Divine Service (Eastern Orthodoxy)

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Divine Service is the term used in the Eastern Orthodox Church to describe the daily cycle of public services celebrated in the temple (church building).

Eastern Orthodox Church Christian Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second-largest Christian church, with approximately 200–260 million members. As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods. The church has no central doctrinal or governmental authority analogous to the Pope of Rome, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is recognised by all as primus inter pares of the bishops.

Temple structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities

A temple is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual rituals and activities such as prayer and sacrifice. It is typically used for such buildings belonging to all faiths where a more specific term such as church, mosque or synagogue is not generally used in English. These include Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism among religions with many modern followers, as well as other ancient religions such as Ancient Egyptian religion.


The word may be used also of the Divine Liturgy, though its normal connotation is the Daily Office. For Orthodox Christians, the serving of God in divine worship is an obligation of every Christian. This obligation involves both private and public worship. [1]

Divine Liturgy

Divine Liturgy or Holy Liturgy is the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine Rite, developed from the Antiochene Rite of Christian liturgy which is that of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox, the Greek Catholic Churches, and the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. Although the same term is sometimes applied in English to the Eucharistic service of Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, they use in their own language a term meaning "holy offering" or "holy sacrifice". Other churches also treat "Divine Liturgy" simply as one of many names that can be used, but it is not their normal term.

Worship act of religious devotion

Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. An act of worship may be performed individually, in an informal or formal group, or by a designated leader. Such acts may involve honoring.

In Orthodox theology, the first divine service was offered by Adam and Eve together in the Garden of Eden. [2] In Paradise, divine worship consisted of freely glorifying God, which came naturally to them as a result of their unimpeded theoria (vision of God in his Divine Energies). After the Fall of man, this theoria became clouded, and worship required effort on the part of man. Now divine service was accomplished in the form of sacrificial offerings, penance and prayer. These sacrifices were later codified in the Law of Moses. Thence forward, only specific offerings were made, by specific persons (priests), in a specific manner, and at a specific place (eventually, the Temple in Jerusalem), and specific liturgical days and feasts were instituted. In Orthodox theology, any efficacy in these Old Testament sacrifices is dependent upon the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. [2]

Theology Study of the nature of deities and religious belief

Theology is the critical study of the nature of the divine. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries.

Adam and Eve Biblical figures

Adam and Eve, according to the creation myth of the Abrahamic religions, were the first man and woman. They are central to the belief that humanity is in essence a single family, with everyone descended from a single pair of original ancestors. It also provides the basis for the doctrines of the fall of man and original sin that are important beliefs in Christianity, although not held in Judaism or Islam.

Garden of Eden biblical "garden of God"

The Garden of Eden, also called Paradise, is the biblical "garden of God" described in the Book of Genesis and the Book of Ezekiel. Genesis 13:10 refers to the "garden of God", and the "trees of the garden" are mentioned in Ezekiel 31. The Book of Zechariah and the Book of Psalms also refer to trees and water without explicitly mentioning Eden.

After the Resurrection of Jesus and Pentecost, the Early Church originally continued to participate in the rites of the Jewish Temple (Acts 2:46-47; 3:1; 5:21, etc.), in addition to their own celebrations of the Eucharist and agape feasts. But after the Second Destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD, Christians began to develop their own distinct forms of worship. They did retain, however, some elements of Old Testament worship (chanting of the Psalms, use of incense, etc.) and the setting aside of specific times of the day for worship (Psalm 119:147-148; 119:164).

Resurrection of Jesus Event in the Christian faith, Gospel episode represented in the cycle of the Passion of Christ

The resurrection of Jesus or resurrection of Christ is the claim, first made by the earliest followers of Jesus, that God had raised him from death. According to the New Testament, Jesus was God incarnate, and after being crucified and buried, was raised from the dead before ascending into heaven to sit at the right hand of God. The Apostle Paul explained the theological significance of the resurrection, climaxing the minitry of Jesus, as God's revelation of his purpose for the world, which is its redemption from sin.

Pentecost Christian holy day commemorating the New Testament account of the Holy Spirits descent upon the Apostles

The Christian holy day of Pentecost, which is celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles. In Christian tradition, this event represents the birth of the early Church.

Eucharist Christian rite

The Eucharist is a Christian rite that is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. According to the New Testament, the rite was instituted by Jesus Christ during the Last Supper; giving his disciples bread and wine during the Passover meal, Jesus commanded his followers to "do this in memory of me" while referring to the bread as "my body" and the cup of wine as "the new covenant in my blood". Through the Eucharistic celebration Christians remember both Christ's sacrifice of himself on the cross and his commission of the apostles at the Last Supper.

These periods of prayer eventually developed into seven distinct services, held (a) during the three major periods of the day (evening, morning, and noonday) and (b) during the night watches.


