Building a Liturgical Library
Some Practical Tips
following tips assume that you have a limited budget, and so cannot
afford to buy everything at once. If this is not true in your case,
there are some books you could skip, but they are good to have on hand
in any case.
The most basic liturgical text every Orthodox
Christian should have is a good prayer book. You can read about
several suggested texts in the following article:
Recommended Prayer Books.
These prayer books can be ordered from, most Orthodox bookstores. Of the prayer books in that article, the one I would recommend the most is the Jordanville Prayer book. Another very useful text mentioned in that article that I would especially recommend is the Book of Akathists, Volume 1 and Volume 2, published by Jordanville. You can also find a number of Akathists and canons online.
all of the hyperlinks that follow, will take you to the web page of an
Orthodox Bookstore that sells the text, or to a free online version
After a prayer book the most basic liturgical texts are the Horologion and the Psalter.
For an Horologion, there are three choices:
1. The Unabbreviated Horologion
by Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York. In my opinion
this is the best one available, and certainly those following Russian
practice would be advised to use this one.
2. The Great Horologion
by Holy Transfiguration Monastery. For those following Byzantine
practice, this is an option. Also, even those following Russian
practice will find it a useful reference, since it contains Synaxarion
readings for each day of the year, and also the troparia and kontakia
appointed for each day.
3. The Liturgikon
by Bishop Basil of the Antiochian Archdiocese is also often used as an
Horologion, and also follows Byzantine practice. The text is
primarily designed for use by clergy.
There is also the Old Rite Horologion,
which for those on the Old Rite would obviously be the way to go, but
it is also useful for reference, and has the Troparia and Kontakia for
every day of the year.
Another thing to consider here is the
price. You will find that the Jordanville Horologion is quite a
bit less expensive, but it also contains much less material. It has all
of the Horologion texts, and some extra material – but the Great
Horologion has quite a bit more.
Two other texts which
contain Horologion material, but which are presented in a easier to use
format (structured for use for normal Sunday services are The All-Night Vigil for Choir and Laity, and The Divine Liturgy for Choir and Laity, both published by Jordanville.
a Liturgical Psalter, there are three options that I would recommend for consideration:
1) "The Psalter According to the Seventy,"
Holy Transfiguration Monastery (also known as "The Boston
Psalter"). This is far from a perfect
translation, but I have found it to be a generally accurate
translation, and it has the advantage of matching many of the most
commonly used liturgical texts available in English (it is used in all
of the publications of St. John of Kronstadt Press, Holy
Transfiguration Monastery, and most of those published by Holy Trinity
Monastery in Jordanville New York. The disadvantage of this text is
that the word choice can at times be awkward. It is also available in a
pocket sized edition.
2). "A Psalter for Prayer,"
which is published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York.
The translation is based on the Coverdale Psalter, which is what you
would find in an older (traditional) edition of the Book of Common
Prayer, but is corrected with the Septuagint. It also contains a great
deal of instructional material and additional prayers found in Slavonic
editions of the Psalter, but not in the Boston Psalter or most other
editions published in English to date. For example, it has prayers at
the end of each kathisma, and it has instructions on how to read the
Psalter over the dead, with the prayers that are said according to
Slavic practice in conjunction with that. The quality of the printing
is very high... the paper and binding are of similar quality to the
Boston Psalter, but the cover looks better, the size is a bit larger,
and it has two marker ribbons sewn into the binding. The translation is
well done and beautiful, and I would say that it is worth having just
for the additional material that it contains. The biggest disadvantage
is that it presently is not used in very many liturgical texts, but
that may change. I have found it to be sometimes less precise than the
Boston Psalter, when comparing the text to the Greek Septuagint, but I
can't say that this is based on a thorough and detailed review of the
3). "The Psalter of the Prophet and King David with the Nine Biblical Odes,"
which is published by the Center
for Traditionalists Orthodox Studies. This translation is based
on the King James Version, but corrected by the Septuagint which is
arguably better stylistically than the HTM Psalter, and for many, it
will be more familiar to the text that they are familiar with, but like
the Jordanville Psalter, it is not used in many liturgical texts...
though it is used in texts published by the Center for Traditionalist
You will also want to get a liturgical Gospel Book.
