- Press Release on the union of Coptic and British Orthodox Churches
- On the Trail of Seven Coptic Monks in Ireland
- With Lynch to Holy Etchmiadzin
- The Coptic Orthodox Church under Islam
- Journey Into Artsakh
- Biographies of former BOC members
- The British Orthodox Church – Mission & Ministry
- The Liturgy of St James – Abba Seraphim
- The Liturgy of St James – Fr John Ross
- The Fraction in The Coptic Orthodox Liturgy
- The Ministry of the Deacon in the Liturgy of Saint James
- The Divine Liturgy of Saint James
- That They May be One – 3:2 St. Timothy Aelurus of Alexandria
- That They May be One – 3:1 St. Timothy Aelurus of Alexandria
- That They May be One – 2. The Humanity of Christ
- That They May Be One – 1. Reflections on Christian Unity
- New Age or Old Faith
- One Lord, One Faith: Why Orthodox don’t practice Open Communion
- Pope Shenoudas El Kosheh Declaration
- Christian Spirituality in a Changing World
- The Saints – Pattern of Christian Virtue
- Reconstructing Celtic Spirituality: Searching for a Western Early Church
The Liturgy of St James – His Grace Metropolitan Seraphim
The Preface to the Syrian Liturgy of Saint James describes it as,
“The Anaphora of Mar James, the brother of our Lord. And this is the first Corban, whi ch he said he heard and learned from the mouth of the Lord. And he did not add, and did not omit in it a single word.”
“On Wednesday, James, the brother of the Lord, celebrated the Liturgy which has his name the beginning of which being ‘God and Lord of all’. And being asked wherefrom he had taken it, he replied, ‘God is living, and I neither added nor left out anything of what I heard from the Lord.’ This is why this is the primitive and first liturgy.”
“For also James, the brother, according to the flesh of Christ our God, to whom the throne of the Church of Jerusalem first was entrusted, and Basil, the Archbishop of the Church of CE6sarea, whose glory has spread through all the world, when they delivered to us directions for the mystical sacrifice in writing, declared that the holy chalice is consecrated in the Divine Liturgy with water and wine.”
Other evidence of the worship of the Church in Jerusalem is contained in the account by Egeria, a late fourth century pilgrim, of her visit to the Eas t between 381 and 384, when Saint Cyril was nearing the end of his ministry. Only discovered in 1884, this document indicates that the text of the liturgy was still fluid and there are good reasons for believing that Saint Cyril himself may have been resp onsible for reordering the ancient rites. Although the Jerusalem Church was Greek dominated at this period, and the liturgical language was Greek, Egeria tells us that there was a Syriac speaking minority whose needs were met:
“In this province there are some people who know both Greek and Syriac, but others know only one or the other. The bishop may know Syriac, but he never uses it. He always speaks in Greek, and has a presbyter beside him who translates the Greek into Syriac, so that everyone can und erstand what he means.”
The discovery in 1948 of an Old Armenian Lectionary, probably dating from between 417 and 439 and translated from a Greek original, which ties in with Egeria’s accounts of lessons she heard read at Jerusalem, provides another missing link enabling us to partially reconstruct the liturgical worship of Jerusalem at this period.
It is difficult to say when the process of hellenisation was started. Kurian Valuparampil1 reminds us that the Greek Christians were an integral part o f the original Church of Jerusalem (Acts VI: 1) and that parallel worship undoubtedly took place in Greek and Aramaic. He suggests that the original Antiochian liturgy was derived from Jerusalem in the first century and later reinforced by the presence of Christian refugees following the Fall of Jerusalem in 72 A.D. This view would account for the strong tradition of continuity from Saint James, but does not explain the process by which this was transformed into a developed liturgical form common to both the Greek and Syriac texts.
The Greek text undoubtedly underwent som e Byzantinisation at an early stage. Hammond instances the two liturgical hymns: the Monogenes (o Monogenhj) and the Cherubikon (oi ta ceroubim mustikwj) as later interpolations. The Monogenes (“O Word Immortal”) was originally composed as an entrance chant (eisodikon), which the Byzantines attributed to the Emperor Justinian I (527-565), who they assert, wrote it in 528 when Severus, Patriarch of Antioch was his guest. The Syrians, however, ascribe it to Severus himself and date it from 512-518. It is strongly anti-Nestorian in character and also attacks the heresy of Eutyches.
The earliest extant text of Greek Saint James is very late, dating from the tenth century, when it had already suffered heavy Byzantinisation. 4a, to mark the coming of age of Crown Prince Constantine. Generally, however, it is only celebrated in Jerusalem on the Feast of Saint James (23rd October) and on the first Sunday after Christmas. Today it remains a permitted alternative to Saint John Chrysostom and has increased in p opularity, though is still only rarely celebrated. In the Syrian Churches, however, Saint James is flourishing and has spread to the Malankara Orthodox communities of South India.
