This is the text of a class given at Christ the Saviour in McComb, MS on 5-23-07

I. Intro/Cycles of Services

I get quite a large number of questions about the services of the Church. Why this service? Or why is this done this way at this time? What does this mean? So I’m hoping that these classes on the Liturgical Cycle of the Church will help answer some of these questions. And also will help bring us more deeply into the prayer of the Church. It’s hard to pray when you don’t know what’s going on. And we gather in the Church not only to offer worship and praise to God, but we gather to pray. So, with God’s help, perhaps learning about the services will help us enter and become part of the offering to Christ and not just observers of religious festivals and ceremony.

Where do the services come from?
We have two basic types of services in the Orthodox Church—the regular cycle of services, which are done daily in the Church for all mankind; and the occasional services that found in the Book of Needs (Blessing Water, Panikhida, Services of Supplication or Thanksgiving). The practice of having a Temple dedicated to God and offering services of worship in it comes from the OT. God gives the command for a temple to be built; He gives the order of services to be done in that temple (how, when, why); He establishes the priesthood to lead the people in worship. God teaches man how to worship Him. And this is one of the basics of Orthodox worship—to offer pleasing worship to God in the way that He wants us to worship Him. So when the Christians are no longer welcome to worship in the Temple around the year 70AD, the order of services that develops is based directly on the Temple worship (and we’ll see this as we look at individual services in the weeks to come). But the services were in some ways different than the Temple worship. Now the sacrifice is the Eucharist; now the Messiah has come and we’re waiting for His return. There is a slightly different atmosphere, so to speak, in the services of the Church. Man now prays to God in Christ, Who is also a man. So the services of the Church are written more intimately, and the Messiah has now come and God is living in us, but still, the basic idea and cycle comes from the Temple. Christians offer worship to God 8 times a day, with a fixed Holy Day and appointed fasts and a cycle of Feasts—but what we do is not just “made up”—we’re very carefully trying to worship God in the way that He has commanded (incidentally, not only in the OT, but also following the order from the NT, most notable the language of the Apocalypse which fits the service of the Divine Liturgy exactly). On Wednesday nights for the next several weeks and maybe months even, we’ll specifically be looking at the services of the regular cycle of services which are offered in the Church. If we want to, at the end, we could also look specifically at some of the occasional services.
We’ll begin looking at the services by looking at the cycle of services in the Orthodox Church. Our regular services follow simultaneously three patterns—the daily cycle, the weekly cycle, and the yearly cycle.

Daily Cycle
The Church exists in the world not only for the salvation of human beings, but for the sanctification of the entire cosmos. All created things are joined together, and the fallen-ness of humanity creates a chasm not only between God and man, but also between man and man, God and the natural world, and man and the natural world. In other words, everything in God’s creation is fractured and separated because of man’s sin. The Body of Christ is in the world to heal this. In the Church we have a multitude of unique persons who are being healed, and in their healing they bring health and wholeness into the world. The Church offers worship 8 times a day for the salvation of mankind and the healing of the cosmos. The Fathers will talk about the sanctification of time—by always offering prayer to God, the Church is sanctifying the place where it is, and helping to bring healing into the world. And also, when we come into the Church to join in the services, we also come to be chastened and to be healed.
We’ll talk about each of the 8 services of the daily cycle in the classes to come, so today we’ll basically just mention them, and the time when they are set to be served. (We’ll look at the ideal—the only place it really can be done like this is in a monastery, and even most monasteries group services together so that all the services are offered but at 3 times during the day instead of 8).
6-9pm – Evening (which was the beginning of the next day) – Vespers
9-12pm – Midnight – Compline
12-3am – Cock-crow – Midnight Office
3-6am – Morning – Matins
6-9am – First Hour
9am-12pm Third Hour
12-3pm Sixth Hour
3-6pm Ninth Hour
You’ll notice that the Liturgy is not a part of the daily cycle of services. Any person in any place can offer the regular daily cycle of services. Liturgy can only be served when there is a bishop or priest present to celebrate. In many places the Liturgy is grafted into the daily cycle, and replaced with Typika when a priest is not present. But technically speaking the Liturgy is not part of the daily cycle of services. And really it shouldn’t even be thought of as a regular thing—gathering together to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ is an occasion that should never be thought of as regular and mundane, but its always the moment of our coming face to face with the Saviour. Liturgy really outshines the regular daily cycle.

Weekly Cycle
Every day of the week we remember certain events from salvation history. Every day there are special hymns and prayers that remember these events. And this cycle is always present no matter what season of the liturgical year we may be in.
Sunday-Christ’s Resurrection
Monday-the Holy Angels
Tuesday-the Prophets, especially St. John the Baptist
Wednesda- the Cross, as being the day of Judas’ betrayal
Thursday-Apostles and bishops, especially St. Nicholas of Myra
Friday-the Cross, as being the day of the Crucifixion
Saturday-all the Saints, especially the Theotokos, and the memory of the departed
Saturday is always celebrated as a Feast, being the Sabbath Day. And Sunday is always Pascha—we always sing the hymns of the Resurrection, it’s always a high feast day, we almost always have the icon of the Resurrection out. Wednesday and Friday are days of fasting and repentance—we have two days of fasting each week, and two days of feasting each week.

Yearly/Festal Cycle
Several things come together in the yearly cycle of services. The first is the calendar of the Saints. Every day certain Saints and important events in Christian history are remembered. The hymns and prayers written in honor of these Saints are added to the hymns and prayers for the day of the week to make up the changeable portion of the text of each daily service. The daily cycle is set, the weekly cycle is set, and this portion of the yearly cycle is set (with the exception of new saints and new texts being added).
And finally we have the Festal Cycle, the celebration of the major Feasts of the Church. Some of these Feast are fixed—every March 25 is Annunciation, for instance. Other Feasts are moveable—the date of their celebration is based on the date of Pascha. Pascha is calculated yearly, and so the Feast of Ascension and Pentecost changes from year to year. You will notice that Pascha is not on the Festal Cycle. Pascha is like Liturgy—it doesn’t fit into the regular cycle. Pascha is the Feast of Feasts. Everything in the Church leads to Pascha. So in addition to Pascha, there are Twelve Feasts which are celebrated in honour of Christ or the Theotokos.
September 8 Nativity of the Theotokos
September 14 Exaltation of the Cross
November 21 Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple
December 25 Nativity of Christ
January 6 Theophany (Baptism of Christ)
February 2 Meeting of the Lord (St. Symeon and Prophetess Anna)
March 25 Annunciation
Sunday before Pascha Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday)
40th day after Pascha Ascension
50th day after Pascha Pentecost
August 6 Transfiguration
August 15 Dormition of the Theotokos
There are other Feasts of the Church that are not on this list, one of them being the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul that we’re getting ready to begin fasting for. In addition to these Twelve Feasts, other days will be celebrated as major Feasts depending on local tradition. We celebrate St. Innocent and St. John of Kronstadt because of our Hall and Rectory. In many places in America, the American Saints are celebrated like major Feasts. So the Festal cycle is the one where there are the most changes, and each diocese or parish may have certain commemorations that really are part of the festal cycle of the local area.

Next class will begin discussing the Liturgy-Prayers of Entrance, Vesting, Vestments, Proskomede