Matins

Matins (Gk. órthros; Slav. útrenya) is the principal morning worship service of the Christian Church. As celebrated in the Byzantine Rite, it combines:

Matins has three principal themes: repentence for our sins and offences;  meditation on the history of salvation;  and praise of God.  On Sundays, hymns are added which focus on the Resurrection of Christ and the events that surrounded it.  On feast days, hymns for the feast are sung, and the icon of the feast may be enthroned and venerated.

In the Great Russian tradition, and in Greek monasteries,  Matins for Sundays and feasts is often combined with Vespers (or Compline) to form the All-Night Vigil.  In Greek and Ruthenian parish churches, Matins is usually celebrated as a separate service in the morning.  

(For historical reasons, Matins has sometimes been "anticipated" on the previous evening of afternoon, perhaps in response to the celebration of Vespers or the Presanctified Liturgy early in the day.)

Outline of the service

Sunday Matins and Festal Matins  

The following table shows the parts of the service for Sunday Matins and for Festal Matins.  (Festal matins is celebrated on those weekdays, Monday thrrough Saturday, on which the Polyeleos is apppointed to be sung.)

Sunday Matins Festal Matins
The Royal Office (usually omitted in parishes):
Blessing by priest: "Blessed is our God..."
Psalms 19 and 20
Trisagion, etc., and the Lord's Prayer
Troparion and kontakion of the Cross
Litany, "Have mercy upon us, O God"
Blessing by priest: "Glory to the holy, consubstantial, life-giving and undivided Trinity"
The Hexapsalmos, of "Six Palms" of Matins:
Psalms 3, 37, 62, 87, 102, 142
Litany of Peace
"The Lord is God", with verses
Appointed troparia of the Sunday or feast
First reading from the Psalter
Small litany
Sessional hymn
Second reading from the Psalter
Small litany
Sessional hymn
Either the Polyeleos (Psalms 134-135), or
Psalm 118
Polyeleos (Psalms 134-135)
Evlogitaria of the Resurrection:
"Hosts of angels", with refrains
Small litany
Hypakoe
Exaltation of the feast
Small litany
Sessional Hymn
Gradual Hymns in the tone of the week Gradual Hyms in Tone 4
Prokeimenon
"Let everything that lives and that breathes", with verses
One of the eleven Resurrection Gospels
Hymn, "Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ"
Matins Gospel of the feast
Psalm 50, with troparia
Deacon's prayer, "O Lord, save your people"
"Lord, have mercy" (12)
THE CANON:
Odes 1 and 3
Small litany
Sessional hymn (or kontakion)

Odes 4, 5, and 6
Small litany
Kontakion and Ikos

Odes 7 and 8
Canticle of the Theotokos ("My soul magnifies the Lord"), with refrains
Ode 9
"It is truly proper"
Small litany
"Holy is the Lord, our God", with verses
Hymn of Light corresponding to the Sunday Resurrectional Gospel Hymn of Light of the feast
The Praises: Psalms 148-150
Stichera of Sunday, ending with sticheron corresponding to the Sunday Resurrectional Gospel, and the theotokion, "You are truly most blessed, O Virgin Theotokos" Stichera of the feast
The Great Doxology ("Glory to God in the highest")
Trisagion
One of two Sunday troparia, depending on the tone of the week Troparion of the feast 
Litany of Supplication
Blessing by priest
Dismissal

On certain feasts, and when a feast falls on a Sunday, some changes to the above are made; consult the Typikon.

Daily Matins

Daily Matins is significantly simpler than Sunday and festal Matins; on certain days (feasts "with the Great Doxology"), the hymn "Glory to God in the Highest" is sung, as at festal Matins, while on other days the same hymn (referred to as the "Lesser Doxology") is simply chanted.  The following table shows the parts of the daily Matins with the Great Doxology, and without the Great Doxology.

Daily Matins with the Great Doxology Daily Matins without the Great Doxology
The Royal Office (usually omitted in parishes):
Blessing by priest: "Blessed is our God..."
Psalms 19 and 20
Trisagion, etc., and the Lord's Prayer
Troparion and kontakion of the Cross
Litany, "Have mercy upon us, O God"
Blessing by priest: "Glory to the holy, consubstantial, life-giving and undivided Trinity"
The Hexapsalmos, of "Six Palms" of Matins:
Psalms 3, 37, 62, 87, 102, 142
Litany of Peace
"The Lord is God", with verses
Appointed troparia of the day
First reading from the Psalter
Small litany (only on days of Great Doxology)
Sessional hymn
Second reading from the Psalter
Small litany (only on days of Great Doxology)
Sessional hymn
If a third Psalter reading is appointed for the day:
Third reading from the Psalter
Small litany (only on days of Great Doxology)
Sessional hymn
Psalm 50 
Deacon's prayer, "O Lord, save your people"
"Lord, have mercy" (12)
THE CANON:
Odes 1 and 3
Small litany
Sessional hymn or hypakoe

