Palmer: Origines Liturgicæ 02.

Vol. I: Diss. on Primitive Liturgies, Sect.II.



| Section I | Contents | Section III |

Project Canterbury




exarchate or patriarchate of Cæsarea extended from the Hellespont to the Euphrates; and, with the exception of the proconsular Asia, Phrygia, and some maritime provinces, included the whole territory called Asia Minor1. Cæsarea in Cappadocia was the metropolis of this exarchate, which corresponded in extent to the civil diocese of Pontus; and Basil, commonly called "the Great," was consecrated bishop of Cæsarea about A.D. 370. The unanimous voice of antiquity has ascribed to him the composition of a liturgy, and one bearing his name to this day has long been used throughout the whole of Asia Minor.

These facts can be authenticated by sufficient evidence; and I will at once proceed to cite some of the principal authorities which prove the ancient existence and use in the east of a liturgy ascribed to Basil. It must, however, be premised, that from a period antecedent to the council of Chalcedon, [46]

 A.D. 451, the patriarch of Constantinople became possessed of the jurisdiction which had anciently belonged to the exarch of Cæsarea2; and that the liturgy of Basil was (probably at an early period) received by the patriarchs of Constantinople, and the churches under their jurisdiction, so that to the present day it is used by those churches.

The emperor Charles the Bald, in the ninth century, wrote thus to the clergy of Ravenna: "The liturgy was celebrated before us according to the rite of Constantinople, whose author was Basil3." About the year 691, a council of two hundred and twenty-seven eastern bishops, assembled at Constantinople, confirmed one of their decrees thus; "For — and Basil, archbishop of the church of Cæsarea, whose glory has pervaded the whole world, delivering to us the mystical liturgy in writing, appointed," &c.4 A hundred years before this council, or A.D. 590, Leontius of Byzantium, or Constantinople, in his book against Eutyches and Nestorius, accused Theodore of Mopsuestus thus: "He vainly composed another liturgy, besides that which was delivered by the Fathers to the churches, neither regarding that of the Apostles, nor that of Basil the Great, written in the same spirit."5 About the year 520, Peter the deacon [47]

 and others wrote to Fulgentius from Rome, whither they had come from the east on an important mission. In their epistle they support some of their arguments by a quotation from the liturgy of Basil: "Wherefore also the blessed Basil, bishop of Cæsarea, in the prayer of the holy altar, which is used throughout almost all the east, says" &c.6 Gregory Nazianzen, the intimate friend of Basil, in his oration in praise of Basil testified, that amongst other good works which he performed at Cæsarea was "an order of prayers."7 Basil himself informs us, that "the customs of divine service which he had appointed in his monasteries, were consonant and agreeable to all the churches of God."8

These testimonies, combined with the universal tradition of the east, where no person has ever been known to doubt the fact, have induced learned men generally to agree that Basil actually composed a liturgy. The difficulty, however, generally expressed, is this. That from the variety of text exhibited by several liturgies which bear the name of Basil, it is impossible to ascertain the correct text of the liturgy as it was composed by him.9


On comparing the printed editions of liturgies in different languages, bearing the name of Basil, so much difference, indeed, is to be found between them, that persons little versed in ritual matters may easily be perplexed. The difference, however, between these various texts, as they are printed, appears to such persons greater than it really is. For instance, the learned Cave, following many other erudite critics, declares, that "the copies of Basil’s liturgy are more short and more pure in proportion to their antiquity: as clearly appears from the liturgy which Andreas Masius translated from the Syriac language10." Here the learned Cave, with Masius, Rivetus, Bona, and others, were led astray, by not knowing that every Syrian liturgy is to be joined to an introduction, which is common to the numerous liturgies of the Syrian Monophysites, but which is rarely found in MSS. and then generally united to the liturgy of St. James. So that the liturgy translated by Masius only contained the Anaphora, or latter part of the liturgy, as it is performed. And if we complete the Syrian text of Basil’s liturgy, by adding this introductory part, it will appear perhaps longer, instead of shorter, than any other text of Basil’s liturgy11.

It is a fact, however, that on critically comparing the various texts of Basil’s liturgy together, such considerable differences are found, as cannot be accounted for merely by the common variety of readings in ancient works, nor by the inaccuracy of translators, but must be referred to design. These [49]

 various texts may be reduced to three. First, the Constantinopolitan; which has been used from time immemorial throughout the patriarchate of Constantinople, and in the country and language of Basil. Secondly, the Alexandrian; which has also been for a long time used in the patriarchate of Alexandria, and is found in three languages, the Coptic, the Greek, and the Arabic. Thirdly, the Syrian; which is only extant in the Syriac language.

The Constantinopolitan text will first be examined on its intrinsic merits, and afterwards it will be compared with the Alexandrian. To ascertain the correct text of the Constantinopolitan recension or copy of Basil’s liturgy, does not seem so difficult as some persons imagine. It is true, that no two MSS. are found perfectly alike. But the difference arises either from the common inaccuracy of transcribers, the variety of rubrics, (which in fact do not appear in the most ancient MSS.) or the introduction of certain formulae or rites, which are easily distinguished by an experienced eye. The real text of the liturgy seems never to have been mutilated, but is found without any substantial variation in every manuscript. Some of these MSS. are of great antiquity, and yet in all it appears that the same rites, the same order, the same words are found. Montfaucon, the most profound antiquary of his own, or perhaps any age, says that he saw in the Barberini library at Rome a MS. of Basil’s liturgy in Greek uncial characters, above 1000 (1120) years old12; and which consequently was written about the time of the council in Trullo, A.D. 691. This council of two hundred and twenty-seven eastern [50]

 bishops cited Basil’s liturgy as a written document for the purpose of proving that water, according to the ancient custom of the church, should be mixed with the wine of the eucharist13. And if we turn to the MSS. of Basil’s liturgy, according to the Constantinopolitan church; we find them all saying, "Likewise taking the cup of the fruit of the vine, having mixed it,"14 &c.

