Saturday, July 02, 2011


A Protestant friend of mine, who also had very little expereince of the Orthodox Church once asked me if I get tired of doing the same thing in Church all the time.  It was kind of funny to me then, and still is now.  I explained to him how our services are like a series of interlocking wheels of various diamaters so that every service is actually different from every other service, and that the same service won't repeat for several centuries.  
In fact, they are so different from each other that a choir director friend of mine prepares "Choir Cues" for every Sunday Divine Liturgy of the year.  (I'll put an example of them at the end of this post.)

So, what are these interlocking wheels?  

1. The Daily Cycle - From sundown to sundown, every day is filled with the possibility of many services, each with their own changeable and unchangeable parts .  The unchangeable parts are dictated by which service it is.  The changeabe parts are dictated by the other cycles. The services of the daily cycle are:
a. Vespers ( Ἑσπερινός )  - emphasis on the setting sun contrasted with the Light of Christ.  Served at sunset.
b. Compline (Ἀπόδειπνον ) - emphasis on preparing for death.  Though the Greek name for the service literally means "after supper" it is served at bedtime.
c. The Midnight Service (Μεσονυκτικόν ) - emphasis on Divine mercy, the second comming of Jesus, and encouragement to remain faithful to him. Served at midnight. (This is my favorite service to do at home.)
d. Matins (Ὄρθρος) - emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus. Served at dawn.
e. The 1st Hour (Πρῶτη Ὥρα) - emphasis on the creation and fall, and on Jesus trial before the high priest. Served at 7 a.m.
f.  The 3rd Hour (Τρίτη Ὥρα) - emphasis on the descent of the Holy Spirit. Served at 9 a.m.
g. The 6th Hour (Ἕκτη Ὥρα) - emphasis on the crucifixion of Jesus. Served at noon.
h. The 9th Hour (Ἐννάτη Ὥρα) - emphasis on the death of Jesus. Served at 3 p.m.
i.  The Divine Liturgy - the main eucaristic service of the Orthodox Church is not thought of as part of the Daily Cycle but can be served every day (required on Sundays and major feasts).  On days when it is served it is served in the morning and 3rd and 6th Hour precede it.  

2. The Fixed Cycle - Commemorations, scripture readings, and hymns that are tied to specific dates on the Calendar.  For example, today is July 2.  On this date we commemorate 6 saints and two historical events, sing two prescribed hymns that are sung on no other day of the year, and read Romans 3:28-4:3 and Matthew 7:24-8:4.  Some dates have more or fewer saints of historical event to commemorate.  Some have more hymns, but none has fewer than two.  Some dates have more Scripture readings, but none has fewer than two.

3. The Musical Cycle - each week has a tone (family of melodies is the best way to think of it) assigned to it.  There are eight tones and the hymns are sung to these melodies.  The tone changes each week, and the Cycle repeats every eight weeks.  So, for example, on today, 2 July 2011, the prescribed tone is Tone 1.  But next year the prescribed tone for July 2 will be a different tone.  So, the words of the hymns will be the same but the tones will be different.

4. The Weekly Cycle - Every day of the week commemeorates someone or something different and for each day there are specific prayers and hymns inserted into the services.  Also, the weekly cycle regulates which Kathisma are read during the services on each day so that the entire Psalter is read each week.
Sunday - the resurrection of Jesus
Monday - the holy angels
Tuesday - St. John the Forerunner
Wednesday - Mary and the Cross
Thursday - The Apostles and St. Nicholas of Myra (AKA Santa Claus)
Friday - Mary and the Cross
Saturday - All Saints and all dead Christians

5. The Cycle of the Sunday Matins Gospels - As mentioned above, the Matins service and every Sunday emphasise the resurrection of Jesus.  That means that Sunday Matins are especially comemorative of the Resurrection.  Part of that emphasis is reading the eleven accounts of Jesus post-resurrection appearances found in the Gospels.  This cycle repeats every eleven sundays, beginning on the Sunday after Pentecost.  

