Holy Wisdom Orthodox Mission
1355 North 4th Street • Grand Junction, CO 81501
(On the corner of North 4th Street & Kennedy Street)

holywisdomorthodox@gmail.com • 720-295-7715
A mission parish of the
Orthodox Church in America , and the Diocese of the West
Return to the Welcome Page
Liturgical Glossary Page Index:
Agiasmó, Agrypnía, Aínoi, Akathist, Anámnesis, Anaphorá, Anavathmoí, Antídoron, Antiphon, Apolitíkion, Aposticha, Artoklasía, Cherubic Hymn, Commemoration, Communion Hymn, Communion, Compline, Consecration, Doxology, Eisodikon, Entrance Hymn, Entrance Rite, Eothinón, Eucharist, Evlogitaria, Exaposteilárion, O gladsome Light, Great Entrance, Gospel, Great Litany, Hexapsalm, Holy Communion, Hypakoë, Incense, Kánon, Great Kanon, Imperial Hours, Kanónion, Katavasíai, Kathagíasis, Káthisma, Kathísmata, Kekragária, Koinonikón, Kontakion, Litany of Peace, Liturgy of the Catechumens, Liturgy of the Faithful, Megalynárion, Molieben, Only-Begotten Son, Paráklesis, Praises, Preparation of the Gifts, Presanctified Divine Liturgy, Proemial Psalm, Prokeímenon, Proskomidi, Próthesis, Psalm 102, Psalm 117, Psalm 145, Psalm 50, Royal Hours, Small Entrance, Σῶσον Κύριε (“Save, O Lord”), Synaxárion, The doors, the doors!, Most-Holy Theotokos save us, Theotokíon, Theotokos, Trisagion, Troparion, We have seen the Light, Ypakoë

Liturgical Glossary

Agiasmó (or Blessing of Water)
When water is blessed and in Greek it is called Ἁγιασμό, from the word ἁγίασμα (agíasma) which means a “sacred object.” Holy Water is an image of the grace of God. It cleanses the faithful of spiritual impurities, and it sanctifies and strengthens them for the task of salvation in God. Holy Water is used to bless homes, vehicles, buildings, animals, and any object used for good purpose.  Read more...

Agrypnía (or “All-Night Vigil”)
On the eves of great feast days of our Lord, of His holy Mother, and of the major saints, it is customary to celebrate all the daily liturgical services in one continuous evening sequence, without pause. Participating in the Vigil is not easy. It is a true spiritual “exercise” that requires effort. Nonetheless, participating in the Vigil is an opportunity to spend both quantity and quality time with the Lord in prayer — in communication with Him, hearing Him through the Scriptures and hymnody, and speaking to Him in our prayers.  Read more...

Aínoi (or Praises)
The Praises are based on Psalms 148, 149, and 150, the final three Psalms in the Psalter. The term is taken from the opening of Psalm 148, “Praise.” A variable number of Sticherá are chanted according to the feast being celebrated or saint being commemorated. The chanting of these Psalms is of the utmost antiquity in the Orthodox Church, having its roots in the worship services of the Jewish Synagogue.

An “Akathist” is a structured devotional hymn, sung by the faithful while standing. The term “ákathist” (from the Greek “ἀκάθιστος”) means “not seated” (therefore “standing”). The most well known is the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos is an ancient hymn of the Orthodox Church, composed in the imperial city of Constantinople by Saint Romanos the Melodist (+AD 556). Its structure and melodies became so popular that many other akathists have been written following its format to Our Lord Jesus Christ, to the Cross, and to many Saints. Typically an Ákathist is very elegant devotional poetry, often expressing profound theological truths. An Ákathist to the Theotokos or to a saint is sung in thanksgiving for their intercessions on our behalf.  Read more...

Anámnesis (Commemoration)
At the Anámnesis (Commemoration) of the Divine Liturgy, we recall and repeat the words and actions of our Lord Jesus Christ at the Mystical Supper. That meal with His disciples was not a “Last” Supper, but exactly like our Divine Liturgy it was an earthly participation in the perpetual, heavenly Liturgy.

At the Anámnesis of the Divine Liturgy, the events of the Mystical Supper, and the words of institution of the Eucharist are recalled. At its conclusion, the faithful kneel – except during the fifty days from Pascha through Pentecost. As the congregation softly chants the solemn and mystical hymn of praise: “We praise You, we bless You, we thank You, Lord, and we pray to You, our God,” the Priest quietly invokes the Holy Spirit to change the Bread into the Body of Christ and the Wine into the Blood of Christ.

Anaphorá (Ἀναφορά)
There are three prayers, or parts, associated with the consecration of the Holy Eucharist: the Anaphorá (Offering), the Anámnesis (Commemoration) and the Kathagíasis (Consecration). The Greek word ἀναφορά translates as “offering up.”

