Song of Ascents
Song of Ascents is a title given to fifteen of the Psalms, 120–134, each starting with the superscription Shir Hama'aloth. They are variously called Gradual Psalms, Songs of Degrees, Songs of Steps or Pilgrim Songs. Four of them are linked in their ascriptions to David, one to Solomon. Three of them have only three verses; the longest is psalm 132. Many scholars believe the title indicates that these psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals. Others think they were sung by the Levite singers as they ascended the fifteen steps to minister at the Temple in Jerusalem. One view says the Levites first sang the Songs at the dedication of Solomon's temple during the night of the fifteenth of Tishri 959 BC. Another study suggests that they were composed for a celebration after Nehemiah's rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls in 445 BC. Others consider that they may have been individual poems which were collected together and given the title linking them to pilgrimage after the Babylonian captivity.
They were well suited for being sung by their poetic form and the sentiments they express. "They are characterized by brevity, by a key-word, by epanaphora, by their epigrammatic style.... More than half of them are cheerful, all of them hopeful." As a collection, they contain a number of repeated formulaic phrases, as well as an emphasis on Zion. There are two references to the Songs of Ascents in the Mishnah, noting the correspondence between the fifteen songs and the temple's fifteen steps between the Israelite's court and the women's court. Rashi refers to a Talmudic legend that King David composed or sang the fifteen songs to calm rising waters at the foundation of the temple. Psalm 126, eponymously called "Shir Hamaalot" due to its common use, is traditionally recited before the Grace After Meals on Shabbat, Jewish holidays, other festive occasions in keeping with its themes of joy and redemption; the psalm is sung to a wide variety of tunes both secular. The most well-known melody in the Ashkenazi Jewish world is that by Cantor Pinchas Minkowsky, recorded by Cantor Yossle Rosenblatt.
It is traditional for some Jews to place a copy of Psalm 121 in the labor and delivery room to promote an easy labor by asking God for mercy. As well, it is placed on the baby's carriage and in the baby's room to protect the child and surround them in learning and with holy objects; the liturgical use of these psalms came into Christianity through its Jewish roots. The form of the Scriptures used in the Early Church, at least so far as the Hebrew Bible was concerned, was the Septuagint. In the Septuagint, these psalms are numbered 119–133. Many early hermits observed the practice of reciting the entire Psalter daily, coenobitic communities would chant the entire Psalter through in a week, so these psalms would be said on a regular basis, during the course of the Canonical hours. In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, the Songs of Degrees make up the Eighteenth Kathisma, are read on Friday evenings at Vespers throughout the liturgical year.
The Kathisma is divided into three sections of five psalms each. During Great Lent the Eighteenth Kathisma is read every weekday at Vespers, on Monday through Wednesday of Holy Week. In the Slavic usage this Kathisma is read from the apodosis of the Exaltation of the Cross up to the forefeast of the Nativity of Christ, from the apodosis of Theophany up to the Sunday of the Prodigal Son; the reason for this is that the nights are longer in winter in the northern latitudes, so during this season three Kathismata will be chanted at Matins instead of two, so in order to still have a reading from the Psalter at Vespers, the Eighteenth Kathisma is repeated. At Matins on Sundays and feast days throughout the year, special hymns called anabathmoi are chanted before the prokeimenon and Matins Gospel; these anabathmoi are compositions based upon the Songs of Ascents, are written in the eight tones of Byzantine chant. The Anabathmoi for each tone consists of three stases or sets of verses, except for Tone 8 which has four stases.
On Sundays, the anabathmoi are chanted according to the tone of the week. Symbolically, the anabathmoi are chanted as a reminder that Christians are ascending to the Heavenly Jerusalem, that the spiritual intensity of the service is rising as they approach the reading of the Gospel; the Western Daily Office was influenced by the Rule of St. Benedict, where these psalms are assigned to Terce and None on weekdays. Over the centuries, various schedules have been used for reciting the psalms. In the modern Liturgy of the Hours of the Roman Catholic Church, the Gradual Psalms are used in several ways: Psalms 120-127 and 129-131 are scheduled throughout the four-week Psalter for use at Vespers. Psalms 119-127 are broken into three parts, to be used as the complementary Psalmody for those who pray three daytime offices separately as Terce and None, rather than one office of Daytime Prayer, they are used as the sole Psalmody at daytime prayer on solemnities, except for certain solemn
The Psalterium Sinaiticum is a 209-folio Glagolitic Old Church Slavonic canon manuscript, the earliest Slavic psalter, dated to the 11th century. The manuscript was found in Saint Catherine's Monastery in Egypt, after which it was named and where it remains to this day; the major part of the psalter was discovered in 1850 by the Russian archimandrite Porphyrius Uspensky, additional 32 folios with the exact continuation turned up in 1968. It was published by L. Geitler, S. N. Severjanov and by Moshe Altbauer in 1971, in a facsimile reproduction; the manuscript is extensively discussed with facsimile reproductions in Ioannis C. Tarnanidis: The Slavonic Manuscripts Discovered in 1975 at. St. Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai. Paleographic and linguistic analysis shows that the writing of some letters is inconsistent. Therefore, it is assumed. Inconsistent is the writing of yers and nasal vowels, obvious is the tendency of the vocalization of jers and the omission of epenthetic l. List of Glagolitic manuscripts Damjanović, Stjepan.
