A hymn is a song of praise, adoration, or a prayer directed usually to some religiously significant figure. In Orthodox Christianity, the subject matter for hymns in addition to God includes the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints. Writers of hymns are known under a number of terms: hymnographer, hymnist, hymnodist, melode and melodist.
The concept of songs of praise, or hymns, was known from the Old Testament era, particularly the Psalms, as well as in the pagan world. The word hymn comes from the Greek hymnos (ὕμνος) through the Latin hymnus. In Orthodox Christian practice hymns may first have appeared as songs of praise primarily to God and later were extended to praise of saints as well as of God through his saints.
In the New Testament a number of references are made the singing of hymns as prayer as well as being a means of teaching and admonishing believers.
Among the most noted Orthodox Christian composers of hymns are Ss. Ephrem the Syrian, Joseph the Hymnographer, Kassiani the Hymnographer, and Roman the Melodist. There are many others who have composed hymns, including to modern times.
We have a listing of free online hymn books (hymnals).