These three parts constitute the “Eucharistic Canon” which follows the form of the Old Testamental Passover ritual. Of course, this Passover (or Páscha) rite is fulfilled and perfected in the new and everlasting covenant of God with men in the Person and work of Jesus Christ the Messiah (Anointed One, or Christ). He is “our Paschal Lamb Who has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 4.7; cf. Hebrews 5–10).

The Holy Oblation is Christ, the Son of God who has become the Son of Man in order to offer Himself to His Father for the life of the world. In His own person Jesus is the perfect peace offering which alone brings God’s reconciling mercy.

Thus, in Christ, all is fulfilled and accomplished. In Him the entire sacrificial system of the Old Testament, which is itself the image of the universal striving of men to be worthy of God, is fulfilled. All possible offerings are embodied and perfected in the offering of Christ on the Cross.

He is the offering for peace and reconciliation and forgiveness. He is the sacrifice for supplication, thanksgiving and praise.

In Him all of men’s sins and impurities are forgiven. In Him all of men’s positive aspirations are fulfilled. In Him, and in Him alone, are all of men’s ways to God, and God’s ways to men, brought into one Holy Communion.

Through Him alone do men have access to the Father in one Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 2.18; John 14; 2 Corinthians 5; Colossians 1).

As men in Christ lift up, or offer, the Eucharistic Gifts, they lift up their hearts as well. In the Bible the heart of man stands for his whole being and life. Thus in the anaphora, as the Apostle Paul has stated, the whole man is taken up into that realm where Christ is now seated at the right hand of God. (cf. Colossians 3.1–3).

The manner of lifting up oneself to God is through thanksgiving. The word “eucharist” in Greek means thanksgiving. The eucharistic Divine Liturgy is preeminently the action of lifting up one’s heart and giving thanks to God for all that He has done for man and the world in Christ and the Holy Spirit: creation, salvation and eternal glorification.

The original sin of man, the origin of all of his trouble, corruption and ultimate death, is his failure to give thanks to God. The restoration of communion with God, and with all creation in him, is through thanksgiving in Christ. Jesus is the only man truly grateful, humble and obedient to God. In him, as the only Beloved Son of God and the only perfect Adam, all men can lift up their hearts and give thanks to the Lord: “For there is ... one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself as a ransom for all...” (1 Timothy 2.5).

With hearts lifted up to the Lord, and thanksgiving rendered to God, the prayer of the Anaphorá is as follows:

It is worthy and right, to sing to You, to bless You, to praise You, to thank You, and to worship You in every place of Your dominion. You are God ineffable, beyond comprehension, invisible, beyond understanding, ever existing and always the same: You and Your only-begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit. You have brought us out of non-existence into being, and though we fell You raised us up again, and You did not cease doing everything until You brought us up to heaven and granted to us Your future Kingdom. For all of these we thank You, and Your only-begotten Son, and Your Holy Spirit; for all things that we know and do not know, for benefits seen and unseen that have been given to us. We also thank You for this liturgy which You have deemed worthy to accept from our hands, even though You are surrounded by thousands of Archangels and myriads of Angels, by the Cherubim and Seraphim, six-winged, many-eyed, soaring, with wings, singing the victorious hymn, shouting out, proclaiming and saying: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth: heaven and earth are filled with Your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna is He in the highest. (cf. Isaiah 6.1–5)
Through Christ and the Holy Spirit, not only are bread and wine offered but the man of faith himself is transported in spirit to be with his Lord. The limitations of this age are left behind through grateful remembrance of Christ and his accomplishment of salvation.

Anavathmoús, Anavathmoí
The Anavathmoí (singular = Anavathmoús) of Matins, are also called “Hymns of Degree” or Gradual Hymns. They are poetic compositions based on the Songs of Degrees, or “Gradual Psalms” (Psalms 119-133), which were chanted as the Old Testament priest ascended into the Temple in Jerusalem. In their current form the Anavathmoí were composed to be sung as the Priest or Deacon ascended the ámbon (pulpit) to read the Gospel. The Anavathmoí are thus a prelude to reading the Matins Gospel.

“Antídoron” literally means “instead” (anti-) of the “gifts” (-doron). Prior to the Divine Liturgy, the Priest prepares the bread and wine at the Próthesis (table of preparation), taking portions from the loaf of bread to represent Christ, His Mother, the Angels and Saints, as well as those among the living and those fallen asleep whom he commemorates, and places these on the paten. The remainder of the loaf is then cut into pieces and these, the “Antídoron,” are offered to the faithful: after Holy Communion to ensure that all the Eucharist received is swallowed, and after the Liturgy to all those who are present.

It is from this latter usage that the term originates, since even those who did not receive the “Holy Gifts” (Holy Communion) may receive a portion of the blessed bread (Antídoron) instead of the Gifts. It should be kept in mind that Antídoron is not the consecrated Body of Christ (Communion).