About the year 520, Peter the deacon and his companions, who had come from the east to Rome on a mission of importance, wrote to Fulgentius and other African bishops on the nature of Christ, and the necessity of divine grace; and in support of the latter doctrine quoted from the liturgy of Basil, which they said was then used by almost the whole east. Their words are as follows: "Hinc etiam beatus Basilius, Cæsariensis episcopus, in oratione sacri altaris, quam pæne universus frequentat oriens, inter cætera; ‘Dona,’ inquit, ‘Domine, virtutem et tutamentum, malos, quaesumus, bonos facito, bonos in bonitate conserva, omnia enim potes, nec est qui contradicat tibi, cum enim volueris salvas, et nullus resistit voluntati tuæ.’ Ecce quam breviter, quamque distincte doctor egregius olim huic controversiae finem ponit, docens per hanc precem, non a seipsis, sed a Deo, malos homines bonos fieri, nec sua virtute, sed divinæ gratiae adjutorio, in ipsa bonitate perseverare."15


Critics have long remarked with confidence, that the words cited by Peter the deacon are not to be found any where in the liturgies ascribed to Basil16. From whence they have concluded, that these liturgies have been greatly interpolated or mutilated since the time of Basil. Renaudot was the first to remark, that it is not necessary to suppose that Peter quoted these words from one part of Basil’s liturgy, but that he may have selected and united passages which occur in different places17. He also remarked, that the most important words which Peter afterwards refers to, are actually found in the liturgy of Basil according to the church of Constantinople; videlicet, "Malos quaesumus bonos facito, bonos in bonitate conserva." But he has left the affair involved in some obscurity, by not assigning any sufficient reason why the remainder of the quotation cannot also be traced. However, the Constantinopolitan text of Basil’s liturgy supplies the originals of two other parts of this celebrated quotation, as I proceed to shew. "Dona, Domine, virtutem et tutamentum"—Phrourêson, endunamôson. 18 "Malos, quaesumus, bonos facito, bonos in bonitate conserva"—tous agathous en tê agathotêti sou diatêrêson, tous ponêrous agathous poiêson en tê chr^estoyêti sou.19 Omnia enim potes"—su gar ei ho energôn ta panta en pasi.20

Thus far the quotation accords. with the existing text of Basil’s liturgy. But it must be confessed, [52]

 that the latter part of the quotation, namely, "Nec est qui contradicat tibi, eum enim volueris salvas, et nullus resistit voluntati tuae," is not to be found in any liturgy bearing the name of Basil. Several reasons, however, may be assigned for this. First the copy of Basil’s liturgy referred to by Peter the deacon may have contained some prayer or rite introduced by the bishop of some particular church, in which the passage may have occurred, and yet would not be found in the great body of MSS. Secondly, this passage may have occurred in the prayers which were made over the penitents, which have long ceased to exist in Basil’s liturgy; and yet we know from the nineteenth canon of the council of Laodicea, commented on by Theodore Balsamon, and from many other sources, that some prayers of the kind were formerly universal in the east. But, thirdly, I cannot help suspecting that this passage did not occur in the liturgy, and that some person may have introduced it here to suit his own purpose. It has been remarked to me by a learned friend, that the passage in question contains "a manifest allusion to Rom. ix. 15-19. and that these words do not necessarily convey the doctrine of particular election;" yet I do not think it probable that any person who did not hold this doctrine, and that of irresistible grace, would have placed the above passage prominently before the minds of the people by introducing it into the liturgy. The words of St. Paul need explanation, and would be more properly commented upon in a sermon than introduced into a prayer.

At the first glance, the doctrines of irresistible grace and particular election seem to be conveyed [53]

 in. those words, "cum enim volueris salvas, et nullus resistit voluntati tuae;" and, taken with the remainder of the quotation made by Peter, they would induce us to think that Basil held those doctrines. This, however, was not the fact. Basil asserted the freedom of the human will, and believed that God desired the salvation of all men21. We do not find sentiments like those which Peter apparently attributes to him, either in those liturgies which bear the name of Basil, or indeed in any Oriental liturgy that I have read. Considering, then, that such expressions as occur in the quotation, would probably have been used in the liturgy only by one who held the doctrines of Augustine, and that Basil did not hold those doctrines; I think there is reason to suspect that the above expressions did not occur in Basil’s liturgy, but have been introduced by some persons who wished to claim his authority in favour of the doctrines alluded to. We may therefore conclude, that the first half of the quotation made by Peter the deacon is found in the Constantinopolitan text of Basil’s liturgy; and that the remainder is probably an interpolation, or, at all events, affords no reason to think that the text has been mutilated. It may perhaps be necessary to remark, that when it is said by Peter in the conclusion, "docens per hanc precem;" we are not to infer that the quotation he has made formed one collect of the original liturgy; but that the liturgy itself, which the [54] Fathers often called precem or euchên,22 contained these words. Considering the Constantinopolitan text alone, therefore, I think there is no reason to dispute the prima facie evidence for its genuineness, which arises from its having been from time immemorial used in the country and language of Basil himself, without any dispute or suspicion ever having arisen on the subject in that part of the church. This text is found alike in all MSS. of whatever age or country that represent the Constantinopolitan liturgy of Basil. The interpolations and modern additions are easily detected, the variations are naturally accounted for. If some parts are doubtful, the greater part is not so. We find it substantiated by a council of two hundred and twenty-seven eastern bishops, three hundred years after the time of Basil, bishops who lived in the same country, spoke the same language, and ruled the same churches as Basil himself. We receive additional conviction from the quotations of Peter the deacon, who lived little more than a hundred years after the time of Basil. We also know that the Christians, for some time after the death of Basil, alluded but little in their writings to the mode of celebrating the eucharist, being prevented by the law of secrecy; and, therefore, we have altogether as much evidence for the genuineness of the text, as could have been expected from ancient [55] writers. Considering all this, I, see no sort of reason to doubt that the Constantinopolitan is the genuine text of Basil’s liturgy. Certain parts may afford just. grounds for discussion, but of the remainder, I think, there can be no just doubt. Supposing, then, that this was the only text in existence, we should have no great difficulty in ascertaining the true text of Basil’s liturgy.

