The exposition of the Liturgy of St. James, which is basically the Celebration of the Holy Eucahrist, is most significant for the understanding of the mystery of God in offering His only Son a vicarious sacrifice for the redemption of man. To make it understandable, Rev. Saka explains not only the meaning of terms connected with the liturgy but of all the components of the vessels, the vesting, the censoring, the candles and the propitiatory prayers associated with them. This exposition should benefit both church and liturgical scholars and lay people interested in the profound spiritual meaning of their faith.
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The Syrian Church of Antioch prides itself for having no less than eighty liturgies short and long. But the principal liturgy it has used and is still using is the Liturgy of St. James the Apostle. The fundamental parts of St. James liturgy have not changed since the fourth century. St. Cyril of Jerusalem quoted heavily from the Liturgy of St. James in his 23rd homily delivered around 347 AD. But since church scholars in Syria were bilingual using both Greek and Syriac, the Liturgy of St James existed in both Greek and Syriac forms. However, through time and because of the theological disputes which prevailed in the fourth and fifth centuries, the Liturgy of St James suffered many changes but the core, which is the Consecration of the Bread and the Wine, was kept intact. The Syrian erudite Jacob of Edessa (d. 708), revised it and his revision, except for minor and superfluous changes, is used by the Syrian Church until this day. What is noticeable about his liturgy is that, unlike the Greek version, the Syriac version contains no litanies. Instead, the Dyptichs, or the list of names of prominent believers and kings were read. But this custom was dropped since the eleventh century. Also, some hymns were added to the liturgy. At present, the homily which usually follows the reading of the Gospel is moved to the end of the celebration of the Eucharist. Saka has offered a detailed exposition of the Liturgy of St. James based on former expositions of the same by Syrian scholars like Jacob of Edessa, Moses Bar Kepha (d. 903), Jacob Bar Salibi (d. 1172) and Barhebraeus (d. 1286). He elucidates the order of this liturgy, the role of the celebrant and the participation of deacons and people in its celebration.
Archbishop Ishaq Saka is a prolific church historian and theological commentator. He holds the position of Patriarchal Vicar for Syriac studies in the Syrian Orthodox Church. In addition to this commentary, he wrote, in Arabic, numerous books pertaining to the faith and history of his church.
Matti Moosa holds a Ph.D. degree in Middle Eastern history and culture from Columbia University. His publications include The Wives of the Prophet (ed.), Gibran in Paris (ed.), The Maronites in History (1986), and many translations from Arabic into English.