The Christian liturgical rites can be grouped into families, the eastern ones being associated above all with Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. The various Syriac rites fall under the general heading of ‘Antiochene’, subdivided as E.- and W.-Syr., the latter again further subdivided into Syr. Orth./Catholic, Maron., and (until the early second millennium) Melk. ‘Antiochene’ is in fact not very appropriate for the E.-Syr. (Ch. of E./Chald.) traditions, whose roots were more connected with Edessa, rather than Antioch.

Liturgical texts develop considerably over time, and in their present forms they are many-layered, with archaic and much more recent elements side by side: the oldest elements go back to before the E.-/W.-Syr. ecclesiastical divide (5th/6th cent.), and so the two share certain texts (especially in poetry); approximately the 7th to 9th cent. saw the emergence of many rites in the forms known today: traditionally, large-scale liturgical reforms are attributed to Ishoʿyahb III (d. 659) in the E.-Syr. tradition, and Yaʿqub of Edessa (d. 708) in the W.-Syr. The earliest long theological prayers known as sedre (or ḥusoye) in the W.-Syr. tradition belong to this period, as do their counterparts, by Shalliṭa and others, in the E.-Syr. The majority of the earliest surviving liturgical mss. belong to the ca. 9th/10th cent. for the W.-Syr. tradition, whereas E.-Syr. ones only rarely survive before about the 12th cent.

It must have been from about the 7th cent. that the Maron. and Syr. Orth. liturgical traditions began to separate, with the former often retaining archaic elements lost in the latter (e.g., in the baptismal texts and Weekday Office). This may explain surprisingly close parallels between the Maron. and E.-Syr. traditions: the Maron. Anaphora known as the ‘Sharrar’ (or Peter III) has many prayers in common with the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, and the Maronite Weekday Office includes several sugyotho of E.-Syr. origin where they have named authors of the 6th and 7th cent. (see Brock 2004).

In the Melk. tradition the 10th and 11th cent. witnessed the remarkable transition from an Antiochene to a Constantinopolitan rite (roughly co-terminous with the Byzantine reconquest of parts of north Syria, 969–1084); this involved a massive undertaking of translations from Greek into Syriac (and subsequently into Arabic). Several of the poetic texts, including ones by John of Damascus, were subsequently taken over also into the Syr. Orth. tradition, probably in the 11th and 12th cent.

Although the W.-Syr. liturgical tradition had always included many texts translated from Greek, this new influx of materials of Greek origin led to the emergence of two slightly different Syr. Orth. traditions, that of Antioch, incorporating these new elements, and that of Tagrit, which did not. It was essentially the Tagrit rite that was introduced into S. India in the 18th and 19th cent.

In the E.-Syr. tradition, many rites are traditionally associated with the reforms of Patr. Ishoʿyahb III, and/or with the usage of ‘the Upper Monastery’ (of Mar Gabriel and Mar Abraham, Mosul). Many new texts were incorporated during the early centuries of the 2nd millennium, in particular prose texts by Eliya III Abū Ḥalīm (d. 1190), verse texts by Gewargis Warda, and ʿonyāthā by Khamis bar Qardaḥe (both 13th cent.?).

Three Anaphoras are in use, the archaic Anaphora of the Apostles Addai and Mari, and Anaphoras attributed to Theodore and to Nestorius. For the most part only the former was taken over in the Chald. and Syro-Malabar Churches, and in both cases provided (in different places) with Institution Narratives, which the original lacked (a feature officially recognized, however, by the Vatican in 2001 as legitimate). The other two Anaphoras, when taken over, were simply called the ‘second’ and ‘third’ Anaphoras (thus the Mosul ed. 1901). In mss. the Anaphoras are usually combined with the Baptismal service, with Marriage and Burial services transmitted separately. In the Syro-Malabar Church, whose liturgy had been much adapted to the Roman rite in the 17th cent., there has been considerable discussion over the appropriate form of a ‘restored’ (de-Romanized) Qurbana (on this, see G. Thadikkatt, Liturgical Identity of the Mar Toma Nazrani Church [2004]).