It must not be concealed, however, that another text exists. This is the Alexandrian or Egyptian, which can be well ascertained by ancient MSS. and by a comparison of ancient versions in different languages. The Alexandrian liturgy of Basil is found in the Coptic23, Greek24, and Arabic25 languages, and these versions concur in establishing one text. The text thus ascertained is different from that of Constantinople, and the variation is so marked, that it cannot have proceeded merely from the inaccuracy of transcribers or translators, or any other ordinary cause. It is true, indeed, that the latter part of this text, or the Anaphora of the liturgy, agrees in order and main substance with the corresponding part of the Constantinopolitan text; so that (though differing materially in expressions and ideas) they are plainly and indisputably derived from the same original form. But the introduction or preparatory part26, and the expressions and ideas, are in many respects very dissimilar.


To ascertain the antiquity of this Egyptian text requires some trouble. The Coptic version is no doubt very old, for Coptic has not for many centuries been spoken in Egypt, at least not such Coptic as that of the liturgy of Basil; and there is no reason to doubt that this liturgy in Coptic is as old as the Mahommedan invasion of Egypt about A.D. 640, and perhaps even more ancient. The Arabic version cannot have been made till some time after the Arabs conquered Egypt in the seventh century. The Alexandrian text in Greek is probably very old. There is even reason for thinking that it is older than the separation of the orthodox and Monophysites at the council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451. It does not commemorate any of those persons who lived after the council of Chalcedon, and were accounted to be saints by the Monophysites only, whose names occur abundantly in the Coptic and Arabic versions. It is also probable that the Coptic, and its version the Arabic, were derived from a Greek original; for in both, certain expressions are retained in Greek, chiefly the directions of the deacon to the people. These are of such a simple and ordinary description, being in fact directions to the people to "pray," or "look towards the east," or "stand up," or bow their heads27, that no reason can be assigned for their use in Greek, except we suppose the liturgy in early times to have been performed in that language, and the people to have been made particularly well acquainted with these directions of the deacon, which it was thought [57] inexpedient to alter when the liturgy was translated into Coptic.

If we look for testimonies amongst ecclesiastical writers as to the ancient use of Basil’s liturgy in Egypt, we shall not find them of the same antiquity as those which demonstrate the use of this liturgy in the patriarchate of Constantinople and the east. The oldest testimony which Renaudot, the most diligent investigator of this subject, has brought forward, is that of Severus Aschmoniensis, an Egyptian bishop of the Monophysites, who lived in the tenth century, and who speaks of Basil as the author of a liturgy28. There is an abundance of evidence after his time without doubt. But there is an allusion to the use of Basil’s liturgy in Egypt (as it seems to me) which is of importance, as coming from a remote country, and a writer who evidently gave the common tradition of his age, rather than any inventions of his own. This is the anonymous Irish writer of about the year 700, published by Spelman from a MS. in the Cottonian library29, which was considered by Spelman, Abp. Usher30, Dr. O’Conor31, and other critics, to be above eleven hundred years old. This writer, having spoken of the "cursus," or offices of St. Mark, (founder of the patriarchal see of Alexandria,) adds these words: "After Mark, Gregory Nazianzen, whom Jerome affirms to be his master, and St. Basil, brother of the same St. Gregory; Anthony, Paul, Macarius, or John, and Malchus, chanted according to the order of the Fathers."32 I know not how to [58]

 account for this writer’s classing Gregory Nazianzen and Basil amongst those persons who chanted after Mark, or used his offices or liturgy, except by supposing that the liturgies of Gregory Nazianzen and Basil were then used in Egypt, as they are to this day by the Egyptian Monophysites. What else could have induced him to class Gregory and Basil, who lived in the north of Asia Minor, amongst those who used the Alexandrian offices which were derived from St. Mark; and to include their names in a list of Egyptian worthies? There can be little doubt also that this writer meant to allude to liturgies used by the orthodox Egyptians. For he would hardly have alluded to the offices or liturgy (two things that he appears to confound33) of the heterodox, in the same manner in which he spoke of the offices or "cursus" of St. Mark, which he describes as being not only the original source of Gregory’s and Basil’s, but of that which was used in his own country. Indeed catholics in those ages did not busy themselves in investigating the ecclesiastical rites and liturgies of the Monophysites. This writer must therefore have alluded to liturgies [59] of Gregory and Basil used by the orthodox Egyptians. And in this case there is every probability that the liturgy of Basil was used in Egypt before the year 451. For after that time the orthodox and heterodox anathematized each other, and held no sort of communion. Whatever they had in common. therefore, they must have derived from a period antecedent to the year 451. Now it seems that they both used Basil’s liturgy.

