Byzantine rite

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The Byzantine rite (also called the Greek rite ) is the traditional order of worship of the Great Church of Christ of Constantinople . It is observed today in all Byzantine Orthodox churches as well as in many Eastern Catholic churches . The term covers the whole of the divine service life of these churches, the celebrations of the sacraments , the hours, the feasts, the casuals , etc.

Liturgical history

The Byzantine rite originated and developed in the Byzantine Empire , more closely in Constantinople , and can be assigned to the Eastern Church liturgies . Both the Byzantine Orthodox churches and the churches of the Byzantine Rite united with Rome celebrate their services in this form, but not the Oriental Orthodox churches and the corresponding Eastern Catholic churches, which follow their own customs.

From the 4th century onwards in Byzantium, mainly by the clergy of the Constantinople Hagia Sophia , brought into fixed but by no means rigid forms, the Byzantine (= Constantinopolitan) rite found on the one hand wide spread among the Slavic peoples in the 9th and 10th centuries ( Bulgarians , Russians , Serbs ) as well as in the Georgian Orthodox Church and on the other hand also in the Orthodox Churches in the Middle East (Patriarchates of Alexandria , Antioch and Jerusalem ) weakened by Islam . From the beginning, the national languages ​​were predominantly used; it was only later that language levels that had become archaic solidified into liturgical languages (e.g. Church Slavonic in the Balkans and in Russia ). Liturgical additions and formations were added over time. Other things were lost. The current form essentially goes back to the 8th century, but was revised after the end of the iconoclastic dispute, as well as again after the end of the Latin rule over Constantinople. Today's celebration of the Divine Liturgy and the Hours is regulated by monastic orders, which the later Ecumenical Patriarch Philotheos Kokkinos is said to have worked out as abbot of the Great Laura around 1344/47 on Mount Athos .

Periods of Byzantine liturgical history:

(1) The time up to the “Constantinian Turn” .

(2) The imperial or patristic period up to the Latin occupation of Constantinople (1204–1261) (partly overlapping with periods 3 and 4).

(3) The "dark centuries", around 610 to 850, ie until the " student reform".

(4) The Studite period (9th to 13th centuries).

(5) The "neo- Sabaite synthesis" since the Latin rule .

For the churches in the Middle East (Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem) and the Church of the Georgians, when the Byzantine rite was adopted, translations of the associated Greek liturgical books into Syriac, Arabic and Georgian were made, for Christianity in the Balkans and in Russia in Slavic and in modern times worldwide into numerous other languages.

The very formal, character and symbol rich form of service in the Byzantine rite is for the viewer indicated by the veneration of the icons , the use of incense , the separation (actually connection) of the chancel by or to the nave by the templon ( " Ikonostase “) And the festive robes of the chiefs ( celebrants ) and acolytes . The liturgical order presupposes the participation of at least one deacon , but today such a deacon is more than seldom missing. His text portions are then taken over by a concelebrating or the sole officiating priest.

Many churches of the Byzantine rite still follow the Julian calendar , others, such as the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Greece , only for Easter. The Orthodox Church of Finland has completely adopted the Gregorian calendar .

Divine liturgy (Eucharistic celebration)

Today, Holy Mass ("Divine Liturgy") is usually celebrated using the form of the Chrysostomos Liturgy , on a few days a year, especially during the Great Lent up to and including Easter Mass (actually celebrated on Holy Saturday), with the former main liturgy, the Basil's anaphora . Both liturgies have z. Sometimes different texts, but the same ceremonial mass ( Ordo missae ). In fact, both are the one Mass liturgy according to the tradition of the Great Church of Constantinople, in each case z. T. with own texts.

Only on the weekdays of Lent is the Presanctified Vespers ("Liturgy of the consecrated gifts"), which is an evening prayer followed by Communion (no Missa Sicca !).

Another form of the Eucharistic celebration, the restored James liturgy from the Jerusalem tradition , is increasingly used today, especially in Orthodox Greece, but also in the Eastern Slavic Churches. For their celebration, a people's altar is usually set up in front of the iconostasis (" Templon "), and the priests pray and act with their faces to the people ( versus populum ).

In addition to the original liturgical language, ancient Greek , many other languages ​​( Old Slavonic , Romanian , Arabic, English, etc.) are used depending on the country and situation .

The actual celebration is preceded by a long, non-public preparatory phase (prothesis rite; proscomidy), which is used to prepare the Eucharistic gifts. The Byzantine Divine Liturgy (Eucharistic celebration in the broader sense) then consists of two main parts: 1. The liturgy of the catechumens (liturgy of the word): The focus is on the readings from Acts and the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel. 2. The liturgy of the believers (Eucharistic service in the narrower sense): The highlights here are the prayer with the sanctification of bread and wine and the distribution of communion.

