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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 24 Mar 2002

Liturgical History QUESTION from Rob Hinman February 19, 2000 Can you tell me the six principle Parent Liturgies that was around By the Post-Nicene period?
ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin, B.A. on February 25, 2000 Dear Mr. Hinman
I apologize for taking so much time in responding to your question. I have been ill lately.
Before answering your question, I think I should mention that there are many ways to classify the various liturgies, depending on the perspective with which they are approached. And because of this, authors will differ on the number of parent liturgies.
In the period immediately following the First Council of Nicea, we can only speak of three parent liturgies: Antiochene, Alexandrian and Roman-African. Sometimes the Jerusalem rite is considered to be a parent liturgy since the church was established there. Note that each of these great rites is associated with a patriarchal see. The fourth century marks the beginning of the imposition of liturgies by patriarchates on their churches. Beforehand, new churches would perform the liturgy as it was handed on to them by missionaries. However, liturgical books began to be produced, so that each church now had a step-by-step guide to eucharistic celebration. By the way, it is not technically correct to call an Eastern Liturgy a Mass. This is the Latin name for our Eucharistic celebration.
The Antiochene rite is the most fruitful of all parent liturgies. By the fourth century, it had produced the Edessene liturgy, highly oriental and little influenced by Hellenism, and the Liturgy of St. James, the creation of Cyril of Jerusalem.
The Alexandrian rite would have included the Liturgy of St. Mark, recited in the Coptic language in Egypt, and the Ethiopian rite.
The Roman-African rite is the forerunner of our present-day Latin rite. There was a distinct liturgy for the African Church, but it largely resembled the Roman Mass.
The Byzantine rite was a product of the Antiochene rite. Its development is largely credited to St. John Chrysostom (347-407), bishop of Constantinople and native of Antioch. It is the largest of the Eastern rites, and because of the number of daughter liturgies it produced later on in the Middle Ages, such as the Slavonic and Russian rites, it is also considered a parent liturgy.
There was also the Gallican rite, which developed around the 4th and 5th centuries, though its origins remain obscure. In this family are grouped the Spanish, Frankish, Milanese and Celtic rites. The Gallican rite was largely supplanted in the 8th and 9th century by Charlemagne, who imposed the Roman rite on his empire. The Spanish rite declined with the Islamic conquest. The Milanese rite is still practiced today.
So in total you have six parent liturgies-- Jerusalem, Antiochene, Alexandrian, Roman-African, Byzantine and Gallican.
For a genealogy of liturgical families, please consult this website..
Thank you for your question.
God Bless, Suzanne Fortin
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