Antiochene Rite

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Antiochene Rite designates the family of liturgies originally used in the Patarchate of Antioch: that of the Apostolic Constitutions; then that of St. James in Greek, the Syriac Liturgy of St. James, and the other Syriac Anaphoras. The line may be further continued to the Byzantine Rite (the older Liturgy of St. Basil and the later and shorter one of St. John Chrysostom), and through it to the Armenian use. But these no longer concern the Church of Antioch.

Contents

Liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions

The oldest known form that can be described as a complete liturgy is that of the Apostolic Constitutions. It is also the first member of the line of Antiochene uses. The Apostolic Constitutions consist of eight books purporting to have been written by St. Clement of Rome. The first six books are an interpolated edition of the Didascalia Apostolorum ("Teaching of the Apostles and Disciples", written in the first half of the third century and since edited in a Syriac version by de Lagarde, 1854); the seventh book is an equally modified version of the Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, probably written in the first century, and found by Philotheos Bryennios in 1883) with a collection of prayers. The eighth book contains a complete liturgy and the eighty-five "Apostolic Canons". There is also part of a liturgy modified from the Didascalia in the second book.

It has been suggested that the compiler of the Apostolic Constitutions may be the same person as the author of the six spurious letters of St. Ignatius (Pseudo-Ignatius). In any case he was a Syrian Christian, probably an Apollinarist, living in or near Antioch either at the end of the fourth or the beginning of the fifth century. And the liturgy that he describes in his eighth book is that used in his time by the Church of Antioch, with certain modifications of his own. That the writer was an Antiochene Syrian and that he describes the liturgical use of his own country is shown by various details, such as the precedence given to Antioch (VII, xlvi, VIII, x, etc.); his mention of Christmas (VIII, xxxiii), which was kept at Antioch since about 375, nowhere else in the East till about 430 (Louis Duchesne, Origines du culte chrétien, 248); the fact that Holy Week and Lent together make up seven weeks (V, xiii) as at Antioch, whereas in Palestine and Egypt, as throughout the West, Holy Week was the sixth week of Lent; that the chief source of his "Apostolic Canons" is the Synod of Antioch in encœniis (341); and especially by the fact that his liturgy is obviously built up on the same lines as all the Syrian ones. There are, however, modifications of his own in the prayers, Creed, and Gloria, where the style and the idioms are obviously those of the interpolator of the Didascalia (see the examples in Brightman, "Liturgies", I, xxxiii-xxxiv), and are often very like those of Pseudo-Ignatius also (ib., xxxv). The rubrics are added by the compiler, apparently from his own observations.

The liturgy of the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions, then, represents the use of Antioch in the fourth century. Its order is this: First comes the "Mass of the Catechumens". After the readings (of the Law, the Prophets, the Epistles, Acts, and Gospels) the bishop greets the people with II Cor., xiii, 13 (The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the charity of God and the communication of the Holy Ghost be with you all). They answer: "And with thy spirit"; and he "speaks to the people words of comfort." There then follows a litany for the catechumens, to each invocation of which the people answer "Kyrie eleison"; the bishop says a collect and the deacon dismisses the catechumens. Similar litanies and collects follow for the Energumens, the Illuminandi (photizómenoi, people about to be baptized) and the public penitents, and each time they are dismissed after the collect for them. The "Mass of the Faithful" begins with a longer litany for various causes, for peace, the Church, bishops (James, Clement, Evodius, and Annianus are named), priests, deacons, servers, readers, singers, virgins, widows, orphans, married people, the newly baptized, prisoners, enemies, persecutors etc., and finally "for every Christian soul". After the litany follows its collect, then another greeting from the bishop and the kiss of peace. Before the Offertory the deacons stand at the men's doors and the subdeacons at those of the women "that no one may go out, nor the door be opened", and the deacon again warns all catechumens, infidels, and heretics to retire, the mothers to look after their children, no one to stay in hypocrisy, and all to stand in fear and trembling. The deacons bring the offerings to the bishop at the altar. The priests stand around, two deacons wave fans (‘ripídia) over the bread and wine and the Anaphora (canon) begins. The bishop again greets the people with the words of II Cor., xiii, 13, and they answer as before: "And with thy spirit". He says: "Lift up your mind." R. "We have it to the Lord." V. "Let us thank the Lord." R. "Right and just." He takes up their word: "It is truly right and above all just to sing to Thee, Who art truly God, existing before all creatures, from Whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named.…" and so the Eucharistic prayer begins. He speaks of the "only begotten Son, the Word and God, Saving Wisdom, first born of all creatures, Angel of thy great counsel", refers at some length to the garden of Eden, Abel, Henoch, Abraham, Melchisedech, Job, and other saints of the Old Law. When he has said the words: "the numberless army of Angels … the Cherubim and six-winged Seraphim … together with thousands of thousand Archangels and myriad myriads of Angels unceasingly and without silence cry out", "all the people together say: 'Holy, holy, holy the Lord of Hosts, the heaven and earth are full of His glory, blessed forever, Amen.'" The bishop then again takes up the word and continues: "Thou art truly holy and all-holy, highest and most exalted for ever. And thine only-begotten Son, our Lord and God Jesus Christ, is holy …"; and so he comes to the words of Institution: "in the night in which He was betrayed, taking bread in His holy and blameless hands and looking up to Thee, His God and Father, and breaking He gave to His disciples saying: This is the Mystery of the New Testament; take of it, eat. This is My body, broken for many for the remission of sins. So also having mixed the cup of wine and water, and having blessed it, He gave to them saying: Drink you all of this. This is My blood shed for many for the remission of sins. Do this in memory of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you announce My death until I come."

