A sticheron (plural: stichera) is a particular kind of hymn used in the Divine Liturgy, acolouthia (Daily office) or other services of the Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite.
Stichera are usually sung in alternation with psalm verses or other scriptural verses. These verses are known as stichoi (sing: stichos).
A sticherarion is a book containing the stichera for the morning and evening services throughout the year. Stichera are also found in other liturgical books. A sticheron must be distinguished from a troparion which is chanted to a different melody, and occurs in different places in the liturgy.
Stichera are commonly written in cycles, on particular themes, and for use in particular liturgical contexts.
Examples of such cycles include:
- Menaion (hymns to particular saints commemorated according to the calendar day of the year)
- Octoechos (hymns for each day of the week, set to the eight tones. Using one tone each week, the entire cycle takes two months to complete)
- Triodion (hymns chanted during Great Lent)
- Pentecostarion (hymns chanted during the Paschal Season
Examples of liturgical contexts where stichera are commonly used include:
- Vespers (the evening office of the Canonical Hours)
- Lord, I Have Cried (introducing the themes being celebrated that day)
- The Litiy (procession on Sundays and feast days)
- The aposticha
- Matins (the morning office)
- The Praises (on Sundays and Feast Days)
- The aposticha (on simple weekdays)
Types of Stichera
A sticheron that follows the words, "Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit" is called a Doxastichon.
A sticheron that is dedicated to the Theotokos is called a Theotokion. Theotokia normally follow the words, "Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages amen." The Theotokion that comes at the end of "Lord, I Have Cried" at Vespers on Saturday night, Friday night and the eves of most Feast Days is called a Dogmatikon, because it deals with the dogma of the Incarnation.
The Aposticha are a type of stichera which differ from the norm in that they precede their stichos (psalm verse) rather than follow.
Each Sticheron is written to be chanted in one of the eight liturgical modes, or a variation on those modes known as an automelon (Slavonic: samoglasen, podoben)
Composed settings of stichera are frequently found in recordings of Orthodox liturgical music, some by well known composers.
- A detailed definition can be found in the "Psalm" Glossary of Orthodox terms.