Byzantine Rite

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The Byzantine Rite, also known as the Rite of Constantinople or Constantinopolitan Rite, is the liturgical rite currently used by the Eastern Orthodox Church and some other churches. Its development began during the third century in Constantinople and it is now the second most-used rite in Christendom after the Roman Rite.

The rite consists of the divine liturgies, canonical hours, forms for the administration of sacred mysteries (sacraments) and the numerous prayers, blessings and exorcisms developed by the Church of Constantinople.

Also involved are the specifics of architecture, icons, liturgical music, vestments and traditions which have evolved over the centuries in the practice of this rite. Traditionally, the congregation stands throughout the whole service, and an iconostasis separates the sanctuary from the nave of the church. The faithful are very active in their worship, making frequent bows and prostrations, and feeling free to move about the temple (church building) during the services. Also, traditionally, the major clergy and monks neither shave nor cut the hair or beards.

Scripture plays a large role in Byzantine worship, with not only daily readings but also many quotes from the Bible throughout the services. The entire psalter is read each week, and twice weekly during great lent.

Fasting is stricter than in the West. On fast days, the faithful give up not only meat, but also dairy products, and on many fast days they also give up fish, wine and the use of oil in cooking. The rite observes four fasting seasons: Great Lent, Nativity Fast, Apostles' Fast and Dormition Fast. In addition, most Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year are fast days and many monasteries also observe Monday as a fast day.

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