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History of the Christian Church, Volume III: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 311-600.
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§ 98. The Liturgies. Their Origin and Contents.


J. Goar. (a learned Dominican, † 1653): Εὐχολόγιον, sive Rituale Graecorum, etc. Gr. et Lat. Par. 1647 (another ed. at Venice, 1740). Jos. Aloys. Assemani (R.C.): Codex Liturgicus ecclesiae universae, ... in quo continentur libri rituales, missales, pontificales, officia, dypticha, etc., ecclesiarum Occidentis et Orientis (published under the auspices of Pope Boniface XIV.). Rom. 1749–’66, 13 vols. Euseb. Renaudot (R.C.): Liturgiarum orientalium collectio. Par. 1716 (reprinted 1847), 2 vols. L. A. Muratori (R.C., † 1750): Liturgia Romana vetus. Venet. 1748, 2 vols. (contains the three Roman sacramentaries of Leo, Gelasius, and Gregory I., also the Missale Gothicum, and a learned introductory dissertation, De rebus liturgicis). W. Palmer (Anglican): Origines Liturgicae. Lond. 1832 (and 1845), 2 vols. (with special reference to the Anglican liturgy). Ths. Brett: A Collection of the Principal Liturgies used in the Christian Church in the celebration of the Eucharist, particularly the ancient (translated into English), with a Dissertation upon them. Lond. 1838 (pp. 465). W. Trollope (Anglican): The Greek Liturgy of St. James. Edinb. 1848. H. A. Daniel (Lutheran, the most learned German liturgist): Codex Liturgicus ecclesiae universae in epitomem redactus. Lips. 1847 sqq. 4 vols. (vol. i. contains the Roman, vol. iv. the Oriental Liturgies). Fr. J. Mone (R.C.): Lateinische u. Griechische Messen aus dem 2ten his 6ten Jahrhundert. Frankf. a. M. 1850 (with valuable treatises on the Gallican, African, and Roman Mass). J. M. Neale († 1866, the most learned Anglican ritualist and liturgist, who studied the Eastern liturgies daily for thirty years, and almost knew them by heart); Tetralogia liturgica; sive S. Chrysostom, S. Jacobi, S. Marci divinae missae: quibus accedit ordo Mozarabicus. Lond. 1849. The Same: The Liturgies of S. Mark, S. James, S. Clement, S. Chrysostom, S. Basil, or according to the use of the churches of Alexandria, Jerusalem, Constantinople. Lond. 1859 f. (in the Greek original, and the same liturgies in an English translation, with an introduction and appendices, also at Lond. 1859). Comp. also Neale’s History of the Holy Eastern Church. Lond. 1850; Gen. Introd. vol. second; and his Essays on Liturgiology and Church History. Lond. 1863. (The latter, dedicated to the metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, is a collection of various learned treatises of the author from the “Christian Remembrancer” on the Roman and Gallican Breviary, the Church Collects, the Mozarabic and Ambrosian Liturgies, Liturgical Quotations, etc.) The already cited work, of kindred spirit, by the English Episcopal divine, Freeman, likewise treats much of the old Liturgies, with a predilection for the Western, while Neale has an especial reverence for the Eastern ritual. (Comp. also Bunsen: Christianity and Mankind, Lond. 1854, vol. vii., which contains Reliquiae Liturgicae; the Irvingite work: Readings upon the Liturgy and other Divine Offices of the Church. Lond. 1848–’54; Höfling: Liturgisches Urkundenbuch. Leipz. 1854.)


Liturgy10681068   Λειτουργία, from λεῖτος, i.e., belonging to the λεώς or λαόςpublic, and ἔργον = ἔργον τοῦ λεώ or τοῦ λαοῦ, public work, office, function. In Athens the term was applied especially to the directing of public spectacles, festive dances, and the distribution of food to the people on festal occasions. Paul, in Rom. xiii. 6, calls secular magistrates λειτουργοὶ Θεοῦ. means, in ecclesiastical language,10691069   Comp. Luke i. 23, where the priestly service of Zacharias is called λειτουργία; Heb. viii. 2, 6; ix. 21; x. 11, where the word is applied to the High-Priesthood of Christ; Acts xiii. 2; Rom. xv. 16; Rom. xv. 27; 2 Cor. ix. 12, where religious fasting, missionary service, and common beneficences are called λειτουργίαor λειτουργεῖν. . The restriction of the word to divine worship or sacerdotal action occurs as early as Eusebius, Vita Const. iv. 37, bishops being there called λειτουργοί. The limitation of the word to the service of the Lord’s Supper is connected with the development of the doctrine of the eucharistic sacrifice. the order and administration of public worship in general, and the celebration of the Eucharist in particular; then, the book or collection of the prayers used in this celebration. The Latin church calls the public eucharistic service Mass, and the liturgical books, sacramentarium, rituale, missale, also libri mysteriorum, or simply libelli.