The Sunday Matins Gospels are:

  1. Matthew 28:1-16
  2. Mark 16:1-8
  3. Mark 16:9-20
  4. Luke  24:1-12
  5. Luke 24:12-35
  6. Luke 24:36-53
  7. John 20:1-10
  8. John 20:11-18
  9. John 20:19-31
  10. John 21:1-14
  11. John 21:15-25
Right before the reading of these Gospels are hymns and readings from the Psalms pertaining to the resurrection of Jesus, each Gospel having its own particular hymn and Psalm reading. And following the reading of the Sunday Matins Gospel the deacon says:
"Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the holy Lord Jesus, the only sinless one. We venerate Thy cross, O Christ, and Thy holy Resurrection we praise and glorify. For Thou art our God, and we know none other than Thee. We call on Thy name. O come, all ye faithful, let us venerate Christ's holy Resurrection. For behold, through the cross joy hath come into all the world. Ever blessing the Lord, we praise his Resurrection: for by enduring the cross, he hath slain death by death."
Exceptions to this cycle are when one of the Great Feasts (i.e. Christmas, Ascension, Annunciation, etc.) falls on a Sunday.  Each of the Great Feasts of Jesus has it's own Matins Gospel, and the Matins Gospel for Great Fests of Mary is always Luke 1:39-49

6. The Moveable Cycle - This is a cycle of observances regulated by the occurance of Pascha.  According to the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325), Pashca, the anual celebration of the resurrection of Jesus be observed by all Chrisstians on the same Sunday. Though he left out some important details, the basic idea of when Pascha is to be celebrated is stated by St. Bede as "The Sunday following the full Moon which falls on or after the [vernal] equinox will give the lawful Easter."  Thus Pascha can fall early as April 4 and as late as May 8.

But the date of Pascha determines the dates of many other important feasts and commemorations.  In fact, they are too many for me to discuss them with any detail, but they all have their own hymns, music, prayers, and Scripture readings layed on top of those from the other cycles.  Some of the observances of the Moveable Cycle are:
  1. Sunday of Zaccheus
  2. Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee
  3. Sunday of the Prodigal Son
  4. Sunday of the Last Judgement (last day to eat meat)
  5. Sunday of Forgiveness (last day to eat dairy)
  6. Lent (40 days of fasting and special services that are served no other time during the year)
  7. Palm Sunday
  8. Holy Week
  10. Bright Week
  11. Ascension (40 days after Pascha)
  12. Pentecost (50 days after Pascha)

So, there they are;  breifly explained with no detail (The detail is contained in many large books with strange sounding names. Example: The information for the Fixed Cycle is contained in 12 volumes called the Menaion.) at all, the six Cycles that keep me from getting bored with having to do the same service over and over again.

Example of "Choir Cues" by Reader Philip Sokolov

3rd SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST — Tone 2.  Martyr Hyacinth of Caesarea in Cappadocia.

Sunday Readings:
Epistle: (88) Romans 5:1-10
Gospel: (18) Matthew 6:22-33

Martyr Hyacinth of Caesarea in Cappadocia (108).  Translation of the Relics of Hieromartyr Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow (1652).  Ven. Anatoly (Anatolius) of the Kiev Caves (Near Caves—12th c.), and Ven. Anatoly (another), Recluse, of the Kiev Caves (Far Caves—13th c.).  St. Vasily, Bishop of Riazan’ (1295).  Rt. Blv. Princes Vasily and Constantine of Yaroslavl’ (13th c.).  Ven. John and Longinus, Wonderworkers of Yarensk (Solovetsky Monastery—1544-45).  Bl. John of Moscow, Fool-for-Christ (1589).  Ven. Nicodim (Nikodemus), Abbot of Kozheyezersk (1640).  Martyrs Diomedes, Eulampius, Asclepiodotus and Golinduc, who suffered with Hyacinth (2nd c.).  Martyrs Mocius (Mucian) and Mark (4th c.).  St. Alexander, Founder of the “Unsleeping Ones” (ca. 430).  St. Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople (458).  Monk Martyr Gerasimus (1812).  Icon of the Most-holy Theotokos, the “MILK-GIVER” of Chilandari Monastery on Mt. Athos.


At All Hours:
Troparion, Resurrection
Troparion, Saint
Now and ever…
Theotokion from the Horologion
Kontakion, Resurrection


BEATITUDES TROPARIA on 8, Tone 2: All Resurrection.
In Thy kingdom remember us, O Lord, * when Thou comest in Thy kingdom.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, * for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, * for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, * for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, * for they shall be filled.

