When No Priest is Available
Reading the Service Books While Traveling or at Home
by Archpriest Sergei Shukin
Webmaster Note: The article that follows is over fifteen years old. You
will want to check out Fr. John
Whiteford's Liturgical Texts and Resources Site for more recommendations
on current liturgical
materials available in English. Nevertheless, this article is still timely
due to current world events that could easily result in many Orthodox Christians
being cut off from their parish churches, if not openly persecuted. It behooves
all those who love Christ and His Holy Church to know, and to have the materials
to do, the Divine Services so that they may be carried on regardless of one's
ability to attend church.
This article is admittedly out-of-date. A plethora of service books has appeared
since this was first published, especially from St. John of Kronstadt Press. I do not have
time to research what changes should be made to this article. I am asking that those more
knowledgeable about these things than I please email me any corrections they think should
be made to this compilation. Also, any changes resulting from variations in Greek practice
are also welcome. I will update the article and announce the major changes, as a service
to all. Thank you.
+ + +
When Orthodox people have no opportunity to attend Orthodox divine services, especially
in non-Orthodox countries, then the Church allows and encourages individuals and groups of
Orthodox to read the service books privately, for the preservation of their faith. Such
readings have long been customary in monastic establishments, hospitals, schools, on
shipboard and, in recent times, by Orthodox in the USSR and in the diaspora. Reading
prayer books or service books may, at least to some extent, replace church services.
Besides preserving our Orthodox faith, reading services is beneficial because:
1. It teaches us, even in non-Orthodox lands, to remember and honor Orthodox feasts and
2. It acquaints us with the order of church services and with the profound content of
our service books.
3. It safeguards us from the danger of sectarian and heterodox influence
4. It helps parents and teachers raise their children and young adults in the spirit of
5. It unites dispersed Orthodox people in our faith and love for the Orthodox Church.
Orthodox Divine Services
The daily ecclesiastical office consists of a cycle of services that covers
the entire 24-hour period. Since the church day begins with the evening, the
order of daily services is: 1) Vespers,
2) Small Compline,
Office, 4) Matins,
5) First Hour,
and Sixth Hours, 7) the Liturgy and 8) Ninth
Hour. Orthodox laymen may read or chant some portion of all of these, except
the Divine Liturgy, which is replaced by the Typica.
In addition, it is permissible to read canons and
akathists, either separately or as
part of another service.
A canon is a collection of hymns in nine odes that honors the Savior, the Mother of
God, a saint, a holy day. or a spiritual theme.
An akathist is a song of praise in twelve parts that glorifies the Savior, the Mother
of God, a saint.... An akathist may be read or sung, or read with the refrains sung. 
How Laymen Read Service Books
The reading of service books should be conducted according to the following rules:
1. All [reader's] services are to begin with the exclamation: "Through the prayers
of our holy fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us. Amen.
2. All the priest's prayers and exclamations are omitted.
3. In place of the Great and Augmented Ectenias and the Ectenia of Supplication,
"Lord, have mercy" is said twelve times; in place of the Small Ectenia, three
4. The Gospel is not intoned, but read in an ordinary voice.
Note: Every Orthodox Christian is obliged to read the Gospel privately, according
to the ecclesiastical lectionary found in church calendars.
5. All other hymns, psalms and prayers are read or sung as when a priest serves.
6. The Typica (in place of the liturgy) may be read as indicated in Appendix 1.
The Order of Services on Feast Days
Since laymen are often involved with work and may not have time to read services in the
ordinary week days, we shall give directions only for the festal services. 
On weekdays, the daily morning and evening prayers could be combined with Small
Compline and Midnight Office, as desired.
On feast days, it is important to devote more time to God and to observe the feast with
the appropriate reading and hymns. On the eve of the feast one may read Vespers, Matins
and the First Hour, in the place of the All-Night Vigil. In the morning, one may read the
Midnight Office, the Third and Sixth Hours, if desired, and the Typica. The evening of the
feast, one should read the Small Compline with the proper canon or akathist of the feast.
The order and content of the services depend on the free time available and on the
service books at hand. Here are more detailed instructions for three kinds of feasts: 1)
Sundays, 2) the Twelve Great Feasts and other holidays of the Lord and of the Mother of
God, 3) saints' days, our name-saints or ones we especially venerate.
