I recently went to a Lebanese festival at a Maronite church and was curious about the difference between that Eastern Catholic Rite and the Melkite rite. When asking about Maronites, I got this main answer:

"Melkites primarily worship with the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom while Maronites use the Liturgy of St. James"

While I have grown up going to Melkite masses and am therefore familiar with the St. John Chrysostom liturgy, I am not sure what a St. James liturgy is. I also tried asking my Catholic in-laws and they didn't know either. So I come here to ask the question


What is a "St. James" liturgy mass and how does it differ from a "St. John Chrysostom" liturgy?

  • Text.
    – user46876
    Sep 17, 2021 at 21:51

1 Answer 1


What is a "St. James" liturgy mass as opposed to a "St. John Chrysostom" liturgy mass?

The Liturgy of St. James is considered the most ancient liturgical liturgy that the Church possesses and is attributed to St. James, the first bishop of Jerusalem. The Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom is the most celebrated divine liturgy in the Byzantine Rite and is attributed to Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople in the 5th century.

The Liturgy of Saint James is a form of Christian liturgy used by some Eastern Christians of the Byzantine rite and West Syriac Rite.

It is still the principal liturgy of the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Maronite Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and other churches employing the West Syriac Rite. It is also occasionally used in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Melkite Catholic Church. The Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church uses a reformed variant of this liturgy omitting prayers for Intercession to Saints.

The liturgy is attributed with the name of James the Just, the brother of Jesus and patriarch among the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem.

The historic Antiochene liturgies are divided between Alexandrian and Cappadocian usages. Among the these, the Liturgy of Saint James is one of the liturgies that evolved from the Alexandrian usage; others include Coptic Anaphora of Saint Basil, the Byzantine Liturgy of Saint Basil and the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom.3 The liturgies attributed to Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil are the ones most widely used today by all Byzantine Rite Christians, including the Eastern Orthodox, Byzantine Rite Lutherans, and some Eastern Catholic Churches.

St. John Chrysostom (347 – 407), served as archbishop of Constantinople and was greatly influential in the development of the liturgy.

The Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom is the most celebrated divine liturgy in the Byzantine Rite. It is named after its core part, the anaphora attributed to Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople in the 5th century.

It reflects the work of the Cappadocian Fathers to both combat heresy and define Trinitarian theology for the Christian Church. This liturgy was probably used originally by the School of Antioch (John having been a deacon and priest in Antioch) and, therefore, most likely developed from West Syriac liturgical rites. In Constantinople, it was refined and beautified under John's guidance as Archbishop (398–404). As a divine liturgy of the Church of Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia, it became over time the usual divine liturgy in the churches within the Byzantine Empire. Just two divine liturgies (aside from the presanctified), those of Saints John and Basil the Great, became the norm in the Byzantine Church by the end of the reign of Justinian I.After the Quinisext Council and the liturgical reforms of Patriarch Theodore Balsamon, the Byzantine Rite became the only rite in the Eastern Orthodox Church, remaining so until the 19th and 20th Century re-introduction by certain jurisdictions of Western Rites.

The liturgy of Chrysostom was translated into Latin by Leo Tuscus in the 1170s.

This is truly an interesting subject matter which gets more complex as on looks into similarities and differences between the various Eastern Liturgical Rites.

For example, you mention the Maronite Liturgy and Mass!

The Maronite Liturgy is unique in several regards to all the other Eastern Liturgies.

  • It is the only Eastern Catholic Rite Church that has never separated from Rome.
  • It Ritual follows that of the Roman Ritual, but traditionally pronounced in Aramaic (Syriac) or Arabic.
  • Historically the Mass is celebrated in Syriac or Arabic, but the actual words of consecration are always pronounced in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus himself to his Apostles.
  • By common agreement between the Roman Rite and the Maronite Rite, priests of one Rite may fall under the jurisdiction of the residing Catholic bishop, whether Roman or Maronite, if no diocesan bishop exists in the area of the particular priest in order to administer the sacraments in their proper Liturgical Rite.

The Maronite Church is an Eastern Catholic Church, one of 23 such Eastern Catholic sui iuris particular churches in full communion with the pope and the worldwide Catholic Church, with self-governance under the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. Its chief pastor is Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi since 2011, seated in Bkerke, northeast of Beirut, Lebanon. Officially known as the Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch, it is part of Syriac Christianity by liturgy and heritage.

