Many Orthodox Christians who want to make the daily offices of the Church part of their prayer cannot afford, or do not have easy access to, the complete set of service books of the Church. This even applies to a number of small parishes and communities. In both the Greek and Slav traditions therefore compendia have been published to meet this need. The Slavonic General Menaion, which contains full offices for all possibilities, even for feasts of the Lord and Mother of God, and provision for full festal celebration with Doxastika, Polyeleos and so forth, has been translated a number of times into English. The equivalent Greek volume, called the Anthologion, or Anthology, has not. Indeed it is not easy to obtain in Greek, since nowadays most churches possess complete sets of service books, and a number of Greek publishing houses have issued popular editions of all the books fairly cheaply, though many of these are riddled with misprints. In English there does not as yet exist a complete set of service books in any form. The following translation may therefore fill a need.
The Greek Anthologion is not quite the same as the Slavonic General Menaion,, and its contents may be briefly described. The first part gives the full office for the major feasts, including those of Saints who are, to use the technical term, feasted. The second part gives a General Menaion for anonymous Saints who are not feasted, what Western books would call the Common of Saints. Each office therefore consists of the minimum requirement of three Stichera for Vespers and a Canon, with the Kathisma after the third Ode, for Matins. Some editions also give a Doxastikon at Vespers, if you want [to celebrate the Saint with greater solemnity]. This provides enough material for ordinary Sundays and weekdays.
In the Anthologion this Common of Saints is preceded by a series of three Stichera in each of the eight Tones to the Mother of God, it being assumed that at Vespers three Stichera to the Mother of God will be sung and three to the Saint of the day. The third part consists of an abbreviated Oktoichos for weekdays. This consists of Aposticha for Vespers, and Kathismata and two Canons for Matins together with Aposticha for Lauds. One Tone is used each day, Tones Three and Seven being omitted, probably because they are considered the most secular of the eight.
The present translation differs from the printed books in one important respect. Stichera for Vespers are given from the Paraklitiki for each day instead of the series of ones to the Mother of God. The printed books often fail to give the text of the Theotokia at Vespers, assuming that the user will know, or have access to suitable ones. These of course should be ones written to the same melody as the Stichera for the Saint of the day, and these have been provided in the present translation from elsewhere in the Paraklitiki or Menaia.
The sources of the texts vary, many being simply offices for particular Saints adapted for general use. Thus the Canon for the office for a Prophet is that for Saint Sophonias on December 3rd, as the Acrostic in the Greek reveals. This accounts for fact that in each Odes there are only three troparia, since the acrostic has only twenty four letters. The Slavonic text, which does not attempt to reproduce the acrostic, has added a troparion in each Ode to make them up the traditional four. The Canon for two or more Women Martyrs is that for the feast of Saints Menodora, Mitrodora and Nymphodora on September 10th. Other Canons have been truncated. Thus in the offices for one and for two or more Women Ascetics the ninth Ode has been cut from five to four troparia. This is evident in each case because the signature - J O S E PH - has been abbreviated, in one case to J S E PH and in the other to O S E PH. No attempt has been made to reproduce the acrostics, since experience shows that, though this is often possible, it tends to result in excessively contorted and artificial English.
The texts of the offices are full of citations and allusions to Holy Scripture. Many of these are only approximate since absolutely strict quotation is often not possible either because of the exigencies of Greek grammar or the requirements of metre in Stichera and Troparia. In a given context one word may be a allusion to a scriptural text. Thus in the fourth Ode of a Canon the word horses is intended to evoke Habbakuk 3:8, though it would not necessarily do so elsewhere. It should also be stressed that these texts presuppose the use of the Christian, that is the Greek Septuagint, Old Testament, rather than the current Hebrew Massoretic text.
The translation is on the whole conservative and keeps closely to the Greek, though I have on occasion omitted adverbs like clearly, which are often included simply for metrical reasons and add nothing to the sense. To avoid too much use of one I have frequently added a noun like Saint to the numerous adjectives used by themselves in Greek, especially in the vocative, such as blessed, merciful, revered and so forth.
Normally the Canon of the Saint of the day will be sung last and therefore the Irmi of the Odes will not be needed, except as Katavasias for the 3rd, 6th 8th and 9th Odes. In Lent, however, the Canon from the Menaion is sung first. I have therefore included all the Irmi, but placed in square brackets. This will obviate the need for the use of the Irmologion, which is also a book that has not been translated and is not easy to obtain even in the original Greek. The musical volume entitled Irmologion only contains the irmi that are commonly sung, that is those for Sundays, major feasts and Holy Week.
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This page was last updated on 03 November 2008