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Liturgy has conventionally been understood as the words that Jews recite in public worship. While written words are almost all that remains from earlier times, the study of liturgy today understands that the ways that these words are performed shapes their meanings profoundly. To the extent possible, then, the study of liturgical words must be combined with the study of all elements of their settings: of the gestures, postures, and intonations (musical or otherwise) accompanying them; of the physical setting where they are recited, usually the synagogue, and its ornamentation; of ritual objects accompanying them; and of the matrix of halakhah, custom, and theology that shapes their composition and recitation. Thus, liturgy in the Jerusalem Temple was primarily nonverbal, but filled with the ritual actions of sacrifice. Liturgy in synagogues has always been dominated by words, but not exclusively so. Liturgy in two synagogues might include very similar texts but look and sound entirely different, or express two very different sorts of spirituality. In addition, the synagogue is not the only locus of rabbinic liturgy; a prayer quorum can gather anywhere. Moreover, the individual, with or without the quorum, remains obligated to pray. Rituals based in the home, around meals, or formulated over a cup of wine (as in circumcision and marriage) are also integral elements of Jewish liturgy. (For studies that pursue some of these directions, see Ehrlich; Langer, To Worship…; Langer and Fine.)

biblical period

While the Jerusalem Temples stood, formal public worship of God occurred there, through the sacrifices and their accompanying rituals. Individuals also offered occasional *prayer, often freely composed as spontaneous reactions to personal events or experiences. The Hebrew Bible records the short prayers of Moses (Num. 12:13), Jethro (Ex. 18:10), and Hannah (i Sam. 1:11), and the extended prayer of Solomon at the inauguration of the First Temple (i Kings 8:15ff., 23ff.). The only formal prayers in the Bible are the confessions to be recited when bringing the first fruits (Viddui Bikkurim) and the tithe (Viddui Ma'aser; Deut. 26:5–15), and that of the high priest which had no prescribed formula (Lev. 16:21). Pious individuals may have prayed thrice daily (Dan. 6:11; cf. also Ps. 55:18), and some of the psalms may have served as texts for the levitical service twice a day in the First and Second Temples (i Chron. 23:30). There is no evidence, however, for communal prayer in the Temple. The Mishnah records a short liturgy for the priests on duty which comprised a benediction, the recitation of the *Shema and the *Decalogue, three additional benedictions, and the *priestly blessing (Tam. 5:1). The laymen present for the sacrifices participated in the ritual by prostrating themselves (Tam. 7:3; cf. Ber. 11b) and at appropriate pauses, probably chanting such responses as "O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good" (Ps. 136:1). This ceremony might have been one of the sources out of which rabbinic liturgy later developed.

The synagogue, the Greco-Roman association in its Judean form, the frequent fasts prescribed in times of drought for which a special liturgy was recorded in the Mishnah (Ta'an. 2:1–5; see *Fasting and Fast Days), and the ma'amadot institution (Ta'an. 2:7; 4:1–4) were elements of the world from which rabbinic liturgy emerged. The synagogue developed as a place for the regular ritual reading and exposition of Torah. Judean civic associations, perhaps known as havurot, provided a forum for communal meals, ritual, and study. The ma'amad consisted of representatives of the people, some of whom were present at the sacrifices and the rest assembled at home, both conducting prayers four times a day – *Shaharit, *Musaf, *Minḥah, and *Ne'ilat She'arim (see *Ne'ilah,*Mishmarot, and *Ma'amadot). The hours later fixed for the Shaḥarit, Minḥah, and *Arvit prayers were in accordance with the times (of prayer of the members of the ma'amadot and thus) of the sacrifices as well as in accordance with the practices of pious individuals who fixed their prayer schedule according to the position of the sun (tj, Ber. 4:1, 7b; Ber. 26b). The sectarian community at Qumran similarly gathered twice daily for formal prayers as well as communal meals. All these prayer gatherings correspond in timing to Temple sacrifices.

talmudic period

Tannaitic texts record the basic outlines of rabbinic liturgy. Although amoraim attribute the composition of many of these prayers to the men of the *Great Synagogue (Ber. 33a), contemporary scholars debate how much, if any, of rabbinic liturgy predates the destruction of the Second Temple. The Mishnah also knows the obligation derived from the Pentateuch, to recite the *Shema twice daily with its benedictions (three in the morning and four in the evening); the daily *Amidah, known as Tefillah, comprising 18 benedictions (Ber. 4:3) on weekdays (but shortened on other days) and recited three times daily (four times on holidays); and the reading of *Torah on Sabbaths, Mondays, and Thursdays. Rabbinic meal rituals, with blessings before eating and an extended *Grace after Meals following, complete with invocations that reflect an association-like setting, also appear in the Mishnah (Ber. ch. 6–7).

The concept of *benedictions, i.e., berakhot, as the fundamental building block of prayer is already evident in Qumran literature and is presupposed by the rabbis, but with many variants. The amoraim demanded a single statutory formulation, Barukh Attah Adonai ("Blessed are You, Eternal"). In addition, the rabbis incorporated many Temple rituals, like the *priestly benediction, *shofar, *lulav, and *hallel into appropriate points in their liturgies. (See the individual entries on all these prayers for their descriptions and histories.)

No rabbinic prayers were written down until much later. Contemporary scholars debate to what extent the rabbinic liturgical system achieved its form during the Second Temple period or under Rabban *Gamaliel in response to the destruction of the Temple. It is also unclear to what extent prayer texts were fixed or flexible within these accepted structures and how broadly rabbinic prayers were known among the Jews of the Land of Israel and even more so in the Diaspora. It is only around the fourth century that synagogue architecture in Israel begins regularly to reflect the physical orientation of rabbinic worship, especially the Amidah, towards Jerusalem. By that point, rabbinic prayer had become a function of the public synagogue, complete with a *sheli'ah ẓibbur whose public recitation of the prayers enabled those incapable of praying properly on their own to fulfill their obligations to participate by listening and responding *amen. There are ample indications that women attended the synagogue. However, there is no direct evidence for an architecturally separate women's section until the High Middle Ages.

At the very least, an accepted literary norm developed to the effect that the ideal language for prayer would be Hebrew (although other languages were acceptable for many prayers; Sot. 7:1, 32b-33a; Ber. 13a, etc.), and that this Hebrew would allude to but not duplicate biblical language. By the end of the talmudic period, general consensus existed as to the basic formulation of most prayers, though significant regional variations remained. Whether these variations arose as devolution from an original fixed composition or from gradual evolution towards this consensus is unclear. No manuscripts of Hebrew prayers exist from this period, and the few Greek manuscripts suggest only a vague adherence to rabbinic norms (Van der Horst, Langer, "Did…"). The Talmud preserves a few discussions of disputed prayer texts, and these decisions became normative in later generations as the Talmud itself became normative. However, the lack of early talmudic manuscripts also calls the historicity of many of these texts into question.

Around this core of statutory prayers, other elements seem to have emerged, probably in the amoraic period. These include the recitation of psalms and psalm-like passages, known as *pesukei de-zimra, prior to the prayers themselves, in order to set an appropriate mood (Ber. 5:1), and the recitation of individual prayers after the Amidah. These latter prayers began as private supplications, including personal requests (known as devarim; Tos. to Ber. 3:10, also called teḥinnah or taḥanunim), but were gradually formalized (see *Taḥanun). In contrast to the statutory prayers, both of these elements include extensive recitation of biblical texts as well as new compositions composed of concatenations of complete biblical verses. These elements took radically different forms in the Land of Israel and in Babylonia, as the findings of the Cairo *Genizah attest (Fleischer, Eretz-Israel…), but their direct reliance on biblical language suggests that they had emerged before the *Karaites' insistence on purely biblical prayer became an issue.

Perhaps as early as the tannaitic period, traditions of *piyyut (liturgical poetry) emerged in the Land of Israel as elaborations upon the statutory prayers (some simpler exemplars became part of this liturgy). By at least the late amoraic period, *ḥazzanim produced and performed poetic versions of entire liturgical elements, especially on Sabbaths and holidays, replacing the statutory language with compositions relevant to the day and its Torah reading. This poetry was mostly in Hebrew, continuing the tradition of allusive references to biblical passages, and soon extending its content to include midrashic elements. Piyyut flourished mainly in the Land of Israel; Babylonian rabbis resisted its adoption until well into the geonic period. The universal triumph of the Babylonian rabbinic insistence on precise recitation of the statutory prayers, as well as on an annual cycle of Torah readings, left little room for the rich tradition of poetry from the west which had been written for a *triennial cycle; it remained unknown until the discovery of the Cairo Genizah.

geonic period

By early geonic times, two different rabbinic rites had already developed: the Palestinian and the Babylonian. We know little about the nature of Jewish prayer in the rest of the Diaspora, except where the correspondence of specific communities with the geonim has been preserved. In all cases, by the end of this period, their prayers largely conformed to Babylonian rabbinic norms. Contemporaneous Babylonian *responsa show great concern with universally establishing correct prayer texts according to their own customs and, concurrently, with the rejection of "deviant" customs which can often be identified as Palestinian or, later, Karaite. (Hoffman, Canonization….)

The old Palestinian rite, which flourished until the 12th century c.e. at least, became known in modern times only after the discovery of the Cairo Genizah. The first Palestinian liturgical texts were published by S. Schechter, in jqr, 10 (1898), 654–9. A bibliography of the numerous subsequent publications may be found in Y. Luger, The Weekday Amidah …; of particular importance is E. Fleischer, Eretz-Israel….