8. We offer Thee the voice of the thief / and cry aloud to Thee: / Remember us, O Savior // in Thy Kingdom.

7. We bring Thee the Cross / for the forgiveness of offenses. / For us hast Thou accepted it, // O Lover of mankind.

6. We venerate, O Master, / Thy tomb and Thy rising, / through which Thou hast delivered the world from corruption, // O Lover of mankind.

5. By Thy death, O Lord, death has been swallowed up, / and by Thy Resurrection, / O Savior, // has the world been saved.

4. Risen from the tomb / Thou hast met the women bearing myrrh / and told the disciples // to proclaim Thy Rising.

3. Those sleeping in darkness / have seen Thee, the Light, / and they have risen // out of the nethermost parts of hell, O Christ.

2. Let us all glorify the Father, / worship the Son / and faithfully sing // the praises of the Holy Spirit.

1. Rejoice, O Throne in the form of fire: / Rejoice, O unwedded Bride. / Rejoice, to you O Virgin // who has brought forth God for man.


Troparion, Resurrection, Tone 2: When Thou didst descend to death, O Life Immortal, / Thou didst slay hell with the splendor of Thy Godhead! / And when from the depths Thou didst raise the dead, / all the powers of heaven cried out: // O Giver of Life, Christ our God, Glory to Thee!

[Troparion, Church (if of Theotokos or Saint(s))]

Troparion, Saint, Tone 4: Thy holy martyr Hyacinth, O Lord, / through his suffering has received an incorruptible crown from Thee, our God. / For having Thy strength, he laid low his adversaries,  / and shattered the powerless boldness of demons. // Through his intercessions save our souls.

Kontakion, Resurrection, Tone 2: Hell became afraid, O Almighty Savior, / seeing the miracle of Thy Resurrection from the tomb! / The dead arose!  Creation, with Adam, beheld this and rejoiced with Thee! // And the world, O my Savior, praises Thee forever.

[Kontakion, Church (if of Saint(s))]


Kontakion, Saint, Tone 6: Thy martyr, O Christ, having acquired Thy Faith / like a tree of life in the midst of his soul, / became more honorable than the Garden of Eden, / boldly destroying the tree of the serpent’s deception by his spirit; / and he was crowned with Thy glory, // O greatly Merciful One.

Now and ever…

[Kontakion, Church (if of Theotokos).  If not, then:]

Theotokion, Tone 6: Steadfast protectress of Christians, / constant advocate before the Creator; / despise not the cry of us sinners, / but in your goodness come speedily to help us who call on you in faith. / Hasten to hear our petition and to intercede for us, O Theotokos, // for you always protect those who honor you!

Reader: The Prokeimenon in the 2nd Tone: The Lord is my strength and my song, He has become my salvation.
Choir: The Lord is my strength and my song, He has become my salvation.
Reader: The Lord has chastened me sorely, but He has not given me over to death.
Choir: The Lord is my strength and my song, He has become my salvation.
Reader: The Lord is my strength and my song,
Choir: He has become my salvation.

Reader: The Reading from the Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Romans.
[(88) Romans 5:1-10] Brethren: Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. * Through Him we have obtained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. * More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, * and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, * and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. * While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. * Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man — though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. * But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. * Since, therefore, we are now justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. * For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.

Priest: Peace be unto you, reader.
Reader: And to your spirit.
Deacon: Wisdom!

(PAUSE before first verse)
Reader: In the 2nd Tone, Alleluia.
Choir: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
Reader: May the Lord hear you in the day of trouble!  May the Name of the God of Jacob protect you!
Choir: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
Reader: Save the King, O Lord, and hear us on the day we call.
Choir: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

[(18) Matthew 6:22-33] The Lord said: “The eye is the lamp of the body.  So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; * but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! * No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon. * Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? * Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they? * And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his stature? * And why are you anxious about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; * yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. * But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? * Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ * For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. * But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”

Praise the Lord from the heavens!  Praise Him in the highest!
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!


GretchenJoanna said...

I love your metaphor for the variety in services. Besides the content of the "wheels," there is the amazing way they interlock at any given moment or service and show that "everything is connected to everything else." Each service gives a slightly different presentation of the vastness and depth of the Kingdom, and a new opportunity for us to enter it in prayer. Anytime we can accomplish that, the experience is the ultimate in NOT boring.

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