It is highly probable, then, that the Egyptian or Alexandrian text of Basil’s liturgy (with the exception of a few late additions, which are discerned without difficulty) is older than the Council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451. And here the difficulty occurs with fresh force. How are we to account for the difference between the Constantinopolitan text of Basil’s liturgy, and the Alexandrian text which seems to claim so great an antiquity? Which is the true text? Or is neither true? Did the text of Basil suffer some great alterations in both patriarchates within a short period after his time? Or did this alteration take place only in one? To this last question I am prepared to reply in the affirmative. There is good reason to maintain, that the liturgy of Basil underwent designed alterations when it was introduced into the patriarchate of Alexandria, and that it was suited, as far as was convenient, to the Egyptian or Alexandrian liturgy which had previously been used.

First, it appears probable that the introduction, or preparatory portion of the ancient Egyptian liturgy, was substituted for the corresponding part of Basil’s liturgy. The Alexandrian text of Basil’s liturgy, as it stands, consists of two parts. The [60] 

introduction, and the Anaphora or solemn prayer of consecration34, &c. This introduction is common to all the Alexandrian or Egyptian liturgies of the Monophysites, and to the Ethiopic35, which appears to have been a rite distinct from, and independent of the Alexandrian, even from the time of Athanasius36. It was also formerly used in the orthodox Alexandrian liturgy of St. Mark, where distinct traces of it are to be found37. This introduction, therefore, (at least the chief parts and general design of it,) seems older than the council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451, since it was common to the orthodox and Monophysites, and may probably have been nearly the same in the time of Athanasius, A.D. 330. If so, Basil’s liturgy was adapted to the old Egyptian introduction: and this idea is rendered probable by the subsequent practice of almost the whole east in after-ages. For the universal custom seems to have been, to retain always the ancient introduction, and to admit variety only in the Anaphora or canon38.

Secondly, the directions of the deacon in this liturgy of Basil are inserted in places and in language peculiar to the ancient Alexandrian rites, as may easily be seen by collating the Coptic, Ethiopic, and orthodox (i.e. St. Mark’s) liturgies with those of the Syrian, Greek, and western churches39. [61]

 Thirdly, a prayer of absolution or benediction is introduced at the close40, which is plainly derived from the old Egyptian rite, nothing like it appearing any where else. Fourthly, the benediction beginning. "The grace of our Lord," &c. which appears to have prevailed all through the east about the time of Basil41, but which seems not to have been used by the Egyptian church42, is omitted. Fifthly, the Egyptian text of Basil’s liturgy43 is shorter than the Constantinopolitan44 in the exact places where the ancient Egyptian liturgy was shorter than others for instance, in the thanksgiving45.

It may therefore be considered certain, that the rule of strict conformity to the order and substance of Basil’s liturgy was not adhered to by those who introduced it into use in the patriarchate of Alexandria. And if this be the case, the alterations which were made to adopt it to the Egyptian customs may have extended to all the points in which the Alexandrian text differs from the Constantinopolitan. Now, if we bear in mind that there is sufficient evidence that the Constantinopolitan text is genuine, if it be considered alone; and if it appears that the [62]

 Alexandrian text differs from it in such a way, that there must have been designed alterations in one or both of these texts: if there be no sort of tradition or reason to think that the Constantinopolitan text has been designedly altered; and, on the other hand, there be reason to think that the Alexandrian has been altered to suit the ancient Egyptian rites: under these circumstances, I think, there can be no reasonable doubt, that the Alexandrian is not to be regarded as the authentic text of Basil’s liturgy, but that the Constantinopolitan is. This, it must be repeated, is what we should have expected from the prima facie view of the case. We should have expected, that the text which from time immemorial had been used in the country, the language, the church of Basil, without any doubt or suspicion of its genuineness, would be in fact the most genuine text. And it is this text which I have endeavoured to establish.

A difficulty, however, occurs here. How could the liturgy of Basil, if it was thus altered in Egypt, he called the liturgy of Basil any longer? I reply, that it might justly continue to be called so; for it still remained substantially the same liturgy. And the great oriental rite or form of liturgy which was thus for the first time naturalized in Egypt, was immediately derived from the edition of it written and improved by Basil. It was natural too, that the name of a Father, so renowned in the Christian church, should be retained to give dignity and acceptance to the new rite.

To account for the introduction of this liturgy into Egypt is not difficult. Basil, celebrated in all churches for his zeal for the orthodox faith, was, no [63]

 doubt, particularly famous in Egypt for being the great founder of the monastic institute in Pontus and the neighbouring provinces. The monastic rule, whether of Anachorites or Cœnobites, prevailed sooner and more extensively in Egypt than perhaps any where else. And it was here, and in Syria, that Basil learned the discipline which, on his return, he established in Pontus46. It is not wonderful, therefore, that his liturgy should have been gladly received in Egypt. It is, of course, quite uncertain at what exact date this took place, or who was the author of the alterations that were made in Basil’s liturgy. But perhaps we should not be much astray if we fixed on Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, in the early part of the fifth century; who is said by the Monophysites of Egypt to have perfected the liturgy of St. Mark, or the ancient Alexandrian liturgy47, and whose liturgy, still extant amongst them, is evidently the ancient rite of the church of Alexandria, probably corrected and improved by him48. If Cyril effected an improvement in the liturgy of St. Mark, he might well have done the same for the liturgy of Basil. And his remaining works shew him to have been a man well qualified for the task.

