Antiochene Liturgy

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The manner of celebrating Christ's redemptive mystery in the Patriarchate of Antioch and, in a modified form, among some Syrians today.

Origins. The tradition is that the liturgical formula of "offering thanks" as observed at Antioch of Syria, an important early Christian community (Acts 8 to 11), spread to Jerusalem, where it was translated from Greek to Aramaic. The Antioch usage, further modified at Jerusalem, thereafter became the model of almost all the other Eastern rites.

Liturgical customs radiating from Antioch left their mark on the Church life of the surrounding area. The rapid growth of Christianity in this region (Antioch itself counted 150 suffragan bishops at Nicaea in 325) demanded a close surveillance over the prayers of the liturgy lest nonapproved forms be adopted. As a consequence, prayer texts came to be written, and in this manner, rather than orally, they were transmitted from one community to another; the smaller communities of Christians borrowed the written texts from those that were larger and more influential. In due time, then, the liturgical practices carried out in the city of Antioch were found in use throughout the area known as the Patriarchate of antioch. Thus, the Antiochene Liturgy came into existence.

It is not surprising to discern in the somewhat fixed 4th-century Antioch usage described below the outlines of various other Eastern rites. Such a resemblance was inevitable in the Liturgy of Byzantium or Constantinople, by tradition the handiwork of St. John Chrysostom, who before he became bishop of Constantinople (370397) was a priest of the city of Antioch. At a much earlier date, St. Mark is said to have introduced the Antiochene usage into Egypt, where it developed into the Alexandrian rite (see alexandrian liturgy).

Order of the Divine Liturgy. There follows in outline form, based on quotations taken from book eight of the Apostolic Constitutions, a 4th-century Syrian Christian writing, a description of the early Antioch usage: (1) reading from the Old Testament, (2) reading from the Epistles and Acts and the Gospels, (3) homily by the bishop, (4) dismissal of nonmembers, those preparing for Baptism, and public penitents, (5) prayer for all the faithful, (6) kiss of peace and greetings by the bishop, (7) washing of hands, (8) bringing in of the gifts, (9) Eucharistic Prayer, Preface, Sanctus, (10) words of institution, (11) Anamnesis, (12) Epiclesis, (13) intercessory prayers for the Church, the living, the dead, (14) prayers in preparation for Communion ("Holy things for the holy"), (15) Communion, (16) post-Communion prayer of thanks, and (17) final blessing by the bishop. Of note in this usage at this time are: (1) the prominent role played by the deacon as intermediary between bishop and people; (2) the frequent petitions made in litany form by the deacons to which the faithful responded "Kyrie eleison"; (3) the position of the Epiclesis after the Consecration (see Quasten Monumenta eucharista et liturgica vetustissima 198233).

Later Developments. From the time of the Council of Chalcedon (451) until the 7th-century Arab conquest of Syria, the Antiochene Liturgy was used by both Orthodox and Jacobite Syrians. However, with the rise of Constantinople to a position of ecclesiastical supremacy in the East came the widespread use of the byzantine liturgy. The Antiochene Liturgy, except for its use in a modified form by the Jacobites, simply ceased to exist (see jacobites [syrian]).

The Antiochene Liturgy is sometimes called the West Syrian Liturgy to distinguish it from the East Syrian Liturgy, a liturgy usually identified with the Christian churches of Mesopotamia and Chaldea. These Christians, originally dependent on Antioch, dwelt beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, where because of their isolated position they gradually acquired an ecclesiastical semi-independent status, a condition that favored the development of a distinct liturgical rite. The liturgy that evolved in that region is the one we know today as the East Syrian Liturgy. Christians of this liturgical rite who have reestablished full union with Rome are today known as the chaldean catholic church.

Today, the Antiochene Liturgy is celebrated by only a small body of Christians, divided almost equally between Syrian Catholics and Syrian Jacobites.

Bibliography: d. attwater, The Christian Churches of the East, 2 v. (Milwaukee 1961). j. a. jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite (New York 1959). n. liesel, The Eucharistic Liturgies of the Eastern Churches, tr. d. heimann (Collegeville, Minn. 1963). r. roberson, The Eastern Christian Churches: A Brief Survey, 6th ed (Rome 1999).

[e. e. finn/eds.]

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Antiochene Liturgy

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