When I got to our temple, they were over fifteen minutes into Great Vespers already. I was thrown off by the moment I got in: as I approached the tetrapod to venerate the icon before taking my place, there was no icon there. Moreover, I had missed my favourite part of the Great Vespers service already, the ‘O Lord, I Cry to You’ of the Lamp-lighting Psalms (in the Fourth Tone! my favourite!). I figured we were already at the Stichera at the Lamp-Lighting Psalms of our Father among the Saints John of Damascus, and knowing where Tone 4 was, I flipped to it. But when I tried flipping through the Great Vespers booklet, I could not for the life of me find where everyone else was getting their stichera, the special hymns for our celebration. Our temple uses the booklets from St Elias Brampton, which (as I’ve said before) is pretty much the gold standard for Byzantine music among Ukrainian Catholics in North America, and they’ve got bits and pieces of the General Menaion, the Flower Triod, and the Lenten Triod in there. Finally, I saw that everyone was using a second special pamphlet (because of course the stichera are from the Festal Menaion), and after standing next to someone for a little bit (requiring me to switch pews and reminding me that some of us – me included – often complain at our temple that the pews restrict our movement through the service), I was determined to get my own pamphlet, only to discover that where we keep the pamphlets, there were only the parts for the Matins part and not the Vespers. In an awkward moment, we paused the stichera, my priest with thurible in hand wandered into yet another room and got more pamphlets and red duotang, and I got back into my pew, equipped with stichera that I had to sight-read in Tone 4, my favourite tone but with unfamiliar words.
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