Slovo iskona. Zagreb: Matica hrvatska. ISBN 953-150-567-5. Schenker, Alexander; the Dawn of Slavic: An Introduction to Slavic Philology. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-05846-2. Nazor, Anica. "Moshé Altbauer, Psalterium Sinaiticum, an 11th century glagolitic manuscript from St. Catherines's monastery, mt. Sinai". Slovo, Old Church Slavonic Institute: 146–148. "Sinai, Saint Catherine's Monastery, Ms. Slav. 38". “Psalterium sinaiticum” – Incomplete Glagolitic Psalter with only Ps. 1-137, one leaf is missing
Chludov Psalter is an illuminated marginal Psalter made in the middle of the 9th Century. It is a unique monument of Byzantine art at the time of the Iconoclasm, one of only three illuminated Byzantine Psalters to survive from the 9th century. According to one tradition, the miniatures are supposed to have been created clandestinely, many of them are directed against Iconoclasts. Many contain explanations of the drawings written next to them, little arrows point out from the main text to the illustration, to show which line the picture refers to; the polemical style of the whole ensemble is unusual, a demonstration of the furious passions the Iconoclast dispute generated. The psalter contains only 169 folios; the outer edges of the pages are left blank in order to be covered with illustrations. The text and captions were written in a diminutive uncial script, but many of these were rewritten in crude minuscule about three centuries later; the book contains the Psalms in the arrangement of the Septuagint, the responses to be chanted during their recitation, which follow the Liturgy of Hagia Sophia, the Imperial church in Constantinople.
In the illustration to the right, the miniaturist illustrated the line. Below is a picture of the last Iconoclast Patriarch of Constantinople, John the Grammarian rubbing out a painting of Christ with a similar sponge attached to a pole. John is caricatured, here as on other pages, with untidy straight hair sticking out in all directions, considered ridiculous by the elegant Byzantines. Nikodim Kondakov hypothesized that the psalter was created in the famous monastery of St John the Studite in Constantinople. Other scholars believe that the liturgical responses it contains were only used in Hagia Sophia, that it was therefore a product of the Imperial workshops in Constantinople, soon after the return of the Iconophiles to power in 843, it was kept at Mount Athos until 1847. The psalter was acquired by Aleksey Khludov, whose name it bears today, it passed as part of the Khludov bequest to the Nikolsky Old Believer Monastery and to the State Historical Museum. Robin Cormack, Writing in Gold, Byzantine Society and its Icons, 1985, George Philip, London, ISBN 0-540-01085-5 Kathleen Corrigan, Visual Polemics in the Ninth-Century Byzantine Psalters, ISBN 0521400503 Evans, Helen C.
& Wixom, William D. The glory of Byzantium: art and culture of the Middle Byzantine era, A. D. 843-1261, no. 52, 1997, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, ISBN 9780810965072.
Kiev Psalter of 1397
The Kiev Psalter of 1397, or Spiridon Psalter, is one of the most famous East Slavic illuminated manuscripts, containing over three hundred miniatures. It was written in 1397 by the scribe, Archdeacon Spiridon in Kiev, "at the command of Bishop Mikhail". Many of the miniatures illustrate—often not closely—passages from a psalm, with thin red lines drawn between miniature and text to indicate the passage intended. Sometimes the meaning of the illustration is explained in long notes in the same thin red draft; each leaf is larger than a typical Byzantine psalter. The weighty and elegant script and large size of the page adds to the impressiveness of the book; the Psalter passed through the hands of numerous Lithuanian nobles before being sold to the Russian Count Sergey Sheremetev in the mid-19th century. Courtesy of the count, its first printed edition was prepared by Nikodim Kondakov and Fyodor Buslaev. In 1932, the Sheremetev Library merged into the Russian National Library in St Petersburg. Киевская Псалтирь 1397 года — The scanned copy of Spiridon Psalter in the Presidential library Russia
Lazarus Saturday in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodoxy is the day before Palm Sunday to which it is liturgically linked. It celebrates the raising of Lazarus of Bethany, the narrative of, found in the Gospel of John. Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday together hold a unique position in the church year, as days of joy and triumph interposed between the penitence of Great Lent and the mourning of Holy Week. During the preceding week the propers in the Lenten Triodion track the sickness and the death of Lazarus, Christ's journey from beyond Jordan to Bethany; this week is referred to as the "Week of Palms" or the "Flowery Week."The position of Lazarus Saturday is summed up in the first sticheron chanted at vespers on Friday:Having completed the forty days that bring profit to our soul, we beseech Thee in Thy love for man: Grant us to behold the Holy Week of Thy Passion, that in it we may glorify Thy mighty acts and Thine ineffable dispensation for our sakes, singing with one mind: O Lord, glory to Thee.