In making a detailed comparison between Saint Cyril’s commentary and the earliest texts of Saint James, Dix observes,
“There is a curious detail, however, in Cyril’s phrasing which is not taken over by Saint James, but which suggests that the Jerusalem Preface was originally borrowed from the Egyptian tradition of Alexandr ia”
The Liturgy of Saint James was first used in the British Isles in the eighteenth century. In 1744 there was published posthumously The Ancient Liturgy of the Church of Jerusalem, being the Liturgy of Saint James, Freed from all latter Additions and Interpolations of Whatever kind, and so restored to it’s original purity: By comparing it with the Account given of that Liturgy by St. Cyril in his fifth Mystagogical Catechism. Its author was Thomas Rattray, Bishop of Brechin and subsequently Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church from 1739-1743.
Bishop Rattray’s text served as the basis of a Communion Office, which was used in the Scottish Episcopal Church from 1764-1911 and again when revised in 1912 and was quite distinct from the Book of Common Prayer as used in the Church of England.
I had spent most of my liturgical life with the Glastonbury Rite, which although Western in structure had been heavily Byzantinised in its ceremonial and vestments. I had grown to love it and recognise its strengths, but I was not blind to its weaknesses either. Although all liturgy has an element of hybridisation, this took place in ancient times and over the intervening centuries the rites acquired a homogeneity distinctive to the spiritual tradition of each church. With the Glastonbury rite there was such a hotchpotch of traditions that the services had become overly elaborate and suffered from a certain degree of repetition. A distinctive liturgy necessitated its own Horologion, ordinal, sanctorale, lectionary, rituale and propers, some of which were already in place but much of which had still to be written. Although liturgy is an essential part of the church’s life and tradition, I was concerned that too great a preoccupation with liturgy might be at the expense of mission. As a small, independent, missionary church we were also open to criticism for devising our own rites rather than identifying ourselves with the wider Orthodox family by using an ancient and universally recognised liturgy.
The decision in principle to adopt the Liturgy of Saint James in place of the Glastonbury Rite had been taken prior to the beginning of our talks with the Coptic Orthodox Church but these now necessitated bringing the proposed schedule forward so that all the necessary changes coincided with our reception into the Patriarchate of Alexandria.
We had chosen Saint James after much careful consideration because of its primitive and apostolic character. To think of it as an ‘Eastern’ as opposed to a ‘Western’ liturgy seems to me to be putting the emphasis in quite the wrong place. Perhaps because our congregations had been using a Byzantinised Western rite I felt it would not present too great a change of ethos. Saint James, like Saint Basil, was common to both families of Orthodox though the there is far more common text in Saint James. The many similarities with Saint Basil ar e also very appropriate in view of our union with the Coptic Patriarchate, where Saint Basil’s Liturgy is the most widely used. We chose Greek Saint James because in spite of having been Byzantinised it is still closer to the primitive rite than Syriac Saint James, which has been heavily embellished.
Where appropriate we have used good British hymnody. The translation of the Monogenes was made by Thomas Alexander Lacey (1853-1931), better known for his hymn based on the Advent Antiphons, ‘O Come, o come Emmanuel’. ‘Let all mortal flesh keep silence’ is a translation of the Greek Sighsatw pasa sarx broteia by Gerard Moultrie (1829-1885). The Recessional of Saint James, based on the Greek text ‘Apo doxhj eij doxan poreuomenoi is probably in a translation by my predecessor, though the English Hymnal contains another version by Charles Humphreys (1840-1921).
In considering the ceremonial of Saint James as celebrated in the British Orthodox Church it was felt that as far as possible it should follow the traditions of our Mother Church, especially as in all other services we were committed to follow the rites and ceremonies of the Coptic Church. Structurally this involved us in few changes as our own churches had cubic free-standing altars and an ikonostasion. We decided that we needed to adopt the cursi, known as the ark or throne. This is a consecrated box with hinged lids, which is permanently on the altar and is decorated with ikons, in which the chalice sits throughout the liturgy. There is something slightly similar in the ancient Gallican rite where the eucharistic elements were brought up to the altar in a box called the turris, or tower.
A distinctive feature of Greek Saint James is the tradition of receiving the precious Body of the Lord in the hand. The authority for this comes from the words of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem himself:
“In approaching therefore , come not with thy wrists extended, or thy fingers spread; but make thy left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to receive a King. And having hollowed thy palm, receive the Body of Christ, saying over it, Amen.”
His Holiness approved these changes and in 1994 a provisional text was made available to the churches, who were invited to send in their observations about its practical implementation as well as the language. The response throughout the churches was amazingly positive and before long we began to feel as if we had never used any other liturgy. The first published text appeared in 1995. Work continues on the ritual and it is hoped to publish a revised edition with simplified rubrics as well as detailed rubrical instructions by the end of 1996.