Order of Divine Services

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Order of Divine Services.

By Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy

The order of divine services are divided into three cycles: daily, weekly, and yearly.

The Daily Cycle of Divine Services.

The daily cycle of divine services consists of those which are celebrated by the holy Orthodox Church during the course of one day. There are nine daily services:

Vespers, Compline, Midnight Office, Matins, First Hour, Third Hour, Sixth Hour, and Ninth Hour, and the Divine Liturgy.

Following the example of Moses, who in describing the creation of the world by God, began the "day" with evening, the Orthodox Church day begins with the evening service, Vespers.

In ancient times monastics and hermits conducted all of these services separately, at the time appointed for each. Later, to accommodate the faithful, they were combined into three groups: evening, morning and daytime.

On the eve of major feasts and Sundays a service is conducted in the evening, uniting Vespers, Matins and First Hour. Such a service is termed an All-night Vigil because among early Christians and in some monasteries today the service is continued through the course of the entire night.

A Schematic Outline of the Daily Cycle of Services.

Evening

  1. Ninth Hour — three o’clock in the afternoon
  2. Vespers — six o’clock in the afternoon
  3. Compline — nine o’clock in the evening

Morning

  1. Midnight Office — twelve midnight
  2. Matins — three o’clock in the morning
  3. First Hour — six o’clock in the morning

Daytime

  1. Third Hour — nine o’clock in the morning
  2. Sixth Hour — twelve noon
  3. Divine Liturgy [not really fixed in the cycle] 

The Weekly Cycle of Divine Services.

The Weekly or Seven-day Cycle of Divine Services is the term for the order of services which extends for the duration of the seven weekdays. Each day of the week is dedicated to one or another important event or an exceptionally revered saint.

The Annual Cycle of Divine Services.

The Annual Cycle of Divine Services is the term for the order of services conducted during the course of the entire calendar year.

Each day of the year is dedicated to the memory of one or more saints and to special sacred events, either in the form of feast days or fasts.

Of all the feasts of the year the greatest is the feast of the Bright Resurrection of Christ, Pascha, the feast of feasts. Pascha occurs no earlier than the twenty-second of March (the fourth of April, new style) and no later than the twenty-fifth of April (the eighth of May, new style), on the first Sunday after the equinoxal new moon and always after the Jewish celebration of Passover.

In addition, throughout the year twelve great feasts are held in honor of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Theotokos. Also, there are feasts in honor of the great saints and in honor of the bodiless hosts of heaven, the angels. Thus the festivals of the year are distinguished, by their content, into those of the Lord, the Theotokos, and the saints.

With regard to their date, the celebration of the feasts is divided into those which are immovable, those which occur every year on the same calendar date of the months, and those which are movable, those which occur on the same day of the week, but may fall on various dates of a month due to their relationship to the celebration of Pascha.

In the solemnity of their celebration the church services of the feasts are distinguished according to various degrees. The great feasts are always celebrated with an All-night Vigil, other lesser feasts sometimes have a Vigil, according to custom. The solemnity and joy of other days in the church year is determined by guidelines indicated in the rubrics.

The church year begins on the first of September,  and the entire yearly cycle of divine services is constructed around its relationship to Pascha.


Orthodox Church of the Mother of God. Mays Landing, NJ 08330

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