Graham Woolfenden

The Emperor Constantine founded the city of Constantinople in 324, and by 381 the bishop was regarded as second only to the bishop of Rome. After the break with Rome in 1054, he was regarded as the first among equals of the Orthodox episcopate. His cathedral, the Great Church, was dedicated in 360 and known as Hagia Sophia from around 430. The original building was replaced by that created for the Emperor Justinian in 537. It became a mosque after 1453, but was made a museum in 1934. This church was the principal place of development for what became the Byzantine liturgical tradition.

Early liturgical influences came from the Greek language traditions of the Syrian city of Antioch. For centuries the standard anaphora or eucharistic prayer for Sundays was that attributed to St Basil the Great (d. 379). John Chrysostom became bishop of Constantinople in 398, and may have brought with him from Antioch a version of the anaphora of the Apostles edited for his own use, which became in turn part of the Byzantine tradition (Taft 1992).

The liturgical rites were originally solemn but simple, making use of readings and psalms to recall Christ's acts of salvation. The daily office of the Great Church, the ako-louthia asmatiki or 'sung' office was largely made up of psalms and other scriptural texts and made good use of the large number of clergy and singers available to this imperial foundation.

Some major changes in the liturgical tradition were introduced from the time of the monastic reformer Theodore of Studios (759-826), and were given impetus by the struggle with iconoclasm. For example, Palestinian monks had begun to elaborate the Jerusalem tradition with a rich liturgical poetry from the seventh century, most especially at the daily offices, and this became influential in Constantinople. Eventually the Palestinian monastic office (itself based on the framework of the Jerusalem cathedral office), was combined with the priestly prayers and litanies of the Constantino-politan office to form the synthesis that is the contemporary Byzantine round of daily prayer.

At the same time, Jerusalem increasingly accepted many features of Constantinop-olitan provenance, especially in the Divine Liturgy. The resulting hybrid office shows its composite origins most vividly in the last few days of Holy Week, when the passion accounts are read several times in forms that reflect the traditions of both cities.

The flowering of Greek language liturgical poetry was of such magnitude that the material was collected into several different books. The Sunday and weekday cycles were codified as the Octoechos (book of the eight tones) in the eighth century. The Lent and Paschal cycles of the Triodion (book of three odes, as in Lenten Matins) were codified from the tenth century, with the Paschal services later entitled Pentecostarion. From the same era, the material for fixed feasts such as Christmas was collected into the twelve-volume Menaion (book of the month). The unchanging parts of the offices were and are to be found in the Horologion/Chasoslov, the book of hours, and the priests' prayers are in the Euchologion (Sluzhebnik in Slavonic). To these would be added the Psalter and a separate priest's book for other services, known in Slavonic as a Trebnik or book of rites. In the tenth century another kind of book appeared, intended as a guide to all the other liturgical works, and known as the Typikon.

By the twelfth century, fusion of the Palestinian tradition of the monastery of Mar Sabas and the Great Church of the Holy Wisdom was complete. The hybrid usages of Constantinople had, since the ninth century, been spreading beyond Greece and Asia Minor through the work of the brothers Cyril and Methodius, and their successors based at Ohrid in Macedonia. The southern Slav peoples, the Serbs and Bulgars became Christians in this liturgical tradition, as did the Romanians, who used Slavonic in all their church services until relatively modern times, although they ordinarily speak a Romance language. The conversion of Kievan Rus', beginning in 988, ensured the enormous spread of Byzantine liturgical traditions amongst the east Slav peoples, in what became the Russian Empire, and beyond.

The Georgians had adopted Christianity in the fourth century and retained strong links with Antioch and Jerusalem. The bishops and people of the ancient sees of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem who remained Chalcedonian, and the churches connected with them such as that of Georgia, eventually became heavily Byzantinized. As a result, the Greek recension of the Jerusalem Liturgy of St James is now only used in a few places once a year, and will not be discussed here.

The authoritative editions of the Typika and the diataxeis (compendia of rubrics) codified the variant readings in the ancient manuscripts. The most influential diataxis, that of the mid-fourteenth-century Patriarch Philotheos Kokkinos was eventually included in the early printed books. Orthodox liturgical books were first printed in Greek, in Rome and Venice from 1526 onwards, Slavonic ones appearing not long afterwards in Muscovy and in what is now Ukraine.

In what follows we will sometimes differentiate between Greek and Russian customs (which do not denote any difference in faith). Greek liturgical customs are observed by the Greek- and Arabic-speaking churches of the ancient Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem; the Church of Greece and the Church of Cyprus (the latter retains a distinctive, older Typikon). Russian customs are found amongst the Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians, and the Georgians (who were heavily Russianized from the eighteenth century onwards). Serbs, Bulgarians and Romanians follow broadly Russian customs with a variety of other, sometimes local, influences. The Byzantine Rite Catholics of Ukraine, the Carpathians and Romania have adopted a number of Latin usages, though efforts are being made to stamp these out. This Latinization was somewhat less marked among the Greek Rite Catholics of the Middle East.

It is a commonly observed phenomenon that liturgical centres at a distance from the place of origin are more likely to conserve older ritual traditions. This is especially true in the Byzantine liturgical tradition; the Russians have often faithfully preserved older Constantinopolitan practice. The Russian Typikon declares that it is that of the monastery of St Sabas (near Jerusalem), whereas the Greek 'Typikon of the Great Church of Christ' (i.e., the See of Constantinople), was edited in the early nineteenth century to reflect changes in the practices of the Greek-speaking churches.

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