While there are considerable differences between the Palestinian usage and the other known rites, the discovered texts do not always show whether they were intended for private or public prayer. Among the characteristics peculiar to the Palestinian rite are the *triennial cycle of the Torah reading; the ending Ẓur Yisrael ve-Go'alo for the *ge'ullah benediction after the Shema (morning and evening); different texts for several benedictions including the *Birkat ha-Torah; a totally different recension of the 18 (not 19) benedictions of the Amidah in which the (otherwise also known) benedictions Elohei David u-voneh Yerushalayim, she-Otekha be-yir'ah na'avod, ha-tov lekha lehodot, oseh ha-shalom occur; an elaborate and complex ritual preceding the statutory prayers on the Sabbath that combines a version of pesukei de-zimra with a procession with the Torah and a recitation of the Ten Commandments (tefillat ha-shir); a special benediction before the Shema, Asher kiddeshanu be-mitzevotav ve-ẓivvanu al mitzvat keri'at Shema; and the addition of Ya'aleh ve-Yavo to the Musaf Amidah. Scattered elements of the Palestinian rite made their way into the various medieval European rites, especially those associated with the recitation of piyyutim. However, there is no discernable pattern of regular influence that suggests direct and sole dependence.

The old Babylonian rite is mainly known from geonic treatises and from Cairo Genizah fragments; the oldest treatise – which is also the oldest preserved complete prayer book – is the ninth-century Seder R. Amram Gaon of *Amram bar Sheshna (ed. by E.D. Goldschmidt, 1971), comprised of the texts of the prayers together with respective halakhic prescriptions. Both Amram and his near contemporary *Natronai b. Hilai in his responsum concerning the 100 benedictions (L. Ginzberg, Geonica, 2 (1909), 114ff.) answered queries from Spanish Jews asking how to pray. This suggests the possibility that Jews in Spain were only then beginning to accept rabbinic liturgical requirements. The majority of medieval prayer books follow the organization of the Seder Rav Amram Gaon, including, frequently, its combination of prayer texts with the pertinent halakhic prescriptions. Unfortunately, its many copyists did not preserve Amram's original prayer texts, often substituting their own. Today's prayer books still follow his order of the prayers.

The seder was followed (a century later) by the Siddur Rav of *Saadiah (Gaon) b. Joseph with prescriptions in Arabic (ed. by I. Davidson, S. Assaf, and B.I. Joel (1941)) which, despite some influences of Palestinian usage, is a good example of geonic prayer books. However, Saadiah's organization was more suitable for study than for synagogue use, and it had no impact outside the Arabic-speaking world. Saadiah also includes significantly more piyyutim, including some of his own composition, indicating their increasing acceptance in Babylonia.

post-geonic rites

All the various medieval rites of Jewish liturgy developed from the Babylonian rite with varying influences from the Palestinian rite as well as what may be some remnants of local customs which are impossible to document. Although it is customary to divide the rites according to strict geographical boundaries, examination of the manuscript evidence suggests that this is useful mostly as a heuristic device, and actual local customs shaded one into the next, much as do linguistic dialects. Layered onto this were various halakhic and mystical concerns about precise language and performance of the prayers (including, especially, music) that further shaped the actual liturgical experience. Jewish mobility, voluntary and involuntary, also contributed to mixings of these rites. The rites evolved internally over time, especially but not exclusively around the edges of the statutory prayers.

Conventionally, scholars have constructed relationships among the rites mainly by the collections of piyyutim they adopted, dividing the rites into two groups: the Palestinian (comprising Italy, the Balkans, and the Franco-German countries) and the Babylonian (comprising the Spanish and Yemenite rites). However, this Eurocentric division ignores most of the rites driven out of existence after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and presumes that all communities preserved their traditions of piyyut as carefully as did Ashkenaz. It also ignores the fact that the statutory prayers of all these rites are fundamentally Babylonian.

Until Iberian Jews began fleeing Spain, beginning in 1391 but especially after 1492, Jews who moved to a new area generally adopted the local custom, thus preserving the local and regional nature of Jewish rites. Mass immigration, however, created communities of Spanish Jews who considered their customs superior to those of the natives. With this, and in accord with kabbalistic teachings that one's prayers would only reach heaven if offered in the words appropriate to one's ancestral lineage, Jewish rites ceased to be regional. Printing of large numbers of identical prayer books also led to a loss of differentiations among local rites and the loss entirely of rites in which printers were not interested. As a result, the modern world is dominated by two rites: the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi (with identifiable subgroups), accompanied by a few surviving regional rites, most notably those of Italy and Yemen. None of these survive solely in their places of origin.

The most significant formative forces on the medieval rites were the continuing integration of Babylonian halakhic norms and the various schools of Jewish mystic thought. Liturgical halakhah continued to develop, as part of the larger processes of halakhic development, during this period. The parameters of correct prayer, as outlined in the Seder Rav Amram Gaon, Halakhot Gedolot, and Massekhet Soferim particularly received authoritative definition in the various medieval codes and related works. A significant number of these works, like the Sefer Hamanhig of *Abraham ben Nathan ha-Yarḥi (ed. Raphael, 1978), also contain valuable descriptions of actual regional practices in the course of their discussions of halakhic questions. The *Ḥasidei Ashkenaz were deeply interested in liturgy and in correctly reciting and understanding liturgical texts. Their traditions and commentaries, such as the Perushei Siddur ha-Tefillah la-Roke'aḥ of *Eleazar ben Judah of Worms (ed. Herschler, 1992), the Siddur Rabbenu Shelomo / Siddur Ḥasidei Ashkenaz (ed. Herschler, 1972), or the piyyut commentary, Arugat ha-Bosem of *Abraham ben Azriel (ed. E.E. Urbach, 1939–63), impacted subsequent understandings of the liturgy. Kabbalists were also interested in and concerned about liturgy, but most texts remain in manuscript. An exception is the 16th-century Sefer Tola'at Ya'akov of Meir ibn Gabbai (Jerusalem, 1967). (For some studies of the impact of Kabbalah on liturgy, see Hallamish.)

Description and identification of the medieval, pre-expulsion rites is still in its infancy. The work was begun by D. Goldschmidt in a series of articles describing individual manuscripts, collected posthumously in his On Jewish Liturgy. Since then, the addition of thousands of liturgical manuscripts to the collection of the Institute for Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts at the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem, the development of scholarly ability to manipulate data by computer, and advances in codicology have made detailed study of the medieval rites in their bewildering variety feasible and a desideratum. S. Reif provides an analytic summary in his Judaism and Hebrew Prayer (1993), Ch. 6, "Authorities, Rites, and Texts in the Middle Ages." In the meantime, the descriptions that follow present the salient features and editions of these rites as they have evolved over the past millennium.

Ashkenazi Rites

We begin, somewhat arbitrarily, with the Ashkenazi rites. These consist of three main subrites: of Northern France (Zorfat), of the Rhineland (Ashkenaz proper), and of the lands to the east of the Rhine (originally called the Canaanite rite, later the Polish rite). All are well established already in the earliest preserved manuscripts from the 12th and 13th centuries as well as in the literature of a slightly earlier time. The rite of Northern France largely ceased to exist with the persecutions and expulsions of the French Jews during the 14th century, but the other two persist today.

french rite

The *Maḥzor Vitry, composed by Rasḥi's student, R. Simhah of Vitry, and presenting his teacher's lore, is one of the earliest exemplars of the Northern French rite. The edition published by S. Hurwitz (1923), based on a late manuscript with many interpolations from the 13th-14th centuries, has now been replaced by the critical edition of Aryeh Goldschmidt (2004). Goldschmidt argues that the Siddur Rashi (ed. S. Buber and J. Freimann (1910–11)) is really a version of this work. The 13th-century Sefer ha-Maḥkim and Siddur Troyes record that the French rite differs from the Ashkenazi rite only in certain additional piyyutim, a kerovah for the second day of Rosh Ha-Shanah, and some ma'arivim. However, manuscript evidence and the arguments of the Ḥasidei Ashkenaz suggest some more subtle differences in precise language, too.

Until the 1290 expulsion, English Jews also followed the ritual of Northern France. A complete siddur with a few piyyutim is contained in Eẓ Ḥayyim (printed in the edition of Sir Israel *Brodie, 1 (1962), 63–138), by R. Jacob Ḥazzan of London. Part of this rite also remained in use in three communities in Piedmont (northern Italy), Asti, Fossano, and Moncalvo (known as אפ״ם, afm), until modern times. These communities had accepted the Ashkenazi rite upon their establishment in Italy, but on the High Holy Days continued to recite the piyyutim of the French maḥzor from handwritten copies. The community of Asti continued to hold High Holiday services in accordance with its ritual until about 1965. The maḥzor of these communities is described by D. Goldschmidt in On Jewish Liturgy, 80–121; and a list of the piyyutim is given by I. Markon, in: Jewish StudiesG.A. Kohut (1935), Heb. pt., 89–101. The whole material of High Holidays piyyutim of the French mahzor found in manuscript is included in the Mahzor la-Yamim ha-Nora'im, ed. D. Goldschmidt, Jerusalem, 1970.

rhineland and canaanite/polish rites

The Rhineland, or pure, Ashkenazi rite, originally used by the German or German-speaking Jews, was the most widely followed and its siddur and maḥzor have been printed since the 16th century. Only fragments of the Palestinian texts (e.g., Ẓur Yisrael or the short Emet ve-Yaẓẓiv in connection with piyyutim) have been retained. The maḥzor contains yoẓerot for the special *Sabbaths and all festivals; kerovot for the Four Parashiyyot, Shabbat ha-Gadol, all the festivals, Purim (in some communities also for Ẓanukkah), and the Ninth of Av; and a large collection of seliḥot and kinot. Most of the piyyutim are by Palestinian or German authors. The rite is now followed in Germany (from the Elbe River westward, where post-Holocaust communities retain authentic rites), Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, northern France, and in a number of communities of Northern Italy.

From the earliest documented exemplars, a slightly different rite was common in communities to the east, known originally as Canaanites (an epithet for "slaves," i.e., the pagan Slavs). This branch eventually comprised the eastern part of Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary, the rest of Austria, all of Russia, Romania, and the rest of the Balkan countries, and later included also the Ashkenazi Jewish communities of Denmark, England, America, and Palestine. Differences between the two branches – the Western, called Minhag Rainus ("Rhine usage") in the Middle Ages; and the Eastern, called Minhag Oystraikh or Minhag Peihem ("Austrian or Bohemian usage"), today generally known as Minhag Polin – are hardly noticeable in the regular prayers; the main variances are in some special piyyutim and in the more elaborate opening to the Torah ritual. Different editions of Minhag Ashkenaz (Western) and Minhag Polin (Eastern) were published from the 16th century onward. The *selihot point to local differences. Thirteen different rites have been printed (see the Seder ha-Seliḥot edition of D. Goldschmidt (1965), introd. 7).

A major contribution of the medieval Ashkenazi rites to the greater Jewish world was the development and regularization of memorial liturgies, ranging from the regular recitation of Kaddish during the year following a parent's death, to the annual recitation of Kaddish on the anniversary of a relative's death, to the recitation of *Yizkor four times a year during the pilgrimage festivals and Yom Kippur. Many of these rituals developed in parallel to Christian interest in cults of the dead. They emerged in Ashkenaz in the aftermath of the destruction of Rhineland communities during the First and Second Crusades. Some Ashkenazi communities included a memorial element in most Sabbath services with the recitation of the prayer "Av ha-Raḥamim," while others recited it only on the Sabbath preceding *Shavuot (the anniversary of the First Crusade) and the Sabbath preceding the Ninth of *Av. It is also in this context that Aleinu became part of the daily liturgy and not simply a part of the High Holy Day Musaf services.

Until the 18th century this rite was generally followed by all Ashkenazi Jews, but since the rise of Ḥasidism, the rite of Isaac Luria (Nusaḥ ha-Ari) was accepted in ḥasidic communities. Though retaining some of the Ashkenazi usage (e.g., the tahanunim, the Kedushah for the Shaḥarit of Sabbath, Grace after Meals), Nusaḥ ha-Ari borrows significant elements from the Sephardi rite (see below) and is therefore popularly called Nusaḥ Sefarad. The piyyutim used by the ḥasidic communities are, however, according to the Ashkenazi (Polish) rite. Through the negligence of printers, the texts of this rite were badly emended and never really standardized. The special editions for the *Chabad Ḥasidim (after the revision of R. *Shneur Zalman of Lyady) are explicitly marked Nusaḥ ha-Ari.

Romanian (Romaniot) Rite

The Romanian (Greek) rite was followed by the Jewish communities of the Byzantine Empire. In use in Greece, the Balkans, and in European Turkey, at least until the end of the 16th century (manuscript evidence suggests that the piyyutim, at least, continued to be recited even later in some communities), it was superseded by the Sephardi rite. Four editions of Mahzor Romania appeared in the 16th century, and many more of smaller prayer books (siddurim) of the rite. Distinctive features of the rite are Hodu before Barukh she-Amar; in the *Kaddish, the addition Ve-Yaẓmaḥ purkaneh vi-karev Meshiḥeh u-farek ameh be-raḥmateh; several elaborations of the weekday Amidah; Le-Dor va-Dor for the third benediction of the Amidah (instead of Attah Kadosh); the short Emet ve-Yaẓẓiv on the Sabbath; Keter for the Kedushah in Musaf. Maḥzor Romania contains a large collection of piyyutim for Shaharit*petiḥah, *reshut, Kaddish, *Barekhu, *yoẓer, ofan, zulat, mi-khamokha; Ma'arivim for every festival (including the Day of Atonement); *kerovot for fast days, Purim, the Day of Atonement, Rosh Ha-Shanah (in Mss. also for the other holidays and Hanukkah); and a large collection of *seliḥot and *kinot. Differences in the manuscripts and the printed editions show that the rite was edited in its final form at a comparatively late date. (For a description of this rite see: Zunz, Ritus, 79ff., and D. Goldschmidt, On Jewish Prayer, 122–52. For its piyyut, see L. Weinberger, Jewish Hymnography: A Literary History (1998), ch. 4–6, and his references to his publications of the piyyut texts.)

The ritual of the Jews of Corfu (their maḥzor was never printed) is almost identical with the Romaniot rite. The rite of the Jews of Kaffa (Feodosiya) and Karasubazar (Belogorsk) in the Crimea has, despite many elaborations of the texts, all the distinctions of the Maḥzor Romania. While their siddur was printed twice (last edition Kala, 1735), their maḥzor was never printed. I. Markon (in: FestschriftA. Harkavy (1908), 449–69) lists 315 piyyutim from their maḥzor.

Roman (Italian) Rite

The Roman (Italian) rite, also called Minhag ha-Lo'azim, is in use today in Rome, in the interior of Italy, in a few communities in Salonika and Constantinople, and also in the Italian synagogue in Jerusalem. Peculiar to this rite are Le'eila Le'eila in the usual Kaddish; Keter in all Kedushot; different wording to the Amidah; different taḥanunim (ve-Hu Raḥum is missing); a special piyyutic version of the Arvit for Friday evening (Asher Killah Ma'asav) and its Amidah (U-me-Ahavatkha); kerovot for the Day of Atonement and all the fast days, but not for Rosh Ha-Shanah and other festivals. A number of piyyutim had already been removed from the maḥzor before the invention of printing. Many manuscripts and editions of this rite continue the model of the Seder Rav Amram Gaon of interspersing prayers with halakhic instructions.

The first edition of this rite was that of Soncino, printed at Casal Maggiore, 1485–86. An introduction to this maḥzor was published by S.D. Luzzatto (1856), entitled Mavo le-Maḥzor Benei Roma (new edition, with supplement by D. Goldschmidt and a bibliography of the printed maḥzor and siddur by J.J.Cohen, Tel Aviv, 1966).

Sephardi (Spanish) Rites

Originally dominant in the Iberian Peninsula, the Sephardi rites spread, after the Jewish expulsion, to North Africa, Italy, the Balkans, and through all the countries of the east as far as India, superseding the fixed prayers of the local rites and often their traditions of piyyut as well. Former *Conversos brought the rite, in a slightly different form, to Holland, some communities in Germany (e.g., Altona, Vienna), England, and eventually North and South America.

In the process of the expulsion, almost all the local rites of the Iberian Peninsula lost their identities. The Catalonian and Aragonese rites were preserved only in Saloniki, where they were printed several times (first editions: Catalonian (Salonika, 1627), Aragonese (Salonika, 1629)) for the Catalonian and Aragonese Jews who settled there (D. Goldschmidt, On Jewish Prayer, 272–88). All surviving rites are versions of the Castilian rite.

The Sephardi rite differs from the Ashkenazi by putting Hodu before Barukh she-Amar; inserting Ve-Yaẓmaḥ Purkaneh in the Kaddish; introducing the Kedushah with Nakdishakh and Keter; different versions of the ninth benediction of the Amidah for summer and winter; minor differences in the general wording of the Amidah; and sometimes the formula Le-Moshe Ẓivvita (instead of Tikkanta) for the Sabbath Musaf. The collection of verses accompanying the movements of Torah from and to the ark are almost completely different. Although early Sephardi rites were rich in piyyutim, they had almost all been deleted or moved to the periphery of the service in Castile by the time of David ben Joseph *Abudarham (see his commentary to the Yom Kippur piyyutim, Tashlum Abudarham, ed. by L. Prins (1900)). From the 16th century, it became common to print this rite according to the kabbalistic traditions of the Ari. From the 18th century, most Sephardi communities removed piyyut entirely (Langer, To Worship God Properly…, 172–82).

north african rites

There is very little evidence preserved for the original rites of the North African communities. Almost all manuscripts and printed editions reflect the rite of the Sephardi émigrés. An important exception is the siddur of Solomon b. Nathan of Sijilmassa (North Africa, 12th century; tr., ed. S. Haggai, 1995). E. Hazan, Hebrew Poetry… provides a comprehensive survey of the poetry characterizing these rites, before and after the arrival of the Sephardi refugees.

provençal rite

The Provençal rite (southern France) is nearly identical with the Sephardi rite, especially that of neighboring Catalonia, and was followed by the communities of Avignon, Carpentras, L'Isle sur la Sorgue, and Cavaillon until the 19th century. The text shows some additions due to the influence of the rite of northern France, e.g., the three Kedushot begin with Nekaddesh, Na'ariẓakh, Keter; in all the Amidot,Shalom Rav is used instead of Sim Shalom. The maḥzor of Avignon was printed in Amsterdam (4 vols., 1765ff.; a detailed description of it was given by Zunz, in Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums, ii (1838)–iv (1840)). The maḥzor of Carpentras, which abbreviated almost all the piyyutim, was printed in Amsterdam (1739–62, 4 vols.). The maḥzorim of L'Isle and Cavaillon, preserved only in manuscript, contain numerous piyyutim for festivals and Sabbaths, but only kerovot for the fast days, Rosh Ha-Shanah, the Day of Atonement, and the prayers of dew and rain. These kerovot were recited after the Amidah in accordance with the practice of the North African communities. A siddur with selected piyyutim for these communities was edited by M. Milhaud (Rituel des Prières en Hébreu à l'Usage des Israélites de l'Ancien Comtat, 2 vols., 1855).

Yemenite Rite

Minhag Teiman, the rite of the Jews of Yemen, follows the Seder Tefillah of Maimonides which is based on the siddur of Saadiah Gaon, but shows the influence of Sephardi elements (see L. Goldschmidt, in ymhs, 7 (1958), 188). A small number of piyyutim such as Avodah, hoshanot, and seliḥot are taken from the Sephardi prayer book. The Yemenite liturgy was first printed in Jerusalem (2 vols., 1894), entitled תכלאל, from which a handwritten (mimeographed) edition elaborated with many piyyutim was edited by J.S. Hobareh (1964 (תכלאל קדמונים)).