The Jewish worship consisted more of acts than of words, but it included also fixed prayers and psalms (as Ps. 113–118) and the Amen of the congregation (Comp. 1 Cor. xiv. 16). The pagan Greeks and Romans had, in connection with their sacrifices, some fixed prayers and formulas of consecration, which, however, were not written) but perpetuated by oral tradition. The Indian literature, on the contrary, has liturgical books, and even the Koran contains prescribed forms of prayer.

The New Testament gives us neither a liturgy nor a ritual, but the main elements for both. The Lord’s Prayer, and the Words of the Institution of baptism and of the Holy Supper, are the living germs from which the best prayers and baptismal and eucharistic formulas of the church, whether oral or written, have grown. From the confession of Peter and the formula of baptism gradually arose in the Western church the Apostles’ Creed, which besides its doctrinal import, has also a liturgical office, as a public profession of candidates for baptism and of the faithful. In the Eastern church the Nicene creed is used instead. The Song of the angelic host is the ground-work of the Gloria in Excelsis. The Apocalypse is one sublime liturgic vision. With these belong also the Psalms, which have passed as a legitimate inheritance to the Christian church, and have afforded at all times the richest material for public edification.

In the ante-Nicene age we find as yet no traces of liturgical books. In each church, of course, a fixed order of worship gradually formed itself, which in apostolic congregations ran back to a more or less apostolic origin, but became enlarged and altered in time, and, until the fourth century, was perpetuated only by oral tradition. For the celebration of the sacraments, especially of the Eucharist, belonged to the Disciplina arcani, and was concealed, as the most holy thing of the church, from the gaze of Jews and heathens, and even of catechumens, for fear of profanation; through a misunderstanding of the warning of the Lord against casting pearls before swine, and after the example of the Samothracian and Eleusinian mysteries.10701070   Comp. Tertullian, Apolog. c. 7; Origen, Homil. 9 in Levit. toward the end; Cyril of Jerusalem, Praefat. ad Catech. § 7, etc. On the downfall of heathenism in the Roman empire the Disciplina arcani gradually disappeared, and the administration of the sacraments became a public act, open to all.

