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A Dictionary of Orthodox Liturgical Terms

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Abstinence. (Gr. Nisteia). A penitential practice consisting of voluntary deprivation of certain foods for religious reasons. In the Orthodox Church, days of abstinence are observed on Wednesdays and Fridays, or other specific periods, such as the Great Lent (see fasting).

Acolyte: The follower of a priest; a person assisting the priest in church ceremonies or services. In the early Church, the acolytes were adults; today, however, his duties are performed by children (altar boys).

Aër: (Sl. Vozdukh). The largest of the three veils used for covering the paten and the chalice during or after the Eucharist. It represents the shroud of Christ. When the creed is read, the priest shakes it over the chalice, symbolizing the descent of the Holy Spirit.

Afterfeast: The period of time between a feast of the Lord or Theotokos and the apodosis ("leavetaking") thereof. During an afterfeast, the hymns of the feast itself replace those from the Octoechos.

Agape: (Gr.: Love). Feast of love; the common meal of fellowship eaten in gatherings of the early Christians (1 Cor. 11:20 34). Agape is also the name of the Easter Vespers Service held in the early afternoon on Easter day. The faithful express their brotherly love and exchange the kiss of love honoring the resurrected Christ.

Akathistos Hymn: A hymn of praise comprised of twenty-four stanzas and sung at the Salutation Services, dedicated to Virgin Mary Theotokos. It is divided into four parts, one part sung on each Friday of the Great Lent. On the fifth Friday, the entire set is sung in commemoration of a miracle by the Virgin in Constantinople (626 A.D.). The hymn is also known as "Salutations" (Gr. Heretismoi).

Alb: (Lat.; Gr. stichari[on]. Sl. Podriznik). The long white undergarment of the clergy, with close sleeves, worn under the chasuble or the sakkos.

All Saints Sunday: (Gr. Agion Panton). A feast day of the Orthodox Church collectively commemorating all the Saints of the church who have remained anonymous. This feast day is celebrated on the Sunday following Pentecost.

Alleluia: (See Prokeimenon) Derived from the Hebrew, meaning "Praise the Lord", sung after the Epistle.

Altar: (Hebr. "a place of sacrifice;" Gr. hieron; Sl. prestol). The eastern section of the Church, behind the Iconostasis. In Orthodox architecture the term signifies the area of the sanctuary divided from the rest of the church by the iconostasis.

Altar Bread: (see Prosphoro).

Altar Table: (Gr. Hagia Trapeza; Sl. Prestol). The square table in the middle of the altar, made of wood or marble, on which the Eucharist is offered. It is dressed with the "Altar Cloth," and contains the relics deposited there by the consecrating bishop. The center of the table is occupied by the folded Antiminsion, on which the ceremonial gospel book is placed, and behind it is the tabernacle with the "reserved gifts." Only ordained clergy may touch the Altar Table, which is also called "The Throne (of God)".

Ambon: (also see pulpit) The term applied to the central part of the Soleas, i.e. to the space immediately in front of the Royal Doors. It is the place from which the deacon reads the Gospel, and from which the sermon is delivered.

Amen: Derived from the Hebrew, meaning "So Be It". This phrase concludes all Litanies and Services.

Amnos: (see lamb).

Analogion: (Gr. - Sl. analoy). A stand, about four or five feet high, with a sloping top; usually made of wood, and often covered with a cloth made of silk, damask, or the like. Such stands are used (1) for reading; (2) when an Icon or the Book of the Gospels is placed in the body of the Church for veneration by the faithful.

Anaphora: The part of the Liturgy where the preparation of the Holy Gifts concludes with the Consecration. Also called the "The Eucharistic Canon."

Anathema: (Gr.: a curse, suspension). The spiritual suspension with which the church may expel a person from her community for various reasons, especially denial of the faith or other mortal sins. The church also may proclaim an anathema against the enemies of the faith, such as heretics and traitors, in a special service conducted on the Sunday of Orthodoxy (first Sunday of Lent).

