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August 28, 2020

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

The Sacred Liturgical Books of the Orthodox Church:
The Hieratikon

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

One of the most important books for use in the worship of the Church is the so-called Hieratikon, which is always on the Holy Altar, next to the Sacred Gospel, because it is necessary for the priest who performs the Divine Liturgies. From the Hieratikon came the Archieratikon, which concerns the Bishops, and the Diakonikon, which concerns the Deacons.

It seems that the name Hieratikon was received from a publication of this book by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in 1895, when it was formerly called a small booklet (leaflet) which was considered incomplete. This is the reason why some Priests call the Hieratikon "the leaflet" (fylladion). The new edition was approved by the Patriarchal Synod.

There are many editions of the Hieratikon in circulation today. I will mention the Hieratikon which is mainly used, that contains everything that belongs to the Priest for the Services of the Night, that is, the Services of Vespers, of Apodeipnon, of Midnight, of Matins, of the Hours, the order for an All-Night Vigil, as well as the three Divine Liturgies, namely that of Saint John Chrysostom, Basil the Great and the Presanctified Honorable Gifts, as well as various other services and prayers for various circumstances.

Also, a Small Hieratikon has been published, which contains the Sacred Services of Vespers, of the Artoklasia, of Midnight, of Matins, the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom and various Apolytikia and Kontakia.

The Priest holds a great position in the Divine Liturgy, because he asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit and to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, but also to transfer the Grace of God to the people. The Priest and the Bishop are the perceptible presence of Christ, and for this they move between God and people. It is very characteristic that Saint Epiphanios, Bishop of Cyprus, writes that the office of the Hierarch is "an office giving birth to fathers, with a father giving birth to the Church", that is, it is an office of a father giving birth, because he ordains Clergy who will become fathers of the Church. Meanwhile the office of Presbyter is of a "father who is not able to give birth, for he gives birth to children through the font of regeneration", that is, the office of Presbyter gives birth to children by Baptism and not other fathers, because they do not ordain.

This also shows the difference between Bishops and Priests, since the Bishops ordain Priests who will become fathers to the people, while the Priests through Holy Baptism give birth to children in the Church.

Thus, while the book of the Hieratikon includes all the services done by the Priest, with the permission and the blessing of the Bishop, the book of the Archieratikon includes other services, such as Ordinations and the Laying on of Hands, and other provisional Prayers.

The Hieratikon and the Archieratikon are essential books for the Priests and Bishops, because they determine the order in which the Divine Liturgies and the Services composed by the Holy Fathers and established by the Church are to be done. In the Church there should be no private prayers, nor should the typikon be done in a way that everyone would like to do it. We pray together and obey the Church.

The important thing is that the Priest and the Bishop should not and cannot read the services and the prayers mechanically, formally, but to understand their content, as they are to also possess the sense of the Mystery and approach it with reverence. Because what is happening on the Holy Altar is not a theater, but prayer and an approach towards God.

The Priests and Bishops are like Moses who went up to Mount Sinai to encounter the pre-incarnate Word, with the difference that they encounter the incarnate Word. The Divine Liturgy is the Secret Supper, it is the prayer of Christ in Gethsemane, when Christ prayed for the whole world, it is the sacrifice on Golgotha, it is the Resurrection of Christ "while the tomb was sealed", it is the coming of the Holy Spirit as it happened on Pentecost.

Every time I hold in my hands the Hieratikon and the Archieratikon I sense the sanctity of these books, because thousands of Priests and Bishops reading these prayers know that the Holy Spirit descends on the Holy Altar and changes the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. These are, therefore, blessed words and these books are sacred.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.