Explanation of the Daily Services of the Orthodox Church

Introduction

          In the Orthodox Christian Faith there is a cycle of services that can be done throughout the day.  The services are; Vespers, Apodeipno (Compline) Mesonyxtikon (Middle of the night), 1st Hour, 3rd Hour, 6th Hour, 9th Hour, Matins, and Divine Liturgy. In addition there are many other services that do not have a specific designated time when they are to be done, but none of the services are dependent upon another.  They are all independent and operate separate in and of themselves.  The daily cycle of services can flow into one another as we experience on a Sunday morning, where matins leads right into Divine Liturgy.  In this short explanation, we will briefly explain the services of vespers, matins and Divine Liturgy. 

Vespers (Esperinos)

          From a spiritual sense (not from a civil sense) for Orthodox Christians, the day begins at sunset, following the traditions passed on from the Jewish mosaic law.  We come together for prayer in the evening and as a community pray the “evening prayers”- Vespers.  Vespers is a Latinized word from the original Greek word for the service esperinos, which means evening or esperas.  The prayers throughout the service constantly reference the closing of the day and keeping the evening and night to without sin.  Since the day begins at sunset, the hymns which are chanted are in celebration of the following day.

Matins or (Orthros)

          On the following morning, following a vespers service, the Orthros service is celebrated.  Orthros mean means correctness or straight forward.  Orthros translated means morning service.  Orthros is broke down into different sections; from psalms, hymns, readings, and additional hymns all in reference to including celebration or Saint of that particular day.  Although Orthros typically leads into Liturgy, orthros can also be done separately and can conclude itself with more than a sung doxology at the end.

Liturgy or (Leitourgia)

          The Pinnacle of each day is Liturgy.  All other services can be done within the community or even privately, but not Liturgy.  Liturgy is separate, and like Pascha it is the service of services.  It is above all services, like Pascha is above all other feast.  Liturgy cannot be done by the priest alone.  He must have a minimum of two or three others who are also Orthodox Christians bearing witness to the sacrifice taking place.  Liturgy or Leitourgia means in Greek for work of the people.  Within each liturgy, we experience the whole and complete life of Christ making and understanding it as our own.  In Divine Liturgy we experience Christ. In Divine Liturgy we witness to His birth, His baptism, and by grace our eyes are transformed to understand who He is.  In Divine Liturgy we participate in His Crucifixion and Resurrection and we anticipate for the life of the ages to come.