An Antiphon is a hymn chanted by two groups in alternating sections. The Antiphons at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy are comprised of Psalm verses intoned by the Reader, interspersed with short hymns to the Theotokos or to Christ.

Apolitíkion, Apolitíkia
One Apolitíkion (plural= Apolitíkia) is usually chanted before the Entrance Hymn, as the clergy exit the Holy of Holies. It is usually repeated after they reenter the Holy of Holies, and then any other Apolitíkia of the day are chanted. Except on great feasts of the Lord and His Mother, the Apolitíkion of the church is also chanted. (Also see Tropárion.)

The Apósticha of Vespers and of Matins, are Sticherá interspersed with Psalm verses near the end of Vespers and also at the end of weekday Matins.

The Artoklasía, or “Breaking of Bread,” is a service held on certain Great Feasts toward the end of Vespers (or the end of Matins, and sometimes at the end of the Divine Liturgy). It is a special service of thanksgiving, expressing our gratitude to God for His many gifts and asking Him to continue sustaining us with everything necessary in this life.

The term “Artoklasía” derives from two Greek words: “ártos” which means “wheat bread,” and “kláo” which means “break.” Five loaves of sweet bread are set on a table in the middle of the church, along with small containers of oil, wine, and wheat. The Priest censes these gifts, and reads the Prayer of Blessing which recalls the five loaves at the feeding of the five thousand by Christ in the desert (Matthew 14:15-21). The blessed Artoklasía bread is broken (or cut) into pieces for distribution after the service.

Cherubic Hymn
The Cherubic Hymn at the Divine Liturgy, the one most familiar to Orthodox Christians today, was introduced into the Liturgy in AD 573. Prior to that time, the Cherubic Hymn sung was from the Divine Liturgy of Saint James, “Let all mortal flesh keep silent, and stand in fear and trembling, giving no thought to things of the earth, for the King of kings and the Lord of lords comes forth to be sacrificed, and given as Food to the faithful; before Him go the choirs of Angels, with all the Principalities and Powers; the many-eyed Cherubim, and the six-winged Seraphim, covering their faces and chanting their hymn: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia;” which is now chanted only at the Liturgy on Holy Saturday morning.

Commemoration (see “Anámnesis”)

Communion (see “Eucharist”)

Communion Hymn (see “Koinonikón”)

Compline (“Ἀπόδειπνον”)
Compline is the last liturgical service of the day. It is the routine, daily evening prayer of all Orthodox Christians. In monasteries it is celebrated after the evening meal and before going to sleep. The Greek word for this service, Ἀπόδειπνο, is self-explanatory: it is the service after (ἀπό) the evening meal (δειπνον). The English word for the service, Compline, is derived from the Latin noun completorium since this service marks the completion of the working day.  Read more...

Consecration (see “Kathagíasis”)

The Doxology is a “Hymn of Glorification” chanted at the end of Matins. It begins with the Angelic greeting of the Nativity: “Glory in the highest to God...” (cf. Luke 2:14)

The Great Doxology is chanted on Sundays and feast days, while the “Small” Doxology is simply read at daily Matins.

The Entrance Hymn (in Greek, Eisodikón), is a response to the Deacon’s proclamation, “Wisdom, rise!” It may simply call upon the faithful to “bow down and worship Christ,” or it may reflect the character of a great Feast of the Lord. It typically concludes with the prayer to Christ: “Save us, O Son of God.”

Entrance Hymn (see “Eisodikón”)

“Entrance Rite” of the Liturgy
The Great Litany, Antiphons, and Entrance form the “Entrance Rite” of the Liturgy. Once we, the faithful, have fully entered the Church liturgically, we proclaim our Trinitarian faith, singing the “Triságion,” or “Thrice-Holy” Hymn.

Eothinón, Eothiná
On Sundays an Eothinón (“dawn”) Gospel is read at Matins. There are eleven instances recorded in the four Gospels of Christ appearing to His disciples after His resurrection. These form the basis of the eleven “Eothiná” which, like the eight resurrection tones, repeat cyclically throughout the liturgical year.

The Eucharistic Mystery is our earthly participation in the perpetual, heavenly Liturgy.

The “Eucharistic Rite” comprises the Anaphorá (Offering), the Anámnesis (Commemoration), and the Kathagíasis (Consecration). The gifts of bread and wine are offered at the Anaphora, and are consecrated at the Kathagiasis.

Holy Communion may only be received by Orthodox Christians who live their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Church, and who have properly prepared themselves to do so.

Those preparing to receive Holy Communion profess their common Orthodox faith by reciting the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in unison at the Divine Liturgy. The Creed is also called the “Symbol of Faith,” indicating its importance to early Christians in determining the Orthodoxy of persons claiming to be members of the Church.

