Guide to Orthodox Vocabulary for Catechumens and Converts

From the January, 2012, church bulletin

In Orthodoxy we use a lot of words and phrases that are not common, or are used in an uncommon way, or are from languages other than English. Some of our catechumens and convert families have expressed dismay at learning them. Here’s a handy guide to some of the ones people most commonly trip over.

  • Prokeimenon – This is the name for the psalm verses read immediately before the Epistle. Please do not call it the “pro-Pokemon.”
  • Troparia – This refers to short, variable hymns sung in the first part of the service. Actually “troparia” is the plural; the singular is “troparion.” “Troparia” does not mean a vocal solo about literary memes.
  • Kontakion (plural, kontakia) – This is another kind of short, variable hymn, sung with the troparia. It does not mean somebody from the Bluegrass State.
  • Exapostilarion – This is a part of the Canon. It comes from the Greek word for “dismiss,” although it is not a dismissal, so don’t leave when we get to it, I’m looking at you, teens. It does not mean, “People who used to be apostles are funny.”
  • All-night vigil – This is an evening service combining vespers and Orthros (see below). Yes, we know it doesn’t last all night. That’s just what we call it. It’s not funny anymore. Please stop bugging Father about it.
  • Orthros – This is the Greek word for morning prayer. It is also sometimes called “Matins,” although that’s Latin and thus kinda frowned upon. However:
  • Augustine was a Bishop in north Africa at the turn of the 5th century. Despite what some say, he is in fact a saint of the Orthodox Church. Father would like to ask the the parents not to speak disparagingly of the saints, even the ones who are not entirely Orthodox in their theology, and he also asks the teens not to use it as an insult word.
  • Akathist – This is a long and beautiful hymn, often written as a song of praise and supplication to the Theotokos or one of the other saints. It does not refer to a devoted reader of Agatha Christie. It’s “a-ka-thist” with a “k.”
  • The non-mercenaries – This refers to saints, often medical doctors, who worked out of love for others and not for riches. It has nothing to do with soldiers. The best-known non-mercenaries are Kosmos and Damien. Speaking of which, “Damien” is a man’s name; it does not refer to a British noblewoman named “Ian.” Finally,
  • Eis polla eti despota – This means, “Many years to you, master.” We sing it for the bishop when he visits. It does not mean, “This chicken is a tyrant.”

That’s all for now. See me after church if there are other terms you don’t understand, and once I get enough I will put those in a future bulletin. – Matushka Elizabeth (thanks to Deacon Gus for his help)


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

3 comments on “Guide to Orthodox Vocabulary for Catechumens and Converts

  1. Eis polla eti despota = este pollo es una déspota. I love it, I can’t stop laughing.

  2. All night vigil was never funny, just silly.

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