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Choral Corner #17: Why did we not sing "Holy God" before the Epistle reading this morning?

Note: This was published on the third Sunday of Great Lent (the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross), hence the references to "today".


Today is the third Sunday of Great Lent: the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross. The feasts of the Cross (the Third Sunday of Lent and the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14th) override several parts of the "regular" Divine Liturgy, even on a Sunday, when the theme of the Resurrection otherwise takes precedence (which, by the way, is the reason that choir does not sing Lenten litany-response melodies at Sunday Liturgies). Today, we see this in action twice: first, "Holy God" is replaced by the hymn "Before Thy Cross", and second, we omit the Troparion to Saints Chrysanthus and Daria (side note: sometimes the rubrics also appoint a Kontakion for a martyr or martyrs, but this is not the case today).


During the singing of "Before Thy Cross" we make prostrations, which is a rarity on Sundays. Why? It's because today's prostrations have a different meaning and character than those performed on other days. Prostration is usually a penitential act: we acknowledge our sinfulness and strive to repent of it. However, the prostrations during "Before Thy Cross" have another nature: they are icons of Christ's death, descent into Hades, and glorious Resurrection; and of our continual participation in the synergistic salvation of His death and Resurrection — events that occurred once in chronos-time, but are eternal realities outside of it.

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