Hence also we now find, from the fourth and fifth centuries onward, a great number of written liturgies, and that not only in the orthodox catholic church, but also among the schismatics (as among the Nestorians, and the Monophysites). These liturgies bear in most cases apostolic names, but in their present form can no more be of apostolic origin than the so-called Apostolic Constitutions and Canons, nor nearly so much as the Apostles’ Creed. They contrast too strongly with the simplicity of the original Christian worship, so far as we can infer it from the New Testament and from the writings of the apologists and the ante-Nicene fathers. They contain also theological terms, such as ὁμοούσιος(concerning the Son of God), θεοτόκος(concerning the Virgin Mary), and some of them the whole Nicene Creed with the additions of the second oecumenical council of 381, also allusions to the worship of martyrs and saints, and to monasticism, which point unmistakably to the Nicene and post-Nicene age. Yet they are based on a common liturgical tradition, which in its essential elements reaches back to an earlier time, perhaps in some points to the apostolic age, or even comes down from the Jewish worship through the channel of the Jewish Christian congregations. Otherwise their affinity, which in many respects reminds one of the affinity of the Synoptical Gospels cannot be satisfactorily explained. These old catholic liturgies differ from one another in the wording, the number, the length, and the order of the prayers, and in other unessential points, but agree in the most important parts of the service of the Eucharist. They are too different to be derived from a common original, and yet too similar to have arisen each entirely by itself.10711071   Trollope says, in the Introduction to his edition of the Liturgia Jacobi: “Nothing short of the reverence due to the authority of an apostle, could have preserved intact, through successive ages, that strict uniformity of rite and striking identity of sentiment, which pervade these venerable compositions; but there is, at the same time, a sufficient diversity both of expression and arrangement, to mark them as the productions of different authors, each writing without any immediate communication with the others, but all influenced by the same prevailing motives of action and the same constant habit of thought.” Neale goes further, and, in a special article on Liturgical Quotations (Essays on Liturgiology and Church History, Lond. 1863, p. 411 ff.), endeavors to prove that Paul several times quotes the primitive liturgy, viz., in those passages in which he introduces certain statements with a γέγραπται, or λέγει, or πιστὸς ὁ λόγος, while the statements are not to be found in the Old Testament: 1 Cor. ii. 9; xv. 45; Eph. v. 14; 1 Tim. i. 15; iii. 1; iv. 1, 9; 2 Tim. ii. 11-13, 19; Tit. iii. 8. But the only plausible instance is 1 Cor. ii. 9: Καθὼς γέγραπται· ἅ ὀφθαλμὸς οὐκ εἷδε, καὶ οὖς οὐκ ἤκουσε, καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίαν ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἀνέβη, ἅ ἡτοίμασεν ὁ Θεὸς τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν, which, it is true, occur word for word (though in the form of prayer, therefore with ἡτοίμασας, and ἀγαπῶσί σε instead of ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν) the Anaphora of the Liturgia Jacobi, while the parallel commonly cited from Is. lxiv. 4 is hardly suitable. But if there had been such a primitive written apostolic liturgy, there would have undoubtedly been other and clearer traces of it. The passages adduced may as well have been quotations from primitive Christian hymns and psalms, though such are very nearly akin to liturgical prayers.

All the old liturgies combine action and prayer, and presuppose, according to the Jewish custom, the participation of the people, who frequently respond to the prayers of the priest, and thereby testify their own priestly character. These responses are sometimes a simple Amen, sometimes Kyrie eleison, sometimes a sort of dialogue with the priest:


Priest: The Lord be with you!

People: And with thy spirit!

Priest: Lift—up your hearts!

People: We lift them up unto the Lord.

Priest: Let us give thanks!

People: It is meet and right.


Some parts of the liturgy, as the Creed, the Seraphic Hymn, the Lord’s Prayer, were said or sung by the priest and congregation together. Originally the whole congregation of the faithful10721072   In the Clementine Liturgy, all, πάντες; in the Liturgy of St. James, the People, ὁ λαός. was intended to respond; but with the advance of the hierarchical principle the democratic and popular element fell away, and the deacons or the choir assumed the responses of the congregation, especially where the liturgical language was not intelligible to the people.10731073   In the Liturgies of St. Basil and St. Chrysostom, which have displaced the older Greek liturgies, the διάκονοςor χορόςusually responds. In the Roman mass the people fall still further out of view, but accompany the priest with silent prayers.

Several of the oldest liturgies, like those of St. Clement and St. James, have long since gone out of use, and have only a historical interest. Others, like those of St. Basil and St. Chrysostom, and the Roman, are still used, with various changes and additions made at various times, in the Greek and Latin churches. Many of their most valuable parts have passed, through the medium of the Latin mass-books, into the liturgies and agenda of the Anglican, the Lutheran, and some of the Reformed churches.

But in general they breathe an entirely different atmosphere from the Protestant liturgies, even the Anglican not excepted. For in them all the eucharistic sacrifice is the centre around which all the prayers and services revolve. This act of sacrifice for the quick and the dead is a complete service, the sermon being entirely unessential, and in fact usually dispensed with. In Protestantism, on the contrary, the Lord’s Supper is almost exclusively Communion, and the sermon is the chief matter in every ordinary service.

Between the Oriental and Occidental liturgies there are the following characteristic differences:

1. The Eastern retain the ante-Nicene division of public worship into two parts: the λειτουργία κατηχουμένων, Missa Catechumenorum, which is mainly didactic, and the λειτουργία τῶν πιστῶν, Missa Fidelium, which contains the celebration of the Eucharist proper. This division lost its primitive import upon the union of church and state, and the universal introduction of infant baptism. The Latin liturgies connect the two parts in one whole.

