Singing the Royal Hours for Christmas and Theophany

On December 24 (the vigil of the Nativity) and January 5 (the vigil of Theophany), the Byzantine tradition calls for the celebration of the daytime Hours in the morning, with additional hymns and readings. If December 24 or January 5 fall on a Saturday or Sunday, both the prescribed fasting and the celebration of the Royal Hours are moved to the preceding Friday. (See this article for a detailed explanation.) This article covers the practical aspects of singing these services.

If you are celebrating the full Royal Hours, use one of the following books:

For a shorter service, use one of the following books:

Note that the "full" Royal Hours books do not contain music for the troparia, stichera, and prokeimena; these can be found in the corresponding Office of Readings books. (A music supplement for the full Royal Hours is also in preparation).

Celebrating the full Royal Hours

The Typikon calls for a complete set of daytime hours (First Hour, Third Hour, Sixth Hour, Ninth Hour, and Typika) to be celebrated at the "second hour of the day" (8 AM). In practice, many parishes that celebrate the Royal Hours hold them later in the today, OR celebrate the individual hours throughout the day.

As a single service

If the Royal Hours are celebrated together, then the Gospel book is enthroned on an analogion (lectern) before the holy doors, so that the priest can read it from the solea. The gospel book is incensed at the start of the First Hour and the Ninth Hour; after the Gospel reading of the Ninth Hour, it is returned to the holy table in the sanctuary.

The service consists of the beginning prayers, the four individual Hours, the optional celebration of Typika (without Holy Communion, since it is a fast day), and a dismissal.

As individual Hours

If the Royal Hours are celebrated separately, then the Gospel book remains on the holy table, and is brought out for each reading. Each Hour consists of the beginning prayers, the Hour itself (two hours may be celebrated together), and the dismissal.

The Hours themselves

Each Hour has the following format:

Typika is optional. See the articles on Singing the Daytime Hours and Singing Typika for more information.

If there is no priest

If someone other than a priest leads the service, then incense is not used, and the Gospel book remains on the analogion in the nave. Prayers marked as "Priest or leader" may be chanted by the person leading the service; otherwise, all priestly and diaconal exclamations are omitted. The service book shows where another text is inserted. See the guidelines for Reader Services.

Celebrating the Office of Readings

The Royal Hours contain a fair amount of repetition, and omit some elements such as litanies which are an important part of Byzantine parochial liturgy. Following the guidance of our Intereparchial Liturgical Commission, the Metropolitan Cantor Institute prepared books for the vigils of Nativity and Thophany that present the Royal Hours as a single service consisting of:

This version of the services is called an Office of Readings to distinguish it from the full Royal Hours. Simply follow the book, which contains all required music.

If no priest is available to lead the service, follow the guidelines for Reader Services.