The Church Canon requires 9 various services
(offices) to be performed during the day. Each of them has its history,
symbolism and duration, but spiritually they form one whole thing called the
The Orthodox service borrowed many things from
Old Testimony prayer traditions. For instance, a new day is considered to begin
not at , but at Thus the first office of the daily circle
is the Vespers. During Vespers the faithful are reminded of the main
events of the Holy History of the Old Testament: the creation of the universe
by God, the sin of Adam and Eve, the Law of Moses and the work of the Prophets.
Christians thank God for the day just passed.
After the Vespers we are to serve Compline.
This is something like common prayers for the coming night, which
reminds us of Christís descending to hell and freeing the righteous people from
the power of the devil.
the third service of the daily circle is read, which is called Nocturnes.
This service is to remind the faithful about the second coming of the Lord and
the Last Judgment.
Matins begins before sunrise. It is
devoted to the events of Christís earthly life and consists of many prayers of
repentance and thanksgiving. Matins is one of the longest services.
Around we are to serve the First hour. This is the name of the
short service during which the Church remembers Jesus Christ being judged by
the high priest Caiaphas.
The Third hour ().takes us through holy
recollections to the mount of Zion
where the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles,
and to the praetorís quarters of Pilate, where the Christ was sentenced to
The Sixth hour () is the time of Christís crucifixion, and the
Ninth hour (). is the time of His death on the Cross. These offices are
devoted to those tragic events respectively.
And finally, the main Christian service, a
certain center of the circle of offices is the Divine Liturgy. This
office not only reminds us of God, but also makes it possible actually to join
Him in the mystery of Holy Communion. This office is to be served between the
Sixth and the Ninth hour.
Contemporary worshiping practice has introduced
some changes into the rules of The Church Canon. Thus, in parishes Compline is
served only during the Great Lent, and the Nocturnes ó only once a year, on the
eve of Easter. The Ninth hour is served very rarely too. The rest of the six
offices are combined into two groups, each consisting of three services.
In the evening Vespers, Matins and the First hour
are served. On the eve of Sundays and Holidays this sequence of offices is
called night vigil, which means staying awake all through the night. Ancient
Christians were indeed praying till sunrise. Contemporary vigils last generally
about 2-4 hours in parishes and 3-6 hours in monasteries.
In the morning the Third hour, the Sixth hour and
the Divine Liturgy are served consecutively. In churches with many parishioners
on Sundays and Holidays two liturgies are served: and Early Liturgy and a Late
Liturgy. Both offices are preceded by reading the Hours.
On the days when Liturgies cannot be served (as
on Friday of the Passion Week), a short office of Typikais served. This
service includes some Liturgical chants and can be said to portray the latter.
But Typika does not have the status of a complete service.