Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Shape of the Liturgy

In drawing near to the end of Dom Gregory Dix's Shape of the Liturgy (only 150 pages or so to go! - - more on Dix here, here, and here), I would like to summarize his conclusion, using the great facilities of color provided by Blogger (if you haven't noticed already, I like to use color). Let me first note what Dix calls the primitve structure of the liturgy. First is the division into Synaxis or Liturgy of the Word and Eucharist or Liturgy of the Sacrament. There primitive structure (dating back at least to the later second century AD) is as follows (p. 434; italics is for actions, [] mark actions or words not performed or said in Lutheran liturgy:


A. Greeting and Response
B. Lections interspersed with
C. Psalmody
D. The Bishop's Sermon
[E. Dismissal of the Catechumens]*
F. Intercessory Prayers of the Faithful
(G. Dismissal of the Faithful if no Eucharist was to be held)

*The early church was even stricter than WELS/ELS about prayer: not only could a Christian not attend prayer by those outside the church, outsiders were not allowed to attend the church's prayers.


A. Greeting and Response
[B. Kiss of Peace]
C. Offertory
D. Eucharistic Prayer
[E. Fraction]
F. Communion
[G. Dismissal]

Now I will present a color-coded outline of the liturgy used in our church (LW's Divine Service, setting I), with each rubric colored as to its antiquity. The color will be given according to its first appearance in any Christian liturgy, with notes as to where and when it spread. Place terms that are not obvious are Syria (Jerusalem and Antioch), Africa (modern Tunisia), West (Rome, Spain, and southern France), and East (Syria and Egypt). The periods are:

I. Ante-Nicene, AD 200-325
II. The fourth century, AD 325-410 (Nicene Creed to sack of Rome)
III. The break up of the empire AD 410-800 (sack of Rome to Charlemagne)
IV. Middle Ages, AD 800-1521 (Charlemagne to Reformation)
V. Lutheran (AD 1521 to present in the Lutheran church)

Again, actions are in italics, and those no longer performed marked by []


Opening Hymn
General confession and absolution

Hymn of Praise/Gloria (East > West)

The Lord be with you . . .
Prayer of the Day/Collect

Lections/Scripture Lessons

Hymn of the Day

[Dismissal of catechumens] (disappeared in West c. AD 500-600)

Creed (Antioch > Byzantium > Spain & France > Rome; position very variable)

Prayer of the Church


Offertory Hymn (originally a psalm chant)

The Lord be with you . . .
Lift up your hearts . . .
Let us give thanks . . .

Preface (It is truly good, right, and salutary . . .)
Sanctus (Egypt > Syria > West, replacing older thanksgiving prayers)
Prayer (changes, in fourth century, basically eliminated in Reformation, later revived)
Lord's Prayer (Syria > Africa > West)
Institution narrative

[Fraction] (rendered symbolic with advent of communion wafers, abolished in Reformation)
Peace of the Lord . . . and [Kiss of Peace] (originally before offertory, moved here in Africa > Rome)

Lamb of God/Agnus Dei
Distribution Hymns

Post-communion hymn
Prayer of Thanksgiving (Egypt > West)
Blessing (originally after dismissal, as the celebrant left)

Final note: This is a very draft sketch, by a mere amateur. If any readers have any corrections, I would be very happy to hear from them.

Originally posted at Here We Stand

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