Home Liturgics Lessons Liturgics Lesson 1: Introduction to Liturgical Books

Liturgics Lesson 1: Introduction to Liturgical Books


St. Tikhon’s Monastery presents the first in a series of twelve lessons on Liturgics for Readers and Choir Directors in the Orthodox Christian tradition.

In this lesson, Hieromonk Herman introduces the the liturgical books used in the Church’s daily services: The Hieratikon and Horologion; the Menaion; the Triodion, Pentecostarion, and Octoechos; and the Typikon. Various English editions of each text are presented. Knowing what each book is, what it contains, and when it’s used is the indispensable foundation for grasping the Church’s liturgical order. Hieromonk Herman (Majkrzak), instructor

Transcript (Click to Download): 

Glory to Jesus Christ!

My name is Hieromonk Herman; I’m a monk at St Tikhon’s Monastery here in South Canaan, Pennsylvania; [I’m also a lecturer at St Tikhon’s Seminary—I can leave that out if preferred] This video is the first in a series of twelve videos introducing Orthodox liturgics, that is, the nuts and bolts of how the texts of our divine services are put together each day.

In this first video, I’m going to introduce the liturgical books used in the Church’s daily services, and I’m also going to discuss various editions of those same books.

The names of liturgical books aren’t always easy to remember or keep straight; they are all Greek words; but we’re going to learn what each word means and how that relates to each book’s content.

The books used in the Church’s daily services are the following: [Color coded to correspond to chart used in lesson 2]

1. The Hieratikon

2. The Horologion

3. The Menaion

4. The Lenten Triodion

5. The Pentecostarion

6. The Octoechos or Parakletike

7. The Typhoons

The first two books – the Hieratikon and the Horologion – are grouped together because they are used throughout the Church year, every day, and they contain the liturgical texts that remain the same each day, that do not vary.

1. The Hieratikon is the book containing the texts used by the priest and deacon. The name derives from the Greek word “Hierevs,” i.e. priest. The word “hierarchy” comes from the same root. All the deacon’s litanies, and all the priest’s prayers, exclamations, and dismissals are contained in the Hieratikon. Another name for the Hieratikon is the Liturgikon, and in Slavonic the book is called the Sluzhebnik. In English it’s often simply called the “Priest’s service book.”

2. The Horologion also contains unvarying parts of a service, but it is used not by the clergy but by the readers and the choir. The word comes from the Greek for “Hour,” referring to the liturgical Hours it contains. In the Horologion are found the Psalms and any other texts, unchanging hymns, or prayers used at the kliros or reader’s stand. In Slavonic it is known as the Chasoslav, and in English it can be called the “Book of Hours.”

Fixed Portions of the Offices

1. The Hieratikon (Gk. ‘Ιερατικόν): The Priest’s Service Book.

2. The Horologion (Gk. ‘Ωρολόγιον):The Book of the Hours for singers.

The next four books – the Menaion, the Pentecostarion, the Octoechos, and the Triodion, – contain the vast body of variable hymnography found in our services, that is, these books contain all the hymns – the stichera, aposticha, troparia, kontakia, canons, etc. – (we’ll discuss those terms later on) that change each day, depending on the commemoration appointed for each day of the year.

Before we discuss these books in detail, we need to pause and take a good look at the Church calendar.

There are actually two layers to the liturgical calendar, and these two layers interact with each other in different ways each year. To illustrate this, let me ask you a difficult question: what day of the week does Christmas fall on? … You can’t answer this question. It’s a trick question! There is no because the day of the week for Christmas changes every year. Ok; here’s another difficult question: what date does Pascha fall on each year? Again, there’s no answer! The date of Pascha is different every year, but unlike Christmas it’s always on the same day of the week: Sunday. And Christmas, unlike Pascha, is always on the same date: Dec. 25.

So you see how there are two layers to the calendar? One is “fixed” – the dates stay the same each year – and the other, is “moveable” – the dates change each year. We usually refer to this as the “Paschal calendar” because all the commemorations in this layer of the calendar depend on the date of Pascha.

On almost any given day of the year, some elements of the church services for that day are governed by the fixed-date calendar, and other elements are governed by the paschal calendar.

In the fixed-date calendar, each date of the year has its own commemoration. Most of them are devoted to the memory of a particular saint or group of saints, but some of them are feasts of the Lord or the Mother of God: we already mentioned December 25th, the Nativity of Christ. There’s also January 6: Theophany, March 25th: Annunciation, etc. The hymnography for all the fixed-date commemorations is contained in the Menaion.

The word “Menaion” derives from the Greek word “menas” that is, month. So there is one volume for each month – twelve total. Volume one begins on September 1st, the ecclesiastical new year, and volume 12 ends on August 31. Each calendar date of the year has its own service, so there are at least 366 complete services – complete sets of hymns for a specific commemoration – in the Menaion. In fact, however, there are many more, because many dates will have an alternative service for a more recent or a local saint.

