Posts Tagged ‘liturgy’

Uncreated Star of Bethlehem

Five years ago I alluded to this, but I’ve just seen concise discussion of it from no less than the Father of the Church St. John Chrysostom, and from certain Old Testament prophecies ‘in its Light.’

It also makes me think of how some non-Orthodox “got saved” by God….  The Apolytikion (a hymn) given on this page brings home the point.  The Magi are commemorated as Saints on Dec. 25.  (Recall that Orthodoxy commemorates the Magi’s Adoration of the Incarnate YHWH not on Jan. 6 but at Christmas; our Great Feast of Theophany [Epiphany] focuses on His Baptism in the Jordan by St. John the Forerunner [Baptist].)  OrthodoxWiki mentions the memory of their eventual baptism by St. Thomas the Apostle to the Indo-Iranians, and service to The Church as Bishops.

What about the mentions of an angel?  Readers of this blog may recall our discussions of the uncreated Logos-Angel from many Old Testament theophanies … highlighted in the writings of Greek-American theologian Fr. John S. Romanides (†2001) … so this need not be a problem, especially because Orthodoxy reminds us that the Divine Hypostatic Logos is not circumscribed by His Incarnation, ie, not ‘completely contained’ in or limited by His Human Body.  Could He appear as Infant and “Angel” at the same time?  Unusual perhaps, but I don’t see why not, although I must confess I haven’t seen this explicitly discussed anywhere yet.

One Web source I read said Western European pagans, even before Christianization, appreciated this, as it were their ‘cameo’ appearance at the very beginning of Christianity’s New Testament.  Similarly, I can say that even as a blond Western Catholic child here in the States, I was fascinated by and appreciated my family’s small wood-and-hay(?) Nativity set featuring non-Mediterranean-looking “kings”: a blond, an African, and an East Asian!*  I also read that extracanonical accounts ‘internationalizing’ them are quite old indeed.  Well, they do “represent the Gentiles,” and foreshadow many more of our ancestors’ conversions to the Faith….  For some reason I thought of the “White” one as some aged King of England — I didn’t know then that that title and State didn’t exist during Christ’s life on Earth!

I couldn’t leave this off without a plug for Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s “Christmas Star” (or another picture of it).  One night during college, around 1985-86, I was driving around town lost (though sober)** and someone told me I almost knocked it down or something!  It sits atop Wyandotte Hill/South Mountain, one of Penna.’s many long, skinny, relatively-low,*** ridge-like mountains, that divides the Lehigh Valley from the main Philadelphia area, as well as from my undergraduate school campus just south of Bethlehem.

And, twelve “kings”?  Catholic priest / sociologist / novelist Andrew Greeley’s Russian (Orthodox) lay student / artist / mystic / beauty / love interest in his 1997 Christmas / spiritual classic Star Bright! (available here) alludes to a 12-magi tradition, without many details except to say something I haven’t encountered personally in Orthodoxy yet, that “We Russians know there were 12 kings” (or words to that effect).  But an English translation of the apocryphal Syriac Revelation of the Magi has recently come out, and it names twelve.  Furthermore, if one Amazon reviewer reports correctly, if you have any Western European ancestry, you may have one or more Magi in your family tree.  How’s that for Gentile foreshadowing?!  Other reviews lead me to doctrinal caution about the Revelation [Apocalypse??] of the Magi, but also hint (seemingly unknowingly) at o/Orthodox Uncreated Energies Theology perhaps.  But some of the kings named by the Armenian reviewer have names or associations I might have encountered a long time ago while tracing my Norman Irish ancestors (Hibernicized McCoogs) into traditional medieval West European royal and noble genealogies … the kind today’s experts say are dubious, but were part of our cultures for most of the last thousand years if not longer … and geneticists now say we might all share in some way.  (Something like some Assyrian kings back there too, being Semites, traditionally then Kin of God!)  (This is another review I saw of it, from a Catholic perspective.)

PS: Many Years to Fr. Greeley!  Glad to see he’s doing better some!  Thank God!

(*–The one with the wind-up music box playing “Silent Night.”)

