Not everyone who attends a Byzantine Rite Catholic or Orthodox church has experienced the service of Typica, and in particular Typica with Holy Communion.
In fact, many may not even know that Typica (Obednitsa in Slavonic) is a traditional Byzantine Rite communion service, although the service will seem familiar to Byzantine Rite Catholics and Orthodox who participate for the first time because of its relation to Divine Liturgy.
This is because most Byzantine Rite Catholic and Orthodox churches only offer Divine Liturgy and perhaps Matins and Vespers weekly. They also may offer the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts, or Presanctified Liturgy, on weekdays during Great Lent.
A Primary Service in North Carolina Missions
Typica with Holy Communion led by a deacon, with the permission of the bishop and the local ordinary, is a primary service in Ukrainian Catholic missions in North Carolina. The service is offered because there are few priests in the state and receiving communion at Typica as a Saturday vigil or on Sunday fulfills the Sunday obligation for Byzantine Rite Catholics.
When led by a deacon, Typica with Holy Communion does not fulfill the Sunday obligation for Roman Catholics; however, a Presanctified Liturgy, which is led by a priest, would fulfill the obligation for Roman Catholics if it were offered.
The communion bread (or particles) offered to the faithful at Typica with Holy Communion is presanctified, or consecrated earlier by a priest. The wine is unconsecrated. The wine is still considered the Blood of Christ, however, because of its contact with the consecrated particles. The deacon must consume any unused particles and the blood at the end of the service.
Typica without Holy Communion is a service that priests and deacons are encouraged to pray on their own on days when there is no Divine Liturgy, and which any of the faithful can pray on their own on such days privately or publicly if no priest or deacon is available to lead the service. The service is found in the Horologion and either follows the Sixth Hour or precedes the Ninth Hour, depending on the time of year.
At the Ukrainian Catholic Mission of Canton (UCM Canton), we celebrate Typica with Holy Communion led by a deacon monthly because a priest is not available to offer monthly services.
We offer this service with the hope of building interest in the development of a fully functioning Ukrainian Catholic, Byzantine Rite parish in Western North Carolina, and to introduce and promote Byzantine Rite prayer among the faithful.
The History of Typica
Little is known about the history of Typica. In The Liturgy of the Hours East and West (The Liturgical Press) Robert Taft tells us that Typica was first used by monks as a presanctified liturgy on days when Divine Liturgy was not offered.
Archimandrite Job Getcha, a faculty member of the Institute of Postgraduate Studies in Orthodox Theology in Chambésy, Switzerland, provides more specific information in his The Typikon Decoded (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press). He writes that Typika “is an ancient communion office originally used by Palestinian anchorites” and is found in “a ninth-century manuscript Horologion.”
Although it does not mention Typica with Holy Communion, Holy Transfiguration Monastery’s The Psalter According to the Seventy, which we use at UCM Canton, includes this description of Typica in its glossary:
“A short service consisting of psalms, hymns, and prayers taken from Divine Liturgy and chanted on days when Liturgy is not celebrated. In modern practice, the Typica is read on the eves of Nativity and Theophany even though there is a Liturgy, and it is also read when there is a Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.”
Practice at Canton Mission, Structure, Rubrics
At UCM Canton, we generally use the translation of Typica found in Holy Transfiguration Monastery’s Book of Hours, which we have found to be the most traditional available and the easiest to follow. We supplement this book with the communion prayers found in the monastery’s Prayer Book, which also includes the service of Vespers that we use.
We also have used the Typika included in The Horologion published by Sophia Press of the Melkite Diocese of Newton, as well as the Great Vespers service.
The former and first bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma, His Excellency Most Reverend Robert Moskal, approved a version of Typica with Holy Communion that is still in use by some missions.
Some also use a version of Typica approved for use of deacons by the Byzantine Ruthenian Metropolitan Church of Pittsburgh.
Typica, with little variation, generally follows this order:
Some start with the usual beginning. At UCM Canton, we go directly into Typica because it follows Great Vespers.
Some texts include only parts of Psalms 102, 145, and 33. The text we use at UCM Canton contains complete versions of these psalms, which we believe is more prayerful for our purposes.
In addition, the communion prayers we recite are more extensive than most texts. We believe this is especially important so that we give the faithful a deeper prayer service since we are not celebrating Divine Liturgy.
There is also some variance in rubrics. Some call for the deacon not to vest. Others do. We vest at UCM Canton because in Slavic tradition a deacon is not permitted to distribute Holy Communion without vesting. If we were to celebrate Typica without Holy Communion during the week, the deacon would not vest; however, he would wear a cassock and riassa.
Since Typica is not Divine Liturgy, some plain chant the entire service. We sing most of the service as we generally would in Divine Liturgy but plain chant other sections. Some will not incense at all. We incense only once, at the beginning of the service.
If the faithful celebrate Typica without Holy Communion (they cannot celebrate Typica with Holy Communion) either privately or publicly, they plain chant the text and read, not chant, the Prokeminon, Epistle, Alleluia, and Gospel. The service, then, is similar to praying one of the hours, with the benefit of praying parts of Divine Liturgy and reading the daily Epistle and Gospel.
However it is celebrated, Typica is a beautiful and traditional Byzantine Rite service, one that allows you to experience some of the beauty of Divine Liturgy when a priest is not available.