September 30, 2020

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


The Sacred Liturgical Books of the Orthodox Church:
The Menaia

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
Most of the volumes of liturgical books are titled Menaia, and each volume-book bears the name Menaion with the indication of each month, that is, the Menaion of September, the Menaion of October, etc. And because there are twelve months in a year, it becomes obvious why there are twelve Menaia.

We do not know exactly the evolution of the Menaia, but it seems that in the beginning there were small collections of the apolytikia of the saints who celebrate every day, with a little reference to their lives. Then various services of saints were added and the final configuration took place in Constantinople, from which most of the hymns of the Menaia come. Later the Menaia were completed by other services, which is done even in our days, since new saints and new local festivals are added, by modern hymnographers.

It is obvious that the troparia contained in the Menaia, which begins in September and ends in August, the so-called ecclesiastical year, are works of novice hymnographers, but also hymnographers of a lesser degree.

The services in the Menaia are structured according to the monastic typikon, which is called the Jerusalemite typikon or the typikon of Saint Savvas and was intended for the Holy Monasteries. However, in the 8th and 9th centuries, after iconoclasm, this typikon of the Holy Monasteries was introduced in the Parish Churches, since during this time the monks who supported the honorary veneration of sacred icons ruled over ecclesiastical life. When one reads the Menaia, one finds that they contain complete or incomplete services of the saints for each day. They include the services of Vespers and Matins, with the troparia and the apolytikia, but also the synaxaria of the saints who celebrate each day. Apart from the feasts of the saints, the Menaia also include the immovable feasts of Christ and the Theotokos, such as Christmas, the Circumcision of Christ, Theophany, the Transfiguration of Christ, the Annunciation of the Theotokos and her Dormition. The moveable Despotic feasts, such as Palm Sunday, the Crucifixion, Easter, the Ascension, Pentecost, are included in the books of the Triodion and Pentecostarion.

The important thing is that by reading and chanting the troparia and generally the services in the Menaia, we come in contact with so-called "ecclesiastical history", which is not just external events, but also the life of Christ and the Theotokos, and the lives of the saints who are the members of the Body of Christ. We are organically immersed in this story, we see the faith and life of our older brethren who preceded us, we see the Prophets, the Apostles, the Martyrs, the Fathers, the Venerables and Ascetics, the young and the old, men and women and generally all those who loved Christ and sacrificed everything for Him.

The amazing thing is that we read in the Menaia briefly their life and conduct and then we see them being composed into small troparia with theological words and then we chant them, so that with all our being we can participate in the feast of the saint. In this way we understand that theology is the life of Christ in people, it is the vision of the glory of God in the human flesh of the Word, as well we also understand the way in which the saints were sanctified, which is by purification, illumination and theosis, that which is repeatedly emphasized as praxis and theoria, and this is accomplished through fasting, vigil, prayer.

The words we find in these troparia, such as: nous, heart, theosis, instrument of the Spirit, mystagogy, partakers of the glory of Christ, temple of God, the enlightenment of illumination, the light of the Holy Trinity, forever illuminated, you appeared as an angel on earth in the flesh, deified, etc. show what true Orthodox theology is, and how it differs from foreign and heretical theology.

In the Menaia all the poetic genres are harmonized, that is, the kontakia with the oikoi, the canons with the kathismata, the troparia in all the tones of ecclesiastical music, with continuous alternations, the synaxaria with the verses, and this consists of great spiritual wealth and a treasure of civilization. Thus, one learns what saints are, one learns to theologize and to become a true theologian, Christ-bearer, temple-bearer and God-bearer.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos