Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

( Also BYZANTINE RITE.)

The Liturgies, Divine Office, forms for the administration of sacraments and for various blessings, sacramentals, and exorcisms, of the Church of Constantinople, which is now, after the Roman Rite, by far the most widely spread in the world. With one insignificant exception -- the Liturgy of St. James is used once a year at Jerusalem and Zakynthos (Zacynthus) -- it is followed exclusively by all Orthodox Churches, by the Melkites (Melchites) in Syria and Egypt, the Uniats in the Balkans and the Italo-Greeks in Calabria, Apulia, Sicily, and Corsica. So that more than a hundred millions of Christians perform their devotions according to the Rite of Constantinople.

I. HISTORY

This is not one of the original parent-rites. It is derived from that of Antioch. Even apart from the external evidence a comparison of the two liturgies will show that Constantinople follows Antioch in the disposition of the parts. There are two original Eastern types of liturgy : that of Alexandria, in which the great Intercession comes before the Consecration, and that of Antioch, in which it follows after the Epiklesis. The Byzantine use in both its Liturgies (of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom ) follows exactly the order of Antioch. A number of other parallels make the fact of this derivation clear from internal evidence, as it is from external witness. The tradition of the Church of Constantinople ascribes the oldest of its two Liturgies to St. Basil the Great (d. 379), Metropolitan of Cæsarea in Cappadocia. This tradition is confirmed by contemporary evidence. It is certain that St. Basil made a reformation of the Liturgy of his Church, and that the Byzantine service called after him represents his reformed Liturgy in its chief parts, although it has undergone further modification since his time. St. Basil himself speaks on several occasions of the changes he made in the services of Cæsarea. He writes to the clergy of Neo-Cæsarea in Pontus to complain of opposition against himself on account of the new way of singing psalms introduced by his authority (Ep. Basilii, cvii, Patr. Gr., XXXII, 763). St. Gregory of Nazianzos (Nazianzen, d. 390) says that Basil had reformed the order of prayers ( euchon diataxis -- Orat. xx, P. G., XXXV, 761). Gregory of Nyssa (died c. 395) compares his brother Basil with Samuel because he "carefully arranged the form of the Service" ( Hierourgia , In laudem fr. Bas., P. G., XLVI, 808). Prokios (Proclus) of Constantinople (d. 446) writes: "When the great Basil . . . saw the carelessness and degeneracy of men who feared the length of the Liturgy -- not as if he thought it too long -- he shortened its form, so as to remove the weariness of the clergy and assistants" (De traditione divinæ Missæ, P. G., XLV, 849).

The first question that presents itself is: What rite was it that Basil modified and shortened? Certainly it was that used at Cæsarea before his time. And this was a local form of the great Antiochene use, doubtless with many local variations and additions. That the original rite that stands at the head of this line of development is that of Antioch is proved from the disposition of the present Liturgy of St. Basil, to which we have already referred; from the fact that, before the rise of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Antioch was the head of the Churches of Asia Minor as well as of Syria (and invariably in the East the patriarchal see gives the norm in liturgical matters, followed and then gradually modified by its suffragan Churches); and lastly by the absence of any other source. At the head of all Eastern rites stand the uses of Antioch and Alexandria. Lesser and later Churches do not invent an entirely new service for themselves, but form their practice on the model of one of these two. Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor in liturgical matters derive from Antioch, just as Egypt, Abyssinia, and Nubia do from Alexandria. The two Antiochene liturgies now extant are;