Then follow the Anamimnesis ("Remembering therefore His suffering and death and resurrection and return to heaven and His future second coming …"), the Epiklesis or invocation ("sending Thy Holy Spirit, the witness of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus to this sacrifice, that He may change this bread to the body of thy Christ and this cup to the blood of thy Christ …"), and a sort of litany (the great Intercession) for the Church, clergy, the Emperor, and for all sorts and conditions of men, which ends with a doxology, "and all the people say: Amen." In this litany is a curious petition (after that for the Emperor and the army) which joins the saints to living people for whom the bishop prays: "We also offer to thee for (‘upér) all thy holy and eternally well-pleasing patriarchs, prophets, just apostles, martyrs, confessors, bishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons, readers, singers, virgins, widows, laymen, and all those whose names thou knowest." After the Kiss of Peace (The peace of God be with you all) the deacon calls upon the people to pray for various causes which are nearly the same as those of the bishop's litany and the bishop gathers up their prayers in a collect. He then shows them the Holy Eucharist, saying: "Holy things for the holy" and they answer: "One is holy, one is Lord, Jesus Christ in the glory of God the Father, etc." The bishop gives the people Holy Communion in the form of bread, saying to each: "The body of Christ", and the communicant "answers Amen". The deacon follows with the chalice, saying: "The blood of Christ, chalice of life." R. "Amen." While they receive, the xxxiii Psalm (I will bless the Lord at all times) is said. After Communion the deacons take what is left of the Blessed Sacrament to the tabernacles (pastophória). There follows a short thanksgiving, the bishop dismisses the people and the deacon ends by saying: "Go in peace."

Throughout this liturgy the compiler supposes that it was drawn up by the Apostles and he inserts sentences telling us which Apostle composed each separate part, for instance: "And I, James, brother of John the son of Zebedee, say that the deacon shall say at once: 'No one of the catechumens,'" etc. The second book of the Apostolic Constitutions contains the outline of a liturgy (hardly more than the rubrics) which practically coincides with this one. All the liturgies of the Antiochene class follow the same general arrangement as that of the Apostolic Constitutions. Gradually the preparation of the oblation (Prothesis, the word also used for the credence table), before the actual liturgy begins, develops into an elaborate service. The preparation for the lessons (the little Entrance) and the carrying of the oblation from the Prothesis to the altar (the great Entrance) become solemn processions, but the outline of the liturgy: the Mass of the Catechumens and their dismissal; the litany; the Anaphora beginning with the words "Right and just" and interrupted by the Sanctus; the words of Institution; Anamimnesis, Epiklesis and Supplication for all kinds of people at that place; the Elevation with the words "Holy things to the holy"; the Communion distributed by the bishop and deacon (the deacon having the chalice); and then the final prayer and dismissal–this order is characteristic of all the Syrian and Palestinian uses, and is followed in the derived Byzantine liturgies. Two points in that of the Apostolic Constitutions should be noticed. No saints are mentioned by name and there is no Our Father. The mention of saints' names, especially of the "All-holy Mother of God", spread considerably among Catholics after the Council of Ephesus (431), and prayers invoking her under that title were then added to all the Catholic liturgies. The Apostolic Constitutions have preserved an older form unchanged by the development that modifies forms in actual use. The omission of the Lord's Prayer is curious and unique. It has at any rate nothing to do with relative antiquity. In the "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" (VIII, ii, 3) people are told to pray three times a day "as the Lord commanded in his Gospel: Our Father", etc.