The Weekday Offices are contained in the Qdām w-Bāthar (‘Before and After’, the weeks being so designated, according to which of two choirs commences); for this there is an ET by A. J. Maclean, East Syrian Daily Offices (1894) and a recent reprint of the Syriac (ed. D.  Benjamin, 2004; based on de Qelayta’s edition of 1923). Those parts of the services proper to Sundays and Feasts are contained in the Ḥudrā, for which there is an edition by T. Darmo (3 vols.; Trichur, 1960–62); better known, however, is the earlier Chald. edition by P. Bedjan (3 vols.; 1886–7; repr. 1938; 1 vol. ed., ed. P.  Yousif, 2002); a concordance between Darmo and Bedjan is given in The Harp 19 (2006), 117–36. English translations and studies of particular seasons have been made by V. Pathikulangara (Resurrection, 1982; Holy Week, 1990), J. Moolan (Subbara, or Annunciation to Nativity, 1985), and P. Kuruthukulangara (Nativity, 1989).

Another ms. collection, with hymns and anthems for festivals, is known as the Gazza; this has never been printed, but materials from it are included in the editions of the Ḥudrā by Darmo and Bedjan.

This tradition stands out from all others in its number of available Anaphoras, said to be nearly 80, though only a dozen or so are in current use, and a large number have not yet been published. Some are translated from Greek, while others were composed in Syriac, the latest belonging to about the middle of the 2nd millennium. Both mss. and printed editions vary greatly in the number and selection of Anaphoras they provide, though that of St. James is normally present; this Anaphora, whose origins are connected with Jerusalem, provided the structural model for many of the other Anaphoras. The largest printed collection, with nineteen, is that of Pampakuda, 1931, though the critical edition (Anaphorae Syriacae, 1939–81), now discontinued, covers 22 anaphoras over the course of its 7 fascicles (tables indicating the contents of main printed editions can be found in Ephemerides Liturgicae 102 [1988], 440–45).

Originally there seem to have been at least three different baptismal rites, but only that attributed to Severus remains in use. The Betrothal and Marriage rites were once separated in time, but in modern editions they are combined as a single rite. There are separate funeral services for clergy and laity, and within each of these, for different categories, e.g., bishops, priests, monks, nuns; men, women, children. Besides the bilingual editions mentioned in the Bibliography, the Syriac texts for Baptism, Marriage, and (Lay) Funerals were published in India by the Mar Julius Press (Pampakuda) in 1979.

The Weekday Office is contained in the Šḥimo, for which there are several printed editions, notably Jerusalem 1936; Pampakuda (4th ed. 1977), St. Ephrem Monastery, Holland, 1981 (and subsequent editions). A  bilingual form of the Pampakuda edition was published by SEERI (Kottayam) in 2006. Also arranged for the days of the week is a collection of prayers of monastic origin, known as the Šbito (printed ed. Monastery of St. Ephrem, 1993).

Liturgical texts for Sundays and Feasts are provided in the Fenqito, of which there are two printed editions (Mosul, 1886–96, in 7 vols., and Pampakuda, 1962–3, in 3 vols.), although in many churches mss. are still used. The contents of the two editions, and of individual mss., vary considerably; one noticeable difference between the two editions is that the Mosul edition (Syr. Catholic) includes the prose Sedre (which are usually transmitted separately in mss., and so are absent from the Pampakuda edition). An abbreviated and adapted English version of the Mosul edition was made by Fr. Francis Acharya (d. 2002), Crown of the Year (3 vols.; Kurisumala Ashram, 1982–86).

The liturgical texts of the reformed Mar Thoma Church in South India are for the most part fairly close to their Syr. Orth. antecedents.

