Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Presanctified Liturgy "of St. Gregory the Dialogist"?

Pope St. Gregory the Great and St. Peter the Deacon

Huw Raphael has posted some interesting comments about Fr. Hopko's papal reunion proposal. In a separate entry, he asks whether Pope St. Gregory the Great actually composed the (very) Byzantine Presanctified Liturgy of St. Gregory the Dialogist.

A few years ago, I noted this ascription was dubious.

The OCA website on the topic has jettisoned the popular Eastern assumption:

The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is traditionally considered to be the work of the sixth-century pope, Saint Gregory of Rome. The present service, however, is obviously the inspired liturgical creation of Christian Byzantium. [1]
Fr. Edward Hughes, a member of the Antiochian WRV commission, has long pointed his students to Nicholas Uspensky's Evening Worship in the Orthodox Church (SVS Press, 1985), pp. 156-162, for the description of this this misattribution came about. In the comments to Huw's post, Subdn. Benjamin Andersen, my fellow pupil of Fr. Hughes, writes:

Essentially, Uspensky argues that it's based on a corrupted text of a postscript to a life of Saint Gregory written by Saint Photius. The original postscript read: "It is said that [Gregory] laid down the rule that the full liturgy be celebrated in the Roman Church on fasting days, a rule observed by them to this day."

Several centuries – and several battles with Latins – later, this text, as it had come to appear in the Greek Synaxarion for March 12, read: "It is said that [Gregory] is the one who laid down the rule that in the Roman Church on the fasting days of Great Lent the Liturgy of the Presanctified is to be celebrated, and it is celebrated to this day."

The idea is that Gregory, as a Western Saint venerated by both Latins and Greeks, might be a good guy to enlist in support of the Byzantine practice, in order to convince the Latins how wrong they are.

However, another Antiochian WRV priest friend has written me, "if you look at the heart of the Pre-sanctified Mass of Good Friday, and the heart of the Byzantine liturgy of the pre-sanctified, they are nearly identical: : 'Our Father, pre-communions prayers and Holy Communion.'"

That is a somewhat mixed bag. The liturgy's seemingly clear amalgamation of "solemn lenten Vespers with the administration of Holy Communion added to it" and its Byzantine mannerisms -- full prostrations in the Slavic practice -- do not seem terribly "Gregorian." The clincher to me is that, despite the fact that Pope St. Gregory the Great stayed at the court in Constantinople, he made it a point to never learn Greek [2] -- which would have made his career as a Byzantine liturgical innovator difficult, to say the least.


1. This page has was moved around during the the OCA's website overhaul; here it is through the wonders of the Internet Archive.
2. Not out of cultural chauvanism, but to preserve himself from the worldly atmosphere of the Byzantine court.



Blogger 123 said...

I had been told by a Deacon of our church that the Presanctified Liturgy had originally been introduced to Constantinople by Patriarch Severus. After he was anathematized the name of St. Gregory was given to it. It is possible that it is given his name in that it was because it was not a practice in Constantinople at that time to serve the Liturgy at all on fasting days, and since St. Gregory defended this practice the Byzantine form of a "fasting communion" is given his name- and not because St. Gregory wrote the rite itself.

Similarly, St. Tikhon had nothing to do with the majority of the actual, original text of the "Liturgy of St. Tikhon" but it received his approval- and therefore his name. This seems also to be the Orthodox understanding of how a book such as Hebrew is announced as being by St. Paul even though he likely didn't write is all himself, personally. It is much like how the early Renaissance masters didn't paint every stroke of a painting attributed to them, but as it was their school and their workshop and they were the Masters- it was given their name alone.

8:43 AM  

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