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*Digital calendar courtesy of stnicholasorthodoxchurch.ca. A paper calendar may be purchased at the Centre for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies here.  

Red: Fast Day (no meat, dairy, wine, oil, or fish)

Blue: Wine and Oil permitted, and in some cases Fish (see below)

Green: Fast-free Day

Daily Prayer Cycle

In the Orthodox Church, services follow a specific liturgical order depending on the time of day and the season of the year. To access the service texts for the daily and seasonal prayer cycle, click here

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Vespers

 

The liturgical day begins at sundown, or 6 p.m. The first service of the evening is called vespers. It begins with the recitation of Psalm 103 (“Bless the Lord, O my soul”), which commemorates the creation of the world, followed by a set series of hymns. Among these are hymns to the Virgin Mary as well as the beautiful hymn “O Gladsome Light” (Phos Hilaron), which links the setting of the material sun with the unending light of the Eternal Lord. Vespers concludes with the song of Saint Simeon the Righteous (“Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation”). If it is the eve of a featsday, additional hymns will be sung in honour of the feast and appointed readings from the Old Testament will be read. Each feastday possesses a specific hymn called an “apolytikion” (dismissal), summarizing the content of the feast, which is repeated at Matins and during the Divine Liturgy. For example, the apolytikion of Easter is “Christ is Risen from The Dead.”

 

Matins

 

The following service is that of matins, which begins early in the morning. Matins begin with the recitation of six Psalms (3, 37, 62, 87, 102, 142), followed by a series of hymns and a Gospel reading. The content of these hymns, as well as the Gospel reading, alternate according to a fixed 8-week cycle called the “Octaechos” (Eight Tones).

 

Next comes a series of hymns called “canon”. The individual verses of the canon are called “troparia”, and vary according to the feastday and the season of the year. The canon of every matins is organized into eight thematic sections reflecting the ancient Biblical Odes (strictly speaking, there are 9 odes, but Ode 2 is only recited during the First Week of Lent due to its severe and penitential character). Each ode begins with a verse called an "irmos" (link), which establishes the melodic patter of the following verses in the section. The odes are:

 

Ode I: The First Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-19)

Ode II: The Second Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1-43)

Ode III: The Prayer of Hannah (I Kings 2:1-10)

Ode IV: The Prayer of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:1-19)

Ode V: The Prayer of Isaiah (Isaiah 26:9-20)

Ode VI: The Prayer of Jonah (Jonah 2:2-9)

Ode VII: The Prayer of the Three Holy Children (Daniel 3:26-56)

Ode VIII: The Song of the Three Holy Children (Daniel 3:57-88)

Ode IX: The Song of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:46-55); the Song of Zacharias (Luke 1:68-79)

 

After the final song of the Virgin Mary, there follows the Great Doxology (“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men”), after which the Divine Liturgy immediately follows.

 

Hours, Compline, Midnight Office

 

In addition to Vespers and Matins, the Church has other Daily Services. These are the services of Hours, Compline, and the Midnight Office. The Hours consist mainly in the reading of Psalms. The First Hour thanks God for the light of the day and contains prayers that we may pass the day without sin. The Third Hour commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The Sixth Hour commemorates the Crucifixion of Christ, and the Ninth Hour His death on the Cross. Three times a year, on the eve of Christmas and Theophany, and on the morning of Holy Friday, the Church celebrates the so-called Royal Hours, a solemn service that combines the services of all the Hours and contains hymns and scriptural readings specific to the feastday being celebrated.

 

After Vespers comes Compline. This service begins with the recitation of several psalms centred on repentance, followed by prayers to God and the Virgin Mary. During Lent and on the eve of Christmas, Theophany, and the Annunciation, a longer form of Compline is celebrated, called “Great Compline”.

 

The Midnight Office is celebrated at Midnight and consists in the recitation of Psalm 50, the Creed, and several prayers. The theme of the service is spiritual vigilance and draws on the image of the foolish Virgins ("Beware, therefore, my soul, lest thou fall into slumber and be left outside, knocking, as were the five virgins; but wakefully watch, that thou mayest come to meet Christ with good oil, and He shall bestow upon thee the divine chamber of His glory").

Liturgical Year

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Major Feasts

 

The liturgical year in the Orthodox Church begins on September 1st, called the Indiction, which commemorates the creation of the world. Feastdays are of 2 types: fixed, and moveable. Fixed feastdays are feasts that occur on the same date every year, such as Christmas, the Annunciation, and the feastdays of Saints. The hymns for these days are found in the Menaion (“Book of Months”). Moveable feastdays are feastdays that depend on the date of Easter, which fluctuates between March 22nd and April 25th every year. The hymns for the moveable feastdays are found in the Triodion and the Pentecostarion service books (see below). The Orthodox Church celebrates 12 major feastdays (fixed and moveable) throught the year:

 

The Nativity of the Virgin Mary: September 8th

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross: September 14th

The Presentation of the Virgin Mary: November 21st

The Nativity of Christ (Christmas): December 25th

The Baptism of Christ (Theophany): January 6th

The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple: February 2nd

The Annunciation: March 25th

The Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday): the Sunday before Easter

The Ascension of Christ: Forty Days after Easter

Pentecost: Fifty Days after Easter

The Transfiguration of the Lord: August 6th

The Dormition of the Virgin Mary: August 15th

12 Feasts of Orthodoxy Icon

The splendid and divine hymnography of the Church for all these periods was composed predominantly between the 6th and 9th centuries. Among the most famous and prolific hymnographers were Saint Romanos the Melodist, Saint John Damascene and his foster-brother Saint Kosmas of Maiouma, Saint Andrew of Crete, Saint Joseph the Hymnographer, and Saint Theophanes Graptos. The Monastery of Stoudion in Constantinople played an important role in the development and enrichment of the divine services. 