The Syriac text of Basil’s liturgy was the third text which I mentioned at the beginning of this [64]

 section. It appears to be rarely used by the Syrians, for MSS. of it are very scarce. However Renaudot saw one very ancient MS. of it. Masius translated this Syriac liturgy of Basil into Latin49. On comparing this version with the Constantinopolitan text of Basil’s liturgy, I find that, so far from being a different text, it is generally a literal translation and only varies from the Greek to introduce a few ill-placed interpolations, which any one may detect at a glance; or else to insert prayers and rites literally taken from, or digested according to, the Syriac liturgy of St. James, and all the other liturgies of the Syrian Monophysites. In fact, this Syriac text of Basil’s liturgy affords a very strong confirmation of the genuineness of the Constantinopolitan text; and it cannot for an instant claim the authority of an original text.

I may therefore conclude, that the Constantinopolitan contains the authentic text of Basil’s liturgy. And it were much to be desired that we had a critical edition of it, drawn from ancient MSS. and corrected by the accounts of ecclesiastical writers.

Having inquired into the best means of ascertaining the text of Basil’s liturgy, let it be our next care to examine briefly the order and substance of the authentic text. The early part of the introduction, up to the dismissal of the catechumens, certainly comprised the reading of Scripture and the bishop’s or presbyter’s sermon; after which, without doubt, there were prayers for the catechumens, energumens, and penitents, who were successively [65]

 dismissed. Various rites and prayers are introduced into this part of Basil’s liturgy by modern, and even by old MSS., which may reasonably give rise to discussion as to the probability that they were used in the, time of Basil. The hymn Trisagios: Hagios ho Theos, hagios ischuros, hagios athanatos, eleêson hêmas, was introduced into the liturgy in the time of the emperor Theodosius the younger, some time after the death of Basil50. The prayer of Trisagios must therefore be more recent than the time of Basil. Omitting, however, any further discussion on this introductory part, which would be of little importance, and would take up too much space, let us consider the part which follows the dismissal of those that have no right to communicate.

First, there are three prayers; the two former called "prayers of the faithful," euchai pistôn,51 the third entitled euchê proskomidês52 (an intermediate prayer53 having been inserted considerably after the time of Basil). Then comes the apostolical kiss of peace54. The Constantinopolitan Creed, which follows55, was inserted after the time of Basil. Here the Anaphora, Prosphora, or solemn prayer begins with the benediction of "The grace of our Lord,"56 &C. Then Sursum corda, &c. The preface or [66]

 thanksgiving57. The hymn Tersanctus, sung by all the people58. A continuation of thanksgiving59. A commemoration of our Saviour’s deeds and words at the last supper60. The verbal oblation to God of his own creatures of bread and wine61. The invocation of the Holy Ghost to make the elements the body and blood of Christ62. Then follow long prayers for the church, for all men, and all things63, the Lord’s Prayer64, the benediction of the people by the bishop or priest65, the breaking of the bread, the form ta hagia tois hagiois, or "holy things for the holy,"66 the communion of clergy and laity, and the thanksgiving after communion67.

This, then, was the form which prevailed at Cæsarea in Cappadocia during the latter part of the fourth century. And this was the form which was received with such approbation by the catholic churches of the east, that in little more than an hundred years Peter the deacon testified that almost the whole east used it. This was the form which soon prevailed throughout the whole exarchate of Cæsarea, and the patriarchate of Constantinople, where it has remained in use ever since. This was the form which was received by all the patriarchate of Antioch, translated into Coptic, revised by the patriarchs of Alexandria, and admitted into their church, used alike by orthodox and heretics. At this day, after the lapse of near fifteen hundred [67]

 years, the liturgy of Basil prevails without any substantial variety from the northern shore of Russia to the extremities of Abyssinia, and from the Adriatic and Baltic seas, to the furthest coast of Asia. In one respect this liturgy must be considered as the most valuable that we possess. We can trace back the words and expressions of the greater portion to about the year 370 or 380. This is not the case with any other liturgy. The expressions of all other liturgies we cannot certainly trace, in general, beyond the fifth century. It is true we can often ascertain satisfactorily the expressions used at that date, and we may have no reason to deny that the same words were used long before. We can also trace their substance, and order, and some of their expressions, with certainty to a far greater antiquity. But we have not only the same sort of means for inferring and tracing the antiquity of the order and substance of the liturgy of Cæsarea in primitive times, but can actually ascertain the expressions used there about the year 380.

It may fairly be inquired here, how far we are to extend the office of Basil in composing this liturgy. There is no reason to think that it extended further than to enrich the ancient formularies of Cæsarea, by the addition of new fervour and sublimity to their devotion, and of beauty and correctness to their diction. Those that presided over the church in primitive times had the power of improving and enriching its formularies, provided the main substance was still preserved. Of the exercise of this power we probably have an instance in the liturgy of Basil. For while there are good reasons for affirming that he made no alteration in the main [68]

 order and substance of the Cæsarean liturgy, it would hardly have borne his name had he merely put in writing the liturgy previously used at Cæsarea. No monument of antiquity, as far as I am aware, gives us any direct information as to the part which Basil took in composing the liturgy which bears his name. But we know from his own writings, that "the customs of psalmody," or divine service at the canonical hours, which he had appointed in his monasteries, were "consonant and agreeable to all the churches of God."68 And we may thence conclude, that as nothing apparently was introduced into his liturgy merely for the sake of novelty, it bore a great resemblance to that which had previously been used at Cæsarea. We are also aware, that the same order and substance which are visible in Basil’s liturgy were used long before his time in the patriarchate of Antioch69, and in the countries of Europe which afterwards became a portion of the patriarchate of Constantinople70. And it will presently appear that, according to the Fathers, the same order and substance was extensively prevalent in the exarchate of Cæsarea also before the time of Basil.

The law of secrecy, which was so rigidly adhered to in the Christian church for many ages, and which especially forbade any discovery of the rites, of the eucharist71, was in no part of the church more strictly obeyed than in the exarchate of Cæsarea. The effect of this caution is, that we have very few [69]

 notices amongst the Fathers of that exarchate relative to the liturgy.

Of the doctrines of the eucharist there are indeed abundant testimonies in these authors; but of the rites with which it was administered there is a very sparing and cautious mention. However, as far as this goes, it proves that the same liturgy (as to order and substance) prevailed in Cappadocia before the. time of Basil as afterwards. Basil himself, in a book written about A.D. 374. speaks of the prayer of consecration in the liturgy in terms which seem to imply that the same order and substance had been long and generally used. He says, that in the prayer of consecration the church "was not content merely with those things which the Apostle or the Gospel commemorated, but that many things were said before and after, as having great efficacy in the mystery."72 This accords perfectly with the liturgy of Basil, where the thanksgiving precedes the things commemorated by the Apostle Paul and the Gospels, and the invocation of the Holy Ghost follows them; all which were held by the church to have great efficacy in the mystery or sacrament73. It is remarkable that a verbal coincidence is found between these expressions of Basil’s and his liturgy.74


Gregory, bishop of Nyssa in Cappadocia, and brother of Basil, speaks of the exclusion of catechumens before the mysteries. He afterwards alludes to the thanksgiving of the liturgy, including the mention of seraphim with six wings, and the hymn (Tersanctus) sung by Christians with them75. In Basil’s liturgy we find the preface or thanksgiving making mention of seraphim with six wings; with whom the congregation are encouraged and supposed to join in singing Tersanctus. Gregory Nyssene elsewhere argues in support of the divine mustagôgia, or liturgy, that the oblation of our gifts, or euchai, (things devoted or vowed to God,) should take place before we pray to God for his benefits76. This accords exactly with the order and substance of Basil’s liturgy, where the verbal oblation of the gifts of bread and wine takes place before the solemn prayers77. We may observe that Gregory [71] Nyssene speaks of the same order which we now perceive in Basil’s liturgy, as the established and well-known order of those churches, which it could scarcely have then been, had it been first introduced by Basil.

Gregory Nazianzen preserves a cautious silence on the rites of the eucharist; he only speaks of bishops as priests who offer unbloody sacrifices to God78, which is explained by the liturgy of Basil79. But there is a convincing proof that the order of Basil’s liturgy is much older than his time, in the fact, that, in the early part of the fourth century, Armenia received the same order from the church of Cæsarea. This will be shewn in an Appendix to the Dissertation.

If we compare the liturgy of Cæsarea improved by Basil with that used at Antioch and Jerusalem in the fourth century, we shall find the order and substance of both exactly the same. This identity will be seen by comparing together the accounts which I have given of the Anaphorae of both. It may well furnish an object of interesting inquiry, how a substantial uniformity of liturgy could have been caused in such a great tract of country at so early a period; more especially, when we reflect that the bishops had the power of making improvements in their liturgies, and that in fact almost all the monuments of this liturgy exhibit circumstantial varieties. In the fourth century no œcumenical bishop had yet been created. Antioch and Cæsarea [72]

 were subject to independent patriarchs. I know not how we are to account for this uniformity of liturgy in any other manner, than by supposing it to have prevailed from the beginning. In fact, we find vivid traces of this liturgy, as used at Antioch, in the second century.80 The liturgy of Cæsarea may have subsisted as long. In the fourth century the same form appears to have been long used all through the patriarchate of Cæsarea. This (besides being inferred from the Fathers of that patriarchate) is to be presumed from the simple fact, that Basil’s liturgy was immediately and silently received into use by all the churches of that patriarchate.

The Greek or Constantinopolitan text of Basil’s liturgy is found in Goar’s "Rituale Graecorum81." The text, however, which he has printed is modern. To confirm and ascertain it, we must refer with much trouble to the various readings of MSS. which he has placed at the conclusion of the liturgy. It were to be desired, that some critic versed in ritual studies would give us an edition of Basil’s liturgy, drawn from the oldest MS., with various readings at the foot of the page. None of the rubrics are found in the oldest MSS., and it would perhaps be better to explain the rites which they describe in notes, so as not to encumber the text with interpolations. Goar’s notes on the liturgy of Basil are few; but as the liturgy of Chrysostom is substantially the same as Basil’s, the notes of Goar on the former liturgy may be consulted with satisfaction by those who wish to understand the rites of the latter.

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1 Bingham’s Antiq. book ii. c. 17. §. 2. 9, 10. book ix. c. 1. §. 6. Vita Basilii, p. lxxxiv. t. iii. ed. Benedict. Oper. Basilii.

2 Bingham’s Antiq. book ii. c. 17. §. 10.

3 "Celebrata etiam sunt coram nobis missarum officia —more Constantinopolitano, auctore Basilio." Carol. Calv. Imper. Epistola ad clerum Ravennat. v. Bona Rer. Lit. lib. i. c. 12.

4 Kai gar kai Iakôbos — kai Basileios ho Kaisareiôn ekklêsias archiepiskopos, hou to kleos kata pasan tên oikoumenên diedramen, eggraphôs tên mustikên hêmin hierourgian paradedôkotes, houtô k. t. l. Can. 32. Concil. Trull. v. Beveregii Synops. tom. i. p. 192. edit. Oxon. 1672.

