August 27, 2020

Homily Two on the Sacred Liturgical Books of the Orthodox Church: "The Apostolos" (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

The Sacred Liturgical Books of the Orthodox Church:
The Apostolos

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The Disciples of Christ are also called Apostles, because they were sent by Christ, first to Palestine and after Pentecost to all nations to preach the message of the Kingdom of God. Thus, the Apostles preached what they heard, what they saw, what they touched, what the Holy Spirit enlightened their minds with.

Some of the Apostles wrote Epistles to various local Churches, some wrote Catholic Epistles which were sent to all the Churches, and some others, such as the Disciples of Christ in the broadest sense of the word, recorded the events of the distribution of the gospel preaching and these texts are called the Acts of the Apostles.

The Church, by the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, through the Fathers, chose which of these texts are genuine and which are not, which of these are beneficial, and included them in the book of the New Testament.

Then the Church itself chose some apostolic texts to be read in every Divine Liturgy, in every Mystery, in every Sacred Service. This sacred book that includes these passages is called the Apostolos.

If the Gospel readings in the Mysteries and the Services are read by the Priests and Deacons, depending on the occasion, the apostolic readings are read by the Chanters and the Readers, which is why this sacred book, which is called the Apostolos, is among the books that can be found at the analogion of the Chanters. And as we know, the apostolic reading is read first, because the Apostles speak for Christ and their preaching prepares Christians to listen more carefully to the words of Christ.

Just as there is a liturgical reading of the Gospel passages, so there is a reading of the apostolic passages. In the Church there is a rule and not everyone can do what they want.

Thus, from Pascha Sunday to Pentecost, passages from the Acts of the Apostles are read, which was written by the Evangelist Luke. Then various passages are divided into five periods, from the Epistles of the Apostle Paul and the other Apostles, from the Monday of the Holy Spirit to the Saturday of Lazarus, followed by the apostolic passages of Great Week.

This means that the book called the Apostolos contains apostolic passages for the feasts throughout the year, from the beginning of September to the end of August, as it also contains other apostolic passages read in various Mysteries and ceremonies, such as the Consecration of a Temple, Holy Baptism, Marriage, and Funerals.

The typikon of the Church determines how the selection of the apostolic readings takes place on Sundays, when the feasts of the saints coincide.

It should be noted that the apostolic reading is read by the Reader, who has received the laying on of hands by the Bishop, or even by the Chanter, who has also received the laying on of hands. Thus, in the Church there was, as there is today, the office of the Reader, who are part of the lower Clergy, without, of course, being ordained but receiving the laying on of hands, and this is why many people today are called Readers.

It should be noted that the 75th Canon of the Penthekti Ecumenical Synod states: “We will that those whose office it is to sing in the churches do not use undisciplined vociferations, nor force nature to shouting, nor adopt any of those modes which are incongruous and unsuitable for the church, in as much as they ought to offer the psalmody to God, who is the observer of secrets, with great attention and compunction. For the Sacred Oracle taught that the Sons of Israel were to be pious."

If this refers to chanting, much more should it refer to reading, whether from the Gospel or the Apostolos. They are readings and are recited in a special way, not chanting, but as a melodic reading. It is, in other words, a reading with a lighter style, with a so-called inflection, and not in various modes.

The apostolic readings that come from the Epistles of the Apostle Paul and the other Apostles, but also from the Acts of the Apostles, are theological texts of great importance and when, instead of being read melodically, they are chanted affectedly, greater difficulties are created in their understanding.

It is a blessed moment in the Divine Liturgy, when we hear from the Readers or the Chanters the words of the Apostles, and from the Priests the words of Christ. In this way we are prepared for our proper participation in the Divine Liturgy.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.