Christianity Knowledge Base

<templatestyles src="Hlist/styles.css"></templatestyles><templatestyles src="Module:Sidebar/styles.css"></templatestyles>

From the Greek word λειτουργια, which can be transliterated as "leitourgia," meaning "the work of the people," a liturgy comprises a prescribed religious ceremony, according to the traditions of a particular religion; it may refer to, or include, an elaborate formal ritual (such as the Catholic Mass). The unprogrammed meeting of Quakers in The United States is an example of a non-liturgical service because there is no minister or structured order of events.

In the Christian church, liturgical churches are those that use a well-defined liturgy dating to the second century and earlier, in which many of the words and music used follow basic patterns each time the service is conducted. Most Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches are liturgical while most others are to a far lesser extent. So-called non-liturgical churches usually do follow a common worship sequence from one service to the next, but identical elements are few.

Partial list of Christian liturgies (past and present)[]

  • Catholic church (churches in communion with the Holy See of the Bishop of Rome)
    • Latin Rite
      • Roman Rite
      • Novus Ordo Missae
      • Tridentine Mass
      • Anglican Use
      • Mozarabic Rite
      • Ambrosian Rite
      • Gallican Rite
      • Celtic Rite
    • Eastern Rite, e.g.:
      • Eparchy of Krizevci
      • Ruthenian Catholic Church

Frequent liturgical practice[]

Most Protestant Christian denominations, while often following a fixed "order of worship", do not adhere to a liturgy in the strict sense of the word. However, many Lutherans adhere to a liturgy known as the "Brief order of confession and forgiveness."

Eastern Orthodox churches call the liturgy in which the Eucharist is celebrated and served the Divine Liturgy. This is generally comparable to the Roman Catholic Mass, although in practice they are quite different. This can also refer to the detailed rubrics for this ceremony; two of the best known are the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great.

Matins refers to prayers generally said in the morning, without the Eucharist. Vespers refers to prayers generally said in the evening, without the Eucharist. Matins and Vespers are the two main prayer times of Christian Churches, these two prayer times now being called morning and evening prayer more commonly. These two offices in the Roman Catholic church were part of a more extensive collection of prayer hours. This larger collection was called the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours. The Divine Office consisted of eight parts, Matins (sometimes called Vigils), Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. These "Hours" usually corresponded to certain times of the day. When said in the monasteries Matins was generally said before dawn, or sometimes over the course of a night, Lauds was said at the end of Matins, generally at the break of day. Prime at 6 AM, Terce at 9AM, Sext at noon, None at 3PM, Vespers at the rising of the Vespers or Evening Star (usually at around 6PM), and Compline was said at the end of the day, generally right before bed time. Great Vespers as it is termed in the Eastern Orthodox Church, is an extended vespers service used on the eve of a major Feast day, or on the evening before the Eucharist will be celebrated. In Anglican churches, the offices were combined into two offices: Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, the latter of which is known as Evensong when it is sung. In more recent years, the Anglicans have added the offices of Noonday and Compline to Morning and Evening Prayer as part of the Book of Common Prayer. There is also a full [Anglican Breviary], containing 8 full offices, but that is not part of the official liturgies of the Anglican Church.

A liturgy can also refer to the public burdens assigned to the wealthy in ancient Athens, such as outfitting warships, holding banquets and training choruses. See noblesse oblige.

History of the Liturgy[]

This section will describe the evolution of the liturgical celebration known as the Mass by Roman Catholics, which is similar to Anglican Holy Eucharist, and called the Divine Liturgy by many groups of Orthodox Christians.

Initially, it is theorized that the Apostles obeyed the command "do this in memory of me", said during the Last Supper, and performed the liturgy in the houses of Christians. Besides mimicking the action of Jesus, using the bread and wine, and saying his words (known as the words of the institution), the rest of the ritual seems to have been more or less improvised. Early on though it seems that it incorporated many elements of a Jewish synagogue service, including singing of hymns and reading from the Bible (until the 4th century when the church established a Biblical canon, all manner of things were read during the liturgy, including papal encyclicals from Pope St. Clement). Through an unknown process, many elements of these liturgies began to be fixed, and a book called the Apostolic Constitutions, from the fourth century, shows an outline for the liturgy which is incorporated almost all Western and Eastern rites. This includes the use of the prayer known as the Sanctus, which is prefaced by a long introduction; it also includes a fairly fixed series of prayers leading up to the consecration.