Times of day ( hourly prayer )

The daily cycle begins with Vespers (originally at sunset). The main celebrations, Hesperinos ( Vespers ) in the evening and Orthros in the morning, also play a major role in the Eastern Church tradition in the parish churches and are regularly celebrated there - including the merging of the two hours of the vigil at the entrance of Sunday and major festivals of the church year. The other hours are usually only celebrated in monasteries.

Name of the hour (Greek) Correspondence in the Western Church Time of day (historical)
Hesperinós ( Ἑσπερινός ) Vespers at sunset
Apódeipnon ( Ἀπόδειπνον ) Completely (literally "after eating") before going to bed Meditation on the last sleep, death.
Mesonyktikón ( Μεσονυκτικόν ) midnight
Orthros ( Ὄρθρος ) Matins / Laudes early morning - sunrise
Prōtē Hōra ( Πρῶτη Ὥρα ) First lesson ( Prim ) around 6 a.m. Meditation on creation. Usually celebrated after the Orthros.
Tritē Hōra ( Τρίτη Ὥρα ) Third hour ( third ) around 9 a.m. Meditation on the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which happened at that hour.
Hectē Hōra ( Ἕκτη Ὥρα ) Sixth hour ( sixth ) at noon Meditation on the crucifixion of Christ that happened at that hour.
Enatē Hōra ( Ἐννάτη Ὥρα ) Ninth hour ( None ) around 3 p.m. Meditation on the death of Christ that came at this hour.
  • Miguel Arranz: La Liturgie des Heures selon l'ancien Euchologe Byzantin . In: Eulogia. Miscellanea liturgica in onore di P. Burkhard Neunheuser (Studia Anselmian 68). Roma 1979, 1-19.
  • Gregor Maria Hanke , Vespers and Orthros of the Cathedral Rite of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople: a structural analysis and developmental study with special consideration of the psalmody and the forms in the Euchologies (Jerusalem Theological Forum 21: 1-2), Aschendorff, Münster 2018, ISBN 978- 3-402-11041-6

Sacraments (mysteries)

Baptism (Mystery of Enlightenment)

Anointing Myron (Mystery of Sealing)

The anointing of myron (chrismation) immediately follows baptism and corresponds to Catholic confirmation. However, it is not postponed to a later age when a child is baptized.

Eucharist (Mystery of the Holy and Precious Body and Blood of the Lord)

Repentance (mystery of the forgiveness of sins)

  • Paulus Matzerath: Penance and Holy Unction in the Byzantine Church . Paderborn: Schöningh 1940.
  • Heinrich Bernhard Kraienhorst: Orders of repentance and confession of the Greek Euchologion and the Slavic Trebnik in their development between East and West (Das Ostliche Christianentum NF, 51). Würzburg: Augustinus-Verlag 2003. ISBN 3-7613-0203-7 .

Marriage (mystery of coronation)

It consists of two initially separate, later connected parts: engagement and marriage . Today, both parts are usually performed one after the other. The engagement party consists of intercessions, ring changes and the priest's blessing prayer. The wedding ceremony is called "coronation" because the bride and groom are adorned with wreaths made of leaves (in the Greek and Middle Eastern tradition) or gold or money-colored crowns (in the Slavic tradition). The process of the wedding includes Psalm 127 (128), intercessions, the priest's blessing prayers, the coronation, the clasping of hands, the reading of Ephesians 5: 20–33 and John 2: 1–11, which are further intercessions, prayers and that Follow our Father. The bride and groom are given the blessed, but not consecrated, common chalice, and in earlier times also Holy Communion. This is followed by three strides around the wedding table in the middle of the church (called the “dance of Isaiah”). In the Orthodox churches, express inquiries about the will of the bride and groom are only common among those of the Slavic tradition and among Catholics. The liturgical center is the priest's blessing , a prayer over the bride and groom. In this threefold epicletic priestly prayer, the Holy Spirit is called down on the bride and groom. According to the Eastern Church tradition, this blessing and not the declaration of consensus by the bride and groom is constitutive for marriage. When one or both partners enter into a second marriage, special rules apply that are less solemn and contain additional elements of penance.

