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     (A Guide For Participating In The Divine Liturgy Of St. John Chrysostom)
by the Very Reverend Michel Najim & T.L. Frazier

7.  The Epistle


The first reading is chanted before the reading of the Holy Gospel. It is either a passage from the Epistles or the Acts of the Apostles bearing on Sunday’s theme. The Book of Revelation, though accepted as canonical by the Orthodox Church, is not a part of the readings. This is because millenarian sects in the early Church misused the book and cast a shadow over its orthodoxy. Nevertheless, the Church slowly accepted the Book of Revelation as divinely inspired and uses many of its images of heavenly worship in the Divine Liturgy, though it never changed its lectionary in order to include readings from it.

The Reader first intones the Prokeimenon, the designated verses from the Psalms concerning the coming of Christ. Prokeimenon is a Greek word meaning, “that which is set forth,” or “what precedes.” In the early Church, the chanting of a psalm from the Bible preceded the readings from the New Testament, thus the singing of the psalm was called the “Prokeimenon.”

In the Apostolic Constitutions written during the fourth century, it is said that after the two readings from the Old Testament had concluded, “some other person should sing the hymns of David and the people should join in at the conclusion of the verses.”132 Some have suggested that this singing of the psalms at the conclusion of a Scripture reading may be derived from the practice of singing a psalm in the synagogue when the scrolls were put away.

After the designated reading from the Epistle, the priest then says: “Peace be with you, the reader.”

Then the people shout thrice: “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”133


132 The Apostolic Constitutions, Book 2, 57.
133 In Hebrew al means, “He comes, He appears;” el means, “God;” and ouia means, “praise and sing hymns” to the living God. The Hebrew word is directly transliterated in only one place in the New Testament, in Revelation 19:1-6 where the context is the “marriage supper of the Lamb.” The eucharistic overtones cannot be missed.


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Page created: 24-12-2012.

Last update: 24-12-2012.