In the Orthodox Church there are four Eucharistic Liturgies used. The most common is the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the liturgy used on all Sundays except those which fall during the Great Lent, and all holy days on which a eucharistic liturgy is served except for the eves of Pascha, Christmas and Theophany, Holy Thursday, and the feastday of St. Basil the Great (January 1). The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, used on the Sundays of Great Lent, Holy Thursday, the Eves of Pascha, Christmas, and Theophany, and the Feast of St. Basil the Great. The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts which is actually an extended Vespers service at which Holy Communion which was consecrated on the previous Sunday is distributed. The Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts is used during weekdays of Great Lent when the full celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy is prohibited. The Liturgy of St. James, is served only in certain places on the feast day of St. James the "Brother of the Lord" and first Bishop of Jerusalem.
The differences between the Liturgy of St Chrysostom and St Basil are (from the perspective of doctrine, structure and content) minimal; and the very rarely used Liturgy of St James is similar to both. Further, what the Orthodox Churches decree and permit has remained the same for centuries and there is no sign of change in 2005.
Not too long ago the Roman Catholic Church had one basic structure and content of the Mass (so-called Tridentine form) and also allowed other ancient Rites (e.g., that of Milan and those of the Orthodox tradition [see above] in the “Eastern” churches under the Roman See).
Likewise not too long ago the Anglican family of Churches had one basic structure and content of the Eucharist (from the classic BCP of 1662 ) and with this were minimal variations of style, content and ceremonial, as required by local culture or by churchmanship.
Since Vatican II in the mid-1960s, the Roman Catholic Church has multiplied its offering of Liturgies for the Mass in its own Sacramentary. Now there are four basic ones and at least another eight possibilities.
Also since the 1960s, the Anglican Churches (primarily of the West/North) have multiplied their offering of Texts for the Eucharist so that there have been hundreds authorized by Synods in the last forty years or so. Of these many have been discarded for there is a continual stream of new ones being produced.
It is said that that which binds the modern RC and Anglican varied Rites together is that they each have a common structure with common elements. In the case of Rome, there is also a reasonable claim of a minimal common doctrine as well; but, in the case of the massive Anglican variety, it is most difficult to find within the usual common structure (the sandwich of the Ministry of the Word, the Peace, and the Ministry of the Sacrament) a common doctrine of The Holy Trinity, the Person and Work of Christ & the Nature of the Sacrament. This is highly regrettable for common structure/shape cannot be a substitute for common doctrine. (Even with the Creed, Commandments and Lord’s Prayer different translations or paraphrases are used!)
Thus it is that serious-minded Christians ask:
Why is it that some modern Christians require so much variety in that which is the central Service to God and for man of the Christian Church? What did Roman Catholics and Anglicans lack in terms of sacramental worship and grace before the modern variety was thrust upon them by their liturgists, synods and hierarchy? Would it not be wise to reduce the variety dramatically in the Anglican Way [as also in the R C Church] and return to the text of the classic BCP with perhaps the use of a sound, contemporary English version of the BCP Rite as an alternative? Are not two enough and are not Two more than sufficient to be one means of uniting the Anglican Family as it tears itself apart through controversy and distrust?
October 10, 2005 email@example.com