The Divine Liturgy on an Ordinary Weekday

This article explains how to choose the changeable liturgical hymns to be sung at the Divine Liturgy on an ordinary weekday.

What is an ordinary weekday?

In the Byzantine tradition, weekdays are any day other than Sunday: that is, Monday through Saturday. (Saturday does have a few special rules of its own.)

The liturgical book called the Menaion assigns a special symbol to each day of the year, showing the relative importance of that date in the liturgical year.

(none) Saint with three stichera at Vespers
Six stichera Saint with six stichera at Vespers
Great Doxology Saint with the Great Doxology at Matins
Polyeleos Saint with the Polyeleos at Matins
Vigil Saint with an All-night Vigil
Great feast Great Feast

We will cover these signs in more detail when setting the services of Vespers and Matins, but for now it is sufficient to note that the Divine Liturgy does not distinguish between the first three classes of saints (three stichera, six stichera, or Great Doxology). So when setting the Divine Liturgy, they are all considered "ordinary saints."

Also, any day which falls during the Great Fast, Holy Week, the Paschal season (from Easter Sunday to the Sunday of All Saints), or which is a pre-festive or post-festive day, is not considered ordinary.

So an "ordinary weekday" corresponds to the following Formats in the Annual Typikon and Common Typikon:

Format 1: Ordinary saint on a weekday (Monday to Friday)
Format 2: Ordinary saint on a Saturday
Format 3: Two saints on a weekday

Format 6: Saint with six stichera on a weekday
Format 7: Saint with Great Doxology on a weekday

Any time you see one of these Formats listed in the Annual Typikon, you can set the Divine Liturgy according to the rules below.

The Divine Liturgy on an ordinary weekday

Let's look at the changeable parts of the Divine Liturgy one by one.

Antiphons and entrance hymn

On an ordinary weekday, the "weekday antiphons" are sung. The second antiphon, the third antiphon, and the entrance hymn, all have the refrain, "O Son of God, wondrous in your saints..."

The troparion and kontakion

These are the hymns that change most often throughout the year. The troparion could be called the "theme song" of a particular liturgical day, and is sung at the end of Vespers and the start of Matins; the kontakion is sung during the canon of Matins. They are then sung together at the Small Entrance of the Divine Liturgy, as a sort of reprise of "greatest hits" of the daily hymns, immediately after the entrance hymn.

On ordinary weekdays, there will be one troparion and one kontakion, both for the saint of the day, with a small doxology in between:

(troparion of the saint of the day)
Glory.... now and ever
(kontakion of the saint of the day)

Recall that "Glory... now and ever" is an abbreviation for "Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever. Amen."

If two saints are equally commemorated on a particular day (Format 3, and sometimes 6), then there will be one troparion and one kontakion for each:

(troparion of the first saint)
(troparion of the second saint)
(kontakion of the first saint)
Now and ever...
(kontakion of the second saint)

Later in this article we will explain how to find the hymns for the saint of the day.

The prokeimenon

The prokeimenon and its verse are for the saint of the day. If two saints are equally commemorated (Format 3), only the first saint's prokeimenon is sung.

The epistle reading

Although every saint has an assigned epistle reading, this reading is NOT used on ordinary weekdays, but is saved for special occasions (e.g. for use in a church dedicated to that saint). This is just as well, since the same reading may be assigned to many different saints.

Instead, we read the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of the Apostles "continuously," with each day's reading taking up where the previous day's reading ended, and the most important parts of these books assigned to Sundays and the next-most-important assigned to Saturdays, as part of the cycle of weeks based on Pascha. The lectionary shows which epistle reading is assigned to each day. For more information, see the article on Scriptural readings.

The Alleluia

Like the prokeimenon, the Alleluia before the Gospel and its verses are for the saint of the day. If two saints are equally commemorated (Format 3), only the first saint's Alleluia is sung.

The Gospel

Like the epistle, the Gospel is read continuously on ordinary weekdays, according to the lectionary.

The Communion Hymn

The Communion Hymn is for the saint of the day. If two saints are equally commemorated (Format 3), only the first saint's Communion Hymn is sung.

