Fr. Alexander Rentel Thesis Abstract

Reverend Alexander Rentel

The 14th Century Patriarchal Liturgical Diataxis of Dimitrios Gemistos
Edition and Commentary


The medieval Greek documents liturgiologists refer to as Diataxeis consist in compilations of rubrics for clergy directing them in ceremonial actions of the Eucharistic Liturgy.  A patriarchal Diataxis explains the ritual when the patriarch presided at the Divine Liturgy, "how and when" the various rites of ordination would take place, and may also describe fully the rite of the prothesis performed before the Liturgy by only a priest and deacon without intervention of the patriarch. One of the most important extant patriarchal Diataxeis the manuscript tradition ascribes to a leading figure of the chancery in the second half of the 14th century, "the Protonotary [later the mega sakellarios] of the Great and most-holy Church of God, Kyr Deacon Gemistos (?-ca. 1397)." An important note found in the upper margin of f. 3r in Athos Vatopedi 135 (AD 1390), the principle manuscript of the Diataxis, gives a precise date for its composition, August 1386. If indeed Dimitrios Gemistos composed this Diataxis -- and he almost certainly did -- this does not mean Gemistos created something entirely new out of nothing.  A comparison of his Diataxis with other sources reveals that he composed it utilizing both local and foreign traditions: the traditions of the patriarchal rite in Constantinople and, surprisingly, the Athonite Diataxis for the Divine Liturgy of Philotheos Kokkinos (ca. 1300-1377/78), twice patriarch of Constantinople (1353-54, 1364-1376). Moreover, where Gemistos carefully indicates the liturgical roles of various members of the patriarchal chancery in the Diataxis, one can infer that he is expressing specific concerns of the chancery.

This dissertation presents for the first time ever a critical edition of Gemistos' Diataxis as well as an investigation into its liturgical context and an exploration of the historical circumstances surrounding its creation. 

Implicit in Anton Baumstark's famous assertion that it is the nature of liturgy "to relate itself to the concrete situations of times and places,"[1] is the possibility that the historical situation which gave rise to a liturgical document can be deduced from a study of that document. Thus, in the case of Gemistos' Diataxis, historical currents also emerge through close reading of the text of the Diataxis and a reconstruction of the rites contained therein. Gemistos' choice of the Philothean Diataxis speaks volumes about the powerful influence of Athonite, hesychast monasticism on the Constantinopolitan patriarchal throne. Looking beyond the historical situation in which Gemistos' Diataxis was created, one can already see developing the rough outline of the transformation the Byzantine Church will undergo, one that will allow it to survive through the long centuries of Turkish domination. This is a transformation that will have at its core a strong central patriarchate with a powerful bureaucracy using all the ancient imperial and religious symbols to convey its power.

In order to see these currents at work, the different layers of sources in Gemistos' Diataxis need to be peeled apart and identified. Then how he used his sources needs to be examined. Only at this point can we begin to understand why he used the sources he used. In other words, in order to understand what exactly Gemistos himself wrote, what he adapted, and what he inserted into his Diataxis, these sections in Gemistos' Diataxis which show literary dependence must be further compared with their obvious sources (the Philothean Diataxis, the Euchologion for the ordination rites). An explanation must be found, or at least attempted, to account for their agreement, but also for their differences. The results of this fascinating deconstructing process cast light on the origins of the Diataxis.

The first step in the process of deconstructing Gemistos' Diataxis is to untangle the text of the Philothean Diataxis from it and place Gemistos in comparison with this direct ancestor in the Byzantine liturgical Diataxis tradition. Nowhere is Gemistos' dependency on the Philothean Diataxis more apparent than in the prothesis rite: nearly seventy-five percent of the prothesis rite in Gemistos' text is taken directly from the Philothean Diataxis either word-for-word or with only superficial modifications. Throughout the rest of his Diataxis, Gemistos used Philotheos' Diataxis much less, and most of this other material is either original or from another, unknown source. Plainly, one of Gemistos' reasons for composing his patriarchal Diataxis was to combine the Philothean Diataxis, and especially the prothesis rite from Philotheos' Diataxis, with the patriarchal rite and Constantinopolitan traditions. So while Gemistos' desire to incorporate the Philothean Diataxis is clear by his extensive use of the Philothean Diataxis, his motives for doing so are not. Philotheos, after all, was a recently deposed patriarch, someone whose legacy was so controversial that his commemoration was forbidden by his immediate successor, Patriarch Makarios. What is more, Philotheos' Diataxis represents the tradition of Athonite monasticism. Its incorporation within the patriarchal/cathedral liturgical tradition marks its ascendancy, and with it the ascendancy of the monastic tradition, within the larger Byzantine liturgical tradition. But perhaps it is equally a sign that the patriarchal chancery accepted not only Philotheos' Diataxis as a new liturgical rule, but also marks a rehabilitation of Philotheos by the patriarchate.

A discernable image of Dimitrios Gemistos emerges when the text of his Diataxis is studied and its various sources disentangled and investigated. He was first and foremost a Byzantine Churchman, conservative in nature and fiercely loyal to the Constantinopolitan patriarchate. Gemistos was also a career bureaucrat and began his thirty year career in the patriarchal chancery as a notary under Philotheos sometime in the 1360's.  By the end of his life he had become the mega sakellarios, thus proving himself to have been capable and successful. Characteristic of any successful bureaucrat, he was fully conversant with the official terminology of the patriarchate. Equally characteristic is Gemistos' detailed understanding of the inner workings of the patriarchal bureaucracy, which had its own hierarchy and traditions. The accuracy of his understanding is readily corroborated by a comparison of other extant chancery documents. His mastery of the chancery is not the least bit surprising, when we consider that Gemistos worked and flourished in the chancery for twenty years before he wrote his Diataxis. Gemistos' loyalty to the patriarchate equally extended to individuals who sat on the patriarchal throne. For, as we have seen, even though Gemistos introduced a non-Constantinopolitan source, the Philothean Diataxis, into the Constantinopolitan rite, this was motivated not by a desire to innovate, but by conservatism and loyalty: it was done to settle liturgical questions but also because of his high regard for Philotheos Kokkinos.

The scope of Gemistos' knowledge was not confined simply to the administrative operations of the patriarchal bureaucracy; he was just as well versed in the liturgical traditions of the Constantinopolitan patriarchate. For example, he shows himself more than fluent in the technical vocabulary needed to describe the liturgical rites at the Hagia Sophia. In addition, Gemistos regularly offers in marginal notes alternate formulas which further demonstrate a vast knowledge of liturgical traditions. At times, these asides concern the patriarchal rite and Constantinopolitan traditions, but at other times he notes alternate rubrics for when the patriarch would not be celebrating the liturgy, or if the liturgy would not to be celebrated in the "Great Church."

An examination of Gemistos' other major source embedded within the Diataxis, the Euchologion, further confirms his fidelity to Constantinopolitan traditions. When the Euchology texts in Gemistos are compared with sources both anterior and contemporary to him, what emerges is that Gemistos indeed remained faithful to the Constantinopolitan Euchology tradition, but, at the same time, he tailored his Euchology sources to the specific liturgical needs of the Hagia Sophia and the elaborate patriarchal rite. Gemistos' changes, however, demonstrate not an intent to innovate, but rather a conservative inclination that sought to clarify and codify more precisely the liturgical order. At one point he even insists in a curious marginal note that when prevailing customs "seem superfluous" and even "redundant," it still is far "safer that the prevailing customs be said and maintained," than the implied threat of their abrogation. Gemistos here is defending the ancient custom of having the subdeacons cry out, "Whoever is faithful (hosoi pistoi)!" twice during the anaphora, an act whose meaning had obviously been lost by Gemistos' time.

A careful examination of the Diataxis of Dimitrios Gemistos reveals his purposes in composing his Diataxis.  Clearly, he wanted to write a patriarchal Diataxis that carefully set forth the role of the patriarch and the members of the patriarchal chancery in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and the various rites of ordination.  A comparison with another Constantinopolitan documents, Euchologia, chancery texts such as the Ekthesis Nea, other Diataxeis, locates Gemistos squarely within the liturgical traditions Constantinople and the world view of the patriarchate. This is not at all surprising, given Gemistos' prominence within the Constantinopolitan patriarchal chancery, and thus in the Orthodox Church in the Byzantine Empire. If we refuse to view this Diataxis simply as a liturgical document, it then becomes easy and even necessary for us to read between its lines in order to understand its liturgical and historical context.

Gemistos' Diataxis exists in nineteen known manuscripts. The manuscripts date from Athos Vatopedi 135, copied in November 1390 shortly after the composition of the Diataxis in August 1386, to Athos Panteleimon 677 (AD 1890). Contained in these manuscripts are four basic recensions of the Diataxis: the longer and original "patriarchal" form of the Diataxis; an abbreviated archival form; a later, "archieratical" redaction; and another abbreviated form that concentrates solely on the rites of the Divine Liturgy. The original patriarchal recension describes the prothesis rites, the vesting of the patriarch, the preliminary rite for metropolitan ordination, the ordination of readers and subdeacons, and then the Divine Liturgy of John Chrysostom. Interspersed within the Liturgy are the rites of metropolitan ordination, priests, and deacons. For all of these rites, the original text contains all the necessary Euchology and diakonika texts.  Equally characteristic of the original text of the Diataxis is the presence of detailed instructions for the members of the patriarchal chancery and specific references to the architecture of the Hagia Sophia. The editor of the archival recension has removed all the Euchology and diakonika texts seemingly to conserve paper and space. The patriarchal and archieratical forms of the Diataxis are closely related in form and content. The distinguishing characteristics of the archieratical form are that the celebrant of the Divine Liturgy has been changed from patriarch to archiereus, and that most references to the architecture of the Hagia Sophia have been removed.  It would seem that these changes were done so that the Diataxis could be used by other bishops in their own dioceses. The shorter, patriarchal recension of the Diataxis is more radical.  Present are references to the patriarch, the Hagia Sophia, and various members of the patriarchal chancery; gone, however, are the rubrics for the prothesis rite along with all the euchology texts.  Also present are some elements of the liturgical formulary not yet common to the strictly Constantinopolitan tradition. The redactor has also displaced all the different ordination rites to a place in the manuscript before the actual text of the Diataxis.

