2.5 Order in Worship - Rubrics and Typikon

With such a wealth of hymnological and liturgical texts, complex rubrics are unavoidable in the Orthodox Church. While there is diversity from church to church and a variety of venues, there is a universal commitment to the rich tradition, in other words, to complex rubrics. The sum of the rubrics for any given church and venue is the Typikon.

The purpose of the Typikon, according to Fr. Calivas, is

to provide continuity in liturgical practice and ethos, secure recognizable standards and good liturgical order, and maintain a healthy, balanced tension between tradition and life, protecting the liturgy from whimsical experimentations, fanciful archaisms, and arbitrary decisions.

The establishment and enforcement of liturgical order is one of the duties of the regional synod and the local bishop. In the case of the GOA, priests agree to follow the accepted liturgical practices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as a condition for incardination.

That having been said, there are several venues of worship within any one jurisdiction, each with distinct liturgical needs and varying capacities to meet them. The content and order of services in a monastery will differ from that of a cathedral, which will differ from a smaller parish. A seminary, while training people for parish ministry, may actually have a liturgical life quite different, fuller, than the parish. And the liturgical needs of special venues, like schools, camps, and retreats, are met in other ways. Insofar as a venue has a consistent way of worshiping, that content and order could be called its own Typikon.

Within a venue, specifically the parish, there is a measure of flexibility, since there are several factors that can affect the content of a service like Sunday Matins. The existence or not of trained personnel often determines whether or not the service is done at all, which parts will be done, and whether they will be sung or simply read. Time constraint is also a factor. A parish may allot a time frame for Sunday Matins that does not allow for all the content to be used. So, more or less of a service is performed depending on time and personnel.

Monasteries are famous for having and defending their own peculiar Typikons. Because prayer and liturgy have such an important place in the life of a monastery, and insofar as they are trusted to remain within the larger tradition, monasteries are typically permitted to maintain their own peculiar systems of rubrics.

All that having been said, there is no canon or rule of the Church that prohibits changes to the rubrics, even unilateral, local modifications. The naive statement, usually meant to trump every other argument about rubrics, that “that’s how they do it on Mt. Athos,” necessarily begs the questions, “Which monastery, and what year?”

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