Finding the hymns for the saint(s) of the day

The hymns for the saint of the day (troparion, kontakion, prokeimenon, Alleluia, and Communion Hymn) are contained in the Menaion, the collection of twelve monthly books of church hymns. The Metropolitan Cantor Institute has published monthly excerpts of the menaion, with music in English, for use at the Divine Liturgy:

January - February - March - April - May - June - July - August - September - October - November - December

Of course, not every parish will have access to these books. So in our tradition, there are three solutions:

  1. Sing the hymns that have been collected for each "class" of saint, choosing the ones that match the feast or commemoration of the day. Our Divine Liturgies book provides a troparion, kontakion, prokeimenon, and Alleluia for each of the following on pages 358-405.
    • The most holy Theotokos
    • The precious, holy, and life-creating Cross
    • The holy angels
    • The holy prophet, forerunner, and baptist John
    • The holy prophets
    • One holy apostle
    • Two or more holy apostles
    • One holy hierarch (a hierarch is a bishop or archbishop)
    • Two or more holy hierarchs
    • One venerable or fool for Christ (a venerable is a monk or nun)
    • Two or more venerables or fools for Christ
    • One martyr
    • Two or more martyrs
    • One priest-martyr (also used for a bishop-martyr)
    • Two or more priest-martyrs
    • One venerable martyr (that is, a martyr who was a monk)
    • Two or more venerable martyrs
    • One woman-martyr
    • Venerable woman martyr (a martyr who was a nun)
    • Two or more women-martyrs or venerable women-martyrs
    • One venerable woman
    • Two or more venerable women
    • Confessors (those who suffered for their faith in Christ)
    • Unmercenary healers (physicians who healed without accepting payment)

      These are called "common" hymns for each class of saint. Use the full name of the saint (for example, "the holy martyr Hyacinth" or "the holy apostles Bartholomew and Barnabas") along with the Commons listed in the Annual Typikon to determine which class the saint of the day falls under.

  2. If the saint of the day can't be determined, but you are sure it is an ordinary weekday, you can use the hymns (troparion, kontakion, prokeimenon, Alleluia, and Communion Hymn) for the day of the week, found in the Divine Liturgies book on pages 406-413.

  3. On an ordinary weekday, the celebrant may also choose to celebrate the Divine Liturgy for a particular intention, and ask the cantor to use the hymns found for these liturgies on pages 414-431:

    • For general intentions of the living
    • In thanksgiving
    • For the sick
    • For the help of the Holy Spirit
    • For the faithful departed

    In the past, however, these hymns have sometimes been over-used, with the hymns "for the departed" being used every weekday. Since the priest can always add particular intentions to the litanies as needed, a better practice is to commemorate the saint of the day on ordinary weekdays, and save these hymns for special occasions. For example, the Divine Liturgy "for the help of the Holy Spirit" might be celebrated before a parish's annual meeting or retreat.

Thus, on an ordinary weekday, there is a certain leeway in the choice of these hymns. The primary goal is to have appropriate liturgical hymns for each Divine Liturgy, and to honor and remember the saint of the day whenever possible.

Tip: The table of contents in the Divine Liturgies book is very general. If you use these sections regularly, print off this expanded table of contents on legal size paper (2-sided), fold it in half, and insert or glue it into your Divine Liturgies book between pages 2 and 3. This will make finding individual entries much quicker.

Finding the readings for the day

"Ordinary" saints do not have their own epistle and Gospel readings at the Divine Liturgy; instead, we read the epistles and Gospels continuously through the church year, as part of the moveable cycles based on Pascha. (See What day is it?).

Any ordinary weekday will have as its place in the Paschal cycle a name like "<weekday> in the <numbered> week after Pentecost." – for example, Wednesday in the 21st week after Pentecost. Once you know the weekday and the week after Pentecost, look up the epistle reading in the Epistle Book (Epistles and Old Testament Readings for the Liturgical Year).

Similarly, the Gospel reading is found in the Gospel Book. For the Gospel, there is a further complication called the "Lucan jump"; this is explained in the Annual Typikon, and means that from mid-September until Christmas, the epistle and Gospel may be "out of sync" by one to four weeks.

Remember, on ordinary weekdays; the epistle and Gospel are "for the day" (based on the date of Pascha) rather than "for the saint", unless the saint is particularly important to the local parish. The Scriptural citation listed in the Annual Typikon or on the wall calendar most parishes have printed is also helpful in verifying that you are using the correct reading.