The faithful preparing to receive Holy Communion do so by living according to the teachings of the Orthodox Church. This means living in accordance with the Ten Commandments, reciting faithfully their morning and evening prayers, participating frequently in the public worship services (especially Vespers and Matins), observing the fast days and the fasting seasons, going to Holy Confession regularly, and actively participating in the Divine Liturgy at least each Sunday that it is celebrated in their parish. The evening before receiving Holy Communion the Service of Preparation should be read at home and the night kept peaceful and holy.

Each person coming to Communion should say their name to the Priest. The Priest may ask individuals not known to him whether they are Orthodox Christians. Non-Orthodox persons may also come forward and receive a blessing from the Priest and take a piece of Antídoron.

The Resurrectional Evlogitária are chanted after the Sessional Hymns at Matins on Sunday. The Evlogitaria proclaim the Resurrection, and each stanza is introduced by the refrain “Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your commandments” (Psalm 118:12).

Exaposteilárion, Exaposteilária
The Exaposteilária (singular, Exaposteilárion) are Tropária that introduce the dismissal (from ἐξαποστέλλω, “dismiss”), or conclusion, of Matins.

Both the Resurrectional Exaposteilárion and the Resurrectional Eothinón Doxastikon on Sundays reiterate the topic of the Eothinón Gospel, and develop the theme of Christ as Light of the world.

On Feast Days, the Exaposteilárion reflects the event commemorated or the life of the saint being celebrated.

Gospel (“εὐαγγέλιον”)
The Gospel Book, in Greek referred to as the “Εὐαγγέλιον” or Evangélion, is a central liturgical item. It is considered to be an icon of Christ, and is venerated in the same manner as an icon. The Gospel Book rests upon upon the antimension on the center of the altar table, and remains on the Altar at all times, as Christ will remain with the Church until the end of the world (Matthew 28:20). The Gospel Book contains the readings (perícopes) that are used at Orthros, the Divine Liturgy, and other services. The Gospel Book is laid out in order of the cycle of readings as they occur in the ecclesiastical year, with a section in the back providing the Gospel readings for Matins, Feasts and special occasions.  Read more...

Great Entrance
The Great Entrance provides the context for bringing the gifts of bread and wine from the Prothesis (table of preparation) to be placed on the Holy Altar for their consecration into the Body and Blood of Christ.

Great Litany
The Great Litany is recited at Vespers, Matins, and at the Sacraments of the Church. It is the basic Litany, or series of petitions, addressing the general needs of the faithful and the community. It concludes by recalling the example of the Theotokos and the saints, calling us to commit ourselves to Christ.

The Héxapsalm (“Six Psalms”) are read daily at the beginning of Matins. The Héxapslam consists of Psalms 3, 37, 62, 87, 102, and 142.

According to pious tradition these will be sung by the Angelic choir at the Final Judgment; accordingly the faithful remain quietly standing during these Psalms, contemplating the day of their own judgment.

While the Reader reads the Héxapsalm the Priest reads the twelve Matins Prayers in a low voice. The first six prayers are read before the Holy Altar, and the final six are read while standing before the icon of Christ.

Holy Communion (see “Eucharist”)

Imperial Hours
The Imperial Hours (or “Royal Hours”) are Psalms, hymns, and Scripture readings read and chanted on the forefeasts of the Nativity and Theophany, as well as on Holy Friday. The Imperial Hours are the four daily “Hours” (Tirst, Third, Sixth, and Ninth) read as a single service to contemplate the great mysteries of faith represented by these feasts. In the first millennium it became a popular tradition for the faithful to attend the forefeast services at monasteries, especially the hours before Great Feasts. Those who remained in the city, of course, attended the Hours throughout the day, walking from their places of work to the local church. To accommodate city dwellers, and specifically the Christian Roman (Byzantine) court, however, the four “Hours” (1st, 3rd, 6th, and 9th) were celebrated in succession as a morning liturgical worship service. This practice, instituted to accommodate the great deal of bureaucratic work required in the imperial service, was nicknamed the “Imperial (or “Royal”) Hours” since it was identified with the emperor’s chapel. In daily practice each of the four Hours consist of three Psalms, several hymns and prayers, and a dismissal. They take about 10 to 15 minutes each to read. At the Imperial Hours, each of the four segments consists of exactly these same parts (three Psalms, several hymns and prayers) plus an Old Testament, an Epistle, and a Gospel reading. Overall the Reading of the Imperial Hours takes about an hour or so.  Read more...

Incense is used for two purposes.

It symbolizes prayers sent up to heaven, and our hope that they will be received as favorably as the sweet-smelling fragrance of the incense.

It also serves to “veil” holy and sacred things; it does not hide, or obscure, them, but it signals to us that what is in reality upon the Holy Altar – for example, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ – is a mystery that exceeds our ability to fully perceive it with our eyes or to completely comprehend it with our minds.

A “kanon” is a structured hymn used in many Orthodox services. It consists of nine “odes” based on Biblical compositions (also called odes). Eight of these Scriptural Odes are from the Old Testament, and the ninth is that of the most-holy Mother of our Lord in Luke 1:46-55. Depending on the translation, the Greek word ὡδή is translated variously as “ode,” “canticle,” or “song.”

Great Kánon of Saint Andrew of Crete
The Great Kanon of Saint Andrew of Crete, sometimes also known as the “Kanon of Repentance,” is a lengthy penitential service composed in the seventh century, which is sung during the period of the Great Fast (or of “Great Lent”). The Great Kanon dates from the 7th century and was either written in, or translated into, the Greek language by Saint Andrew of Crete. It was further developed in the 8th century by Saints John of Damascus and Kosmas the Hymnographer, as well as during the 9th century by Saints Joseph the Hymnographer and Theophanes the Confessor. This remarkable penitential kanon continues to be read during both the First Week and the Fifth Week of the Great Fast.  Read more...

Kanónion (“κανόνιον”)
The “Kanonion” is a formalized list of the Sundays of the Ecclesiastical Year, from September through the following August. It lists the Gospel and Epistle to be read each Sunday, as well as the eothinon and tone of the week.  Read more...

Katavasía, Katavasíai
The Katavasíai (singular, Katavasía) are “Hymns of Descent,” because in early practice the choir came down from their places to stand and chant them in the middle of the church.

The Katavasíai are seasonal in character, reflecting the themes celebrated throughout the liturgical year. The Katavasíai are chanted.

Kathagíasis (Consecration)
This is the most-sacred moment of the Divine Liturgy. The faithful remain in fearful contemplation while the great Mystery of the Consecration takes place, mindful that in receiving Holy Communion they participate in the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ.

Following the consecration of Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we remember all those for whom this Holy Sacrament is offered — indeed, all those for whom Jesus died on the Cross: all mankind. We therefore commemorate the entire Church: the Church Triumphant (those in heaven) and the Church Militant (we who are struggling on earth). During these commemorations the priest censes the Holy Gifts.

Káthisma, Kathísmata
A Káthisma (plural, Kathísmata) can mean one of two things: (a) a section of the Psalter read at the services, and (b) the hymns chanted either after reading sections from the Psalter or after certain Odes of the Kanon.

The term itself comes from the Greek word for “seated” because the faithful traditionally sit during most readings from the Psalter (as well as during readings from the Old Testament and the Epistles). Thus, the Kathísmata may also be called “Sessional Hymns.”

The reading of the Psalter at Vespers and Matins is done today in monastic practice. The Kathísmata hymns in between these Psalter readings are nonetheless chanted in parishes.

The Kekragária, a term formed from the first two words in Greek of Psalm 140:1 (Κύριε, ἐκέκραξα), refers to the “Sticherá” hymns chanted interspersed with the Psalm verses at Vespers. Depending on the Sunday, feast, or commemoration celebrated, a variable number of Psalm verses and Stichera are chanted.

Koinonikón (Communion Hymn)
The Koinonikon differs on certain feast days. While the hymn is being sung, the Priest breaks apart the “Lamb,” the Body of Christ, placing one portion in the Chalice with the Blood. Thereafter, he blesses the zeon (hot water) and adds it to the chalice.

The Clergy will then recite the Prayers of Preparation quietly and receive the Body and Blood of Christ. After receiving Holy Communion, the Priest places the remaining portions of the “Lamb” (the Body) in the chalice and calls the faithful forward to also partake of Holy Communion.

Kontakion, Kontakia
The Kontákion (also called a “Collect”) is the first stanza of what was originally a long poetic song.

The Kontákia (singular, Kontákion) were originally long poetic hymns with an introductory stanza followed by 18 to 24 strophes called Oíkoi (singular, Oíkos), most of which were written in the sixth century by Saint Romanós. Today only the first stanza and first Oíkos remain part of our liturgical tradition.

At Matins, the Kontákion and Oíkos are read, and the last phrase of each is intoned.

The Kontakia chanted at the Divine Liturgy are seasonal, reflecting the theme of the principal feast celebrated during that time of the year.

Litany of Peace (see “Great Litany”)

Liturgy of the Catechumens
The first part of the Divine Liturgy, called the Liturgy of the Catechumens or the Liturgy of the Word, has two distinct segments: the Entrance Rite and the Proclamation Rite.

The Entrance Rite focuses on a formal entrance of the Holy Scriptures, concluding with the Trinitarian proclamation of the Thrice-Holy Hymn. The Proclamation Rite includes the reading of an appointed section from the Acts of the Apostles or the Epistles as well as from the Gospels.

Liturgy of the Faithful
The second part of the Divine Liturgy, called the Liturgy of the Faithful or the Liturgy of the Eucharist, has three distinct segments: the Great Entrance, the Eucharistic Mystery, and Communion of the Faithful.