(**–If you can read and comprehend this without getting a headache, you’re a better driver than I was!)

(***–Compared to, say, the Adirondacks, or the Rockies.)

In the Wayback Machine I just came across what purports to be a translation of what happens when an Orthodox wedding is held alongside a full Divine Liturgy, i.e., Eucharist, translated by just-glorified St. Justin Popovich (†1979) of Chelije, Serbia.  I can’t vouch for anything about the Archive link material, since I haven’t attended any Orthodox weddings yet, nor studied them, so if you need to follow the Two-Source Rule, you should follow it!

A little background: I’ve read that most Orthodox weddings these days are not served with Liturgy, similar in fact to the one depicted in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding as far as I could tell.  There’s even some controversy over whether we should do so more, or not get worked-up about it.  One thing a non-Liturgical wedding makes easier is the question of how to tell non-Orthodox attending a Liturgical wedding that only Orthodox may receive the Communion … especially if one of the spouses and/or their whole side of the building are non-Orthodox, as in MBFGW, where the groom had converted, but his (few) friends and family in attendance had not.

Just for comparison’s sake, if I remember my altar-boy days correctly, among Vatican-II-Rite Roman Catholics [we have to specify now] it wasn’t uncommon to have a Nuptial Mass, which would be the equivalent of a Byzantine Rite (and thus Orthodox) Liturgical wedding like we’re talking about here; IOW it includes Communion consecrated during that service.  However, these were Saturday afternoon Nuptial Masses I was serving at, not much longer than a non-nuptial Weekday Mass, little if any liturgical music, brief homily, short Communion, Ave Maria ceremony added, etc. (and five Bicentennial U.S. dollars in my 13-year-old, working class, pre-seminarian pocket! 🙂 ).  Point being, it’s hard to do that in Orthodoxy — for better or for worse — as you may see if you read through the linked material even at a normal, clearly-spoken pace, nevermind mostly-chanted.  OTOH IIUC it’s not rare for Catholics to just have a wedding without Mass, either; there are different reasons why they could, would want to, or would have to go this route, which I don’t need to go into here.

OrthodoxWiki discusses Orthodox Marriage approaches and services more briefly than St. Justin.  A decade ago (or more), my own jurisdiction, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, defined what denominations our faithful were allowed to marry “in the Church,” *  in terms expressed pretty clearly, though without denomination-specific treatment, by Metropolitan ISAIAH of Denver.  I once read somewhere else that what His Eminence says more or less reflects SCOBA practice generally … but again, Two-Source Rule … or if you’re already Orthodox or in process, follow the guidance of your priest.

And just to be clear, this post does not attempt to cover Orthodox weddings or marriage(s) comprehensively, just point to something interesting I stumbled across on the Web.  Much more would be way out of my depth!

(*–As well as who could be received in conversion by means of Chrismation without [re-]Baptism.)

Every time I made it to Divine Liturgy while he was with my parish, or just about,* the priest who Chrismated me, preceded Communion with a collective reminder about the o/Orthodox understanding of the Mysteries (sacraments) as special encounters with God’s Uncreated Energies.  I can’t remember it verbatim, but he said Communion is like a fire that risks consuming the unprepared, but purifies those who receive it with preparation, including prayer, fasting, repentance, Confession if necessary, reconciliation with others if necessary, reverence, etc.  I also remember either hearing or reading somewhere – not from him IIRC – a story about someone who once received Communion without preparation, and immediately fell down dead.  I’m reminded of St. Symeon Metaphrastes’ Prayer of Thanksgiving After Communion.  I’m also reminded of Fr. John Romanides’ words about how we will all see God’s Glory in the end, but for those who haven’t struggled for Purification, God’s Energies won’t be experienced as Uncreated Light, but purifying fire: IIUC this fire’s job of purifying is never completed because God is infinitely better than we are, whereas if you’ve at least tried to put yourself on the right trajectory in life, God may, as Orthodox constantly pray, “have mercy.”  And my own conclusion: Created light burns up close but lights at a distance, whereas Uncreated Light lights up close, but burns at a distance.

PS: Nobody’s “worthy” to receive.  The best we can do is prepare, and hope in God’s Mercy.

(*–My health usually prevents me, so I don’t know if he does this all the time.)

I know nothing about the recent controversy over this, referenced at the beginning of this article from St. Tikhon’s Monastery in Pennsylvania (anonymous), and was surprised to hear about it.  But this article seems to address it well, briefly, and Orthodoxly.  It also highlights the misinterpretation or misunderstanding of Patristic writings that is possible unless one is steeped ever more deeply in Orthodoxy’s Patristic, Holy Tradition, ie, not just historic prooftexts (or even Scriptural for that matter), but the Tradition in its fullness, including the Liturgy and its hymns and prayers, the spiritual and ascetic struggle to receive God’s Gift, and even how Orthodoxy has and has not made use of non-canonical (“apocryphal”) scriptures and related writings.  For its taste of this, I highly recommend the article even if you already don’t question the sinlessness of the Theotokos.

(I would only add to the piece, to clarify it, that at no time did Mary lose her free will.  She was probably sorely tempted!)

I thought I made up that word, but apparently not!  In any case, I mean it literally as “Divine work,” just as Liturgy means “people’s work.”  But I just read this from the late Metropolitan ANTHONY (Bloom) of Great Britain:

…in eucharistic terms we are easily led astray by what we see. We see a celebrant – be it patriarch, bishop or priest – celebrating, and we watch him until he becomes so central that we may even forget the true event because it is too centred around him. We forget, for instance, that when the priest – whatever his rank may be – has prepared the holy bread, and the holy wine, when he is vested and when all the ministers that will take part in the celebration are ready to start, the deacon then addresses himself to the chief celebrant with the words: ‘Now it is time for the Lord to act’. You have done all that is humanly possible; you have prayed and prepared yourself as best as you can to stand face to face with the living God, to come to the place which is like the burning bush, a space which you cannot tread without being cleansed by divine fire; you have vested yourself in vestments that blot out your human personality as far as the celebration is concerned; you have prepared bread and wine and have made the action that follows possible; but what is the essence of the events is beyond your power, for no one through apostolic succession or functional grace can make a human being capable of turning bread into the Body of Christ, or wine into the Blood of Christ. No human being has the power to force God into any situation, and the only true celebrant of the Eucharist – the only celebrant indeed of any sacrament, that is, of those mighty acts of God which transfigure, and transform the world – is God himself. The Lord Jesus Christ, because he died and rose again, because he has conquered and sits on the right hand of glory, is the high priest of creation. He is the only celebrant of every sacrament, while it is the Holy Spirit whom we call upon to come and sanctify the gifts with the certainty that a response of compassion, of love is waiting for us, a response that can transform what is earthly into what is divine. No human being, no earthly being, can make divine what belongs to the earth…

One proposed bumper sticker in this compilation of Orthodox humor!  Alot of oldies-but-goodies (What else? We’re Orthodox – even Geek Orthodox [sic]!!), but one or two I hadn’t seen before.  Funny, wise, ironic, self-deprecating, it’s all there!

Some are insiders, like the last one about the (mostly-Lenten) Liturgy of St. Basil the Great.  The actual text is “Round about You stand the Seraphim, one with six wings and the other with six wings: with two they cover their faces, with two they cover their feet, with two they fly, crying out to one another with unceasing voices and ever-resounding praises, singing the victory hymn, proclaiming, crying out, and saying,” followed by the Holy, Holy, Holy (same as the Sanctus in the Western rites, and not to be confused with the Trisagion or Thrice-Holy Hymn: “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.”).

