Coming soon: The Divine Liturgy of St. James

On 22 October 2008, at 6pm, All Saints Orthodox Church will celebrate the Divine Liturgy of St. James for the Feast of St. James, the Brother of Our Lord.

It was mentioned to me about a year ago that this might be a desirable thing to pursue. It isn’t exactly happening the way originally envisioned; the hope at the time was that we would be in a new building with more forgiving acoustics than our current nave, but that hope remains unrealized for the time being. Nonetheless, we are pushing forward — hey, since local Catholic parishes have started celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass semi-regularly, leave it to us to break out our oldest rite, right?

The Divine Liturgy of St. James — can we call this the Iakovian Liturgy? I’d hate to call it the Jacobite Liturgy — is said to have been the rite taught to St. James by Our Lord and was subsequently the principal rite of the ancient Church of Jerusalem, edited and embellished as the St. Basil Liturgy and further pared down to become the St. John Chrysostom Liturgy. I will let liturgical scholars with PhDs argue whether or not the traditional first century dating of the Iakovian rite is accurate or if it’s more reasonable to assume that it came about somewhat later. Clearly the use of the Trisagion and the “Only-begotten Son…” are later accretions, but in terms of the overall structure and character — well, let’s just say that there are ideological reasons to want to support any of the various arguments, and leave it at that. One way or the other, we can say that we know it as the oldest complete form of the Divine Liturgy still in continuous use, and it is still in use by various Syrian and Indian communities.

Putting together an English text was not a small consideration; Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash)’s translation served as the base, but it is insufficient for use in an Antiochian parish, given the official preference for Elizabethan English. Where necessary, the Antiochian text was substituted (for components such as the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and so on); where possible, Fr. Ephrem’s text was kept, converting to Elizabethan English as needed. Particularities such as “Let our hearts be on high”/”We have them with the Lord” were also retained.

Once we had a text, then it fell to me to create a book for choir/congregational use. Thankfully, Sibelius 5 and Microsoft Word made that relatively easy. I adapted the St. Anthony’s Monastery settings of hymnody specific to St. James to our text, used the version of “Only-begotten Son…” from the Mt. Lebanon Choir Divine Hymnal, used the Trisagion we sing every Sunday (had to keep something the same) and then added all of the other parts — litany responses, anaphora responses, etc. The choir/congregation book ultimately contains every word and every note which concerns those worshiping from the nave — it is as complete as it needs to be without including the priest’s personal prayers and so on. (At 43 pages already, it would be significantly longer were I to include those.)

I will say that, in many respects, it’s a simpler liturgy; there are no antiphons, no troparia (although we will sing the Troparion to St. James as a recessional), there is no Megalynarion, and since it begins with the clergy processing into the church with the Gifts (from the skevophylakion, no less — such things make me happy, although we don’t actually have a skevophylakion), no Great Entrance in the middle of the service, either. From the choir’s perspective, there are significantly fewer major portions to sing, and the Alleluia and Prokeimenon are the only propers. The rubrics call for the Body of Christ to be received in the hand and for the Blood to be drunk from the chalice by the communicant, but we will be communed from a spoon regardless — no one’s particularly comfortable with what could go wrong the other way, given that we’re all used to the spoon by now.

Anyway, it will be an interesting liturgical adventure, to say the least. We’ve tried to visibly open it up to as much of Bloomington’s greater Christian community as wish to attend; given the provenance of the rite, it is clearly the common heritage of all Christians, and to be able to serve it in English is a gift we would like to be able to share with as many as possible, even if it’s our humble little church that’s doing it and not the Midwestern Regional Campus of the Cathedral of Holy Wisdom. (That place is going to be gorgeous, I have to say — and they might even have built a skevophylakion, I’m not sure.) To that end, we’ve put out a press release to the local papers (let’s not hold our breath that they’ll care, but who knows) and sent flyers to every area church and campus ministry we could find. We’ll see.

On a different matter — my friend Gavin used to have a favorite Microsoft joke (at least before he started working there): “Microsoft — solving tomorrow’s problems with yesterday’s technology, today.” So, maybe that could be tweaked and made appropriate to Orthodox Christianity — “Addressing tomorrow’s problems with yesterday’s Christianity, today.”

Or maybe not.


15 Responses to “Coming soon: The Divine Liturgy of St. James”

  1. 1 Anna 7 October 2008 at 3:05 pm


    skevophylakion. skevophylakion.

    skevophylakion. skevophylakion. skevophylakion. skevophylakion. skevophylakion. skevophylakion. skevophylakion. skevophylakion.

    Why no, I’m not making fun of you.

  2. 2 Sbdn. Lucas 7 October 2008 at 3:15 pm

    “And for those of you Joe 6-packs watching at home, playing a drinking game: ‘Skevophylakon’.” [wink]

  3. 3 Esteban Vázquez 7 October 2008 at 11:02 pm

    English already has the adjective (and noun) “Jacobean,” but this is used to refer to all things related to the rule of James I of England and VI of Scotland, of biblical translation fame. But of course, we don’t speak about the “Chrysostomite” Liturgy or the “Basilian” Liturgy, in any case.

    All the best in your upcoming celebration of the Liturgy of St James! It’s truly a pity that I’ll have to miss it (and I would attend it, even though things such as “Evening Divine Liturgies” are strictly against my religion!).

