Hymnology & Hymnography
(The Most Important Ecclesiastical Books)
Horologion or Book of Hours
In ancient times this book contained only the daily office or Hours, hence its name. In time, however, enough additions were made that it took on the character of the Church’s main Book of Prayer since it contains all the daily and special services used in the worship and prayer life of the Church.
Parakletike or Great Oktoechos
The liturgical book known by this name contains the resurrectional services of the Vespers, Midnight Office and Orthros chanted during the greater portion of the liturgical calendar year. The creation of the first core of this book is attributed to Saint John of Damascus and contains its primitive shape, corresponding only to the services for Saturdays and Sundays (Oktoechos). In time compositions by newer hymnographers like Joseph, Theophanes, Metrophanes, Paulos Amorius, Leo the Wise, Constantine Porphyrogennetus and other were added, completing the resurrectional series with hymns for each day of the week. The book was enriched with new stichera, doxastika, kathismata, kanons, makarismoi, anabathmoi, and the like. In this way we now have the Great Oktoechos or Parakletike, with its resurrectional, but also supplicatory and penitential character. It is a book that pangs the conscience and comforts the soul of the Orthodox faithful throughout most of the ecclesiastical year in the Divine Services. The resurrectional hymns contained in it always precede any other hymns that may be designated, keeping in line with the old proverb, “the resurrectional always takes precedence.”
Menaion or Book of the Months
This liturgical book, or set of twelve books, contains the Services of the Saints and Feasts for each month of the year. For this reason there are twelve Menaia. These feasts are referred to as immovable feasts, since they are celebrated on the same date each year.
This book received the name of the Kanon composed to three odes (as has already been explained above). It contains the Services of the movable feasts before Pascha, specifically, from the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee to Great and Holy Saturday. It is the most compunctionate liturgical book.
The second part of the Triodion hymnbook is known by this name today and contains the services of the movable feasts after Pascha, from the Sunday of Pascha up to the Sunday of All Saints, which is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the feast of Holy Pentecost.
Apostolos or Praxapostolos
This is the book containing all the pericopae (Book of Acts and Epistles in the New Testament) of the apostolic readings for all periods of the liturgical year.
Euangelion or Gospel
This book contains all the Gospel pericopae, according to the order that they are read during the liturgical year. A copy of this book is always placed on the Holy Table.
This is the book containing the typike diataxis, in other words, the detailed directions or rubrics to the priest and chanter for the order followed in the Services. It gives the typos or type and example as to the what, when and how each ecclesiastical service is said, performed or chanted.
Euchologion or Book of Needs
The first short form of this book is called the Small Euchology or Hagiasmatarion and contains various Prayers and Services which are the necessary handbook for the priest. The Mega Euchologion or Great Euchology is not only the necessary and indispensable corpus for the Priest, but also a plethora of special prayers and services, from the special prayers for the sick all the way to the complete services of all the sacred Mysteries (Baptism, Chrismation, Ordination, Holy Matrimony, etc.).
Parts of the Euchology have also been published as separate books, such as the following:
- Diakonikon. This contains all parts said by the Deacon in the Divine Liturgy and other services.
- Hieratikon or Litourgikon or The Three Liturgies. These books contain the three Byzantine Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts with all parts said or performed by the priest in Church.
- Archieratikon or Taktikon. This contains the Divine Liturgies, Ordination and other Services and prayers for use by the Bishop.
Psalterion or Psalter
This is the book of the same name found in the Old Testament and whose expression in the language of the Septuagint has inspired all the Church’s hymnographers. The Psalter contains the body of the 150 Psalms of David with the addition of the nine Biblical Odes or Canticles, which became the thematic source for the creation of the Kanon Odes from the 9th century on.
This book contains kanons by various hymnographers in all the modes in honor of the Theotokos. It is used mainly in the monasteries, but also in the parishes in conjunction with the chanting of the Great Kanon of St. Andrew of Crete during the Great Fast. The most popular Theotokarion is the one published by St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite, while only the first volume of S. Eustratiades’ publication has come down to us.
This book is only found in the manuscripts and contains the pericopae of the books of the Old Testament that are read during the various chanted services. It is not published today as the readings still in use (during the weekdays of the Great Fast, the Great Feasts and commemorations of the celebrated Saints) have been incorporated into the Menaion, Triodion and Pentekostarion books.
Anthologion or Pandektes
This book is no longer published, being displaced by the Synopsis or Synekdemos (Sputnik Psalomschika in Russian). It usually contains the Divine Liturgies, the Psalter, the Horologion and other select services from the Menaia, Parakletike, Triodion and Pentekostarion. Its content is not standardized and depends greatly on the compiler and the ecclesiastical or private needs surrounding its publication.
Footnote: For more details, as well as linguistic considerations, see Anth. A. Papadopoulou, “Λειτουργικοὶ ὅροι,” in Ἀθηνά, Μ´(1928), pp. 60-87; N. B. Tomadake, “Βυζαντινὴ ὁρολογία Α ́. Ἐκκλησιαστικά τινα βιβλία,” in Ἀθηνά, ΞΑ´ (1957), pp. 4-8; and Konstantinou Nikolakopoulou, “Hymnologischmusikalische Terminologie der Orthodoxie: Ein Lexikon, ” in Orthodoxes Forum 2 (1995), pp. 187-220.