taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent.
We have seen then that neither its language nor the sect of people who use it can be taken as essential to a rite. The real note that defines it is the place where it was composed. All rites had their origin in some one place or city that was an ecclesiastical centre for the country round. After the service had been put together and used here, by a natural process of imitation churches around began to copy the order observed in the great town. The greater the influence of the city where the rite arose, the more widely the rite spread. It was not a question of inherent advantages. No one thought of choosing the rite that seemed most edifying or beautiful or suitable. People simply copied their chief. The rites were formed at first in the patriarchal cities: Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople. Jerusalem had already given hers to Antioch. The bishops of each patriarchate naturally thought that they could not do better than celebrate the holy mysteries in the same way as their patriarch. We know in the West how, long before there were any laws on the subject, every one began to copy what was done at Rome. It seemed safest to follow Rome in the matter. The Frankish Church in the eighth century gave up the Gallican Rite, and adopted that of the patriarchal see. The “Liber sacramentorum Romanæ Ecclesiæ” spread throughout Western Europe till it had displaced all other uses, except in one or two remote districts. We see the same tendency at work still — uniformity in accordance with Roman customs, even in such details as the shape of vestments and the pronunciation of Latin. So it was in the East with regard to their patriarchal sees. Local customs are gradually suppressed in favour of the patriarch’s way of doing things. Schisms and heresies accentuate this uniformity among Catholics. It was a sign of adherence to the Catholic centre — Alexandria, Constantinople, or whichever it might be — to agree entirely with it in rite. Lastly come laws determining this tendency; and so we have the principle that (with exceptions) obtains still throughout Christendom, namely: “Rite follows Patriarchate” [emphasis mine — Antiochian-Thomist]. The Roman Rite is used throughout the Roman patriarchate, by the clergy subject to the pope as their patriarch, and only by them [however, for various reasons to be discussed later, the current Holy Father, Benedict XVI, does not use the title, “Patriarch of the West”]; the Alexandrine Rite belongs to Egypt — where the patriarch of Alexandria has jurisdiction; that of Antioch to Syria; that of Constantinople to the Byzantine territory. The National Nestorian (East-Syrian) and Armenian patriarchates have their own rites. Such was the principle for many centuries everywhere. Except for the two remnants of other Western rites at Milan and Toledo, it may still be taken as a fairly safe one in the Catholic Church; and among all Eastern sects, except the Orthodox. Since the thirteenth century, however, the Orthodox, regardless of the older tradition, use the Byzantine Rite everywhere, even in their Alexandrine, Antiochene, and Jerusalem patriarchates. In their case, then, the principle cannot he applied. But the exception is rather apparent than real. This spread of the use of theRite of Constantinople meant an assertion of that patriarch’s jurisdiction throughout the Orthodox Church. In this case, too, rite really followed patriarchate; the disappearance of the Liturgies of Alexandria and Antioch among the Orthodox meant, as was intended, the practical disappearance of any real authority in those places save that of the prelate who nearly succeeded in justifying his pompous title of Ecumenical Patriarch. Now that his attempt has failed, and the other patriarchs are becoming more and more conscious of their independence of him, there are signs of a near restoration of their own liturgies, to be used, as before, where their jurisdiction extends.
But a rite in spreading out from the patriarchal city where it was composed does not itself change. Since the invention of printing, especially, and the later tendency to stereotype every detail of thesacred functions, each rite, wherever used, is made to conform rigidly with its standard form as used in the central church. The Liturgy of Jerusalem-Antioch contains, as the first member of its Great Intercession, a prayer for “the holy and glorious Sion, mother of all Churches”, plainly a local touch intended originally for use in Jerusalem, where the rite was written (Brightman, “Eastern Liturgies”, 54, 90). The Alexandrine Rite, even if used in far countries, makes the priest pray that God may “draw up the waters of the river to their proper measure” (op. cit., 127, 167) — a local allusion to the flood of the Nile on which fertility in Egypt depends. And the Roman Rite, too, used in every continent, still contains unmistakable evidence that it was composed for use in that one city. The lists of saints (“Communicantes” and “Nobis quoque”) contain the Apostles and then local Roman saints, or those, like St. Cyprian, specially honoured at Rome; the Calendar with its Rogation and emberdays supposes the Italian climate; the special heroes of Rome, as St. Laurence, are those that have the oldest great feasts. Of course Rome, like all Churches, honours the Blessed Virgin, the Apostles, the Baptist, St. Stephen, the œcumenical saints of Christendom. After them she naturally honours first her own saints, whose relics hallow her basilicas. The stations at the Roman basilicas affect her year throughout; and on the feast of the Princes of the Apostles she remembers specially “happy Rome purple with their glorious blood”. From all this, then, it is clear that the real distinction of rites is not by language nor by the religion of those who may use them, but according to the places where they were composed. The correct and scientific way of describing any rite, therefore, is always by the name of a place. Thus we have the Roman and Gallican Rites in the West; in the East the Rites of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, etc. This is the really essential note of any rite, that it keeps even when translated into other languages.