Such a treasure we have received from our precious Orthodox faith. The service of Matins is the longest and most complex of the daily cycle of services. She is the queen of the services, second to the Divine Liturgy.
The matinal service displays some of the most beautiful hymnody in the Orthodox faith and serves as a model for other services such as: Akathist, Small and Great Canons of Supplication, along with the Moleben.
The term Matins has the following etymology: Matins, which is also spelled Mattins is derived from the Latin, matutinae, “morning”. In the Greek Orthodox Church it is also called Orthros (from Greek, meaning “morning”, “dawn” or “day break”). Matins is commonly celebrated in the morning, though it may be celebrated as part of a vigil in the evening.
The Matins service is a spiritual pot-pouri, consisting of Psalms, hymns of entreaty and petitions, Canons (spiritual poetry consisting of 9 odes), majestic hymns (Kathisma/Sessional Hymns, Hymns of Ascent/ Anavathmi, Prokeimenon, Hymns of Descent/Katavasia, Exapostilaria, Lauds/Praises) and a reading from the Gospel.
The structure is such that the participants are offered a great lesson into the feast or Saint to which the Matins service is dedicated. The Canons provide a great lesson concerning the current celebration. The Kontakion and Oikos deliver a synopsis of the cause for the celebration, drawing us in so that we are not merely observers but participants in the feast. The Synaxarion beckons us to the family of the righteous as we hear the names of all the Saints who are also commemorated on this day. And finally we hear the Great Doxology and stand in awe as did the Shepherds in Bethlehem so long ago as they heard the Angelic greeting: “Glory to God in the highest and on Earth, peace goodwill among men”.
A study of the service of Matins is a study into the heart of man, for we realize that it is not our God that needs this service, but it is we who need it. The instruction, the prayer, the link to the Old and New Testaments; all of these things bring us ever closer to our Lord. May this proximity be more than a simple intellectual exercise but may our hearts be moved. When we hear the roll-call of the Saints in the Synaxarion, may we remember that they were once like us, yet now they intercede for us.
General structure of Sunday Matins
Note: This is a general outline. Local practices may omit or augment the service, so any questions should be directed to the local parish Priest.
The following is adapted from http://orthodoxwiki.org/Matins
- Sunday Matins, when served apart from a vigil opens with the Priest’s exclamation “Blessed is our God…”
- The choir responds “Amen.” and the Priest reads “Glory to Thee…” & the prayer “Heavenly King…”
- The Reader reads the Trisayion Prayers.
- The Priest exclaims “For Thine is”…
- The Reader reads “Lord have mercy” twelve times, “Glory. Both now.” and Psalms 19 & 20.
- The Priest censes the whole Temple during the readings of Psalms 19 & 20.
- After Psalms 19 & 20 the Reader reads the Trisagion prayers.
- The Priest exclaims “For Thine is…”
- The Reader reads the Royal Troparia.
- The Priest exclaims the first three petitions of the Fervent Supplication (Have mercy upon us O God…” and then exclaims “For Thou art a Good God…” The choir responds “Amen. In the name of the Lord, Father bless.” The Priest exclaims “Glory to the Holy…”
- The Reader with the fear of God exclaims “Glory to God in the highest..” (thrice), “Lord Thou shalt open my lips…” (twice) and then reads the Six Psalms (Three, Thirty-Seven, Sixty Two, Eighty Seven, Hundred and Two, and Hundred and Fourty Two.)Selected verses from each Psalm is read at the end of each Psalm. “Glory. Both now.” “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Glory to Thee O God” “Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.” “Glory. Both now.” is read in the middle of the Six Psalms.
- The Deacon intones the Great Litany, at the end of which the Priest exclaims “For unto Thee…”
- The Choir, in the Tone of the week, chants “God is the Lord” with its appointed verses. The Resurrectional Apolytikion follow (always twice) “Glory” that of the Saint, “Both now” the Theotokion in the Tone of the Saint’s Apolyikion.
- The Deacon intones the Small Litany, at the end of which the Priest exclaims “For Thine is the dominion…”
- The Choir chants the Kathismata of the Tone of the week after the 1st and 2nd readings of the Psalter (the Psalter readings are not read in common practice).
- The Choir straightaway after chanting the Kathismata chants the Evlogytaria.
- The Deacon intones the Small Litany, at the end of which the Priest exclaims “For blessed is Thy name…”
- The Reader reads the Hypakoi of the Tone of the week.
- The Choir sings the Songs of Ascent of the Tone of the week, which is followed by the Prokeimenon and its verse.