Greek liturgy of St. James

Of the Antiochene liturgies drawn up for actual use, the oldest one and the original from which the others have been derived is the Greek Liturgy of St. James. The earliest reference to it is Canon xxxii of the Quinisextum Council (II Trullan A. D. 692), which quotes it as being really composed by St. James, the brother of Our Lord. The Council appeals to this liturgy in defending the mixed chalice against the Armenians. St. Jerome (died 420) seems to have known it. At any rate at Bethlehem he quotes as a liturgical form the words "who alone is sinless", which occur in this Liturgy (Adv. Pel., II, xxiii). The fact that the Jacobites use the same liturgy in Syriac shows that it existed and was well established before the Monophysite schism. The oldest manuscript is one of the tenth century formerly belonging to the Greek monastery at Messina and now kept in the University library of that city.

The Greek Liturgy of St. James follows in all its essential parts that of the Apostolic Constitutions. It has preparatory prayers to be said by the priest and deacon and a blessing of the incense. Then begins the Mass of the Catechumens with the little Entrance. The deacon says a litany (’ekténeia), to each clause of which the people answer "Kyrie eleison". Meanwhile the priest is saying a prayer to himself, of which only the last words are said aloud, after the litany is finished. The singers say the Trisagion, "Holy God, holy Strong One, holy Immortal One, have mercy on us." The practice of the priest saying one prayer silently while the people are occupied with something different is a later development. The Lessons follow, still in the older form, that is, long portions of both Testaments, then the prayers for the catechumens and their dismissal. Among the prayers for the catechumens occurs a reference to the cross (lift up the horn of the Christians by the power of the venerable and life-giving cross) which must have been written after St. Helen found it (c. 326) and which is one of the many reasons for connecting this liturgy with Jerusalem. When the catechumens are dismissed the deacon tells the faithful to "know each other", that is to observe whether any stranger is still present. The great Entrance which begins the Mass of the Faithful is already an imposing ceremony. The incense is blessed, the oblation is brought from the Prothesis to the altar while the people sing the Cherubikon, ending with three Alleluias. (The text is different from the Byzantine [[Cherubic Hymn|Cherubikon.) Meanwhile the priest says another prayer silently. The creed is then said; apparently at first it was a shorter form like the Apostles' Creed. The Offertory prayers and the litany are much longer than those in the Apostolic Constitutions. There is as yet no reference to an Iconostasis (screen dividing the choir or place of the clergy). The beginning of the "Anaphora" (Preface) is shorter. The words of Institution and Anamimnesis are followed immediately by the Epiklesis; then comes the Supplication for various people. The deacon reads the "Diptychs" of the names of the people for whom they pray; then follows a list of Saints beginning with "our all-holy, immaculate and highly praised Lady Mary, Mother of God and ever-virgin." Here are inserted two hymns to Our Lady obviously directed against the Nestorian heresy. The Lord's Prayer follows with an introduction and Embolismos. The Host is shown to the people with the same words as in the Apostolic Constitutions, and then broken, and part of it is put into the chalice while the priest says: "The mixing of the all-holy Body and the precious Blood of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ." Before Communion Psalm xxxiii is said. The priest says a prayer before his Communion. The deacon communicates the people. There is no such form as: "The Body of Christ"; he says only: "Approach in the fear of the Lord", and they answer "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." What is left of the Blessed Sacrament is taken by the deacon to the Prothesis; the prayers of thanksgiving are longer than those of the Apostolic Constitutions.

