Ὀκτώηχος/Octóechos; Slavonic: Октонхъ/Októikh or Осмогласникъ/Osmoglásnik)
is an Orthodox Christian Liturgical term, referring either to the
eight-tone (or eight-mode) system of Church hymnology or to the liturgical
book containing the daily variable texts in each of these eight weekly
What is the Októechos used for?
The Októechos covers an
eight-week cycle, providing the daily texts chanted at Vespers, Matins,
the Divine Liturgy, and Compline as well as at the Midnight Office on
How is the Októechos organized?
Each week begins a new “mode”
(Greek: ἤχος/échos; Slavonic: глáсъ/glás, and the Októechos provides texts
for each day of the week in that mode. The new mode begins with Saturday
Is the Parakletiké the same as the Októechos?
The word Októechos is
sometimes used to describe an abbreviated volume containing only the
Sunday resurrectional texts. In that context, the complete version is
referred to as the Parakletiké (Greek: Παρακλητική/Paraklētikē). The word
Παρακλητική derives from parakaleín (Greek: παρακαλείν) which means "to
supplicate" and this refers to the more penitential texts found on
What do the various names for hymns in the Októechos mean?
In general, a hymn chanted at
Vespers and Matins is referred to as a Sticherón (Greek:
στιχηρόν/sticherón, plural στιχηρά/sticherá) which is a short stanza. The
term, Sticherón, means “set in verses” and the Sticherá are typically
chanted interspersed with Stíchoi (Greek στίχος/stíchos, plural
στίχοι/stíchoi), verses, from the Psalms.
An Idiómelon (Greek:
ἰδιόμελον/idiómelon; Slavonic: самогласенъ/samoglasen; from idio-=unique
and -melon=melody) is a type of sticherón (hymn) with a unique melody.
An Avtómelon (Greek:
αὐτόμελον/avtómelon; Slavonic: самоподобенъ/samopodoben
самогласенъ/samoglasen; from auto-=same and -melon=melody) is an Iiómelon
used as a “model melody.” A hymn based on the Autómelon is composed over
the Autómelon melody and follows its poetic meter and musical rhythm.
The body of Avtómela form a
genre referred to as Prosómoia (Greek: προσόμοιον/prosómoion; Slavonic:
подобенъ/podoben; meaning “similar to”).
How did the Októechos develop over history?
On the one hand, the
Októechos – like all the Orthodox Christian liturgical volumes – is simply
a historical compilation of the hymns sung by the Church since the
first-century Apostolic era. On the other hand, the volumes were compiled
to meet the needs of Church chanters and choirs based on the liturgical
seasons (e.g., Lent and Pentecost) as well as the specific roles of
different chanters and choirs (e.g., right choir and left choir).
Such compilations continue to
be assembled today, with developments in “printing technology” that have
provided us with photocopiers, computers and printers, etc. For instance,
it is very common for a monastery or a parish to have folders and
notebooks containing “tailored” copies of the services for major feast
days, such as Christmas.
The standard liturgical
volumes we use today – the Októechos as well as the Orológion, Triódion,
Pentekostárion, and Menaía – derive from monastic practice during the
first millennium. It could correctly be stated that the books at the
“chanters’ stand” today have not been changed since the eighth century.
The origins of the Októechos
are in the Monastery of Saint Sabbas in Palestine, and Saint John of
Damascus (AD 675–749) is credited with its initial compilation and with its
shape and form which have remained consistent to the present day. That
being said, new material has occasionally been added, especially to the
Menaía as new saints are canonized and services commemorating their lives
are composed. The structure has remained unchanging, though materials
reflecting newer saints has been appended.
Early contributions to the
Októechos are credited to Saint Kosmas the Hymnographer (ca. AD 706–787),
Saint Joseph the Hymnographer (AD 810–886), Saint Theophanes of Nicaea(AD
775– 845); Saint Metrophanes of Smyrna (AD 867). The final form of the
Parakletikí is attributed to Saint Joseph the Hymnographer.
Text of the Októechos.
Októechos texts below are
those most-commonly used in parishes of the Orthodox Church in America.
They are in the traditional King James English liturgical language. All
are copyright http://www.st-sergius.org.
They May not be sold, or bundled for sale with other texts.