When there are Two Epistle Readings in the Divine Liturgy

When I first started reading the Epistle in church, the first thing I learned was the proper procedure. No one mentioned what to do if there were two readings for the day though. Like so many things in Orthodox Christian liturgics, this is one of those things I found out because I happened to ask the right person.

If you’re curious about the proper procedure, here it is, as it was handed down to me: (I’ve noted variations from the normal procedure in bold.)

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The Prokeimena

Remember, if there are two epistle readings, there are two prokeimena. Here’s how to fit them both in.

  1. The reader announces the first prokeimenon, as usual. (“The prokeimenon is in the X tone.”)
  2. The reader chants the refrain of the first prokeimenon, as usual.
  3. The choir sings the refrain of the first prokeimenon, as usual.
  4. The reader chants the verse of the first prokeimenon, as usual.
  5. The choir sings the refrain of the first prokeimenon, as usual.
  6. The reader announces the second prokeimenon. (This is done in the same manner as the first. You don’t say, “The second prokeimenon . . .”)
  7. The reader chants the refrain of the second prokeimenon.
  8. The choir sings the refrain of the second prokeimenon.

Notice that the verse of the second prokeimenon never gets chanted. Also, you don’t do the chanting of the first half of the refrain followed by the singing of the second half. There are three chant-response interactions in this procedure just as there are when only one prokeimenon is called for.

Following this procedure requires some interaction and understanding by the choir director and choir. Our choir does not know to do this, and so we simply chant and sing the first prokeimenon, as usual. Check with your choir director before you try to do this, or you’re going to cause a lot of confusion. As always, defer to parish practice.

The Epistle

At the end of the prokeimena section, you continue as usual to the reading of the epistles.

  1. The reader announces the first epistle as usual. (“The reading is from . . .”)
  2. Deacon will intone, “Let us be attentive.”
  3. The reader reads the first epistle (including the introductory phrase: “Bretheren . . .”).
  4. The reader does not announce the second epistle and just starts reading the second epistle (including the introductory phrase: “Bretheren . . .”) .
  5. The priest says, “Peace be upon you who read it.”
  6. The reader says, “And with your spirit.”

At the end of the first epistle, do not perform an ending cadence as you might inadvertently queue the deacon to continue before you’ve read the second epistle.

Why doesn’t the reader announce the second epistle? I have no idea. If anyone else has an idea, I’d love to hear it. Also, as I’ve recently learned, if there are three epistle readings, the introductory phrase is not used for the third. Why not?

The Alleluia Verses

After the reader says, “And with your spirit.” . . .

  1. The deacon says, “Wisdom,” as usual.
  2. The reader says, “Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.” as usual.
  3. The choir sings “Alleluia” as usual.
  4. The reader chants the Alleluia verses associated with the second epistle.

Notice that the alleluia verses from the first epistle are not chanted.

Also, I don’t know about your parish, but in ours, if you wait too long for the deacon to say “Wisdom,” they may assume you’ve forgotten what your doing, and the priest may say, “Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.” I don’t know why this happens, but I know we’re not the only parish where this occurs.

Oh, yeah . . .

How do you know which reading and which prokeimenon are first? If it’s a Sunday, the Sunday (or resurrectional) reading and prokeimenon are always first. I actually don’t know how you know for a weekday. Eventually, I may ask the right person and find out.

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