Sunday, February 12, 2012

By the Waters of Babylon

One of the few things I think the Russian Orthodox got right, liturgically speaking, is their use of Psalm 136, By the Waters of Babylon, as the Polyeleon psalm at Matins on Sunday of the Prodigal Sun. In the Greek and Arabic Typicon, this Psalm is prescribed for the next two Sundays but not for today.

As the Hebrews sang this psalm as they were exiled from their homes so we sing this psalm because we are exiled from God and it is only through conscientious awareness of that fact that any kind of repentance can begin. To deny we are exiled from God because of our sin destroys any chance of a new beginning. God is with us, though we cannot walk with Him as did Adam and Eve before sin entered His creation.

Here is a Russian version of this psalm


  1. Florovsky said something to the effect that the Slavs received all things Orthodox from the Greeks (though from different centuries and different regions of the Greek world, thus the diversity in Slavic practice, even within the Russian sphere). It's a shame, he said, the Greeks didn't keep any of it for themselves. :)

    1. I've heard this as well, though I don't have enough background in liturgical development to know when the Greeks made such changes. The changes to the Typicon of the Great Church of Christ made by Violakes in the late 1800s probably just codified what was already in existence. However, it is worth noting that under the yoke of the Turks, the amount of time Christians could spend in the churches was limited so I wouldn't be surprised if changes occurred because of the Turks' interferences with the Greek rites.