In September of 335, the emperor Constantine has ordered the bishops gathered in Tyre for the council against Athanasius to proceed at once “into the new Jerusalem” (Socrates, Hist. eccl. 1.33.1) for the dedication of the newly constructed basilica and rotunda on the presumed site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection. This momentous event has continued to influence the ecclesiastical life of the Holy City for the subsequent centuries, entering the liturgical calendar of Jerusalem, not as a mere annual commemoration, but as one of the pivotal festivals of the liturgical year, attended by numerous pilgrims and accompanied by an eight-day celebration (Sozomen, Hist. eccl. 2.26.4). A few extant liturgical and homiletic texts of hagiopolite origin which can be firmly connected with the Jerusalem festival of Encaenia (Dedication), reflect the evolution of ideological framework underlying this celebration, from a commemoration of a single historical event to an exegetical and theological conceptualization of the church on earth (as a building and as synaxis) as the projection of a heavenly model/divine temple. Liturgical texts (hymnography and prayers), as a “living literature” that were likely to have been in continuous use by the church of Jerusalem from 5th/6th centuries until after the Arab invasion represent one of the most intriguing but less studied sources for the self-understanding of an ecclesiastical community in the context of a developed sacred topography of the “holy places.”
This paper confines itself to several liturgical texts connected with the annual commemoration of the Encaenia of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, which have been preserved in their entirety only in Old Georgian translation. The hymnographic compositions which I use in this paper are found in the critical edition of the hagiopolite liturgical poetry known as the “Old Iadgari” (ed. E. Metreveli et al., Tbilisi, 1980). I compare several hymnographic examples with the liturgical prayers of the Jerusalem origin from two of the most complete Georgian witnesses to the Jerusalem euchologion, mss. Sinai Georgian O.12 and Sinai Georgian O.54. Through the comparative analysis of these texts I hope to demonstrate a growing self-understanding of the Jerusalem church through the change in perception of its foundational festival of Encaenia. At the same time, it will be shown how effectively this liturgical literature could have been used as a vehicle for expressing theological ideas during the time of Chalcedonian and Origenist controversies, which both most likely coincided with the time when these texts were composed.