Liturgical texts:

  • Alexios von Maltzew: The Sacraments of the Orthodox Catholic Church of the Orient. Berlin 1898. ( on the web )
  • Suitbert Bückmann: The sacrament of marriage and the blessing of the church for the family and home in the Byzantine rite (holy celebrations of the Eastern Church 4). Schöningh, Paderborn (1940).
  • The Holy Sacrament of Baptism. The sacrament of marriage. Edited by the Orthodox Church in Germany. Remseck 1981.
  • Sergius Heitz (ed.): Mysterium der Adoration, Vol. III: The Mystery Acts of the Orthodox Church and the daily prayer of Orthodox believers. , Cologne 1988.
  • The worship of the sacrament of marriage . Compiled, translated and introduced by Theodor Nikolaou (Liturgical Texts and Studies 3). 2nd edition, Munich 2002 (Greek-German).
  • Gaetano I. Passarelli: La cerimonia dello Stefanoma (Incoronazione) nei riti matrimoniali bizantini secondo il Codice Cryptense GbVII (X sec.) . In: Ephemerides Liturgicae 93 (1979) 381-391.

Representations and investigations:

  • John Meyendorff: Christian Marriage in Byzantium: The Canonical and Liturgical Tradition . In: Dumbarton Oaks Papers 44 (1990) 99-107 (introduction).
  • F. Van de Paverd: Forme celebrative del matrimonio nelle Chiese orientali . In: La celebrazione del matrimonio cristiano. Atti della V settimana dei professori italiani di Liturgia . EDB, Bologna (1977): 11-116. Without ISBN.
  • Vladimir Khoulap: Coniugalia Festa. An investigation into the liturgy and theology of Christian marriage ceremonies in the Roman Catholic and Byzantine Orthodox Churches with a special focus on the Byzantine Euchologies . (Eastern Christianity NF 42). Augustinus, Würzburg 2003.
  • Peter Plank: The orthodox wedding. A sketch of the history of the worship service . In: Orthodox Forum 17 (2003), 47–65 (basic).
  • E. Herman: Euchê epi digamôn . In: Orientalia Christiana Periodica 1 (1935), ISSN  0030-5375 pp. 467-489 (second marriage).
  • Michael Eckert (2013): God's blessing for the second marriage !? A Catholic outlook on Orthodox theology of marriage and the prospects of divorced remarried. 3rd, revised and expanded edition. Norderstedt. (esp. 118-133 & 189-212).

Ordination (mystery of the laying on of hands)

Traditionally, a distinction is made between χειροτονία chirotonia (Latin ordinatio , "consecration") and χειροθεσία chirothesia (Latin institutio , "commissioning"). The ordination with the laying on of hands by the bishops and church prayer is received by the higher orders, such as bishop, presbyter, deacon (historically also the deaconess), the commission is given to the church sub-offices, e.g. B. Sub-deacon, lecturer. In contrast to other Eastern Churches, the Byzantine Rite did not develop a special ordination liturgy for church heads, such as the Ecumenical Patriarchs.

  • Paul F. Bradshaw: Ordination Rites of the Ancient Churches of East and West . New York 1990.
  • H. Brakmann, Metrophanes von Nyssa and the ordinances of the Byzantine-Greek episcopal ordination . In: Hairesis, Festschrift K. Hoheisel. Aschendorff, Münster i. W. 2002, 303-326.
  • Mikhail Zheltov: Earliest Slavonic Manuscript of the Ordination Rites: Codex of the Russian National Library (St.Petersburg). Soph. 1056, XIV c. [soot.]. In: Вестник ПСТГУ I: Богословие. Философия 2005. Вып. 14. pp. 147-157

Anointing of the Sick (Mystery of the Holy Oil)

Traditionally there are prayers for the sick (numerous have been handed down) and anointings with oil from the holy place (from church lamps, reliquary and blessing oil). The celebration of the anointing of the sick in the concelebration of several (ideally seven) priests is a custom that emerged around 1000 AD. Today it is usually celebrated with reduced staff or by a priest alone.

  • Paulus Matzerath: Penance and Holy Unction in the Byzantine Church . Schöningh, Paderborn 1940.
  • Georges Filias: Les prières pour les malades et sur l'huile de l'onction dans l'Euchologist Barberini grec 336 (Codex Vaticanus Barberianus Graecus 336) . Athens 1997. ISBN 960-7352-13-0
  • Basilius J. (Bert) Groen: The genezing van aim en lichaam. De viering van het oliesel in de Grieks-Orthodoxe Kerk (Theologie & Empirie 11). Kok / Dt. Studien Verlag, Kampen / Weinheim 1990.
  • Basilius J. (Bert) Groen: The anointing of the sick in the Greek Orthodox Church , in: Concilium 27 (1991) 125-131.
  • Tinatin Chronz: The celebration of the Holy Oil according to the Jerusalem order . Aschendorff, Münster iW 2012. ISBN 978-3-402-11020-1

Ordinations (sacramentals)

Myron consecration

Church and altar consecration

  • Vincenzo Ruggieri: Consacrazione e dedicazione di chiesa, secondo il Barberinianus graecus 336 . In: Orientalia Christiana Periodica 54 (1988) ISSN  0030-5375 pp. 82-91.
  • Gus George Christo: The Consecration of a Greek Orthodox Church According to Eastern Orthodox Tradition: A Detailed Account and Explanation of the Ritual (Texts and Studies in Religion 109). Edwin Mellen Press 2005. ISBN 0-7734-6110-8

Monk ordination

Consecration of water on January 6th (theophany)

  • Nicholas E. Denysenko: The Blessing of Waters and Epiphany. The Eastern Liturgical Tradition . Ashgate, Farnham 2012. ISBN 978-1-4094-4078-9 .

