Classes (Ranks) of Feasts

Classes (Ranks) of Feasts and the Liturgical Celebration Accorded Them With Particular Attention to the Celebration of Vespers

Contents of this page:

A. Table of the different ranks (classes) of feasts
B. Additional notes about the various ranks (classes) of feasts
C. Table of the liturgical celebration applicable to each rank of feast

A. Table of the different ranks (classes) of feasts

Ranks (Classes) of Feasts
(See the additional notes below for more detail)
Liturgical Celebration Accorded to each Rank
(See the table below for more detail)
Rank
Subclasses (if any) 
I.  Great Feast
Great Vespers at Vigil
Great Vespers Not at Vigil -
1st type
II.  Vigil Feast
III.  Polyeleos Feast
A.  When there is an option to serve a vigil  or not to serve one
B.  Where there is no option to serve a vigil
Great Vespers Not at Vigil - 2nd type
IV.  Great Doxology Feast
Daily Vespers
(Occurs with feasts of rank IV, V, or VI)

V.  Six Stichera
VI.  Ordinary Day


Not shown in the above table are the following services: little vespers, which occurs in association with the vigil service; lenten vespers, a variation of daily vespers; vespers with divine liturgy, associated with certain great feasts; and vespers with the Liturgy of the Presanctified, which is performed on weekdays of Great Lent.

B. Additional notes about the various ranks or classes of feasts

I. Great Feasts - besides the Twelve Great Feasts and all the Sundays of the year, this rank includes the Circumcision of our Lord (Jan. 1), the Birth (June 24) and Beheading (Aug. 29) of St. John the Baptist and Forerunner, and Saints Peter and Paul (June 29). Denoted in the typikon by the red symbol of a cross enclosed in a circle.

II. Vigil Feasts - this rank includes the feasts of a relatively small number of saints, among them: St. John the Theologian (his repose, Sept. 26), the Three Holy Hierarchs (Jan. 30), St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (Dec. 6), St. John Chrysostom (Nov. 13), St. Herman of Alaska (his glorification, Aug. 9), St. Euthymius (Jan. 20); also the patronal feast day of any temple dedicated to a saint, and the patronal feast day(s) of a Church, hence (for the Orthodox Church in America) St. Innocent, Apostle to America, and St. Tikhon, Enlightener of North America. Denoted in the typikon by the red symbol of a cross with a half-circle beneath it.

III. Polyeleos Feasts - this rank includes the feasts of many saints and icons. This rank exhibits two sub-types: (A) where the typicon provides the option of performing a vigil (example: St. Gregory the Theologian, Jan. 25), and (B) where it does not offer this option (example: St. John Chrysostom, return of his relics, Jan. 27). Denoted in the typikon by the red symbol of a cross.

IV. Great Doxology - Denoted in the typikon by the symbol of three red dots enclosed in a red incomplete circle.

V. Six Stichera at Lord, I call - Denoted in the typikon by three black dots enclosed in a black incomplete circle.

VI. Ordinary Day - No symbol indicated in the typikon. On these days a "lesser" saint (sometimes called a "minor" or "small" saint) is commemorated. "Lesser" of course does not mean that the saint is less important, but rather that his or her celebration is smaller.

C. Table of the liturgical celebration applicable to each rank of feast

Type
Distinctive Characteristics
(see also the Vespers Outlines)
When Performed
Great
Vespers

at Vigil
In addition to the features included in great vespers always, this includes the singing of "Bless the Lord, O my soul" and the singing of St. Symeon's Canticle by the choir instead of their reading by the cantor. The litya is also served. Lord, I Call is sung on 10 or 8.
At great feasts and vigil feasts it is assumed that a vigil will be served, and  accordingly instructions are given in the typicon for the vigil. At some polyeleos rank feasts the typicon gives the option of a vigil (usually saying "If the superior wishes, we perform a vigil") and then normally follows this with instructions for the vigil service .
Great
Vespers Not at
Vigil

 (This service exhibits
two
distinct
types)

(1st type:) Same as the vigil service except that the order of the dismissal troparia (and theotokia, if any) is different from that at a vigil, and service concludes with the dismissal of vespers.
(a) Great feasts and vigil feasts: often when the typicon prescribes a vigil, it also gives instructions (to be followed in the event one is not performed) on how to conclude the service at the end of vespers.
(b) Some Polyeleos feasts where a vigil is optional but the option is not exercised.
(2nd type:) Differs from the first type in that "Bless the Lord, O my soul" and St. Symeon's Canticle are read, rather than sung, and strictly there is no litya or blessing of bread, although it is often performed. Lord, I Call may be sung on 6 instead of 8 or 10.
Polyeleos feasts where the typicon does not give the option of serving a vigil, but instead specifies at the end the "dismissal" of vespers and the separate performance of matins.
Daily Vespers See the Vespers  OutlinesIf feast is of Great Doxology rank or higher, the dogmatikon is sung. Feasts with rank of Great Doxology or having 6 stichera on Lord, I Call, or lesser rank.