Eastern Rites

The Sephardi refugees imposed their rite on all the communities of the east, making the original rites there too difficult to retrieve and study. Among the best documented are the liturgy of the Persian Jews (published by Shlomoh Tal, The Persian Jewish Prayer Book (Heb., 1980)) and the rite of the Jews of Aleppo (Mahzor Aram-Zova, printed in Venice, 1523–27), whose High Holy Days prayers, very similar to those of the Persian prayer book, were also influenced by the Romanian and Roman rites. There are a number of manuscripts extant that apparently hail from this general region, but we have no way of identifying their provenance at this time. All later prayer books conform to the Sephardi rites.

[Ernst Daniel Goldschmidt /

Ruth Langer (2nd ed.)]

the modern period

The economics of printing required mass production of single prayer books to meet the needs of multiple communities, meaning that local preferences for specific piyyutim, variants of individual words or phrases, and all the variety that accompanied a world in which prayer books were produced one at a time, were overridden. In addition, kabbalistic concerns led to many innovative additions and changes to the printed liturgies as well as a belief that only "correct" prayer was efficacious. Particularly in Poland, these changes combined with the prevalence of outright errors in the printed prayer books, inspired prominent rabbis, beginning in the 17th century, to establish the correct texts of the prayers. Important examples range from the 1617 Siddur of R. Shabbetai Sofer of Przemysl (ed. Yitzchok Satz (Baltimore, 1987)) commissioned by the Polish Jewish Council, to the labors of scholars like Wolf *Heidenheim (Sefer Kerovot, 9 vols., 1800–2) and Seligman *Baer (Seder Avodat Yisrael, 1868) in Germany, and Samuel David *Luzzatto (Maḥzor … ke-Minhag Benei Roma, 1855–6) in Italy (Reif, Judaism and Hebrew Prayer, ch. 7–8). With the development of modern academic approaches to Jewish studies, the questions have shifted to those of retrieval of original and earlier forms of prayers and a recognition that "correctness" is not so easily defined. Moreover, the migrations of Jews caused by the Holocaust and the expulsions of Jews from Arab lands has created another leveling of regional rites as liturgical scholars have endeavored to create Israeli prayer books that might be used by all Israelis according to the major rites (like the Siddur and Mahzor Rinat Yisrael, ed. Sh. Tal).

Prayer book manuscripts, because of the labor and expensive materials involved, tended to be as concise as possible, rarely repeating prayers from one service to the next and frequently omitting all instructions on how to perform the liturgies. With the development of printing and more inexpensive book production, and increasing expectations that every worshiper would use a prayer book, the prayer book gradually became a more "user-friendly" text, repeating prayers at appropriate intervals and including instructions, frequently in the vernacular. The contemporary liturgical texts published by *Art Scroll and used widely in Orthodox congregations in the Diaspora represent the extreme expression of this phenomenon, giving instructions for every customary gesture. This represents a flattening of variety not only within the text itself, but also in its actual performance.

Another element that greatly shaped prayer books in the early centuries of printing was the introduction of kabbalistic elements. These included both instructions on how to recite and meditate on the prayers, corrections to existing prayer elements according to the customs of Isaac *Luria, and additional kavvanot (texts expressing the mystical intention of the prayer). Often, additional prayers were added to the printed prayer book intended for private recitation, both on a daily basis and also for specific occasions and personal needs.

In this context, collections of prayers specifically for women (in Yiddish, called *tkhines) begin to appear in Ashkenaz and in Italy (in Hebrew). Some speculate that in Ashkenaz, they originated with the convention of having one woman lead prayers for the women's section, where women often could neither see nor hear the men. Although some of these prayers are clearly written by women, most are unattributed and many may have been written by men. Their language shows influences of Lurianic Kabbalah, suggesting that the printed texts themselves are early modern, but they may well have developed from earlier orally transmitted materials. If similar oral women's traditions existed in other communities, they were never written down. These prayers accompany the dramatic moments of synagogue liturgy, like the blowing of the shofar or the blessing of the New Month, but they also accompany moments in women's lives outside the synagogue, through both the life cycle and the annual cycle. The collections all provide prayers for the three mitzvot specially commanded for women: taking *hallah, going to the *mikveh after menstruation (*niddah), and lighting *candles before the Sabbath and festivals (C. Weissler, Voices of the Matriarchs …). In the 19th and 20th centuries, some of these Yiddish prayers were translated, not only into modern vernaculars but also to accord with modern sensibilities. The best known of these collections was Fanny Neuda's Stunden der Andacht (in English translation, Hours of Devotion). In recent years, many collections have been republished, sometimes in modern Hebrew versions.

19th Century Developments

While synagogue architecture and musical styles were consistently influenced by those of the surrounding cultures, pressures to conform liturgically became more intense and more deliberate as Jews approached emancipation in Western Europe. Acculturated Jews were very conscious of the fact that their liturgical modes were among the elements that marked them as different. If they desired to be considered as citizens of their countries of residence whose religion was Judaism, then the public statement of that Judaism needed to be one of which they could be proud. Reforms of the liturgy began as aesthetic reforms in the quality of musical production and in decorum. Improved decorum did not challenge halakhic norms but did lead to more formal seating patterns for prayers and more regular preaching, increasingly in the vernacular. Musical reforms, in contrast, led to halakhically problematic demands for inclusion in prayer of an *organ and mixed choir.

Reform liturgy had its first formal expression in the prayer book of the *Hamburg Temple, published in 1819. This prayer book, and those that followed it in Western Europe and eventually in the United States, not only provided translations of the prayers into the Western vernacular (itself not a new phenomenon) but considered these translations to be its primary prayer texts. Vernacular prayer itself pushed the reformers to create more radical liturgical changes. The act of translation created a confrontation with the theological statements of the received liturgy and with concepts that, once removed from their poetic Hebrew phraseology, became starkly troublesome when stated in a language that everyone understood well. Certain concepts, especially those driven by Kabbalah, but also prayers for the restoration of sacrifices, did not fit with the rationalist turn of the age and the reformers' sense of modernity; others, like prayers for the restoration of Zion, seemed inappropriate to Jews who considered their true homes to be their countries of residence; yet others were offensive to Jews' gentile neighbors. These concerns, combined with desires to shorten the service as well as leave room for a substantial sermon and enhanced music, led to radical changes in the prayers themselves. Reform prayer books, of which hundreds were produced, increasingly removed or revised theologically difficult passages and shortened the entire liturgy significantly. At its most extreme, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some prayer books retained only superficial similarities to the traditional liturgy, including only a few key sentences of Hebrew prayer and few hints of the service's traditional patterns. Halakhah was simply not a consideration and was often deliberately disregarded as appropriate only to another age. Reform synagogues and their services blended well with the Protestant liturgies of the Jews' neighbors, with vernacular prayers, short Scripture readings (with translation, or only in the vernacular for the *haftarah, which was often declaimed, not chanted), extended sermons, and hymnals filled with vernacular songs designed for organ and choir (and not a cantor). Some of these hymns were adapted from Christian church music. As rabbis became liturgical officiants, like Christian clergy, congregants arrived on time, sat quietly in forward-facing pews, and left elevated by the awesome grandeur of the service. (See J.J. Petuchowski, Prayerbook Reform in Europe: The Liturgy of European Liberal and Reform Judaism (1968) and E.L. Friedland, "Were Our Mouths Filled With Song": Studies in Liberal Jewish Liturgy (1997).)

Such changes elicited objections and responses from the traditional world in Europe, especially in urban areas and in the west. On the one hand, Reform demands for decorum and for greater attention to the liturgy were deemed appropriate. In traditional synagogues, liturgical music was increased and enhanced, although performed by cantors with all-male choirs, and without instrumental music on Sabbaths and holidays. But traditional Jews understood the received prayers as halakhically mandated and immutable. Increasingly, they published prayer books with vernacular translations, intended to edify those less literate in Hebrew but not to serve as performed liturgical texts. As a result, these translations frequently lack literary finesse and are sometimes even incomprehensible. The greatest impact of Reform on the traditional liturgical world was a renewed questioning of the validity and necessity of the Ashkenazi traditions of piyyut. Many communities, over the course of the 19th century, ceased to recite most festival poetry, retaining only the piyyut of the High Holy Days and a few liturgical poems linked to the liturgical announcements of the prayers for rain and dew at Sukkot and Passover.

20th Century Developments

As they achieved a degree of maturity, the various West European and North American non-Orthodox movements sought to define themselves by creating standardized liturgies. How this process worked varied from country to country, depending on the organizational structures of the communities. In North America, liturgies tended to be standardized by each movement across the United States and Canada. In Germany, on the other hand, prayer books were largely produced for specific regional communities. Over the course of the 20th century, although movements never required adherence to their liturgies, these prayer books became elements of the movements' self-definition, reflecting the theology of the movement. Examples of such prayer book series from North America include the Reform movement's Union Prayer Book (published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis), with major editions in 1895, 1921 (revised), 1947 (newly revised), 1975 (the New Union Prayer Book, retitled Gates of Prayer for weekdays, Sabbaths, and holidays, Gates of Repentance (1978) for the High Holy Days), and with numerous versions for specific occasions and revisions. At the beginning of the 21st century, a new prayer book, Mishkan Tefillah, was in production. Publications of prayer books commissioned by the Conservative Movement's United Synagogue began with the 1927 Festival Prayer Book. Most Conservative congregations adopted the Sabbath and festival prayer book edited by Morris *Silverman (1946) and then those edited by Jules Harlow for the Rabbinical Assembly (Mahzor, 1972, Siddur Sim Shalom, 1985, both with subsequent revisions). The Reconstructionist Movement originally used the liturgies of Mordecai *Kaplan (Siddur, 1945, High Holiday Prayer Book, 1948), now replaced by the Kol Haneshamah series, edited by David Teutsch (1991–98 and ongoing). (See Caplan, From Ideology to Liturgy.) Similar series have been published by the Liberal and Reform movements in Great Britain. The Progressive and Masorati movements in Israel have also published their own liturgies in recent decades. All these movements also published corresponding haggadot, rabbi's manuals, and other home and life cycle liturgies, all of which have undergone continuing revisions over the years.

