Saturday, August 06, 2016

A Byzantine Combination Breviary and Hand-Missal

I fully realize that the terms “breviary” and “hand-missal” are not the proper name for this liturgical book, of which I was lucky enough to recently acquire a copy. In Greek it is called Συνέκδημος (synekdhimos), a “fellow-traveler”, which is conceptually similar to the Latin “vademecum.” (The Old Church Slavonic equivalent is also the name of the very first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth, Sputnik (спутникъ - traveler), but this term is generally applied to a musical anthology for liturgical use.) The Greek book is functionally the same as the Roman breviary and hand-missal. Printed in Athens in 1966, it contains in just over 1300 pages an extraordinarily large portion of the liturgical texts for both the Divine Office and the Eucharistic liturgy, and like the parallel books in the Roman tradition, has no music. (Of course, some Roman hand-missals also included a limited amount of music.)

It begins with a number of private prayers, including prayers before meals and going to bed, followed by Small Compline, prayers of preparation for Communion and Confession, the Akathistos of the Mother of God, and the minor Hours. The second section of over 320 pages is dedicated to “the Services of Sunday”: Vespers, the Midnight Office, and Orthros, followed by the Liturgies of St John Chrysostom, St Basil and the Presanctified Gifts (the latter is not of course ever said on a Sunday.) The Resurrection Gospels of Sunday Orthros, and the Sunday Epistles and Gospels are also included. There follow the main texts of the Menaion, or Calendar of Saints, and then the whole series of movable observances, the Triodion (the equivalent of the Septuagesima season), Lent, Great Compline, Holy Week, and finally the Pentecostarion, which includes everything from Easter to All Saints, the Sunday after Pentecost. (As may be imagined, a fair amount of this is in eye-wateringly small type.)

The Menologion, or calendar of fixed feasts, starts on September 1st with the Indiction, the beginning of the Byzantine liturgical year.
The beginning of the “Sunday services” section, Vespers on Saturday evening. The liturgical day in the Byzantine Rite always begins on the evening before.
The Annunciation
Here the book is open to Palm Sunday, which is technically not part of Holy Week, since the Byzantine liturgical week always begins with Monday. The services of Palm Sunday and Holy Week occupy 298 pages, while the Pentecostarion occupies 84. (The former is far more comprehensive)
Palm Sunday
Holy Thursday
The beginning of the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete (26 pages), a very popular Lenten penitential service.
The table of movable feasts according to the “new” system, i.e., the Gregorian Calendar, covering the 40 years from 1961 to 2000.
The table of movable feasts according to the “old” system, i.e., the Julian Calendar, covering the 24 years from 1961 to 1984. Greece was the last country with an Orthodox majority population to adopt the Gregorian Calendar for civil use, in February of 1923. Its adoption by the Greek Orthodox Church led to a notable schism which endures to this day. It would seem that the publishing house which produced this book, Astir, mostly sided with the supporters of the new calendar.

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