Q. Are the prayers in the blue prayer book [A Prayerbook for Orthodox Christians by the Holy Transfiguration Monastery —ed.] compulsory for everyone? I mean their morning prayers and the service of Small Compline. My confessor gave me a special rule but wasn’t clear about whether this replaced the book prayers or was in addition to them. Also, if I do say the Compline every night, do I also say the Akathist to the Theotokos, or is that optional? And in the rubrics for the Compline, they suggest you can say the troparion for the day after the second Trisagion prayers, which seems like a nice idea to me, but I wondered how that worked in practice. If you have a day with both a troparion and a kontakion, do you say both? And do you say the theotokion, if provided?
A. No prayers are “compulsory” for everyone, but morning and evening prayers are the standard for all Orthodox Christians; yet even between Greek and Russian practices, there are slightly different ideas as to what is prayed at these times. You should therefore consult with your spiritual father and ask him for a clarification of what he meant by a “special rule.” There is no shame in admitting ignorance to one’s spiritual father, as it is his role to guide and teach you. Be honest and forthcoming with him in all things, so he can guide you.
The blue prayer book itself states that a Canon or Akathist “may” be inserted in to Compline (p. 22), so it is presumed that such is not the standard practice for everyone. It is obviously preferable to pray more rather than less. Your spiritual father will guide you, based on your comments to him, in when to add and when to subtract. He has a reason for any answer he gives you, which is tailored to you. For a beginner especially, but in general, consistency outweighs sheer length, as one spending hours in prayer once a week will not make the same progress as one spending twenty minutes a day, every day. Additionally, one who prays consistently and attentively the short prayer rule will naturally desire more, and will ask his spiritual father, who will grant it at the appropriate time.
Regarding the troparion of the day, in the Greek text for Small Compline in the Horologion the second Trisagion prayers are followed either by the kontakion of the saint of the day if one exists, or by two general troparia to the saints, one for the dead and one theotokion. Such minor nuances may differ between editions and locales; it is best to avoid making one’s own practice, so given that the rubrics of the blue prayer book indicate either the standard troparia it has selected, or the troparion of the day, one should follow its prescription and if one has access to the daily troparion, pray it and it alone.
We are encouraged by your interest and desire for exactness in the matter of prayer, and exhort you to maintain this disciplined fervor, so that you might ascend to the heights of prayer, through the grace of God.
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