Reply To: Questions about Lesson 2

Peter George

    Hi Alexandra,

    This will require a long answer, so bear with me.

    The Liturgy of St. James was the primary liturgy in Jerusalem and still is the principle liturgy of non-Chalcedonian Syriac churches. The Monastery of St. Sabbas continued to use the Liturgy of St. James until the 12th century, when it was replaced by the Constantinopolitan liturgies of St. Basil and St. Chrysostom.

    The religious split of Eastern churches after the 4th Ecumenical Council also became a political split when Muslim Arab invaders took these areas out of the Roman (Byzantine) Empire. As a result, liturgical unity with Constantinople became a way to demonstrate one’s Orthodoxy (and loyalty to the Roman empire). For this reason, celebrating the liturgies of St. Basil and St. Chrysostom became more attractive for Chalcedonian Orthodox Churches in areas where Chalecedonian and non-Chalecdonians lived side-by-side.

    In terms of Liturgy of St. Basil (BAS) versus St. John Chrysostom (CHRYS), BAS was the principle liturgy in Constantinople. CHRYS was introduced later and, as it was shorter than BAS, was used during weekdays. BAS was the Sunday liturgy in Constantinople up until the 11th century. Originally BAS and CHRYS were actually quite different and distinctive from each other. Today, the only noticeable differences come during the Anaphora: the Eucharistic prayer of BAS is much longer and requires longer responses and the chanting of “In You All Creation Rejoices” versus “It is Truly Right”. This was a result of both rites borrowing from each other until both liturgies were essentially unable to be distinguished from each other.

    Once both liturgies reached a point of similarity, CHRYS replaced BAS as the typical Sunday liturgy. However, since the period of Lent is generally marked by liturgical conservatism, BAS was retained as the Sunday liturgy during Great Lent only and on the feast of St. Basil itself. BAS also remains the liturgy used on the Eves of Christmas and Theophany, and sometimes on the feasts themselves (which probably deserves its own post).

    Hope that makes sense!