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September 25, 2020

Homily Eight on the Sacred Liturgical Books of the Orthodox Church: The "Triodion" and the "Pentecostarion" (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

The Sacred Liturgical Books of the Orthodox Church:
The Triodion and the Pentecostarion

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
Among the important books that remain in the analogion of the Chanters are two very powerful books called the Triodion and the Pentecostarion, and refer to two homonymous periods of the Church. The Triodion begins on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee and ends on Holy Saturday, and the Pentecostarion begins on Easter then goes up till Pentecost and ends on the Sunday of All Saints. It is a period that constitutes the heart of the entire ecclesiastical year.

The Triodion was named after the two separate words "three" and "odes". The poetic form of the canon introduced by Saint John of Damascus in the eighth century consists of nine odes. However, during this period, instead of chanting the nine odes, three odes are chanted, that is, always the eighth and the ninth odes, and every day one of the other odes, which is why this period is named Triodion.

The period of the Triodion is divided into three periods. First is the period of the first three weeks (Sundays of the Publican and Pharisee, the Prodigal Son, and Meatfare), second is the period of forty days until the Friday before Lazarus Saturday, and third is Great Week.

The Triodion is a period of preparation for Easter, so that Christians can truly celebrate the Resurrection of Christ as their own resurrection. As all matters of our life are made with conditions, so it is in the spiritual life, that is, conditions are needed. Athletes are trained to take part in small or great sporting events, and spiritual athletes, who want to defeat the devil, sin and death, must train in order to prepare themselves for Christ.

Therefore, the period of the Triodion was considered the period of the Church in order for the catechumens and those coming to Illumination to be properly prepared, so that they could be baptized on Holy Saturday and become members of the Church. Together with the catechumens the baptized also lived this revival of the Grace of Baptism, thus this period was considered important for all.

The whole structure of the Triodion period was formed through the centuries and was completed around the fifteenth century, and its character is solemn, which is why it was formerly called "the solemn Triodion". The troparia are distinguished for their theology and in fact their neptic and hesychastic theology, which shows the ascetic dimension of the Orthodox Church. The Church collected what was most exquisitely created by the sacred hymnographers, invested it with its wonderful music and this creates a wonderful atmosphere of "joyful-sorrow". The services have been completed with an amazing spiritual, theological, ecclesiastical and ascetical wealth.

The Pentecostarion was so named because it refers to fifty days, from the day of Easter until the day of Pentecost. This period is associated with four major Despotic Feasts, namely the Feast of Pascha; the Feast of Mid-Pentecost, when Christ went to the Temple of Solomon and celebrated the Hebrew Feast of Tabernacles and proclaimed Himself as the Word and Wisdom of God, the Light of the World; the Feast of the Ascension at which Christ ascended with His body into heaven; and the Feast of Pentecost, since on that day the Holy Spirit descended on the Disciples and established them as members of His Body. This Feast of Pentecost is celebrated by our Church for a whole week until the Sunday of All Saints, which shows that the purpose of the incarnation of the Son and Word of God is the sanctification of humanity, their theosis.

If the period of the Triodion is characterized as a "solemn Triodion", the period of the Pentecostarion is characterized as a "joyful" period. When one reads the troparia of that period, one observes that they are adorned by a theological wealth. The canons of the feasts have been made by great hymnographers and theologians, such as John of Damascus and Joseph the Hymnographer, Kosmas the Poet, Andrew of Crete, Germanos, Theophanes, Anatolios, Joseph the Studite, etc., who connected the events of Holy Scripture with the wonderful homilies of the Fathers of the Church, especially of Saint Gregory the Theologian, Basil the Great and Saint John Chrysostom.

Both of these books, the Triodion and the Pentecostarion, are two collections made by the greatest hymnographers, who were brought to awareness by the Church, but also by the whole of humanity, who with their amazing references to Scriptural events and excellent knowledge of the Greek language, gave us theological and literary masterpieces. These were invested into by other prominent composers-chanters and became a treasure trove of universal heritage.
The Triodion and the Pentecostarion are centered around Easter. Before this period is a period of preparation and after this period there is a period of spiritual fruitfulness. All the troparia connect theology with history, compunction with joy, Cross with Resurrection, union with Christ and the Holy Spirit.

The Orthodox Church is a continuous theological festival, it is the workshop of holiness and the place of civilization.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.