The Question of the Authenticity of a Note by Euthymius of Mount Athos on the Eucharistic Liturgies
At the beginning of the 20th century, K. Kekelidze disclosed to the public a piece of correspondence between Euthymius of Mount Athos and an unknown presbyter, Theodoros of St. Saba. According to this source, the Liturgy of St. James had fallen into disuse because of its length, and Christians were choosing the liturgies of John Chrysostom and Basil the Great (during Lent) for their brevity. However, according to Euthymius, it was also possible to use the liturgies of St. James and of St. Peter besides those of Chrysostom and Basil.
This correspondence immediately attracted the attention of scholars of liturgy and was quoted and commented on several times throughout the 20th century.
There are actually three versions of this letter: the first is contained in ms. Ath 79 (11th century) preserved in the Library of the Iviron Monastery; the second can be found in ms. A 737 (13th century) at the Georgian National Centre of Manuscripts; while the third, the one used by Kekelidze, survives in ms. A 450 (17th century), likewise kept at the Georgian National Centre of Manuscripts.
Unlike A 450, the two earlier versions do not take the form of a dialogue. The comparison of these three sources demonstrates that:
- Ath 79 briefly mentions the change of liturgies because of their brevity, but without any mention of the liturgies of James and of Peter, nor with any reference to the celebration of the Liturgy of Basil during Lent.
- A 737 is more synthetic than Ath79, but it does not contain anything about the Eucharistic liturgies.
- A 450 is an elaboration of the earlier versions, reworked from an epistolary genre to a dialogical one. Therefore, it entails certain interpolations, including the interpolated note on Eucharistic liturgies.
The question of the authenticity of Euthymius’ response regarding the liturgies arises from these data.
Recent liturgical studies have shown that: 1) The theory of the abbreviation of the liturgies is inconsistent. 2) In the Byzantine Empire, the prevalence of Chrysostom's formulary over Basil's formulary is seen only in around the 11th centuries, when the celebration of Basil’s Liturgy was limited to Lent Sundays. 3) The process of Byzantinization, which involves the replacement of the Hagiopolitan formulary (James) with the Constantinopolitan formularies (Chrysostom and Basil) in Georgia, lasted almost the entire 11th century.
In view of the above, it seems impossible for a tenth-century author to deal with all the liturgical challenges of the following centuries. Comparing the content of the manuscripts with the modern study of oriental liturgies, we can assume that the famous note on the Eucharistic formularies of A 450 is a later interpolation.