(1) that of the Eighth Book of theApostolic Constitutions and
(2) parallel to it in every way, the Greek Liturgy of St. James (see ANTIOCHENE LITURGY). These are the starting-points of the development we can follow. But it is not to be supposed that St. Basil had before him either of these services, as they now stand, when he made the changes in question. In the first place, his source is rather theLiturgy of St. James than that of the Apostolic Constitutions . There are parallels to both in the Basilian Rite ; but the likeness is much greater to that of St. James. From the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer ( Vere dignum et justum est , our Preface ) to the dismissal, Basil's order is almost exactly that of James. But the now extantLiturgy of St. James (in Brightman, "Liturgies Eastern and Western", 31-68) has itself been considerably modified in later years. Its earlier part especially (the Liturgy of theCatechumens and theOffertory ) is certainly later than the time of St. Basil. In any case, then, we must go back to the original Antiochene Rite as the source. But neither was this the immediate origin of the reform. It must be remembered that all living rites are subject to gradual modification through use. The outline and frame remain; into this frame new prayers are fitted. As a general rule liturgies keep the disposition of their parts, but tend to change the text of the prayers. St. Basil took as the basis of his reform the use of Cæsarea in the fourth century. There isreason tobelieve that that use, while retaining the essential order of the original Antiochene service, had already considerably modified various parts, especially the actual prayers. We have seen, for instance, that Basil shortened theLiturgy. But the service that bears his name is not at all shorter than the present one of St. James. We may, then, suppose that by his time the Liturgy of Cæsarea had been considerably lengthened by additional prayers (this is the common development ofLiturgies ). When we say, then, that the rite of Constantinople that bears his name is the Liturgy of St. James as modified by St. Basil, it must be understood that Basil is rather the chief turning-point in its development than the only author of the change. It had already passed through a period of development before his time, and it has developed further since. Nevertheless, St. Basil and his reform of the rite of his own city are the starting-point of the special use of Constantinople.

A comparison of the present Liturgy of St. Basil with earlier allusions shows that in its chief parts it is really the service composed by him. Peter the Deacon, who was sent by the Scythian monks to Pope Hormisdas to defend a famous formula they had drawn up ("One of the Trinity was crucified") about the year 512, writes: "The blessed Basil, Bishop of Cæsarea, says in the prayer of the holy altar which is used by nearly the whole East: Give, oh Lord, strength and protection; make the bad good, we pray, keep the good in their virtue ; for Thou canst do all things, and no one can withstand Thee; Thou dost save whom Thou wilt and no one can hinder Thy will" (Petri diac. Ep. ad Fulgent, vii, 25, in P. L., LXV, 449). This is a compilation of three texts in the Basilian Liturgy : Keep the good in their virtue ; make the bad good by thy mercy (Brightman, op. cit., pp. 333-334); the words: Give, O Lord, strength and protection come several times at the beginning of prayers ; and the last words are an acclamation made by the choir or people at the end of several ( Renaudot, I, p. xxxvii). The Life of St. Basil ascribed to Amphilochios (P.G., XXIX, 301, 302) quotes as composed by him the beginning of the Introduction-prayer and that of the Elevation exactly as they are in the existing Liturgy (Brightman, 319, 341). The Second Council of Nicæa (787) says: "As all priests of the holy Liturgy know, Basil says in the prayer of the Divine Anaphora : We approach with confidence to the holy altar. . .". The prayer is the one that follows the Anamnesis in St. Basil's Liturgy (Brightman, p. 329. Cf. Hardouin, IV, p. 371).

From these and similar indications we conclude that the Liturgy of St. Basil in its oldest extant form is substantially authentic, namely, from the beginning of the Anaphora to the Communion. The Mass of the Catechumens and the Offertory prayers have developed since his death. St. Gregory Nazianzen, in describing the saint's famous encounter with Valens at Cæsarea, in 372, describes the Offertory as a simpler rite, accompanied with psalms sung by the people but without an audible Offertory prayer (Greg. Naz., Or., xliii, 52, P. G., XXXVI, 561). This oldest form of the Basilian Liturgy is contained in a manuscript of the Barberini Library of about the year 800 ( manuscript, III, 55, reprinted in Brightman, 309-344). The Liturgy of St. Basil now used in the Orthodox and Melkite (or Melchite ) Churches (Euchologion, Venice, 1898, pp. 75-97; Brightman, 400-411) is printed after that of St. Chrysostom and differs from it only in the prayers said by the priest, chiefly in the Anaphora ; it has received further unimportant modifications. It is probable that even before the time of St. John Chrysostom the Liturgy of Basil was used at Constantinople. We have seen that Peter the Deacon mentions that it was "used by nearly the whole East". It would seem that the importance of the See of Cæsarea (even beyond its own exarchy), the fame of St. Basil, and the practical convenience of this short Liturgy led to its adoption by many Churches in Asia and Syria. The "East" in Peter the Deacon's remark would probably mean the Roman Prefecture of the East ( Præfectura Orientis ) that included Thrace. Moreover, when St. Gregory of Nazianzos came to Constantinople to administer that diocese (381) he found in use there a Liturgy that was practically the same as the one he had known at home in Cappadocia. His Sixth Oration (P. G., XXXV, 721 sq.) was held in Cappadocia, his Thirty-eighth (P. G., XXXVI, 311) at Constantinople. In both he refers to and quotes the Eucharistic prayer that his hearers know. A comparison of the two texts shows that the prayer is the same. This proves that, at any rate in its most important element, the liturgy used at the capital was that of Cappadocia -- the one that St. Basil used as a basis of his reform. It would therefore be most natural that the reform too should in time be adopted at Constantinople. But it would seem that before Chrysostom this Basilian Rite (according to the universal rule) had received further development and additions at Constantinople. It has been suggested that the oldest form of the Nestorian Liturgy is the original Byzantine Rite, the one that St. Chrysostom found in use when he became patriarch (Probst, "Lit. des IV. Jahrhts.", 413).

The next epoch in the history of the Byzantine Rite is the reform of St. John Chrysostom (d. 407). He not only further modified the Rite of Basil, but left both his own reformed Liturgy and the unreformed Basilian one itself, as the exclusive uses of Constantinople. St. John became Patriarch of Constantinople in 397; he reigned there till 403, was then banished, but came back in the same year; was banished again in 404, and died in exile in 407. The tradition of his Church says that during the time of his patriarchate he composed from the Basilian Liturgy a shorter form that is the one still in common use throughout the Orthodox Church. The same text of Proklos (Proclus) quoted above continues: "Not long afterwards our father, John Chrysostom, zealous for the salvation of his flock as a shepherd should be, considering the carelessness of human nature, thoroughly rooted up every diabolical objection. He therefore left out a great part and shortened all the forms lest anyone . . . stay away from this Apostolic and Divine Institution", etc. He would, then, have treated St. Basil's rite exactly as Basil treated the older rite of Cæsarea. There is no reason to doubt this tradition in the main issue. A comparison of the Liturgy of Chrysostom with that of Basil will show that it follows the same order and is shortened considerably in the text of the prayers ; a further comparison of its text with the numerous allusions to the rite of the Holy Eucharist in Chrysostom's homilies will show that the oldest form we have of the Liturgy agrees substantially with the one he describes (Brightman, 530-534). But it is also certain that the modern Liturgy of St. Chrysostom has received considerable modifications and additions since his time. In order to reconstruct the rite used by him we must take away from the present Liturgy all the Preparation of the Offerings ( Proskomide ), the ritual of the Little and Great Entrances, and the Creed. The service began with the bishop's greeting, "Peace to all", and the answer, "And with thy spirit." The lessons followed from the Prophets and Apostles, and the deacon read the Gospel. After the Gospel the bishop or a priest preached a homily, and the prayer over the catechumens was said. Originally it had been followed by a prayer over penitents, but Nektarios (381-397) had abolished the discipline of public penance, so in St. Chrysostom's Liturgy this prayer is left out. Then came a prayer for the faithful ( baptized ) and the dismissal of the catechumens. St. Chrysostom mentions a new ritual for the Offertory : the choir accompanied the bishop and formed a solemn procession to bring the bread and wine from the prothesis to the altar (Hom. xxxvi, in I Cor., vi, P. G., LXI, 313). Nevertheless the present ceremonies and the Cherubic Chant that accompany the Great Entrance are a later development (Brightman, op. cit., 530). The Kiss of Peace apparently preceded the Offertory in Chrysostom's time (Brightman, op. cit., 522, Probst, op. cit., 208). The Eucharistic prayer began, as everywhere, with the dialogue: "Lift up your hearts" etc. This prayer, which is clearly an abbreviated form of that in the Basilian Rite, is certainly authentically of St. Chrysostom. It is apparently chiefly in reference to it that Proklos says that he has shortened the older rite. The Sanctus was sung by the people as now. The ceremonies performed by the deacon at the words of Institution are a later addition. Probst thinks that the original Epiklesis of St. Chrysostom ended at the words "Send thy Holy Spirit down on us and on these gifts spread before us" (Brightman, op. cit., 386), and that the continuation (especially the disconnected interruption: God be merciful to me a sinner , now inserted into the Epiklesis ; Maltzew, "Die Liturgien" etc., Berlin, 1894, p. 88) are a later addition (op. cit., 414). The Intercession followed at once, beginning with a memory of the saints. The prayer for the dead came before that for the living (ibid., 216-415). The Eucharistic prayer ended with a doxology to which the people answered, Amen ; and then the bishop greeted them with the text, "The mercy of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ be with all of you" (Tit., ii, 13), to which they answered: "And with thy spirit", as usual. The Lord's Prayer followed, introduced by a short litany spoken by the deacon and followed by the well-known doxology : "For thine is the kingdom" etc. This ending was added to the Our Father in the Codex of the New Testament used by St. Chrysostom (cf. Hom. xix in P. G., LVII, 282). Another greeting (Peace to all) with its answer introduced the manual acts, first an Elevation with the words "Holy things for the holy " etc., the Breaking of Bread and the Communion under both kinds. In Chrysostom's time it seems that people received either kind separately, drinking from the chalice. A short prayer of thanksgiving ended the Liturgy. That is the rite as we see it in the saint's homilies (cf. Probst., op. cit., 156-202, 202-226). It is true that most of these homilies were preached at Antioch (387-397) before he went to Constantinople. It would seem, then, that the Liturgy of St. Chrysostom was in great part that of his time at Antioch, and that he introduced it at the capital when he became patriarch. We have seen from Peter the Deacon that St. Basil's Rite was used by "nearly the whole East". There is, then, no difficulty in supposing that it had penetrated to Antioch and was already abridged there into the "Liturgy of Chrysostom" before that saint brought this abridged form to Constantinople.

It was this Chrysostom Liturgy that gradually became the common Eucharistic service of Constantinople, and that spread throughout the Orthodox world, as the city that had adopted it became more and more the acknowledged head of Eastern Christendom. It did not completely displace the older rite of St. Basil, but reduced its use to a very few days in the year on which it is still said (see below, under II). Meanwhile the Liturgy of St. Chrysostom itself underwent further modification. The oldest form of it now extant is in the same manuscript of the Barberini Library that contains St. Basil's Liturgy. In this the elaborate rite of the Proskomide has not yet been added, but it has already received additions since the time of the saint whose name it bears. The Trisagion (Holy God, Holy Strong One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us) at the Little Entrance is said to have been revealed to Proklos of Constantinople (434-47, St. John Dam., De Fide Orth., III, 10); this probably gives the date of its insertion into the Liturgy. The Cherubikon that accompanies the Great Entrance was apparently added by Justin II (565-78, Brightman, op. cit., 532), and the Creed that follows, just before the beginning of the Anaphora, is also ascribed to him (Joannis Biclarensis Chronicon, P. L., LXXII, 863). Since the Barberini Euchologion (ninth cent.) the Preparation of the Offerings ( proskomide ) at the credence-table (called prothesis) gradually developed into the elaborate rite that now accompanies it. Brightman (op. cit., 539-552) gives a series of documents from which the evolution of this rite may be traced from the ninth to the sixteenth century.

These are the two Liturgies of Constantinople, the older one of St. Basil, now said on only a few days, and the later shortened one of St. Chrysostom that is in common use. There remains the third, the Liturgy of the Presanctified ( ton proegiasmenon ). This service, that in the Latin Church now occurs only on Good Friday, was at one time used on the aliturgical days of Lent everywhere (see ALITURGICAL DAYS and Duchesne, Origines, 222, 238). This is still the practice of the Eastern Churches. The Paschal Chronicle (see CHRONICON PASCHALE) of the year 645 (P. G., XCII) mentions the Presanctified Liturgy, and the fifty-second canon of the Second Trullan Council (692) orders: "On all days of the fast of forty days, except Saturdays and Sundays and the day of the Holy Annunciation, the Liturgy of the Presanctified shall be celebrated." The essence of this Liturgy is simply that the Blessed Sacrament that has been consecrated on the preceding Sunday, and is reserved in the tabernacle ( artophorion ) under both kinds, is taken out and distributed as Communion. It is now always celebrated at the end of Vespers ( hesperinos ), which form its first part. The lessons are read as usual, and the litanies sung; the catechumens are dismissed, and then, the whole Anaphora being naturally omitted, Communion is given; the blessing and dismissal follow. A great part of the rite is simply taken from the corresponding parts of St. Chrysostom's Liturgy. The present form, then, is a comparatively late one that supposes the normal Liturgies of Constantinople. It has been attributed to various persons -- St. James, St. Peter, St. Basil, St. Germanos I of Constantinople (715-30), and so on (Brightman, op. cit., p. xciii). But in the service books it is now officially ascribed to St. Gregory Dialogos ( Pope Gregory I ). It is impossible to say how this certainly mistaken ascription began. The Greek legend is that, when he was apocrisiarius at Constantinople (578), seeing that the Greeks had no fixed rite for this Communion-service, he composed this one for them.

