Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Liturgy, in strict ecclesiastical phraseology, denotes only the office used in the celebration of the Eucharist; but it is now used in a wider sense, so as to include every form of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving prescribed for use in public worship. In the ancient Athenian polity the richer citizens were required to defray the cost of maintaining the public games and other expenses of a similar kind. The classical term leitourgia used to denote these special services afterwards acquired a more general meaning, and was adopted in the Septuagint to express the worship which took place in the Temple. When the word came into use among Christians, its meaning was at first narrowed as explained above. Consequently, there are two kinds of liturgies, which require to be discussed separately. (1) It is probable that from the first there was some form of liturgy over and above the simple ritual ordained by Christ, and the different liturgies which subsequently arose were all developments of one original type. They fall into five groups - viz. three Eastern, the West Syrian, the East Syrian, and the Alexandrian; and two Western, the Hispano-Gallic and the Roman. A liturgy belonging to the Hispano-Gallic group was probably in use in the south of Britain before the arrival of Augustine, whilst in the Irish Church both the Gallican and the Roman rites were followed.' The Roman liturgy can be traced back to the days of Innocent I., but did not assume its final form till the period of Gregory the Great, under whom it was introduced into England by Augustine. The most ancient and solemn part of the liturgy is the "anaphora" or "canon," which began with the Sursum Corda and comprised the rest of the service, including the consecration of the elements; the preceding portion was termed the pro-anaphoral. The canon was identical in the "uses" of Sarum, York, Lincoln, and the various other English missals. The present Communion Service of the Church of England is based mainly on the Sarum Use, with some modifications. (2) The various services of the Roman Church, exclusive of those in the Missal, are contained in the Breviary (q.v.), the Manual (q.v.), and the Pontifical (q.v.). At the time of the Reformation some liturgy or fixed form of public prayer was adopted by each of the Lutheran and Calvinist Churches. On the Continent, however, more opening was usually left for free prayer than was the case in England, where the Book of Common Prayer was rigidly enforced on all congregations. [Prayer-Book.] The severity of the Anglican system was extremely distasteful to the Puritans, and fostered amongst them a dislike to set forms of worship which has always prevailed in Nonconformist bodies.