The differences among these series reflect these movements' differing understandings of the appropriate balance between innovation and tradition. While the Conservative prayer books increasingly include new materials, these are generally found on the periphery of the required prayers, and almost all changes to the central prayers have some historical precedent. The Reconstructionist prayers retain tradition except where such prayers contradict the movement's ideology. Hence, concepts like chosenness disappear entirely. The Reform prayer books reflect a growing acceptance of tradition and of Hebrew prayer, but never as a binding category; translations are often highly interpretative and reflect the concerns of the times.

Several elements characterize all these liturgies at the beginning of the 21st century, including those produced for the Orthodox world. Vernacular translations in the English-speaking world have moved from a deliberately archaic Elizabethan English to a contemporary form of the language, thus lessening the formality and "otherness" of the English prayers. Accompanying this is an increasing sensitivity to the layout of the prayer book and its visual dimension. Poetry is often printed as such. Typefaces and arrangements of type are designed to ease reading. Many encourage meditation on the prayers by generous "white space," others by providing rich commentary. Some of these commentaries are produced as study texts, not for active synagogue use. (See Harlow, Or Hadash on Sim Shalom; or Hoffman's series, Minhag Ami, My People's Prayer Book.)

By the 1970s and 1980s, all segments of Judaism had responded liturgically to the Holocaust and the existence of the State of Israel. The latter reality, particularly, transformed Reform traditions of rejection of a Jewish homeland and prayers for return to it. While Reform liturgies still exclude prayers for the restoration of the Temple and its sacrificial worship, references to Israel and its welfare now hold a valued place. Conservative and Reconstructionist liturgies never sidelined Israel, but they address sacrifices only as a past form of worship and do not pray for their restoration. Liturgies published in Israel, and many published elsewhere as well, including many Orthodox prayer books, incorporated the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's "Prayer for the Well-Being of the State of Israel," instead of or in addition to the traditional prayer for the government. Many also incorporate prayers for Israeli soldiers and liturgies for Israeli Independence Day and the anniversary of Jerusalem's reunification. The effect of a revitalized Jewish life in Israel on the non-Orthodox liturgies appears also in their selections of songs, in the increased use of Hebrew (especially in the Reform movement where it had almost disappeared), and in the melodies used for traditional prayers. Liturgical assimilation to the surrounding culture is now less evident, replaced by a conscious striving for authentic Jewish culture. The reintegration of hasidic or hasidic-like music, especially that influenced by Shlomo *Carlebach, speaks to a search for spiritually enriching worship across the spectrum of Jewish practices.

The effect of the Holocaust on Jewish liturgies, beyond its erasure of many local practices throughout Europe, has been less marked. Memorial prayers now regularly include prayers for the victims of Nazism; kinot (poetry of lamentation) on the Holocaust have been added to the Ninth of Av's liturgy. But consensus about an appropriate liturgical religious commemoration, as opposed to communal or secular observance of *Holocaust Remembrance Day, has yet to emerge.

The other major revolution to affect the liturgy in the second half of the 20th century, especially in non-Orthodox circles, was the feminist movement. Beginning in the 1970s, prayer book editors began to remove gendered references to the congregation of worshippers from the vernacular translations. By the 1980s and 1990s, gendered references to God also increasingly disappeared. This included not only a transformation of pronouns, but also the search for new names for God that would not have exclusively masculine referents. Although the process began with the vernacular prayers, this endeavor also extended to Hebrew names for God and to alternative blessing formulae that would better express feminist prayers. See, for example, M. *Falk's The Book of Blessings: New Jewish Prayers for Daily Life, the Sabbath, and the New Moon Festival (1996), which also includes exclusively women's voices in the nontraditional poetry of the services. While this prayer book has only superficial similarities to a traditional siddur, the ideals it embodies have affected subsequent non-Orthodox liturgical publications. All the American movements and their Israeli and European counterparts now include the matriarchs in the first blessing of the Amidah and other liturgical references to the ancestors (in the 1998 Conservative Sim Shalom, this is an option). Many include references to Miriam as well as Moses in the Ge'ulah benediction's allusions to the parting of the Red Sea. Women are present explicitly in these prayer books in a way unprecedented in Jewish history.

This transformation of the prayers grew from the transformation of women's roles in the synagogue itself. The non-Orthodox movements had abandoned the *mehiẓah and the prohibition on women's participation in choirs, but they had retained the traditional practice of reserving active leadership roles and honors for men. Egalitarianism achieved its first steps with the public celebration of bat mitzvah ceremonies during regular synagogue services. Regina *Jonas was privately ordained in 1935 in Germany, but she never took on liturgical roles. The most public role of modern liberal rabbis is precisely to lead services. Egalitarianism achieved its symbolic victory with the ordination of the first American woman rabbi by the Reform movement, Sally *Priesand, in 1972, followed by the Reconstructionist and Conservative movements and their counterparts in Europe and Israel. Ordination of women as cantors also followed in short order in these movements. Necessary to this process in the halakhically guided Conservative movement was a series of decisions by the Rabbinical Assembly that, at the discretion of individual congregations, women may be called to the Torah (1955), included in the *minyan (1973), and lead public prayer (1974). Full participation by lay women in the community became increasingly common in the wake of these changes at the leadership levels. This includes greater women's participation on synagogue boards and other decision-making bodies.

In some corners of the Orthodox world, there have also been some subtle transformations in women's liturgical expression. Increased women's learning has led to increased female commitments to regular prayer and hence to an increased presence in the synagogue, which historically provided many more seats for men than for women. It is increasingly common for Orthodox women to recite *Kaddish for deceased relatives. Some communities have begun women's tefillah groups, where women gather, in the synagogue or outside it, for regular prayer and often also Torah reading, but without prayers requiring a minyan of men. Some synagogues allow women to give sermons. In the early years of the 21st century, a new phenomenon has developed of synagogues that maintain separate seating but allow women to lead prayers not requiring a minyan and to read from and be called to the Torah.

[Ruth Langer (2nd ed.)]


I. Elbogen, Gottesdienst, passim (Heb. trans. 1972, English trans. 1993); J. Heinemann, Ha-Tefillah bi-Tekufat ha-Tanna'im ve-ha-Amora'im (19622), passim (Eng. trans: Prayer in the Talmud (1977)); J.J. Petuchowski, Prayerbook Reform in Europe (1968). add. bibliography: E. Caplan, From Ideology to Liturgy: Reconstructionist Worship and American Liberal Judaism (2002); N.B. Cardin (ed., tr.), Out of the Depths I Call to You: A Book of Prayers for the Married Jewish Woman (1995); U. Ehrlich, The Nonverbal Language of Prayer: A New Approach to Jewish Liturgy (2004); E. Fleischer, "On the Beginnings of Obligatory Jewish Prayer," in: Tarbiz, 59 (1990), 397–441 (Heb.); idem, Eretz-Israel Prayer and Prayer Rituals as Portrayed in the Geniza Documents (Heb., 1988); E.L. Friedland, "Were Our Mouths Filled With Song": Studies in Liberal Jewish Liturgy (1997); D. Goldschmidt, On Jewish Liturgy: Essays on Prayer and Religious Poetry (1980); M. Hallamish, Kabbalah: In Liturgy, Halakhah and Customs (Heb., 2000); E. Hazan, Hebrew Poetry in North Africa (Heb., 1995); R. Langer and S. Fine (eds.), Liturgy in the Life of the Synagogue (2005); R. Langer, "Early Rabbinic Liturgy in Its Palestinian Milieu: Did Non-Rabbis Know the 'Amidah'?" in: D. Harrington, A.J. Avery-Peck, and J. Neusner (eds.), When Judaism and Christianity Began, 2 (2004), 423–39; idem, "Revisiting Early Rabbinic Liturgy: The Recent Contributions of Ezra Fleischer," in: Prooftexts, 19:2 (1999), 179–94 (see also 20:3 (2000)); idem, To Worship God Properly: Tensions Between Liturgical Custom and Halakhah in Judaism (1998); Y. Luger, The Weekday Amidah in the Cairo Genizah (Heb., 2001); M.A. Meyer, Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism (1988); S.C. Reif, Judaism and Hebrew Prayer: New Perspectives on Jewish Liturgical History (1993); P.W. van der Horst, "Neglected Greek Evidence for Early Jewish Liturgical Prayer," in: Journal for the Study of Judaism 29:3 (1998), 278–96; C. Weissler, Voices of the Matriarchs: Listening to the Prayers of Early Modern Jewish Women (1998); N. Wieder, The Formation of Jewish Liturgy in the East and the West, 2 vols. (Heb., 1998).


views updated May 17 2018


LITURGY . The English term liturgy, like its parallels in other languages, is primarily Christian. It denotes acts and scripts of worship in Christian experience. By now, however, the word is widely used for similarly ritualized phenomena in other religions too. By extension, it may even be applied to ritual that occurs outside of religion (strictly speaking) altogether. It is derived from the Greek leitourgia, meaning work "performed for the public good," in this case sacrificial acts that served the gods on whom civic welfare ultimately depended. The Septuagint used the term as the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew Bible's avodah, "the sacrificial service," and Christianity retained it for the priestly work of Jesus (Heb. 8:6) and the ministry of Paul (Rom. 15:16). In Judaism, avodah is still found in some prayer-book titles, prayer being seen as the replacement for sacrifice.

