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Choral Corner #32: Why are some troparia & kontakia virtually identical?

Certain saints and commemorated events have more unique hymnography than others, determined largely by their prominence on the liturgical calendar. For example, Pascha and the duodenary (12 great) feasts have huge amounts of unique material, while more minor feasts and saints often have less. This is because the structure of Vespers and Matins changes based on the rank of the commemoration: the most prominent call for a full Vigil, including a polyeleos and a Gospel reading specific to the feast, while others have no polyeleos and Gospel but do have a sung Great Doxology, and lesser commemorations only call for Daily Vespers and Matins, with a handful of special stichera.

In addition to texts composed for a specific saint or event, Orthodox hymnography includes general troparia and kontakia for different classes of commemorations, such as martyrs, virgins, confessors, clergy, monastics and righteous laypeople. These are templates into which we insert the applicable name(s) in the absence of specific hymns, or if the hymns have not yet been translated into English.

It's important to understand that saints with sparse hymnography are not less holy or worthy of veneration than their more famous counterparts. In many cases, we know very little about them; we simply don't have enough information to compose dozens of hymns, but God knows their lives and works, and that is enough.

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