The Eastern Byzantine Churches have a rich church calendar and a prayer life to match it. The number of holidays and commemorations maintained by the Eastern Church far exceeds those of the Western Church. It seems as if every day on the calendar is devoted to at least one, if not more, saints. Saints can be remembered multiple times throughout the year as well. For instance, John the Baptist is honored several times in the Byzantine calendar–his conception, his birth, his death, the three findings of his head, and the Synaxis of the Theophany.
The main prayers commemorating particular saints and their days are canons and akathists. A canon is a poetic prayer consisting of nine odes–well, actually eight except during the Great Fast. Canons are traditionally part of matins (morning prayer) and compline (night prayer). An akathist is a long poetic prayer that is usually recited as part of complin . Taking a cue from Greek origins of the word, akathists are usually recited standing. I have been fascinated by these beautiful prayers, as they weave the theology of the faithful into poetry.
The rich treasury of Greek prayers is often not available to the English-speaking world. Unfortunately, translations are stilted and use archaic pronouns such as “thou” and “thee”. Modern readers often find this off-putting, In an attempt to make these prayers more accessible to the modern reader, I have edited them into modern English.
Any errors are solely the result of my editing. These edited prayers have not been approved by any ecclesiastical authority and should therefore be used only for private devotional purposes. Finally, I have attempted to credit all sources I have used. There is no intention to take credit for the translation work of those who have come before me.