"The Explanatory Typikon"

Just as the task of our Typikon is to accommodate church services to sacred commemorations of the day, its composition, unwritten at the very beginning, must necessarily have come about at the very dawning of a specifically Christian remembrance.

The appearance of the very first sacred commemorations must belong to apostolic times, when undoubtedly there already existed the liturgical commemoration of at least the day of the Resurrection (Sunday). Thus it would be no exaggeration to say that the first lines of our Typikon, setting forth the order for the Sunday services, have their origin in the intentions of the Apostles themselves.

It is therefore no wonder that the old Russian bookmen referred to the Typikon as a divinely inspired book. It began to come together in those times when Christianity was at a spiritual height, making possible the appearance of inspired scriptures.

Having begun in the Apostolic age, the development of our divine services culminated, one might say, only in the 16th century, when the Typikon reached fully its present appearance.

And, certainly, no less esteem is due to the Typikon because of its creation having taken half a millennium. Rather the contrary.

Thanks to this long period of development of our Typikon, the Church of various epochs has participated in that development, and every one of those epochs had its strength and beauty, and these are reflected in our centuries-old Typikon.

Not only, too, did the Church of various times participate in composing our Typikon, but also the Church of various places and lands; hence, it was worked over not only by the Apostolic Church, but by the conciliar Church (conciliar in respect of place and of time).

From the pages of the Typikon is wafted the tender spirit of ancient church life, here from Constantinople, there from ascetic Egypt and the Thebaid.

If one bears in mind the mass of Old Testament material to be found in our divine services, then during the minutes spent in these services we also spiritually experience also holy biblical antiquity we walk together with one mind in the Church of the Patriarchs and Prophets.

The Typikon, a conciliar creation of the Church, was at the same time worked over by the most exceptional, the most worthy of her sons. Its immediate authors were people who had no other life but prayer and fasting, who were enabled by the sweetness of God's Service, to receive food once every 5 days and to sleep only standing or sitting up, who finished up their all-night vigils in locked churches being burnt up by pagans, people whose martyr-blood was mingled sometimes with the Blood of the Eucharist. The pages of the Typikon created by them could not but give off the sense of tears of emotion and the sacrificial blood of confessors which could not fail to be sensed from thence and to lend the book a spirit of exceptional holiness and purity.

In this is to be found the secret of the deep effect of Orthodox services on the soul, so that the person who participates in them receives the influence of the Church of all times in the persons of those of greatest authority in her and lives the life of the entire Church. And this influence doesn't come just from the poetry and music of the divine service, but from its very architecture, from those 40-fold Lord have mercy's, from those silent prostrations introducing long pauses into the singing and reading, from the antiphonal method of singing, etc. The Typikon is occupied especially with the architecture and aesthetic of the divine services.

In part, the content of our current Typikon acquired its character from St. Sabbas (Savvas), or, more exactly, "The Holy Laura in Jerusalem our Venerable Father Sabbas." This is a monastic community not far from Jerusalem in the harsh Judaean desert, founded in the 5th century by Saint Sabbas the Sanctified (or "Consecrated").

What share of the current redaction of the Typikon could be attributed to St. Sabbas cannot be determined given the present condition of historical sources. But in any case the home country of our present Typikon is Palestine and the ascetic feats accomplished in her desert. The founders of our Church Typikon were, it follows, nurtured by the same desert which nurtured Elijah and John the Baptist, and which prepared our Savior Himself for his service in the world. Here the very air was saturated with holy recollections. Nearby were the great holy places of the Christian world: Jerusalem, with the Lord's Tomb and the Church of the Resurrection , where prayer itself became more fervent and where, according to the witness of one Western pilgrim of the 4th century (Silvia of Aquitaine), when Passion Gospels were read, "the whole people raised such crying and wailing that there was noone at all who could not be affected to the point of tears at that hour."

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St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas