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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Greek λειτουργία ), a function, service, or duty of a public character. These public services or duties among the (reeks were frequently, if not always, connected with religious ideas or ceremonies of some kind, even when the duties themselves were of a secular character — those, for instance, which had reference to the supervision of theatrical exhibitions or the presiding in the public assemblies. The religious meaning of the word in such case was not necessarily involved. In Isaiah 7:30 (Sept.), the idea of religious service predominates; in Romans 13:6, that of the secular, as under God; and again, ins. Luke 1:23, and in Hebrews 10:11, it refers to the priestly function. At a later period we find it used by Eusebius (Life of Constantine, 4:47) in speaking of the work of the Christian ministry. By a very natural process, the word, which thus designated the public function or service performed by the ministry, became restricted in its meaning to the form itself — the form of words in which such service was rendered, and thus, certainly before the middle of the fifth century, we find in the Church, in the present sense of the word liturgies, forms for the conducting of public worship and the administration of sacraments.
I. Jewish Liturgies. — This subject has, of course, its connection with the question of a similar state of things under the Jewish dispensation. Were there liturgical forms among the Jews, and, if so, to what extent? We find among the Greeks and Romans certain set forms in connection with their sacrifices, passing, it would seem, from mouth to mouth of successive priestly generations, and a usual form of prayer for the civil magistrate (Dö llinger's Heathenism and Judaisnm, 1:221-225); among the sacred books of India, hymns and prayers to be used on stated occasions (Mü ller's Chips from a German Workshop, 1:297); and in the Roman and in the Mohammedan worship, formula of a similar character (Lane's Mod. Egypt. 1:120 sq.). How was it in this matter with the Jews?
There was, of course, a ritual of form; but was there with it also a form of words? The reading of the law, although enjoined, could hardly be said to meet this demand. There are, however, special forms in the Pentateuch which are liturgical in the stricter sense of that expression. Some of these have reference to possible contingencies, and would therefore be only occasional in their employment. Instances of this class may be found in the formula (Deuteronomy 21:19), where complaint should be made to the elders by parents against a rebellious and incorrigible son. Of similar character is the formula (Deuteronomy 25:8-9) connected with the refusal to take the widow of a deceased brother or nearest kinsman, and so perpetuate his name in Israel. Another, again, of the same class, was that appointed to be used by the elders and priests (Deuteronomy 21:1-9) of any locality in which the body of a murdered person should be found; and still another, and more of the nature of a stated religious service, was the prescribed declaration and mode of proceeding connected with the going out to battle (Deuteronomy 20:1-8). These were occasional and contingent. For some of them there might never be the actual usage, as was probably the case with the first — that of the complaint against and the execution of a rebellious son. But there were others of a more stated character, having reference to regularly occurring seasons and ceremonies when they were required to be used. The priestly benediction, repeated, it would seem, upon every special gathering of the people (Numbers 6:23-27), is an instance of this class. The form of offering of the first-fruits (Deuteronomy 26:1-15) is another: in this latter the person making the offering uses the formula, the priest receiving the offering; and still another is the appointed formula of commination by the tribes at Ebal and Gerizim, the Levites repeating the curse, the whole people following with the solemn amen. Distinct, moreover, from these were certain transactions, in which. without any specified form, the official was required to use certain words. The confession by the high-priest of the sins of the people over the head of the scape-goat is one of these; in any such case, a set form, passing from priestly father to son, not improbably came into use. The liturgical use of the Psalms in the Temple worship was, of course, a matter of much later arrangement. The fiftieth chapter of Ecclesiasticus describes an exceptional service, and is, moreover, too indefinite in its language to justify any conclusion as to its liturgical character.
