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Divine Service (Eastern Orthodoxy)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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).

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]

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]

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).

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.
Priest reciting the Prayer of Saint Ephrem in front of the royal doors of the iconostasis
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:

Name of service in Greek Name of service in English Historical Time of service Theme[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


  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. ^ a b 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

External links

This page was last edited on 4 February 2018, at 19:29
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