The Festal Cycle of the Orthodox Church
Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church
Rt. Reverend Archpriest Alexander Androsov, Rector
| There are fundamentally three cycles of services in the Orthodox Church, daily, weekly, and annual. These three cycles rotate like concentric circles as we move through the years of the Church calendar.|
The daily cycle contains the services performed, obviously, on a daily basis, including Vespers, the Midnight Office, Matins, the Canonical Hours, and the Typika.
The weekly cycle contains the daily cycle of services, but each day of the week has a unique and special emphasis. For example, Monday is for all the bodiless hosts, Tuesday focuses on St. John the Baptist, Wednesday and Friday center on the Cross, Thursday is for the Apostles and St. Nicholas. Saturday is set aside for commemorating the martyrs and the faithful who have reposed (panakhida services are frequently served on this day). Each Sunday, of course, commemorates Our Lord's glorious resurrection from the dead.
This page contains information on the annual cycle of services, including the great feasts of the Church, and the period of the Great Lent and Holy Week.
| For forty days before Holy Week, the Orthodox world goes through a period of spiritual cleansing and preparation for Pascha (Easter). The Great Lent contains some of the Church's most profound and beautiful hymns and prayers.|
The Great Lent is always started with Forgiveness Sunday On this Sunday, following the Divine Liturgy, there is a Great Vespers service where each of the faithful asks all other for forgiveness of his sins against the others.
One of the richest set of prayers during this time is the Great Canon of Repentence by St. Andrew of Crete. This canon is so deep in spiritual benefit that it is read twice during this time.
The Great Lent concludes each year with the commemoration of Our Lord's raising of Lazarus from the deal. Holy Week then starts with Palm Sunday, commemorating Our Lord Jesus Christ's entry into Jerusalem.
Holy Week and Pascha are the highest and most important points of the Church year. Each year the Orthodox Church traverses the days leading up to Our Lord's arrest and crucifixion with sadness, but always with a tinge of joyful expectiation. This ultimately leads the faithful to the overflowing joy of Our Lord's Resurrection from the dead, thereby conquering death for all mankind.