During, this period, however, between the captivity and the times of the New Testament, there comes to view another ecclesiastical development of Judaism which has its connection with this subject — that of the worship of the synagogue. This, which in all probability originated during the captivity, and in the effort to supply the want occasioned by the loss of the worship of the Temple, would in many respects be like that Temple worship; in others, and from the necessity of the case, it would be very different. The greatest of these diversities would be in the fact of the necessary presence of the sacrificial and priestly element in the service of the Temple, their absence in that of the synagogue. In the Temple the Levites sang psalms of praise before the altar, and the priests blessed the people. In the synagogue there were prayers connected with the reading of certain specific passages of Scripture, of which are distinctly discernible two "chief groups, around which, as time wore on, an enormous mass of liturgical poetry clustered- the one, the Shelma ('Hear, Israel,' etc.), being a collection of the three Biblical pieces (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41), expressive of the unity of God and the memory of his government over Israel, strung together without any extraneous addition; the second, the Tephilla, or Prayer, by way of eminence (adopted in the Koran as Salavat, Sur. 2:40; comp. 5:15), consisting of a certain number of supplications, with a hymnal introduction and conclusion, and followed by the priestly blessing. The single portions of this prayer gradually increased to eighteen, and the prayer itself received the name Shemeonezah Esreh (eighteen; afterwards, however, increased to nineteen: the additional one is now twelfth in the prayer, and is against apostates [to Christianity] and heretics [all who refused the Talmud], including consequently the Karaites). The first addition to the Sheest formed the introductory thanksgiving for the renewed (lay (in accordance with the ordinance that every supplication must be preceded by a prayer of thanks) called lozer (Creator of Light, etc.), to which were joined the three Holies (Ophan), and the supplication for spiritual enlightening in the divine law (Ahabah). Between the Shema and the Tephillah was inserted the Geulahl (Liberation), or praise for the miraculous deliverance from Egypt and the constant watchings of providence. A Kaddish (Sanctification or Benediction) and certain psalms seem to have concluded the service of that period. This was the order of the Shaharith, or morning prayer, and very similar to this was the Maarsib, or evening prayer; while in the Minchalh, or afternoon prayer, the Shema was omitted.
On new moons, Sabbath and feast days, the general order was the same as on week days; but since the festive joy was to overrule all individual sorrow and supplication, the intermediate portion of the Tephillah was changed according to the special significance and the memories of the day of the solemnity, and additional prayers were introduced for these extraordinary occasions, corresponding to the additional sacrifice in the Temple, and varying according to the special solemnity of the day (lMusssah, Neilath, etc.)" (Chambers). Compare Etheridge, Introduction to Hebrew Literatures, page 367 sq.; Prideaux, 2:160-170. It is likewise to be noted that in the Temple worship there were occasions and opportunities in which the individual worshipper might confess the plague of his own heart, make individual supplication, or offer individual thanksgiving. Thus it was at the time of the coming of Christ. The Jewish liturgies since then, under the influence of Rabbinism, and in view of the fact that the synagogue, so far as possible, supplies the absence of the Temple, have been very much enlarged, and extend to numberless particularities. It may, in fact, be said that the whole life of the modern Jew is regulated by Rabbinic forms, that there is a rubric for every moment and movement of social as of individual existence. "The first compilation of a liturgy is recorded of Amram Gaon (A.D. 870-880); the first that has survived is that of Saadja Gaon (d. A.D. 942). These early collections of prayers generally contained also compositions from the hand of the compiler, and minor additions, such as ethical tracts, almanacs, etc., and were called Silddurimn (Orders, Rituals), embracing the whole calendar year, week-days and new moons, fasts and festivals. Later, the term was restricted to the week-day ritual, that for the festivals being called Machzor (Cycle). Besides these, we find the Selichoth, or Penitential Prayers; Kinoth, or Elegies; Hoshanahs, or Hosannahs (for the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles); and Bakashoth, or Special Supplications, chiefly for private devotion. The Karaites (q.v.), being harshly treated in these liturgies, especially by Saadja, have distinct compilations. The first of these was made by David ben-Hassan about A.D. 960 (compare Rule, Karaites, page 88, 104 sq., 118, 135 sq., 173 note).
