2.4 Content of Worship - Church Services

The liturgical cycle moves on four interrelated planes: the day, the week, the season, and the year. It incorporates the believers into the mystery of Christ, in order to transform the time they live and act in, into the decisive time of their salvation.

On each day of the year, there is a specific commemoration of a saint (e.g. Jan 1, St. Basil), or an event in sacred history (Dec 25, Christmas). Each day of the week has its own particular theme (e.g. Monday is dedicated to the Angels, Tuesday to St. John the Baptist, etc). Certain seasons of the year are characterized as preparation for or celebration of a great feast (e.g. Lent, Holy Week, Easter). Feasts and fasts punctuate the year, and all together these make up the Liturgical Calendar.

The commemorations and sacred themes that fill the calendar are the subject matter of the ecclesiastical poetry, the hymns that are the content of the Church’s daily worship. The daily worship of the Orthodox Church consists mainly of Vespers and Matins, which are the longest and most elaborate services. Minor services, namely the Hours, Compline, and Midnight Office, complete the daily cycle. The Divine Liturgy (the Eucharist) may also be included in the daily cycle.

Contained in no less than sixteen separate books, there are over 50,000 hymns in current use; on a typical day, the services include about 150 hymns from at least three different books. The selection and order of hymns to be used in any given service is determined by a sophisticated system of rubrics.

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