Palmer: Origines Liturgicæ 03.

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


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church of Byzantium, originally subject to the metropolitan of Heraclea, in the Thracian civil diocese, was elevated to dignity and power by means of Constantine the Great, who transferred the seat of empire from old Rome to that city, which thenceforth bore the name of Constantinople, or New Rome. The second general council, held at Constantinople A. D. 381, raised the bishop of that church to a dignity and precedence second only to the bishop of Old Rome; and he acquired jurisdiction over the entire civil diocese of Thrace, which comprised a large portion of European Turkey. Ere long the patriarch of Constantinople extended his authority over the ancient exarchates or patriarchates of Ephesus and Cæsarea, which, were formally placed under his jurisdiction by the council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451.1 And the whole of Greece also became subject to him.

Besides the liturgy of Basil which I have noticed in the last section, the churches subject to the [74]

 patriarch of Constantinople have from a remote period used another liturgy, which bears the name of Chrysostom. It must be confessed, that the records of antiquity do not furnish us with many allusions to this appellation of the Constantinopolitan liturgy. A tract ascribed to Proclus, patriarch of Constantinople in the early part of the fifth century, certainly speaks of the liturgy of Chrysostom. But this tract is apparently spurious, since it does not seem to have been referred to before the thirteenth century; and yet, (as I have observed above, p. 19.) its contents are of so interesting a nature, that it must have been noticed before that time, had it been long in existence. It also seems to me that the author of this tract refers to the liturgy of St. James as we now see it, with the voluminous additions made by the orthodox of Jerusalem subsequently to the council of Chalcedon, A. D. 451; for he describes the liturgies of Basil and Chrysostom as being much shorter than those of James. And hence I conclude that this author lived considerably after the time of Proclus, for there is not the slightest presumption from any other source that the liturgy of James in the time of Proclus was longer than that of Basil; on the contrary, I am of opinion that it was rather shorter: and a large portion of James’s liturgy, as now extant, was certainly added at a period much later than the age of Proclus. Theodore Balsamon speaks of the liturgy of Chrysostom,2 and Leo Thuscus translated it into Latin for Rainaltus de Monte Catano, about [75] A.D. 11803. I have not seen a work of Grancolas, who is said to have collected in it several testimonies to the antiquity of the appellation of this liturgy4. But however interesting it might be to prove that Chrysostom had improved or corrected the Constantinopolitan liturgy, we should remember that a public formulary of this kind is of more importance as exhibiting the sentiments of the church, than as containing those of an individual Father; and since we are, at all events, certain that this liturgy has from time immemorial been the peculiar liturgy of the church of Constantinople, we need not perplex ourselves in inquiring whether Chrysostom had any share in its correction or improvement. We should also reflect, that if we cannot ascribe this text to Chrysostom, it may perhaps be much older than his time. Learned men have represented the text of Chrysostom’s liturgy as very corrupt and uncertain. Cave observes, that of many editions you find scarcely any which do not differ immensely from each other. Montfaucon remarks, that the text which he copies from Saville’s edition, and that given by Morell, differ "toto coelo." Saville asks, "What have the version of Erasmus and the edition of Morell in common?" Hales of Eton puts the same question, and he also notices several prayers and forms which could not have been so ancient as the time of Chrysostom. In addition, he extracts from the genuine works of Chrysostom several prayers for catechumens, energumens, &c. which, as [76] that Father affirms, were used in the liturgy, but, are not found in that bearing his name. And he remarks, that all these things make the liturgy in question apocryphal and doubtful5.

After examining carefully the various editions of Chrysostom’s liturgy, I must respectfully but decidedly differ from these learned critics. It is true, that the introductory part of this liturgy has at various times received many additions, and that the rubrics and directions vary in different MSS. But this is of little or no consequence. We know that in primitive times the introduction contained lessons, psalms, a sermon, and prayers for catechumens and penitents, who were all dismissed before the prayer of the faithful. All this we find in the liturgy of Chrysostom, except prayers for penitents, which have been omitted in all liturgies, owing to the extinction of the ancient penitential discipline. But passing over this introductory part, which never contained any of the more important or solemn rites in primitive. times, let us turn to the prayers of the faithful which follow, and to the whole mystical liturgy up to the thanksgiving after communion6. And I will venture to affirm, from an actual comparison of the different editions of Chrysostom’s liturgy, and the various readings of MSS. given by Goar, that the text can be satisfactorily ascertained. [77]

 It is true, that there are verbal differences, arising from the inaccuracy of transcribers; that the older MSS. contain no rubrics, and the new contain many; that some churches have even invented and introduced prayers and rites which others have not; that ,some MSS. contain only the prayers for the use of the priest, and others, those of the priest, deacon, and people. But such varieties as these only confirm the antiquity of the text used by the officiating minister, which is preserved in all without any corruption or mutilation. The edition of Morell is taken from a more modern MS. than that of Erasmus, and therefore it contains more rubrics, and a few other recent additions. But this is the only difference. The main body of the liturgy is exactly the same in both, the rites identical, the ancient prayers word for word the same7. As to the objection of Hales, that certain forms and prayers at the beginning and end of this liturgy were more recent than the time of Chrysostom, it may be remarked, that these forms and prayers are not found in the more ancient MSS. of Chrysostom’s liturgy. We have therefore no right to charge the text with them, and accuse the whole of novelty. With regard to the other argument of Hales, that certain prayers are not found in this liturgy which were used in the liturgy in the time of Chrysostom; I have only to observe, that Montfaucon and other able critics have determined that the works in which these occur were written at Antioch before Chrysostom went to Constantinople, and therefore [78] they bear no relation to the liturgy of Constantinople. In conclusion, I must repeat my opinion, that the text of Chrysostom’s liturgy can be satisfactorily ascertained.