Annunciation:(Gr. Evangelismos). A feast of the Orthodox Church (March 25) commemorating the visit of Archangel Gabriel to Virgin Mary "to announce" that she was chosen to be the Mother of God (Luke 1:26-33).

Anteri: (see cassock).

Antidoron: (Gr.: "instead of the gift"). A small piece of the altar bread (prosphoron) distributed to the faithful after the celebration of the Eucharist. Originally it was given to those who could not take communion, but it became a practice for it to be offered to all the faithful.

Antimens or Antiminsion: (Gr. and Lat. compounds "in place of a table;" Sl. Antimins). It is a rectangular piece of cloth, of linen or silk, with representations of the entombment of Christ, the four Evangelists, and scriptural passages related to the Eucharist. A relic is sewn into the cloth. The antimens must be consecrated by the head of the church (a Patriarch or Archbishop) and always lie on the Altar Table. No sacrament, especially the Divine Liturgy, can be performed without a consecrated antimens.

Antiphon: (Gr. "alternate utterance or chanting"). 1) A short verse from the scriptures, especially the psalms, sung or recited in the liturgy and other church services. 2) Any verse or hymn sung or recited by one part of the choir or chanters in response to another part. The term is most frequently applied to Psalm 102, Psalm 145, and the Beatitudes as they are chanted at Liturgy; also to the psalm verses and refrains which replace these "antiphons" on Great Feasts. Each division of the hymns of ascents at Matins is also called an antiphon. Less commonly, the term is used synonymously with "stasis" in reference to the divisions of the kathismata.

Apodosis: (Gr., Sl. Otdanive). The last day of a festal season. On such a day, the service of the feast itself is repeated. Literally the "octave-day" of a feast day which lasts more than one day and usually occurs eight days after the actual feast day. The Apodosis of Easter occurs after forty days, on the eve of the Ascension.

Apolytikion:(Gr. "dismissal"). The dismissal hymn in honor of a saint, Christ, or Virgin Mary on the occasion of their feast day, especially at the end of the Vespers Service.

Aposticha: These are Stikhera accompanied by verses usually taken from the Psalms. The Apostikha is found at the end of Vespers and also at the end of Matins on ordinary weekdays.

Artoclasia: (see Vespers).

Artos: The symbolic "Bread of Life" which is blessed on Pascha; left in the Church for all of Bright, and then prayerfully distributed to the people on Bright Saturday, although sometimes given on Saint Thomas Sunday.

Ascension: A movable feast day, forty days after Easter, commemorating the ascension of Christ into Heaven from the Mount of Olives (Acts, 1:12).

Assumption or Dormition:A feast day (August 15) commemorating the "falling asleep" (koimisis) of Virgin Mary.

Asterisk: (Gr. "little stars;" Sl. Zvezditsa). A sacred vessel having two arched metal bands held together in such a fashion as to form the shape of a cross. It is placed on the paten and serves to prevent the veil from touching the particles of the Eucharist.

Augmented Litany: The Litany which begins with the petition Let us all say... Sometimes this Litany begins with the petition Have mercy on us...

Automelon: A hymn which has its own melody and is used as a model for other hymns. Hymns which are based on automela are called prosomia.

Axios: (Gr. "worthy"). An exclamation made at ordination to signify the worthiness of the individual chosen to become a clergyman.


Baptism: (Gr. "immersion into water for purification"). A sacrament instituted by Christ Himself, this is the regeneration "of water and the spirit" (John 3:5). An Orthodox baptism is administered by the priest {in case of absolute emergency, however, by a layman (aerobaptismos)} through three complete immersions and by pronouncing the individual's name along with the name of the Trinity, "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen" Chrismation follows immediately after baptism.

Baptismal Font: (see kolymbethra).

Baptismal Garments: (Gr. Fotikia or baptisika; Sl. krizhma). The garments brought by the godparent to dress the infant immediately after the immersion in Baptism. In Orthodoxy, these garments are considered sacred and must be either kept safely or destroyed by fire.

Baptismal Name: (Gr. onoma). The individual's name given in baptism, commonly the name of a saint, who becomes the individual's Patron Saint. The baptismal names of the first-born are usually those of their grandparents.

Baptistry: A special room or area in the form a pool for baptizing in the ancient Church. Gradually it was replaced by the baptismal font (see kolymbethra).

Beatutudes: The verse In Thy kingdom remember us, O Lord, when Thou comest in Thy kingdom. And then Matthew 5:3-12 (ending with "...great is your reward in heaven." The Beatitudes are typically chanted at Liturgy as the third Antiphon.

Benediction: (Lat. "blessings to glorify God"). The closing blessing offered by a clergyman at the end of a service or other activity.

Bishop: The highest order of the clergy. The Bishop is the head of the Diocese and is the onl rank of the clergy who can ordain by the laying on of hands. He is commemorated in almost all of the Divine Services. Higher ranks among bishops are Archbishops, Metropolitans, and Patriarchs.

Blessing of the Loaves: (Artoclasia) A ceremony occuring at the end of Vespers at Vigils, when a Litya is served. A table is placed in the center of the church, and set on it are five loaves together with three small vessels, containing wine, oil, and grains of wheat. During the singing of the troparion, the priest goes around the table censing it; he then says the prayer of blessing and recalling the five loaves at the feeding of the five thousand in the desert.

Bright Week: The entire week after Pascha, celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, during which the Deacon and Royal Doors remain open.


Calendar: (Gr. Hemerologion). The yearly system determining the Orthodox holidays and hours. The Orthodox year begins on September 1. Since all feasts were arranged according to the Julian (old) Calendar, many Orthodox churches follow it to the present day, while other Orthodox churches have adopted the Gregorian (new) Calendar (since 1924).

Candles:(Gr. Keri[on]). Candles made of beeswax are used in the Orthodox Church as a form of sacrifice and devotion to God or Saints. They are used in various Orthodox services and ceremonies and are symbolic of Christ, who is "the Light of the World." According to a different symbolism, the two elements of a candle represent the two natures of Christ: the Divine (the burning wick) and the Human (the wax body).

Canon: (Gr. "rule, measure, standard").

The Canon of the scriptures or the official list of books recognized by the church as genuine and inspired by God.

The Canon of Matins (a collection of hymns consisting of nine odes, the Heirmos, and sung at the Matins Service, the Orthros). The Canon is a series of nine Canticles (or Odes) containing a number of Troparia in each, as well as a Theme Song (Irmos). The Canons are found at Matins, Compline, and certain other services in the Liturgical Cycle. Originally the nine Biblical Canticles were sung and short refrains inserted between each verse of the Canticle, but in time the Canticles themselves dropped out of general usage (except during Great Lent) and only the Theme Song (or Irmos), based on the theme of the original Canticle, and the refrains (now expanded) remained. The Second Ode is sung only as part of the Lenten Cycle and a tenth Biblical Canticle, the Magnificat is almost always sung after the Eighth Ode of the Canon.

The Liturgical Canon which refers to all liturgical material, including the Creed, used for the Liturgy and the consecration of the Eucharist. (see also kanon and Typikon).

Cassock:(Gr. Raso; Sl. ryassa). The long black garment with large sleeves worn by the Orthodox clergy as their distinct attire. Another such cassock with narrow sleeves (Gr. Anteri; Sl. Podrasnik) is worn under the cassock. It symbolizes the death of a clergyman to this world, and his burial and subsequent dedication to God and his heavenly kingdom.

Catechumen: (Gr. "those who learn the faith"). A convert to Christianity in the early church, who received instructions in Christianity, but was not yet baptized. Catechumens were permitted to attend the first part of the Eucharist (Liturgy of the Catechumens), but were dismissed before the Consecration of the Gifts.

Cathedra: The Bishop's raised platform in the middle of the Church, upon which he vests and stands at the begining of the Divine Liturgy.

Cathedral: (Gr. "the main chair"). The principal church of a bishop's jurisdiction, the chief church in every diocese.