 

Triodion

 

The Triodion is used from the tenth Sunday before Easter to Holy Saturday, inclusively. Each day in the Triodion has a specific theme, which is reflected in the hymnography and prayers:

 

10th Sunday before Easter: The Publican and Pharisee (4th Sunday before Lent)

9th Sunday before Easter: The Prodigal Son (3rd Sunday before Lent)

Saturday before the 8th: Soul Saturday

8th Sunday before Easter: The Last Judgment (also known as “Meatfare,” 2nd Sunday before Lent)

7th Sunday before Easter: The Casting Out of Adam and Eve from Paradise (also known as “Cheesefare” and "Forgiveness Sunday", 1st Sunday before Lent)

6th Sunday before Easter: Sunday of Orthodoxy (1st Sunday of Lent)

5th Sunday before Easter: The Adoration of the Holy Cross (2nd Sunday of Lent)

4th Sunday before Easter: Saint Gregory Palamas (3rd Sunday of Lent)

3rd Sunday before Easter: Saint John of the Ladder (4th Sunday of Lent)

2nd Sunday before Easter: Saint Mary of Egypt (5th Sunday of Lent)

Saturday before the 1st: The Resurrection of Lazarus

1st Sunday before Easter: Palm Sunday (6th Sunday of Lent)

Holy Monday: St. Joseph the All-Comely

Holy Tuesday: The Ten Virgins

Holy Wednesday: The Sinful Woman

Holy Thursday: The Last Supper

Holy Friday: The Crucifixion 

Holy Saturday: The Death of Christ

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Pentecostarion

The Pentecostarion (“Book of Pentecost”) is used from Easter until All-Saints’ Day, inclusively. The days of the Pentecostarion also have a specific theme:

 

Easter Sunday: The Resurrection

1st Sunday after Easter: St. Thomas

2nd Sunday after Easter: The Myrrhbearing Women

3rd Sunday after Easter: The Healing of the Paralytic

4th Sunday after Easter: The Samaritan Woman

5th Sunday after Easter: The Healing of the Blind Man

Thursday after the 5th: The Ascension of the Lord

6th Sunday after Easter: The Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council

Saturday before the 7th: Soul Saturday

7th Sunday after Easter: Pentecost

Monday after the 7th: The Holy Spirit

8th Sunday after Easter: All Saints’ Day (1st Sunday after Pentecost)

In addition to these feasts, it has become a tradition in the Church to commemorate All the Saints Who Shone Forth on Mount Athos on the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, and the New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke on the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost. 

Gospel Cycle

 

The Sunday Gospel readings follow a specific cycle of their own:

 

From Easter Sunday to Pentecost, inclusively, Scriptural readings are taken from the GOSPEL OF JOHN.

From All Saints’ Day until the Second Sunday before the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14), Scriptural readings are taken from the GOSPEL OF MATTHEW.

From the Second Sunday after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross until the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, Scriptural readings are taken from the GOSPEL OF LUKE.

From the 2nd Sunday of Lent (the Adoration of the Holy Cross) until the 5th Sunday of Lent (Saint Mary of Egypt), Scriptural readings are taken from the GOSPEL OF MARK.

Fasting Rules in the orthodox Church

Wednesdays and Fridays are fast days all-year-round in commemoration of the Betrayal of Judas and the Crucifixion (which occurred on Wednesday and Friday of Passion Week, respectively). 

There are four fasts throughout the year: Lent, the Apostles' Fast, the Dormition Fast, and the Nativity Fast.

A) Lent

Lent begins seven weeks before Easter (on the Monday after Cheesefare Sunday, see above) and ends on the Sunday before Easter (Palm Sunday). The fast then continues throughout the whole of the following week (Holy Week) until Easter Sunday. Wine and oil are permitted only on weekends, with the exception of Holy Saturday, which is the only Saturday of the year on which oil is not consumed. The week before Lent is known as "Meatfare Week," during which all foods are permitted except for meat.

B) Apostles' Fast

The Apostles' Fast begins on the 8th week after Easter (the day after All Saints' Day) and ends on June 29th, the feastday of Saints Peter and Paul. Oil may be consumed during weekdays (except the usual Wednesdays and Fridays), in addition to fish on weekends. 

C) Dormition Fast

The Dormition Fast begins on August 1st, two weeks before the Dormition, and ends on August 15th. Oil may be consumed only on weekends. 

D) Nativity Fast

The Nativity Fast begins on November 15th and ends on Christmas Day, December 25th. Oil may be consumed during weekdays (except the usual Wednesdays and Fridays), in addition to fish on weekends. The week before Christmas is a strict fast (no oil permitted).

E) Exceptions

Oil is permitted during a fast day if the feastday of a saint occurs on it. Fish is permitted on certain fast days if it is a major feastday (the Annunciation or the Transfiguration of the Saviour). The week after Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost are fast-free periods, including on Wednesdays and Fridays. 

Dates of easter 2023-2032

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