2. The Eastern liturgies contain, after the Words of Institution, an express Invocation of the Holy Ghost, without which the sanctification of the elements is not fully effected. Traces of this appear in the Gallican liturgies. But in the Roman liturgy this invocation is entirely wanting, and the sanctification of the elements is considered as effected by the priest’s rehearsal of the Words of Institution. This has remained a point of dispute between the Greek and the Roman churches. Gregory the Great asserts that the apostles used nothing in the consecration but the Words of Institution and the Lord’s Prayer.10741074   Epist. ad Joann. Episc. Syriac. But whence could he know this in the sixth century, since the New Testament gives us no information on the subject? An invocatio Spiritus Sancti upon the elements is nowhere mentioned; only a thanksgiving of the Lord, preceding the Words of Institution, and forming also, it may be, an act of consecration, though neither in the sense of the Greek nor of the Roman church. The Words of Institution: “This is my body,” &c., are more-over addressed not to God, but to the disciples, and express, so to speak, the result of the Lord’s benediction.10751075   On this disputed point Neale agrees with the Oriental church, Freeman with the Latin. Comp. Neale, Tetralogia Liturgica, Praefat. p. xv. sqq., and his English edition of the Primitive Liturgies of S. Mark, S. James, etc., p. 23. In the latter place he says of the ἐπίκλησις Πνεύματος ἁγίου: “By the Invocation of the Holy Ghost, according to the doctrine of the Eastern church, and not by the words of institution, the bread and wine are ’changed,’ ’transmuted,’ ’transelemented,’ ’transubstantiated’ into our Lord’s Body and Blood. This has always been a point of contention between the two churches—the time at which the change takes place. Originally, there is no doubt that the Invocation of the Holy Ghostformed a part of all liturgies. The Petrine has entirely lost it: the Ephesine (Gallican and Mozarabic) more or less retains it: as do also those mixtures of the Ephesine and Petrine—the Ambrosian and Patriarchine or Aquileian. To use the words of the authorized Russian Catechism: ’Why is this (the Invocation) so essential? Because at the moment of this act, the bread and wine are changed or transubstantiated into the very Body of Christand into the very Blood of Christ. How are we to understand the word Transubstantiation? In the exposition of the faith by the Eastern Patriarchs, it is said that the word is not to be taken to define the manner in which the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of our Lord; for this none can understand but God; but only this much is signified, that the bread, truly, really, and substantially becomes the very true Body of the Lord, and the wine the very Blood of the Lord.’ ” Freeman, on the contrary in his Principles of Div. Serv. vol. ii. Part ii. p. 196 f, asserts: “The Eastern church cannot maintain the position which, as represented by her doctors of the last four hundred years, and alleging the authority of St. Cyril, she has taken up, that there is no consecration till there has followed (1) a prayer of oblation and (2) one of Invocation of the Holy Ghost. In truth, the view refutes itself, for it disqualifies the oblation for the very purpose for which it is avowedly placed there, namely to make offering of the already consecrated Gifts, i.e., of the Body and Blood of Christ; thus reducing it to a level with the oblation at the beginning of the office. The only view that can be taken of these very ancient prayers, is that they are to be conceived of as offered simultaneously with the recitation of the Institution.” 3. The Oriental liturgy allowed, more like the Protestant church, the use of the various vernaculars, Greek, Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, &c.; while the Roman mass, in its desire for uniformity, sacrifices all vernacular tongues to the Latin, and so makes itself unintelligible to the people.

4. The Oriental liturgy is, so to speak, a symbolic drama of the history of redemption, repeated with little alteration every Sunday. The preceding vespers represent the creation, the fall, and the earnest expectation of Christ; the principal service on Sunday morning exhibits the life of Christ from his birth to his ascension; and the prayers and lessons are accompanied by corresponding symbolical acts of the priests and deacon: lighting and extinguishing candles, opening and closing doors, kissing the altar and the gospel, crossing the forehead, mouth, and breast, swinging the censer, frequent change of liturgical vestments, processions, genuflexions, and prostrations. The whole orthodox Greek and Russian worship has a strongly marked Oriental character, and exceeds the Roman in splendor and pomp of symbolical ceremonial.10761076   On the mystical meaning of the Oriental cultus comp. the Commentary of Symeon of Thessalonica († 1429) on the Liturgy of St. Chrysostom, and Neale’s Introduction to his English edition of the Oriental Liturgies, pp. xxvii.-xxxvi.