The Greek-speaking church, in the East, used liturgy to denote the eucharist. In the West, churches adopted other nomenclature: mass or the sacrament for eucharist; and divine, daily, or ecclesiastical office to mean non-eucharistic daily prayer. By the 1830s, however, as part of a hunt for liturgical origins, liturgy was revived to designate corporate church prayer in general. The Oxford movement, for example, proclaimed liturgy central to the Church of England; and Roman Catholics developed a Liturgical movement variously traced to the Benedictine revival in France of Prosper Gueranger (18051875), the pastoral work in Belgium of Lambert Beauduin (18731960), and others. Other primary figures were theologian Odo Casel (18861948); Virgil Michael (18901938), who brought the Liturgical Movement to the United States and founded its primary organ of liturgical research in 1926 (Orate Fratres, renamed Worship in 1951); and scholars Anton Baumstark (18721948) and Gregory Dix (19011952), whose Comparative Liturgy and The Shape of the Liturgy (respectively) became classics. These developments culminated in Vatican II (19621965) within Roman Catholicism, and similar movements for liturgical renewal in other churches.

Liturgy frames issues around which matters of identity have been foughtfor instance, the Calvinist preference (dating from the Reformation) for purely biblical prayer; the institutionalization of Taoist ritual under K'ou Ch'ien-chih (365448); and Islamic processions to mourn the killing of the prophet's grandson. Cultural rifts among modern Christians have revolved around other issues, primarily:

  • the language of prayer (its register, inclusivity, and doctrinal precision);
  • the musical canon (inherited hymns alone or contemporary jazz);
  • inculturation (altering the liturgy to reflect the culture of the people assembled);
  • ordination of women; and
  • the status of gays and lesbians.

Contemporary liturgical change in Judaism reflects these same cultural rifts, but centers also on the relative importance of prayer in Hebrew rather than the vernacular.

From text to ritual

As a modern scholarly discipline, liturgy has focused on the origins and evolution of ritual texts. It emerged in nineteenth-century evolutionary theory, which Romanticism applied to literary traditions, seeing them as plants that are seeded and then grow through time, sometimes attracting weeds that sully the garden's purity. Religions were thus assumed to have an authentic liturgical canon, the history of which can be traced through scientific attention to manuscript recension. Some liturgists have dedicated themselves simply to unearthing liturgical manuscripts and preparing scientific versions of them. Others have applied this scholarship to implicit religious concerns, citing discoveries of ancient or alternative liturgies to support the status quo or to challenge it, reviving some traditions and jettisoning others.

The most significant recent development in the study of liturgy is its identification as ritual, not just literature. Like drama, liturgies may exist in printed modes, but the written text of Hamlet, for example, is not the actual playthe performance is. Unlike letters, stories, and chronicles, liturgy is a text (usually composite), written or oral, intended for ritual performance. It can even be the performance itself: its words, gestures, melodies, clothing, spaces, props, and roles. Worship (from the old English weorthscipe, implying "worthship"), is the term most employed to characterize the faithful playing out of such a liturgy.

Liturgy, then, is a kind of ritual, presumably a religious ritual. But differentiating it as distinctively religious is as difficult as defining religion itself, and definitions derived from Christian practice may not do justice elsewhere. It is common, for instance, to limit liturgy to public corporate celebrations, but Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism feature significant domestic ritual that should be included in the category. Then too, the blurring of the division between religious and secular results in modern liturgies that reflect both influences: civil marriages with religious components, for example, or national and civic liturgies with at least oncereligious connotations, like American Thanksgiving services, or even the national anthem of the Third Reichoriginally a Haydn hymn. In 2003, an American prison population claiming expressly not to be a religion won the legal right to celebrate its own liturgy anyway.

Liturgies can be variously cataloguedlike liturgies of protest, such as a gay-pride parade, and liturgies of anguish, such as ceremonies attendant on the 9/11 disaster. Since the 1960s, increasing inventiveness has provided variations on established liturgical practice, such as a feminist eucharist with a female "Christa" on a cross; but new traditions have sprung up too, such as the displaying of an ever-growing AIDS quilt. Some would even include as liturgy such rituals as opening a major sporting event.

Liturgies can be considered internally and externally. Internally, liturgies are open to whatever specific critique a particular religion applies to itself: theology for Christians; halakhah for Jews; shariah for Muslims; or dharma for Hindus and Buddhists. External considerations apply objective measures, like the literary model through which the study of liturgy first arose. Defining liturgy as ritual performance has spawned other methods of investigation, like studies of artistic communication, or even studies of how technology influences liturgical expression: invention of coffee brought about all-night ritual to Jewish mysticism; moveable type universalized prayer texts, erasing local variation; and nineteenth-century rail transportation permitted suburban cemeteries that prompted liturgies for funeral homes.

The terms liturgy and ritual are somewhat difficult to disentangle, especially because ritual has its own religious usage in, for example, Methodism. Narrowly conceived, liturgy is the ritual side of religion. But more broadly, liturgy becomes a subsection of the larger discipline of ritual studies (Grimes, 1982), so that insight into ritual informs the understanding of liturgy as well.

The turn to ritual studies came primarily in the postindustrial west where liturgical renewal was responding to modern sensitivities such as gender egalitarianism; internal anachronisms like the marginalization of worshipers from full liturgical participation in Roman Catholicism; and an inherited protest against ritual in many Protestant churches and Reform Judaism. Nearly every discipline in the human sciences has subsequently provided insight, but anthropology and linguistic philosophy have proved most helpful.


The contemporary application of cultural anthropology to liturgy has had to contend with four challenges from prior research. A psychological attack is associated with Sigmund Freud (18561939), for whom ritual is merely obsessivecompulsive neurosis: both are marked, paradigmatically, by strictly controlled touching and eating. Freud's tracing of ritual's origins to an elemental act of incest has been widely dismissed, but liturgy does, in fact, often resemble obsessive behavior, and is still popularly attacked as religiously undesirable, or at least subservient to doctrine and morals (Freud, 1913).

A sophisticated neo-Marxist approach (Bloch, 1989) emphasizes liturgy's verbal form: song, chanting, and repetitive but invariable wording. Communications theory measures cognitively meaningful messages according to the extent that a listener can predict what the speaker will say. Liturgy such as hymns, chants, or intoning praise, provides almost total predictability, so has little or no cognitive content to debate and is therefore charged with underwriting the ineluctable "rightness" of traditional authority among people who would be better off resisting oppression.

The sociological attack is more subtle in that its founder, Emile Durkheim, actually lauded religious ritual for the powerful way it underwrites the legitimacy of social morality. But Durkheim anticipated the replacement of religious liturgies by nationalistic secular alternatives that would accomplish the same thing (Durkheim, 1912).

A fourth challenge came from early armchair anthropologists like Edward Tylor (18321917) and James Frazer (18541941), who forced primitive liturgies of which they had read or heard into a straightjacket of social evolutionism.

These approaches suffer from reductionism: isolating some specific aspect of ritual (and therefore liturgy) and then identifying it as a sorry, and even immoral, remnant of early human history. Liturgy does follow fixed sequences of behavior, but it need not be a compulsive disorder. Liturgical language features linguistic redundancy, but this is not necessarily a ploy by authorities. And even though liturgy claims to access the sacred, the sacred is not solely a socially useful phantasm that supports the social order. Liturgists may agree with some characterizations made by Freud, Marx, Durkheim, and their followers, but liturgists draw different conclusions than they did.

Philologists studying origins and history of liturgical texts claim scientific absoluteness: the prayer is either rightly or wrongly dated to a certain era and author; there can be only one right answer. Ritualists are more like drama critics watching a liturgy and interpreting its messages. Their claims are what philosopher Susanne Langer (18951985) called presentational, not scientific: rather than true or false, they are judged by how compelling they appear, and there is more than one right answer. As cultural ethnographers, liturgists posit interpretations in keeping with a particular religion's internal explanations, but also according to the way liturgies seem externally to function. Other liturgists still study just the liturgical scripts, keeping in mind, however, that they are scripts for performances, not literary works alone. Yet others are musicologists or ethnomusicologists, concerned predominantly with the history or cultural performance of liturgical music.

Cognitively speaking, it is possible to see liturgies as expressions of metaphysical reality for their participants. In that regard, it is convenient to think in terms of three variables: (1) theology (the nature of God or some other higher power, organizing force, principle or reality, like the Upanisad Brahman); (2) religious anthropology (the nature of human beingsborn to original sin; reincarnations according to the principle of Karma; or the absolute servants of God, as in Islam); and (3) cosmology (the nature of the universeneutral as to human action, as in Epicureanism, or perfectible by human action, as in Jewish Kabbalah). Participants take their existential stand at the convergence of these three metaphysical variables, which liturgies expound through word and action. Liturgies posit sacred places; shape time with sacred fasts and festivals; define ideal lives by imposing life-cycle moments (first communion, marriage, ordination); conceptualize human nature (given free will, prone to sin); posit human projects (the Buddhist eight-fold path, the pillars of Islam); and cement relationships with the universe (through sacred soil, perhaps) and with each other (born into a caste, predestined as chosen elect). Along the way liturgies shape sacred history, not just what has been, but what can still be expected to pass, and, therefore, the hopes participants may rightly hold. Liturgies express the rules by which human destiny unfolds: the logic of daily experience. They rehearse formative or revelatory moments of original visionaries by including them in sacred narratives that may be read, chanted, sung, or acted out so as to map their categories on the world and instruct religious adherents on how to find their way within it. More immediately, liturgies organize relations of power, gender difference, and social classby rooting them in assumed metaphysical reality.

Typical of anthropological influence has been rite-of-passage theory, going back to Arnold van Gennep (1908): liturgies separate participants from an old status, transition them betwixt and between, and incorporate them into a new status. Victor Turner (1969) emphasized the potential of transitional (liminal) moments, when neither the old nor the new limit creative vision. Other theorists widely cited are Clifford Geertz, who saw liturgies as symbolic demonstrations of a people's ethos and world view (Geertz, 1973) and "the kind of lives [their] societies support" (Geertz, 1983); and Mary Douglas, who emphasized the body as a symbolizing entity and linked forms of ritualism to specific social structures (Douglas, 1970). Using Turner's emphasis on the potential of liminal moments to produce social and psychological transformation, liturgy's advocates have argued that liturgy is morally empowering (Driver, 1991).