Censer: (Gr. Thymiato; Sl. kadillo). A metal vessel hung on chains, used in church ceremonies for burning incense, symbolic of the prayers we offer to God. There are twelve small bells attached to the chains, representing the message of the twelve Apostles.

Chalice: (Gr. Potirion; Sl. Vozduh). A large cup of silver or gold, with a long-stemmed base, used for the Eucharist. This is the Holy Cup in which the wine and water are put during Proskomedia, and later in which the Holy Bread (the Body of Christ) is added before the Communion of the Faithful. It is one of the most sacred vessels of the church and is handled only by the clergy.

Chant: (Gr. echos; Sl. glas). The music proper to the Orthodox services. There are eight tones or modes in the Orthodox Byzantine chant, chanted by the chanters or cantors.

Chanter: (Gr. Psaltis). A lay person who assists the priest by chanting the responses and hymns in the services or sacraments of the church. Today chanters have been replaced to some extent by choirs.

Chasuble: (Gr. feloni[on]; Sl. felon). A sleeveless garment worn by the presbyter in the celebration of the liturgy. Short in front, with an elongated back, and an opening for the head, it is one of the most ancient vestments of the Church, symbolizing the seamless coat of Christ.

Cherubic Hymn: (Gr. "the song of the angels"). Liturgical hymn sung after the Gospel-reading and during the Great Entrance. Its text in English is as follows:

We, who mystically represent the Cherubim, And chant the thrice-holy hymn to the Life-giving Trinity, Let us set aside the cares of life That we may receive the King of all, Who comes invisibly escorted by the Divine Hosts.

Cherubim: The second highest rank of the Angelic Order.

Chrism: (Gr. Myrron). Sanctified oil composed of several ingredients and fragrances, used in the sacrament of Chrismation (after Baptism). The Holy Chrism in the Orthodox Church is exclusively prepared by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, blessed in a series of preparations and ceremonies. Holy Thursday is customarily the day of its consecration.

Chrismation: (see Baptism and Chrism).

Chrisom: (Gr. Ladopano; Sl. knzhma). A piece of white linen for the wrapping of the infant after Baptism. The Orthodox preserve it as a sacred object, since it signifies the purity and holiness of the baptized Christian.

Churching: (Gr. Sarantismos). A service of thanksgiving and blessing of women after childbirth. In the Orthodox church, this rite is performed on the fortieth day after birth and is reminiscent of the Old Testament ceremony of purification (Lev. 12:2-8) and the presentation of Jesus at the Temple (Luke 2:22-29).

Clergy: Three ranks ordained with the Laying-on-of-Hands. The three are Bishop, Priest and Deacon.

Communion: (Gr. koinonia). The receiving of the Mystery (sacrament) of the Holy Eucharist after proper preparation, fasting, and confession. Orthodox Christians are encouraged to receive communion as often as possible, even daily. The Bread and Wine become the Body and Blood of Christ through the Holy Spirit during the Anaphora.

Communion Hymn: A psalm verse appointed to be sung during the communion of the clergy.

Communion of Saints:The Orthodox Church believes that all the people of God, members of the Church, either the living on earth or the departed in heaven, are in constant communion and fellowship with each other in faith, grace and prayers, since they constitute one Body in Christ, the Church.

Compline: (Gr. Apodeipnon; Sl. Velikoye Povecheniye). A worship service performed after dusk. It is often combined with Vespers, to form an all-night vigil. There is a Great Compline and its abridgement, known as Little Compline.

Confession: (Gr. Exomologisis). The act of confessing or acknowledgment of sins by an individual before God in the presence of a priest, who serves as a spiritual guide and confessor (pneumatikos) authorized to ask for forgiveness and to administer a penance.

Consecration: (Gr. Heirotonia). The ordination of an individual to priesthood through the sacrament of Holy Orders.

Consecration of a Church: (see Engainia).

Creed: The Symbol of Faith that was formulated at the 1st and 2nd Ecumenical Councils , held in the cities of Nicea and Constantinople.