The origin of the Divine Office and of the rites for sacraments and sacramentals in the Byzantine Church is more difficult to trace. Here too we have now the result of a long and gradual development; and the starting-point of that development is certainly the use of Antioch. But there are no names that stand out as clearly as do those of St. Basil and St. Chrysostom in the history of the Liturgy. We may perhaps find the trace of a similar action on their part in the case of the Office. The new way of singing psalms introduced by St. Basil (Ep. cvii, see above) would in the first place affect the canonical Hours. It was the manner of singing psalms antiphonally, that is alternately by two choirs, to which we are accustomed, that had already been introduced at Antioch in the time of the Patriarch Leontios (Leontius, 344-57; Theodoret, H. E., II, xxiv). We find one or two other allusions to reforms in various rites among the works of St. Chrysostom ; thus he desires people to accompany funerals by singing psalms (Hom. iv, in Ep. ad Hebr., P. G., LXIII, 43) etc.

With regard to the Divine Office especially, it has the same general principles in East and West from a very early age (see BREVIARY). Essentially it consists in psalm-singing. Its first and most important part is the Night-watch ( pannychis , our Nocturns ); at dawn the orthros ( Lauds ) was sung; during the day the people met again at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, and at sunset for the hesperinos ( Vespers ). Besides the psalms these Offices contained lessons from the Bible and collects. A peculiarity of the Antiochene use was the "Gloria in excelsis" sung at the Orthros (Ps.-Athan., De Virg., xx, P. G., XXVIII, 276); the evening hymn, Phos ilaron , still sung in the Byzantine Rite at the Hesperinos and attributed to Athenogenes (in the second cent.), is quoted by St. Basil (De Spir. Sancto, lxxiii, P. G., XXXII, 205). Egeria of Aquitaine, the pilgrim to Jerusalem, gives a vivid description of the Office as sung there according to Antioch in the fourth century ["S. Silviæ (sic) peregrin.", ed. Gamurrini, Rome, 1887]. To this series of Hours two were added in the fourth century. John Cassian (Instit., III, iv) describes the addition of Prime by the monks of Palestine, and St. Basil refers (loc. cit.) to Complin ( apodeipnon ) as the monks' evening prayer. Prime and Complin, then, were originally private prayers said by monks in addition to the official Hours. The Antiochene manner of keeping this Office was famous all over the East. Flavian of Antioch in 387 softened the heart of Theodosius (after the outrage to the statues ) by making his clerks sing to him "the suppliant chants of Antioch" ( Sozomen, H. E., VII, xxiii). And St. John Chrysostom, as soon as he comes to Constantinople, introduces the methods of Antioch in keeping the canonical Hours (16, VIII, 8). Eventually the eastern Office admits short services ( mesoorai ) between the day Hours, and between Vespers and Complin. Into this frame a number of famous poets have fitted a long succession of canons (unmetrical hymns ); of these poets St. Romanos the singer (sixth cent.), St. Cosmas the singer (eighth cent.), St. John Damascene (c. 780), St. Theodore of Studion (d. 826), etc., are the most famous (see BYZANTINE LITERATURE, sub-title IV. Ecclesiastical etc.). St. Sabas (d. 532) and St. John Damascene eventually arranged the Office for the whole year, though, like the Liturgy, it has undergone further development since, till it acquired its present form (see below).