In addition to the commemoration from the Menaion, based on the fixed-calendar date, there are other commemorations or themes based on the Paschal calendar, i.e., based on how many days or weeks a particular day falls before or after Pascha.

For example, the feasts of Palm Sunday, Thomas Sunday, Ascension, Pentecost, and All Saints, do not have a fixed date from year to year, but they occur a certain number of days before or after Pascha. In fact, all the days of Lent and all the days between Pascha and Pentecost have their own set of hymns. And even after Pentecost and All Saints, throughout the rest of the year, there are still hymns sung according to the day of the week and according to how many weeks you happen to be after Pascha.

The commemorations and hymns that are determined by the varying date of Pascha are contained in three different books: the Triodion, the Pentecostarion, and the Octoechos.

Variable portions of Offices according to the Date of Pascha

4. The Lenten Triodion

5. The Pentecostarion

6. The Octoechos or Parakletike: The Book of Eight Tones.

The Triodion is the book for Lent, or the Great Fast, although in fact we first begin to use it four Sundays before Lent begins. The word “Triodion” is a Greek word that simply means “three odes,” and it refers to a feature of Lenten Matins where the canons composed for Lent don’t have the usual eight odes, but only three. We’ll talk more about that in another lesson. So the Triodion takes us all the way through Lent and Holy Week, until we arrive at Pascha and start to use the Pentecostarion. The Triodion contains a complete set of hymns for each day of the week starting one week before Lent itself begins; it also has hymns for three Sundays prior to that week.

The Lenten Triodion (Gk. Τριώδιον): The Book of the Three Odes containing the texts of Lent.

The Pentecostarion is the book used from the day of Pascha itself through Ascension, Pentecost, and the Sunday of All Saints, a period eight weeks long. It contains a complete set of hymns for each day during that period. …. (And by the way, we can use the word “service” to refer to a complete set of hymns covering Vespers, Matins, and the Liturgy for any given day. So I could say “the service for January 8,” or “the service for the third Wednesday after Pascha.” This is a different use of the word “service” than how it’s used when we talk about  the “service of Vespers” or “the service of Matins”.)  …. Anyway, the name Pentecostarion comes from the word Pentecost, which refers not only to the 50th day after Pascha, the feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, but can also refer to the entire period of 50 days. So the book used during Pentecost, or we could say during Paschaltide, is the Pentecostarion. (In Slavonic it has a rather different name, the Triod Tsvetnaia, or the “Flowery Triodion.”)

The Pentecostarion (Gk. Πεντηκοστάριον): The Book containing the texts of the Paschal season.

The Octoechos is otherwise known as the “book of the eight tones” – Octo-echos; eight tones – because it’s arranged in eight sections, each of which is a week long, corresponding to the eight tones of Orthodox hymnography. We begin to use the Octoechos on the Monday after All Saints day, which is also the first day of the Apostles’ Fast. We start with tone eight, because that’s where the Pentecostarion left off. So in that first week after All Saints’ Sunday, we go through all the Octoechos hymns in tone eight, and then on Saturday evening at the end of that week we put away the tone eight Octoechos volume, and take out tone One. Every week we switch to a new tone at Saturday evening Vespers, and we continue in this eight week cycle for the rest of the year, up until the following Lent.

It’s important to understand that the different “tones” refer not only to different music or melodies, but to different texts as well. For example, the stichera sung at Vespers on Tuesday evening in Tone One differ not only in music but in their actual words from the stichera sung at Tuesday Vespers in ToneTwo or Tone Three. So the Octoechos contains 56 full services — 56 full sets of hymnography for Vespers, Matins, and Liturgy, that is seven days worth of services for eight weeks. The Slavonic name is the same, but without the -os at the end: Oktoikh. And there’s also another Greek name sometimes used for these books: the Paraklitike

The Octoechos (Gk. ’Οκτώηχος) or Parakletike (Gk. Παρακλητική): The Book of Eight Tones.

7. In our next lecture, we’re going to discuss how the Menaion calendar cycle of fixed feasts interacts with the Paschal cycle of moveable feasts throughout the Church year. Most of time there are elements of both layers present on any given day of the year, but sometimes the Menaion will take over and completely displace the material from the Octoechos; and at other times the Paschal cycle, specifically the Triodion and the Pentecostarion, take over, to the exclusion of the Menaion.

The Typikon is the book that governs the interaction of these two layers of the calendar. It tells you what to do when Annunciation falls on the Sunday of the Cross or the Thursday of the Great Canon or even Pascha or Bright Tuesday… it tells you what to do when Ascension falls on May 21, the Feast of Ss. Constantine and Helen, or when Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, etc. More on all this next time.

But first, let’s discuss some actual editions of these books that exist in English.

1. The Hieratikon or Liturgikon. The most complete English Hieratikon is the Antiochian Liturgikon edited by Bp. Basil. Other editions include the Liturgy and All-night Vigil clergy books published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, and the new Hieratikon published by St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press. This last offers the most detailed presentation of the Russian practice, but it does not include the Liturgy itself, but there will soon be a companion volume also published by St. Tikhon’s that will include the three Divine Liturgies.

