CONGREGATIONAL PARTICIPATION IN THE LITURGY
Sometimes the worship books of our church (es) have a notation that says,
“After the usual beginning, you proceed…” but it often happens that this usual beginning is not printed, so you are left wondering what that might mean.
This usual beginning may also be called the trisagion prayers. (Trisagion is a Greek word and it means “thrice-holy,” referring to the sentence that begins these prayers.)
The usual beginning for most services is a short set of prayers and acclamations. Most Orthodox Christians memorize these over the course of time because we use them constantly. I urge you to memorize them, if you have not yet done so, because each time they occur in a service you are invited to say them along with the leader.
Orthodox Churches are committed to increasing congregational participation today. We went through a dismal period when people did not speak or sing the congregational responses and, hence, congregational response shrank to the person of the reader or chanter (called psalte in the Greek church). But the liturgy is a conversation carried on between the people and God, with the priest as a sort of moderator, representative, and occasionally broker of the conversation. The word liturgy, remember, means “the work of the people,” and our primary work is prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. How can we do this without participating in the conversation?
To start off then, here is the usual beginning:
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal have mercy on us (3 X, with sign of the cross [+] each time)
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen. (+)
O Most Holy Trinity: have mercy on us. Lord, Cleanse us from our sins. Master, pardon our transgressions. Holy One, visit and heal us in our infirmities, for thy name’s sake.
Lord, have mercy (3X).
Glory to the Father… (+)
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory: of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (+) now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
(A priest says the doxology that concludes the Our Father if one is present. If you say the usual beginning as the basis for morning and evening prayer at home, of course you say the doxology yourself.)