At present, the only source I know of for one that uses the King James
Version, and is arranged according to Slavic usage, is from Holoviaks Church Supply. Their
supply of King James Gospels is running out, and they do not currently
plan on reprinting them. They are now using the New King James,
and so if you want the King James text, you had better order soon, or
else you may have to wait for some other supplier to publish a similar
text, which could be years in the works. For home use, it is nice to
have a liturgical Gospel for two reasons: you will want a Gospel to
venerate, and you will want to know how to begin the
daily readings properly… which you wouldn’t know simply by looking
up the text in a typical Bible.
A new option for those seeking a traditional English translation of the Gospels, is the Gospel Lectionary published by the Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies.
I have not personally seen it yet, but I would suspect that it has some
of the same advantages and disadvantages as their Epistle Lectionary,
which I comment on below. The feedback I have gotten from priests
who have been using this Gospel has so far been mostly positive. It is
very affordable, and so for home use, it is probably the best available
Likewise, you will need an Epistle Book (Apostol or Apostolos):
The best option available at present for those following Slavic
practice is the Apostol, published by St. Tikhon’s Seminary
Press. The translation used is neither King James,
Douay-Rheims,nor New King James, but a synthesis of the three. It
retains the traditional pronouns (for the most part) and verb endings,
but eliminates archaic words. At times one might have wished that
they had kept more of the King James text than they did, but the text
is more easily understandable than the unrevised King James text would
have otherwise been.
The best option available for those following Byzantine practice is the Epistle Lectionary, published by the Center for Traditionalists Orthodox Studies.
It is based on the King James text, and is arranged according the
Byzantine Lectionary… which differs slightly from time to time from the
Slavic lectionary. It’s biggest draw back is that it is published
only in paper back at present. This has the advantage, however,
of making it inexpensive enough for individuals to purchase a copy for
home use (it is only $25.00). Also, some of the “corrections” of
the King James text in this edition are debatable. For example,
in the KJV, 1st Corinthians 11:14 reads “Doth not even nature
itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto
him?” The CTOS edition emends this to read “Doth not even nature itself
teach you, that, if a man have flowing
hair, it is a shame unto him?” I understand the point that they
are trying to make, and the translations is not completely
indefensible; but no other translation translates it this way, if one
wanted to bring out the nuance that they are trying to highlight it
would probably have been better to have translated it as “wear long
hair” rather than “have long hair” or “have flowing hear”, and also
this really gets us beyond translation into the realm of commentary…
and that is what commentaries and footnotes are for. And although
emendations are made to make theological points, many instances in
which the text of the King James is no longer easily understood, and
could be easily corrected by updating a word or two… those
opportunities were passed by. Nevertheless, on the balance, this
edition is a good option.
The one liturgical text that still gives you the most material in one volume remains:
Divine Prayers and Services of the Catholic Orthodox Church of Christ, by Fr. Seraphim Nassar.
is one of the oldest English service books around, and the translation
is at times awkward, however, with this text, one has enough material
to serve Vespers and Liturgy (or Typika) for Sundays and important
feast days (though on most Sundays there would be lacking the material
from the Menaion, but at least one would have the material from the
Octoechos, Triodion, and Pentecostarion for Sundays. Even though,
at this point, I have a relatively complete liturgical library, I still
find myself referring to this text to help fill in those gaps that
remain, or simply to compare its texts and rubrics with other
texts. One advantage to this text, for those who do not have a
liturgical Gospel or Epistle book is that it has the readings for
Sundays and Feasts throughout the year (albeit in a sometimes less than
The Octoechos forms the core of
most Sunday services, and so this is certainly a text one would want to
get early on. There is only one choice in print at present: The Complete Octoechos
published by St. John of Kronstadt Press. This contains both the Sunday
Octoechos and the Weekday Octoechos in 4 volumes. The Sunday Octoechos,
translated by the Monastery of the Veil, has been around longer, but is
currently out of print.