The Liturgy of St. James as it now exists is a more developed form of the same use as that of the Apostolic Constitutions. The prayers are longer, the ceremonies have become more elaborate, incense is used continually, and the preparation is already on the way to become the complicated service of the Byzantine Prothesis. There are continual invocations of saints; but the essential outline of the Rite is the same. Besides the references to the Holy Cross, one allusion makes it clear that it was originally drawn lup for the Church of Jerusalem. The first supplication after the Epiklesis is: "We offer to thee, O Lord, for Thy holy places which Thou hast glorified by the divine appearance of Thy Christ and by the coming of Thy holy Spirit, especially for the holy and illustrious Sion, mother of all churches and for Thy holy Catholic and apostolic Church throughout the world." This liturgy was used throughout Syria and Palestine, that is throughout the Antiochene Patriarchate (Jerusalem was not made a patriarchal see till the Council of Ephesus, 431) before the Nestorian and Monophysite schisms. It is possible to reconstruct a great part of the use of the city of Antioch while St. John Chrysostom was preaching there (370-397) from the allusions and quotations in his homilies (Probst, Liturgie des IV. Jahrh., II, i, v, 156, 198). It is then seen to be practically that of St. James: indeed whole passages are quoted word for word as they stand in St. James or in the Apostolic Constitutions. The Catechisms of St. Cyril of Jerusalem were held in 348; the first eighteen are addressed to the Competentes (photizómenoi) during Lent, the last six to the neophytes in Easter week. In these he explains, besides Baptism and Confirmation, the holy liturgy. The allusions to the liturgy are carefully veiled in the earlier ones because of the disciplina arcani; they became much plainer when he speaks to people just baptized, although even then he avoids quoting the baptism form or the words of consecration. From these Catechisms we learn the order of the liturgy at Jerusalem in the middle of the fourth century. Except for one or two unimportant variations, it is that of St. James (Probst, op. cit., II, i, ii, 77-106). This liturgy appears to have been used in either language, Greek at Antioch, Jerusalem, and the chief cities where Greek was commonly spoken, Syriac in the country. The oldest form of it now extant is the Greek version. Is it possible to find a relationship between it and other parent-uses? There are a number of very remarkable parallel passages between the Anaphora of this liturgy and the Canon of the Roman Mass. The order of the prayers is different, but when the Greek or Syriac is translated into Latin there appear a large number of phrases and clauses that are identical with ours. It has been suggested that Rome and Syria originally used the same liturgy and that the much-disputed question of the order of our Canon may be solved by reconstructing it according to the Syrian use (Drews, Zur Entstehungsgeschichte des Kanons). Mgr. Duchesne and most authors, on the other hand, are disposed to connect the Gallican Liturgy with that of Syria and the Roman Mass with the Alexandrine use (Duchesne, Origines du culte chrétien, 54).

Syriac liturgies

After the Monophysite schism and the Council of Chalcedon (451), both Melchites and Jacobites continued using the same rite. But gradually the two languages became characteristic of the two sides. The Jacobites used only Syriac (their whole movement being a national revolt against the Emperor), and the Melchites, who were nearly all Greeks in the chief towns, generally used Greek.

The Syriac Liturgy of St. James now extant is not the original one used before the schism, but a modified form derived from it by the Jacobites for their own use. The preparation of the oblation has become a still more elaborate rite. The kiss of peace comes at the beginning of the Anaphora and after it this Syriac liturgy follows the Greek one almost word for word, including the reference to Sion, the mother of all churches. But the list of saints is modified; the deacon commemorates the saints "who have kept undefiled the faith of Nicæa, Constantinople and Ephesus"; he names "James the brother of Our Lord" alone of the Apostles and "most chiefly Cyril who was a tower of the truth, who expounded the incarnation of the Word of God, and Mar James and Mar Ephraim, eloquent mouths and pillars of our holy Church." Mar James is Baradaï, through whom they have their orders, and from whom their name (543). Is Ephraim the Patriarch Ephraim of Antioch, who reigned there from 539-545, but who was certainly not a Monophysite? The list of saints, however, varies considerably; sometimes they introduce a long list of their patrons (Renaudot, Lit. Orient. Col., II, 101-103). This liturgy still contains a famous clause. Just before the lessons the Trisagion is sung. That of the Greek rite is: "Holy God, holy Strong one, holy Immortal one, have mercy on us." The Syriac rite adds after "holy Immortal one" the words: "who wast crucified for us." This is the addition made by Peter the Dyer (gnapheús, fullos) Monophysite Patriarch of Antioch (458-471), which seemed to the Orthodox to conceal Monophysite heresy and which was adopted by the Jacobites as a kind of proclamation of their faith. In the Syriac use a number of Greek words have remained. The deacon says stômen kalôs in Greek and the people continually cry out "Kurillison", just as they say "Amen" and "Alleluia" in Hebrew. Short liturgical forms constantly become fossilized in one language and count almost as inarticulate exclamations. The Greek ones in the Syriac liturgy show that the Greek language is the original.