The public prayers were for a long time only said by the public reader (Chasan, Sheliach Zibbur ), the people joining in silent responses and amens. These readers by degrees — chiefly from the 10th century — introduced occasional prayers (Piutim) of their own, over and above those used of yore. The materials were taken from the Halachah as well as the Haggadah (q.v.); religious doctrine, history, saga, angelology, and mysticism, interspersed with Biblical verses, are thus found put together like a mosaic of the most original and fantastic, often grand and brilliant, and often obscure and feeble kind; and the pure Hebrew in manyy eases made room for a corrupt Chaldee. We can only point out here the two chief groups of religious poetry viz. the Arabic on the one hand, and the French-German school on the other. The most eminent representative of the Pajtanic age (ending c. 1100) is Eleazar Biribi Kalir. Among the most celebrated poets in his manner are Meshulam b.- Kalonymos of Lucca, Solomon b.-Jehuda of Babylon, R. Gerson, Elia b.- Menahem of Mans, Benjamin b.-Serach, Jacob Zom Elem, Eliezer b.- Samuel, Kalonymos b.-Moses, Solomon Isaaki. Of exclusively Spanish poets of this period, the most brilliant are Jehuda Halevi Solomon b.- Gabirol, Josef ibn-Abitur, Isaac ibn-Giat, Abraham Abn-Esra, Moses ben- Nachman, etc. When, however, in the beginning of the 13th century, secret doctrine and philosophy, casuistry and dialectics, became the paramount study, the cultivation of the Pint became neglected, and but few, and for the most part insignificant, are the writers of liturgical pieces from this time downwards" (Chambers). Comp. Zunz, Synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters, page 59 sq. These liturgies, adopted by the Jews in different countries, were naturally subject to great variation, not only in their order, but also in their contents. Even in our day there exists the greatest variety imaginable in the synagogues of even one and the same country, due, in a measure, also to the influence of the reformatory movements. (See JUDAISM).
Particularly worthy of note are the rituals of Germany (Poland), of France, Spain, and Portugal (Sefardim), Italy (Rome), the Levant (Romagna), and even of some special towns, like Avignon, Carpentras, Montpellier. The rituals of Barbary (Algiers, Tripoli, Oran, Morocco, etc.) are of Spanish origin. The Judaeo-Chinese liturgy, it may be observed by the way, consists only of pieces from the Bible. Yet, in the main body of their principal prayers, all these liturgies agree. As illustrative of these unessential diversities, we give the prayer of the Shemonah Esreh, which has been added to the number since the destruction of the second Temple, but which now stands as the twelfth, and shows its manifest reference to the followers of the Nazarene: "Let there be no hope to those who apostatize from the true religion; and let heretics, how many soever they be, all perish as in a moment; and let the kingdom of pride be speedily rooted out and broken in our days. Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, who destroyest the wicked, and bringest down the proud" (Prideaux). "Let slanderers have no hope, and all presumptuous apostates perish as in a moment; and may thine enemies, and those who hate thee, be suddenly cut off; and all those who act wickedly be suddenly broken, consumed, and rooted out; and humble thou them speedily in our days. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who destroyest the enemies and humblest the proud" (Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Prayer-book). That in the German and Polish Jews' Prayer-book is more brief, and less pointed in its application to apostates, i.e. Jews converted to Christianity. There are translations and commentaries on them in most of the modern languages. In the orthodox congregations, these forms of prayer, whether for the worship of the synagogue or for domestic and private use, are all appointed to be said in Hebrew. One of the best moves in this direction is the effort within the last century to remedy this evil by parallel translations. In this country the service-books in the synagogues are usually of this kind: either the Hebrew on one page and the English on the other, or both in parallel columns on the same page.
II. Early Christian Litiurgies. —
1. Their Origin. — So far as regards the primitive or apostolic age, the only trace of anything of that kind is the Lord's Prayer, and the Amen alluded to in 1 Corinthians 14:16; this latter an undoubted importation from the synagogue. As, moreover, we find the Master, with the twelve, singing a hymn, one of the psalms probably, on the night of the last supper, it is not improbable that such portions of Old-Testament Scripture, with which the early believers had been already familiar in the synagogue, should have still found favor in the Church. Even in free prayer fragments and sentences of old devotional forms, almost spontaneous through earlier use and sacred association, would naturally find utterance. This, however, would be the exception. Christian prayer, for its own full and peculiar utterance, must find its own peculiar modes of expression; and it would baptize into a new life and meaning and of those familiar expressions, the fragments of an earlier devotion. That men, however, who had been accustomed to liturgical worship under the old system should gradually go into it under the new, is not at all surprising; and to this special inducements before very long were presented. The demand for some form of profession of faith, of a definition of the faith, as dissensions and heresies arose, would be one of these occasions. The form of prayer given by the Master, in its present usage, would become the nucleus of others. The fact, again, that the most solemn act of Christian communion, the Lord's Supper, involved in the distribution of the elements a form of action, and that this action, in its original institution, had been accompanied by words, would have a like influence. That every thing in this respect, if not purely extemporaneous, was exceedingly simple in the time of Justin Martyr, is very manifest from his own writings. The same remark is applicable to the statement of Pliny (Ep. ad Treaj. in Ep. 10:97).
2. Primitive Type. — The earliest form in which liturgical arrangement, to any extent, is found, is that which presents itself in the Apostolical Constitutions. The following is the order of daily service, as given in these Constitutions: After the morning psalm (the sixty-third of our enumeration), prayers were offered for the several classes of catechumens, of persons possessed by evil spirits, and candidates for baptism, for penitents, and for the faithful or communicants, for the peace of the world, and for the whole state of Christ's Church. This was followed by a short bidding prayer for preservation in the ensuing day, and by the bishop's commendation or thanksgiving, and by his imposition of hands or benediction. The morning service was much frequented by people of all sorts. The evening service was much the same with that of the morning, except that Psalms 140 (Psalms 141 of the present enumeration) introduced the service, and that a special collect seems to have been used sometimes at the setting up of the lights. (See SERVICE).
This work, a fabrication by an unknown author, and taking its present form about the close of the third century contains internal evidence (see Schaff, Church History, 1:441) that much of its material belongs to an earlier date. It may be regarded as affording a type of the liturgical worship in use during the latter part of the anteNicene period. Bunsen (Christianity and Mankind, volume 2) has attempted to construct, out of fragments of this and other liturgies, the probable form of worship then prevailing. Krabbe, in his prize essay on this subject, regards the eighth book as of later date than the others. Kurtz, agreeing with Bunsen, substantially finds in this work the earliest extant form of liturgical arrangement, and the type of those of a later period. While, therefore, apocryphal as to its name and claims, yet in the character of its material, in its peculiarity of structure, in the estimation which it enjoyed, and in its influence upon later forms of devotion, it is of great historical significance. Taking it as it comes to our day, the eighth book contains an order of prayer, praise, reading, and sermon, followed by the dismissal successively of the catechumens, the penitents, and the possessed. After this comes the order of the Lord's Supper for the faithful, beginning with intercessory prayer, this followed by collects and responses, the fraternal kiss, warnings against unworthy reception of communion, with suitable hymns, prayers, and doxologies. Much of this material, as already hinted, is probably of a much earlier date than that of its unknown last compiler. The hymn Gloria in Exselsis may have been the same of which Justin and Pliny speak, or an enlargement of it. This liturgy is remarkable, as contrasted with subsequent liturgies, in that it wants the Lord's Prayer. The general spirit and tone pervading all its forms afford grateful indication of the interior Christian life of that period.
3. Classification. — This brings us to the particular liturgies which found acceptance and usage in particular communities. One remark in connection with these needs to be made. Whatever may have been the liturgical influences of the synagogue in shaping the worship of the early Church, they had, by this time, been superseded by another of a much more objectionable character, that of the Temple. In other words, the sacerdotal idea of the Christian ministry, and the sacrificial idea of the Lord's Supper, were making themselves felt, not only in the substance, but in the minutia of form which the liturgies were assuming. Of these liturgies there is to be made the general division of Eastern and Western.
(a.) Liturgies of the Eastern Churches. — Chronologically those of the Oriental Church first demand examination.