- The order of the Gospel is followed: the Deacon intones “Let us pray to the Lord…”, the Choir responds “Lord have mercy.” The Priest exclaims “For Holy art Thou our God…” The Choir responds “Amen” and then chants “Let every breath…” (thrice). The Deacon exclaims “That we may be vouchsafed to hear…” The Choir responds “Lord have mercy.” (thrice). The Deacon then exclaims “Wisdom. Upright let us attend…” and the Priest exclaims “Peace be unto all.” The Priest exclaims “The reading is from the Gospel according to…” The Choir responds “Glory to Thee O Lord…” and the Deacon exclaims “Let us attend!” The Priest now reads the appointed Resurrectional Gospel (Eothinon) for the Sunday. He reads it from the right side of the Holy Alter Table. After the Gospel reading the Choir chants “Glory to Thee O Lord..”
- The Reader reads “Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ…”
- The 50th Psalm is chanted, always in the Grave Tone.
- Then the following hymns are usually sung:
“Glory…” “Through the intercessions of the Apostles…” “Both now..” “Through the intercessions of the Theotokos…” “Have mercy on me, O God…” “Jesus having risen…”
- On Sundays of the Triodion (excluding Palm Sunday, or a Sunday on which Annunciation might fall), the following hymns are sung:
“Glory…” “The doors of repentance…” “Both now…” “Guide me in the paths of salvation…” “Have mercy on me, O God…” “When I the hapless one bring to mind the multitude…”
- The Priest exclaims “O God, save thy people and bless thine inheritance…”
- The Canon is now chanted or read in the following order: The Choir chants the 1st Ode of the Resurrectional Canon (Tone of the week), the Canon to the Theotokos (Tone of the week), and the Canon of the Saint of the day. They then chant the 1st Ode‘s sesonal Katavasia. The 3rd Ode is chanted in the exact same manner.
- After the Katavsia of the 3rd Ode the Deacon intones the Little Litany, at the end of which the Priest exclaims “For Thou art our God…”
- The Reader reads the Saint’s Kontakion and Oikos, if there is one. The Choir then chants the Kathisma “After the 3rd Ode.”
- The Reader reads the following Odes of the Canon as follows: Ode 4 to Ode 8 (Resurrectional, Theotokos, Saint of day).
- The Choir immediatly begins to chant the sesonal Katavasia of Odes 4 to 6.
- The Deacon intones the Little Litany, at the end of which the Priest exclaims “For Thou art the King of Peace…”
- The Reader reads the Resurrectional Kontakion & Oikos of the Tone of the week, followed by the Synaxarion of the Day from the Menaion (see after 6th Ode of Saint’s canon).
- The Choir chants the Katavasies of the 7th and 8th Odes.
- The Deacon exclaims “The Theotokos and Mother of Light…”
- The Choir sings “Higher in honour then the Cherubim…” with its verses. The 9th Ode of the Canon immediatly follows, in the exact way the 1st Ode was chanted. During the 9th Ode, the Deacon censes the Temple.
- The Deacon intones the Little Litany, at the end of which the Priest exclaims “All the choirs of angels bless Thee, and to Thee do we send up glory…”
- The Choir chants “Holy is the Lord our God”. After, they chant the corresponding Exaposteilarion to the Matins Gospel.
- The Choir chants the Praises in the Tone of the week: “Let everything that has breath” and “Praise Him all His angels…”
- The Reader reads the rest of the Psalm’s verses up until the verse “To do in them…”
- The Choir chants the Stichera of the Praises.
- The Choir chants “Glory” and the corresponding Doxasticon to the Matins Gospel.
- The Choir chants “Both now… Most blessed art thou, Virgin Theotokos…”
- The Choir chants the Great Doxology in the Tone of the week.
- The Choir chants if Tones 1 – 4 “Today is salvation…” and if Tones Pl. 1st – Pl. 4th “Having risen…”
- The Deacon intones the Litany of Fervent Supplication, at the end of which the Priest exclaims “For a merciful…”
- The Deacon intones the Litany of Completion, at the end of which the Priest exclaims “For Thou art a good God…”
- The Priest exclaims “Peace be unto all…” and the Deacon intones “Let us bow our heads…”
- The Priest reads silently the “Prayer at the Bowing of the Heads…” and then exclaims “Thine it is to have mercy…”
- The Deacon intones “Wisdom”, the Choir “Bless”, the Priest “Blessed is God Who is…”
- The Reader reads the prayer “Lord God establish…”
- The Priest exclaims “Most Holy Theotokos save us!”
- The Reader reads “More honourable…” and “Glory. Both now” “Lord have mercy” (thrice) “Holy Father bless!”
- The Priest reads the Dismissal “Glory to Thee our God… May He who has Risen from the dead, Christ our true God…”
- The Reader reads “Come let us worship…” and the 1st Hour.
- The Divine Liturgy is served.