The Megalynárion, from the Greek “Μεγάλυνον” (“Magnify”), is also called the “Magnificat” (a Latin term). It is the Prayer of Exultation by the Theotokos from Luke 1:46-56, interspersed with the Troparion, “More honorable...” On some Feast Days Ode 9 of the Kanon is chanted instead of the Megalynarion.

At the Divine Liturgy, two Megalynária are customarily chanted, of the Theotokos and of the patron Saint of the church.

A Megalynárion, or “Hymn of Magnification,” proclaims, or exalts, the subject of the hymn for the edification of the faithful. The use of Megalynaria in Orthodox worship dates back to the Eighth century.

Under divine inspiration, Saint Kosmas the Hymnographer (AD 675-751) wrote the Megalynárion to the Theotokos, “More honorable than the Cherubim,” for the Ninth Ode of the kanon for Great and Holy Thursday. All subsequent Megalynária follow the same metrical pattern. The Megalynária to various saints found their way into the Divine Liturgy, beginning with the Megalynárion of Saint Basil the Great chanted on his feast day, January 1.

“Most-Holy Theotokos save us”
Knowing that the souls in heaven are not “dead” but living in the presence of God, Orthodox Christians ask the saints in heaven, and especially the Theotokos, to pray for us to God – just as we ask each other on earth to pray for us. “Save us” does not refer to eternal salvation, but save us from earthly dangers and troubles.

“Only-Begotten Son” (Hymn)
The hymn, “Only-Begotten Son,” was composed as a confession of faith by the Emperor Justinian (reigned AD 527–565) to counter the Monophysite heresy. It asserts that Jesus Christ is both complete God and complete man, without confusion of natures.

O gladsome Light
The “Lamp-Lighting Hymn,” “Φῶς ἱλαρόν” or “O gladsome Light,” was referred to by Saint John Chrysostom in the fourth century as an “ancient Christian hymn,” and it has its roots in the earlier synagogue evening service of the Jews. It has been chanted unchanged every evening at Vespers in the Orthodox Christian Church for the past two millennia. At Small Vespers the Hymn is read, not chanted.

Molieben (see “Paráklesis”)

The “Paráklesis” is a liturgical Service of Supplication, asking for the intercessions of the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God), of one or more saints, or of the Angels praying for us to God. A Paráklesis, or Supplicatory Service, is sung beseeching the Theotokos or the saints to intercede on our behalf with God for our salvation and for relief from any illness or burden in this life. In the Slavic Orthodox tradition there is a similar service called a Molieben.  Read more...

Praises (see “Ainoi”)

The “Paráklesis” is a liturgical Service of Supplication, asking for the intercessions of the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God), of one or more saints, or of the Angels praying for us to God. A Paráklesis, or Supplicatory Service, is sung beseeching the Theotokos or the saints to intercede on our behalf with God for our salvation and for relief from any illness or burden in this life. In the Slavic Orthodox tradition there is a similar service called a Molieben.  Read more...

Presanctified Divine Liturgy
The “Presanctified Divine Liturgy” – or the “Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts” – may be celebrated on the weekdays (Monday through Friday) of the Great Fast (Great Lent). The current practice is to celebrate this Liturgy on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as on certain feast days falling during the Great Fast. The Divine Liturgy, with the consecration of bread and wine as the Body and Blood of Christ, is not celebrated on weekdays during this period. Yet, the faithful desire – and need – the Communion of these Holy Gifts especially during the struggles of the season. Moreover, in earlier centuries the custom of pious Christians was to receive Holy Communion several times during the week throughout the year. Thus the Holy Fathers established the practice of distributing Holy Communion during Vespers (Evening Worship) on weekdays of the Great Fast. This developed into a formal liturgical service, which was recorded, or compiled, by Saint Gregory the Great in the sixth century.  Read more...

Proemial Psalm
Psalm 103, read at the beginning of Vespers, is a poetic rendition of the creation account in chapter one of the Book of Genesis. In the Orthodox Church the day begins at sundown, just as “in the beginning there was darkness on the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2) before God created the light (Genesis 1:3). Thus the faithful give praise and thanksgiving to the Creator as the first act of the new day.

Prokeímenon, Prokeímena
The term Prokeímenon (plural, Prokeímena) means “what is set forth,” in other words what is appointed to be read. The Prokeimena are usually Psalm verses appointed to be intoned before readings from the Holy Scriptures. Whether or not Old Testament readings are prescribed at Vespers, the Prokeimenon of the day is intoned by the Reader.

Proskomidi, or Preparation of the Gifts
Before the Divine Liturgy – either prior to, or during, Matins – the Priest prepares the bread and wine that will be brought from the Próthesis to the Holy Altar during the Great Entrance. This is done in the Service of the Proskomidí (Oblation, or Offering).