Crosier: (Gr. Ravdos or Pateritsa). The pastoral staff of a bishop, signifying his responsibilities and the authority by which he spiritually rules his flock.

Crowns: (Gr. Stephana). A metal crown or wreath made of cloth in the shape of lemon blossoms, with which the priest "crowns" the newlyweds during the sacrament of Matrimony. The crowns are white, signifying purity, and represent the power that is given to the newlyweds to become "king and queen" of their home.


Deacon: (Gr. "assistant, servant"). The first of the three orders of priesthood. A deacon is not permitted to perform the sacraments, but assists the bishop and the presbyter in the Eucharist and other services or ministries of the church.

Dikirotrikera: (Gr. "set of two and three candles"). A set of two candleholders, one double-branched candlestick and another triple-branched, both used by the bishop in blessing at the liturgy. The Dikeron (double candleholder) signifies the two natures of Christ, while the Trikeron (triple candleholder) signifies the Holy Trinity.

Diptychs: (Gr. "folding boards"). 1) Lists of names for living and dead, written on cardboard for their commemoration in the liturgy. 2) An official roster of the names of the heads of Orthodox jurisdictions read during the liturgy by concelebrating bishops, or the head of an ecclesiastical jurisdiction.

Diskos: The round metal dish on a pedestal, sometimes called "Paten", upon which is placed the Holy Bread.

Dismissal: (Gr. Apolysis; Sl. Otpust). The closing prayers and benediction, including the dismissal hymn (Apolytikion) in church service.

Dismissal Theotokion: The theotokion appointed to be sung after the troparia at the end of Vespers, after God is the Lord... at Matins and at the end of Matins.

Dogmaticon: The principle theotokion of each tone. It is always used at Sunday Vespers (Saturday evening) at Lord, I have cried... It is used at the same place at Vespers on Friday evening (in the tone of the week) and at Doxology, Polyeleos, and Vigil services (in the tone of the preceeding sticheron).

Dormition: (see assumption)

Doxasticon: A sticheron appointed to be sung after Glory...

Doxology: A hymn of great antiquity, beginning with the words of the angels, Glory to God in the highest... Its use is appointed at Compline, Midnight Office and Matins. There are two variations, one of which is sung (also known as the "Great Doxology"), the other of which is read.


Ektenial: (See also Litany) (Gr. 'long" or "elongated"). Petitions or litanies used in Orthodox services, particularly in the liturgy. They refer to the world in general, peace, leadership and those in need. The response to an ektenial petition is: "Lord have mercy"

Engainia: (Gr. "blessing for renewal"). The ceremony of consecration of a new church, conducted only by a bishop. It is performed before the Eucharist, and it mainly consists of the washing of the Holy Table of the altar, the depositing of relics in it, and the blessing of the church icons.

Entrance: A procession, exiting the Sanctuary through the north door, and entering the Sanctuary through the Royal Doors. Entrances occue at Vespers, before the chanting of O Gentle Light... and twice at Liturgy.

ENTRANCE HYMN: (See Introit)

EPIKLESIS: The act of the "consecration" of the Holy Gifts into the Body and Blood of Christ by the action of the Holy Spirit.

EPISTLE: One of the Letters in the New Testament, read before the Gospel by the Reader or an appointed person.

EPITAPHIOS: A large cloth icon of the Savior entombed which is used during the Holy Friday and Saturday services.

EPITRAKHILION: The "stole" wore around the neck by the Priest and Bishop. All services are performed with this vestment.

EVANGELISTS: Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John: the authors of the Four Gospels.

EVLOGITARIA: Troparia sung at Matins after the kathismata; they are accompanied by the refrain, Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes. They take two forms: (1) Evlogitaria of the Resurrection, which are used on Sundays. (2) Evlogitaria of the Departed, which are used at Matins for the departed, and at Pannykhidas.

