The Biblical Odes (also called canticles) are nine hymns that are taken directly from Scripture. They are chanted at Matins and form the basis of the canon, a major component of Matins.
The Nine Odes are as follows:
- The (First) Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-19)
- The (Second) Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1-43)
- The Prayer of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10)
- The Prayer of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:1-19)
- The Prayer of Isaiah (Isaiah 26:9-20)
- The Prayer of Jonah (Jonah 2:2-9)
- The Prayer of the Three Holy Children (Daniel 3:26-56])
- The Song of the Three Holy Children (Daniel 3:57-88)
- The Song of the Theotokos (the Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55); the Song of Zacharias (the Benedictus, Luke 1:68-79)
Originally, these odes were chanted in their entirety every day, with a short refrain inserted between each verse.
Eventually, short verses (troparia) were composed to replace these refrains, a process traditionally inaugurated by Saint Andrew of Crete. Normally the second ode is omitted owing to its severe nature. The most notable exception to this is in the Great Penitential Canon of St. Andrew of Crete which is chanted during Great Lent.
Gradually over the centuries, the verses of the Biblical Canticles were omitted (except for the Magnificat), and only the composed troparia were read, linked to the original canticles by an irmos. During Great Lent, however, the original Biblical Canticles are still read.