2. There are three complete editions of the Horologion in English: (a) Holy Transfiguration Monastery, which follows Greek practice; (b) Holy Trinity, Jordanville, and (c) St. Tikhon’s, which both follow the Russian practice. The St. Tikhon’s Horologion is out of print, but if you can get a copy it is rather useful because it is extremely informative and the services are laid out in a manner that is easy to follow and learn.

3. There are two complete translations of the Menaion, both in 12 volumes: (a) Holy Transfiguration Monastery which, like their Pentecostarion, is intended for use with the Byzantine melodies; (b) the late Monk Joseph Lambertsen’s translation from St John of Kronstadt Press, which is a translation of the Slavonic Menaion and includes services to many Russian saints. In addition, the nine great feasts contained in the Menaion (remember, the other three great feasts are part of the Paschal cycle, and so are found in the Triodion and the Pentecostarion), these nine feasts are collected together in the Festal Menaion translated, like the Triodion, by Met. Kallistos and Mo. Mary and available from St. Tikhon’s Press. This is a worthwhile volume to have even if you have a complete Menaion, because it contains much valuable introductory material and many good appendices. It is also, in my opinion, a very beautiful translation.

4. The go-to translation of the Lenten Triodion is that of Metropolitan Kallistos and Mo. Mary, and published originally by Faber and Faber but now kept in print by St. Tikhon’s. It is in two volumes: the main volume contains all the Sundays, Feasts, and other major commemorations, as well as the entirely of the First Week of Lent and Holy Week. The “supplement” volume contains all the weekdays of the other weeks. A full liturgical library should definitely have both volumes.

5. There are two complete English Pentecostaria: (a) Holy Transfiguration Monastery, which is translated from the Greek and in such a way that the hymns can be sung to the Byzantine metered melodies; (b) St. John of Kronstadt Press, which follows Russian practice. There are some other abridged Pentecostaria, containing the texts for Sundays and Feasts, but not including every weekday, most notably Mother Mary’s translation from the Monastery of the Veil, Busy-en-Othe, though this may be hard to find a copy of.

6. There are two complete English translations of the Octoechos: (a) St. John of Kronstadt Press, translated, again, by Monk Joseph Lambertsen, which is in four volumes – 2 tones per volume; and (b) Mo. Mary’s translation also from Bussy-en-Othe, and available from Eighth Day Books. This is in 9 volumes: 1 volume for the Sunday services in all eight tones, and eight volumes for the weekday services in each tone.

7. There is no English translation of the Typikon, however there are some books that distill much of the content of the Typikon into a format that is more easily understood by the non-liturgiologist. Even if the Typikon were translated, these secondary books would still be necessary for most people, as the Typikon is a difficult book to understand. For Antiochian or Greek practice, I recommend the Typikon notes prepared by Bp. Basil of Wichita and available at http://www.dowama.org/content/typikon. For Slavic practice, the best reference is The Order of Divine Services by Peter Fekula and Matthew Williams, available in two volumes from St. John of Kronstadt Press. Also worth consulting is The Typikon Decoded by Archbishop Job Getcha, published by St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

Finally we should note that many local Orthodox jurisdictions have their own, often provisional, texts that draw from the full books of the Menaion, the Octoechos, etc. Sometimes these are made available online; sometimes they are in spiral or coil bound volumes. These are practical books intended for use in parishes that don’t have services every day and thus don’t need the complete texts. However, for a choir director or anyone involved in leading the services, it is best to be as familiar as possible with a complete edition of each liturgical book, so that you understand what sources are being drawn from in the preparation of these more provisional publications.

Available Sources in English

  1. The Hieratikon: (a) The Liturgikon edited by Bp. Basil, (b) The Liturgy and All-night Vigil clergy books published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, and the (c) Hieratikon published by St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press.
  2. The Horologion: (a) Holy Transfiguration Monastery, (b) Holy Trinity, Jordanville, and (c) St. Tikhon’s.
  3. The Menaion: (a) Holy Transfiguration Monastery, (b) Reader Isaac Lambertsen’s translation from St John of Kronstadt Press, (c) and The Festal Menaion (Nine Great Feasts) from St. Tikhon’s.
  4. The Lenten Triodion: St. Tikhon’s.
  5. The Pentecostarion: (a) Holy Transfiguration Monastery and (b) Reader Isaac Lambertsen’s translation from St John of Kronstadt Press.
  6. The Octoechos or Parakletike: (a) St. John of Kronstadt Press, translated by Reader Isaac Lambertsen, and (b) Mother Mary’s translation also from Bussy-en-Othe, and available from Eighth Day Books.
  7. The Typicon: (a) Bp. Basil of Wichita and available at http://www.dowama.org/content/typikon and (b) The Order of Divine Services by Peter Fekula and Matthew Williams. (c) The Typikon Decoded by Abp Job Getcha (SVS Press).

So, now that we have some familiarity with the service books, in our next lesson we’ll learn how the texts in these books all work together to comprise our services throughout the year.

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