reading of the evening psalm..."the sun knows its time for setting, Thou makest darkness and it is night..." (Ps. 103:19,20). This psalm, which glorifies God's creation of the world, is mankind's very first act of worship, for the human race first of all meets God as Creator. Following the psalm, the Great Litany, the opening petition of all liturgical services of the Church is intoned. In it we pray to the Lord, interceding for everyone and everything. Following this litany several psalms are read, a different group each evening. Psalm 140 is always sung at Vespers. It recalls Adam's lament as he stood outside the closed gates of Paradise. During this psalm the
evening incense is offered. Toward the end of the psalmody, special hymns are sung for the particular day. If is is a Church feast, songs in honor of the celebration are sung. ON Saturday evenings, the eve of the Lord's Day, these hymns always praise Christ's resurrection from the dead. The special hymns normally end with a song called a "Theotokion" which honors Mary, the Mother of God. Following this, the ancient vesperal hymn, "Gladsome Light," is sung. If it is a special feast day or the eve of Sunday, the celebrant will come to the center or the church building with lighted candles and incense. This hymn belongs to every Vespers service. Christ is praised as the Light Who illumines mankind's darkness, the Light of the world, and of the Kingdom of God which shall have no evening. The prokeimenon, a verse from the Psalms, follows-a different one for each day, announcing the day's spiritual theme. If is is a special day, three readings from the Old Testament are included. Then more evening prayers and petitions follow, with additional hymns for the particular day, all of which end with the chanting of the Song of St. Simeon. After proclaiming our own vision of Christ, the Light and Salvation of the world, we say the prayers of the Thrice-Holy (Trisagion), ending with the "Our Father." We sing the main theme song of the day, called the "Apolytikion," and we are dismissed with the usual blessing. The service of the Vespers leads us through creation, sin, and salvation-the restoration of our true humanity in Christ. It leads us to meditate upon God's Word and to glorify His love for mankind. It instructs us and allows us to praise God for the particular events or persons being commemorated and made present to us in the Church on that day. It prepares us for the sleep of the night and the dawn of the new day to come."-Fr. Sava Leida, priest of Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church.