5 "Aliam etiam missam effutivit præter illam, quæ a Patribus tradita est ecclesiis; neque reveritus illain Apostolorum, nec illam magni Basilii, in eodem spiritu conscriptam." Leontius Byzant. adv. Nestor. et Eutych. lib. iii. c. 18. Bibl. Patrum.

6 "Hinc etiam beatus Basilius, Cæsariensis episcopus, in oratione sacri altaris, quam pæne universus frequentat oriens, inter cætera, inquit," &c. Petrus Diaconus de Incarnat. et Gratia D. N. J. C. cap. 8. inter Fulgentii Opera.

7 Euchôn diatexeis, eukosmiai tou bêmatos. Gregor. Nazianz. Orat. 20. tom. i. p. 340. ed. Billii Paris. 1630.

8 Pros de to epi tais psalmôdias egklêma — ekeino eipein echô, hoti ta nun kekratêkota ethê, pasais tais tou Theou ekklêsiais, sunôda esti kai sumphôna. Basil. Magni Epist. 207. tom. iii. ed. Benedict.

9 Cave, Hist. Literar. Dupin. Bona, R Liturg. lib. i. c. 9. §. 2. Garnier, Opera Basilii Præfat. tom. ii. p. lxxxv.

10 Cave, Historia Literaria, tom. i.

11 Renaudot, Liturg. Orient. Collectio, tom. i. p. 172. tom. 11. p. 563.

12 Montfaucon, Diarium Italicum, p. 210.

13 Council. in Trullo, Canon 32.

14 Homoiôs de to potêrion ek tou gennêmatos tês ampelou labôn, kerasas. Liturgia Basilii, Goar Rituale Græc. p. 168.

15 Petrus Diacon. de Incarnat. et Gratia D. N. J. C. c. 8. Inter Fulgentii Opera.

16 Garnier, tom. ii. Oper. Basilii, præfat. p. lxxxv. Cave, Hist. Literar. Dupin, Eccles. Hist. cent. 4.

17 Renaudot, Liturg. Orient. Col. tom i. p. xxxviii.

18 Goar, Rituale Græcum, p. 174.

19 Ibid. p. 171.

20 Ibid. p. 162.

21 See the passages quoted by bishop Tomline from this Father in the fifth chapter of his "Refutation of Calvinism;" especially those from vol. i. p. 127. 197. vol. ii. p. 78.

22 Ho men hierarchês euchên hieran epi tou theiou thusiastêriou telesas. Dionys. Areop. de Ecel. Hierarchia, c. 3. p. 283. tom. i. edit. Corderii. "Quapropter et ipsius canonicae precis textum direximus subter adjectum, quem (Deo propitio) ex apostolica traditione suscepimus." Vigil. Rom. in Epistola ad Profuturum Bracarensem. "Orationem Dominicam ideireo mox post precem dicimus." Gregorii Magni. Epist. 64. lib. vii.

23 Translated into Latin by Renaudot, Liturg. Orient. tom. i. p. 1.

24 E codice regio. Renaudot, Lit. Oriental. tom. i. p. 57.

25 Translated indifferently into Latin by Victor Schialach, a Maronite Syrian, published at Augusta Vindelicor. A.D. 1604, and copied into the Bibliotheca Patrum. It is of no value now, since Renaudot has translated the Coptic, of which it was a version.

26 Renaudot, tom. i. p. 1–13.

27 proseuxasthe,

Renaudot, p. 2. stathête, p. 13. eis anatolas blepete, ibid. hoi kathêmeni anastête, ibid. tas kephalas humôn to Theô klinate, p.21, &c. &c.

28 Renaudot, Liturg. tom. i. p. 170.

29 Concilia, tom. i. p. 176.

30 Britt. Eccl. Antiq. p. 185.

31 Rer. Hibern. Scriptores, tom. i. p. cxxxii.

32 "Beatus Hieronymus adfirmat ipsum cursum qui dicitur praesente tempore Scottorum, beatus Marcus decantavit, et post ipsum Gregorius Nanzenzenus, quem Hieronymus suum magistrum esse adfirmat. Et beatus Basilius frater ipsius sancti Gregorii, Antonius, Paulus, Macharius vel Joannes, et Malchus, secundum ordinem Patrum decantaverunt." Spelman, Concilia, tom. i. p. 177. This writer appears to forget that it was not Gregory Nazianzen, but Gregory Nyssene, who was Basil’s brother. That the word "ipsius" here is meant to express identity, I judge from its position, and its use in the context.

33 Mabillon has remarked already, that this author appears to confound the cursus, or offices for the canonical hours with the liturgy or office for the communion; as he speaks of the hymn "Gloria in excelsis," the " Tersanctus," &c. as if they occurred in the "cursus," while we know that they were used at the communion by the western churches.

34 Renaudot, Liturg. tom. i. p. 1-13-25.

35 Ibid. p. 500-513.

36 See section iv. of this Dissertation.

37 Renaudot, tom. i. p. 131–144. See section iv. for observations on St. Mark’s liturgy.

38 The Syrian Monophysites for nearly forty liturgies have only one introduction. The Copts have only one for their three liturgies. The Ethiopians only one for twelve liturgies. Renaudot, tom. i. p. 172.

39 hoi kathêmenoi anastête. Renaudot, tom. i. p. 13. 28. 45, 153. 516. proschômen

vel "Respondete," p. 65. 29. 101. 516, &c. referred to by Cyril Alexandrinus, and others. See sect. iv. of this Dissertation.