Imperial coronation

  • Frank Edward Brightman : Byzantine Imperial Coronations . In: Journal of Theological Studies 2 (1901) 359-392 ( online ).
  • Miguel Arranz. Couronnement royal et autres promotions de cour. Les sacrements de l'institution de l'ancien euchologe constantinopolitain III-1 : in: Orientalia Christiana Periodica 56 (1990) 83-133.
  • Gereon Siebigs: Emperor Leo I . de Gruyter, Berlin 2010. Vol. 2, pp. 707-740. ISBN 978-3-11-022584-6 (early history).

Funeral and remembrance of the dead

Today's Byzantine rite knows four orders of funeral ceremonies, which have common elements: (1) for adult lay people , (2) for priests, (3) for monks and (4) for children.

  • Paulus Matzerath: The funeral celebrations of the Byzantine Church (Holy Celebrations of the Eastern Church 2). Schöningh, Paderborn 1939.
  • Pl. De Meester: Rituale-Benedizionale Bizantino . Roma 1930, 73-148.
  • Vitaliano Bruni: I funerali di un sacerdote nel Rito Bizantino secondo gli eucologi manoscritti di lingua greca . Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem 1972.
  • Elena Velkovska: Funeral Rites according to the Byzantine Liturgical Sources . In: Dumbarton Oaks Papers 55 (2001) 21-55 (basic).
  • Peter Galadza: The Evolution of Funerals for Monks in the Byzantine Realm - 10th to 16th Centuries . In: Orientalia Christiana Periodica 70 (2004) ISSN  0030-5375 pp. 225-257.
  • Themistocles St. Christodoulou: Η νεκρώσιμη ακολουθία κατά τους χειρόγραφους κώδικες 10ου-12ου αιώνος , 2 vol. Θήρα 2005.

Liturgical year

It begins with Easter and is divided into a cycle of fixed celebrations according to the calendar (beginning: September 1st) and a cycle that is dependent on the date of Easter and therefore flexible: Great Lent and Easter (until Pentecost). Details are described in the typicon .

The three Easter days

  • M. Morozowich: Holy Thursday in the Jerusalem and Constantinopolitan Traditions. The Liturgical Celebration from the Fourth to the Fourteenth Centuries , Diss. Pont. Is. Orientale Rome (2002), not yet printed.
  • Sebastià Janeras: Le Vendredi-Saint dans la tradition liturgique byzantine. Structure et history de ses offices. Benedictina, Roma 1988, no ISBN.
  • Gabriel Bertonière: The historical development of the Easter Vigil and related services in the Greek Church. Pont. Institutum Studiorum Orientalium, Roma 1972, no ISBN.

See also


  • Robert F. Taft: The Byzantine Rite. A short history. Liturgical Press, Collegeville 1992, ISBN 0-8146-2163-5 ;
  • Hans-Joachim Schulz : The Byzantine liturgy: testimony of faith and symbolism , 3rd, completely revised. and updated edition Paulinus, Trier 2000, ISBN 3-7902-1405-1 (on the “Divine Liturgy”);
  • Juan Mateos: La célébration de la Parole dans la Liturgie byzantine (Orientalia Christiana Analecta 191), Pontificio Istituto Orientale, Roma 1971. Revised: Juan Mateos: The liturgy of the word . Translated, edited and augmented by Steven Hawkes-Teeples (A history of the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom Vol. 1). Jack Figel Eastern Christian Publications, Fairfax, Virginia, USA 2016. V, 308 pp. ISBN 978-1-940219-21-9 ;
  • Miguel Arranz: La tradition liturgique de Constantinople au IXe siècle et l'Euchologe Slave du Sinaï . In: Studi sull'Oriente Cristiano 4 (2000) 41-110;
  • Nicodemus C. Schnabel OSB: The liturgical vestments and insignia of the deacon, presbyter and bishop in the churches of the Byzantine rite , Echter, Würzburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-429-03002-5 .

Individual evidence

  1. After Robert Taft: The Byzantine Rite. A short history . Collegeville 1992.
  2. See also The Monk Consecrations (as of August 28, 2014)