On Saturday evenings we read Vespers, including the stichera and troparia according to
the tone indicated in the calendar. In the morning (or on the eve), we read Matins and the
First Hour. At Matins we may read the Resurrection canon for the appropriate tone, or, if
not available, the Canon to Our Sweetest Lord Jesus (in the prayers of preparation for
Holy Communion) may be substituted. 'Me stichera for the aposticha, the troparia and the
theotokia are according to the tone of the Sunday.
If Vespers and Matins are unavailable, then on Saturday night one may read Small
Compline with the Canon and Akathist to our Sweetest Lord Jesus.
On Sunday morning we should read: the Midnight Office for Sunday, with the morning
prayers and the Typica (the order for Typica is given in Appendix I).
Finally, on Sunday evening. we may read Small Compline with a canon to the Mother of
God (either to one of her wonder-working icons or any other available).
2) Feasts of the Lord and of the Theotokos
On these feasts, including all of the Twelve Great Feasts, it is customary to read the
proper service from the Festal Menaion. Vespers and Matins according to the Vigil are
read, while the stichera, troparia, etc., come from the Festal Menaion. The canon of
Matins is to the Lord or to the Theotokos, depending on the feast.
If the Festal Menaion is unavailable, then one may read Vespers (or perhaps Small
Compline) with the canon or corresponding akathist, and one may take the stichera from the
General Menaion, using the "General Service for the Feasts of the Lord" or
"of the Mother of God."
In the morning: the Third and Sixth Hours and the Typica, with the troparia and
kontakia of the feast sung in the proper places.
In the evening: Small Compline with the Canon of Repentance to Our Lord Jesus Christ,
or the Supplicatory Canon to the Most Holy Theotokos (Paraclesis).
3) Saints' days
If there is a service to the saint in the Festal Menaion, then Vespers, Matins and the
First Hour are read as usual, with the stichera, troparia, etc., from the Menaion. If
there is no service to the saint, then we read from the General Menaion, taking the
stichera, etc., from the general service to the class of saint being commemorated: i.e.,
to a hierarch, to a monastic, to a martyr, etc. At the polyeleos or perhaps at the end of
the service, we chant the megalynarion to the saint (see Appendix II). In the appropriate
places we insert the name of the saint being commemorated.
If neither the Horologion nor the Menaion is available, then we may read Small Compline
with the canon or akathist to the saint, if available. (A church dedicated to that saint
might allow us to copy the proper canon or akathist, so that we might read it on a nameday
or other feast days.)
In the morning, we read the Midnight Office, the Hours and the Typica, with the
troparia and kontakia to the saint at the Hours, and the kontakia of the temple, and of
the saint or the day of the week, at the Typica.
In the evening, we read the canon to the saint; but if there is none, then the canon
for Saturday to all the saints.
Appendix I. The Order of the Typica
Beginning: Psalm 102, "Bless the Lord, O my soul..."
Glory to the Father...
Psalm 145, "Praise the Lord, O my soul..."
Both now and ever...
"O Only-begotten Son and Word of God...
Glory... Both now...
The Symbol of Faith (the Creed, I believe...'), and the prayer: "Remit, pardon,
forgive, O God, our offences, both voluntary and involuntary, in deed and word, in
knowledge and in ignorance, by night and by day, in mind and thought; forgive us all
things, since -Thou art good and the Lover of mankind.
The Lord's Prayer.
The kontakion of the feast or of the day of the week.
Glory... Both now... And ending with the prayer: "O protection of Christians that
cannot be put to shame, O mediation unto the Creator unfailing, disdain not the suppliant
voices of sinners; but be thou quick, O good one, to help us who in faith cry unto thee:
Hasten to intercession and speed thou to make supplication, thou who dost ever protect, O
Theotokos, them that honor thee."
During Great Lent, in place of this prayer, we end thus:
Lord, have mercy. 40 times. Glory... Both now... More honorable than the Cherubim...
And the prayer, "O Lord and Master of my life...," with 16 prostrations.
Appendix II. Megalynaria to Various Saints.
To an Apostle: We magnify thee (pl., you), O Apostle(s) of Christ, N. (or NN.), and
we honor thy (your) pains and labors, with which thou hast (you have) labored in
proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.
To a Hierarch: We magnify thee (you), O holy Hierarch(s), Father(s) N. (or NN.),
and we honor thy (your) holy memory, for thou dost (you do) pray for us to Christ our God.