Besides the Syriac Liturgy of St. James, the Jacobites have a large number of other Anaphoras, which they join to the common Preparation and Catechumen's Mass. The names of sixty-four of these Anaphoras are known. They are attributed to various saints and Monophysite bishops; thus, there are the Anaphoras of St. Basil, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Peter, St. Clement, Dioscurus of Alexandrian, John Maro, James of Edessa (died 708), Severus of Antioch (died 518), and so on. There is also a shortened Anaphora of St. James of Jerusalem. Renaudot prints the texts of forty-two of these liturgies in a Latin translation. They consist of different prayers, but the order is practically always that of the Syriac St. James Liturgy, and they are really local modifications of it. A letter written by James of Edessa (c. 624) to a certain priest named Timothy describes and explains the Monophysite Liturgy of his time (Assemani, Bibl. Orient., I, 479-486). It is the Syrian St. James. The Liturgy of the Presanctified of St. James (used on the week days of Lent except Saturdays) follows the other one very closely. There is the Mass of the Catechumens with the little Entrance, the Lessons, Mass of the Faithful and great Entrance, litanies, Our Father, breaking of the Host, Communion, thanksgiving, and dismissal. Of course the whole Eucharistic prayer is left out–the oblations are already consecrated as they lie on the Prothesis before the great Entrance (Brightman, op. cit., 494-501).

Recent times

The Jacobites in Syria and Palestine still use the Syriac Liturgy of St. James, as do also the Syrian Uniates. The Orthodox of the two Patriarchates, Antioch and Jerusalem, have forsaken their own use for many centuries. Like all the Christians in communion with Constantinople, they have adopted the Byzantine Rite. This is one result of the extreme centralization towards Constantinople that followed the Arab conquests of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. The Melchite Patriarchs of those countries, who had already lost nearly all their flocks through the Monophysite heresy, became the merest shadows and eventually even left their sees to be ornaments of the courts at Constantinople. It was during that time, before the rise of the new national churches, that the Byzantine Patriarch developed into something very like a pope over the whole Orthodox world. And he succeeded in foisting the liturgy, calendar, and practices of his own patriarchate on the much older and more venerable sees of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. It is not possible to say exactly when the older uses were forsaken for that of Byzantium. Theodore Balsamon says that by the end of the twelfth century the Church of Jerusalem followed the Byzantine Rite. By that time Antioch had also doubtless followed suit. There are, however, two small exceptions. In the island of Zakynthos and in Jerusalem itself the Greek Liturgy of St. James was used on one day each year, 23 October, the feast of St. James the "brother of God". It is still so used at Zakynthos, and in 1886 Dionysios Latas, Metropolitan of Zakynthos, published an edition of it for practical purposes. At Jerusalem even this remnant of the old use had disappeared. But in 1900 Lord Damianos, the Orthodox Patriarch, revived it for one day in the year, not 23 October but 31 December. It was first celebrated again in 1900 (on 30 December as an exception) in the church of the Theological College of the Holy Cross. Lord Epiphanios, Archbishop of the River Jordan, celebrated, assisted by a number of concelebrating priests. The edition of Latas was used, but the Archimandrite Chrysostomos Papadopoulos has been commissioned to prepare another and more correct edition (Echos d'Orient, IV, 247, 248).

  • Note finally that the Maronites use the Syrian St. James with a few very slight modifications, and that the Nestorian, Byzantine and Armenian Liturgies are derived from that of Antioch.

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