Theoretically, the liturgy of the Byzantine Rite could be conducted with just two books: one containing the parts for the priest (and deacon), and one containing the parts for the people (cantors, choir and congregation). But the sheer size of these books would make them entirely impractical. This page describes the liturgical books of the Byzantine Rite. The individual books and their contents are described in separate articles.
Five books contain the ordinary parts of the service:
The Liturgikon contains the priest's and deacon's parts for the daily liturgical cycle
- The Horologion contains the people's parts for the daily liturgical cycle, and may contain occasional services such a molebens and akathists.
- The Euchologion contains the occasional services conducted by a priest, such as the baptism, wedding and funeral services, as well as assorted priestly blessings.
- The Archieratikon contains those services conducted by a bishop: ordination, consecration of a church, and so on, as well as for the hierarchical Divine Liturgy (a Divine Liturgy at which the bishop presides).
- The Psalter contains the 150 psalms, divided into twenty kathismata, as well as the nine Scriptural canticles.
- The Gospel Book contains the specified readings (called pericopes) from the Holy Gospel.
- The Apostol contains the non-Gospel readings from the New Testament (the "apostolic writings"), and the readings from the Old Testament. As the "reader's book", the Apostol may also contain the calendar, prokeimena, and other information required by the reader. (The Old Testament readings are sometimes collected separately in their own book, the Prophetologion.)
- The Octoechos contains the Sunday and weekday hymns in each of the Eight Tones..
- The Triodion contains the proper hymns and prayers used during the Great Fast.
- The Pentecostarion contains the proper hymns and prayers used during the Paschal season, from Pascha to the Sunday of All Saints. (The Holy Week services may appear in either the Triodion or the Pentecostarion.)
- The Menaion contains the proper hymns and prayers for feasts and commemorations on the fixed calendar - that is, those which fall on the same date each year.
Anthologies and prayer-books
In a monastery or cathedral, where the entire round of services is celebrated daily, all the books described above are required by those who take part in the liturgy. However, in a parish church or in the home, a book containing only the most important services and the principal feasts may be easier to use. Such a book is called an Anthologion in Greek, or a Sbornik in Slavonic. It often contains private prayers and devotions, in addition to strictly liturgical material.
In the first millenium, a variety of Greek chant books were used:
- A Sticherarion contained the stichera for Vespers and Matins
- A Psaltikon contained ornamented chants for the protopsaltes (soloist), including kontakia, hypakoje, prokeimena and alleluiaria, but omitting the refrains.
- An Asmatikon (choir book) contained refrains to the chants in the Psaltikon, as well as choral hymns.
- An Irmologion contained the model stanzas (irmoi) for the various canons.
Meanwhile, on both sides of the Carpathian Mountains, the melodies which became known as prostopinije were collected into volumes usually entitled Irmologion - hand-written at first, and later printed. For more information, see Prostopinije Chant Books.
- Mother Mary and Archimandrite Kallistos Ware. The Festal Menaion. (South Canaan, Pennsylvania: St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, 1969). Appendix B describes the service books of the Byzantine Rite.
- von Gardner, Johann. Russian Church Singing, Volume I: Orthodox Worship and Hymnography (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1980). Contains an outline of the liturgical books of the Byzantine Rite, and a discussion of the history of chant book notation among the early Slavs.