The Roman mass is also a dramatic commemoration and representation of the history of redemption, especially of the passion and atoning death of Christ, but has a more didactic character, and sets forth not so much the objective history, as the subjective application of redemption from the Confiteor to the Postcommunio. It affords less room for symbolical action, but more for word and song, and follows more closely the course of the church year with varying collects and prefaces for the high festivals,10771077   The Collectsbelong strictly only to the Latin church, which has produced many hundred such short prayers. The word comes either from the fact that the prayer collects the sense of the Epistle and Gospel for the day in the form of prayer; or that the priest collects therein the wishes and petitions of the people. The collect is a short liturgical prayer, consisting of one petition, closing with the form of mediation through the merits of Christ, and sometimes with a doxology to the Trinity. Comp. a treatise of Neale on The Collects of the Church, in Essays on Liturgiology and Church History, p. 46 ff, and William Bright: Ancient Collects and Prayers, selected from various rituals, Oxford and London, 1860. thus gaining variety. In this it stands the nearer to the Protestant worship, which, however, entirely casts off symbolical veils, and makes the sermon the centre.

Every Oriental liturgy has two main divisions. The first embraces the prayers and acts before the Anaphora or Oblation (canon Missae) to the Sursum corda; the second, the Anaphora to the close.

The first division again falls into the Mass of the Catechumens, and the Mass of the Faithful, to the Sursum corda. To it belong the Prefatory Prayer, the Introit, Ingressa, or Antiphon, the Little Entrance, the Trisagion, the Scripture Lessons, the Prayers after the Gospel, and the Expulsion of the Catechumens; then the Prayers of the Faithful, the Great Entrance, the Offertory, the Kiss of Peace, the Creed.

The Anaphora comprises the great Eucharistic Prayer of Thanksgiving, the Commemoration of the life of Jesus, the Words of Institution, the Oblation of the Elements, the Invocation of the Holy Ghost, the Great Intercession for Quick and Dead, the Lord’s Prayer, and finally the Communion with its proper prayers and acts, the Thanksgiving, and the Dismissal.10781078   It is a curious fact, that in the Protestant Episcopal Trinity chapel of New York, with the full approval of the bishop, Horatio Potter, and the assistance of the choir, on the second of March, 1865, the anniversary of the accession of the Russian Czar, Alexander II., the full liturgy or mass of the orthodox Graeco-Russian church was celebrated before a numerous assembly by a recently arrived Graeco-Russian monk and priest (or deacon), Agapius Honcharenko. This is the first instance of an Oriental service in the United States (for the Russian fleet which was in the harbor of New York in 1863 held its worship exclusively upon the ships), and probably also the first instance of the celebration of the unbloody sacrifice of the mass and the mystery of transubstantiation in a Protestant church and with the sanction of Protestant clergy. The liturgy of St. Chrysostom, in the Slavonic translation, was intoned by the priest; the short responses, such as Hospode, Pomelue (Kyrie, Eleison), were grandly sung by the choir in the Slavonic language, and the Beatitudes, the Nicene Creed (of course, without the “Filioque,” which is condemned by the Greek church as a heretical innovation), and the Gloria in Excelsis in English There were wanting only the many genuflexions and prostrations, the trine immersion, and infant communion, to complete the illusion of a marriage of the two churches. Some secular journals gave the matter the significance of a political demonstration in favor of Russia! One of the religious papers saw in it an exhibition of the unity and catholicity of the church, and a resemblance to the miracle of Pentecost, in that Greeks, Slavonians, and Americans heard in their own tongues the wonderful works of God! But most of the Episcopal and other Protestant papers exposed the doctrinal inconsistency, since the Greek liturgy coincides in au important points with the Roman mass. Unfortunately for the philo-Russian movement, the Russo-Greek monk Agapius soon afterward publicly declared himself an opponent of the holy orthodox oriental church, an d charged it with serious error. The present Greek church, which regards even the archbishop of Canterbury and, the pope of Rome as unbaptized (because unimmersed) heretics and schismatics, could, of course, never consent to such an anomalous service as was held in Trinity chapel for the first, and in all probability for the last time.



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