October is the second month of the liturgical year in the Byzantine Rite. This article covers the most important liturgical aspects of the month of October. See the online menaion and the Lectionary for the hymns and readings of each day.

The feast of the Protection of the Mother of God

On October 1, we celebrate the feast of the Protection (or Patronage) of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. This feast is particularly kept among the Slavs, and commemorates several occasions on which the Mother of God saved the city of Constantinople from plague or military assault. In our own times, we too have recourse to the intercession of the Theotokos. As we hear in the kontakion of the feast:

Today, the Virgin is present in the Church
and, with the choirs of saints, invisibly prays to God for us.
The angels worship with the hierarchs;
the apostles rejoice with the prophets;
because the Theotokos prays for us to the eternal God.

For parishes dedicated to the Protection or Patronage of the Mother of God, this is the feast-day of the parish church.

The hymns of the Divine Liturgy for this feast can be found on pages 261-262 of our Divine Liturgies book. You may notice that the prokeimenon and Alleluia are the same as ones for the Nativity of the Theotokos (September 8):

This day is considered a great feast (Great Feast), but it is a a more recent one; no magnification and irmos is sung at the Divine Liturgy, and there are no pre- or post-festive days.

The Sunday of the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council

On the Sunday which falls between October 11 and October 17, we remember the 350 bishops who met at the Seventh Ecumenical Council at Nicaea (in modern Turkey) in the year 767. This council took place during a long period of iconoclasm, during which those who objected to depictions of our Lord and of the saints removed and destroyed many icons, and persecuted those who defended them.

The First Ecumenical Council (held in 325, also in Nicaea) had opposed the Arian heresy, and established the original form of the Nicene Creed. The Seventh Ecumenical Council clearly taught that the veneration of icons was lawful, because "the reverence paid to the icon passes to the one whom the image represents." Furthermore, they held that this teaching was intimately connected with the doctrine of the Incarnation, that Christ was true God and true man. In remembering this council, we chant the following kontakion:

The Son shone forth from the Father indescribably.
In two natures he was born of a woman.
Recognizing this, we do not reject the representation of his human form;
rather, we depict it with honor and with faith.
Therefore the Church holds fast to the true faith
and kisses the image of the incarnation of Christ.

The First Ecumenical Council is commemorated on the Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost; the first six Ecumenical Councils are celebrated together on the Sunday between July 13 and July 19. On all three of these feast-days of the Council Fathers, the following troparion is sung:

The preaching of the apostles and the teachings of the Fathers
have confirmed the one faith of the Church, which she wears as the garment of truth,
woven from the theology on high,
as she faithfully imparts and glorifies the great mystery of devotion.

On these three feast-days, the prokeimenon praises the Lord as "the God of our Fathers", and the Alleluia verse refers to the fact that the Ecumenical (world-wide or universal) Councils brought together bishops from the entire world known at that time: "The God of gods, the Lord, has summoned the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting" (Psalm 49:1).

The hymns for the Divine Liturgy can be found on pages 263-264 of our Divine Liturgies book. Notice that the Sunday troparion in the Tone of the Week is always sung first, before the common troparion of the Council Fathers; similarly, the Communion Hymn for Sunday is sung, followed by that of the Council Fathers.

(By the way, it is very common for the kontakion of a feast to be most closely tied to the theme of the celebration, while the prokeimenon and Alleluia are most likely to shared with other, similar feasts.)

The feast of Saint Demetrius

On October 26, we commemorate the holy great-martyr Demetrius. The title "great-martyr" is given to saints who suffered extreme tortures for Christ, often converting many of their onlookers to Christ, and for this reason were highly venerated in the Church. Saint Demetrius was one of the notable soldier-saints, who refused to offer the customary sacrifice to the emperors after their baptism. Saint George (April 23) and Saint Demetrius (October 26) are among the most illustrious of these military great-martyrs, and both feast-days have been celebrated with devotion in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches.

This is a vigil feast (Vigil feast), meaning that in monasteries an all-night vigil consisting of Vespers with Litija, followed immediately by Matins, would be celebrated. In the ideal case, parish churches would celebrate Vespers with Litija on the eve of the feast, and Matins in the morning, followed by the Divine Liturgy. Of course, this is not always possible, but it does indicate how important the Church considers certain feasts to be.

The texts for this feast can be found in the online menaion. Of course, if the hymns from the Menaion are not available, you can also use the "common hymns of saints" in the back of the Divine Liturgies book. For Demetrius, you would sing the hymns for one martyr, on pages 379-381, substituting the saint's name where appropriate.

Other feast days

In October, we celebrate the feast days of three of the Apostles:

All three are feasts of polyeleos rank (Polyeleos feast), meaning that Great Vespers with Litija and blessing of bread is served on the eve of the feast, and at Matins, the festal Polyeleos ("Praise the name of the Lord, Alleluia!") is sung. This is the lowest rank of day that is considered a "feast day."

As with other feasts whose hymns are not contained in the Divine Liturgies book, you can either sing the ones in the MCI Menaion (which will be specific to that saint) or else sing the common hymns for classes of saints. In this case, for all three of these feast days (October 6, 9, and 18) you would sing the hymns for a single apostle on pages 368-369. On these days, we praise the apostles for their fidelity and witness to Christ, and we affirm that we believe and worship according to the traditions which they passed on to the Church.

October 31 is the feast-day of the holy priest-martyr Theodore, Bishop of Mukachevo in western Ukraine:

Born in Veliky Bychkiv in Carpatho-Russia in 1911, he came from a poor family and exhibited a vocation to the priesthood. Sent to Rome for studies, he was ordained in 1937 and sent to the country parish of Berzovo. In 1939, he was called to the seminary at Uzhhorod and taught there until 1944. In 1944, despite his youth, he was ordained bishop for the Mukachevo Eparchy. During the Soviet Army’s occupation of Carpatho-Russia, he was tireless in his care for his flock and in his defense of the rights of the Byzantine Catholic Church. On October 27, 1947, he was severely wounded in a staged accident. He was taken to the hospital in Mukachevo, where he was subsequently poisoned, and died.

This day is also a feast of Polyeleos rank; it was originally assigned to November 1, and then moved to October 31 when it was realized that this day was the actual day of blessed Theodore's death. (That is why the feast day is listed incorrectly in the calendar in our 2006 Liturgikon.) Read the texts of the feast.

For a complete list of saints' days as celebrated in our church, see the Calendar of Saints.

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