This is an Oriental liturgy, sometimes assigned to the Syrian group because it is written in the Syriac tongue; sometimes to the Persian group because it was used in Mesopotamia and Persia. It is known as the normal liturgy of the Nestorians. According to tradition, it was composed by Addeus and Maris, who evangelized Edessa, Seleucia-Ctesiphon and the surrounding country. This tradition is based on the narrative contained in the “Doctrine of Addai”, a work generally ascribed to the second half of the third century. The account states that King Abgar the Black, having heard of the wonderful works of Christ, besought Our Lord to come and cure him of a serious malady, but that he obtained only the promise that Our Lord would send one of His disciples, a promise which was fulfilled after the ascension, when Thaddeus (in Syriac, Addai), one of the seventy-two disciples, was sent by St. Thomas to Edessa to cure the King. Addeus and his disciple Maris are said to have converted the King and people of Edessa, to have organized the Christian Church there, and to have composed the liturgy which bears their names. There seem to be no documents earlier than the “Doctrine of Addai” to confirm this tradition. Although good historical evidence concerning the foundation of the Church of Edessa is wanting, still it is quite certain that Christianity was introduced there at a very early date, since towards the end of the second century the king was a Christian, and a bishop (Palouth) of the see was consecrated by Serapion of Antioch (1902-03). It was only natural that the Edessans should regard Addeus and Maris as the authors of their liturgy, since they already regarded these men as the founders of their Church. The Nestorians attribute the final redaction of the text of the Liturgy of Addeus and Maris to their patriarch Jesuyab III who lived about the beginning of the seventh century. After the condemnation of Nestorianism, the Nestorians retreated into the Persian kingdom, and penetrated even into India and China, founding churches and introducing their liturgy wherever the Syriac language was used. At the present time this liturgy is used chiefly by the Nestorians. It is also used by the Chaldean Uniats, but their liturgy has, of course, been purged of all traces of Nestorian tenets.
EXPOSITION OF PARTS
The liturgy may be divided conveniently into two parts: the Mass of the catechumens, extending as far as the offertory, when the catechumens were dismissed, and the Mass of the faithful, embracing all from the offertory to the end. Or again, it may be divided into the preparation for the sacrifice extending as far as the preface, and the anaphora or formula for consecration corresponding to the Roman canon. “The order of the Liturgy of the Apostles, composed by Mar Addai and Mar Mari, the blessed Apostles” begins with the sign of the cross, after which the verse “Glory to God in the highest” etc. (Luke, ii, 14), the Lord’s Prayer, and a prayer for the priest on Sundays and feasts of Our Lord, or a doxology of praise to the Trinity on saints’ days and ferials are recited. Several psalms are then said, together with the anthem of the sanctuary (variable for Sundays and feasts or Saints’ days) and a prayer of praise and adoration.
The deacon then invites the people “to lift up their voices and glorify the living God”, and they respond by reciting the Trisagion. Then the priest says a prayer and blesses the reader of the lessons. Ordinarily two lessons from the Old Testament are read, but during Eastertide a lesson from the Acts of the Apostles is substituted for the second Old Testament lesson. After an anthem and a prayer the deacon reads the third lesson (called the Apostle), which is taken from one of the epistles of St. Paul. The priest prepares for the Gospel by reciting the appropriate prayers and blessing the incense, and after the alleluia is sung he reads the Gospel. This is followed by its proper anthem, the diaconal litany, and a short prayer recited by the priest, after which the deacons invite the people “to bow their heads for the imposition of hands and receive the blessing” which the priest invokes upon them. The Mass of the catechumens is thus concluded, so the deacons admonish those who have not received baptism to depart, and the Mass of the faithful begins. The priest offers the bread and wine, reciting the prescribed prayers, covers the chalice and paten with a large veil, goes down from the altar and begins the anthem of the mysteries. The recital of the Creed at this point is a late addition to the liturgy.
Having entered within the arch, the priest makes the prescribed inclinations to the altar, washes his hands and begins the preparatory prayers for the anaphora. He recites an invitation to prayer corresponding to the Roman Orate fratres, and then beseeches the Lord not to regard his sins nor those of the people, but in all mercy to account him worthy to celebrate the mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ and worthily praise and worship the Lord, after which he crosses himself and the people answer “Amen.” At this point on Sundays and feasts of Our Lord the deacon seems to have read the diptychs, called by the Nestorians the “Book of the Living and the Dead.” The kiss of peace is then given, and a prayer recited for all classes of persons in the church. The anaphora proper begins with the preface. The deacon now invites the people to pray, and the priest recites a secret prayer, lifts the veil from the offerings, blesses the incense, and prays that “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost be with us all now and ever world without end”, and signs the mysteries, and the people answer “Amen.” The priest then begins the preface with the words: “Lift up your minds.” The preface is followed by the sanctus and the anamnesis (commemoration of Christ). In present usage the words of institution are here inserted, although they seem to have little connection with the context. He pronounces a short doxology, and signs the mysteries, and the people answer “Amen.” After the deacon says “Pray in your minds. Peace be with us,” the priest recites quietly the great intercession or memento. The epiclesis, or invocation of the Holy Ghosts follows as a sort of continuation of the intercession. The priest then says a prayer for peace and one of thanksgiving, and incenses himself and the oblations, reciting the appropriate prayers in the meantime. While the deacon recites a hymn referring to the Eucharist, the priest, taking the Host in both hands, says a prayer alluding to the life-giving power of this bread which came down from Heaven (in the Chaldean Uniat liturgies the words of institution are placed after the first part of this prayer), breaks the Host into two parts, one of which he places on the paten, while with the other he signs the chalice, and after dipping it into the chalice signs the other half of the Host, reciting meanwhile the proper prayers for the consignation. Joining the parts together he says a prayer referring to the ceremonies just completed, cleaves with his thumb the Host where it was dipped in the chalice, signs his forehead with his thumb, and recites a prayer of praise to Christ and to the Trinity. After kissing the altar, he invokes a blessing upon all “The grace of Our Lord” etc., as quoted above.
While the priest breaks the Host, the deacon invites the people to consider the meaning of these holy mysteries and to have the proper dispositions for receiving them; to forgive the transgressions of others, and then to beseech the Lord to forgive their own offences. The priest, continuing this idea, introduces the Lord’s Prayer (which all recite) and says a prayer that expands the last two petitions. After a short doxology the priest gives the Chalice to the deacon, blesses the people, and then both distribute Communion. A special anthem is said during the distribution. The deacon then invites all who have received Communion to give thanks, and the priest recites aloud a prayer of thanksgiving and one of petition. Mass is concluded with a blessing pronounced by the priest over the people. The chief characteristic in this, as in the other Nestorian liturgies, is the position of the general intercession or memento. It occurs, not after the epiclesis as in the Syrian liturgies, but immediately before it. It seems to be a continuation of the anamnesis. Of minor differences, it might be noted that the Nestorians use one large veil to cover paten and chalice; they use incense at the preface; and they have two fractions of the Host, one symbolical recalling the passion of Christ, the other necessary for the distribution of Communion.