Monday, February 6, 2017

When the Liturgy Goes Bad - A Long Set Up and a Short Story



It’s hard to get Orthodox liturgical books in Kenya.  There are so many of them.  And they seem to keep multiplying.  There is, first of all, the Gospel Book, a usually specially decorated book containing all the readings from the four gospels for Orthros/Matins and Divine Liturgy.  Then there is the Apostolos, which has the schedule for all the Epistle readings for all the services during the year.  And the Psalter, which does the same for the Psalms. As well as the Prophetologion which contains the readings from the Old Testament. Then there is the Euchologion, the Horologion, the Menaia, the Irmologion, the Pentecostarion, the Ochteochos, the Lenton Triodion, the Typikon, the Archieratikon, and ‘other liturgical books’. 

The Gospel

Since you asked...
The Euchologian is a prayer book with prayers for the priest, deacon and reader for Vespers, Orthros and the Divine Liturgy, as well as the prayers for the services for the six other sacraments.  All of these services are done, not at a particular point in the Church calendar, but as the occasion arises.

The Hieratikon is the ‘book of the priest’, and contains the priest’s prayers for Vespers, Orthros and Divine Liturgy.

The Horologian is the ‘Book of Hours’, which has the fixed texts for the prayers for the daily cycle of services.

The Menaia, ‘books of the months’ is the collection of twelve books, one for each month, containing the services for the non-movable feasts of the Church year and for the saint’s days falling in that month.

The 12 month Menaion

The Octoechos is the ‘book of eight tones’ which has the which literally ‘sets the tone’ for any and every service.  The tone is the particular chant (there are eight of them, plus variations) used for the hymns and readings of each service.


The Pentecostarion contains the services used from the Sunday of Pascha through the first Sunday of Pentecost.

The Lenton Triodion contains the services and prayers for the preparation for Lent (beginning with the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, which was just this past Sunday and is the 10th Sunday before Pascha) and including all of Great Lent until Holy Saturday.

The Typikon is ‘the book of directives and rubrics’ which regulates the order of the services for every day of the year.  It collects the changeable aspects of every service for insertion at the appropriate point in the liturgy.

The Anthologion is a liturgical text that tries to collect as much of the necessary texts, readings, prayers and rubrics into one source. I don't know if anyone has actually made it all the way through yet so as to emerge from the other side and report if it was successful.

There are other books, too, such as the Prayer Book used by many Orthodox faithful in their private prayers.  There is also often collected in one book all the services used during Holy Week.  As well as a Service Book that contains prayers for Funerals, memorials, and other services, as well as the text for the Divine Liturgy.


Got that?

So you can imagine what a challenge it might be for an Orthodox parish in a developing country to keep track of all this.  And then multiply the number of parishes by about 300 or so.

One of the great helps made available recently is an online Orthodox Liturgy website that publishes the liturgy for all the services for every day of the week.  At my parish, one of my chant-stand colleagues prints out five copies of the liturgy for Orthros every week.  This has made a huge difference for us. It actually means we can have full Orthros on Sundays, rather than the abbreviated version many parishes are forced to use.

All of the above is just an introduction to what happened this past Sunday as we were chanting morning Orthros before the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee.  We had gotten maybe a third through the service when we noticed that we were chanting hymns about the Virgin Mary and the Incarnation, and not about the relative prayers of the Pharisee and the Publican.  And then we came to a part of the Orthros liturgy that had a heading but no text for several pages.  We looked through and realized our printed copies were seriously wrong.  What to do?  Several of us with smartphones went to our ‘e-matins’ website and found that whatever the problem had been, they had fixed it.  So now we had two phones and nine chanters.  So when one would finish chanting his bit, he would pass the phone on to the next one.  And so the service went.

Being Orthodox in Kenya is constantly throwing surprises into the mix.  I never dreamed I would be using my smart phone to chant the Liturgy. (But then I never dreamed I would be attending  an Orthodox liturgy.  Dang, I never dreamed I would be Orthodox.  But I digress.)  There are at least three hundred Orthodox parishes in Kenya.  Not many of our parishes may have the small library of specialized texts listed above.  But we do have smart phones.  And like me, you can probably see where this is all probably going.


BTW much about the above books was new to me.  I am indebted to the Orthodox website Orthodox Wiki https://orthodoxwiki.org/Liturgical_books for my own tutorial.