The Liturgical Worship Services of the Orthodox Church
Community worship in the
Orthodox Church is called ”Liturgical Worship” or “Liturgical Prayer.”
The English word “liturgy” and its adjectival form, “liturgical,” derive
from the Greek word λειτουργία (leitourgía), which literally means
“work for the people” or “public service/activity.”
Worship is the activity of the faithful gathered in the local church
to glorify and praise, as well as to supplicate and thank God according
to “services” handed down unchanged since the early Church, and in many cases derived from Old Testament Temple and synagogue services.
The Orthodox worship services
are not “free-form,” nor are they chosen (much less dictated or
composed!) by a “liturgical committee.”
Each “service” (Greek:
ἀκολουθία/akolouthía; Church Slavonic послѣдованїе/posledovánie) has a
“fixed framework” (unchanging parts) into which “movable propers” are
inserted from the Októechos, Triódion, Pentekostarion, and Menaion
according to the liturgical season, and the date of the month.
The daily order of the Divine
Services depends on the location and region. This order is referred to as
the Typikón. The English version most-commonly used
in parishes of the Orthodox Church in America is, in fact, titled
“Order of the Divine Services.”
The first major distinction
among various Typikóns (or Typiká) is among those used for cathedral,
parish, and monastery usage. There is some thought within Slavic
Christtianity that these three distinctions melded into an all-purpose
Typikón, although the distinctions clearly remain within the Byzantine
tradition. The annual Typikon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate indicates the
order of services at the Patriarchal Church of Saint George (“cathedral
rite”), the order in parishes (“parish rite”), and the order for
monasteries (“monastery rite”).
Each church and monastery, of
course, adapts the service structure to accomodate church architectural
features as well as the needs and capabilities of the faithful.
To help clergy apply their
Typikon to the circumstances of the local parish or monastery, various
national Churches, such as the OCA, publish an annual
Calendar, variously titled as “Typikon for
the Year 2023,” “Liturgical Calendar for the Year 2023,” etc.
Although the texts of
Orthodox services are constant, regional distinctions are reflected in the
musical styles and melodies. The two broadest categories of these
distinctions are the “Byzantine” and “Russian” which are based,
respectively, on the 8th-century order of services of the Stúdion
Monastery in Constantinople and of the 5th-century order of
services of Saint Savvas Monastery in Jerusalem.
The “fixed” portions of the
Divine Services are contained in the
Orologion, or “Book of the Hours.” These are the Daily
Services of Mesonyktiko (Midnight Office), Matins, First Hour, Third Hour,
Sixth Hour, Ninth Hour, Vespers, and Compline.
The “variable” portions of
the Divine Services are contained in a series of volumes. There is a
general precedence of the hymns and Kanons in these books:
The Sunday Resurrection Hymns from the Oktoechos according to the eight tones,
The Lenten Hymns from the Triodion during the seventy days of the Triodion season,
The Pentecostal Hymns from the Pentekostarion during the fifty days of the Pentecost season,
The Daily Hymns from the Menaion according to the day of the month,
The Daily Hymns from the Oktoechos according to the eight tones and day of the week.
Links at the top of, and
within, this webpage are to the Liturgical Library books most-commonly
used in parishes of the Orthodox Church in America.