Typikon: A History of Change

Typikon DecodedThis is the 2nd blog in this series on the Typikon, reflecting on the book THE TYPIKON DECODED by Archimandrite Job Getcha.  The first blog is Typikon:  E Pluribus Unum.

Orthodoxwiki.org says the Typikon “is a book of directives and rubrics that establishes in the Orthodox Christian Church the order of divine services for each day of the year. It assumes the existence of liturgical books that contain the fixed and variable parts of these services.”  The Orthodox free-content encyclopedia acknowledges, “There are a number of major typikon traditions, but there are also many local variations, often codified into an official typikon.

A few historical facts gleaned from Archimandrite Getcha’s book the Typikon give us the sense of the changing nature of the Typikon.   The Typikon associated with the Church of Constantinople is referred to as the Typikon of the Great Church.  It was used from 6th until the 15th Century in cathedral and parish churches in Byzantium and Russia.   It is also called the ‘cathedral rite’.  While it governed the rite of cathedrals and parish churches, it did not determine the liturgical rubrics in monasteries which followed their own Typikon tradition.

The first major monastic Typikon tradition is the Studite Typikon.  Developed in Palestine, it was used in urban monasteries from the 7th century.  In the 10th Century, the Studite Typikon spread to Russia where it was in use in the 11-14th Centuries

The second major monastic Typikon is the Sabaite Typikon which also originated in Palestinian monasteries.  Beginning in the 12th Century the Sabaite Typikion began to replace Studite Typikon.  The Sabaite Typikon then spread rapidly in the 14th Century largely replacing the Studite Typikon.

Simultaneously in the 14th-15th Centuries, the liturgical reforms in the Orthodox world made parish liturgical practice conform to monastic ones.  Thus the Sabaite Typikon became the norm throughout the Orthodox churches.

“It thus appears once more that the spread of the Sabaite Typikon beginning in the fourteenth century led to revisions in the liturgical books and, in the present case, of the Typikon.” (p 221)

Finally, in the 19th Century a new parish typikon spread throughout Greece and the Balkans (first appearing in 1838).   This new parish Typikon reintroduced for pastoral reasons, Getcha tells us, some of the older Studite  rubrics and the more ancient “asmatic” practices.  This partially explains why Greek practice is different from Russian practice in some liturgics.

So while some like to uphold the Typikon as preserving the unchanging nature of Orthodox liturgics, it is obvious that the Typikon itself has undergone changes through history.   Varied liturgical practices were normative in Orthodox, and that the Church changed its practices for various reasons including pastoral ones is also attested to by history.   God is not a God of God of confusion, St. Paul tells us (1 Corinthians 14:33).  The Typikon as well as the other liturgical books of the Orthodox Church were meant to bring a certain catholic order to the church, but obviously there was room for variation and allowance for change as well.  Considering that both the Studite and Sabaite Typikons were of monastic origin and importance, we can also see that variation and change are much a part of the monastic tradition as well.

The Typikon as noted in the previous blog is the most recent of the Orthodox liturgical books as noted in the previous blog.  It governs those other books, but because it assumes their existence, obviously came into existence only after the other books already existed.  The Typikon thus recognizes that change occurs in Orthodox liturgical practices through history and guidance is needed in adapting these changes in an orderly fashion in the Church.  The Typikon thus doesn’t forbid change but rather recognizes it happens and tries to assure it occurs in an orderly way.  The Typikon as such is part of the pastoral life of the Church – recognizing change and the need for change it tries to help Orthodox experience the fullness of the faith through the liturgical life of the Church in a world of constant change.  A Typikon is not a covenant between God and His people, but rather is a way of helping to maintain liturgical order in the ever changing needs of the church.

Next:  Typikon: A Few Notable Changes in Practice