Typika (Gk. typiká; Slav. izobrazítelnaya) is an optional service in the daily cycle of the Byzantine liturgical tradition. In its modern form, it is intended for use on days when the Divine Liturgy is not or cannot be celebrated.

Although the origins of this service are obscure, it appears to have come into being as a short service of Holy Communion for monks who lived in the desert or wilderness. We know that these monks kept the Holy Mysteries in their cells, and received them on a regular basis.

Later, the distribution of Holy Communion was eliminated, but the pre-Communion and post-Communion prayers were kept as a service of their own. In Slavic countries, it was often called Obednitsa, or "the noon-day service," and provided a daily service other than the Divine Liturgy at which the day's readings from the Divine Liturgy could be heard.

Finally, in modern times, some Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches have come to use this service as a way for the faithful to hear the day's readings, and receive Holy Communion, in the absence of a priest. In this form the service is usually led by a deacon, since we know that from early times the distribution of Holy Communion was one of the deacon's responsibilities. The Mysteries to be distributed in this case are consecrated at a previous Divine Liturgy.

In the daily cycle, Typika can follow the Sixth Hour, as a mid-day service. In Great Lent, it is celebrated after the Ninth Hour, when the day's fasting would come to an end. This may harken back to its role as a Communion service; since Holy Communion would break the fast, its reception during Lent would come at the end of a day of strict fasting, which for monks and nuns ended in the late afternoon. That is also why we celebrate the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in the evening.

Outline of the service

The following table gives an outline of the service of Typika.

Blessing by priest: "Blessed is our God..."
"Heavenly King"
Trisagion, etc., and the Lord's Prayer
If Typika immediately follow Matins or another Hour, the prayers above are omitted.
"Come, let us adore the King, our God..."
Psalms 102 and 145
"O only-begotten Son and Word of God"
The Beatitudes, with inserted troparia
Prokeimenon of the Day
Apostolic reading of the day
Alleluia of the day
Gospel reading of the day
Short hymns of praise:
"Glory... now and ever..."
"Remember us, O Lord, when you come in your Kingdom."
"The heavenly choir praises you and says...."
Nicene Creed 
Prayer for forgiveness
The Lord's Prayer
Kontakion of the day
"Most holy Trinity, consubstantial power..."
Response: "One is holy"
Optionally, if a deacon leads the service:

Prayer before Holy Communion
Distribution of Holy Communion
"Blessed be the name of the Lord"
Psalm 33
"It is truly proper"

After the opening blessing and the usual beginning prayers, we chant Psalms 102 and 145, the so-called "Typical Psalms", which form a part of the monastic pre-Communion preparation. Psalm 102, for example, declares that it is the Lord who "fills our life with good things", and in Psalm 145 we hear that it is the Lord "who gives bread to the hungry." These psalms are followed by the hymn, "O Only-begotten Son and Word of God," and the chanting of the Beatitudes. After the final verses of the Beatitudes, short hymns from the day's service of Matins are inserted.

Then the readings of the Divine Liturgy may be inserted, and an optional homily if a priest or deacon is present.

These readings are followed by several short hymns of praise, the Symbol of Faith (Nicene Creed), a prayer for forgiveness, and the Lord's Prayer (Our Father). We also sing the kontakion of the day; recall that the kontakion originated as a sort of sermon in poetic form. Like the Typical Psalms, these prayers form part of the ancient pre-Communion ritual in the Byzantine tradition. Finally, the priest or leader intones the following prayer:

Most holy Trinity, Consubstantial Power, Indivisible Kingdom, Cause of all good things, look favorably upon me, a sinner, at this present hour. Take away all the defilement of my mind and enlighten my understanding that I may always praise, glorify, and say:

and those present conclude the prayer by saying or singing:

One is holy, one is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

which is of course the same thing we sing at the Divine Liturgy immediately before receiving Holy Communion.

This is immediately followed by the singing of "Blessed be the name of the Lord" (from the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy) and Psalm 33, which contains the words, "Taste and see that the Lord is good." The congregation sings a short hymn to the Mother of God, and the service is concluded.

Typika and the Divine Liturgy

A comparison of these two services may make it seem that Typika comes from the Divine Liturgy through the removal of the Anaphora at which the Eucharist is consecrated. But many of the resemblances came about because in the Slavic tradition, the pre-Communion psalms (the Typical Psalms and Beatitudes) gradually replaced the opening three antiphons of the Divine Liturgy, and in a similar way the final parts of Divine Liturgy resemble Typika because they come from a shared tradition of post-Communion prayers.

Today, the Typical Psalms and Beatitudes are an optional replacement for the opening three antiphons of the Divine Liturgy.

Texts and sources

The official Church Slavonic text for Typika can be found in the Ruthenian Časoslóv (1950), where it is grouped with the Hours.  Depending on the day, this text must be supplemented from the Octoechos, the Triodion, the Pentecostarion, and the Menaion. This form of the service does not make any provision for Holy Communion.

In 2011, the bishops of the Byzantine Catholic Church in the United States approved a booklet for Typika - The Service of Holy Communion without a Priest. In this form of the service, additional rubrics explain how the deacon is to prepare the elements of Holy Communion from the reserved Mysteries. Immediately after "One is holy", the deacon and faithful say the pre-Communion prayers, and the deacon distributes Holy Communion. Then Typika continues with "Blessed be the name of the Lord." Note that this service may only be celebrated when there is a true pastoral need, and the bishop's permission is required.

In 2018, the Metropolitan Cantor Institute prepared a book of The Hours and Typika for Ordinary Days, containing the ordinary service of Typika according to the Ruthenian Časoslóv. This book also provides the rules for its celebration as a reader service, when no priest is present.

Typika in the Parish

In general, if a priest is present and can celebrate the Divine Liturgy, there is no need for the service of Typika. However, the service can be invaluable when a deacon or layperson must lead a regular daily service. Typika includes the daily readings and kontakion, but is otherwise a fairly simple service. For information about the music and celebration of this service, see Singing the Typika Service.

Recommended reading

More about: Liturgy - Daily cycle of services