Divine Liturgy and Calendar

The heart of the community is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The message preached and shared –meaning, concretely, really, truthfully lived– is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Melkite Church maintains an historic continuity with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church; she lives and preserves the faith and practices of the Faith as defined by the first seven Ecumenical Church Councils as well as the decisions from local Church councils that occurred through the years. We call ourselves Catholic because the faith is all over the world, taught by the bishops who are in communion with the Bishop of Rome. The word “Orthodox” is applied to our faith because it reveals the reality of being both “right believing” and “right worshipping”: it is the encounter with beauty of the Holy Trinity. We believe and experience the Melkite Catholic Church as the bearer of an uninterrupted Christian tradition expressed by true faith lived out in worship of God because the Melkite Church is a sure and certain path to Jesus Christ.

The Divine Liturgy

As the Gospels and the writings of the Apostle Paul taught, the Last Supper, that is, the “night when He [Jesus] was betrayed” (I Cor. 11 :23), He instituted the Holy Eucharist, the sacrifice of the New Testament. The Lord wanted to perpetuate His sacrifice on the cross a “memorial” of His life, death and resurrection” until He comes again (I Cor. 11 :25-26). This memorial is known variously as the Breaking of the Bread, the Offering, or the Eucharist.  As St. Augustine of Hippo said, the Holy Eucharist becomes a “mystery of piety, a sign of unity, and a bond of charity” (PL, 35, 1613). We know historically, the word “Eucharist” — eucharistia— meaning thanksgiving, in Greek. By the early years of the first century St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. AD 107) taught that what is done at the Liturgy, the Holy Eucharist, is what is commonly known by the faithful. He said, “Make an effort to meet more frequently to celebrate God’s Eucharist and thus offer to Him praise” (cf. Letter to the Ephesians, ch.13).

Later theologians of the Church speak of the the Eucharist as sacrament of the Church.

The common  Greek word “liturgy” means any public function in the interest (i.e., something done on behalf) of people. When applied by the community of faith taking the witness from The Septuagint –the ancient Greek Bible–  the word “liturgy” means a sacrifice as a religious public service given to us through the Lord’s  “priestly function” (Hebrews 8:6). It is THE privileged point of encounter with the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). What the bishop or the priest does is to pray the Liturgy on behalf of the people who are entrusted to his care. So, each Sunday the priest is enjoined to pray (to offer, to serve) the Liturgy for the people of the parish. The public ministry of the priest, hence, is the offering to God as a Eucharistic sacrifice of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Letter of St. Clement of Rome, c. AD 96).

The regular, communal prayer of the Melkite Church is the Sunday and holy day Divine Liturgy. Why? We closely follow (that is, adhere to) the Third Commandment given to the Prophet Moses by God. Plus, we do what our Savior did: worship the Father. The authentic Christian tradition is to gather on the Day of the Resurrection (i.e., Sunday) to worship the Holy Trinity. For most of the year, hence, the Church prays the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

For several weeks of the year, however, the Church prays the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, bishop of Caesarea. Basil was the bishop there from AD 370 – 379. The prayers of the Liturgy of St. Basil are much longer than those of Chrysostom’s Liturgy which has a rich patrimony of theology and spirituality that will inform and form our spiritual life.  St. Basil’s Liturgy is prayed ten times a year:

  1. The vigils of Christmas and Theophany
  2. The feast of St. Basil, January 1
  3. The first five Sundays of Lent
  4. Holy Thursday
  5. Holy Saturday.

On one or two days of the year, the Liturgy of St. James is prayed, typically on his feast day (October 23rd) and perhaps on the Sunday after the Nativity. It is derived from the Liturgy of the Church in Jerusalem. Generally speaking you will hear this Liturgy prayed by the Melkites and rarely among Slavs, due to the historical links between the Melkites and the Church in Jerusalem. In Eusebius’ Church History the James referenced was James, son of Zebedee, the brother of the Lord, and elected named the bishop of Jerusalem by the apostles.

The Melkite Liturgical Calendar 2021

The liturgical year of the Byzantine Church begins on September 1. In contrast, the Liturgical year of the Latin Church begins on the First Sunday of Advent.