(1.) The earliest, perhaps, is that of Jerusalem or Antioch, ascribed to the apostle James; the first word in it, ὁ ἱερεύς — a word never used by apostolic men in speaking of the Christian ministry — puts the seal of reprobation upon every such claim. The same may be said as to another anachronism, the word ὁμοούσιος applied to the third person of the Trinity. Putting aside, therefore, such claim, as also the stranger notion that the apostle in 1 Corinthians 2:9, quotes from this liturgy. rather than that the liturgist quotes from him, we may still recognize in this early form of Christian-worship features of peculiar interest. It is still used on St. James' day in some of the islands of the Archipelago, and is the pattern of two others, those of Basil and Chrysostom. Portions of it may have existed at an earlier period, but in its present form it dates from the last half of the fourth century. For the distinction between the orthodox Greek and the Monophysite Syrian forms of this liturgy, see Palmer, Origines Liturgicae, volume 1. The latter, the Monophysite form, it is to be observed, is still in use, and in both are portions of the material to be found in that of the Apostolical Constitutions.
(2.) The second of these liturgies is that of the Alexandrian Church, called that of St. Mark, but, quite as clearly as that of St. James, betraying its later origin. In this, as in the other two, there may be materials previously existing; but the probabilities indicate Cyril of Alexandria as the author of it in its present shape. The effort has been made to separate in it the apostolic from the later elements, as is also attempted by Neale with that of St. James. As the object of this effort seems to be to prove the sacerdotal character of apostolic Christianity, so all sacerdotal elements become proof of apostolic authorship. The conclusion is as false as the premise. 'The special historical interest of this liturgy of St. Mark is its relation to those of the Coptic and Ethiopic churches, of which it forms the main constituent. The remark of Palmer as to its claim to inspired authorship is well worthy of attention. "In my opinion," says he, "this appellation of St. Mark's liturgy began about the end of the fourth or beginning of the fifth century, after Basil had composed his liturgy, which was the first that bore the name of any man. Other churches then gave their liturgies the names of their founders, and so the Alexandrians and Egyptians gave hr theirs the name of Mark, while they of Jerusalem and Antioch called theirs St. James's, and early in the fifth century it appears that Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, perfected and improved the liturgy of St. Mark, from whence this improved liturgy came to be called by the Monophysites St. Cyril's, and by the orthodox St. Mark's." The peculiarity of this last, in Neale's estimation, is the difference from other liturgies in the position of the great intercession for quick and dead. That such intercession found place in any of them is evidence of their post-apostolic origin.
(3.) The third and last of these liturgies is that of Caesarea or Byzantium, composed probably by Basil of Caesarea, and held to have been recast and enlarged by Chrysostom; but more properly, perhaps, both these are to be regarded as elaborations of that of St. James. They, moreover, have historical and moral significance in the fact that, through the Byzantine Church, they have been received into that of Russia, and are used in its patriarchates, each for special occasions, at the present time. Such additions, of course, have been made as have been rendered necessary through peculiarities of Greek worship, and accumulation of ritualistic minutiae coming into use since these liturgies in their original forms were introduced. They now contain expressions not to be found in the writings of Chrysostom: e.g. the appellation of in other of God, given to the Virgin Mary, which was not heard of until after the third General Council at Ephesus [A.D.431] — the body which condemned the doctrines of Nestorius — held 24 years after the death of Chrysostom. From these Oriental liturgies have sprung others, variously modified to meet doctrinal and other exigencies. The largest number is from that of Jerusalem, the next from that of Basil. The most important is that of the Armenians, Monophysite, those of the Nestorians, and that of Malabar. For discussion as to the special origin of these subordinate forms, and the principles of classification, see Palmer's Origines Liturgicae, volume 1; Neale's Primitive Liturgies; Riddle, Christian Antiquities, book 4, chapter 1, sec. 6.
(b.) Liturgies of the Western Church. — In the West liturgical development went on with less rapidity.
