Thursday, July 12, 2007

Book Notice: The Rites of Eastern Christendom

The Rites of Eastern Christendom
by Archdale A. King
Hardback 6 x 9, 2 volume(s), Vol. 1: xv + 675; vol. 2: x + 666 pages, ca. 20 illustrations
Gorgias Press, 2007
Price: $160.00 USD.

I recently received a review copy of Archdale A. King's two volume tome, The Rites of Eastern Christendom. Those interested in the liturgy will need little introduction to Archdale King, an English priest who lived from 1890-1972, a former vicar of Holy Trinity in Reading. He is most well known to Latin rite Catholics for his series of books on the Western rites, The Liturgies of the Religious Orders, The Liturgies of the Primatial Sees and The Liturgy of the Roman Church. In fact, this series was originally part of the envisioned "Rites of Western Christendom" volume to be produced as a pairing to this, "The Rites of Eastern Christendom".

As a liturgical historian, Archdale King is certainly prized for his works. In fact, until recently, they've been very hard to come by even though many of them were produced just prior to the Conciliar era. As was the case with so much of this kind of resource, they were also very expensive. The Rites of Eastern Christendom was certainly no exception, and while the $160.00 USD price tag may seem steep, the second hand prices were steeper.

Like most of King's volumes, this volume as well contains numerous photographs of various churches and clergy of the Eastern rites that are found within this book. Volume 1 of this 2 volume series pertains to the various "Oriental" (or non-Byzantine) rites and includes the Syrian, Maronite, Syro-Malankara, Coptic and Ethiopic rites. Volume 2 continues with studies of the Byzantine rite and its variants, the Chaldean, Syro-Malabar and Armenian rites.

Each rite is given a detailed historical treatment and includes analyses of its liturgical books, calendar, vestments and clerical attire generally. Moreover, the Ordo of these liturgical rites are summarized and described to give the reader a sense of the particulars of the individual liturgical rites themselves, as regards both the ceremonial and the liturgical texts. As in all of King's work, ample bibliographic references and footnotes are given. It almost goes without saying that the text is a gem for comparative liturgical study.

As one both interested in comparative liturgics and the liturgical rites of the Eastern churches, I was very glad when I heard of this reprint a year ago. It certainly forms a part of the established corpus of any liturgical library and provides condensed access to aspects of our Catholic liturgical history that might otherwise escape us. This can be important in providing us with better insights into aspects of the early liturgy and our own Western liturgical history and development.

A very important reprinting.

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