Singing the Readings of the Divine Liturgy

This article explains how readings and their accompanying hymns and litanies are sung at the Divine Liturgy, and covers pages 34-41 of our Divine Liturgies book.

The prokeimenon

The prokeimenon is sung by the cantor and people to one of the eight prokeimenon melodies; the verse is intoned by the reader, who usually comes to the middle of the church during the last repetition of the Trisagion.

The prokeimenon (or sometimes two prokeimena) to be sung depends on the liturgical day; how to determine which one(s) are used is taught in the MCI Online course, Introduction to the Typikon. You can listen to the Sunday prokeimena of the Resurrection in each of the eight tones:

Tone 1Tone 2Tone 3Tone 4Tone 5Tone 6Tone 7Tone 8

The verse of the prokeimena is normally chanted to the usual psalm tone (exception: after a prokeimenon in Tone 6, the minor psalm tone is used). The pitch for the verse should be based on that of the prokeimenon; see this chart which shows the verse melody and pitch in each tone.

The apostolic reading

Then the reader, standing in the middle of the church and facing the sanctuary, chants the title of the book being read, to the usual psalm tone. The introductions to each book of the Bible can be found here, along with the opening words for each kind of reading.

The deacon commands, "Let us be attentive", and the reader chants the apostolic reading using the reading melody. If there are two readings, they are read together, and only the first reading is introduced with the title of the book being read.

The reader should make the sign of the cross when the priest says the blessing ("Peace be to you, reader"), and wait for the Alleluia to begin.

The Alleluia

Like the prokeimenon, the Alleluia is sung by the cantor and congregation to one of the eight prokeimenon melodies, and the reader chants the verse to a psalm tone. As with the prokeimenon verse, the melody and pitch for the Alleluia verses depends on the tone of the Alleluia. Readers should learn to find the correct pitch by by using this handout, and listening to the Sunday Alleluias in the eight tones:

Tone 1Tone 2Tone 3Tone 4Tone 5Tone 6Tone 7Tone 8

If two Alleluias are sung, the first Alleluia and its verses are sung, then the second Alleluia, with its verses, replaces the final repetition of the first Alleluia, like so:

First Alleluia
V. verse 1 of first Alleluia
First Alleluia (repeated)
V. verse 2 of first Alleluia
Second Alleluia
V. verse 1 of second Alleluia
Second Alleluia (repeated)
V. verse 2 of second Alleluia
Second Alleluia (final time)

During the final singing of the Alleluia, the reader should return to his or her place.

The Gospel reading

This reading is the responsibility of the deacon or priest; the cantor and congregation just need to sing the Gospel response before and after the reading: (listen)

The homily or sermon

The congregation is normally seated during the homily. In some places, it is customary to sing the hymn, "Heavenly King, Comforter" or "The Holy Spirit shall come upon you" before the priest or deacon gives the homily or sermon, asking that the grace of the Holy Spirit may assist his preaching.

The Litany of Fervent Supplication

After the readings, the Liturgy of Fervent Supplication is sung, along with the Litanies for the Deceased, Catechumens, and Faithful if appropriate. See the article on Litany responses for details.

The clergy then go the table of preparation, and the cantor and faithful begin to sing the Cherubikon, or Cherubic Hymn. See Singing the Cherubikon.