To a Monastic Saint: We glorify thee (you), O holy Father(s) N. (NN.), and we honor
thy (your) holy memory, instructor(s) of monks and converser(s) with angels.
To a Martyr: We magnify thee (you), O holy (Great-)Martyr(s) N. (NN.), and we honor
thy (your) precious sufferings, which thou didst (you did) endure for Christ.
The megalynaria, of the Twelve Great Feasts and other holy days are found in the Festal
Appendix III. Service Books: A Revised List.
- Velikij Sbornik. In three parts and five books. Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville,
N.Y. 13361. Part I, Horologion, Sunday Octoechos and General Menaion with canons and the
Epistle readings for Sundays. 588 pp. $28.
- Velikij Sbornik. Part II, Book 1. Festal Menaion. Great feasts and important saints'
days. September through February. 524 pp. $26.
- Velikij Sbornik. Part 11, Book 2. Festal Menaion. March through August. 346 pp. $24.
- Velikij Sbornik. Part III, Book 1. Lenten Triodion. Contains the full services for
the first week of Great Lent and for Holy Week, as well as for Sundays and other feasts in
the Triodion period. 608 pp. $30.
- Velikij Sbornik. Part III, Book 2. Pentecostarion. Contains the services for Pascha
and Bright Week in full, as well as for Sundays and feast days in the Pentecostarion
period through the feast of All Saints of Russia. 375 pp. $26.
- Velikij Chasoslov (The Great Horologion). Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y.
13361. The daily office, the fixed portions in full, morning and evening prayers, troparia
and kontakia for every day of the year, various canons and akathists, the order of
preparation for 877 pp, $35.
- Bogosluzhebnaya Psaltir (Service Psalter). Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y.
13361. The Psalms in full and divided into kathismata, the Scriptural Odes, select verses
to various feasts and saints with their megalynaria, prayers for the departure of the
soul. 506 pp. $25.
- Molitvoslov (Prayer Book). Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y., 1,3361. In
either Slavonic script or Russian civil type. $8.
- Various canons, akathists, and services to saints or feast days. Ask for catalogue, Holy
Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y. 13361.
- Sbornik Molitv. (Collection of Prayers) Ed., Fr. V. Chuvashev, 1938. Available from
Holy Trinity Monastery Bookstore. Prayers to the Savior, the Mother of God and various
saints. To be read at the end of canons or akathists or at molebens. 268 pp. $6.
- Troitsky Pravoslavnyj Russkij Kalendar. Published annually by the Holy Trinity
Monastery. Calendar, readings for every day of the year, the order of services (Typicon or
Ustav) for Sundays and feast days. $9.
- Pravilo k Bozhestvennomu Prichascheniju (Rule for Divine Communion). Holy Trinity
Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y. 13361. 802 pp. $16.
- Kelejnoe Pravilo (Cell Rule). Publ., Convent of the Vladimir Mother of God, S.F.
Available at Holy Trinity Monastery Bookstore.
- Chasoslov (Horologion). YMCA Press, Paris. Also reprinted by Monastery Press,
Montreal. The daily office.
- Akafistnik. Akathists to various saints and feasts, in Russian civil type and new
orthography. Inquire Holy Trinity Monastery Bookstore.
- Typikon siest Ustav (The Typicon). The Order of Church Services, Paschalion, orders
for various aspects of church life. 984 pp. Inquire Holy Trinity Monastery Bookstore.
- Nastol' naya Kniga (Handbook). Fr. S. Bulgakov. In Russian. Contains the typicon,
short lives of the saints for every day of the year, information on the church calendar,
the Mysteries and on many aspects of church life.
- Nikolskij Ustav. In Russian, similar to above.
- Sputnik Psalomschika (Cantor's Companion). Abp. Arseny of Novogorod, 1916. Reprinted
by Holy Trinity Monastery. Hymns for the entire church year. A music book in square
notation, for one voice. Traditional Russian chant.
- Obikhod notnaga pjeinja. Reprint of the 1909 Synodal Edition. Hymn book for one
voice in square notation. Official Chant Book of the Russian Church. Contains music for
Vespers, Matins and the Liturgy, in various chants; Znamenny, Kievan, "Greek"
- Service Book, Isabel Hapgood. The first of its kind generally available in English.
Various offices and services from the Horologion, Octoechos, Menaia, Triodion,
Pentecostarion and Euchologion. 615 pp.