Contemporary theory is multidisciplinary, bringing together such studies as mythology from Lévi-Strauss in 1963 and Eliade in 1954; performance practice from Turner in 1982; and even ritual's biogenetic basis from Newberg, D'Aquilli, and Rause in 2001. Most theorists assume overall that liturgies posit systems of meaninga view that goes back to pioneers like Max Weber (18641920)especially in "limit" moments, Clifford Geertz describes as intellectual bafflement, inexplicable suffering, and ethical paradox (Geertz, 1973).

Linguistic philosophy

By the end of the nineteenth century, western philosophy seemed mired in two equally undesirable alternatives: British empiricism, according to which the world is available only through the senses; and René Descartes's (15961630) claim that only introspection determines certainty. The latter solution could not guarantee that sensations from within represent the universe without; but the empiricists fared no better, because in the end, what one sees (as it were) is not at all what one gets. Neither school could guarantee a genuine world beyond one's own invention. Immanuel Kant's (17241804) attempt to admit the role of a constructing mind, while yet saving external reality, was whittled away by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (17701831), for whom reality was pure spirit.

These philosophical wars over the nature of reality had consequences for liturgical traditions that posit experience of God, hope, atman, salvation, samsara, jihad, and other presumably real entities, which ought to fit dominant theory of what can be reliably known. The question became whether what liturgy posits is not just chimerical, and if so, how one can know it.

A variety of responses have therefore arisen to justify liturgical claims. Hermeneuticist Paul Ricoeur, for instance, admitted the right to suspect naive theological assumptions. But he thought a new and sophisticated naivete would penetrate the world of symbols and see truths that ordinary sensedata miss. By far the most impactful modern philosophical trend has been what philosopher Gustav Bergmann (19061987) labeled "the linguistic turn." It began with scientifically influenced philosophers who denied all reality to statements that are neither empirical nor logically deducible from empirical bases. Propositions in liturgy (like those of aesthetics, ethics, and religion generally) are, therefore, neither true nor false, but simply meaningless. If liturgy is not saying anything meaningful, what is its point?

Ludwig Wittgenstein (18891951) provided the philosophical possibility of meaningful liturgical statements. His Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921) concluded that even though empirical reality was all that could be spoken about, anything that really mattered existed beyond speech and would have to be shown. Wittgenstein's later Philosophical Investigations (1953) described language as a series of games, only one of which is the description of empirical reality. Other games include naming, ordering, or offering to do something; these do not describe reality, but are not on that account meaningless.

With Wittgenstein, emphasis switched from determining what liturgical language describes to asking what it does. If liturgy does not describe empirical reality, perhaps it shows it, the way art, for instance, demonstrates truths that elude simple declarative sentences. Or, following contemporary pragmatists, perhaps liturgy manufactures truths as much as it discovers them (Rorty, 1999; Putnam, 1994; Goodman, 1978). Here liturgy meets philosophy and the human sciences, which also see ritual as accomplishing something, such as life-cycle passages. A particularly influential approach derives from J. L. Austin (19111960), who called some speech-acts "performative" in that the very act of uttering them performs certain tasks: Saying, "I bet you fifty dollars," establishes a wager; similarly, saying, "I declare you husband and wife" accomplishes what it says in the very saying of itas long as apt circumstances accompany the remark (husband and wife cannot be a dog and a cat, for example). In both the wager and the wedding, a speech act provides words that are measurable not as true or false, but as "felicitous or infelicitous"it works (because done properly) or it does not (Austin, 1962).

With Austin, and then with John Searle, liturgy emerged as a ritualized creative act bringing into being institutional facts like marriage, a new year, pardon from sin, and other states constituted by a religion's internal category scheme. Liturgy is universal to human society because it defines into being the categories of social life, religious or otherwise, without which there would be no social life at all (Searle, 1969, 1995).

The future of linguistic study

Contemporary trends in liturgical study still include historical reconstruction. They also encompass whatever internal studies a religion finds meaningful, as well as insights from the human sciences and philosophy, and the role of the arts in what is increasingly perceived as a performative discipline. Still in their relative infancy, for example, are studies of the way space and music transform script into performance. In addition, studies of Christian and Jewish liturgy have much to learn from the expansion of purview beyond western experience to include the vast panorama of liturgical expression worldwide.


From a Christian perspective, the history of the Eucharist is most fully covered in Joseph A. Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite, 2 vols. (Westminster, Md., 1986). For an excellent survey overall, see Theodor Klauser, A Short History of the Western Liturgy (1965: Eng. Ed. Oxford, 1979). Protestant liturgy is surveyed in James F. White, Protestant Worship (Louisville, Ky., 1989). Reuven Hammer's, Entering Jewish Prayer (New York, 1994) and Entering the High Holy Days (Philadelphia, 1998) provide a modern and accessible survey of traditional Jewish liturgy. My People's Prayerbook (Woodstock, Vt., 19972004, Lawrence A. Hoffman, ed.) provides traditional Jewish liturgy in detail, alongside modern commentaries. During its brief existence, Liturgy Digest (Nathan Mitchell, ed., 19941997) devoted exceptionally fine treatment to a variety of liturgical topics, along with bibliographic details. Worship, the North American journal of record for Christian liturgy, has been available since 1926. In 1987, the newly launched Journal of Ritual Studies began publishing significant articles on ritual aspects of liturgy. Paul Bradshaw, ed., The New Westminster Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship (Louisville, Ky., 2002), includes specific prayers and liturgical items; and Edward Foley, ed., Worship Music: A Concise Dictionary (Collegeville, Minn., 2000) briefly defines musical entries. Paul Bradshaw, Lawrence A. Hoffman, and Janet Walton, eds., provide a six-volume series, Two Liturgical Traditions (Notre Dame, 19911999), tracing parallels and differences in Jewish and Christian liturgy.

A sampling of other recent books of significance includes the following:

Austin, J. L. How to Do Things with Words. Oxford, 1962.

Bell, Catherine M. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. New York, 1992.

Bloch, Maurice. Ritual, History and Power. London, 1989.

Driver, Thomas, The Magic of Ritual [Liberating Rites ]. New York, 1991.

Douglas, Mary. Natural Symbols. London, 1970.

Durkheim, Emile. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912). English ed., New York, 1995.

Eliade, Mircea. The Myth of the Eternal Return. Princeton, N.J., 1954.

Freud, Sigmund, Totem and Taboo (1913). English ed., London, 1950.

Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York, 1973.

Gill, Sam D. Native American Religious Action. Columbia, S.C., 1987.

Goodman, Nelson. Ways of Worldmaking. Indianapolis, 1978.

Grimes, Ronald L. Beginnings in Ritual Study, Washington, D.C., 1982

Grimes, Ronald L. Ritual Criticism. Columbia, S.C., 1990.

Hoffman, Lawrence A. Beyond the Text. Bloomington, Ind., 1987.

Hoffman, Lawrence A. The Way into Jewish Prayer. Woodstock, Vt., 2000.

Langer, Ruth. To Worship God Properly. Cincinnati, Ohio, 1998.

LeviStrauss, Claude. Structural Anthropology. New York, 1963.

Newberg, Andrew, Eugene D'Aquili, and Vince Rause. Why God Won't Go Away. New York, 2001.

Putnam, Hilary. Pragmatism. Cambridge, Mass., 1995.

Rappaport, Roy. Ecology, Meaning and Religion. Berkeley, Calif., 1979.

Rorty, Richard. Philosophy and Social Hope. New York, 1999.

Schechner, Richard and Willa Appel, eds. By Means of Performance: Intercultural Studies of Theatre and Ritual. New York, 1990.

Schulz, Hans-Joachim. The Byzantine Liturgy (1980). English ed., New York, 1986.

Turner, Victor W. The Ritual Process. Chicago, 1969.

Turner, Victor W. From Ritual to Theatre. New York, 1982.

Searle, John R. Speech Acts. London, 1969.

Searle, John R. The Construction of Social Reality. New York. 1995.

Van Gennep, Arnold. Rites of Passage (1908). English ed., Chicago, 1960.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. New York, 1958.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief. Berkeley, Calif., n.d.

Lawrence A. Hoffman (2005)


views updated May 23 2018


Term for the official worship of God by the Church in the West for centuries. In the East, however, the tendency to restrict the word to the Eucharist arose at an early date. This article uses the expression to designate the Church's liturgical worship as distinct from its other devotions, whether practiced by groups or individuals.

Meaning of the Term. Etymologically the word means any service done for the common welfare of the people. It is derived from the Greek λειτουργία, which is a combination of λειτóς, an adjective meaning pertaining to the people (λάος), and ργον, a noun meaning work.

History of the Word. For the Greeks liturgy designated any public service rendered to the community at personal expense or at least without remuneration: education, entertainment, or defense. The word referred even to forced labor done for the common good and, later, to any action that had repercussions in the social and political sphere.

The term made its way into revealed literature through the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. The translators used it almost exclusively for the chosen people's prime purpose for existence, the worship of Yahweh. The word liturgy was used also, though less frequently, for something done for state (1 Kgs 19.21; 2 Chr 17.19; 22.8).

The same practice was followed by the New Testament writers. Luke, for example, speaks of Zechariah's liturgy in the Temple (1.23). Paul calls himself "the liturgist of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles" (Rom 15.16) and also uses the word liturgy to refer to the collection taken up for the poor in Jerusalem (2 Cor 9.12) and to the services rendered to his own person (Phil 2.30). The Letter to the Hebrews employs the term for the priestly work of Jesus Christ, liturgy in its specifically Christian sense: "We have such a high priest a minister [λειτουργóς, liturgist] of the Holies, and of the true tabernacle which the Lord has erected and not man. But now He has obtained a superior ministry [λειτουργίας, liturgy], in proportion as He is the mediator of a superior covenant, enacted on the basis of superior promises" (8.16). This is properly the work of the Christian People of God, for through Christ's liturgy they are able to offer acceptable worship to God and receive from Him the fruits of Christ's redemptive work.

