The Parent Rites, From the Fourth Century
From about the fourth century our knowledge of the Liturgy increases enormously. We are no longer dependent on casual references to it: we have definite rites fully developed. The more or less uniform type of Liturgy used everywhere before crystallized into four parent rites from which all others are derived. The four are the old Liturgies of Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and Gaul. Each is described in a special article. It will be enough here to trace an outline of their general evolution.
The development of these liturgies is very like what happens in the case of languages. From a general uniformity a number of local rites arise with characteristic differences. Then one of these local rites, because of the importance of the place that uses it, spreads, is copied by the cities around, drives out its rivals, and becomes at last the one rite used throughout a more or less extended area. We have then a movement from vague uniformity to diversity and then a return to exact uniformity. Except for the Gallican Rite the reason of the final survival of these liturgies is evident. Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch are the old patriarchal cities. As the other bishops accepted the jurisdiction of these three patriarchs, so did they imitate their services. The Liturgy, as it crystallized in these centres, became the type for the other Churches of their patriarchates. Only Gaul and north-west Europe generally, though part of the Roman Patriarchate, kept its own rite till the seventh and eighth centuries.
Alexandria and Antioch are the starting-points of the two original Eastern rites. The earliest form of the Antiochene Rite is that of the "Apostolic Constitutions" written down in the early fifth century. From what we have said it seems that this rite has best preserved the type of the primitive use. From it is derived the Rite of Jerusalem (till the Council of Chalcedon, 451, Jerusalem was in the Antiochene Patriarchate), which then returned to Antioch and became that of the patriarchate (see ANTIOCHENE LITURGY and JERUSALEM, LITURGY of). We have this liturgy (called after St. James) in Greek (Brightman, "Eastern Liturgies", 31-68) and in Syriac (ibid., 69-110). The Alexandrine Rite differs chiefly in the place of the great intercession (see ALEXANDRINE LITURGY). This too exists in Greek (Brightman, 113-43) and the language of the country, in this case Coptic (ibid., 144-88). In both cases the original form was certainly Greek, but in both the present Greek forms have been considerably influenced by the later Rite of Constantinople. A reconstruction of the original Greek is possible by removing the Byzantine additions and changes, and comparing the Greek and Syriac or Coptic forms. Both these liturgies have given rise to numerous derived forms. The Roman Rite is thought by Duchesne to be connected with Alexandria, the Gallican with Antioch (Origines du Culte, p. 54). But, from what has been said, it seems more correct to connect the Roman Rite with that of Antioch. Besides its derivation from the type represented by the Liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions there are reasons for supposing a further influence of the Liturgy of St. James at Rome (see CANON OF THE MASS, and Drews, "Zur Entstehungsgesch. des Kanons in der römischen Messe", Tübingen, 1902). The Gallican Rite is certainly Syrian in its origin. There are also very striking parallels between Antioch and Alexandria, in spite of their different arrangements. It may well be, then, that all four rites are to be considered as modifications of that most ancient use, best preserved at Antioch; so we should reduce Duchesne's two sources to one, and restore to a great extent Probst's theory of one original rite -- that of the "Apostolic Constitutions".
In any case the old Roman Rite is not exactly that now used. Our Roman Missal has received considerable additions from Gallican sources. The original rite was simpler, more austere, had practically no ritual beyond the most necessary actions (see Bishop, "The Genius of the Roman Rite" in "Essays on Ceremonial", edited by Vernon Staley, London, 1904, pp. 283-307). It may be said that our present Roman Liturgy contains all the old nucleus, has lost nothing, but has additional Gallican elements. The original rite may be in part deduced from references to it as early as the fifth century ("Letters of Gelasius I" in Thiel, "Epistolæ Rom. Pontificum", I, cdlxxxvi, "Innocent I to Decennius of Eugubium", written in 416, in P. L., XX, 551; Pseudo-Ambrose, "De Sacramentis", IV, 5, etc.); it is represented by the Leonine and Gelasian "Sacramentaries", and by the old part of the Gregorian book (see LITURGICAL Books). The Roman Rite was used throughout Central and Southern Italy. The African use was a variant of that of Rome (see Cabrol, "Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne", s. v. Afrique, Liturgie postnicéenne). In the West, however, the principle that rite should follow patriarchate did not obtain till about the eighth century. The pope was Patriarch of all Western (Latin) Europe, yet the greater part of the West did not use the Roman Rite. The North of Italy whose centre was Milan, Gaul, Germany, Spain, Britain, and Ireland had their own Liturgies. These Liturgies are all modifications of a common type; they may all be classed together as forms of what is known as the Gallican Rite. Where did that rite come from? It is obviously Eastern in its origin: its whole construction has the most remarkable conformity to the Antiochene type, a conformity extending in many parts to the actual text (compare the Milanese litany of intercession quoted by Duchesne, "Origines du Culte", p. 189, with the corresponding litany in the Antiochene Liturgy; Brightman, pp. 44-5). It used to be said that the Gallican Rite came from Ephesus, brought by the founders of the Church of Lyons, and from Lyons spread throughout North-Western Europe. This theory cannot be maintained. It was not brought to the West till its parent rite was fully developed, had already evolved a complicated ceremonial, such as is inconceivable at the time when the Church of Lyons was founded (second century). It must have been imported about the fourth century, at which time Lyons had lost all importance. Mgr Duchesne therefore suggests Milan as the centre from which it radiated, and the Cappadocian Bishop of Milan, Auxentius (355-74), as the man who introduced this Eastern Rite to the West (Origines du Culte, 86-9). In spreading over Western Europe the rite naturally was modified in various Churches. When we speak of the Gallican Rite we mean a type of liturgy rather than a stereotyped service.
The Milanese Rite still exists, though in the course of time it has become considerably romanized. For Gaul we have the description in two letters of St. Germanus of Paris (d. 576), used by Duchesne "Origines du Culte", ch. vii: La Messe Gallicane. Original text in P. L., LXXII). Spain kept the Gallican Rite longest; the Mozarabic Liturgy still used at Toledo and Salamanca represents the Spanish use. The British and Irish Liturgies, of which not much is known, were apparently Gallican too (see F. E. Warren, "The Liturgy and Ritual of the Celtic Church", Oxford, 1881; Bäumer, "Das Stowe Missale" in the "Innsbruck Zeitschrift für kath. theol.", 1892; and Bannister, "Journal of Theological Studies", Oct., 1903). From Lindisfarne the Gallican Use spread among the Northern English converted by Irish monks in the sixth and seventh centuries.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX
Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor
Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York