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THERE are a great many questions concerning the development of Liturgies in various localities, and the relation to one another of the different Families, or Groups, of Liturgies which at present are waiting for a satisfactory answer. The field of work which Liturgiology presents is enormous.
There are the Western Liturgies, written in Latin, derived from various sources, and modified in various ways by mutual contact, the genealogies of which cannot yet be said to be conclusively settled. There are Greek Liturgies in two families, the texts of two of the most important forms of which are in an exceedingly unsatisfactory state. There are Liturgies in Syriac belonging to two families; besides others in Coptic, Ethiopic, and Armenian. It is true that there is but little MS. authority for any of these known to exist of earlier date than the thirteenth century.
The few earlier ones will be noticed in their places in the Introduction. But it is not impossible that other older MSS. might be brought to light by careful searching in Eastern libraries. Hitherto little attention has been paid to relics of this sort by travellers on the look out for MS. treasures. Copies of the Scriptures and of the Fathers have been their chief attraction: and it has hardly been realised what a treasure an early copy of S. James' or S. Mark's Liturgy would be: or even another eighth century copy of S. Basil's and S. Chrysostom's Liturgies, to compare with the Barberini Codex of the same.
Meanwhile however the materials that do exist have probably not been thoroughly worked. It is more than likely that a systematic investigation of the early ecclesiastical writers might render more help than has hitherto been suspected for a comparative treatment of the subject. But then the student must be first of all tolerably familiar not only with the principles of Liturgiology, but with the actual words of the formularies, in order to be able to seize and turn to account the passing hint or veiled reference; for he will find but few direct statements bearing on his subject. Again, the Oriental Liturgies, from a critical study of which great fruit might be expected, need to be examined by persons who are not only competent scholars in their respective languages, but who are also technical Liturgiologists, and these two qualifications have not hitherto been often found combined. A person unacquainted with the technical language of liturgies and the principles of ritual will not be a safe guide, however good a linguist he may
be. For a long time past there has been a very great difficulty, at any rate for young students, in the way of beginning a study of the Liturgies. There is no Handbook or Introduction to the subject, nor has there been even any available edition of the Texts. Dr. Neale's little edition of the five Greek Liturgies, and the translation of the same by Drs. Neale and Littledale, are almost the only books that are not out of print, and that do not consequently command higher prices each year as the demand increases. The Syrian, Coptic, and Ethiopic Liturgies must still be studied in the Latin versions of them given by Renaudot, a costly book: while, as to the Western Liturgies, there is not one book, so far as I know, within the reach of an ordinary student, to which he may turn for information.
The present reprint of texts is an attempt to supply in some measure this desideratum. A glance at the Table of Contents will shew the ground covered by it. The reasons for the choice of the particular Liturgies and for the grouping of them, and an account of the sources of the Texts, will be found in the Introduction. There has been no attempt at a critical handling of the texts, except in two or three isolated places, to which attention is called by a footnote. This is not because I am blind to the need of such a critical revision. It is because such a work would really (as the remarks already made will shew) demand a generation of scholars, and must be done piecemeal. We may hope that before very long a recollation of the earliest MSS. of the Greek Liturgies, at least, may be undertaken, and a critical edition of them founded upon it. But meanwhile it is a step worth taking, though a humble one, to put into an available form for beginners the already existing materials. Lecturers too may find it useful as a textbook for their classes.
With respect to the execution of the work, I would ask the reader to take notice of the following points.
One object which I have set before me has been, by means of uniformity of arrangement and type, to facilitate as far as possible the comparison of different Liturgies. As they have been collected from several different sources, this has sometimes necessitated slight alteration of the original. With very few exceptions, and those I believe always noted, this will be found to be confined to the punctuation and arrangement of type. The texts are transcribed verbally from the authorities indicated: but I am responsible for the punctuation, and here and there for the fresh division of paragraphs.
I am also responsible for whatever stands in the margin, and for the footnotes, except some of those to the Armenian Liturgy. Those marked (M) are due to the Rev. S. C. Malan, who has kindly allowed me to copy them, as well as his version of that Liturgy.
References to the Psalms are made according to the numbering of our English Bible Version. The beginner may need to be reminded that this is different from that of the LXX. and Vulgate.
The mode adopted of dividing the Liturgies into sections is important, and will be found to facilitate very considerably the comparison of the contents, arrangement, and separate parts of different Liturgies. Each of these sections, i.e. those marked by Roman numerals, may be regarded as (so to speak) a separate act; the contents of each section being more closely connected together than with what precedes or follows. For instance, by the help of this division the different connexions in which the Lord's Prayer is used in different Liturgies may be readily traced. In the First group of Liturgies, as well as in all those of the West, it is connected with the Great Intercession, and thus with the Great Oblation, being so to speak the crown and summing up of it. In the Second and Third groups it is connected with the Communion, though occupying very different relations with regard to this division of the Service; for in most of the Liturgies it is joined to the preparatory portion, whether the Ritual-preparation (i.e. the Fraction, Commixture, etc.), or the Preparation of the Communicants (i.e. the Prayer of Humble Access); but in the Ethiopic 'Canon Universalis' (as with us) it is joined to the Post-communion.
The letters a, b, c, etc., which are also placed in the margin, are purely arbitrary signs, introduced merely as a convenient mode of referring to particular prayers or rubrics. They have no further significance.
The black type used in the text of the Greek Liturgies is intended to shew the extent of verbal coincidence between the Liturgy and the LXX, or Greek New Testament. No such