- Divine Prayers and Services, Seraphim Nasser. Similar to the above, but with more
material from the Octoechos, Triodion and Pentecostarion.
- THE PSALTER according to the Seventy, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston.
Service Psalter, including the Scriptural Odes. Translated from the Septuagint, the
official text of the Old Testament in the Orthodox Church.
- Prayer Book, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y. Morning and evening prayers,
selections from Vespers and Matins, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Sunday and
feast-day troparia, and kontakia, selections from the Paschal service, canons to the
Savior, the Mother of God and the Guardian Angel, akathists to the Savior and the Mother
of God, prayers of preparation for Holy Communion and thanksgiving after Communion.
- The Festal Menaion, Mother Mary and Archim. Kallistos Ware. Faber and Faber,
paperback only. The services in full for the rune immovable of the Twelve Great Feasts,
also contains an outline and description of the order of church services. Very useful.
- The Lenten Triodion, Mother Mazy and Archim. Kallistos Ware. Contains the services
in full for the first week of Great Lent and for Holy Week, as well as for Sundays and
other feasts of the Triodion Period.
- The Lenten Triodion, Supplementary texts, Mother Mary and Archim. Kallistos Ware.
Paperback only. Contains the services in full for the Lenten Triodion which, for reasons
of space, were not included in the above.
- The Sunday Octoechos, Mother Mary. Paperback. The services in full for Sundays in
each of the eight tones.
- The Parakletike, Weekday Offices, Tone One, Mother Mary. Paperback. The weekday
offices; in full, but only for the first tone.
- Individual services to various saints and feast days, by Mother Mary. Paperback.
- The Sunday Octoechos, Prof. N. Orloff. AMS Press. A reprint of the earliest
available translation of these services into English. Generally awkward but faithful
- The General Menaion, Orloff. AMS Press reprint. Stilted and archaic language, but
the only translation available in English.
- The Ferial Menaion, Orloff. AMS Press reprint. Services for the Twelve Great Feasts
and the Feast of the Circumcision and St, Basil the Great. On translation, see above.
- The Unabbreviated Horologion, Rassaphore-monk Laurence, Holy Trinity Monastery,
Jordanville, N.Y., 13361. The fixed portion of the daily cycle of services in full, and
the Divine Liturgy, without the usual abbreviations and with copious rubrics not
ordinarily found in the Horologion. Looseleaf photocopy. Also available in pamphlet form
are: a) The Divine Liturgy with the Third and Sixth Hours, Post-Communion Prayers,
troparia, kontakia, and prokeimena for many feast days. b) The All-Night Vigil. Text of
Vespers and Matins and the First Hour, and the Eleven Resurrection Gospels. c) The Typica,
An Orthodox Worship Service for Laymen who are without Clergy. d) Great Compline and
Evening Prayers. e) Small Compline and Evening Prayers. O Music for the Divine Liturgy,
and others. For a complete list write directly to Fr. Laurence, Holy Trinity Monastery,
Jordanville, N.Y. 13361. (These translations are according to the usage of the Russian
Church Abroad, but are not official texts.)
- An Abridged Typicon, Fr. Feodor Kovalchuk. Out of print, but may be available in
parish or university libraries. Useful and interesting, but with rather peculiar
- The Service of the Small Supplicatory Canon to the Mother of God, St. Nectarios
Press, Seattle, WA.
- The Lamentations of Matins of Holy and Great Saturday, Holy Transfiguration
Monastery, Boston, MA.
- Selected Byzantine Hymns, Holy Transfiguration Monastery. In western musical
notation. Selected hymns of Vespers, and from the Lenten Triodion and the Paschal
- The Divine Liturgy, Holy Transfiguration Monastery. Byzantine chant in western
- The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y.
- Various services to individual saints (St. Herman, St. Xenia), published by the St.
Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, CA 96076.
- Various canons and akathists in back issues of Orthodox Life.
For more information on any of these, write: Holy Trinity Monastery Bookstore Jordanville, N.Y. 13361.
1. The order for reading canons and akathists in private is found in the back of the
prayer book published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y.
2. Laymen are not forbidden to read services in the middle of the week, but it is rare
that one could afford either a complete set of the Menaia (in Slavonic, $750 or more) or
the time needed to read the full cycle of services each day.
From Orthodox Life, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Jan-Feb 1983), pp.
41-47. Translated from the Russian with more recent additional information by Fr. George