A RITE is a cultural  mode  Of expressing one's faith liturgically. it is based on customs conditioned by history, geography and tradition. and so varies with the national background of a people.

We appreciate the meaning of the word "rite" when we distinguish between what is essential and general in religion and what is accidental and local.  Dogma is essential.  All Catholics believe exactly the same articles of faith no matter what rite they belong to.  The essential elements of the public wcrship of the Church, in the Sacrifice of the Mass and the administration of the sacraments, are the same in all Catholic rites.  It is in the amplification and the usage connected with them that they have evolved differently to meet local needs.

Introduction - - Meaning of Rite
There are two general divisions in the rites of the Church:
The Western rite called also the Roman or Latin rite since it originated in Rome and used Latin language for centuries.
and the Eastern rites of the major cities of the East:
Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch and Byzantium or Constantinople.

We will speak only of the Eastern rites.

The development of what are called liturgical provinces goes back to the fourth and fifth centuries.

Throughout the first two, centuries there was general uniformity in the matter of christian worship, though this was associated, as regards the forms of prayer, with some degree of improvisation on the part of the individual bishops.

Little by little, however, local usages came into being  By the third century - (we speak only of the Eastern rites) - the usages of Alexandria and Antioch must have already departed widely from the uniformity of the first centuries.  From the fourth century onwards, documentary evidence becomes abundant and more explicit and enables us to appreciate the various liturgical practices which were later developed, completed and diversified until they became what they are at the present day.  So Msgr, Duchesne writes in his "Christian worship": ''As the great metropolitan Churches - Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople - widened the circle of their Missions, they extended also the area of their special usages, for it is altogether natural that the usage of the Mother Church should become a law to the daughter Churches.  It was in this manner that the liturgical provinces became identified with the ecclesiastical provinces.

The recognition of these liturgical provinces permits us to trace back the Eastern rite liturgies to four chief groups:
1.The liturgies of Jerusalem and Antioch (Western Syrian)
2.The liturgies of Mesopotionia and Persia (Eastern Syrian)
3.The Egyptian liturgies (Egypt and Ethiopia).
4.The Asiatic-Byzantine, or, more accurately, the Cappadocian-Byzantine liturgies.

This concentration in four main rites does not exclude here and there individual forms, From the fifib century, certain liturgies began to appear under the influence of heresies or political events, These derived rites are:

1.The Armenian rite which was originated in the rite of Caesarea in Cappadocia, subsequently to the adhesion of the Armenian Church to Morrophysitism at the end of the fifth century,

2.The Chaldean rite goes back to the rite of Edessa  It became the rite of the Persian Church, which passed to Nestoriamsm in the fifth century.

3.       The Maronite rite, which comes from the ancient rite of Antioch, and was followed by the community of the monastery of St. Maron on the east side of the Orontes river, near Horns and Aleppo,

Thus at the end of the twelveth century, there were in the East three main rites and three derived rites,

The main rites are, the Byzantine, the Egyptian and the Antiochene Syrian rites,

The derived rites are: The Armenian, the Chaldean and the Maronite rites,

Formation of the Eastern Rite

Of all the Eastern rites, the Byzantine is the most important
in regard both to the number of Christians belonging to it and to its widespread
diffusion, It was the rite of the! ancient Byzantine Empire, which spread its ritual influence not only throughout all the Eastern base of the Mediterranean, but also to the countries of the lower Danube and Balkan Peninsula and up into all the Slavonic countries, Through immigration the rite has been brought to all parts of Europe and North and South America, counting more than 100 million Christians, both Orthodox and Catholics of various races and languages,

The rite is called Byzantine rather than Greek to allow for liturgical tongues other than Greek; but especially to center the point of elaboration of the rite from the 4th to the 10th century, The rite did not in fact originate in the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Byzantium now Constantinople, -- but had its liturgical roots in an involvel evolution from liturgies that were in use in Palestine, Antioch and Cappadocia, In dealing with the sources the leading role of & Basil the Great in this transformation will be pointed out, but it must be kept in mind that its evolution was gradual and took its inspiratiori"`from various sources, These developments were usually furthered under the influence of saints, such as Basil, John Chrysostom, John Damascene, Romanos, Andrew of Crete and Cosmas the Melcidius.  They guaranteed its doctrinal soundness and aesthetic richness and produced a rite of majesty and universal appeal,

The expansion of the Byzantine rite was intimately connected with the political ambitions of the Emperors, eager always to spread their 'Influence throughout the Balkan and Russian lands, to Syria, to Palestine, to Egypt and even to the coasts of Italy.  As Constantinople grew in power, other independent centers, such as Antioch and Alexandria, diminished, This soon made for one rite and one language within the vast confines of the Byzantine Empire and left the nonByzantine rites, such as the Syro-Antiochene and Coptic, to develop only among dissidents.

Outside the empire, the rite of Constantinople spread into other nations allowing other liturgical languages.  Thus Byzantine influence penetrated to the Iberian Peninsula of Caucasian Georgia in the 4th century; it superseded the Roman rite in Calabria and Sicilia at the beginning of the 5th century', it entered at the same time into Isaurra and, one century later, to Cyprus where it replaced the Syro-Palestinian rite, From the 9th to the 11th century missionaries were sent from Constantinople into the Slavic countries, but old Slavonic was used as the liturgical language in place of Greek.  Rumania translated the rite into its national tongue, in the 12th and 13th centuries, the Melkites of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem, no longer speaking Greek, used their own Syrian language and then adopted Arabic.  The Russian Church 'followed the same principle of vernacular liturgical languages in its missions in Estonia, Latvia, and Germanic areas in the Baltic states-, among the Eskimos and Indians of Alaska and Western America-, and among the Chinese
and Japanese,

The Byzantine rite makes rise of three Liturgies:
The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostorn, the Liturgy of St Basil and the Liturgy of
the Presanctified attributed to St. Gregory, pope.  These Liturgies namely that of Chrysostom and Basil are of Antiochene origin, as it was stated above, It is from Antioch that the Gospel was brought to Asia Minor and it is Antioch and Caesarea (in Asia Minor) that gave the Byzantine Church its definitive structure with Eudusus, Evagrius, S. Gregory, Nectarius, S. John Chrymstont Nestornis . . .