40 Renaudot, tom. i. p. 22. 36. 80. 519.

41 Theodoret, Epist. ad Joan. Œcon. tom. in. p. 132. ed. Sirmond. 164.2. cited in section i. of this Dissertation.

42 Renaudot, Liturg. Cyrilli, p. 40; Marci, p. 144; Canon. Æthiop. p. 513.

43 Renaudot, tom. i. p. 13. 64.

44 Goar, Rituale Græc. p. 165 – 168.

45 Renaudot, Liturg. Cyrilli, p. 46. Marci, p. 153, 154. Canon. Æthiop. p. 516. In the liturgy of Mark we find the thanksgiving at greater length, in imitation of the Greek rite to which it was approximating, (see sect. iv.) Compare with these thanksgivings Chrysost. Liturg. Goar, P. 75, 76. Renaudot, Liturg. Jacobi, tom. ii. p. 31. Assemani, Liturg. Jacobi, tom. v. Codex Liturgicus, p. 133–135, &c.

46 Vita Basilii, tom. iii. Oper. edit Benedict. c.3. §, 4. &c. p. xlv.

47 "Secunda (Liturgia) quam Egyptii consueverunt usurpare tantum per Quadragesimale jejunium, et mensem Cohiac, est Liturgia Marci quam perfecit Cyrillus." Abulbircat, cited by Renaudot, tom. i. p. 171.

48 See section iv. of this Dissertation.

49 His version is found at p. 548. tom. ii. Renaudot, Liturg. Oriental. Coll.

50 Goar, Rituale Græc. not. 80, in Liturg. Chrysostomi, p. 126. This must not be confounded with the hymn Tersanctus, beginning, "Holy, Holy, Holy," &c. which was never used at any time, or in any office, except in the solemn thanksgiving preceding consecration. On the other hand, the hymn Trisagios was never used in that thanksgiving. This rule will enable the reader to correct me if I should at any time seem to use the two terms indifferently.

51 Goar, p. 162, 163.

52 Ibid. p. 164.

53 P. 163.

54 P. 165.

55 Ibid.

56 Ibid.

57 P. 165, 166.

58 P. 166.

59 P. 166–168.

60 P. 168.

61 ta sa ek tôn soi prospherontes,

p. 168.

62 P. 169. Omit the interpolated words of the deacon according to ancient MSS.

63 P. 170–174.

64 Goar, p. 174.

65 Ibid.

66 P. 175.

67 Ibid.

68 See Basil. Epist. 207. tom. iii. Oper. edit. Benedictin. cited near the beginning of this section.

69 See the first Section of this Dissertation.

70 Section III. of this Dissertation.

71 Bingham’s Antiquities, book x. c. 5. §. 8.

72 Ta tês eiklêseôs rêmata, epi tê anadeixei tou artou tês eucharistias kai tou potêriou tês eulogias, tis tôn hagiôn eggraphôs hêmin kataleloipen? ou gar dê toutois arkoumetha an ho Apostolos hê to Euaggelion epemnêsthê, alla kai prolegomen hetera hôs megalên echonta pros to mustêrion tên ischun, ek tês agraphou didaskaias paralabontes. Basil. de Spiritu Sancto, c. 27. p. 55. tom. iii. Oper. ed. Bened.

73 Bingham’s Antiq. book xv. c. 3. §. 11. Albertinus de Eucharistia, lib. i. c. 6.

74 deometha kai se parakaloumen, Goar, p. 169. kai anadeixai ton men artou, poiêson auto, k. t. l. — to se potêrion touto, auto to timion haima, k. t. l.


75 Me tui pudet, quod cum consenueris, adhuc ejiciaris cum catechumenis, tanquam insipiens puellus, et qui arcana non potest celare, cum dicendum sit mysterium. Unire populo mystico, et arcanos disce sermones. Eloquere nobiscum illa quae sex alas habentia seraphim, cum perfectis Christianis dicunt hymnos canentia. Desidera cibum qui confirmat animam, gusta potum qui cor exhilarat, ama mysterium quod eo modo qui non cadit sub aspectum, veteres transmittit ad juventutem." Gregorii Nyss. Opera, Paris. 1615. tom. i. p. 957. Compare Goar, Liturg. Basil, p. 162. 166. 168. 170, &c.

76 In speaking of our Saviour’s words, hotan proseuchêsthe, he

says, exesti de di’ autôn tôn tês proseuchês logôn tên theian mustagôgian katanoêsai, then afterwards, euchê men esti, kathôs eirêtai, charistêrios dôrophotias epaggelia. hê deproseuchê tên meta tên ekplêrôsin tês epaggelias tô Theô ginomenên prosodon diermêneuei; didaskei oun hêmas ho logos, mê proteron aiteisthai ti para tou Theou, prin autô ti tôn kecharismenôn dôrophorêsai. euxasthai gar chrê proteron, eita proseuxasthai. Gregor. Nyss. de Orat. Dominica Orat. 2. tom. i. p. 724. See also the context.

77 Goar, Lit. Basil. p. 168. 170, &c.

78 Ô thusias pempontes anaimaktous hierês. Gregor. Naz. tom. ii. p. 81. Theô de dôron, thusiai katharsiai, ibid. p. 201.

79 ta sa ek tôn sôn soi prospherontes, Goar, Rit. Graec. Lit. Bas. p. 168.

80 See section 1. of this Dissertation, p. 41, 42.

81 P. 158 &c.


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