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September 19, 2020

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


The Sacred Liturgical Books of the Orthodox Church:
The Parakletike

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou 

The Parakletike is a book of our Church that remains at the analogion of the Chanters in the Holy Temples and is very necessary for the Sacred Services. It is called Parakletike, because most of the hymns it contains have a comforting (parakletiko) character, that is, they bring comfort and joy to Christians. There are hymns and, at the same time, prayers.

The oldest and in fact the original name of this book was the Octaechos or Octoechos, which consisted of hymns written by Saint John of Damascus, a leading dogmatic Father of the 8th century A.D. With these hymns he hymned the mystery of the Divine Economy, that is, of the Incarnation of the Son and Word of God, especially the mystery of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. These are the Resurrection troparia, doxastika, theotokia, canons.

In these wonderful troparia, Saint John of Damascus united the accuracy of the dogmatic teaching of the Church with prayer, and made them to be chanted by all Christians. In this way he also neutralized the cacodoxies of the heretics, who were undermining the teachings of Christ, the Apostles and the Fathers, that is, of the Church itself.

These hymns composed by Saint John of Damascus in the eight tones of the Church, from which it received its name Octaechos or Octoechos, were introduced initially at the Lavra of Saint Savvas the Sanctified in Jerusalem, where Saint John of Damascus was a monk. Of course, in the genre and forms of the poetry of Saint John of Damascus, his co-ascetics in the Lavra of Saint Savvas
also composed, namely Kosmas the Bishop of Maiouma, Andrew of Crete, and Stephen the Sabbaite, the nephew of Saint John of Damascus.

Later, and specifically in the middle of the 9th century, Joseph the Hymnographer, imitating Saint John of Damascus, composed canons and stichera in the eight tones for the other six days of the week, and this entire work he called the New Octaechos. Thus, the Octaechos of Saint John of Damascus which contained the Resurrection stichera troparia and his Resurrection canons as well as those of the Fathers of Saint Savvas were subsequently compiled together with the New Octaechos of Saint Joseph the Hymnographer, and all this material became known as the book Parakletike that we have today in the Church.

Thus, the book called Parakletike, includes all the troparia composed by holy people of great spiritual depth and height, and refers to all the days of the week and the eight tones of the Church. They combine poetry of astonishing dimensions that is associated with the wonderful ecclesiastical music of the eight tones, and apart from the knowledge of theology, they express all the mental states of man, that is, joy, compunction, a triumphant character, and many other things.

It should be noted that every day of the week is celebrated by the Church and is dedicated to a specific event and to specific saints. Sunday, which is the first day of the week, is dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ; Monday is dedicated to the Angels; Tuesday to Saint John the Forerunner, who played a significant role in the Incarnation of Christ; Wednesday to the betrayal of Christ, the Cross and the Most Holy Theotokos; Thursday to the Holy Apostles and the popular Saint Nicholas; Friday to the Passion, the Cross and the Burial of Christ; and Saturday to the reposed as well as the Holy Fathers, Prophets and Martyrs. Thus, every day of the week we live it festively and our whole life is closely connected with Christ, the Panagia and the Saints.

At the end of the Parakletike is the Appendix, in which the eleven Eothina Resurrection hymns are published, which are sung as Doxastika on Sunday, which were composed by the Emperor Leo the Wise, as well as the Resurrection Exaposteilaria composed by the son of Emperor Constantine. Also, various Trinitarian hymns are published according to tone, the Exaposteilaria for each day of the week, the Theotokia in every tone, and the Small and Great Supplicatory Canons.

The whole Parakletike is a great liturgical book that combines dogma and prayer, poetry and hymnography, doxology and compunction, and finally it records the whole tradition of our Church. It is a wealth of the highest theological, literary and spiritual standards.

With the book of the Parakletike we are given the opportunity to live the whole mystery of man, that man is small and great, but also the whole mystery of the love of God, that is, what God did for man. And not only do we read about it, but we also chant about it, with small and powerful words and expressions, and thus we can drive out all our sorrows, temptations, and our daily little problems.

When we understand for what purpose we were created and how much God loves us, then everything else goes to the margins of our lives and our soul is comforted, consoled and inspired. Then the whole week is blessed.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.