Orthros, also called Matins, is the longest and most complex of the daily cycle services. Unless it is celebrated as a vigil in the evening, orthros (Greek for early dawn or daybreak) is celebrated in the morning.
General Structure of Sunday Orthros
While some sections of Orthros follow the eight-tone cycle, others follow the eleven-part cycle of the Resurrectional Gospels.
- Sunday Orthros opens with the priest's exclamation Blessed is our God ..., Heavenly King ..., and the Trisagion Prayers. (Note: Heavenly King ... is omitted between Pascha and Pentecost.)
- The chanter or reader reads the Royal Troparia (Lord, save your people and bless your inheritance ...).
- The deacon offers a brief litany.
- The six psalms (3, 37, 62, 87, 102, and 142 - Septuagint numbering) are read.
- The deacon intones the Litany of Peace.
- Theos kyrios and the apolytikion are chanted.
- The small synapte is offered by the deacon.
- The kathismata are chanted.
- The reader chants the evlogetaria (Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes).
- The small synapte is offered again by the deacon.
- The Hypakoe is read by the chanter to prepare for the message of the Gospel reading.
- The Anavathmoi (hymns of ascent) are chanted.
- The Prokeimenon are chanted.
- The order of the Gospel is followed: the deacon intones Let us pray to the Lord ..., the priest responds with a prayer, and the chanter sings three times, Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. One of eleven Gospels is read; these Gospels each address a different part of the Resurrection narrative, because it is Sunday, the feast of the Resurrection. Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ ... is read by the chanter.
- The 50th Psalm is chanted.
- Glory ..., both ..., and a hymn are chanted.
- The deacon prays, O God, save your people and bless your inheritance ...
- The canons are chanted: first and third odes; small synapte; mid-ode kathisma; kontakion, oikos, synaxarion (commemorating the saints of the day); and katavasies (odes 1-8).
- The chanter sings the Magnificat while the deacon censes the church.
- The ninth ode of the katavasiai is chanted.
- The deacon again prays the small synapte.
- The chanter sings Holy is the Lord our God three times.
- The Exapostilaria (hymns related to the day's Gospel, or the day's feast) are chanted.
- The Lauds or Ainoi are chanted, slowly (Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.), followed by the doxastika.
- The Great Doxology is chanted. (Many consider the doxology to be the first part of the Divine Liturgy, as this often follows the Sunday Orthros.)
There are seven types of Orthros:
- Sunday Orthros: the longest of the regular orthros services. If this service is celebrated in its entirety it can last up to three hours. It contains three canons, apart from any additional festal canons which may be added. As a result, in most practical situations, abbreviations are made. Often, this Orthros is part of a vigil.
- Daily Orthros: there is no Gospel.
- Feast-day Orthros with Gospel.
- Lenten Orthros: penitential material added (hymns and prayers).
Orthros services related to the Paschal feast:
- Great and Holy Friday Orthros: there are twelve Gospel lessons; Antiphons are used (originating in a different office). The troparion sung at the 15th antiphon: Today is hung upon the cross... (Simeron krematai).
- Great and Holy Saturday Orthros. This contains some elements of the old cathedral office: procession with epitaphios, reading of three pericopes (OT, epistle, Gospel) at the end.
- Paschal Orthros. This is celebrated from Pascha Sunday until Thomas Sunday. The six psalms and the praises are not part of this service.
- A handout given to seminarians participating in the 2004-2005 altar groups at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
- Orthros for Sunday: Resurrectional Hymns in the original Greek, with a new English translation by Spencer T. Kezios, Protopresbyter, published by Narthex Press, 2nd edition, 1998.