Here are the Sundays. Holy Days, and important saints of the Byzantine Church year as given in the Melkite Church:

January 1, Circumcision of our Lord
January 3, Sunday Before the Theophany of the Lord
January 5, Paramony (Vigil) of the Theophany of the Lord
January 6, Theophany of the Lord
January 10, Sunday after Theophany
January 17, Fifteenth Sunday after the Holy Cross
January 24, Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican
January 31, Sunday of the Prodigal Son

February 2, Encounter of our Lord
February 5, Leave-taking of the Encounter
February 6, Saturday of the Dead
February 7, Sunday of Meat-fare
February 14, Sunday of Cheese-fare
February 15, Great Fast (Lent) begins
February 21, Sunday of Orthodoxy
February 28, Sunday of the Holy Relics and St. Gregory Panamas

March 7, Sunday of the Holy Cross
March 14, Sunday of our Father John Climacos
March 18, Thursday of Repentance
March 20, Saturday of the Acathist Hymn
March 21, Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt
March 25, Great Feast of the Annunciation of the Mother of God
March 27, Saturday of Lazarus
March 28, Palm Sunday
March 29, Great and Holy Monday
March 30, Great and Holy Tuesday
March 31, Great and Holy Wednesday

April 1, Great and Holy Thursday
April 2, Great and Holy Friday
April 3, Great and Holy Saturday
April 4, Holy Resurrection
April 5-10, Bright Week
April 11, Sunday of St. Thomas
April 18, Sunday of the Ointment Bearing Women
April 23, Great Martyr George the Triumphant
April 25, Sunday of the Paralytic
April 28, Mid-Pentecost
April 30, Apostle James, Brother of John the Evangelist

May 2, Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
May 8, Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian
May 9, Sunday of the Man Born Blind
May 12, Leave-taking of Easter
May 13, Feast of the Ascension
May 16, Sunday of the Fathers of Nicea I
May 21, Leave-taking of the Ascension
May 22, Saturday of the Dead
May 23, Sunday of Pentecost
May 24, Monday of the Holy Spirit
May 29, Leave-taking of Pentecost
May 30, Sunday of All Saints
May 31, Traditional Beginning of the Apostles’ Fast

June 3, Feast of the Divine Body
June 6, Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 13, Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 19, Beginning of the Apostles’ Fast (Melkite usage)
June 20, Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 23, Visitation of the Theotokos to her Cousin Elizabeth
June 24, Nativity of the Fore-runner, John the Baptist
June 27, Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
June 29, Apostles Peter and Paul
June 30, Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles

July 1, Wonderworkers Cosmas and Damian
July 2, Deposition of the Mantle of the Mother of God
July 4, Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
July 11, Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
July 18, Sunday of the Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils
July 20, Prophet Elias the Thesbite
July 22, Perfume-bearing Woman Mary Magdalen
July 25, Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
July 27, Great-Martyr Panteleimon the Physician

August 1, Tenth Sunday after Pentecost; Beginning of the Theotokos’ Fast –Procession of the Life-giving Cross
August 6, Transfiguration of our Lord
August 8, Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 13, Leave-taking of the Transfiguration
August 14, Vigil of the Dormition
August 15, Dormition of the Mother of God and Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 16, Transfer of the Icon of the Veil of the Lord
August 22, Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 29, Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost and Beheading the Fore-runner John the Baptist
August 31, Deposition of the Cincture of the Theotokos in Calcoprateia

September 1, Church’s New Year, Father Simeon the Stylite and Synaxis of the Theotokos
September 5, Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 6, The Miracle of the Archangel Michael at Colossae
September 8, Nativity of the Mother of God
September 9, Ancestors of Christ Joachim and Ann
September 11, Saturday Before the Holy Cross
September 12, Sunday Before the Holy Cross
September 13, Dedication of the Basilica of the Resurrection
September 14, Exaltation of the Cross
September 19, Sunday after the Holy Cross
September 23, Conception of the Forerunner
September 26, First Sunday after the Holy Cross

October 1, Protection of the Mother of God
October 3, Second Sunday after the Holy Cross
October 10, Third Sunday after the Holy Cross
October 17, Fathers of the Second Council of Nicea
October 23, Hieromartyr James, first Bishop of Jerusalem
October 24, Fifth Sunday after Holy Cross
October 31, Sixth Sunday after the Holy Cross

November 1, Martyrs, Wonderworkers and Physicians Cosmas and Damian
November 7, Seventh Sunday after the Holy Cross
November 8, Synaxis of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel and all the Heavenly Powers
November 13, Father John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople
November 12, Eighth Sunday after the Holy Cross
November 15, Beginning of the Traditional Nativity Fast
November 16, Apostle Matthew the Evangelist
November 21, Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple
November 28, Thirteenth Sunday after the Holy Cross
November 30, Apostle Andrew, the First Called

December 4, Great-martyr Barbara
December 5, Tenth Sunday after the Holy Cross
December 6, Father Nicholas the Wonderworker
December 9, Maternity of Ann
December 10, Beginning of the Nativity Fast (Melkite usage)
December 12, Sunday of the Forefathers
December 18, Saturday before the Nativity of our Lord
December 19, Sunday before the Nativity of the Lord –Genealogy of the Lord Sunday
December 24, Paramony (Vigil) of the Nativity
December 25, Nativity of our Lord
December 26, Sunday after the Nativity of Our Lord –Holy Joseph, James and David
December 27, Protomartyr Archdeacon Stephen
December 31, Leave-taking of the Nativity of our Lord