The Priest takes a Lance (spear or knife) which signifies the lance used by the Centurion to pierce our Lord’s side when on the Cross. He first cuts the center square of the Prósforon (the offering or oblation bread) to represent the “Lamb,” our Lord Jesus Christ, and places it on the Diskos (paten).

He then pierces the Lamb, and pours wine and water into the Chalice (cup). The Priest next cuts a triangular portion representing the Theotokos, as well as nine smaller triangular pieces representing the angels and saints in heaven, and places these to the left and right of the Lamb, respectively. Finally, he removes small portions representing each of the living and deceased and places these below the Lamb.

After covering the Diskos and Chalice with their veils, the Priest censes the Holy Gifts and concludes the Service of the Proskomidí. The Prayer of the Service of the Proskomidí recited after the Completed Litany and prior to the Creed during the Liturgy is, effectively, a final “offering prayer” of the bread and wine which will become the Body and Blood of our Lord which we receive in Holy Communion.

After fully vesting for the Divine Liturgy, the Priest and Deacon approach the Prothesis, the “Table of Preparation” located to the left of the Holy Altar where the Proskomidí takes place. The Prothesis is usually an enclosed area, with a table behind which is typically found the icon of the Nativity (Birth) of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 50
Psalm 50 is the great Prayer of Repentance, composed by the Old Testament King David expressing deep remorse and contrition after committing sins of adultery and murder.

The Psalm also expresses God’s great mercy to repentant sinners. It contains a prophecy about Baptism (verses 2 and 7), and provides a teaching about worship in the Spirit (verses 17-19).

Of all 150 Psalms, this is the most well-known, and most-often read, in the Orthodox Church; it is read in private daily prayers, it is read publicly at Matins, at the Third Hour, and at Compline, and it is read silently by the Priest during the Divine Liturgy.

Psalm 50 is simply read by one of the Chanters at daily and Feast Day Matins. On Sunday, however, it is intoned while the faithful come forward to venerate the resurrection icon on the Gospel book, following the reading of an Eothinón Matins Gospel.

Psalm 102
Psalm 102 was traditionally chanted at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy following the Litany of Peace in its entirety with interspersed hymns specified for the Sunday or Feast; this practice is still followed in some monasteries. Usually several selected verses of Psalm 102 are intoned with the refrain, “Through the intercessions of the Theotokos, Savior, save us.”

On Great Feasts and during Festal seasons, verses from other Psalms may be intoned before the refrain, “Through the intercessions of the Theotokos...”

Psalm 117
Psalm 117 is a song to God for His everlasting mercy. Verses from this hymn of praise are chanted joyously at Matins after the Hexapsalm and the Great Litany to praise God at the beginning of the day for coming into the world, and for teaching us how to attain the Kingdom of heaven. It is also a hymn of prayer beseeching God to continue showing us His ways and teaching us His commandments.

Psalm 145
Psalm 145 was traditionally chanted at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy following the first Small Litany in its entirety with interspersed hymns specified for the Sunday or Feast; this practice is still followed in some monasteries. Usually several selected verses of Psalm 102 are intoned with the refrain, “Save us, O Son of God ... we sing to You: Alleluia.”

On Great Feasts and during Festal seasons, verses from other Psalms may be intoned before the refrain, “Save us, O Son of God...”

Royal Hours (see “Imperial Hours”)

Small Entrance
The Small Entrance is based on the Old Testament synagogue practice of opening the worship service with a procession carrying the Holy Scriptures from their storage place to a central location where they were placed on the béma (pulpit) to be read.

At the Divine Liturgy the Gospel book is brought out of the Holy of Holies in procession, and returned to the Holy Altar. Since the Holy Gospel is the principal Icon of Jesus Christ, the Word and Wisdom of the Father, the Deacon proclaims, “Wisdom, rise!,” and the faithful respond, “Let us bow down and worship Christ... save us, O Son of God.”

Presanctified Divine Liturgy
The “Presanctified Divine Liturgy” – or the “Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts” – may be celebrated on the weekdays (Monday through Friday) of the Great Fast (Great Lent). The current practice is to celebrate this Liturgy on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as on certain feast days falling during the Great Fast. The Divine Liturgy, with the consecration of bread and wine as the Body and Blood of Christ, is not celebrated on weekdays during this period. Yet, the faithful desire – and need – the Communion of these Holy Gifts especially during the struggles of the season. Moreover, in earlier centuries the custom of pious Christians was to receive Holy Communion several times during the week throughout the year. Thus the Holy Fathers established the practice of distributing Holy Communion during Vespers (Evening Worship) on weekdays of the Great Fast. This developed into a formal liturgical service, which was recorded, or compiled, by Saint Gregory the Great in the sixth century.  Read more...