The learned Patr. Istịfān al-Duwayhi (d. 1704) listed 27 Anaphoras in use by the Maronites, but printed editions give many less, and some later ones give prominence to the Roman rite; a return to the true Antiochene tradition was the aim of reforms initiated in 1971, and mandated in 1991. Most of the Maron. Anaphoras are shared with the Syr. Orth., though a few are confined to the Maron. tradition, notably the archaic ‘Sharrar’. Although Maron. liturgical mss. earlier than the 16th cent. are only rarely preserved, many liturgical books preserve early features lost in the rest of the Antiochene liturgical tradition. This applies in particular to the Baptismal rite and to the Weekday Office (Šḥimto). An ET of the Divine Office throughout the year, providing texts for Ramšo and Ṣapro for Sundays and Feasts, was published by the Diocese of St. Maron (USA) in 3 vols. (Prayer of the Faithful, 1982–5); this goes back (via French) to a simplified edition in Arabic, made by the liturgical scholar (now bp. ) B. Gemayel.

Only the very oldest Melkite liturgical mss. preserve the original Antiochene rite, whereas all the rest represent the Constantinopolitan rite (itself ultimately of Antiochene origin), and so the range of different liturgical books is basically the same as in the Greek Orthodox tradition. The oldest texts often have materials in common with the Syr. Orth. and/or Maron. traditions. In the case of an archaic short baptismal rite, there is still no post-baptismal anointing (this had been first introduced in the Antiochene area ca. 400). The multilingual character of the Melk. liturgical tradition is brought out by the existence of bilingual texts, especially Syriac-Arabic, although occasionally Syriac-Greek, or Greek in Syriac characters. Syriac remained in use as one of the liturgical languages until at least the 17th cent.

    Bibliographic Sources

    • J.-M.  Sauget, Bibliographie des liturgies orientales (1900–1960) (1962).
    • P. Yousif, A classified bibliography on the East Syrian liturgy (1990).
    • More recent bibliography can be found under ‘Liturgy’ in the Classified Bibliographies in ParOr 23 (1998), 29 (2004), and 33 (2008).

    Primary Sources


      • W. Macomber, ‘The oldest known text of the Anaphora of the Apostles Addai and Mari’, OCP 32 (1966), 335–71.
      • K. A.  Paul and G.  Mooken [Mar Aprem], The Liturgy of the Holy Apostles Adai and Mari together with the Liturgies of Mar Theodorus and Mar Nestorius and the Order of Baptism (Trichur, 1967). (ET of E.-Syr., including Baptism)
      • A. Raes, Anaphorae Syriacae, I.1–3, II.1–3, III.1 (1939–81).
      • Mar Athanasius Samuel, Anaphoras (1991). (Bilingual edition, Syriac-English, with 13 Syr. Orth. anaphoras)
      • J.  Vadakel, The East Syrian Anaphora of Mar Theodore of Mopsuestia (1989).

      Commentaries on the Liturgy

      • S. P.  Brock, ‘Gabriel of Qatar’s Commentary on the Liturgy’, Hugoye 6.2 (2003).
      • S. P.  Brock, ‘An early Syriac Comm. on the Liturgy’, in Fire from Heaven (2006), ch. XVI. (with ch. XV, on Baptism)
      • R. H. Connolly, The Liturgical Homilies of Narsai (1909).
      • R. H. Connolly (ed. R. Matheus), A Commentary on the Mass by the Nestorian George [Ps.George of Arbela] (2000).
      • R. H. Connolly and H. W. Codrington, Two Commentaries on the Jacobite Liturgy (1913).
      • A.  Mingana, Commentary of Theodore of Mopsuestia on the Lord’s Prayer and the Eucharist (Woodbrooke Studies 6, 1933).
      • B.  Varghese, Dionysius bar Salibi: Commentary on the Eucharist (1998).
      • B.  Varghese, John of Dara: Commentary on the Eucharist (1999).