II. THE BYZANTINE RITE AT THE PRESENT TIME

The Rite of Constantinople now used throughout the Orthodox Church does not maintain any principle of uniformity in language. In various countries the same prayers and forms are translated (with unimportant variations) into what is supposed to be more or less the vulgar tongue. As a matter of fact, however, it is only in Rumania that the liturgical language is the same as that of the people. Greek (from which all the others are translated) is used at Constantinople, in Macedonia (by the Patriarchists), Greece, by Greek monks in Palestine and Syria, by nearly all Orthodox in Egypt ; Arabic in parts of Syria, Palestine, and by a few churches in Egypt ; Old Slavonic throughout Russia, in Bulgaria, and by all Exarchists, in Czernagora, Servia, and by the Orthodox in Austria and Hungary ; and Rumanian by the Church of that country. These four are the principal languages. Later Russian missions use Esthonian, Lettish, and German in the Baltic provinces, Finnish and Tatar in Finland and Siberia, Chinese, and Japanese. (Brightman, op. cit., LXXXI-LXXXII). Although the Liturgy has been translated into English (see Hapgood, op. cit. in bibliography), a translation is never used in any church of the Greek Rite . The Uniats use Greek at Constantinople, in Italy, and partially in Syria and Egypt, Arabic chiefly in these countries, Old Slavonic in Slav lands, and Rumanian in Rumania. It is curious to note that in spite of this great diversity of languages the ordinary Orthodox layman no more understands his Liturgy than if it were in Greek. Old Slavonic and the semi-classical Arabic in which it is sung are dead languages.

The Calendar

It is well known that the Orthodox still use the Julian Calendar (Old Style). By this time (1908) they are thirteen days behind us. Their liturgical year begins on 1 September, "the beginning of the Indict, that is of the new year". On 15 November begins the first of their four great fasts, the "fast of Christ's birth " that lasts till Christmas (25 December). The fast of Easter begins on the Monday after the sixth Sunday before Easter, and they abstain from flesh-meat after the seventh Sunday before the feast (our Sexagesima ). The fast of the Apostles lasts from the day after the first Sunday after Pentecost (their All Saints' Day ) till 28 June, the fast of the Mother of God from 1 August to 14 August. Throughout this year fall a great number of feasts. The great cycles are the same as ours -- Christmas, followed by a Memory of the Mother of God on 26 December, then St. Stephen on 27 December, etc. Easter, Ascension Day, and Whitsunday follow as with us. Many of the other feasts are the same as ours, though often with different names. They divide them into three categories, feasts of our Lord ( heortai despotikai ), of the Mother of God ( theometrikai ), and of the saints ( ton hagion ). They count the "Holy meeting" (with St. Simeon, 2 February), the Annunciation (25 March), the Awakening of Lazarus (Saturday before Palm Sunday ), etc., as feasts of Our Lord. The chief feasts of Our Lady are her birthday (8 September), Presentation in the Temple (21 November), Conception (9 December), Falling-asleep ( koimesis , 15 August), and the Keeping of her Robe at the Blachernæ (at Constantinople, 2 July). Feasts are further divided according to their solemnity into three classes: great, middle, and less days. Easter of course stands alone as greatest of all. It is "The Feast" ( he heorte , al-id ); there are twelve other very great days and twelve great ones. Certain chief saints (the Apostles, the three holy hierarchs -- Sts. Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom -- 30 January, the holy and equal-to-the-Apostles Sovereigns, Constantine and Helen, etc.) have middle feasts ; all the others are lesser ones. The Sundays are named after the subject of their Gospel; the first Sunday of Lent is the feast of Orthodoxy (after Iconoclasm ), the Saturdays before Meatless Sunday (our Sexagesima ) and Whitsunday are All Souls' days. Our Trinity Sunday is their All Saints. Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year are days of abstinence (Fortescue, "Orth. Eastern Church ", 398-401).

Service-books

The Byzantine Rite has no such compendiums as our Missal and Breviary ; it is contained in a number of loosely arranged books. They are: the Typikon ), a perpetual calendar containing full directions for all feasts and all possible coincidences. The ( Euchologion ) contains the priest's part of the Hesperinos, Orthros, the three Liturgies, and other sacraments and sacramentals. The Triodion contains the variable parts of the Liturgy and Divine Office (except the psalms, Epistles, and Gospels ) for the movable days from the tenth Sunday before Easter to Holy Saturday . Tbe Pentekostarion continues the Triodion from Easter Day to the first Sunday after Pentecost (All Saints' Sunday ). The Oktoechos gives the Offices of the Sundays for the rest of the year (arranged according to the eight modes to which they are sung -- okto echoi ) and the Parakletike is for the weekdays. The twelve Menaias , one for each month, contain the Proper of Saints; the Menologion is a shortened version of the Menaia, and the Horologion contains the choir's part of the day Hours. The Psalter ( psalterion ), Gospel ( enaggelion ), and Apostle ( apostolos -- Epistles and Acts) contain the parts of the Bible read (Fortescue, "Orth. E. Ch.", 401-402; Nilles, "Kal. Man.", XLIV-LVI; Kattenbusch, "Confessionskunde", I, 478-486).

