Friday, June 15, 2007

the divine liturgy of saint james

Read the whole Divine Liturgy of St. James here. Experts tell me that this is one of, if not THE, oldest liturgy in use in Christendom. Some say it came from St. James the Just, the brother of the Lord. Most agree that it dates at least to the middle of the third century, and possibly rather earlier, though of course it has evolved in some ways down through the centuries. It was edited down, for example, by St. John Chrysostom. It already takes several hours to celebrate this liturgy. I wonder what it was like BEFORE its several redactions for the sake of brevity. The liturgy is used most widely among the Orthodox at Jerusalem, and is the principle liturgy of several Eastern Churches, including both the Syrian Orthodox Church, and the Syrian Catholic Church (in communion with Rome).  Here is an excerpt:

DEACON:  Let none remain of the catechumens, none of the unbaptized, none of those who are unable to join with us in prayer.  Look at one another.  The doors.   All erect; let us again pray to the Lord.

THE PRIEST SAYS THE PRAYER OF INCENSE:  Sovereign Almighty, King of Glory, who knowest all things before their creation, manifest Thyself to us calling upon Thee at this holy hour, and redeem us from the shame of our transgressions; cleanse our mind and our thoughts from impure desires, from worldly deceit, from all influence of the devil; and accept from the hands of us sinners this incense, as Thou didst accept the offering of abel, and Noah, and Aaron, and Samuel, and of all Thy saints, guarding us from everything evil, and preserving us for continually pleasing, and worshipping, and glorifying Thee, the father, and thy only-begotten Son, and thy all-holy spirit, now and always, and forever.

THE READERS BEGIN THE CHERUBIC HYMN:  Let all mortal flesh be silent, and stand with fear and trembling, and meditate nothing earthly within itself.  For the King of kings and Lord of lords, Christ our God, comes forward to be sacrificed, and to be given for food to the faithful.  And the bands of angels go before Him with every power and dominion, the many-eyed cherubim, and the six-winged seraphim, covering their faces and crying aloud the hymn, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

THE PRIEST, BRINGING IN THE HOLY GIFTS, SAYS THE PRAYER:  O God, our God, who didst send forth the heavenly bread, the food of the whole world, our Lord Jesus Christ, to be a Saviour, and Redeemer, and Benefactor, blessing and sanctifying us, do Thou Thyself bless this offering, and graciously receive it to Thy altar above the skies.  Remember in Thy goodness and love those who have brought it, and those for whom they have brought it, and preserve us without condemnation in the service of Thy divine mysteries:  for hallowed and glorified is Thy all-honored and great name, Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to all eternity.

PRIEST:  Peace be to all.

DEACON:  Sir, pronounce the blessing.

PRIEST:  Blessed be God, who blesseth and sanctifieth us all at the presentation of the divine and pure mysteries, and giveth rest to the blessed souls among the holy and just, now and always, and to all eternity.


William Tighe said...

You might wish to see the following book:

"The Anaphoras of St. basil and St. James an investigation into their common origin."

by John Fenwick

Book Description: XXII+315pp. Pontificio Istituto Orienatle, 1992.

When early Christians spoke of a liturgy having been composed by Saint X or Y they meant the Anaphora, or Eucharistic Prayer. Recent computer analysis of Greek stylistic charateristics appears to have demonstrated that St. John Chrysostom really did compose (from earlier anaphoras) the anaphora of the liturgy that goes by his name. Fenwick seeks to prove in his book that St. Basil did compose the anaphoras that go by his name (the short "Egyptian Basil," the now-unused "Armenian Basil" and the long "Byzantine Basil" -- and that someone, most likely St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 389) used the "shorter Basil" and other sources, including earlier Jerusalem practice, to compose the anaphora of the liturgy of St. James. So that liturgy is not one of the oldest in Christendom, but a Fourth Century blendig of Greek and Syriac themes. The oldest anaphoras currently in use in Christendom would appear to be the Roman Canon, on the one hand, and the anaphora of the East Syrian Liturgy of SS Addai and Mari. on the other.

It is fair to note that while other scholars accept that the Byzantine Basil did come from that saint's hands, man yof them think that "Egyptian Basil" precedes him, and may be the model upon which he worked in creating it.

William Tighe said...

One might also note that one of the more high-church factions of the 18th Century Nonjurors abandoned the Cranmerian "Prayer of Consecration" in their Eucharistic Rite and substituted for it one based on that of the Liturgy of St. James instead.