The Armenian rite expanded to some points in the West and the East
through Emigration.  It uses a liturgy similar to that of Byzantium with some modifications of Latin origin added to it since the Crusades.


The Syrian rite or Antiochene rite has three varieties:

a.The Syro-Antiochene called also Jacobite, Syrian or Syriac, is used by the Monophysite,, Of Syria or Jacobites (from their leader 'Jacob Bardai,) It is considered to be the most faithful representative of the ancient rite of Antoich.  Since the 4th century it uses the Liturgy of S, James, attributed to St Jarnes, the Lord's brother.  The Syrian Catholics kept it exclusively, but the Jacobites added to it other anaphoras.
b,      The Syro-Maronite rite: It is the Syro-Antiochene rite with some particularities proper to the Maronites.  Since the Twelfth century the Maronite rite was subjected to many modifications which made it similar to the Roman rite.  However, at the present time, a special commission is working on reviving the ancient Antiochene customs.

c.          The Syro-Malankarese rite, From earliest times, the liturgy of the Christians on the Southwest coast of India was Chaldean and their liturgical language was Syriac.  Their bishops were sent to them from Baghdad.  Thcir contacts with the West were very few until the Portuguese began to colonize hat section of the Indian coast in 1498. Because of Portuguese intolerance, local misunderstandings and absence of real communication with Rome, these Catholics rejected the union wth Rome, abandoned their Chaldean rite and came under the jurisdiction of the Nestorian Jacobite patriarch, A portion of them were united to Rome in 1930 with bishop Mar Ivanios and his suffragan bishop Mar Theophilus.


It has two branches:
a.        The Syro-Chaldean rite, the first to be introduced in Persia,
With the Nestorians it spread to Mongolia, China and  India. Then it retrograded with the invasion of Tamerian at the end of theFourteen century, The Liturgy of the Chaldean Church, called the Liturgy of the holy Apostles was composed by SS, Addai and Mari abridged by Jesu-Yab in the middle of the 7th century.   It is used by both Chaldean Catholics and Nestorians, However, the Nestorians adopted two other liturgics, that of Theodore of Mopsuestia and of Nestorius.
b.The Syro-Malabar rite, The adherents of this rite repudiated Nestorianism at the council of Diamper in 1599 and proclaimed their adhesion to Rome, Later, they returned to Nestorianism in 1653.  At the present time more than two thirds of the community are again united with Rome, while the rest is still linder Jacobite jurisdiction,


The Alexandrian rite has two branches:

a.        The Coptic rite (Coptic means Egyptian).  The Alexandrian rite is followed by the Coptic people, Most or them are Monophysites. A minority is in union with Rome.  The Alexandrian rite uses the Liturgy of S. Mark (5th century) attributed to S, Cyril of Alexandria, But the Copts make use today of three Liturgies attributed respectively to St Cyril, St. Basil and
St Gregory of Nazianzus,

b.The Ethiopian rite or Abyssinian rite, It uses an amplified form of the Liturgy of
St. Mark and other anaphoras.

The Melkite Catholic Church  (Byzantine Rite)

The word Melkite or Melchite properly speaking designates Christians of the Byzantine rite either Catholic or Orthodox, of the Patriarchate of Antioch, Alexandriastrul Jerusalem.  The word comes from the malka or in Arabic word malek meaning king, The term was first coined by the Monophysites in derision of those Christians who remained faithful to the Byzantine Emperor Marcian in his attempt to impose the doctrine of the two natures in Christ taught by the Council of Chalcedon in 451.  After the Council the word Melkite became synonymous of Catholic and the Pope was known to the Arab writers and historians as "the Pope of the Melkites." But since the split in the Patriarchate of Antioch in 1724, the word "Melkite", in its limited sense and according to the Roman Church classification, refers to the Byzantine rite Catholics of the three Patriarchates of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem,


There was an accepted theory that since the Byzantine re-conquest (969) the Antiochene Melkite rite was completely substituted for the rite of Constantinople.  That theory rested on the fact that the Melkite hierarchy was in majority of Byzantine origin and resided in the Byzantine capital far from their flock, However there is now general consensus that the Melkites did not abandon their liturgy in favor of that of Constantinople.  Their work, rather, consisted in restyling their way of worship in the frame of the customs of the Palace usin- materials of their own.  Thus rather than adopting a new We, the Melkites had really created the Byzantine Liturgy, They brought into it their own music, their own popular chanting, their hymnographic writings, their thinking and their theological knowledge, It we had to eliminate the Antiochene elements from the Byzantine Liturgy, almost nothing would remain in it, In fact, many composers of liturgical services were mostly of Antiochene origin, We mention John Chrysostom, Romanos the Melodius, Andrew of Crete (born in Damascus), John Darnscene, Cosmas, Theoplumus of Nicea, Theodorus the Graptic of Jordan, Amrstasius the Smaite, Sophronius of Jerusalem and the two Monasteries of S. Sabbas and Sinai, The first one gave its Typicon to all the Byzantine Churches and the second, the traditional "Prayer of Jesus",

Expansion of the Eastern Rites
February 4, 2000