“A man living in the world once visited a wise elder.
“After a few pleasantries over tea, the man reached the point of his visit. “I am not at peace,” he said. “My life is busy, but my life is not meaningful. I am successful, but I am not happy.”
“The elder replied, “My dear, you yearn for real spiritual life. Spiritual life is simple; not easy, but simple. If you want to be saved, live the rhythms of the Church. There is grace in them.”
“What rhythms?” the man asked.
“Only concern yourself with four,” came the reply. “The daily rhythm, the weekly rhythm, the monthly rhythm, the yearly rhythm. … God has established rhythms in his Church. Live these rhythms honestly, with natural and unforced attention, and you will grow in holiness without great unnatural effort. To live with these rhythms and not fight them is to accept reality. Live these rhythms, then do what you want.” The elder helped the man return home with a new way of doing life.” *
Four Rhythms of the Orthodox Church
The Daily Rhythm
A prayer rule is the outline of our daily prayer routine. A prayer rule usually specifies the place and time of prayer and outlines the sequence of your prayers and the specific prayers you will say. It is important to note that each person, preferably with the help of his or her confessor or spiritual advisor, develops their own prayer rule. It is not intended to be a hard and fast rule, but a guideline for your daily prayer life. Generally a prayer rule helps us stay accountable and following it as we are able enriches our spiritual life. As we grow in Christ we may want to change or adjust our rule accordingly. It is always a good idea to seek forgiveness and express gratitude every day.
In addition to prayer our daily life should include readings from scripture, the lives of saints, and any other spiritual readings that are edifying. Joy of All Who Sorrow helps you with this by providing a page on our website from the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church <https://www.holytrinityorthodox.com/calendar/> that features links to Bible readings and Saints of the day.
The Weekly Rhythm
Preparation and participation in the Divine Liturgy
The highlight of each week is our participation in the Divine Liturgy and receiving communion. We begin by recognizing that each day of the week is dedicated to an important event, or else an exceptionally revered saint.
On Sunday, the Church remembers and glorifies the Resurrection of Christ.
On Monday, the first day after the Resurrection, the angels are celebrated.
On Tuesday, St. John the Baptist is glorified, as the greatest of the prophets and the righteous of the Old Testament.
On Wednesday, the betrayal of the Lord by Judas is remembered; the services are thus centered around the Cross of the Lord. This day is a fast day.
On Thursday, the Holy Apostles and St. Nicholas the Wonderworker are glorified.
On Friday, the Passion and death of the Savior on the Cross is remembered, and the services honor the Cross of the Lord. This day is kept as a fast day also.
On Saturday, the Sabbath or Day of Rest, the Mother of God is glorified (she is also glorified every other day), along with the forefathers, prophets, apostles, martyrs, monastics, righteous and all the saints who have attained peace in the Lord. All those who have reposed in the true faith and in the hope of resurrection and life eternal are also remembered.
On Saturday evening we have vigil and confession. On Sunday we attend Divine Liturgy. The combination of these give us a fresh beginning to a new week in Christ.
The Monthly Rhythm
Some Orthodox Churches suggest that if you can’t confess every week, you should at least confess once a month. In I Corinthians 11 we find this passage:
“28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. In John 20:23, Jesus says to his newly commissioned disciples, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.”
The Yearly Rhythm
The Church New Year begins on September 14. Each year includes Great and Holy Pascha, the twelve great feasts in the life of Christ and his mother, and the four fasting seasons.
Great and Holy Pascha
The Paschal cycle, in the Orthodox Church, is the cycle of the moveable feasts built around Pascha (Easter). The cycle consists of approximately ten weeks before and seven weeks after Pascha. The ten weeks before Pascha are known as the period of the Triodion (referring to the liturgical book that contains the services for this liturgical season). This period includes the three weeks preceding Great Lent (the “pre-Lenten period”), the forty days of Lent, and Holy Week. The 50 days following Pascha are called the period of the Pentecostarion (again, named after the liturgical book).**
12 Great Feasts
- The Nativity of the Theotokos, 21 September
- The Exaltation of the Cross, 27 September
- The Presentation of the Theotokos, 4 December
- The Nativity of Christ (Christmas), 7 January
- The Baptism of Christ (Theophany, also called Epiphany), 19 January
- The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, 15 February
- The Annunciation, 7 April
- The Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), the Sunday before Pascha
- The Ascension of Christ, forty Days after Pascha
- Pentecost, fifty Days after Pascha
- The Transfiguration of Jesus, 19 August
- The Dormition of the Theotokos, 28 August
Each great feast is usually preceded by a vigil the night before and Divine Liturgy on the day of the feast.
The Circumcision of Christ, 14 January
The Nativity of St. John the Baptist, 7 July
The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, 12 July
The Beheading of St John the Baptist, 11 September
The Intercession of the Theotokos, 14 October
Four Fasting Seasons
1) Fast of the Holy Apostles: 8 weeks after Pascha comes the Sunday of All Saints. The next day, Monday, the Fast of the Holy Apostles begins. The Fast lasts until June 29, the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.
2) Dormition Fast: 14 August – 28 August (The Dormition of the Theotokos)
3) Nativity Fast: 28 November – 6 January
4) Paschal Fast: The beginning of Great Lent is 48 days before Pascha (dates vary by year)
Other fasting dates occur through the year and are announced in our E-weekly.
This article is not intended to be all encompassing, but it can serve as an outline for you to follow the path of our church year and embrace its rhythms. Other blogs will feature more details about each section as they occur.
* From The Four Rhythms of Life in the Church, a podcast of Fr. John Oliver available at https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hearts_and_minds/the_four_rhythms_of_life_in_the_church
Writer Anna Glass is a member of Joy and serves on the Parish Council. Comments on and submissions to the blog may be sent to her at firstname.lastname@example.org