EXAPOSTILARION: A hymn occuring at the conclusion of the canon at Matins, and frequesntly developing the theme of Christ as light of the world. It is termsed "exapostilarion" because it "gives the dismissal", as it were, at the end of the canon. The first exapostilarion on Sunday is always linked with the Gospel of the Resurrection, used earlier in the service. Exapostilaria are generally read, but occasionally may be sung. Also known as: Photogogicon, Hymn of Light.


FAN: The Processional Fan, bearing an Icon of the Holy Angels, held by the Altar-Servers, over the Icons, Gospels, the Holy Gifts, etc. during the Divine Services.

FASTING: Abstaining from cetain foods and activities in order to draw closer ot God. Orthodox Christians fast on most Wednesdays and Fridays and during the Four Lenten Periods. Total fasting (no food or drink) is required before receiving Holy Communion.

FEAST DAY: A Holy Day comeorating an event in the life of Our Lord, His Mother or the Saints.

FOREFEAST: The days leading up to a feast of the Lord or Theotokos. During a forefeast, hymns of preperation for the feast replace those from the Octoechos. See also AFTERFEAST


GOSPEL: One of the first four books of the New Testament. At the Divine Liturgy the Deacon intines the Gospel. At the Vigil, the reading is done by the Bishop or Priest.



HIGH PLACE: The holy part of the Church, located in the eastern most section of the Church "behind" the Holy Altar Table. Whenever a server passes from one side of the altar through the High Place, he always crosses himself. Prior to any Entrances, etc. Altar-Servers reverently gather at the High Place.


HOLY WEEK: The week before holy Pascha, during which we commemorate the Passion of Christ. Orthodox Christians fast very strictly this week and attend many Divine Services reliving the final days of our Lord before His Holy Resurrection.

HOURS: The short services that are read four times in a day, each commemorating a particular theme. The 3rd and 6th Hours immediately precede the Divine Liturgy. The 1st hour is read following Matins.


HYMN OF ASCENTS: Tese hymns in each of the Eight Tones, are chanted at Sunday Matins immediately before the Prokeiminon. They are divided into three antiphons (but four in the case of the eighth tone), each antiphon being made up of three troparia. At weekday vigils, for both saints and feasts, the first antiphon of the Hymns of Ascents of the fourth tone is used. Also known as Hymns of Degrees, Antiphons


HYPAKOÉ: A hymn sung at Matins on certain Great Feasts and Sundays: (1) On Great Feasts it occurs after the third tone of the canon. (2) On Sundays it comes at the end of the reading of the kathismata (i.e., after the Evlogitaria of the Resurrection and the Small Litany).


IDIOMELON: A hymn having its own unique melody and not used as a model for any other hymns. Most of these melodies have been lost. Idiomela, therefore, are generally chanted in the appointed tone. See also: AUTOMELON, PROSOMION

ICONS: The Sacred Images of Our Lord, His Mother, or the Saints. Icons may also depict a sacred event. We cross oursleves and bow before venerating (kissing) Icons. Orthodox Christians have one or more Icons in the corners of the rooms of their homes.

ICONOSTASIS: The screen of Icons seperating the santuary from the body of the church, and peirced by three doors. The central doorway, which is closed by double gates and a curtain, is known as the Royal Doors.

Ikos: This is a short composition that follows the Kontakion, between the Sixth and Seventh Odes of the Canon.

INCENSE: The pieces of fragrant substance that are burned in the censer.

INTROIT: The hymn sung at the Small Entrance in the Liturgy, as the clergy enter the Sanctuary. There is a standard Introit beginning O come let us worship... which is used on most days; certain Great Feasts have a special Introit, which is said by the deacon or priest. Also known as Entrance Hymn.

Irmos: The opening hymn of each ode of a canon. This is the Theme Song of each Ode of the Canon. The word Irmos means link, since originally the Troparia that followed it were sung in the same rhythm, and thus were linked to it.


Kanon: 1) Short hymns consisting of nine odes, sung at the service of Matins. 2) The special service known as the Great Kanon sung on the evening of the Wednesday of the fifth week of the Great Lent.

Katavasia: An irmos (or, in a few instances, two irmoi) appointed to be sung at the end of an ode. This is the concluding stanza of a Canticle of the Canon, so-called because, as the title implies (to go down), the Choir members came down into the center of the church to sing it. These are found after each Ode of the Canon on major Feasts and on ordinary days, the Irmos of the last Canon sung (there are usually several Canons sung together) is sung as Katavasia after Odes Three, Six, Eight and Nine.

Kathisma: Each of the twenty divisions of the Psalter. From the word kathizo I sit, these are selections from the Psalter, read at Vespers, Matins, and various other services, during which the Faithful are permitted to sit.

Kathisma Hymn: These are short hymns sung after the Kathisma readings, during which the Faithful are permitted to sit (except for certain prescribed days). These are sometimes referred to as Sedalens or Sessional Hymns.

Klobuk: The black headpiece with a veil worn by monks and Bishops.

Kolymbethra: A large, often movable, circular basin on a stand, containing the water for immersion in Baptism. It symbolizes the Jordan River or the pool of Siloam.

Kontakion: The hymn appointed to be sung after the sixth ode of the canons (sometimes also after the third ode); it is generally followed immediately by its ikos. Both the kontakion and the ikos are derived from the early kontakion, which was a long poem, intended to be sung in church. It consisted of a short preliminary stanza, followed by some 18-24 strophes, each known as an ikos; the preliminary stanza and every ikos. The word means pole, since the Kontakion was originally a long poetic composition rolled up on a pole. Now only the brief preliminary stanza remains and is sung before the Ikos after the Sixth Ode of the Canon, at the Liturgy, Hours, and various other services.


Lamb: (Gr. Amnos). The symbol for the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross (cf. John 1:29). In the Orthodox liturgy the amnos is the first square piece from the altar bread (prosphoro), inscribed with the letters ICXC NIKA (an abbreviated form for "Jesus Christ conquers"). This particular piece is to be consecrated during the Eucharist.

Lent: One of the four periods set aside each year when we are called upon to fast and pray fervently. Before Pascha the lent is called: GREAT LENT or GREAT FAST.

Litany: A set of petitions offered to God by the Deacon. The faithful respond with either "Lord have mercy!" or Grant this, O Lord!"

LITURGY: The Eucharistic Service of the Church, usually called the Divine Liturgy. The Liturgy most often used is the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. The Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great is used ten times a year, notably on the five Sundays of Great Lent.

LAMPADA: The hanging lamns before Icons.


MATINS: The morning service of the Church usually celebrated with Vespers as the All-Night Vigil

MITRE: The jewelled crown wore by Bishops, Archmandrites and Mitered Archpriests during Divine Services.

MYSTERY: The Orthodox term for "Sacrament", the means by which God's Grace is imparted to us by His Holy Orthodox Church. Only Orthodox Christians may receive the Holy Mysteries.


NARTHEX: The western section of the Church. Also called the Vestibule or Porch. Some services begin in the Narthex.

NAVE: The large center area of the Church where the Orthodox Faithful stand and pray worshipping the Lord God.


OBLATION TABLE: The table located on the northern wall of the altar. Here the Holy Gifts are prepared during the Service of the Proskomedia.

ORARION: the stole wore by the Deacon over his left shoulder. Archdeacons and Protodeacons wear a longer, crossed orarion. Subdeacons wear a Deacons orarion that is crossed in front and back.


Panagia: The oval Icon worn by Bishops. The term means "All-Holy" and refers to the Mother of God.

Pascha: The Greek word for "Passover", commemorating the Christ's Resurrection from the dead. Pascha ranks above all Holy Days and is termed "The Feast of Feasts."

Pectoral Cross: The cross worn by Priests and Bishops. The style of a Priest's cross represents his rank within the Church.

Phelonion: The outer garment of the Priest.

Priest: The second rank of the Ordained Clergy.

Procession: The liturgical movement of the Clergy, Altar-Servers, Choir and Faithful usually around the outside of the Church. Processions are held during Holy Week, Pscha, Bright Week, and on Parish Feast Days.