Vestments worn by the Bishops and Priests at this point were simply the clothes of the lay person. Later as fashions changed the styles for the clergy remained the same and were embellished. The liturgy was almost assuredly sung in most places. Many places divided the congregation into male and female with a curtain separating them. At this point both Western and Eastern churches adopted the use of curtains to mask the clergy on the altar at certain points, this de-evolved into the rood screen and altar rails in the western liturgies, and evolved into the iconostasis in many eastern liturgies, while still being used in the Armenian liturgy.

The language used in most of the liturgies was Greek. Later a Pope from Africa, where Latin was the vernacular, convinced the Roman church to use Latin instead. As Christianity spread to different nations around the Mediterranean, several distinct traditions developed, each with a different liturgical language: the Alexandrine Tradition (Coptic), Syriac Tradition (Syriac), Byzantine Tradition (Greek), Armenian Tradition (Armenian), and the Latin Tradition (Latin). These basic traditions gave rise to several distinct rites. The Coptic and Ethiopic rites came from the Alexandrine Tradition; The Chaldean, Malabar, Syriac, Malankar, and Maronite rites developed from the Syriac Tradition; the Greek and Slav variants of the Byzantine liturgy emerged from the Byzantine Tradition; the Armenian rite developed from the Armenian Tradition; and the Roman, Ambrosian, and Mozarabic rites came from the Latin Tradition.

The liturgy of the western church was heavily affected by the decisions to allow the Priests to say the mass separate from the bishops (usually almost every public liturgy was celebrated by the bishop, as Christianity spread out of the major urban centers this became more difficult). Thus much of the western rite involved paring down the ceremony to apply to a priest. This did not occur as much in the eastern churches.

Leading up to the time of the Great schism, the rites of the western and eastern churches began to diverge. The eastern was heavily influenced by the use of the iconostasis, a large wall with doors in front of the altar, while the western church was seen as assimilating many of the pious practices of the pagans it had converted in northern Europe.

Before the council of Trent, the western liturgy was very affected by local cultures and trends. In particular, the French had a large influence over many developments in the liturgy, so much so that it could be called a different rite, the Gallican Rite. Priests and Bishops were known to improvise and extend prayers, have long periods of silence, and other innovations. The Council of Trent called for a standardized western rite and created a system for printing missals which would have to be used by every congregation unless their rite was at least 200 years old. In the West, these rites included the Dominican, the Ambrosian rite, and the Mozarabic rite.

Things common to all rites[]

There are many common elements found in all western and eastern rites, at least in those Churches which predate the Reformation. These include:

  • Sanctus prayer as part of the anaphora.
  • incense
  • communion
  • creed
  • Remnants of a division between the first half of the liturgy, open to both Church members and those wanting to learn about the church, and the second half, the celebration of the Eucharist proper, open only to baptized believers in good standing with the Church.
  • Scripture readings, culminating in a reading from one of the Gospels.
  • A three-fold dialogue between priest and people at the beginning of the anaphora or eucharistic prayer.
  • An anaphora, eucharistic prayer, "great thanksgiving," canon or "hallowing", said by the priest in the name of all present, in order to consecrate the bread and wine as the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • With one exception, that of Addai and Mari, all of the extant anaphoras incorporate some form of Jesus' words over the bread and wine at the Last Supper: "This is my body" over the bread and, over the wine, "This is my blood."
  • A prayer to God the Father, usually invoking the Holy Spirit, asking that the bread and wine become, or be manifested as, the body and blood of Christ.
  • Expressions within the anaphora which indicate that sacrifice is being offered in remembrance of Jesus.
  • A section of the anaphora which asks that those who receive communion may be blessed thereby, and often, that they may be preserved in the faith until the end of their lives.
  • Commemoration of the Saints, usually including the Virgin Mary, and prayers for the faithful departed.
  • Intercessory prayers for the Church and its leadership, and often, for earthly rulers.
  • The Lord's Prayer.

(please list more)

Catholic sacraments

External links[]

See also[]


  • Bowker, John, ed. (1997) Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192139657.

External link[]

This article was forked from Wikipedia on March 28, 2006.

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).