Establishment of the Maronite Church can be divided into three periods, from the 4th to the 7th centuries. A congregation movement, with Saint Maroun from the Taurus Mountains as an inspirational leader and patron saint, marked the first period. The second began with the establishment of the Monastery of Saint Maroun on the Orontes, built after the Council of Chalcedon to defend the doctrines of the council. This monastery was described as the "greatest monastery" in the region of Secunda Syria, with more than 300 hermitages around it, according to ancient records. After 518, the monastery de facto administered many parishes in Prima Syria, Cole Syria and Phoenicia. The third period was when Sede Vacante followed the Islamic conquest of the region and bishops of the Saint Maroun Monastery elected John Maron as Patriarch circa 685 AD, according to Maronite tradition. The Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch reestablished their patriarchate in 751 AD. Other centers of historical importance include Kfarhay, Yanouh, Mayfouq, and the Qadisha Valley.

Although reduced in numbers today, Maronites remain one of the principal ethno-religious groups in Lebanon, with smaller minorities of Maronites in Syria, Cyprus, Israel, and Jordan. Emigration since the 19th century means that about two-thirds of its three million members are located outside "The Antiochian's Range", where they are part of the worldwide Lebanese diaspora.

The six major traditions of the Catholic Church are Alexandrian, Antiochene, Armenian, Chaldean, Constantinopolitan (Byzantine), and Latin (Roman). The Maronite Church follows the Antiochene Tradition. A Roman Catholic may attend any Eastern Catholic Liturgy and fulfill his or her obligations at an Eastern Catholic Parish. That is, a Roman Catholic may join any Eastern Catholic Parish and receive any sacrament from an Eastern Catholic priest since all belong to the Catholic Church. Maronites who do not reside within a convenient distance to a local Maronite Church are permitted to attend other Catholic churches while retaining their Maronite membership.

The Maronite Patriarchal Assembly (2003–2004) identified five distinguishing marks of the Maronite Church:

  • It is Antiochene.

  • It is Chalcedonian, in that the Maronites were strong supporters of the Council of Chalcedon of 451.

  • It is Patriarchal and Monastic.

  • It is faithful to the See of Peter in Rome.

  • It has strong ties to Lebanon.

Also the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom employs Greek, Russian, Ukrainian and as well as some other languages, the Liturgy of St. James usually, but not exclusively employs Aramaic (Syriac) and Arabic.

The Byzantine Rite at the present time

The Rite of Constantinople now used throughout the Orthodox Church does not maintain any principle of uniformity in language. In various countries the same prayers and forms are translated (with unimportant variations) into what is supposed to be more or less the vulgar tongue. As a matter of fact, however, it is only in Rumania that the liturgical language is the same as that of the people. Greek (from which all the others are translated) is used at Constantinople, in Macedonia (by the Patriarchists), Greece, by Greek monks in Palestine and Syria, by nearly all Orthodox in Egypt; Arabic in parts of Syria, Palestine, and by a few churches in Egypt; Old Slavonic throughout Russia, in Bulgaria, and by all Exarchists, in Czernagora, Servia, and by the Orthodox in Austria and Hungary; and Rumanian by the Church of that country. These four are the principal languages. Later Russian missions use Esthonian, Lettish, and German in the Baltic provinces, Finnish and Tatar in Finland and Siberia, Chinese, and Japanese. (Brightman, op. cit., LXXXI-LXXXII). Although the Liturgy has been translated into English (see Hapgood, op. cit. in bibliography), a translation is never used in any church of the Greek Rite. The Uniats use Greek at Constantinople, in Italy, and partially in Syria and Egypt, Arabic chiefly in these countries, Old Slavonic in Slav lands, and Rumanian in Rumania. It is curious to note that in spite of this great diversity of languages the ordinary Orthodox layman no more understands his Liturgy than if it were in Greek. Old Slavonic and the semi-classical Arabic in which it is sung are dead languages.

One can more easily compare these two main liturgical Rites by reading the following articles:

  • You write some things about the history and the juridical status of the rites. But you do not answer the question and compare both rites.
    – K-HB
    Sep 19, 2021 at 8:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .