July

July is the eleventh month of the liturgical year in the Byzantine Rite. This article covers the most important liturgical aspects of the month of July. See the online menaion and the Lectionary for the hymns and readings of each day.

The prophet Elijah

On July 20, we celebrate the feast of the holy prophet Elijah the Tishbite, whose exploits are described in the Old Testament books of Kings. In the Byzantine Rite, we commemorate a number of Old Testament saints: the prophets, Moses, King David, the three young men of Babylon, and the seven Maccabees and their mother (as forerunners of the holy martyrs). But among all of these, the prophet Elijah takes the foremost place; not only was he zealous for the law of God, but he had a direct experience of God (in the quiet breeze on the mountain), and his life in the desert served as a model for generations of Christian monastic men and women.

His commemoration is a great feast (Vigil feast), and the hymns for his feast can be found on pages 343-344 of our Divine Liturgies book. Like the feaast of Saint George (on April 23), this is one of the days for which the hymns are not recorded on the CD set for the Divine Liturgies book, but the melodies are fairly easy, and there is no magnification or irmos.

At the end of his earthly life, Elijah was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot, and it was this that led the Jews to expect his return, as a herald of the Messiah. (Remember that some thought that John the Baptist, or even Christ himself, might be Elijah.) The image of the fiery chariot led to the custom of blessing automobiles and other vehicles on this feast day.

Several of the hymns for Elijah also mention his disciple and successor, Elisha; these two names are sometimes given under the Latin versions as Elias and Eliseus, respectively.

The Sunday of the Council Fathers

On the Sunday that falls between July 13 and July 19, we honor the fathers of the first six Ecumenical Councils:

The hymn of the Divine Liturgy for this Sunday are found on pages 263-264 of our Divine Liturgies book:

These are essentially the same hymns that are also sung at the commemoration of the first Ecumenical Council (on the Sunday between the feast of the Ascension and Pentecost) and the commemoration of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (in October). The first of these commemorations combines the hymns for the Council Fathers with those of the Ascension; the commemoration of the Seventh Council has a special kontakion explaining the teaching of that council on the holy icons. Here, at the Sunday of the Council Fathers in October we sing the "common hymns" honoring those men (mostly bishops) who clarified and passed on the Church's teachings and rule of life.

An optional feast: the great prince Vladimir

There is a second vigil-rank feast in July: the commemoration on July 15 of the "holy great prince Vladimir, equal to the apostles." A prince in what is now Russia and the grandson of a Byzantine Christian princess, he accepted holy baptism, and had his people baptized en masse in the year 988. It is on account of this "Baptism of the Rus" that he is called an equal to the apostles.

His feast is given as a vigil rank commemoration (Vigil feast) in the official service books of the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine liturgy, prepared in Rome in the 1940's, but this has sometimes been perceived as a denial or minimization of the role of Saints Cyril and Methodius as the "apostles to the Slavs." As a result, some parishes observe the feast of Saint Vladimir on this day, and some do not.

Other feasts in July

Like the month of May, the month of July includes polyeleos feasts (Polyeleos feast) that span a range of subjects:

Each of these is a major feast, honored with the celebration of Great Vespers, festal Matins, and the Divine Liturgy. Let's examine them one by one.

Of all the months on the Byzantine calendar, July has the broadest range of such feasts and commemorations.

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