It would be unnecessary repetition to detail the order of the part of Chrysostom’s liturgy which follows the dismissal of the catechumens, for it is identical with that of Basil, to which I must refer the reader8. The difference between this part of the liturgies of Basil and Chrysostom is caused by greater fulness of idea in one than in the other, but by nothing else.

Since the liturgy of Chrysostom professes by its name to be the peculiar liturgy of the church of Constantinople, and since it has been used there and in the surrounding churches from time immemorial, we may naturally expect that some notices relative to its order and substance may be found amongst the writings of the Fathers who lived in that vicinity. It is remarkable, that scarcely any writers of eminence lived in the neighbourhood of Constantinople or in Greece for the first five or six centuries. However, we shall find in the few works which were written during this period, and in these districts, some allusions which establish the antiquity of the order and substance of Chrysostom’s liturgy. Severianus, bishop of Gabala, to whom Chrysostom intrusted the care of the church of Constantinople during his own absence, is said by critics to have preached in that city a homily on the parable of the prodigal son, which appears among Chrysostom’s works. In this homily he speaks in an ornamental [79]

 and figurative style of several parts of the liturgy. He notices successively the proclamation of the deacons to the catechumens, &c. to depart out of the church, the hymn Tersanctus, and the Lord’s Prayer, said at the altar9. Chrysostom himself, in works written after his elevation to the patriarchal chair of Constantinople, speaks of the form Sursum corda, &c.10 of the hymn Tersanctus,11 of the prayers or oblation for the church, &c.12 and of the form Sancta sanctis.13 However few these notices may be, yet as they agree with the substance and order of Chrysostom’s liturgy, and as no opposing testimonies seem to exist, we may regard them as sufficient to prove that the same order and substance of liturgy prevailed in the fourth century at Constantinople, as in subsequent ages. I would not be understood to affirm positively that the whole text is so ancient, nor that all the rites ascend to that century, because there is reasonable ground for doubt with regard to certain parts; but I think we may justly consider the main substance and order to be as old as the fourth century. If such a form of liturgy was used at Constantinople in the fourth century, it is very probable that it may have been used also in the neighbouring churches. In fact, we find that all the churches of Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece, have from time immemorial used this very liturgy of Chrysostom. Had these churches ever used a [80] different species of formulary, they would not have relinquished it without leaving some sign or vestige of their original liturgy, some tradition that a different formulary had once been used, or some trace of difficulty or opposition in the reception of a new rite. The liturgy of Constantinople, however, seems to have been received by all as a thing neither strange nor new; but, on the contrary, as representing that rite which they and their predecessors had received in long succession from the most primitive times.

I will now close this section with some few remarks on what may be justly called the great oriental liturgy. In the first section I have shewn that a certain form of liturgy prevailed in the fourth century from Arabia to Cappadocia, and from the Mediterranean sea to the other side of the p Euphrates; and that this form could be traced nearly up to the apostolical age. In the second section we have seen, that the same form of liturgy prevailed in the fourth century through the greater part of Asia Minor, where it had existed from time immemorial. In the present section we have learned, that the same form of liturgy was used in Thrace in the fourth century; and that it seems to have existed there, and in Macedonia and Greece, from time immemorial.

When I reflect on the vast extent of these countries, the independence of the churches which existed there, the power which each bishop had of improving the liturgy of his church, the circumstantial varieties which we find between the liturgies of these churches, and yet the substantial identity of all; it seems to me difficult, if not [81]

 impossible, to account for this identity and uniformity in any other manner, than by supposing that the Apostles themselves had originated the oriental liturgy, and communicated it to all those churches at their very foundation. The uniformity between these liturgies, as extant in the fourth. or fifth century, is such as bespeaks a common origin. Their diversity is such as to prove the remoteness of the period at which they were originated. To what remote period can we refer as exhibiting a perfect general uniformity of liturgy, except to the apostolic age? Let us remember also, that existing documents of the second century enable us to trace this liturgy to that period; and that in the time of Justin Martyr (to whose writings I allude) the Christian church was only removed by one link from the Apostles themselves.


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1 Bingham’s Antiq. book ii. c. 17. §. 10; book ix. c. 4. §. 2.

2 Theodor. Balsamon. Respons. ad Marcum Alexandrinum ap. Leunclavii Jus Græco-Rom. lib. v.

3 This version is found in the "Liturgiæ sive Missæ Sanctorum." &c. by F. Claudius de Sainctes, Antwerp, 1560.

4 Johannes Grancolas, " Les anciennes Liturgies," &c. Paris, 1697. referred to by Zaccaria Bibliotheca Ritualis, tom. i. p. 13.

5 See Cave, Historia Literaria, tom. i. p. 305, &c. Montfaucon, Oper. Chrysostomi, tom. xii. p. 775.

6 See Liturg. Clirysostomi ap. Goar, Rituale Græc. p. 70–84. Compare with this the readings of the Barberini MS. above nine hundred years old, which Goar has published, p. 99, &c. Goar’s edition of Chrysostoni’s liturgy, with notes, should be studied by any one who wishes to understand the liturgical rites of the Greek church.

7 The liturgy of Chrysostom, with a version said to have been made by Erasmus, was published at Paris, 1537. 8vo. The edition of Morell was published at Paris, 1560.

8 See the last section.

9 See tom. vi. Oper. Chrysost. p. 375. 377. edit. Front. Ducaei vel Commelini.

10 Hom. xxii. in Epistolam ad Hebræos, p. 1898. tom. x.

11 Hom. xiv. in Hebr. p. 1852. tom. x. Hom xxiv. in Act. Apost. tom. viii. p. 627.

12 Hom. xxi. in Act. Apost. tom. viii. p. 606.

13 Hom. xvii. in Hebr. p. 1872. tom. x.

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