(1.) That of the Roman Church, under the influence of the sort of feeling alluded to above in the quotation from Palmer, after it came into use, received the name of Peter, and was traced to his authorship. In point of fact, it probably first assumed definite shape under Leo the Great during the first half of the fifth century, was added to by Gelasius during the latter half of the same century, elaborated again by Gregory the Great not very long after, and through his influence secured its reputation and position. "His Ordo et Canon Missae, making allowance for the unavoidable changes taking place in it during the centuries intervening, was settled under Pius V, 1570, as the Missale Romanortum. It was revised under Clement VII and Urban VIII, and forms at the present time the liturgical text of Romish worship" (Palmer, in Herzog). The Liturgy of Milan seems to have been very much the same as that of Rome prior to the alterations of the latter under Gregory. These differences, at the greatest, were not of an essential character. The question of the independence of the Milanese and the supremacy of the Romans was probably the great issue upon which these differences turned. As nothing less than apostolicity could enable the liturgy of Milan to sustain itself in such a conflict, its origin was traced to Barnabas, and miracles, it was believed, had been wrought for its preservation against the efforts of Gregory and Hadrian to bring it to the form of that of Rome. The severest point of this conflict was doubtless when Charlemagne abolished the Ambrosian Chant throughout the West by the establishment of singing-schools under Roman instructors to teach the Gregorian. The attachment of the people and clergy of Milan, however, to their liturgy could not be overcome, and it is still in their possession. Alexander VI established it expressly as the "Ritus Ambrosianus." Of even greater interest than the Roman liturgy are the Gallican and the Mozarabic.
(2.) The former of these, the Gallican, claims, and it would seem justly, an antiquity greater than that of Rome. The connection of Gaulish Christianity with that of Asia, whether through the person of Irenaeus or by earlier missionaries, would lead to a liturgical development of an independent character. It was displaced by the Roman liturgy during the Carolingian sera, and for a long time was almost lost sight of and forgotten. It does not seem to have been used or appealed to in the various conflicts of prerogative between the French monarchs and the pope, and no allusion to its existence is made in the Pragmatic Sanction. Public attention was again called to it during the controversies of the 16th century. Interest both of a literary and doctrinal character has been exhibited in connection with this liturgy. But there seems to be but little probability of its restoration to use. While unlike in certain specialities, its differences from the Roman liturgy are, not essential. Like the others preceding, it has been traced to the hand of an apostle — to the Church at Lyons, through that of Ephesus, from the apostle John! The apex upon which this inverted historical pyramid rests is the single fact, which has been questioned, that Christianity was introduced into Gaul by missionaries from the Church at Ephesus.
(3.) The Mozarabic, that of the Spanish churches under Arabic dominion, has so many resemblances to the Gallic liturgy that it would seem probable they proceeded from the same source. It is described by Isidore Hispalensis in the 6th century. During the Middle Ages, and in the time of the cardinal Ximenes, it received an addition of several rites. As Spanish territory was reconquered from the Moors, and came more fully under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the papacy in other respects, the effort was made, and eventually succeeded, although at times warmly resisted by the people, to displace the Mozarabie, and introduce the Roman liturgy. In the beginning of the 16th century cardinal Ximenes endowed a college and chapel at Toledo for the celebration of the ancient rites, and this is now, perhaps, the only place in Spain where the primitive liturgy of that country and of Gaul is in some degree observed. The old British liturgy, which was displaced by the Gregorian after the decision of Oswy in 664, seems, like the Mozarabic, to have been essentially the same with the Gallican.
(4.) One other liturgical composition of some interest, dating from the close of the 4th century, is that of the Cathari, published by E. Kunitz (Jena, 1852). It is of interest as giving a more favorable view of the community for which it was composed than had been previously entertained. It is to be remembered in connection with all these liturgies of the West, as already remarked of those of the East, that they are the names of many subordinate offshoots in use and prevalence in different portions of the Church. The discretionary power of the bishops, both at this and at earlier periods, to modify and adapt prevalent liturgies to peculiar exigencies of time and place, naturally produced after a time this kind of diversity. The ecclesiastical confusion of mediaeval times, and clerical ignorance and carelessness, would of course increase it. The traces, however, of the parent stock in any such case would not be difficult of recognition.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Liturgy'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/l/liturgy.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.