The altar, vestments and sacred vessels

A church of the Byzantine Rite should have only one altar. In a few very large ones there are side-chapels with altars, and the Uniats sometimes copy the Latin multitude of altars in one church; this in an abuse that is not consistent with their rite. The altar ( he hagia trapeza ) stands in the middle of the sanctuary ( ierateion ); it is covered to the ground with a linen cloth over which is laid a silk or velvet covering. The Euchologion, a folded antimension, and perhaps one or two other instruments used in the Liturgy are laid on it; nothing else. [See ALTAR (IN THE GREEK CHURCH).] Behind the altar, round the apse, are seats for priests with the bishop's throne in the middle (in every church). On the north side of the altar stands a large credence-table ( prothesis ); the first part of the Liturgy is said here. On the south side is the diakonikon, a sort of sacristy where vessels and vestments are kept; but it is in no way walled off from the rest of the sanctuary. The sanctuary is divided from the rest of the church by the ikonostasis ( eikonostasis , picture-screen), a great screen stretching across the whole width and reaching high up to the roof (see sub-title The Iconostasis s.v. HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN ALTAR ). On the outside it is covered with a great number of pictures of Christ and the saints, arranged in a more or less determined order (Christ always to the right of the royal doors and the Bl. Virgin on the left), before which rows of lamps are hung. The ikonostasis has three doors, the "royal door" in the middle, the deacon's door to the south (right hand as one enters the church), and another door to the north. Between the royal door and the deacon's door the bishop has another throne facing the people. Immediately outside the ikonostasis is the choir. A great part of the services take place here. In the body of the church the people stand (there are no seats as a rule); then comes the narthex, a passage across the church at the west end, from which one enters by doors into the nave. Most of the funeral rites and other services take place in the narthex. Churches are roofed as a rule by a succession of low cupolas, often five (if the church is cross-shaped). In Russia there is generally a belfry. The vestments were once the same as the Latin ones, though now they look very different. It is a curious case of parallel evolution. The bishop wears over his cassock the sticharion our alb ; it is often of silk and coloured; then the epitrachelion , a stole of which the two ends are sewn together and hang straight down in front, with a loop through which the head is passed. The sticharion and epitrachelion are held together by the zone (girdle), a narrow belt of stuff with clasps. Over the wrists he wears the epimanikia , cuffs or gloves with the part for the hand cut off. From the girdle the epigonation , a diamond-shaped piece of stuff, stiffened with cardboard, hangs down to the right knee. Lastly, he wears over all the sakkos , a vestment like our dalmatic. Over the sakkos comes the omophorion . This is a great pallium of silk embroidered with crosses. There is also a smaller omophorion for some rites. He has a pectoral cross, an enkolpion (a medal containing a relic ), a mitre formed of metal and shaped like an imperial crown, and a dikanikion , or crosier, shorter than ours and ending in two serpents between which is a cross. To give his blessing in the Liturgy he uses the trikerion in his right and the dikerion in his left hand. These are a triple and double candlestick with candles. The priest wears the sticharion, epitrachelion, zone, and epimanikia. If he is a dignitary he wears the epigonation and (in Russia ) the mitre also. Instead of a sakkos he has a phainolion , our chasuble, but reaching to the feet behind and at the sides, and cut away in front (see CHASUBLE and illustrations). The deacon wears the sticharion and epimanikia, but no girdle. His stole is called an orarion ; it is pinned to the left shoulder and hangs straight down, except that he winds it around his body and over the right shoulder at the Communion. It is embroidered with the word "HAGIOS" three times. A very common abuse (among Melkites too) is for other servers to wear the orarion. This is expressly forbidden by the Council of Laodicea (c. 360, can. xxii). The Byzantine Rite has no sequence of liturgical colours. They generally use black for funerals, otherwise any colours for any day. The vessels used for the holy Liturgy are the chalice and paten ( diskos ), which latter is much larger than ours and has a foot to stand it (it is never put on the chalice ), the asteriskos (a cross of bent metal that stands over the paten to prevent the veil from touching the holy bread), the spoon ( labis ) for giving Communion, the spear ( logche ) to cut up the bread, and the fan ( hripidion ) which the deacon waves over the Blessed Sacrament -- this is a flat piece of metal shaped like an angel's head with six wings and a handle. The antimension ) is a kind of corporal containing relics that is spread out at the beginning of the Liturgy. It is really a portable altar. The Holy Bread (always leavened of course) is made as a flat loaf marked in squares to be cut up during the Proskomide with the letters IC. XC. NI. KA. ( Iesous Christos nika ). In the diakonikon a vessel is kept with hot water for the Liturgy (Fortescue, op. cit., 403-409; "Echos d'Orient", V, 129-139; R. Storff, "Die griech. Liturg.", 13-14).

