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Epistle

Dur­ing the solemn singing of the Thrice-Holy Hymn to the Most Holy Trin­i­ty, the cler­gy pro­ceed to the High Place behind the altar table, bless­ing Christ who “sits upon the throne of glo­ry, upon the cheru­bim…” From this place, as we have already men­tioned, the cel­e­brant turns and bless­es the peo­ple with the Peace of Christ. After the Peace is returned, the Epis­tle of the Divine Litur­gy is chant­ed, usu­al­ly by a lay­man of the Church or one in the minor order of Read­er.

The epis­tle read­ing in tra­di­tion­al Church lan­guage is called the apos­tle or the apos­tolic read­ing. This is so since the read­ing may be tak­en from the Acts of the Apos­tles as well as from one of the apos­tolic let­ters of the New Tes­ta­ment scrip­tures. The word epis­tle means let­ter. We should note here that the only book of the new Tes­ta­ment writ­ings which is not read litur­gi­cal­ly in the Ortho­dox Church is the Book of Rev­e­la­tion because of its apoc­a­lyp­tic char­ac­ter.

There is a series of epis­tle read­ings pre­scribed in reg­u­lar order for each day of the Church Year, with the excep­tion of the week days of Great Lent when the Divine Litur­gy is not cel­e­brat­ed. There are also spe­cial epis­tle read­ings pre­scribed for par­tic­u­lar Church cel­e­bra­tions. Thus at any giv­en Divine Litur­gy more than one epis­tle les­son may be chant­ed.

Before the actu­al read­ing of the epis­tle, an appoint­ed verse from the Psalter is sung called the prokeimenon, which lit­er­al­ly means, “that which goes before.” As usu­al, the prokeimenon, with its verse, is suit­ed to the par­tic­u­lar litur­gy and pre­pares the peo­ple to lis­ten to the Word of God.