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Matins

The morning service of the Church is called Matins (in Greek Όρθρος, Orthros). It opens with a censing of the church, a short litany and the reading of six morning psalms. Then follows the intoning of the Great Litany, and immediately after this, verses of Psalm 118 are sung:

God is the Lord and has revealed himself unto us. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

The Troparion is then sung and, if it be a monastery, various groups of psalms which differ each day are read. Once again there are hymns on the theme of the particular day. On major feast days, special praises and psalms are sung, which on the Lord’s Day sing of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. On major feasts and on Sundays, the Gospel is also read.

After the Gospel there is a long intercessory prayer followed by a set of hymns and readings called the Canon. The Canon consists of nine odes, containing verses which are chanted by readers. These verses change depending on what day of the week it is, and on who is commemorated that particular day. Between each ode, special verses are sung. These songs are based on the Old Testamental canticles and conclude with the song of Mary, the so-called Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55).

My soul magnifies the Lord,and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
For he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.For behold, from this day all generations will call me blessed;
For the mighty one has done great things to me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts;
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has exalted those of low degree; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.

The Doxology is chanted followed by the morning litanies. The troparion is also repeated once again before the congregation is dismissed to begin the activities of the day.

The Matins service of the Church unites the elements of morning psalmody and prayer with meditation on the Biblical canticles, the Gospel reading, and the particular theme of the day in the given verses and hymns. The themes of God’s revelation and light are also always central to the morning service of the Church. Sometimes, particularly in churches of the Russian tradition, the matins and the vesper services are combined to form a long vigil service. On special feast days, the blessing of bread, wheat, wine, and oil is added to the Vespers, even when it is served separately from Matins. The faithful partake of the blessed fold and are anointed with the oil as a sign of God’s mercy and grace.