Church music

The singing in the Byzantine Rite is always unaccompanied. No musical instrument of any kind may be used in their churches. They have a plain chant of eight modes that correspond to ours, except that they are numbered differently; the four authentic modes (Doric, Phrygian, Lydian, and Mixolydian -- our 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th) come first, then the Plagal modes (our 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th). But their scales are different. Whereas our plainsong is strictly diatonic, theirs is enharmonic with variable intervals. They always sing in unison and frequently change the mode in the middle of a chant. One singer (generally a boy) sings the dominant ( to ison ) of the mode to the sound of A continuously, while the rest execute their elaborate pneums (see PLAIN CHANT). The result is generally -- to our ears -- unmelodious and strange, though in some cases a carefully trained choir produces a fine effect. One of the best is that of St. Anne's (Melkite) College at Jerusalem, trained by the French Pères Blancs. One of these, Père Rebours, has written an exhaustive and practical treatise of their chant ("Traité de psaltique" etc.; see bibliography). In Russia and lately, to some extent, in the metropolitan church of Athens they sing figured music in parts of a very stately and beautiful kind. It is probably the most beautiful and suitable church music in the world.

The Holy Liturgy

The present use of the Byzantine Rite confines the older Liturgy of St. Basil to the Sundays in Lent (except Palm Sunday ), Maundy Thursday, and Holy Saturday, also the eves of Christmas and the Epiphany, and St. Basil's feast (1 January). On all other days on which the Liturgy is celebrated they use that of St. Chrysostom. But on the weekdays in Lent (except Saturdays) they may not consecrate, so they use for them the Liturgy of the Presanctified. An Orthodox priest does not celebrate every day, but as a rule only on Sundays and feast-days. the Uniats, however, in this, as in many other ways, imitate the Latin custom. They also have a curious principle that the altar as well as the celebrant must be fasting, that is to say that it must not have been used already on the same day. So there is only one Liturgy a day in an Orthodox Church. Where many priests are present they concelebrate, all saying the Anaphora together over the same offerings. This happens nearly always when a bishop celebrates; he is surrounded by his priests, who celebrate with him. The Liturgy of St. Chrysostom, as being the one commonly used, is always printed first in the Euchologia. It is the framework into which the others are fitted and the greater part of the Liturgy is always said according to this form. After it are printed the prayers of St. Basil (always much longer) which are substituted for some of the usual ones when his rite is used, and then the variants of the Liturgy of the Presanctified. The Liturgies of Basil and Chrysostom, then, differing only in a certain number of the prayers, may be described together.

The first rubric directs that the celebrant must be reconciled to all men, keep his heart from evil thoughts, and be fasting since midnight. At the appointed hour (usually immediately after None ) the celebrant and deacon (who communicates and must therefore also be fasting ) say the preparato


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 2:1-10
1 And you were dead, through the crimes and the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:2, 3, 4, 5
2 serve Yahweh with gladness, come into his presence ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:13-21
13 A man in the crowd said to him, 'Master, tell my ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 20th, 2014 Image

St. Paul of the Cross
October 20: St. Paul of the Cross was born at Ovada in the Republic of ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter