St. John the Theologian Orthodox Church
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Reading the Epistle on Sunday

Spiritual instruction on how we are to read . . . .

“Do not read either too fast, or too lazily or carelessly, but with reverence, attention and intelligence. Invigorated by reading that profits the soul, the mind acquires strength and prays firmly. Reading without order clouds the mind and weakens it, rendering it unfit for prayer.” - St. Gregory of Sinai (13th century), from the Philokalia

“In speaking of the voice, I certainly think it ought to be plain and clear. That it should be musical is a gift of nature, and is not to be won by exertion. Let it be distinct in its pronunciation and full of a manly vigor, but let it be free from a rough and rustic twang. See, too, that it does not assume a theatrical accent, but rather keeps true to the inner meaning of the words it utters .”- St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (4th century), On the Duties of the Clergy

“Do not read through words in a cursory fashion, but examine them with depth of understanding and treasure their meaning. Then meditate on what you have read, so that your mind in comprehending it is mellowed and it remains unforgotten….Just as you have to chew food before you can savor its taste, so you have to ruminate in your soul on holy texts before they enrich and gladden the mind.” - Theoliptos, Metropolitan of Philadelphia (13th century), from the Philokalia

“The first duty then is to have due measure in our speech. In this way a sacrifice of praise is offered up to God; thus a godly fear is shown when the sacred Scriptures are read; thus parents are honored. I know well that many speak because they know not how to keep silence. But it is not often that any one is silent when speaking does not profit him. A wise man, intending to speak, first carefully considers what he is to say, and to whom he is to say it; also where and at what time.” - St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (4th century), On the Duties of the Clergy

“Do not read with inordinate avidity, for in all things moderation is best, nor on the other hand in a rough, sluggish or negligent manner. On the contrary, read reverently, gently steadily, with understanding, and at an even pace, your intellect, your soul and your reason all engaged. When the intellect is invigorated by such reading, it acquires the strength to pray harder.” - St. Gregory of Sinai (13th century), from the Philokalia

“The voice, too, should not be languid, nor feeble, nor womanish in its tone,—such a tone of voice as many are in the habit of using, under the idea of seeming important. It should preserve a certain quality, and rhythm, and a manly vigor. For all to do what is best suited to their character and sex, that is to attain to beauty of life. This is the best order for movements, this the employment fitted for every action. But as I cannot approve of a soft or weak tone of voice or an effeminate gesture of the body, so also I cannot approve of what is boorish and rustic. Let us follow nature. The imitation of her provides us with a principle of training, and gives us a pattern of virtue .” - St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (4th century), On the Duties of the Clergy

 

 

Preparation . . . .

The position of Reader is one of the minor orders in the Orthodox Church. You are ministering to the body of Christ in an offical capacity. We should, therefore, consider how we're presenting ourselves to Christ, both inwardly and outwardly. This is a ministry. All things in the church are to be done properly with order and attention. Put on Christ and take up your minsitry with due respect, reverence, and humility. Here is what we recommend as you prepare.

Learn from the holy Fathers how to read in the church.
Read the passage several times before Sunday morning.
Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you're reading.
Practice reading the text out loud at home.
Come to Great Vespers the night before.
Relax and breath normally.
Be mindful of those listening to you and how you come across to them.
Read at a conversational pace, not too fast, not too slow.
Articulate the words and syllables. Diction is very important.

 

 

Rubrics . . . .

Here are the rubrics that cover what the Reader is supposed to say and do on Sunday morning, and when the Reader is supposed to do that. We pick things up during the Trisagion:

Deacon: With Strength!
(Reader comes forward as the Trisagion hymn concludes and stands in the middle of the solea about four or five feet away from the Royal Doors. Face the Holy Table.)

Deacon: Let us attend!
(When reciting the prokeimenon, say just the verse. Do not say, Prokeimenon, Tone #.... followed by the verse. Occassionally, there are two verses. In that case, read both of them.)

Reader: (Recite the prokeimenon.)

Deacon: Wisdom!
(Announce the Epistle lesson.)

Reader: The reading is from.....

Deacon: Let us attend!
(Turn to the west and face the people.)

Reader: (Read the Epistle lesson.)
(Intone the very end of the Epistle reading if you can. That's the signal to the priest that the reading is finished. If there is a verse following the Epistle reading, do not read it. Turn to face the Holy Table and wait for a blessing from the priest.)

Priest: Peace be to thee that reads.
(Close the Epistle book and bring the book forward. When the priest places his hand on the book, kiss his hand. You may hand the Epistle book to one of the chanters and then return to your seat.)

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