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Bible Dictionaries

The American Church Dictionary and Cycopedia


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The word "Liturgy" is derived from the Greek leitourgia, meaning a public work or duty, whether civil or religious. It then became generally used with reference to sacred offices, whence arose its ecclesiastical use to signify the solemnization of the rites of the Christian Church. Afterwards, it came to be especially applied to the office for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and as such the term is technically used in Church History. The Liturgy being the Office of the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, it has for its nucleus our Lord's words of Institution. These with their accompanying Divine acts form the centre around which all subsequent prayers, praises and ritual customs gathered, and the history of these is the history of Liturgies. Liturgies have been used in the Christian Church from the beginning as the ancient Liturgies demonstrate. Of these there are many still extant in MSS. some of them fully as old as the oldest MSS. of the Bible. While they vary in arrangement and phraseology, yet the leading and essential


                          OUR LORD'S WORDS OF INSTITUTION
                          APOSTOLIC NUCLEUS OF A LITURGY
            | | | |
  Liturgy of St. James, Liturgy of St. Mark, Liturgy of Liturgy of St. John,
  Antioch, or Jerusalem or Alexandria St. Peter, St. Paul, or Ephesus
            | | or Rome |
     ——————- | | |
     | | Present Liturgy | Liturgy of Lyons
  Liturgy of Syriac of Egypt | |
  St. Basil Liturgy of | ——————————-
     | St. James | | | |
  Liturgy of | | Mozarabic Liturgy Liturgy
  St. Chrysostom Monophysite | or Spanish of Britain of Tours
     | Liturgies | Liturgy | |
  Present Liturgy ——————— ——————-
  of Oriental or | | |
  Russian Church Ambrosian Sacramentary Augustine's Revised
                                       Liturgy of St. Leo Liturgy of Britain
                                           | | |
                                       Present Sacramentary Salisbury, York and
                                       Liturgy of St. Gelasius other English Liturgies
                                       of Milan | |
                                                   Sacramentary Present Liturgy of the
                                                   of St. Gregory Church of England
                                                         | |
                                                   Present Liturgy ——————————
                                                   of Rome | |
                                                                  Liturgy of Liturgy of
                                                                  Scottish Church American

parts are common to them all and are found without substantial variation, thus pointing to one common source. All Liturgies existing at the present time trace their origin back to Apostolic times through four main sources, as follows:

I. The Liturgy of St. James, composed in the first instance for the
Churches of Palestine.

II. The Liturgy of St. Mark, for the Church in Alexandria.

III. The Liturgy of St. Peter, for the Church in Rome, from which the existing Roman Liturgy is derived.

IV. The Liturgy of St. John, for the Church in Ephesus.

It is from this last that our own Liturgy is derived. This Ephesine Liturgy was introduced into France at a very early age by missionaries who came to Lyons. From France missionaries went over to England and there preached Christ and introduced the Liturgy which they were accustomed to use, so that when St. Augustine went from Rome to England, A.D. 596, expecting to find it a heathen land, he found Christians already there and using a Liturgy somewhat different from that of Rome. These differences in the English Liturgy showed an eastern origin, thus confirming its Apostolic origin and thus demonstrate that our Liturgy did not come from the Church of Rome. Rome's power and influence being introduced into England did, indeed, made its impress on the national religious life, but the English Liturgy never lost its distinctive Eastern characteristics which remain to this day. At the time of the Reformation the Liturgy after many revisions was first set forth in the English language on Whitsun Day, 1549. It was again revised in 1552, and again other changes were made in 1604 and finally in 1662. Since which time very slight changes have been made in it. The American Liturgy was formally set forth on September 29, 1789, being adopted from the English Prayer Book, modified according to the agreement made with the Scottish Bishops who consecrated our first Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Samuel Seabury, D.D., for the Diocese of Connecticut. (See article entitled PRAYER BOOK.)

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Miller, William James. Entry for 'Liturgy'. The American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia. 1901.

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