A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography

By Egon Wellesz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
BYZANTINE LITURGY

I. THE LITURGIES OF ST. BASIL AND OF ST. CHRYSOSTOM AND THE
LITURGY OF THE PRESANCTIFIED

BEFORE giving a survey of Early Christian and Byzantine Hymnography we must first say a few words about the development of the Byzantine rite and the service-books which contain the liturgical texts. Among the latter we shall find a group of books which contain either the words of the hymns alone or both the words and the melodies written down in Byzantine musical notation. Since this group of books is the basis for the study of Byzantine Hymnography, we shall have to give a summary of the contents of the two of them which are most important sources for our studies.

The principal part of Early Christian worship consisted in the celebration of the Mass. Its liturgical origin can be traced back to the moment when the two distinct elements of the worship of the Primitive Church were combined into a single, henceforth inseparable, liturgical action: they were, (1) the service of the Temple or the Synagogue on Saturday morning, in which the Jewish Christians of the Apostolic age used to participate, and (2) the common meal, the Agape or 'Love-feast', which was held in the private houses of some wealthier members of the Christian community in order to commemorate the Lord's Supper.1

In the early days of the Byzantine Church, as has already been said, Mass was celebrated frequently, but not daily; the same practice existed originally in the Western Church. But while the Latin Church introduced into the service of the Mass elements peculiar to the feast of the Saint for the day, the Eastern Church maintained the liturgical custom of Early Christianity by celebrating Mass without variation throughout the ecclesiastical year and refraining from inserting into the Canon of the Mass prayers or songs proper to the day's celebration. Thus only three texts were used by the Byzantine Church: (1) the Liturgy

____________________
1
Cf. A. Baumstark, Vom geschichtlichen Werden der Liturgie ( Freiburg i. B., 1923), pp. 13-21; Liturgie comparée (Amay à Chevetogne, 1939), pp. 33-56; A. B. Macdonald, Christian Worship in the Primitive Church ( Edinburgh, 1934), pp. 11-12; C. W. Dugmore, The Influence of the Synagogue upon the Divine Office (O.U.P., 1944).

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