Dear Fr Christopher,
I would like some clarification regarding the Divine Liturgy of St.
Basil, conducted on the Sundays of Great Lent. Is the οπισθάμβωνος ευχή
of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil as follows: Ο ευλογών τους
ευλογούντας...? According to the texts on Υour website, it is another
prayer, but during the past two Sundays, the priests at our churches
here in Melbourne, along with those conducting the Divine Liturgy of St.
Basil in Athens (broadcast via ΕΡΤ), have been using Ο ευλογών τους
ευλογούντας... Is this justified, or are they simply making a careless
With all due respect,
Answer to Question 69.
There is no straightforward answer to your question. According to
Ioannis Fountoulis (Question 175) neither the one prayer nor the other
was written by Basil or Chrysostom. But this is nothing unusual; many
prayers written by anonymous writers have been used by the church in
various services. The liturgy as we have it today is nothing like the
Liturgies of St. John or St. Basil that were used in their days. The
antiphons for example were not part of the Liturgy and were added at a
much later date.
Up until the twelfth or thirteenth century the Liturgy began with the
Little Entrance- that is the entrance with the Holy Gospel and the
singing of O Holy God… was the hymn that was sung during the entrance.
The antiphons were a separate service and were sung in a procession. For
example, back in Constantinople, the main Church, the cathedral Church
was Hagia Sophia but throughout the city there were many churches and
chapels dedicated to various saints. These were considered as one
ecclesiastical whole, in other words all the churches were an extension
of the main church Hagia Sophia. When they were to celebrate the feast
of a certain saint, the bishop, priests and the people would first meet
up at Hagia Sophia and then in procession would make their way to the
church where the Eucharist was to be celebrated. The singing of the
Antiphons took place during the procession and was completed at the door
of the church with the reading of the “prayer of entrance” and only then
did the clergy and the people actually enter the church for the
performance of the Divine Liturgy.
Another clear addition to the Liturgy is the well known hymn "O only
begotten Son..." written by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century;
two centuries after both Basil and John Chrysostom who lived in the 4th
From these and other differences we see that the Liturgical practice is
not supported by the authenticity of the text, in other words, if the
texts have been written by one or another author that bears him name,
but in the practice and tradition of the Church, which adopted these
texts to be officially used in her worship.
Old manuscripts and prints testify that both "Behind the Pulpit Prayers"
(οπισθάμβωνες ευχές) were used for St. Basil's Liturgy and in fact the
majority testify to "Ο ευλογών τους ευλογούντας..." Many manuscripts
written between the 8th and 16th centuries contain many more "Behind the
Pulpit Prayers" that were used on special days instead of the usual
"Behind the Pulpit Prayers". There are prayers for all the Lord's
feasts, the Mother of God's, each Sunday of Lent, Lazarus Saturday, Palm
Sunday, Holy Thursday, Great Saturday, Pascha and many more numbering
almost a hundred.
Historically, both prayers are supported. Liturgical tradition has
associated the prayer "Ο θυσίαν αινέσεως και λατρείαν ευάρεστον..." with
the Liturgy of St. Basil and whether it is historically correct or not,
it has prevailed being read during the Liturgy of St. Basil always or
only on the 1st of January or according to some manuscripts, leaving it
to the discretion of the officiating Priest.
Seeing that tradition has given us this option, we should make good use
of it. We hear the usual prayer "Ο ευλογών τους ευλογούντας..."
throughout the year on a daily basis. If on the ten occasions in the
year that we serve the Liturgy of Basil the prayer "Ο θυσίαν αινέσεως
και λατρείαν ευάρεστον..." is heard it would give a change to the
regular atmosphere which is what the Church is striving for during the
days when St. Basil's Liturgy is served.
The way in which the Liturgy is served today by most priests, with the
main prayers being read in silence, the people cannot distinguish
between the Liturgy of St. Basil or the usual Liturgy of St. John other
than for some extended singing to fill up the time needed for the long
prayers. Using the "Behind the Pulpit Prayer" "Ο θυσίαν αινέσεως και
λατρείαν ευάρεστον...", which is read aloud, at least allows the people
to recognize that something different has taken place.
For many years the official publishers for church books in Greece "Apostoliki
Diakonia" printed the Hieratikon with both prayers and priests opted for
the shorter prayer commonly identified as St. John's οπισθάμβωνος ευχή.
In recent years newer publications of the Hieratikon, especially from
the monastery of Simonopetra, have printed the Liturgy of St. Basil with
only the one οπισθάμβωνος ευχή "Ο θυσίαν αινέσεως και λατρείαν ευάρεστον...".
As more and more priests are using these newer publications, the prayer
is slowly but steadily taking hold as the preferred οπισθάμβωνος ευχή.
With Love in Christ