Monks and seminarians on cliros. Monks and Seminarians on Cliros in Jordanville.jpg
Monks and seminarians on cliros.
Priest reciting the Prayer of Saint Ephrem in front of the royal doors of the iconostasis Priest reciting Prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian.jpg
Priest reciting the Prayer of Saint Ephrem in front of the royal doors of the iconostasis

The daily cycle begins with vespers [note 1] and proceeds throughout the night and day according to the following table:

Vespers sunset evening prayer service in the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgies of the canonical hours

Vespers is a sunset evening prayer service in the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgies of the canonical hours. The word comes from the Greek ἑσπέρα ("hespera") and the Latin vesper, meaning "evening". It is also referred to in the Anglican tradition as evening prayer or evensong. The term is also used in some Protestant denominations to describe evening services.

Name of service in GreekName of service in EnglishHistorical Time of serviceTheme [note 2]
Esperinos (Ἑσπερινός) Vespers At sunset Glorification of God, the Creator of the world and its Providence
Apodipnon (Ἀπόδειπνον) Compline At bedtime Sleep as the image of death, illumined by Christ’s Harrowing of Hell after His death
Mesonyktikon (Μεσονυκτικόν) Midnight Office At midnight Christ’s midnight prayer in Gethsemane; a reminder to be ready for the Bridegroom coming at midnight and the Last Judgment
Orthros (Ὄρθρος) Matins or Orthros Morning watches, ending at dawn The Lord having given us not only daylight but spiritual light, Christ the Savior
Proti Ora (Πρώτη Ὥρα) First Hour (Prime) At ≈7 AM Christ's being brought before Pilate.
Triti Ora (Τρίτη Ὥρα) Third Hour (Terce) At ≈9 AM Pilate's judgement of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which happened at this hour.
Ekti Ora (Ἕκτη Ὥρα) Sixth Hour (Sext) At noon Christ's crucifixion, which happened at this hour
Enati Ora (Ἐνάτη Ὥρα) Ninth Hour (None) At ≈3 PM Christ's death which happened at this hour.
Typica (τυπικά) or Pro-Liturgy [note 3] Typica follows sixth or ninth hour .

The typica is used whenever the divine liturgy is not celebrated at its usual time, i.e., when there is a vesperal liturgy or no liturgy at all. On days when the liturgy may be celebrated at its usual hour, the typica follows the sixth hour (or matins, where the custom is to serve the Liturgy then) and the Epistle and Gospel readings for the day are read therein; [note 4] otherwise, on aliturgical days or when the Liturgy is served at vespers, the Typica has a much shorter form and is served between the ninth hour and vespers. [note 5]

Also, there are Inter-Hours for the First, Third, Sixth and Ninth Hours. These are services of a similar structure to, but briefer than, the hours. their usage varies with local custom, but generally they are used only during the Nativity Fast, Apostles Fast, and Dormition Fast on days when the lenten alleluia replaces "God is the Lord" at matins, which may be done at the discretion of the ecclesiarch when the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated.

In addition to these public prayers, there are also private prayers prescribed for both monastics and laypersons; in some monasteries, however, these are read in church. These include Morning and Evening Prayers and prayers (and, in Russia, canons) to be prayed in preparation for receiving the Eucharist.

The full cycle of services are usually served only in monasteries, cathedrals, and other Katholika (sobors). In monasteries and parishes of the Russian tradition, the Third and Sixth Hours are read during the Prothesis ( Liturgy of Preparation); otherwise, the Prothesis is served during matins, the final portion of which is omitted, the Liturgy of the Catechumens commencing straightway after the troparion following the Great Doxology.

The Midnight Office is seldom served in parishes churches except at the Paschal Vigil as the essential office wherein the burial shroud is removed from the tomb and carried to the altar.


The sundry Canonical Hours are, in practice, grouped together into aggregates [note 6] so that there are three major times of prayer a day: Evening, Morning and Midday. [note 7]

Divine Liturgy

The Divine Liturgy is not technically a part of the daily cycle of services, since theologically, the celebration of the Eucharist takes place in eternity. It is also not served daily in most parishes and smaller monasteries. However, when it is served, it is usually scheduled into the noonday aggregate.


  1. In accordance with Old Testament practice, the day is considered to begin in the evening (Genesis 1:5).
  2. Sokolof, pp 36-38
  3. Sokolof, p 93
  4. The typica has a certain correspondence to the Missa Sicca of the Mediaeval West.
  5. Sokolof, p 93
  6. Sokolof, p 36
  7. This is to conform with Psalm 55:17, "Evening, morning, and noonday will I tell of it and will declare it, and He will hear my voice."

See also

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Canonical hours Christian concept of periods of prayer throughout the day

In the practice of Christianity, canonical hours mark the divisions of the day in terms of periods of fixed prayer at regular intervals. A book of hours normally contains a version of, or selection from, such prayers.

