Liturgy and Byzantinization in Jerusalem
Oxford UK: Oxford University Press, 2018
This work fills a much needed void in our understanding of the liturgical tradition in Jerusalem. It focuses on the recognition of a unique rite in Jerusalem and the surrounding region, and on where and when the transformation of the rite evolved to conform to that in Constantinople—a process that the author calls Byzantinization.
The author bases his research on a wide range of early manuscripts, which are often written in Armenian or Georgian, that have maintained testimony to the ritual practices in Jerusalem prior to its conformity to those in Constantinople, completed by the 12th/13th centuries. He also examines secondary sources for testimonies regarding the liturgical practices in Jerusalem, such as the writings of St. Cyril of Jerusalem and the travel journals of Egeria. He stresses the importance of considering the calendar and lectionary as well as priestly service books, or euchologia.
The book is an academic work. Sections of it are given to addressing the details of such things as lectionaries and calendars, which some may find a little dry. He provides a number of useful tables to illustrate the evidence. Nevertheless, he does not get heavily buried in such sections, but uses them to provide just enough evidence to illustrate his argument. Thus the book flows well in developing the topic.
The author’s argument is well developed through the book, and it is clear that he has done the research needed for the topic. He covers a wide range of manuscripts in a variety of languages. The analysis of the material is strong, and he provides solid critiques of some earlier theories on this development. One of the main arguments that he develops is that the transition was not sudden or imposed on Jerusalem, but developed over time, inspired by internal decisions—although these were influenced by external events also. He also points out that the influence was not unidirectional, and that Constantinople’s liturgical practice was influenced by Jerusalem, which is why he prefers to call the process Byzantinization rather than simply a conformity to the practices of Constantinople. This speaks of a wider unification of liturgical practice throughout the eastern Roman Empire and in those churches on the borders of the Empire that remained in communion with the Church of Constantinople.
The author concludes with some helpful reflections on the use of the rite of St. James in the Orthodox Church today, and also on the legitimacy of local practices. This has implications for those in Western Europe, whether there is a need to impose Eastern liturgical practices on them or whether there is space for the development of local liturgical traditions drawing on its own heritage. This may be helpful for those for whom liturgical rites become rather intertwined with ethnic customs, such that one feels a pressure to be Russian or Greek or Romanian in their worship, and so being Orthodox in the West seems to include the need to take another ethnic identity in the process.
Legitimate local liturgical practice is a means to avoid this phenomenon and should not be confused with uniatism. Nevertheless, the book testifies to a unification of Eastern ritual around Constantinople that shows a local willingness to conform that perhaps generated greater uniformity in Orthodox Churches than Rome managed with Tridentine imposition, or at least far better consensus in the conformity. It may be that such uniformity of worship is a better developed situation for the unity of the churches. The testimony of Galadza’s book is that such was locally desired more than imposed from afar.
Overall, this is an excellent work and well worth reading for those interested in liturgical development and the issue of legitimate liturgical diversity. I hope that further works of such type and quality are done for the liturgical development in Alexandria and in Antioch. It would also be good to see some more works that link Eastern and Western liturgical developments and the influences between these. There are some works about this, but it seems that the two areas are perhaps seen too distinctly, and more can be done to see a common development between them.
Rev. Dr. John (Patrick) Ramsey holds a PhD from the University of Winchester. He is a hieromonk of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in the UK, and tutors for the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge.