About Liturgy of apostle Jacob
Annually, on a Sunday closest to the feast of the Nativity of Christ, the Orthodox Church commemorates the holy fathers: righteous Joseph, king David, and Jacob, the brother of the Lord according to the flesh, the first archbishop of the Church in Jerusalem. This year, on the day of his commemoration, in the church of St.-Ignatius skete of our monastery, we served this Liturgy the author of which the Church Tradition unanimously says to be apostle Jacob.
Jacob, the brother of the Lord, the son of the righteous Joseph from his first wife who left him a widower, had become a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and had converted many Jews to the faith of Christ. He had been so highly regarded among the apostles that he was the chairman at the Jerusalem apostolic Synaxis, and his word there, as the Holy Scripture witnesses, became decisive (see Acts 15:13-21). The preaching of St. Jacob in Jerusalem had such success that the enemies of Christ resolved to bring it to end: the apostle was thrown off the roof of Jerusalem temple, but he did not die right away: wounded, he was able to raise himself and to lift up his prayer to the Lord for his murderers stoning him to his death. The memory of the apostle-martyr is piously kept in Jerusalem Church until this day.
In the first years of Christianity, the Liturgy would be served not according to a fixed mode, but it was the fruit of the prayerful glowing of the one serving it, who in the words of St. Justin, would lift up the prayers and thanksgivings "as long as he could" and "as long as the time allowed." The first Christians had strength of grace in abundance, and Liturgy would continue for many hours. The experience obtained gradually – the order of prayers and sacral acts – has been developing and forming into a fixed order of worship service. In this way the orders of the liturgies bearing the names of the apostles have come about: e.g., the Liturgy of apostle Jacob, apostle Mark, the Antiochian Liturgy of the 12 apostles, etc.
The Liturgy of apostle Jacob that has reached us in several versions which certainly have various later insertions, continues its church life: up until the recent times it was served annually in Jerusalem and Alexandrian Churches.
In Ekaterinburg, the first to serve the Liturgy of apostle Jacob on the day of his commemoration, was archbishop Melhisedek (Lebedev). Since 2001 in the church of St. Cyril and Methodius at the Spiritual seminary, through the blessing of the ruling arch-pastor and the seminary’s rector, Bishop Vikentiy, the tradition of serving this ancient liturgy was continued. Surely, the serving of this Liturgy has also a catechetical significance, but at the same time, it is paying homage to those who were standing at the origins of Christian worship; it is a living bond with them. This is why the sisters of the monastery invited hieromonk Arkady, the pro-rector of the pedagogical work in Ekaterinburg Spiritual seminary and a professor of liturgics, to serve this Liturgy at the skete.
The sisters were left with a very favorable impression. Many things seemed amazing in the Liturgy, for example, the deacon’s turning to those praying instead of to the altar while pronouncing the petitions; the reading not only of the New but also of the Old Testament; unfamiliar prayers, unusual sounding of well-known prayers and petitions: "We shall lift up our minds and hearts," or "Again and again, and unceasingly let us pray to the Lord." This service preserving the structure of ancient Liturgies, is somewhat different from the order of later Liturgies of the Byzantine type of which the familiar to us Liturgies of saints Basil the Great and John Chrysostom are examples. In the Liturgy of apostle Jacob the triad of the antiphones is absent. Immediately after the litany of Peace the hymn "Co-Essential Son" is sung. At this moment the clergy bring into the middle of the church the books of the Holy Scripture – the Bible, the Gospel, and the Apostle. Then the Small entrance is made which, in essence, begins the service of the Liturgy proper and which, according to the words of St. Maximus the Confessor, is the image of our entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the Liturgy of apostle Jacob, the reading of the Holy Scripture – Old Testament pericopes, a passage from the Gospel, a sermon, and an Apostolic reading – are done in the center of the church. Instead of the usual Cherubic Hymn at the Great entrance, "May every flesh be silent" is sung. Peculiar for this Liturgy is the partaking separately of the Body and separately of the Blood in the Eucharist. Such order was also common for the Byzantine liturgies of St. Basil the Great and John Chrysostom up until the VIII century.
It is quite possible that such service on the days of commemoration of apostle Jacob will become traditional for our monastery.