Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Balsamon on the Liturgies of St James and St Mark

During the Crusader period, the patriarchal sees of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem were frequently what amounted to titular sees whose holders were permanently resident at the imperial court. The most famous such patriarch of Antioch, Theodore Balsamon, was a native of Constantinople, a city he is not known to have ever left. After a career as nomophylax and chief canonist in the Empire, he was made patriarch of Antioch in the late 1180's, and held this position until until his death in 1195. Translated below is a famous passage from Balsamon's Responses to the Questions of Mark of Alexandria, written toward the end of his life, where he forbids the use of the liturgies of Saint Mark and Saint James. Although this statement in itself probably had very little impact on actual liturgical practice, it was in the century or so after Balsamon that the liturgies of Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil became the norm in the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.

from PG CXXXVIII col. 953

Question 1: Are the liturgies that are said in the regions of Alexandria and Jerusalem, which are said to have been written by the holy apostles James the Brother of God and Mark acceptable in the Holy Catholic Church or not?

Answer: The great Apostle Paul, the rhetor and teacher of the churches of God, said when writing to the Corinthians, "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." So we say that neither from the Holy Scriptures nor from any synodically published canon have we been informed that a sacred ritual (Gk. ἱεροτελεστίαν) was passed down from the holy apostle Mark. Only Canon 32 of the holy and ecumenical council held in the Trullo of the great palace said that a mystical sacrifice (Gk. ἱερουργία) was composed by James, the Brother of God. However Canon 85 of the Holy and All-Praised Apostles and Canon 59 of the Council of Laodicea, which enumerate the books of the Old and New Testament and those of the apostles that must be in use among us do not make any mention of sacrifices (lit. ἱερουργίας) of Saint James or of Saint Mark. The Catholic church of the Most Holy and Ecumenical See of Constantinople also does not in any way recognize them. Thus we rule that they are not acceptable. If it happens [that they are used], they are ordered to completely cease to use them, and also many other things. It is clear from Canon 85 of the Holy and All-Blessed Apostles and from Canon 2 of of the holy and ecumenical council held in the Trullo of the great palace. One, that is the Apostolic [canon], designates the two epistles of Clement and his constitutions in eight books as to be read but not published, on account of the secret things therein. The other [i.e. the Council in Trullo], however, intends that they should not be read because many corruptions have been introduced into it by the heterodox which are contrary to piety. Therefore, all the churches of God should follow the custom of New Rome, that is Constantinople, and celebrate according to according to the traditions of the great teachers and beacons of piety, Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil, as Chapter 41, Title 1 of Book 2 of the Basilikon says, "With regard to those things for which there is not a written law, the custom followed in Rome should be kept."

from col. 957

Question 5: Is it not possible for the Orthodox Syrians, those from Armenia and faithful from other regions to celebrate in their native language, or must they celebrate with a Greek text?

Answer: The great apostle Paul said when writing to the Romans, "Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also." Therefore, let those who are Orthodox in all things and are completely without the Greek language celebrate in their own language, having precisely similar copies of the usual holy prayers as transcribed from the kontakia in beautifully-written Greek letters.

1 comment:

Isa Almisry said...

A little irony: centuries latter, when the Lutherans of Tuebingen wrote to the EP, in his response the Patriarch specifically states that the Orthodox know the Divine Liturgy because it was transmitted to us from St. James the Brother of God, who learned it from Christ Himself.