At first glance, the textual issues surrounding the Diataxis of Dimitrios Gemistos seem difficult to resolve. But a curious feature of the textual history of Gemistos' Diataxis is that subsequent recensions were created in reaction to one or more characteristic element of the original Diataxis. A basic taxonomy of the manuscripts comes quickly into focus through a careful analysis of the various recensions. The very title of the Diataxis states that the Diataxis sets forth the details of the patriarchal Divine Liturgy celebrated in the Great Church (i.e., the Hagia Sophia) and "both how and when the order of ordinations take place." Therefore, the content of the original text of the Diataxis must contain rubrics specifically for the patriarchal liturgy and the various ordination rites. This content presumed in the title, however, is missing in two recensions, the Archieratical and the Abbreviated Patriarchal "Eucharistic." Accordingly these two recensions can be described as later and not representative of the original text of the Diataxis. The editor of the Archieratical recension refashioned the Original Patriarchal recension of the Diataxis by changing the main celebrant from patriarch toarchiereusand omitting any references to the concelebrating hierarchs, architectural features of the Hagia Sophia, and the members of the patriarchal chancery. By doing this, the redactor of this recension created a Diataxis appropriate to any hierarch and not just the patriarch of Constantinople during the Byzantine Empire. The redactor of the Abbreviated Patriarchal "Eucharistic" recension was no less active. This editor removed the Euchology texts and the diakonika of CHR as well as the texts for the ordination rites, leaving only the rubrics for the celebration of the patriarchal liturgy and mere indications and incipits where these texts once stood.

The guiding editorial principle of the present edition has been to establish as near as possible the text that Gemistos originally wrote and not to create a hypothetical text that never existed.  Additionally, no component part of the Diataxis should be seen as anything other than the original text of Gemistos' Diataxis. In other words, this edition of the Diataxis is not a critical edition of the ordination rites of the Byzantine Church, or of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, or of the Philothean Diataxis, but simply a critical edition of the 14th century patriarchal liturgical Diataxis of Dimitrios Gemistos.

All attempts have been made to have a clear and straightforward critical apparatus following the normal methods for editing texts. I prepared the critical apparatus with an eye less towards philologists and more towards liturgiologists who are interested not only in the reconstruction of the original text but also its subsequent development. Consequently, the critical apparatus is fuller, and includes more variant readings than might be typical for a critical edition.

The register of sources allows the reader of the text to distinguish what exactly Gemistos wrote, what he took from his sources, and what the general nature of the sources was.

The first level of the critical apparatus contains the variant readings that serve to reconstruct the original text of the Diataxis. The second level of apparatus contains the variant readings from the archieratical recension of Gemistos' Diataxis when these readings do not bear witness to the original text. The third level of apparatus is exclusively reserved for those instances where Habert deviated from the text of his exemplar, Paris Greek 1362. This level also includes the various titles he gave to different sections of the Diataxis.  I have attempted to include all of Habert's variations -- all orthographical, all prayer variants etc., in order to give an accurate report of the nature of his text.

Reflecting on Gemistos' work, students of the Byzantine liturgy might view Gemistos as an innovator. After all, he introduced the Athonite monastic Diataxis of Philotheos Kokkinos into the patriarchal cathedral rite of Constantinople, thus assuring the victory of the monastic rite over the cathedral rite. In so doing, Gemistos unwittingly cemented a process that had been going on for centuries. Yet this view of Gemistos is only partially accurate and gained only in hindsight. Gemistos was only one actor in a drama, which had been going on for almost a thousand years and involved countless people. In fact, the victory of the monastic rite is not a story of a few people, but of many.  If he did reflect on what he was doing, Gemistos probably saw himself as someone merely codifying existing traditions and liturgical practices. His view on this would be perfectly akin to another contemporary Byzantine liturgist, Archbishop Symeon of Thessalonika ( 1429), who also reformed the liturgy.  But Alexander Lingas, who has evaluated the content of Symeon' reforms, concludes that far from being "revolutionary," the reforms "represented the harmonization and systematization of existing precedents for the inclusion of texts and music from outside the Byzantine cathedral tradition."[2]  Only when the liturgical rites are viewed as things static or unchangeable can these developments -- or any developments -- be considered as mere innovation and not simply the natural continuous evolution of the rites which is the stuff of liturgical history.


[1] Baumstark, Comparative Liturgy 18.

[2] A. Lingas, Sunday Matins in the Byzantine Cathedral Rite: Music and Liturgy (Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, University of British Columbia, 1996), 218.