Daily Cycle of Worship & Special Services
I. The Jewish Method of "Time"
The day begins at sunset and ends at sunset the following day. This is based upon the creation account in Genesis
1. "And it was evening and it was morning, one day." The Jews under Moses initially prayed continually in the "Tent of the Meeting" and in time they specified particular times to pray at six watches.
II. From Moses Until Christ the Jews Divided the Day into 6 Parts:
1 st - Dawn (Job. 3:9, 24:17)
2 nd - Morning: the rise of the sun from the horizon (Gen. 19:15)
3 rd - The course of the day: 9:00 am
4 th - Noon (Gen. 43:16)
5 th - Cool of the day: afternoon (Gen. 3:8)
6 th - Nightfall: from sunset to dusk
At the time of Christ: the third, sixth, and ninth hours were designated as times of prayer, (Acts 2:15, 3:1, 10:3,9). The tradition developed around a prayer cycle of seven times a day in the early Church, based upon the prevailing customs, it was believed that David prayed seven times a day. "Seven times a day do I praise thy righteous judgments" (King David: Psalms 55:17, 6:6, 4:5, 188:62, 62:6, 5:3).
III. The Cycle of Prayers in the Greek Orthodox Church
Vespers: (Esperinon) The decent of Christ body from the cross; Old Testament Foundation: (Exodus 30:8 and Lev. 24:1-4). The Jews sanctified the evening with the lighting of a light. The Christians adopted this service and interpreted Christ as the Light of the world. By the 3rd century AD the Church was celebrating this service and the frame work was given for what is practices today. "O, Gladsome Light," can be dated from this period of time.
Great Compline: (Apothipnon "After dinner") Christ's burial. This is to be celebrated every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening during Great Lent until Holy Tuesday of Holy Week. Typically, this might only be done the first Monday of Great Lent in the morning.
Midnight Prayer: (Mesonikton) Commemorates the night Christ was delievered to the Jews. This service takes place at dawn on Sunday morning before the matins service.
Matins: (Orthros) Commemorates when Christ was mocked and ridiculed. Matins is a morning prayer service which can be celebrated every day of the week. It precedes the Divine Liturgy in an extended form.
IV. The Daily Cycle of Prayer
First Hour Sunrise: Christ's delivery to the Gentiles.
Third Hour 9:00 am: Christ, condemned to death.
Sixth Hour 12:00 noon: Christ crucified.
Ninth Hour 3:00 pm: Christ gives up his spirit.
V. Special Services
The Akathistos Hymn or the "The Salutation to the Theotokos" sung during the first five Fridays of Great Lent.
The Small Compline: This is conducted during the first 13 days of August. The "Small Paraklasis" is chanted on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays and the "Great Paraklasis" is chanted on Tuesday, Thursdays and Sunday. This service is also done upon request in homes at time of distress or illness. Holy Cross seminary celebrated it every Friday evening.
The Royal Hours: The Royal hours are chanted Good Friday Morning and on December 23 in the morning. It contains all of the "Hours" but the psalms are changed in order to fit the Feasts of Christmas and Pascha.
The Service of the Great Canon of Andrew of Crete: This is chanted Wednesday evening after the 4 Sunday of Lent.
The Divine Liturgy of the PreSanctified Gifts: This takes place every Wednesday and Friday of Great Lent; on Thursday of the Great Canon; and on Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week.
The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil: This is celebrated ten times a year. On January 1 (The Feast of St. Basil); on the 5 Sunday of Great Lent; on the eve of Christmas and the eve of Theophany January 5.
The Mystery of Holy Unction: This is celebrated on Holy Wednesday of Holy Week and upon request by parishioners.
The Service for the Sanctification of Water (Great and Small Agiasmos):
The Great Agiasmos is conducted twice a year on Jan 5 and 6. (The service is identical) The first one is conducted at the Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil in the evening of Jan 5, after the prayer of the Amvon. The next day it is celebrated again between the Orhros and Liturgy (or after the Liturgy) of St. John Chrysostom. This water is also consumed on this day.
The Small Agiasmos is celebrated more frequently. Traditionally it is celebrated on the first day of each month. It conveyed the fact that all time and space is now sanctified by Christ. It can also be conducted upon request in the case of illness, blessing of homes or in a "time of need."
Memorial Services: Saturday is the proper day for memorials. It is on the "Sabbath" that God "rested" and it is on "Great and Holy Saturday" that the Church waits in anticipation Christ rising from the dead. Sunday ("The Lord's Day") is the "Day of the Resurrection" on it we ought to rejoice in this Feast-our departed are joyously present and their separation from us is not to be mourned on this day.
Saturday of the Souls/Memorial Service: On these Saturdays the Church sets apart the commemoration of all the members who have fallen asleep in Christ. Names are traditionally written down and handed in to the priest prior to the service so that they may be remembered in the Liturgy on these days. The Saturday of the Souls are celebrated on the Two Saturdays before Lent begins; the First Saturday of Lent; and the Saturday before Pentecost.
The Divine Liturgy of St. James (Iakovos): Celebrated on October 23.