Friday, September 22, 2023

Ierotelestikon released by Holy Cross Orthodox Press

(Holy Cross Bookstore) - ΙΕΡΟΤΕΛΕΣΤΙΚΟΝ: A Handbook on Orthodox Liturgical Practice by Alkiviadis Calivas is a comprehensive guide that offers deep insights into the traditions, rituals, and customs of Orthodox Christian worship. With scholarly precision, it provides essential information for practitioners and scholars alike, enriching their understanding and appreciation of the liturgical heritage. This book serves as an indispensable resource, shedding light on the significance of each element within Orthodox liturgy fostering a profound connection with the timeless and sacred aspects of the faith. 

Holy Cross Bookstore's marketing emails notified me of this new book just a few days ago and I quickly purchased it. It's actually an expansion of an earlier text and covers not only liturgical points but also dedicates many pages to theological topics. You could easily read this book all the way through or read selections as the spirit guides.

The topics covered are:
  • Daily Prayer
  • Daily Vespers
  • Orthros
  • Baptism - not just baptism, but also the services of the mother, exorcism, naming, and chrismation
  • Divine Liturgy - the bulk of the text
  • Appendices - quite lengthy and helpful
Everything gets an historical, symbolic, and practical explanation. And, for those who love rare words, you won't be able to go three pages between helpful definitions and context. Here is an example:

Do you join yourself to Christ?
Συντάσσῃ τῷ Χριστῷ;

I do join myself to Christ.

The word Συντάσσω has several meanings: to put in order, to bring into line, to associate with or to pledge allegiance to someone. As a military term it meant to put (troops) in array or in order for battle. It also means to be under the command of a superior. Hence the question may be translated and stated in several ways, as for example: "Do you join Christ?" ... "Do you unite yourself to Christ?" ... "Do you pledge allegiance to Christ?

Father Alkiviadis also walks through the services and gives teleliturgical guidance throughout them all along with simple logistical hints on preparation, things to tell servers and parents, and ways to make sure things go smoothly. He also dispels a lot of erroneous, if well-intentioned folk dicta on things like vestiture, church architecture, etc. which will be eye-opening for many. In short, anyone in the Greek Archdiocese will find this book an enjoyable read. It's not just for the clergy, even if some parts of the book might get a little too far into the weeds for the lay reader.

For those not in the archdiocese, the author will say some things definitively that aren't exactly definitive. He'll speak of things "no one" does any more that are in fact quite common elsewhere. At the same time his footnotes and quotations are drawn from all over. He's as likely to quote Alexander Schmemann or Dumitru Staniloae as he is to draw from Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of blessed memory. If you read this book, expect to find yourself ordering other books as you go.

There are some topics where the good author and I don't agree. His views on reformatting the prayers of the catechumens, on the differing ways infants are churched, on the prayers of childbirth, and many other places trend towards rewriting new prayers to improve the existing works.  I, for one, am much more disposed to contextualize what we have received than delete it and replace it with kindler, gentler, more inclusive words. Truthfully, I don't think I'd want to see what contemporary liturgists would come up with. If you read his opinions as just that, you'll be on stronger footing. He is an author speaking for himself and not the Church entire.

It is also a product of the COVID year. There are some opinions here on things like spoons and other lockdown era problems that will rankle some. If you are still very much annoyed by the actions (and inactions) of our hierarchs during this time period, I'd recommend just skipping those sections.

Finally, if there is a future printing, the next revision would do well to iron out some of the formatting that is a bit uneven in places. Some of the material would be a lot more readable in tabular form. And a glossary would also be most welcome.

I'm quite glad I bought it and expect you will be, too.


  1. This looks good. I've always really liked Fr. Alkiviadis' *Great Week and Pascha in the Greek Orthodox Church*. Oriented to Greek usage, but a fantasic survey for all. I picked up another of his not long ago: *Essays in Liturgy and Theology, Volume 3: Aspects of Orthodox Worship*. This looks good as well, but have only thumbed through it.

    1. He does reference himself on occasion. These are mentioned. :)