Wednesday, November 1, 2017

St. James Liturgy is this Sunday - a Simple Primer

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This Sunday, with Archbishop Peter’s blessing, we will serve the ancient Divine Liturgy of St. James the Brother of the Lord. This Liturgy has been used in and around Jerusalem since the very early time of the Church. It is significantly different than the Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great – the two Liturgies that we are most familiar with since these are the two Liturgies that are regularly served in the Orthodox Church on Sundays. The principle difference is the focus on the spoken prayers of the celebrants rather than the hymnography of the service. Therefore, the choir parts are significantly simpler than at the Liturgies of St. John or St. Basil. The St. James Liturgy does have a few similarities to the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts (of St. Gregory the Diologist) that we celebrate on Great Lenten weekdays (mostly because these are the two more ancient Liturgies, while the Liturgies of St. John and St. Basil are less ancient, but by no means modern, yet have been “developed” liturgically and hymnographically over the centuries, while the St. James Liturgy has not experienced such development). At the Liturgy of St. James the Gifts ARE consecrated, whereas at the Presanctified Liturgy the Holy Gifts are consecrated at the Liturgy on the Saturday or Sunday previous.

Although the Liturgies of the Church are named for saints, the saints themselves did not WRITE these Liturgies, rather, they WROTE DOWN and recorded the authentic liturgical expression of the Church as they found it, and thereby passed it down to us. The St. James Liturgy has essentially fallen out of use in much of the Orthodox world, but because of the academic work of Johann von Gardner (later Bishop Philip of Potsdam) the usage of the Liturgy was revived first in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, and later in Russia.

We include here two videos of the St. James Liturgy in Russia filmed in the last few years. The first is from the St. Petersburg Theological Academy and is significantly shorter (it contains the highlights of the Liturgy from the year 2016). The second is from Saratov and is virtually the full Liturgy of St. James from 2015. Please note that in the videos the faithful are communed differently than at the other Liturgies of the Church. Archbishop Peter has not blessed this practice, and so we will commune as we usually do, from the chalice with a spoon, this Sunday. The rule for Confession and Communion is according to the usual practice.

St. Petersburg Theological Academy

Saratov Theological Seminary

Please do not hesitate to ask me before or after this Liturgy if you have any questions. I look forward to seeing you all at St. Vladimir’s for this unique liturgical expression of the Holy Church this Sunday!

Fr. Gregory