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5. Divine Service Books.


The first place among the books used in the divine services is occupied by the Gospel, the Epistle and the Psalter. These books are taken from the Sacred Scriptures, the Bible, and therefore are termed the "divine service" books.

After these come the following books: the Clergy Service Books, the Horologion (Book of Hours), the Book of Needs, the Octoechos, the Monthly Menaion, the General Menaion, the Festal Menaion, the Lenten Triodion, the Pentecostarion, the Typicon (or Book of Rubrics), the Irmologion, and the Canonik. These books were composed in accordance with the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition by the fathers and teachers of the Orthodox Church and are called the church service books.

The Gospel is the Word of God. It consists of the first four books of the New Testament written by the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Gospels contain an account of the earthly life of our Lord Jesus Christ: His teaching, miracles, passion and death on the Cross, His glorious Resurrection and His Ascension into Heaven. For the services, the Gospel is specially divided into the usual chapters and verses, but also into special sections. At the end of the volume one finds a series of tables which indicate when the various sections are to be read during the church year.

The Epistle is the term which refers to the book which contains the following books of the New Testament: the Acts of the Apostles, the catholic (general) epistles and the epistles of the Apostle Paul, thus excluding only the book of Revelation. The Epistle, like the Gospel, is divided, in addition to chapters and verses, into sections with tables at the back of the book indicating when and how to read them.

The Psalter is the book of the Prophet and King David. It is so termed because the majority of the psalms in it were written by the holy Prophet David. In these psalms the holy Prophet opens his soul to God with all the grief of repentance for sins committed, and joy and glorification of the infinite perfection of God. He expresses his gratitude for all the mercies of His care and seeks help amid all the obstacles that confront him. For this reason the Psalter is used more than any other service book during the course of the services.

The Psalter is divided, for use during services, into twenty sections called "kathismas" (derived from the Greek word "to sit," as it is customary to sit while they are being read). Each of these is divided into three portions called "Glories," since "Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit..." is read between each part.

In addition to the simple Psalter there is also a "service" Psalter which contains three additions: a) the Horologion, b) the troparia and kontakia taken from all the other service books, and c) the entire prayer rule which should be said by those intending to partake of the Mystery of Holy Communion.

The Clergy Service Book is for the use of priests and deacons. It contains the order of Vespers, Matins and the Liturgy, with emphasis on the parts said by those serving. At the end of the book are found the dismissals, prokeimena, megalynaria, and a menologion, or list of saints commemorated daily by the Church.

The Pontifical Service Book is distinguished by the fact that it also contains the order of consecrating an Antimins and the services for tonsuring readers, and ordaining subdeacons, deacons and priests.

The Horologion is the book which serves as the basic guide for readers and chanters on cliros. The Horologion contains the unchanging parts of all the daily services, except the Liturgy.

The Book of Needs is the book which includes the order of services for the various Mysteries with the exception of the Mysteries of Holy Communion and Ordination. Other services included are the Order of Burial of the Reposed, the Order of Blessing of Water, the Prayers for the Birth of a Child, the Naming of a Child and his "Churching," as well as blessings for other occasions.

The Octoechos, or Book of the Eight Tones, contains all the hymns in the form of verses, troparia, kontakia, canons, etc., which are divided into eight groups of melodies, or "tones." Each tone in turn contains the hymnody for an entire week, so that the complete Octoechos is repeated every eight weeks throughout most of the year. The arrangement of ecclesiastical chanting into tones was entirely the work of the famous hymnographer of the Byzantine Church, St. John of Damascus (eighth century). The text of the Octoechos is ascribed to him, although one should note that many parts of it are the work of St. Metrophanes, bishop of Smyrna, St. Joseph the Hymnographer, and others over the centuries.

The Monthly Menaion contains the prayers and hymns in honor of the saints of each day of the year and the solemn festival services for the feasts of the Lord and the Theotokos which fall on fixed calendar dates. Following the number of twelve months, it is divided into twelve volumes.

The General Menaion contains the hymnography common to an entire category of saints, for example, in honor of prophets, or apostles, or martyrs, or monastics. It is used in cases when a special service to a particular saint is not available.

The Festal Menaion contains all the services for the immovable great feasts, as extracted from the Monthly Menaion.

The Lenten Triodion contains all the special parts of the services for the course of the Great Fast prior to Pascha and the Sunday services in the weeks preceding it, beginning with the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. This service book derives its name from the Greek word "triod," which means tri-hymned, and refers to the fact that for each day of the Fast the canons chanted do not comprise the usual nine odes, based on nine great hymns from the Old and New Testament, but only three.

The Pentecostarion includes the hymnography used from the feast of Holy Pascha through the Sunday of All Saints, the first Sunday after Pentecost.

The Typikon or Book of Rubrics contains a detailed account of which days and times different services ought to be conducted and in which specific order they should be read or chanted, as contained in the Service Book of the Clergy, the Horologion, the Octoechos and the other divine service books.

The Irmologion contains the initial hymns or "irrnosi" from each of the nine odes of the various canons as chanted at Matins since these are not always printed in full in the various service books.

The Ectenias (Litanies).

During the course of the divine services we often hear a series of prayerful supplications which are intoned slowly by either a deacon or the priest in the name of all those praying. After each petition the choir sings, "Lord, have mercy" or "Grant this, O Lord." These are called ectenias (litanies), which are Greek words meaning "entreaty" or "ardent supplication."

These are five of the most frequently used litanies:

1) The Great Litany or Litany of Peace which begins with the words "In peace, let us pray to the Lord." It contains many different petitions for prosperity and salvation of various groups, and after each one the choir chants "Lord, have mercy."

2) The Small Litany is a shortened form of the Great Litany. It begins with the words "Again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord." It contains three petitions.

3) The Augmented Litany begins with the words "Have mercy upon us, O God, according to Thy great mercy, we pray Thee, hearken and have mercy." After each petition the choir responds with "Lord, have mercy" thrice. Therefore the litany is termed "augmented," since it is an intensified supplication.

4) The Litany of Fervent Supplication begins with the words "Let us complete our morning (or evening) prayer unto the Lord." After each of the petitions of this litany, except for the first two, the choir responds with "Grant this, O Lord."

5) The Litany for the Reposed is composed of entreaties to the Lord that He might grant rest in the Heavenly Kingdom, to the souls of the departed by forgiving them all their sins.

Each of these litanies concludes with an exclamation by the priest that glorifies the Most-holy Trinity.

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