The General Menaion,
is the next text that one should acquire, however, at present there is
no edition currently in print. One might be able to get their
hands on a copy of one published some years back from a monastery in
England, which to date is the best edition in English that has been
printed. There is an on-line version of the General Menaion, and
at present it seems to be the only available option:
The General Menaion.
General Menaion contains sort of a fill in the blank service for
different types of saints and feasts. If you don’t have the
appointed Menaion service… or if you are doing a service for a saint
that has not had a service written for them, then the General Menaion
is what is used.
The Festal Menaion
by Bishop Kallistos (Ware), gives you the complete texts for the Great
Feasts of the Church (outside of the Triodion/Pentecostarion
cycles). If you can’t afford the entire Menaion at once, this is a
must have… and in any case it is a good text to have around both for
the texts of the services themselves and also for the introduction
which discusses in detail the structure of the services.
The Lenten Triodion published
by Bishop Kallistos is currently the best options available in English
that is in print. For the Triodion, you will eventually also want to
get the Lenten Triodion Supplementary Texts, which contains much of the weekday material from the Triodion that is not found in the first volume.
Pentecostarion published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery is a
complete translation of the Greek version of the Pentecostarion, but
that text is currently out of print, and it is not clear how soon it
will be reprinted. St. John of Kronstadt Press has published a translation of the complete Slavonic Version of the Pentecostarion, which is very well done.
The biggest ticket item on this list is The Menaion. To
purchase the Menaion from St. John of Kronstadt Press (which I
recommend), you have some options. You can buy it all at once, in
either loose-leaf versions, or in hardback. You can also buy
loose-leaf versions as you need them (for example, you could make an
annual order of all the texts you would need that year… or you could do
this quarterly) this is the most painless way, in terms of coming up
with the money all at once. You can also buy the hardback version, one
or two volumes at a time, as you have the money – if you do that, keep
in mind that unless you do a lot of weekday services, February, March,
April, and May will probably not be the ones you will want to get
first, since on most Sundays during these months, the texts of the
services will be taken from the Octoechos and from the Pentecostarion
or the Triodion.
Holy Transfiguration Monastery has now published a new translation of the Menaion. It
follows Greek practice, and is slashed according to Byzantine Meter.
For those using Byzantine Chant, this is a good thing. For those
using any other style of chant, these slashes become a headache that is
avoided by the St. John of Kronstadt Menaion. The text is nicely
printed, and a good font size.
Another text that is still very useful, is The Service Book of the Orthodox Church, translated by Isabel Hapgood.
Aside from the Scriptures themselves, this is the oldest Orthodox text
published in English, and even today it remains a popular text, and is
used especially when it comes to services from the Trebnik (or
Euchologion), such as baptisms, weddings, etc.
You can find translations of a small portion of the services of the Trebnik online.
There is now a complete translation of the Trebnik available from St. Tikhon’s Press, available in 4 volumes:
Volume 1: The Holy Mysteries
Volume 2: The Sanctification of the Church, and Other Ecclesiastical and Liturgical Blessings
Volume 3: Occasional Services / Funeral Services
Volume 4: Services of Supplication (Moliebens)
even more complete Trebnik will be available in the future from St.
John of Kronstadt Press. However, these texts are more than most
laymen or choir directors would probably ever want or need. For
them, the Hapgood Service book is still the best way to go.
with these texts, a good Liturgical Calendar, is also a must
have. There are two options in English, for those on the Old Calendar: The St. Innocent Calendar,
which is based on the Russian Jordanville Liturgical Calendar, and has
complete rubrics for every Sunday, Feast day, and most of the services
a typical parish would do during the week. The other option is the St. John of
Kronstadt Press Liturgical Calendar, provides less detail typically for Sundays, but which makes reference to the the Order of
for each day of the year when fuller rubrics are not provided. The St.
Innocent Calendar also makes reference to the Order of Divine
Services, and so regardless of your choice, the Order of Divine
Services is an essential reference text..
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