The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom

edited December 1969 in Coptic Orthodox Church
Hey guys,
I was doing a study about the Divine Liturgy, when I came across the fact
that our sister church used the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom while we do not...
Does anyone know anything behing why we do not use it?
Also, does anyone know anything about the Liturgy of St. James?
About the Liturgy of St. John...could it be because of the split from the EO and OO in 451 i think?
But St. John died before the schism...if I'm not mistaken...
I don't really know much about this, so anything would help!
GB, and plz PFM,


  • We use 3 liturgies in the Coptic Rite.

    St. Basil - Which I believe is a revised version of the Liturgy of St. James

    St. Cyril - Which is a revised version of the Liturgy of St. Mark the Evangelist, and one of the Oldest Liturgies in the Coptic church.

    Saint Gregory the Theologian - This liturgy came to Egypt in the 6th century I believe through the Syriacs who settled in Wadi al Natrun.

    I believe the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is refined by him from an older Syrian Liturgy.

    Also we have in the Old Coptic Tradition the Liturgy of St. John the Evangalist (Al Qodas al Habashi); Does anyone know why that is not in use anymore?

  • Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great = Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom
  • Dear Cyril,

    There is no clear answer for your initial question about why the Coptic Church does not use the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The reason why such an observation seems odd to some today and something that demands an answer, is because we are accustomed to unity and uniformity, while this was almost never the point in the early Church, at least not in worship traditions. Each area in Christendom developed its own worship tradition, and it was all considered Orthodox as long as the ideas conveyed and the theology of the prayers were accurate. In fact, St. Justin Martyr in his Apology mentions that the bishop prayed the Eucharistic prayer "according to his power", in other words, the bishop extemporized a prayer every time they prayed the liturgy, and it was still considered ok as long as he touched on basic familiar themes (thanking God, creation, incarnation,...etc).

    Also keep in mind that when John Chrysostom passed away is not the point. St. John Chrysostom, according to most scholars, took the liturgical tradition of his native Antioch (most likely something similar to what is called the Anaphora of the Twelve Apostles) and introduced that into Constantinople when he became Patriarch. However, this does not mean he sat down and penned the liturgy that exists today. Things kept evolving even after his reposal, and the final shape of the Anaphora of St. John Chrysostom comes much later. In fact, believe it or not, it used to be the Greek version of the liturgy of St. Basil that was the most commonly celebrated in Constantinope, even at the time of Chrysostom himself.

    Regarding the liturgy of St. Basil, there are many different versions of it (Bohairic Coptic, Sahidic Coptic, Greek, Armenian, Syriac and Ethiopic) and they are not all translations of one another. Scholars seem to agree that the Coptic Basil is one of the oldest of these, if not the oldest, based on the length of the text, its theological ideas, and other considerations. I don't think I've heard of it being an adaptation of St. James however. Perhaps the person that said so was confused. I do know that scholars tend to agree that our current liturgy of St. Cyril (Mark) was influenced by the Jerusalem tradition (St. James) by adding some sections, esp the prayers after Holy Holy Holy. The Liturgy of St. Mark has two epiclesis prayers, and the second one is believed to be a later addition, esp that it is not found in older texts from Egypt such as the liturgy of St. Sarapion and other fragments.

    More to come on the liturgy of St. Gregory, which is by far the least studied of all three of the Coptic liturgies.
  • thanks for all the info here!
    the liturgy of saint james of jerusalem is used by the british orthodox church.
    it is not available online, but you can order copies via the british orthodox website.

    it is very nice, and fairly close to the liturgies used by the eastern orthodox church.
    it feels like a mixture of oriental and eastern orthodox traditions, like the best of both worlds.
    the only thing that seems unusual to me is the very european sounding music!
    i really like the coptic music, but the non egyptians like the european music better, so i think it is great.
  • I'm starting to realise why RamezM didn't usually comment on posts by Fr. Peter!
  • Dear Ophadeece,

    I am not sure I understand your comment. I only started following these forums closely towards the end of Fr. Peter's presence here, and I frankly don't recall him speaking about the history of the liturgy very much. Can you please elaborate?

    Anyways, I stand corrected in anything I wrote if someone can provide evidence to the contrary. I am also willing to share sources for what I wrote if anyone is interested.
  • Thanks for replying dear RamezM.. no elaboration needed except to say your history quotes appear to me to be contradictory to Fr. Peter's.. that's all.. a bit of a joke, no more
  • Thank you RamezM, could you please share your sources? Not that I don't believe you, just to add to my research!Thank you,
  • Dear Cyril,

    No need to justify asking for sources. I simply did not want my initial post to be too long, but sources should always be the basis for any discussion of history.

    Regarding the bishop's liberty in making up his own prayers, first you can consult Justin's First Apology (available in the Nicene Fathers Series for free on For a scholarly treatment of the subject, the most famous book is called From Freedom to Formula: From Freedom to Formula: The Evolution of the Eucharistic Prayer from Oral Improvisation to Written Texts by Allan Bouley.

    Regarding the eucharistic texts of the early Church, a great book is called Prayers of the Eucharist: Early and Reformed by Geoffrey Cuming and R.C. Jasper, which has chapters on each famous/important Eucharistic text in the early church with a brief explanation of the history of the text, where it came from, and the most important scholarly questions regarding it. Another similar work is Springtime of the Liturgy: Liturgical Texts of the First Four Centuries by Lucien Deiss, though in my opinion not as detailed. Finally, the most classic reference of all for all the different eucharistic prayers of the early church, including the Coptic church, is Brightman's Liturgies Eastern and Western, but that is an old and tedious book, though great as a reference.

    The issue of who wrote what liturgy is a big question. For every given anaphora, you will find a large number of books and articles dealing with its authorship. If there is something specific you wanted sources on, feel free to ask.

    I hope this helps.
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