Σῶσον Κύριε,” or “Save, O Lord,”
The Hymn Sung on the Feast of the Holy Cross, “Σῶσον Κύριε” or “Save, O Lord,” is one of the most well-known hymns of the Orthodox Church. This hymn was also the National Anthem of Orthodox nations, including the Christianized Roman Empire (AD 305 to 1453) and the Christian Russian Empire (until 1917).  Read more...

Synaxárion, Synaxária
The Synaxárion (plural, Synaxária) is a summary account of the lives of the saints commemorated each calendar date.

At Matins only the first sentence of the Synaxárion is read, while the full life of each saint, contained in a Menológion (monthly book of saints’ lives) or Martyrólogy (book of martyrs’ lives), is read during meals at a monastery or perhaps following Vespers in parish churches.

“The doors, the doors!”
The exclamation by the Deacon, “The doors, the doors!” marks the place in the Divine Liturgy when, in ancient times, the doors to the sanctuary were closed, with only the Baptized and Chrismated members of the faithful permitted to participate in the Eucharistic Mystery.

Over the centuries, catechumens and non-Orthodox have been allowed to stay, although the solemnity of what is to follow is still recalled by this ancient phrase.

The Orthodox theological term used to describe the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, is “Theotókos,” which means “Mother of God.”


The Triságion is a divinely-revealed hymn of the Christian Church. In AD 447, during the reign of Emperor Theodósios II (AD 408-450) and while Archbishop Próclos was Patriarch (AD 434-446), great earthquakes continuously devastated Constantinople over a period of four months. For safety, the inhabitants were led out of the city by the emperor and the patriarch to an open field where they processed and sang hymns and prayers beseeching the Lord to save them.

On September 25, 447, while the earth was shaking and all the people were continuously crying out “Lord have mercy,” at about the 9:00 am hour, a young child was suddenly and in sight of everyone lifted up to heaven and then wondrously returned to earth.

As this occurred, a divine voice was heard telling the faithful to say as they processed: “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us,” nothing else being added. Saint Próklos, directed the people to processed and chant whereupon the earthquake immediately ceased. Thereafter Theodósios ordered that this hymn be chanted throughout all the oikoúmene.

The Triságion Hymn was sung at the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chálcedon (AD 451), at which time it was already part of the Divine Liturgy. The Triságion and the hymn “Only-Begotten Son” were specifically placed in the Liturgy to combat heresies that deny the full divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ.

The “Triságion Prayers” are recited numerous times throughout the day by the Orthodox faithful as part of their daily prayers.

Troparion, Troparia
A Tropárion (plural, Tropária) is a generically designates a stanza of religious poetry, in other words, a hymn.

The term is applied to the Apolitíkion (plural, Apolitíkia), or Dismissal Hymn, the principal hymn of the day occurring at the end of Vespers, hence its name, and celebrating the particular feast or saint of the day. The Apolytíkion is chanted at the end of Vespers and repeated at the beginning of both Matins and of the Divine Liturgy. There may be more than one Tropárion (or Apolytíkion) sung, followed by a concluding Theotokíon (a hymn to the Theotókos).

At the Divine Liturgy on most days the Tropárion of the day is chanted once, preceding the Small Entrance.

At the Divine Liturgy on Great Feasts and during Festal seasons, Psalm verses are chanted antiphonally preceding the Tropárion of the Feast. The Beatitudes were traditionally chanted at this point with interspersed hymns specified for the Sunday or Feast.

“We have seen the Light”
After the Faithful have partaken of Holy Communion, the Priest blesses them with the words: “O Lord, save Your people and bless Your inheritance.” In response, the Faithful joyfully and exuberantly chant:

We have seen the true light! We have received the heavenly Spirit! We have found the true Faith! Worshipping the undivided Trinity, Who has saved us.

This beautiful hymn is derived from two Scriptural texts:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2).

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7).

There is nothing tentative, apologetic, speculative or vague in this hymn. Rather, it is a clear and decisive affirmation of a lived and communally-shared experience that we participate in, and partake of, whenever we are present at the Liturgy and receive the Eucharist. Of course, it is realized within each one individually, to the extent that they have personally appropriated the Lord’s Trinitarian mystery as revealed within the life of the Church. We know the content of the Faith through the personal gift of faith, and thus we proclaim to “have seen” and to “have received” that Light Which is our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.

On Feasts of the Lord and during the festal seasons associated with these, the Troparion (Apolitikion) of the Feast is chanted instead of “We have seen...” because these Christological Feasts celebrate Him, the very Light of the world..

The Ypakoë, from the Greek word Ὑπακοή which means “obedience,” is thus sometimes called in English the Hymn of Obedience. These Ypakoë hymns are Troparia (see footnote 10) recited at Sunday Matins after the Kathismata and Evlogitaria, and on Sundays as well as on Feast days after Ode 3 of the Kanon. The Ypakoë is read, and the last phrase is intoned.