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Table prepared for the Litiy. At the back, center is a dish of wheat, to one side is a vessel of oilve oil, and to the other is a vessel of red grape wine. The five loaves in the front are covered with an embroidered cloth.
For the brief memorial service, see Lity.

The Litiy or Litiyá (Greek: Λιτή(Liti), from litomai, "a fervent prayer")[1] is a procession, followed by intercessions, which takes place during the All-Night Vigil in the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite. Whenever there is a Litiy there is also an Artoklassia ("breaking of bread"). Either of these terms may be used to describe both liturgical actions collectively.

The procession and the artoklassia are two segments that are added to the service on Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church and on important feast days. In some monasteries and parish churches it is customary to serve an All-Night Vigil with Litiy every Saturday night.

Before the service begins, a tetrapod (table), covered with a cloth of linen or brocaid is prepared. On the table is set a tray with five leavened loaves of bread, known as artoklassia loaves (see Artos for details). Also placed on the table is a dish containing wheat kernals, a vessel of pure olive oil, and a vessel of red wine. All of these will be blessed at the end of Vespers.



Litiy procession on the Feast of Saint Nicholas in Piraeus, Greece.

The procession takes place after the two litanies and the Prayer at the Bowing of Heads. A crucession forms, headed by the cross and liturgical banners, followed by the chanters, the deacon with the censer and the priest. The procession moves from the sanctuary to the narthex of the church. The reason it takes place in the narthex is so that the catechumens and penitents, who in ancient times were not allowed to enter the nave (the main body of the church) could participate in the joy and blessings of the feast.[2] In those days the faithful would follow the clergy into the narthex to show their humility and brotherly love towards the catechumens and penitents.[2] Sometimes, especially on major feast days, the procession will go outside in front of the church, or even in a processio through the streets of the town.

During the procession, the singers chant the sticheron (hymn) of the temple (i.e., the patron saint or Feast day to which the church or monastery is dedicated), followed by stichera of the feast being celebrated. If it is an ordinary Sunday with no higher-ranking saint being celebrated, the chanters sing only the stichera of the temple. On major feasts, the stichera of the temple are omitted and only the stichera of the feast are chanted.

Once the procession reaches the narthex and all of the appointed stichera have been chanted, the deacon begins a series of extended petitions (these are the "Litiy" proper), asking for the intercession of many of the saints, and praying for the church and the world:

...For the salvation of the people; for the [governmental authorities]; for the clergy; for all afflicted Christian souls desirous of aid; for this city, the country and all Christians living therein; for our deceased fathers and brethren; for deliverance from famine, epidemics, earthquake, flood, fire, the sword, hostile invasion and civil strife....".[2]

After each petition, the chanters respond with Kyrie eleison ("Lord, have mercy") multiple times. After the last petition, everyone bows their heads, and the chief celebrant (the highest-ranking priest who is vested and serving, or the bishop, if he is present) removes his klobuk (if he wears one) and reads a prayer, summarizing the petitions of the Litiy.

Then the singers chant the Aposticha and the procession returns to the center of the church, where the artoklassia table has been set up. After the Aposticha, the reader says the Trisagion.


The artoklassia table during the blessing (the priest has already taken up the fifth loaf and is holding it in his right hand while he says the blessing).

After the Lord's Prayer which concludes the Trisagion, the chanters sing the Apolytikion (troparion of the day) three times. During each chanting of the troparion the deacon walks around the artoklassia table, censing the offerings thereon, three times.

At the end of the chanting, the priest removes his klobuk and takes up one of the five loaves in his right hand, while he says the prayer:

O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Who didst bless the five loaves and didst therewith feed the five thousand: Do Thou, the same Lord, bless these loaves, wheat, wine and oil; and multiply them in this holy habitation, and in all the world; and sanctify all the faithful who shall partake of them. For it is Thou, O Christ our God, Who dost bless and sanctify all things; and unto Thee we ascribe glory: with the Father Who hath no beginning, and Thine all-holy, good, and life-crating Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

During the words "loaves, wheat, wine and oil" above, he points with the loaf he holds in his right hand to each item as he names it, making thereby the sign of the cross. Then he breaks the loaf he holds in his hand.

The choir then chants, "Blessed be the name of the Lord!" three times, followed by Psalm 33, "I will bless the Lord at all times..." (in the KJV this is Psalm 34).

During the Canon the clegy and faithful come forward to venerate the Gospel Book (if it is Sunday) or the icon of the feast (if it is a weekday) and are anointed by the chief celebrant using the oil that was blessed during the Artoklassia.

After being anointed, each person receives a piece of the blessed bread, which has been dipped in the wine. This is done as a blessing and to provide them with nourishment to sustain them through the rest of the Vigil. (In ancient times, immediately after the blessing of the loaves a selection from the New Testament (Book of Acts or Epistles) was read and a sermon given. During this time all sat and the deacons distributed a piece of the blessed bread and a cup of the blessed wine to each.)[2] This custom is still observed in some monasteries, notably on Mount Athos.[1]

The wheat that was blessed is reserved until the time of sowing, when it is planted. The wheat which is grown will be used to bake prosphora for the Divine Liturgy.

Other occasions


Holy Saturday

An Artoklassia (but no Litiy) also takes place at the end of the Divine Liturgy on Holy and Great Saturday, except that only bread and wine are blessed, and the priest omits the words "wheat" and "oil" from the prayer. The reason for this Artoklassia is that the faithful used to not leave the church after the Liturgy on Holy Saturday, but would remain there until the beginning of the Paschal Vigil. They would be given bread, a glass of wine, and some dried fruit to help sustain them through the Vigil.

In time of need

In times of public calamity, the Litiy (but not the Artoklassia) is celebrated outdoors, in fields (in case of famine) or in public squares or city halls.[2]. In this case a procession would be formed going from the church to wherever the Litiy would be held.


  1. ^ a b Hapgood, Isabel F. (1922), Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church (5th ed.), Englewood NJ: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese (published 1975), pp. 13, 594  
  2. ^ a b c d e Sokolof, Archpriest D. (1917), A Manual of the Orthodox Church's Divine Services, Jordanville NY: Printshop of St. Job of Pochaev (published 2001), p. 50  


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