Melkite and (West-)Syrian: comparisons and connections

A little side discussion in a recent thread inspired me to start this thread. If anyone has anything to contribute, about connections between Melkite Catholics (or Antiochian Orthodox) and Maronites or Syrian/Syro-Malankara Catholics or Orthodox (or about the liturgical rites of said groups) please do.

Here’s a couple questions to try to kick things off:

  1. Does anyone have a list of “Antiochian” (Syrian) elements in the liturgy of the Melkite Church (the Graeco-Arabic Rescension of the Constantinoplitan/Byzantine Rite). I believe I saw such a list some years ago, but I can’t find it.

  2. I seem to remember hearing that the Liturgy of St. Basil (which we Melkite celebrate on the 5 Sundays of Great Lent) is a bit more “Antiochian” than the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom that we usually celebrate; however I can’t find anything about that online … so I might just be misremembering, or perhaps it was some hearsay that i heard. Anyone ever hear of this? (There is also the Liturgy of St James, but we only celebrate it on one Sunday per year.)

I don’t know if this could be related at all related to this topic… At my parish, at every Divine Liturgy, the deacon fans the gifts with a hand-size fan. I have always heard that, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, deacons fan the gifts only during the Divine Liturgy during which they were ordained.

Good post.

I, too, have seen that but I wasn’t sure of the whole story and whether there’s a Syrian connection. Then a little while ago I found this on Wikipedia:

while this action of fanning is called for in the service books to this day, the deacon normally only does so on the day of his ordination. At his ordination, a deacon, receives the fan from the bishop with his vestments and service book and is presented to the people for them to exclaim “Axios!” (“worthy”) holding the fan, and then stands behind the Holy Table (altar) to fan the Sacred Gifts according to the otherwise archaic practice.

So I believe you’re right, the Melkite practice differs from most Byzantine liturgies.

It also mentions: “Fans used by the Maronites, Oriental Orthodox and Assyrians are distinctive, having little hoops of metal or bells all around the circumference of the disks. At particularly solemn points of the liturgy, these are shaken gently to produce a tinkling and jingling sound, akin to the sound of multiple altar bells.”

Perhaps fanning at every Divine Liturgy was a universal Antiochian practice that died out at some point after the Melkites had already restored Communion with Rome in 1729? Maybe Melkites did not experience the removal of this practice and have continued it?

  1. Does anyone have a list of “Antiochian” (Syrian) elements in the liturgy of the Melkite Church (the Graeco-Arabic Rescension of the Constantinoplitan/Byzantine Rite). I believe I saw such a list some years ago, but I can’t find it.


One element that the Melkites have kept from the West Syriac tradition is their very own name. The term by which they identify themselves, as Melkite, comes from a Western Syriac (Aramaic) name of Malkoyo (ܡܠܟܝܐ), which means Kingly, Monarchical, Royal, or Imperial. When they adopted Arabic, the Aramaic term was carried over into the Arabic language, and thus a Malkoyo became known in Arabic as a Malaki (ملكي).

God bless,


I’ve seen this discussed before, and in searching I came across an article by the now (Greek Orthodox) Patriarch of Antioch, HB John X (when he was just bishop). Hopefully it’s relevant enough as it’s very interesting, so here are some excerpts;

During the Sixth and Seventh centuries, which combined are considered the second stage of the foundation of Church hymnography, there arose from within the Antiochian Patriarchate many famous composers and chanters. These scholars enriched the Byzantine liturgical system with sound theological texts which when set to various structures and tones and combined with many other church activities developed at that time reveal the large role played by the Church in Antioch in this field.


St. Romanos the Chanter is considered one of the greatest of the chanters. …] His most famous hymns are the Christmas Kontakia, and those of Great Monday and Great Friday.

St. Andrew the Cretan was born in Damascus, Syria during the middle of the Seventh century. …] He was the creator of the then “new” poetic form known as the Canon. St. Andrew was a great composer of verse; his are many and diverse. Most important of which are the Ideumela of the Einos of Christmas, Annunciation, and the Elevation of the Cross. He also wrote many canons; most notable of which is the Great Canon that consists of 250 troparia about repentance that is chanted on Thursday in the fifth week of Great Lent.

St. John of Damascus was born there in 650 and his father; Sergios Mansour was the Minister of Tax-Collection for the Caliph Abdulmalik. …] He made many reforms to church music most important of which were the completion of the Octehos and the adjustment of the eight tones. He wrote many Resurrectioal and Christmas canons as well as the Ideumela for funerals.

St. Cosmas the Chanter was born in Damascus in 685 and became an orphan early in life. …] He composed many hymns for various occasions and for different Saints. He was a forerunner in the writing of canons, most notable of which are the canons of Holy Week.

Thus, we see the great role-played by the Church in Antioch during the Sixth and Seventh Centuries by enriching the Byzantine Liturgical System with numerous texts, various hymns and new forms of composition. This was the result of a mixture of Syrian, Greek, and other Oriental elements combined and reflected in a brilliant Rome civilization. If we review the service books used in the Antiochian Rome Orthodox Church as well as those of the other Orthodox Churches of the world who follow the same liturgical system, we find that the texts of the Antiochian Fathers occupy the major part therein. These hymns and praises entered the peoples’ hearts and lives and remained with them in the daily application of the Liturgy of the Church and later became the basic materials for the service books which are still in use to this day.

  • The Hymnographic Contribution of the Antiochian Orthodox Church to the Byzantine Liturgical System During the Sixth and Seventh Centuries, from here.

This is interesting (pg. 4), although not entirely new:

It is clear that all these manuscripts are the product of the process of the Constantinopolitanization of the Antiochian Rite of the Rum Orthodox Church in Antioch that took place in the aftermath of the Byzantine re-conquest of the area (969-1085). As a result of this adaptation most surviving Rum Orthodox liturgical manuscripts contain, not the original Antiochian Rite that had previously been in use, but its Constantinopolitanized form. In the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries, both forms of the Rite evidently existed side by side for a while, the original Antiochian Rite being known as the “Rite of the Syrians”, and the Constantinopolitanized form as that “of the Greeks”.

Also, everything I’ve read trying to learn more on the topic says that Syriac was largely used until the 17th-18th centuries in the Antiochian-Melkite Church until after the schism, when it was replaced mostly by Arabic. So even after we became Byzantinized, or “Constantinopolitanized,” we continued to use Syriac as the language of the Liturgy.

I’m contacting a couple people that might know more about this topic and I’ll post back later if they point me to anything relevant.

Wow! Thank you, neokarny, for sharing such detailed information. :thumbsup:

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