A paraklesis (pl., parakleses) is a service of supplication specifically for the living (as opposed to a Memorial Service, which is a supplication for the departed). This service is most often addressed to the Theotokos, but may be used to seek the intercessions of any saint. The distinguishing feature of a paraklesis is the inclusion of a supplicatory canon to the saint whose intercessions are being sought. A paraklesis can be served as a stand-alone service or, in a slightly abbreviated form, in conjunction with vespers. It is appropriate to be served at any time of need. In Slavic practice, there is a very similar service that is called a molieben -- this service is either served as a stand-alone service, or in conjuction with the Divine Liturgy.
Dormition Parakleses to the Theotokos
During the Dormition Fast (August 1-14), a paraklesis is appointed to be served each evening, except on Saturday evenings and the eves of the feasts of Transfiguration (August 5) and Dormition (August 14).
The parakleses of the Dormition Fast use, on alternate days, the Small Supplicatory Canon to the Most Holy Theotokos (composed by Theosterictus the Monk in the 9th Century) and the Great Supplicatory Canon to the Most Holy Theotokos (composed by Emperor Theodore I Ducas Lascaris in the 13th century).
The cycle of the Dormition parakleses is determined by two rules of thumb: (a) the cycle begins with the Small Supplicatory Canon whenever August 1 falls on a Monday through Friday; and (b) on Sunday evenings, the Great Supplicatory Canon is always appointed.
Paraklesis to the Theotokos outside the Dormition Fast
Outside the Dormition Fast, a paraklesis directed to the Theotokos is always chanted with the Small Supplicatory Canon.
Texts of Supplicatory Canons
The texts of various supplicatory canons can be found in many popular prayer books, service books, and horologia. Some of these include:
- The Great Horologion, Holy Transfiguration Monastery (ISBN 0943405084)
- A Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians, Holy Transfiguration Monastery (ISBN 0943405017)
There are also online sources for the texts of supplicatory canons, both as part of the paraklesis service and alone. Some of these include:
- Small Supplicatory Canon to the Theokos Website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia
- Great Supplicatory Canon to the Theotokos Website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia
- Supplicatory Canon to St. Silouan of the Holy Mountain Website dedicated to St. Silouan
- Small Supplicatory Canon to the Holy Martyr Edmund, King of East Anglia Website of St. Felix and St. Edmund Orthodox Church