Whereas Christian antiquity applied the term to prayer and sacrifice in general, writers of early centuries made it serve more frequently to denote an official or community service as opposed to devotions of purely private piety [Didache 15.1 (Enchiridion patristicum, ed M.J. Rovët de Journel 4); Clement of Rome. Epist. ad Corinthios, 40.25. 41.1 (Patrologia Graeca, ed. J. P. Migne, 1:288289); Synod of Antioch, chapter 4 (K. Kirch, Enchiridion fontium historiae ecclesiasticae antiquae, ed. L. Ueding 490)]. Subsequent development in the East restricted the word to the Eucharist, as in the Liturgy of Saint James or the Liturgy of Saint Basil. During the Middle Ages the West preferred terms such as ministerium, munus, servitus, and officium. It was left to the Renaissance period to adopt the word liturgy in the titles of collections describing the Church's worship. Since then the term has been thus employed consistently.

Definition. Vatican Council II in The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Dec. 4, 1963) describes liturgy as the carrying out of the work of redemption, especially in the paschal mystery (Sacrosanctum Concilium 2, 6); the exercise of the priestly office of Christ (ibid. 7); the "presentation of man's sanctification under the guise of signs perceptible by the senses" (ibid. ); and a sacred action surpassing all others because it is the action of Christ the priest and of his Body the Church (ibid. ). The liturgy is viewed as a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy (ibid. 8), "the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed"; and the "fount from which all her power flows" (ibid. 10). Liturgy is seen as the source of grace and sanctification in Christ as well as the glorification of God (ibid. ). The Council said also: "Liturgical services are not private functions, but are celebrations of the Church the holy people united and ordered under their bishops. Liturgical services pertain to the whole body of the Church; they manifest it and affect it" (26). Thus the constitution builds upon and goes beyond the classic Thomistic definition of liturgy as "common worship that is offered to God by ministers of the Church in the person of all the faithful" (Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 83.12), as well as Pope Pius XII's definition of liturgy as the "public worship of the Mystical Body, Head and members" (Mediator Dei 20).


Sacramental Worship. All liturgical actions are sacramental; that is, they are signs and symbols that give expression to the conferring of divine life by Christ on His Church and the offering to the Father, through Christ, of the homage and worship of His people. The foundational basis of this sacramental quality of liturgical worship is the Incarnation. Christ is the first of all Sacraments. As the Word Incarnate, He clothes in visible, tangible form and shape the unseen and transcendent God; He is the dynamic embodying of the living and lifegiving God. The hypostatic union means precisely that the Son of God in person unites to Himself a real human nature, in order, in it and through it, to pervade and transform all human beings with the power and glory of His divinity. Through the Incarnation, Christ's humanity becomes the direct personal instrument of God the Father's eternal plan to redeem the whole human race. Thus Christ is the Sacrament of God in the most perfect sense.

The paschal mystery is the internal content of every liturgical action, for the latter is simply an external sign enabling the worshiper to participate in that supreme act of worship in which God's plan of salvation was brought to fruition by Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection. Without this internal reality of the paschal mystery, liturgical worship would be an empty shell. Although worshippers might be quite sincere in their own interior sentiments, the objective religious action would be incapable of uniting them with God, for saving union with God comes only through Christ's redemptive work. A mere human act of the will does not suffice to make us adopted daughters and sons of God; all must participate in the resurrected body of Christ. It is precisely in the sacramental, liturgical worship of the Church that we are assimilated into Christ's risen body.

This understanding of the liturgy is beautifully expressed by Vatican Council II in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (57). After speaking of the paschal mystery as the core and kernel of the liturgy, it says that the liturgy is but a complex of "sensible signs through which the sanctification of man is signified and brought about in a way proper to each."

Priestly Worship. The worship of the Church has no meaning except as an action of Christ the Redeemer; from Him it receives its content and efficacy. It is nothing less than Christ's worship of His Father, His worship done through His Mystical Body.

According to the Epistle to the Hebrews, through His transfiguring sacrifice Christ exercised a priesthood, a priesthood that is eternal. "Because He continues forever, He has an everlasting priesthood. Therefore He is able at all times to save those who come to God through Him, since He lives always to make intercession for them"(7.2425). Through the liturgy Christ's Priesthood becomes a continuous and living reality throughout the ages (Mediator Dei 22; Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy 7).

This priesthood He chose to share with His followers, so that they would be able to continue Him as the Sacrament of redeeming worship. In his first Epistle Peter urges Christians to draw near to Christ, "a living stone, rejected indeed by men but chosen and honored by God. Be you yourselves as living stones built thereon into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Youare a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people purchased by God to proclaim the great deeds of Him who has called you out of darkness to His marvelous light" (2.4, 5, 9). The power of this royal priesthood enables all Christians to associate themselves and their lives with Christ's sacrifice, which alone can make of their act of worship pleasing to God the Father. It is this priesthood of Christ, present and active within the Church, that empowers the Church to be an efficacious sign of the redeeming worship of Christ at the instant of His dying and rising.

In its liturgical worship, then, the Church acts as one, since everything it does is done precisely as the action of the one Body of Christ, with Him as head, as priest. Christ's priesthood, present and active in the members of His body, is so essential that without it there would be no liturgy; in it the members of the Church act as the one people of God in its proper condition of the divinely chosen holy cult community, the single, unified expression of the priestly movement of Jesus Christ back to His Father.

The dignity of the liturgical assembly is no small thing, for it is the concrete realization of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the organ of the Mystical Body, expressing its union with its Head in His most sublime role as mediator between God and humanity. By its very nature, then, the liturgy demands full, conscious, and active participation of all the faithful; and they have a right to participation by reason of their Baptism (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy 14). Since Liturgical functions are not private actions but celebrations that pertain to the whole body of the Church, the Sacrament of unity, the Church officially desires that their communal celebrationwith the full active participation of the faithfulbe observed as something preferred over what might be called a "private" use of these functions (ibid. 26, 27). In order to bring out externally and more adequately the real and necessary diversity of function in the Church's worship, Vatican Council II insisted that everyone, whether cleric or laity, do all and only those parts that pertain to his or her office by the nature of the rite (ibid. 28).

That the liturgy is the source of Christian sanctity follows from its being the divinely intended means for achieving assimilation to Christ and insertion into His redemptive action. Vatican Council II was clear on this. Although the Council admitted that the liturgy does not exhaust all the activity of the Church, "as the action of Christ the priest and of His body the Church, every liturgical celebration is an action of such excellence that no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree of piety. Theliturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church tends, and the fount from which flows all her power" (ibid. 6, 13, 10).

See Also: liturgical books of roman rite; liturgical movement; liturgical rites; liturgical theology; liturgical vestments.

Bibliography: a. g. martimort, ed. The Church at Prayer: An Introduction to the Liturgy (rev. ed. Collegeville, Minn. 1992). a. a. hÄussling, ed., The Meaning of the Liturgy (Collegeville, Minn. 1994). a. j. chupungco, ed., Handbook for Liturgical Studies, 5 v. (Collegeville, Minn. 19972000).

[j. h. miller/

d. w. krouse/

g. austin/eds.]


views updated May 14 2018

lit·ur·gy / ˈlitərjē/ • n. (pl. -gies) 1. a form or formulary according to which public religious worship, esp. Christian worship, is conducted. ∎  a religious service conducted according to such a form or formulary. ∎  (the Liturgy) the Eucharistic service of the Eastern Orthodox Church.2. (in ancient Athens) a public office or duty performed voluntarily by a rich Athenian.DERIVATIVES: lit·ur·gist n.


views updated Jun 08 2018

liturgy a form or formulary according to which public religious worship, especially Christian worship, is conducted. The Liturgy designates the Communion office of the Orthodox Church, and is also an archaic term in the Anglican Church for the Book of Common Prayer. Recorded from the mid 16th century, the word comes via French or late Latin from Greek leitourgia ‘public service, worship of the gods’.
Liturgical colours the colours used in ecclesiastical vestments and hangings for an altar, varying according to the season, festival, or kind of service. These have varied over the centuries, but now generally conform to the system established in 1570, with violet for Advent and Lent, white and gold for Christmas, Epiphany, Easter Sunday, and Trinity Sunday, red for Passion Sunday and Pentecost, and green for the rest of the year.


views updated May 21 2018

liturgy Established order of the rituals of public ceremonies and worship, as laid down by the authorities of an organized religion. In Christianity, the term also refers to the Divine Office or to the rites proper to specific days, such as Good Friday, or to particular sacraments, such as baptism. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Divine Liturgy refers specifically to the celebration of the Eucharist.


views updated Jun 11 2018

Liturgy (Gk., leitourgia, from laos, ‘people’, + ergon, ‘work’). Worship according to prescribed forms, as opposed to private devotions; hence ‘the liturgy’, the form of such worship.

In Christian use the word may refer to all the services of the Church (but not usually to those of Protestant churches). Most specifically, however, and especially in E. Churches, it is a title of the eucharist or of a particular text of this service (e.g. the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, of St Basil, of St James, etc.).


views updated May 14 2018

liturgy service of the Eucharist; form of (Christian) public worship. XVI. — F. liturgie or late L. līturgia — Gr. leitourgíā public service, worship of the gods, f. leitourgós public servant, minister.
So liturgic(al) XVII. — medL. — Gr.


views updated May 18 2018

liturgy. This, properly, means the service of the Christian Eucharist, but in ordinary usage is now applied to any written and officially authorized form of service. The evolution of liturgies has had a great influence on the development of mus., especially because, for many centuries, almost the only literate and trained musicians were those of the Church and the only fully organized mus. that of its services.

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