Byzantine Rite Whole of the worship life of the Eastern Catholic Churches

The Byzantine Rite, also known as the Greek Rite or Constantinopolitan Rite, is the liturgical rite used by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Greek/Byzantine Catholic churches, and in a modified form, Byzantine Rite Lutheranism. Its development began during the fourth century in Constantinople and it is now the second most-used ecclesiastical rite in Christendom after the Roman Rite.

Matins is the canonical hour originally celebrated by monks in the nighttime and ending at latest at dawn, the time for the canonical hour of lauds. It was also called vigil and was divided into two or three nocturns. The name "matins" originally referred to the dawn office of lauds, which in the shorter summer nights followed with only a minimal break.

Christian liturgy is a pattern for worship used by a Christian congregation or denomination on a regular basis. Although the term liturgy is used to mean public worship in general, the Byzantine Rite uses the term "Divine Liturgy" to denote the Eucharistic service.

Easter Vigil

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Christian worship

In Christianity, worship is the act of attributing reverent honor and homage to God. In the New Testament, various words are used to refer to the term worship. One is proskuneo which means to bow down to God or kings.

Liturgy of the Hours daily prayers of the Catholic Church

The Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office or Work of God or canonical hours, often referred to as the Breviary, is the official set of prayers "marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer". It consists primarily of psalms supplemented by hymns, readings and other prayers and antiphons. Together with the Mass, it constitutes the official public prayer life of the Church. The Liturgy of the Hours also forms the basis of prayer within Christian monasticism.

In the Byzantine Rite of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches, Orthros (Greek or Oútrenya is the last of the four night offices, which also include vespers, compline, and midnight office. In traditional monasteries it is held daily so as to end at sunrise. In many parishes it is held only on Sundays and feast days. It is often called matins after the office it most nearly corresponds to in Western Christian churches.

Entrance (liturgical) procession in Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches during which the clergy enter into the sanctuary through the Holy Doors

In Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches, an entrance is a procession during which the clergy enter into the sanctuary through the Holy Doors. The origin of these entrances goes back to the early church, when the liturgical books and sacred vessels were kept in special storage rooms for safe keeping and the procession was necessary to bring these objects into the church when needed. Over the centuries, these processions have grown more elaborate, and nowadays are accompanied by incense, candles and liturgical fans. In the liturgical theology of the Orthodox Church, the angels are believed to enter with the clergy into the sanctuary, as evidenced by the prayers which accompany the various entrances.

In Eastern Orthodox Church, the liturgical service known as the Typica is appointed to be served whenever the Liturgy is not celebrated. This may be either because the Typicon does not permit the celebration of the Liturgy, the Typica may be served instead of Liturgy, or no priest is present or the priest for any reason does not serve the Liturgy. The Typica, like the hours that it is aggregated with, is rarely read in Greek churches, but it is relatively common in Slavic churches.

The Little Hours or minor hours are the canonical hours other than the three major hours.

Acolouthia in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, signifies the arrangement of the Divine Services, perhaps because the parts are closely connected and follow in order. In a more restricted sense, the term "acolouth" refers to the fixed portion of the Office. The portions of the Office that are variable are called the Sequences. While the structure and history of the various forms of the Divine Office in the numerous ancient Christian rites is exceedingly rich, the following article will restrict itself to the practice as it evolved in the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.


The Horologion or Book of hours provides the fixed portions of the Divine Service or the daily cycle of services as used by the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches. Into this fixed framework of the services, are inserted numerous parts changing daily.

Euchologion Liturgical works of Eastern Christian Churches

The Euchologion is one of the chief liturgical books of the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches, containing the portions of the services which are said by the bishop, priest, or deacon. There are several different volumes of the book in use.

Catholic liturgy

In the Catholic Church, liturgy is divine worship, the proclamation of the Gospel, and active charity.

Eastern Orthodox worship

Eastern Orthodox worship in this article is distinguished from Eastern Orthodox prayer in that 'worship' refers to the activity of the Christian Church as a body offering up prayers to God while 'prayer' refers to the individual devotional traditions of the Orthodox.

Liturgical book Christian prayer book

A liturgical book, or service book, is a book published by the authority of a church body that contains the text and directions for the liturgy of its official religious services.

Holy Ascension Monastery is a male monastic community located in Bearsville, New York under the auspices of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of America (GOC). It is under the omophorion of Metropolitan Demetrius of America.


  1. Pomazansky, Protopresbyter Michael (1984), "Prayer", Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: A Concise Exposition (Tr. Hieromonk Seraphim Rose), Platina, Cal.: Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, p. 309, LC 84-051294
  2. 1 2 Slobodskoy, Archpriest Seraphim (1996), "The Concept of Serving God, Divine Service", The Law of God, Jordanville, N.Y.: Holy Trinity Monastery, p. 523, ISBN   0-88465-044-8