A liturgical book in the Christian East containing a collection of abbreviated lives of the saints arranged by feast days in the ecclesiastical calendar for use in the akoluthia, or liturgical office, by monks or clerics. It usually offers information regarding the church or place where the saint or feast is held in special honor. The word is also frequently employed to signify a Menologion, or collection of saints' lives cited at length for spiritual reading. The most celebrated Menologion is attributed to Symeon Metaphrastes, who paraphrased material he found in various lives of the saints and arranged them in calendar order, although there is evidence of earlier such collections.
The small Synaxary is merely a calendar or listing of feast days arranged by months, following the Byzantine system, which runs from September 1 to August 31; the Typikon, on the other hand, is a species of perpetual ordo, or calendar, of stabilized feasts with rubrics for resolving problems arising from the coincidence of mobile and fixed feasts. The oldest example of the Typikon is that of St. sabas, apparently originating in the 6th-century monastery that he founded in Palestine; it underwent considerable revisions in editions attributed to Sophronius of Jerusalem (d. 638), John Damascene (d. 749), and Nicholas of Constantinople (d. 925). It is to be distinguished from the monastic Typica, which were documents containing the rule, and frequently the foundation charter of a monastery.
The Synaxary of Constantinople is the most famous collection of liturgically oriented lives, and it witnesses to the official Byzantine cult of the saints. Spread throughout the Oriental churches, it has been preserved in innumerable manuscripts that pose an insoluble problem as to its time of origin. This Synaxary contains the feasts of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary; mobile feasts connected with Easter; the anniversaries of miraculous appearances of saints and angels; the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament; the apostles and disciples named in the New Testament; the martyrs of the early Church and of the Saracen, Bulgarian, and iconoclastic persecutions; and confessors of both Western and Eastern Churches, including the popes down to agathŌ (d. Jan. 10, 681). Most of the patriarchs of Constantinople, the emperors, empresses, and councils are mentioned; earthquakes and barbarian invasions are recalled, probably in connection with the services of thanksgiving rendered after deliverance from these dangers.
Modern research traces the existence of the Synaxary of Constantinople to at least the reign of Leo VI (886–911), but the largest number of versions are from the 10th and 11th centuries. Though frequently inconsistent in dates and biographical detail, they provide useful information regarding the churches and monasteries in which the feasts were kept. Similar synaxaries were used in the Slav, Syrian, Arab, Malabar, Armenian, Ethiopian, Copt, and Assyrian (Persian) Churches and provide a guide to hagiographical and liturgical material.
Bibliography: r. aigrain, L'Hagiographie (Paris 1953). a. ehrhard, Überlieferung und Bestand der hagiographischen und homiletischen Literatur der griechischen Kirche, 3 v. (Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur, 50–52; 1937–52). Synaxarium ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae. Propylaeum ad Acta sanctorum novembris, ed. h. delehaye (Brussels 1902). h. delehaye, ed., Deux Typica byzantins (Brussels 1921). n. nilles, ed., Kalendarium manuale utriusque ecclesiae, 2v. (Innsbruck 1896–97); "Die Freilassung der alten slavischen liturgischen Bücher," Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie 29 (1905) 721–724. o. h. e. burmester, "…The Arabic Synaxarium of the Coptic Church," Journal of Theological Studies 39 (1938) 249–253. g. graf, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur, 5 v. (Vatican City 1944–53). p. peeters, "Pour l'histoire du synaxaire arménien," Analecta Bollandiana 30 (1911) 5–26. s. der nersessian, "Le Synaxaire arménien," ibid. 68 (1950) 261–285.
[f. x. murphy/eds.]