Church Typikon

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By: The Church
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Church Typikon

The Typikon is the book which contains directions for the celebration of the daily cycle of divine services (Matins, Hours, Liturgy, Vespers, Aftersupper); for the weekly cycle (Octoechos); for the monthly cycle (Menaeon); for the divine services of Holy Lent (Triodion) and the Holy Pentecostarion; and also for the various rites when combinations are necessary as the result of the coinciding of feasts, etc.

The Ecclesiastical Typicon has been accepted by the Holy Church and has been in effect for more than a thousand years. All priests and deacons at ordination take an oath to observe it All Orthodox bishops at their consecration in the rite of the “Profession of Faith” take a solemn oath in the presence of bishops, clerics, and people faithfully to observe the Church Typicon.

The Typicon acquired the strength of the law in the Church for the externals of Divine Worship of Almighty God. The Church looks upon it not as an ordinary work of man’s mind, but as a holy book, obligatory in the celebration of divine services for all Orthodox Catholic Christians. During its more than thousand year usage, the Church Typicon has not turned into useless forms or dead directives; it was constantly enriched with new services and rites. The Typicon does not merely legalize all sorts of minor peculiarities in the divine service and thus eliminate the freedom of the celebrants, as it portrays the ideal in divine service, but it also sets the model and the type of the divine service in bringing out our own involuntary desire to fulfill this ideal according to the instructions of the Church Typicon.

The main content of the Church Typicon, to a considerable extent, includes the works of the Holy Fathers and the ascetics of the Church and their prayers. For example, the prayers and canticles of Saint John Damascene, Saint Cosmas, Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom, and their sacerdotals, rituals, rites, etc., have all been accepted and preserved by the Church and are now in force in the Church Typicon as set forth by the Jerusalem St. Sabbas the Blessed monastery, dating to the 5th century.

Prayer is the main activity in the spiritual life of an Orthodox Christian. Prayer is the necessary means for spiritual growth and the struggle with passions and is an endless need for the believer. But, prayer must be learned under the direction of those who have already achieved perfection in prayer, i.e., from the Holy Fathers, whose prayers, rites, and customs have been accepted by the whole Church and introduced into the Order of Divine Services. From here then is derived the sacred significance for the Church Typicon. The indication of the Church Typicon and the measure of its greatness, its educational significance and strength, may be seen, for example, in the Typicon for the service of the Annunciation of the All-holy Theotokos, and for the various days of Great Fast (Tessaracost or Quadragesima) and Holy Pascha.

The pious and exacting fulfillment of the Church Typicon has an immense import for pastors and for congregations, it unites all of them, preserves them in Orthodoxy, and saves them from perversion into sectarianism, Lutheranism, and Roman Catholicism. This is especially essential to remember in the peripheral dioceses of our Patriarchate. The pastors, having taken an oath to uphold the Typicon, must look upon it as a matter of common concern for all, and not only as one for the flocks (people). Therefore, the actions of those priests may not be justified who, during the divine services, leave the Holy Altar to hear confessions (sometimes even give a general confession), or spend part of the service at the Altar of Pro thesis commemorating and removing particles from the prosphora. It is not permitted, during divine services, to be occupied with private matters, such as: the reading of the akathistoi and the Office of Preparation for Holy Communion. It is not permitted willfully to change any order of services, and to introduce one’s own prayers, hymns, rituals, or rites.

For this reason then, so that we have all things done “decently and in order,” according to the command of the holy Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 14:40); so that the saving and instructional significance of the Church Typicon directives be most effective and realistic.