Odes 4, 5, and 6
Small litany
Kontakion and Ikos

Odes 7 and 8
Canticle of the Theotokos ("My soul magnifies the Lord"), with refrains
Ode 9
Small litany
Hymn of Light of the day
The Praises: Psalms 148-150
Stichera of the day Stichera (certain days only)
The Great Doxology
Trisagion
The Lesser Doxology
(no Trisagion)
Litany of Fervent Supplication Litany of Supplication
  Aposticha
Trisagion, etc., and the Lord's Prayer
Troparion and theotokion of the day
Litany of Supplication Litany of Fervent Supplication
Blessing by priest
Dismissal

During the Great Fast and the Minor Fasts, there are additional changes to Matins.  In particular, on weekdays during the Great Fast, the Scriptural Canticles are sung as part of the Canon.  Consult the Typikon for details.

Combining Matins with Other Services

If an All-Night Vigil is celebrated, then the beginning blessing of Matins replaces the usual beginning at the start of Vespers or Compline, and after Psalm 33 at the end of Vespers, the priest blesses the people: "May the blessing of the Lord be upon you...", and closes the royal doors, and the reader begins reading the Six Psalms of Matins.  (Ordo Celebrationis 60)

Matins may be followed immediately by either the First Hour;  the dismissal of Matins is immediately followed by "Come, let us worship", and the psalms of the Hour (Ordo Celebrationis 84)

Texts and sources

The official Church Slavonic texts for Matins can be found in the Ruthenian Služébnik (for the priest and deacon) and the Ruthenian Časoslóv (for the cantor, choir and people).  Depending on the day, these texts must be supplemented from the Octoechos, the Triodion, the Pentecostarion, and the Menaion.  

(Throughout much of the twentieth century, the most commonly used books for Vespers and Matins were the Velikij Sbornik, which contains Saturday evening Vespers, Sunday Matins, and Sunday evening Vespers for the Sundays and major feasts of the year; and the Basilian Vecernya i Utrenya, a two-volume set with more detailed materials for the same celebrations, to be used by clergy and cantors.)

Until recently, there was no official English text for Matins; the Uniontown Office of Matins was commonly used, along with Matins booklets made up for various feasts and special occasions.   The Metropolitan Cantor Institute has prepared complete  texts with music for (a) Sunday and festal Matins, and (b) Daily Matins on Days of Alleluia (i.e., most weekdays in the Great Fast and the Minor Fasts).

Rubrics for the celebration of Sunday and festal Matins can be found in sections 74-96 of the Ordo Celebrationis.   The Typikon contains detailed instructions for the variable parts of Matins on any given day.

Matins in the Parish and Home

In Europe in the last century, Matins was celebrated in church on Sunday mornings, as well as on the mornings of feasts. Even daily Matins was sometimes held in village or city churches.  Unfortunately, in this country Matins is seldom celebrated. 

Matins on Sundays and feasts can take anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours to celebrate, depending on how the service is abbreviated for parish use, and how much of the prescribed material is used at the Canon. 

Matins can be celebrated, in whole or in part, as morning prayer in the home, following the rubrics for Reader's Services.

Adding Matins to the parish liturgical schedule

Matins (like Vespers) is a principal hour of the daily liturgical cycle, which should not be displaced by minor services such as the Hours or Typica, or by private devotions.  We recommend that parishes celebrate the actual service of Matins, rather than singing individual Matins hymns.

 While we would wish to see Matins celebrated without significant abbreviations, in order to provide the faithful with the riches of the Byzantine liturgical tradition, we understand that a Matins service of more than an hour or so is unlikely to receive support in a parish setting, at least at first.  On the other hand, an overabbreviated Matins could become a “parish standard”, lacking its varying hymnody, and difficult to expand later on.

 When beginning Matins in a parish, the following abbreviations can be taken without irreparably damaging the integrity of the service:

This service should take about 45 minutes to celebrate, as long as the singing is not allowed to drag.  Once the cantors/choir and faithful are familiar with the order of service and the fixed hymns of Matins, we recommend that the Canon (or at least one variable ode, together with ode 9) be added, and that the entire Hexapsalmos be chanted.  The Typikon provides guidance on which Canon is preferred when several are combined on a given day.

Depending on the availability of a cantor trained in the use of the Typikon, and several singers or a choir, the entire Canon could eventually be sung, and the psalter readings, hypakoe and gradual hymns added.

Matins, like Vespers, can be celebrated in parish or mission settings even when a priest is not available to lead the service.  For more information, see Reader Services.

Recommended reading