The services of Passion Week are a musical feast for the ears and the soul. Russian liturgical tradition is rich in special melodies for certain hymns of this most important week of the liturgical year, and if the services are also sung by a good choir, they are that much more memorable.
The Sretensky Monastery in Moscow is fortunate to have a world famous male choir singing at all of these beautiful services. We would like to share some highlights of this singing with our English language readers, and have therefore provided the English texts to match the hymns. While Church Slavonic is the consistent language used in Russian and other Slavic services, our English texts vary by translation. We have chosen to provide texts (excluding the Old Testament readings, which were taken from the Septuagint) from the classic Lenten Triodion translated by Mother Mary and Archbishop Kallistos Ware, which was re-printed by St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press.
Some of these MP3 files come from compact disc recordings of the Sretensky Monastery Choir, while others are live recordings from the actual services of previous years.
On Holy Thursday we recall the Mystical Supper of the Lord, also called the “Last Supper”—the first service of the Eucharist. On Thursday morning, the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great is served as a “Vesperal Liturgy”, which means that the Eucharistic portion follows the Old Testament readings of Vespers.
This kind of Liturgy is reserved for the major feasts of the Lord, but on Holy Thursday we are additionally reminded of Judas’ betrayal at the Last Supper in the upper room, as he dipped his bread into the wine and gave his Master a kiss. This is to instruct us that we must flee Judas’s example and cleanse our conscience through the sacrament of confession before daring to receive Communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ.
On this day, all Orthodox Christians make an effort to prepare themselves for Holy Communion, and receive the Body and Blood of Christ, as He ordained at the Last Supper.
Troparion, Tone 8
|Егда славнии ученицы на умовении Вечери просвещахуся, тогда Иуда злочестивый сребролюбием недуговав омрачашеся, и беззаконным судиям Тебе праведнаго Судию предает. Виждь имений рачителю, сих ради удавление употребивша! Бежи несытыя души, Учителю таковая дерзнувшия: Иже о всех благий, Господи слава Тебе.||The glorious disciples were illumined at the Supper during the washing of the feet, but ungodly Judas was darkened by the disease of avarice, and he delivered Thee, the righteous Judge, to lawless judges. See, O lover of money, how for money’s sake he hanged himself. Flee from the greed which made him dare to do such things against his Master. O Lord, who art good towards all men, glory to Thee (three times).|
At the Vesperal Liturgy on Thursday, instead of the Cherubic Hymn
|Вечери Твоея Тайныя днесь, Сыне Божий, причастника мя приими: не бо врагом Твоим тайну повем, ни лобзания Ти дам яко Иуда, но яко разбойник исповедаю Тя: помяни мя Господи во Царствии Твоем.||At Thy mystical Supper, Son of God, today receive me as a communicant: for I will not speak of the mystery to Thine enemies; I will not give Thee a kiss like Judas; but as the thief I confess Thee: Remember me, Lord, when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom.|
Irmos, Canticle Nine of the Canon
|Странствия Владычня, и безсмертныя Трапезы на горнем месте, высокими умы, вернии приидите насладимся, возшедша слова, от Слова научившеся, Егоже величаем.||Come, ye faithful, let us raise our minds on high and enjoy the Master’s hospitality and the table of immortal life in the upper room; and let us hear the exalted teaching of the Word whom we magnify.|