The Orthodox Pages
Answer to Question 32.
There's no dogmatic or liturgical problem with upgrading a service from the existing Menaia. We see this done very often with a great many saints who, because of a devout reverence for their person by the faithful, have had complete services written for them available as pamphlets. New services are being written every year. In Cyprus we have produced in recent years the "Cypriot Menaia" with complete services for all the saints who had some connection with Cyprus and others who are highly revered by the Cypriot people. The Kykkos Monastery of Cyprus has also commissioned complete services for all the saints whose relics are preserved at the monastery.
But even services where only the stichera, the Doxastikon and Apolytikion are available, a complete service should still be sung because what is missing from the service should be supplemented with hymns from the Book of Tones (Parakletike, Octoechos) according to the day and tone of the week.
There are three types of vespers, but only two are sung in parish churches, Great Vespers which is always done with an entrance and Daily Vespers without entrance. The third vespers is called Small Vespers but this is never sung in parishes, but rather is sung in monasteries on days when there is to be an all-night Vigil. On these days two vespers are sung, the Small Vespers and Great Vespers. At the usual hour for vespers, Small Vespers is sung after the Ninth Hour. Then after Compline, Great Vespers in sung together with Matins.
As you have noted, entrance in Vespers does not have anything to do with the liturgy the next day, but it does have links with the Matins service the following morning. As with Vespers, there are two Matins services, the Matins sung on Sundays and Feasts and Matins on weekdays. If Vespers was without entrance then Matins will be the Matins for weekdays which does not have a Gospel reading and all the order from the antiphons to "Save O Lord thy people..." is omitted with only the 50th psalm being read. Also the Great Doxology is replaced with the Small Doxology.
If then Vespers is to be upgraded Matins should also be upgraded. Of course you should be aware that because most parishes only serve Vespers, Matins and the Divine Liturgy on Sundays or on the more popular feast-days, they never serve Daily Vespers without entrance or Matins on weekdays and a great many Priests have no idea how these are served.
You ask when is it appropriate for priests to co-celebrate with the Vespers service? This is usually done only with Great Vespers because there is an entrance and it is customary in Greek Churches for the hymn "O Gladsome Light" (Phos Ilaron) to be sung by the Priests only on the Great feasts and when there is a co-celebration. At all other times it is simply read. Of course there is nothing wrong with singing the hymn at every vespers, but this is the traditional custom observed in parishes. With the entrance and the singing of "O Gladsome Light" the service takes on a more grand and festive atmosphere.
On the other hand, Daily Vespers without Entrance does not have the grandeur of Great Vespers and having a co-celebration will not serve anything. It is not a question of whether it is permissible, but the actual structure of the service does not allow for two of more priests to serve. After the Priest vests only with the Epitrakhelion, the curtain is opened, but the Royal Doors remain shut throughout the service. Many Priests do not even conduct the service from the Sanctuary, but stand in a seat outside preferably by the Chanters, and will only enter the Sanctuary to prepare for the censing during the singing of “Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense”. After the censing the priests who follow this procedure will return to their place outside of the Sanctuary. There is no need for the priest to re-enter the Sanctuary as there is no more censing and no entrance.
As we are in the period of Great Lent, we should say something about Vespers during the weekdays of Lent.
The Sunday Vespers in Lent and the Daily Vespers in lent are similar in structure to Great Vespers and Daily Vespers without Entrance respectively, but with special Prokhimena, hymns and prayers for the period. Daily Vespers in Lent also has readings from the Prophets. During lent it is not appropriate to upgrade the Daily Vespers to Great Vespers, because with two or three exceptions, we do not celebrate the saints whose feastdays fall during the weekdays of Lent. The mourning character of Lent does not allow for festive celebration and for that reason we do not celebrate the Divine Liturgy during the weekdays of Lent other than the Presanctified Liturgy which in reality is only a communion service of the Holy Gifts sanctified on the previous Sunday. Thus if the faithful wish to celebrate a particular saint whose feastday falls during the weekdays of Lent, this celebration is moved to the Sunday. For the same reason it would be inappropriate to have co-celebrations during the weekdays of Lent; the mourning character of Lent does not permit grandeur.
You also ask if we must upgrade to entrance if there are many priests, or do we instruct them not to participate on certain days?
We do not add an entrance just for the sake of it, or to accommodate the priests. If the service available for a saint is not complete then we should follow the structure of the service accordingly, but if a complete service becomes available then by all means upgrade. There is nothing wrong with Priests sitting down, whether in the sanctuary or outside, and actually listening to the service.
Many parishes are served by two, three or more priests. They do not co-celebrate except on the Great feasts and Sundays. On all other days it is usual for the priests to follow a weekly rota where the priest whose week it is will serve all the services that have to be served during that week.
Have a great lent