The first place among the books used in the divine services
is occupied by the books of the Gospel, the Epistle and the Psalter, which are
from the Bible. The next place belongs to the following books: the Priestís
Service Book (Hieratikon or Sluzhebnik), the Horologion (Book of
Hours), the Book of Needs (Trebnik), the Octoechos, the Monthly Menaion,
the Lenten Triodion and the Pentecostarion. These liturgical books were
composed by the fathers and teachers of the Orthodox Church.
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, His miracles, His Passion and Death on the
Cross, His glorious Resurrection and His Ascension into heaven. At the end of
an altar Gospel book, several tables indicate the portions read on various days
throughout the church year.
The book of the Epistles, or Apostle, contains the
following books of the New Testament: the Acts of the Apostles, the Catholic or
General epistles and the epistles of the Apostle Paul. The Epistle book
excludes only the book of Revelation. Like the Gospel, the Epistle is divided
into sections with tables at the back of the book, indicating when and how they
are to be read.
The Psalter is the book of David, the King and
Prophet. 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 grief in repenting for the sins he has committed, and with joy in
glorifying the endless perfection of God. He expresses gratitude for all the
mercies of His care; he seeks help amidst 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. For liturgical use the Psalter is divided into twenty
sections called kathismata (derived from the Greek word "to
sit," as it is customary to sit while they are being read.)
The Priestís Service Book is used by priests and
deacons. It contains the order of Vespers, Matins and the Liturgy, emphasizing
the parts said by those serving. At the end of the book are found the
dismissals, prokeimena, megalynaria and a menologion (a list of saints
commemorated daily by the Church.)
The Horologion is the book which serves as the
basic guide for readers and chanters in the choir. It contains the unchanging
parts of all the daily services. The Book of Needs includes the order of
service for the various Sacraments. Other services found in the Book of Needs
are the Burial Service, the Blessing of Water, the
Prayers at 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 poetic hymns, in the form of troparia, kontakia, canons, and so forth.
They are divided into eight groups of melodies, or tones. Each tone 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 in tones was the work of the famous hymnographer of the
Byzantine Church, St. John of Damascus (eighth century).
The Monthly Menaion contains the prayers and hymns
in honor of the saints for each day of the year, as well as the solemn festival
services for the feasts of the Lord and the Theotokos which fall on fixed
calendar dates. Following the number of months, it is divided into twelve
The Lenten Triodion contains the special parts of
the services for the season of Lent and leading up to Pascha, beginning with
the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. The Lenten Triodion derives its
name from the Greek word meaning "three odes," since the Canon of
Matins is based on only three of the scriptural odes or canticles, instead of
the usual nine.
The Pentecostarion contains the hymnography used
from the feast of Holy Pascha through the first Sunday after Pentecost, the
Sunday of All Saints.
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