Prokiemenon: These are verses from the Psalter sung immediately before Scripture Lessons, primarily at Liturgy, Vespers and Matins. [Except for Feasts and during Great Lent, the Scripture Lessons themselves have generally fallen out of use at Vespers.] The Prokeimenon sung immediately before the Gospel Lesson is called the Alleluia.

Proskomedia: The first part of the Divine Liturgy, preceding, "Blessed is the Kingdom..." and the Hours. The Liturgy of Peparation is performed on the Table of Oblation.

Prosphora: The Loves of Holy Bread that are prepared for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. They are of two layers with a seal upon the upper layer. In the Russian tradition we use five loaves.

Prostration: A reverential bow. A Full Prostration is performed by crossing oneself and touching the knees, hands and forehead to the ground. A Half or Waist Prostration is performed by crossing oneself and bending over and touching the right hand (fingers) to the ground. The Waist Prostration (called a Metania) replaces the full prostration on the days we do not fully bow.

Pulpit: (Gr.; Sl. Amvon, "an elevated place, podium"). A small raised platform or elaborate podium at the left (north) side of the soleas and in the front of the iconostasis. Decorated with representations of the four Evangelists, it is the place on which the deacon or priest reads the Gospel and delivers his sermon.


Reader: A man tonsured by the Bishop into the lesser ranks of the clergy. He has the disnity to wear a cassock and to receive Holy Communion in his Stikharion.

Royal Doors: The center double doors on the Iconostasis. Only Ordained Clergy may pass through these doors, and only at certain times in the Divine Services.


Seraphim: The many-eyed Angels that are closest to God at His Heavenly Throne.

Solea: The elevated area in front of the Iconostasis.

Star: The liturgical utensil that sets above the Diskos and symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem that "stood over the place where the Young Child lay."

Stikheron (Stikhera): A Stikheron is a stanza sung between verses taken from the Psalms, primarily at Vespers (at Lord, I have called... and the Apostikha) and Matins (at the Apostikha).

Stikharion: The first robe used by the Clergy. The Deacon's Stikharion is ornate. The Stikharion of the Altar-Servers is modeled after the Deacon's robe.


Theotokion: These are Troparia or Stikhera sung in honor of the Theotokos. On Wednesdays and Fridays, these Theotokia usually take the theme of the Theotokos at the Lord's Crucifixion, and thus are called Cross-Theotokia (or Stavro-Theotokia).

Theotokos: The Most Holy Mother of God meaning "Birth-Giver of God."

Tone: There are 8 Tones or types of general melody used during the Church Year.

Trikirion: The triple candle holer carried by the Bishop in his right hand, symbolizing the Holy Trinity.

Trisagion: The Thrice Holy (HOLY God, HOLY Mighty, HOLY Immortal...) Prayers are chanted before the Prokimen and Epistle Reading. The Thrice Holy Prayers are also part of the usual begining of all our Orthodox prayers.

Troparion: The short hymn sung at Vespers, Matins and the Divine Liturgy commemorating the Feast or Saint. This is simply a short musical composition similar in length and style to the Kontakion. They are sung at the end of Vespers, after God is the Lord... and the Apostikha at Matins, at the Liturgy and other services.

Typikon: (Gr. following the order; Sl. Sluzhebnik). Liturgical book which contains instructions about the order of the various church services and ceremonies in the form of a perpetual calendar.


Vespers: (Gr. Esperinos; Sl. Litiya). An important service of the Orthodox Church, held in the evening, which is mainly a Thanksgiving prayer for the closing day and a welcome of the new one to come the following morning. On the eve of an important holiday, the Vesper Service includes Artoclasia or the blessing of the five loaves (Gr. artos; Sl. Litiya) for health and the well-being of the faithful.

Vestment: The special Holy Robes worn by all Ordained and Lesser Clergy and Altar-Servers


Ypakoe: This is a short Troparion sung at Matins on Great Feasts and Sundays.


Zeon: The hot water brought to the Priest at the time of receiving of Holy Communion. Also called Teplota.

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