During Friday vespers the reading of Genesis is concluded with the description of the death and mourning of Jacob and on Friday night, at compline, a Canon on the Raising of Lazarus by Saint Andrew of Crete is sung. The scripture readings and hymns for this day focus on the raising of Lazarus as a foreshadowing of the Resurrection of Christ and a prefiguring of the General Resurrection; the Gospel narrative is interpreted in the hymns as illustrating the two natures of Christ: his humanity in asking, "Where have ye laid him?", his divinity by commanding Lazarus to come forth from the dead. A number of the hymns, written in the first or second person, relate Lazarus' death and burial bonds symbolically to the individual's sinful state. Many of the resurrectional hymns of the normal Sunday service are sung while prayers for the departed, prescribed on Sundays, are permitted. During the divine liturgy, the baptismal hymn, "As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" replaces the Trisagion indicating that this had been a day on which baptisms were performed and in some churches nowadays adult converts are still baptized on this day.
Although the forty days of Great Lent end on Lazarus Friday, this day is still observed as a fast day. Lazarus Saturday is the day when, hermits would leave their retreats in the wilderness to return to the monastery for the Holy Week services. In many places in the Russian Church, the vestments and church hangings on this day and on Palm Sunday are green, denoting the renewal of life. In the Greek Church, it is customary on Lazarus Saturday to plait elaborate crosses out of palm leaves which will be used on Palm Sunday. Baking lazarakia to eat on Lazarus Saturday is a tradition practiced in Cyprus, it is said to have originated in Cyprus, it is significant that St. Lazarus was their first bishop; the bread is a mildly sweet Lenten bread made with sweet-smelling spices that looks like Lazarus bound up in grave clothes. The feast of Vrbica or Lazareva Subota, Bulgarian: Lazarovden is commemorated by Serbian Orthodox and Bulgarian Orthodox tradition. Due to a general lack of palm trees, pussy willow branches are blessed, distributed to the faithful.
Small bells are tied to the branches. Other features include: Burning a fire against vermin and snakes Picking flowers and herbs which are put in water to either drink or swim in Lazarice ritual, a procession, parade of six maids The antiquity of this commemoration is demonstrated by the homilies of St. John Chrysostom, St Augustine of Hippo Regia, others. In the 7th and 8th centuries, special hymns and canons for the feast were written by St. Andrew of Crete, St. Cosmas of Maium and St. John Damascene, which are still sung to this day; the Raising of Lazarus is commemorated on this same Saturday according to the Church Calendar of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Lazarus Saturday - Icon and Synaxarion Samedi de Lazare - French translation of above article, with added material Danas je Lazareva subota
A kathisma "seat", is a division of the Psalter, used by Eastern Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics who follow the Byzantine Rite. The word may describe a hymn sung at Matins, a seat used in monastic churches, or a type of monastic establishment. According to ancient practice, monastics recite all 150 psalms on a regular basis; the hermits in the desert would recite the entire Psalter every day. With the spread of cenobitic monasticism, the practice began of chanting the Canonical Hours in common, the Psalter thus became the foundation of the Daily Office, augmented by numerous hymns and scriptural readings; the custom grew of reciting all 150 psalms each week during the course of the services. To facilitate this, the 150 psalms were divided into 20 sections, called kathismata, meaning "sittings"; the name is derived from the fact that, in the Office as it developed in Jerusalem and Constantinople, the psalms would be read by one of the brethren while the others sat and listened attentively.
Each kathisma is further subdivided into three staseis "standings", because at the end of each stasis the reader says: "Glory to the Father, to the Son, to the Holy Spirit..." at which all stand in honor of the Holy Trinity. The Orthodox Church uses as its official version of the Old Testament, the ancient Septuagint as opposed to the more recent Masoretic recension. For this reason, the numbering of the psalms follows the Greek rather than the Hebrew; the difference in numbering can be determined from the following table