September 3, 2020

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

The Sacred Liturgical Books of the Orthodox Church:
The Euchologion

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

One of the liturgical books that is necessary for the Clergy, namely Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons, is the so-called Euchologion. The word Euchologion consists of two separate words εὐχή (euchi) and λόγο (logo), that is, "a collection of prayers". These are prayers associated with the worship and the Mysteries of the Church. It is a codex of sacred rites and sacred ceremonies.

The oldest surviving Euchologion is the so-called Euchologion of Serapion, from the fourth century AD, but then various other prayers and sacred rites were added, as the worship of the Church increased, which is why this liturgical book is a timeless "heap", as it has been described, since in the beginning it included the Divine Liturgy and some basic sacred ceremonies and in the process various other services were added. Today in use there is the Great Euchologion and the Small Euchologion, which is also called Hagiasmatarion.

The Great Euchologion, as it is published today, is a multi-page book that is divided into five major parts. The first part includes the services of the Sacred Mysteries and various other services connected with them. The second part includes various sacred rituals for the Sacred Temple, such as consecrations, ecclesiastical ministrations and monastic tonsurings, sanctifications and feasts, and services for the end of human life. The third part includes occasional services for the various difficulties and calamities of life, such as droughts, diseases, wars, and ceremonies and prayers for various occasions, such as for unclean spirits, for buildings, fields, sea, travel. The fourth part includes the Epistles and the Gospels throughout the year, prayers and various textual components, canonical testimonials. And the fifth part contains various newer services, such as Doxologies, etc.

The Small Euchologion or Hagiasmatarion is an epitome of the Great Euchologion, and is an anthology that contains the services that are most often performed by the Clergy. The Small Euchologion is published in a small format, because we could say that it is a portable liturgical book that is necessary in everyday use.

The contents of the Small Euchologion or Hagiasmatarion include the Service of the Small Sanctification of the Waters, the Prayers for the Birth of a Child, the Services of Holy Baptism and Chrismation, Betrothal and Marriage, of Sacred Confession, Holy Unction, Funerals and various other services and prayers for various circumstances, such as diseases, exorcisms, sanctifications of fields, flocks, houses, fishing. It also includes various services, such as for the beginning and end of the school year, for private and public works, shops, irrigation works, ship launches, doxologies and prayers, and finally the Paraklesis to our Lady the Theotokos.

The Small Euchologion or Hagiasmatarion is a useful liturgical book, which the old priests always had in a small bag with a small priestly stole and a cross and they always brought it with them whenever they could, so that in any moment or hour they were ready to help people in their every need.

When one carefully reads the Great Euchologion and the Small Euchologion, one understands that it really is an Hagiasmatarion (Book of Sanctifications), or I would even say a spiritual healing manual, since God, through the prayers of the pious Priest heals the mental and spiritual needs of people, in accordance with their faith.

People are psychosomatic beings, they have a soul and a body as an unbroken unity and there absolutely exists an interdependence between them. The illnesses of the soul have an effect on the human body, and physical illnesses also have an effect on the human soul if a person is not careful.

Just as medical science has developed to cure the physical ailments of people, so for centuries there has been the spiritual healing science that heals the mental traumas of people. This means that people not only have physical or psychological needs, but also spiritual needs, they want to meet God. And because they understand that the encounter with God is a very important event, and the passions are an obstacle for them, that is why they want to be healed first, so that they can be united with God.

Then, the Church is a spiritual healing center that receives people immediately upon their birth, and follows them throughout their life, through Baptism, Marriage, the Divine Liturgy, even until their death. In the meantime it blesses them, sanctifies them, and not only them but also their houses, schools, and occupations, it even follows them during their travels, and not only follows them, but also heals and sanctifies them. That is why this book, the Euchologion, is also called an Hagiasmatarion, because the Priest or Bishop with the services and the prayers asks God to sanctify people, if of course people respond to this healing with their cooperation.

We celebrate such a healed person today, Saint Paraskevi, who, living in the Church, was sanctified, being united with God, and thus became a person of divine Grace. She did not simply pass through this life, but through biological life she entered into eternal life.

Let us, therefore, use the spiritual medicines of our Church to be spiritually healed.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.