Robert Taft offers us this word: ''If liturgy is the most perfect religious expression of the soul that animates each tradition, a proper understanding of liturgy demands an understanding and sympathy for the genius and temperament, the ethos from which the liturgy springs.'' As a projected six volume series, this study historically investigates each part of the liturgy with the hope of helping us understand the inestimable heritage we receive through the Tradition of the Church. Rather than making his assertions through conventional ''footnoted research,'' Taft takes the approach of what he calls ''one-stop shopping'' -- interacting with the historical sources themselves (in English whenever possible) within the body of the text. He's remarkably entertaining for a scholar, surprising in wit and example. And to abate confusion, the publication of these volumes has not been chronological; only volumes two, four and five are currently available.
The Diptychs: Generally speaking, a diptych is a list of names, prayers for the living and the dead. Liturgically speaking, the diptychs Taft refers to are relics of the past and not an active part of contemporary celebration (nor have they been for centuries). However, in late Byzantine and early Medieval ecclesiastical relations they were of great -- even catalytic -- import, making this study of their nature, use and decline a valuable addition to our liturgical sense. Taft divides the diptychs into four broad categories: Hierarchichal Diptychs (consisting of approved lists of local bishops recognized as orthodox and legitimate successors of the apostles), Communion Diptychs (also hierarchichal, but expanded to include the communion of Churches in different districts), Confessional Diptychs (recognizing those within a national Church who represented a confessional teaching or loyalty) and Mixed Diptychs (including locally venerated saints and various combinations of the three previous categories). All that to say, the reason this book is so important centers around the communion diptychs and the removal of several key names from those lists (around 485) by the Patriarch of Rome. The Great Church of Antioch responded in kind, and the beginning of the Great Schism was afoot. 214 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
This study comprises the second volume of a projected five-volume history. The term "diptychs" is used here in its proper technical sense for the diaconal proclamations found either in the anaphora or preanaphora of eastern eucharistic liturgies. No one has previously attempted a detailed historico-liturgical analysis of this important unit of Late Antique Byzantine Liturgy. That is what this short monograph attempts.