        Ch. of E.: see under Eucharist.
      • Mar.: A. Mouhanna, Les rites de l’initiation dans l’Église Maronite (OCA 212, 1980).
      • Melk.: S. P. Brock, ‘A short Melkite baptismal service in Syriac’, ParOr 3 (1972), 119–30.
      • Syr. Orth.: 1. rites no longer used: S. P. Brock, ‘A new Syriac baptismal ordo attributed to Timothy of Alexandria’, LM 83 (1970), 367–431; S. P. Brock, ‘The anonymous Syriac baptismal ordo in Add. 14,518’, ParOr 8 (1977/8), 311–46; 2. current rite, attributed to Severus: A. Y. Samuel (ed.), The Sacrament of Holy Baptism according to the Ancient Rite of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch (1974). (Syr. with ET).
      • The texts of all the rites, with LT, are given in J. A. Assemani, Codex Liturgicus Ecclesiae Universae, I–III (1750; repr. 1968).
      • Commentaries: S. P. Brock, ‘Some early Syriac baptismal commentaries’, OCP 46 (1980), 20–61. (Syr. with ET; repr. in Fire from Heaven [2006], ch. XV); B. Varghese, Dionysius bar Salibi. Commentaries on Myron and Baptism (2006) (Syr. with ET).

      Marriage, Funeral, etc.

      • Bilingual (Syr. with ET) editions (W.-Syr.): Marriage (1974); Funeral (1974); Maʿdeʿdono (Festivals; 1984); Šḥimo (2006). ET of many E.-Syr. rites in G. P. Badger, The Nestorians and their Rituals, II (1852 and reprints).

    Secondary Sources

    • A. Baumstark, Festbrevier und Kirchenjahr der syrischen Jakobiten (1910; repr. 1967).
    • A.  Baumstark (ed. B.  Botte), Comparative Liturgy (1958). (with ‘Bibliographical Appendix’, for main printed liturgical editions)
    • S. P.  Brock, ‘Studies in the early history of the Syrian Orthodox baptismal liturgy’, JTS ns 23 (1972), 16–64.
    • S. P.  Brock, The Holy Spirit in the Syrian Baptismal Tradition (1979; repr. 1998; new ed. 2008).
    • S. P.  Brock, ‘Some early witnesses of the East Syriac liturgical tradition’, JAAS 18 (2004), 9–45.
    • F.  Cassingena-Trevédy and I. Jurasz (ed.), Les liturgies syriaques (ÉtSyr 3; 2006).
    • A.  Gelston, The Eucharistic Prayer of Addai and Mari (1992).
    • P.  Gemayel, L’Avant Messe Maronite (OCA 174; 1965).
    • B.  ter Haar Romeny (ed.), The Peshitta: Its use in literature and liturgy (MPIL 15; 2006).
    • M.  Hayek, Liturgie Maronite, histoire et textes eucharistiques (1963).
    • W. Macomber, ‘A theory of the origins of the Syrian, Maronite and Chaldean rites’, OCP 39 (1973), 235–42.
    • J. Mateos, Lelya-Sapra. Essai d’interprétation des matines chaldéennes (OCA 156; 1959).
    • J. Tabet, L’Office Commun Maronite (1972).
    • R. Taft, The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West (1986).
    • B.  Varghese, Les onctions baptismales dans la tradition syrienne (CSCO 512; 1989).
    • B.  Varghese, The Syriac version of the Liturgy of St James. A brief history for students (2001).
    • B.  Varghese, West Syrian liturgical theology (2004).
    • W.  de  Vries, Sakramententheologie bei den syrischen Monophysiten (OCA 125; 1940).
    • W.  de  Vries, Sakramententheologie bei den Nestorianern (OCA 133; 1947).

How to Cite This Entry

Sebastian P. Brock, “Liturgy,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay,

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Sebastian P. Brock, “Liturgy,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018),

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Brock, Sebastian P. “Liturgy.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018.

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