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According to the Primary Chronicle of Kievan 'Rus, when representatives of the Russian Prince Vladimir visited Hagia Sophia (the church of the Holy Wisdom) in Constantinople in 988, they did not know "whether they were in heaven, or on earth". Most effective as a missionary tool, the Orthodox liturgy has also been, throughout the centuries of Muslim rule in the Middle East, an instrument of religious survival. Greatly developed in Byzantium, and translated into many languages, it preserves texts and forms dating from the earliest Christian church.
The most frequently used Eucharistic rite is traditionally attributed to Saint John Chrysostom. Another Eucharistic liturgy, celebrated only ten times during the year, was created by Saint Basil of Caesarea. The Byzantine form of the Liturgy of Saint James is also increasingly used. In Byzantine usage, the Eucharistic prayer of consecration culminates with an invocation of the Holy Spirit (Greek word is Epiclesis) upon the bread and wine. Thus, the central mystery of Christianity is seen as being performed by the prayer of the Church and the action of the Holy Spirit, rather than by "words of institution" pronounced by Christ and repeated vicariously by the priest, as is the case in Western Christendom.
One of the major characteristics of Orthodox worship is a great wealth of hymns, which mark the various liturgical cycles. These cycles, used in sometimes complicated combinations, are the daily cycle, with hymns for vespers, compline, the midnight prayer, matins, and the four canonical hours; the paschal cycle, which includes the period of Lent before Easter and the 50 days separating Easter and Pentecost and which is continued throughout the Sundays of the year; and the yearly, or sanctoral, cycle, which provides hymns for immovable feasts and the daily celebration of saints. Created during the Byzantine Middle Ages, this liturgical system is still being developed through the addition of hymns honoring new saints. Thus, the New Russian Martyrs from the Soviet Persecution, were recently added to the catalogue of Orthodox saints.