  4. 4 Richard Barrett 7 October 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Well, some speak of the “Basilian Liturgy,” at least. “Chrysostomite” is a bit cumbersome of a modifier, I’ll grant.

    And yes, pity we have to do it the evening before, but at least it’ll be the right day liturgically. Alas, the Antiochians appear to have a terminal allergy to early morning weekday Liturgies Divine in general, to say nothing of ones that tend to run for a multiplicity of hours. One does what one’s priest and bishop tells them, I suppose. Perhaps in 2010 we can do it on a Saturday morning, and in 2011 it’ll be a Sunday observance.

  5. 5 Esteban Vázquez 8 October 2008 at 11:05 am

    How interesting; I’d never heard or read that term before. If I had, however, I’m certain that it would have brought to mind the Liturgy as celebrated by the Uniate Basilian Order, much like the term “Carthusian Liturgy” brings to mind that of the Carthusian Order, “Dominican Liturgy” that of of the Dominican Order, etc.

    How long is the Liturgy of St James, in your experience? You know, they celebrated it here in Flint last year for the feast of the Apostle on the New Calendar; I wonder if they’ll do it again this year. And hooray for weekend observances!

  6. 6 Richard Barrett 8 October 2008 at 11:13 am

    I suppose it might have brought that to mind, and yet, strange as it may seem, that’s not the referent.

    The Liturgy of St. James is a new one on me. I’ll let you know how long it is in my experience on 23 October (unless it’s 24 October before we’re done).

  7. 7 Fr. Andrew 8 October 2008 at 12:36 pm


    Would you be willing to email me your St. James liturgy booklet? I have some stuff you might find interesting, in return.

  8. 8 Richard Barrett 8 October 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Bless, Father! Of course I can send it to you. Look for it at the e-mail address you left in the comment.

  9. 9 Ryan Close 24 July 2009 at 8:43 am

    Dear Sir,

    I would be interested in your Liturgy of St James service book, mostly to compare it with the Fr. Ephriam’s version for use in our OCA parish that prefers a more Elizabethan English. Would you send it to me as well? By the way, the particularity you mention: “Let our hearts be on high”/”We have them with the Lord” is not particular to the Liturgy of St James. It is in fact the way Fr. Ephriam always prefers to translate the opening part of the Diologue no matter the Liturgy. The Diologue is most ancient and similar in both Greek and Latin, neither of which have the verb “lift.” The Father’s comment on it frequently. Fr. Ephriam’s rendering is a non-idiomatic translation. The first person to translate this from Latin was either Coverdale or Cramner and it has been “Lift up your hearts” ever since. I don’t think “Lift up your hearts” is an incorect way to translate the Sursum Corda, but seem to agree with Fr. Ephriam’s reasoning and plan on preraring service books in pdf formate (for John C., Basil, James, Gregory the Great, Mark, & Peter) incorperating some of his sugestions superimposed over our mostly Elizibethan OCA text. I will change “pinions” to “wings” as in the Antiochene translation in the Liturgikon.



  10. 10 Richard Barrett 26 July 2009 at 6:52 am

    Hi Ryan,

    Right, I’m aware that Fr. Ephraim uses that in all of his translations. I’m not certain exactly how “Lift up your hearts”/”We lift them up to the Lord” works as a translation of the Greek there, but Cranmer, as with so many thing, had his reasons I’m sure.

    I’d be more than happy to send you a copy of the service book. Look for it at the e-mail address you left in the comment.

    In Christ,


  11. 11 Ryan Close 26 July 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Thank you very much. As for the Sursum Corda, I don’t think that “Lift up your hearts” is wrong. It certainly has captured the imagination of four centuries of English speaking Christians of all kinds. Fr Ephraim’s point is that “Lift up your hearts” is an idiomatic paraphrase and not a translation stricktly speaking seeing that there is no verb “to lift” in either the Greek or Latin. Thus I believe that “Our heart on high” is not a peculurarity of the Liturgy of St John but of Fr Ephraim’s style. If I do put together service books I will use “Lift up your hearts” to match our other liturgies and I will make sure to acknowledge you in some kind of front matter.

    Thank you for your generocity and if I finish my service book on Holy Unction, I will send it to you.



    • 12 Richard Barrett 26 July 2009 at 11:39 pm

      Not at all! Hope you find things useful. Let me know if you have any questions or find any errors.

    • 13 Richard Barrett 27 July 2009 at 10:39 am

      By the way, I assume you’ve read this?

      Having heard Fr. Ephraim translate the Gospel at sight during a service, I personally am not going to argue with him regarding translation; what I will say is that Cranmer never had my Greek teacher, who told us, “Translate what it says, not what you think it means. Do otherwise and I will throw things at you.”

      I’m also not certain it is accurate that there is no verb “to lift” in Greek; Liddell-Scott gives αειρω (anybody know how to do polytonic Greek on a Mac?) as one possibility.

      This is pretty much the same problem that exists with the Trisagion — a somewhat free Protestant translation has already taken hold in the language, taking on a life of its own and becoming its own pastoral issue.

  12. 14 Ignatius 15 June 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Could you please email me a copy of the liturgy? Incidentally, I’ve heard that the liturgy of St. James was St. John Maximovitch’s favorite service (one of his altar servers related this in an interview on Ancient Faith:

  1. 1 The Divine Liturgy of St. James: A recap « Leitourgeia kai Qurbana: Contra den Zeitgeist Trackback on 24 October 2008 at 11:59 am

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