I’ll go them one better: This is probably so big a problem for priests because I’m guessing they heard in seminary that feet is said to be an ancient euphemism for privates (or lower body if you like), hence fly (ie, pants zipper – though of course angels don’t wear pants, but gowns!)!  I’m not certain that’s taught in Orthodox seminaries, but it is in Latin and Protestant ones….  Maybe my lower body would be preferable for us Orthodox.  My Western seminary professors were always trying to find extra sex in Scriptures and ancient writings – as if there weren’t enough!  Maybe they were frustrated English majors!!!  (I have a Bachelor’s in English, so I can say that! 😉 )

Sometimes you will see Orthodox refer to a liturgy as pontifical.  Naturally, this has nothing to do with the Pope of Rome, among whose titles are “Pontifex Maximus” and “Sovereign Pontiff.”  I believe a more commonly-used synonym among English-speaking Orthodox is hierarchical, as in Hierarchical Divine Liturgy.  Actually pontifical has been traditionally used this way in the Latin Church also: a pontifical Mass was an extraordinarily ceremonial one presided over by a bishop – any bishop, not just the Pope.  I.e., a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy.  And you haven’t seen “smells and bells” till you’ve been present or worshiped at an Orthodox “HDL”!  They seem to have levels of solemnity even within this one variety of Liturgy, though it’s the same Divine Liturgy, just with extra ‘bishop-y’ ceremonies added, such as:

  • greeting the Bishop at the entrance of the temple, the back doors, His Grace wearing his longest and most colorful top-robe, the mantia, embroidered with his initials at the hem, such as M and T for Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, M and H for Metropolitan HERMAN, or B and T for Bishop TIKHON of Philadelphia, all from the OCA (the three Orthodox Bishops at some of whose HDLs I’ve been present while visiting St. Tikhon’s Monastery Church for Liturgy)
  • repeated choral / congregational chants of “Many Years, Master” – even the Russians never translated this from Koine Greek: “Eis polla eti, Despota,” pronounced “EES-pull-ah ETT-ee DESS-poh-tah”
  • long minutes of one or two deacons swinging censers, sweet smoke filling the temple  (Orthodox don’t cough at incense as much as post-Vatican II Latins do, as little as they experience it!  The former must have lead-lined windpipes!)
  • ceremonial vesting of the Bishop for Liturgy by one or two subdeacons
  • after the vesting, everyone present kissing the Bishop’s hand in turn while he blesses them
  • the Bishop literally “presiding” from the cathedra while other priests (and/or Bishops!) begin the actual Liturgy in the altar.  Although the word means seat/throne, at St. Tikhon’s the cathedra is actually a small platform in the midst of the congregation, adorned with an eagle rug symbolizing the diocese, on which the Bishop stands whenever he officiates – when he’s standing still, anyway!  (St. Tikhon’s also has a couple high-backed chairs at the right-front of the temple for Bishops to sit on or stand at when present but not serving the Liturgy; other jurisdictions may place these inside the altar.)
  • the other clergy ‘liturgizing‘ with him processing from the altar out to the cathedra several times to do some prayers/chants there with him
  • the Bishop processing into the altar to lead the serving himself there
  • the Bishop repeatedly blessing the congregation thrice, to his left, center, and right, with two long lit candles in one hand and three in the other, which he crosses like an X
  • an extra-solemn Trisagion Hymn
  • if a Patriarch or Autocephalous Primate is serving, several chantings of The Diptychs by him, deacon, and/or choir, praying for the other Patriarchs and Autocephalous Primates with whom he is in Communion  (NB: The linked version of the diptychs is as they stood last Fall; Greece has since gotten a new Primate.)
  • and probably other sights and sounds I can’t remember!

Why?  From one perspective an Orthodox Bishop represents Christ in his diocese (and a Primate or Patriarch, also in his “jurisdiction”).  Again, the Bishop embodies / represents his diocese, symbolizes it, is a “sacrament” of it, idealizes it.  Yet again, the Bishop is looked upon as his diocese’s husband, and the diocese his wife, as Christ has the Church for His bride.  (A diocese whose Ruling Hierarch has reposed is traditionally referred to as widowed.)  In another way, the Bishop is his diocese’s ultimate spiritual father, teacher, guide, protector, president (in Greek they still say lord, kyrios … sometimes awkwardly translated Mr., ie, Mister, online!), disciplinarian, chief liturgical presider (whom his priests represent in their parishes), high priest, archpastor, leader….  As intimidating as all that sounds, he is ideally also looked upon affectionately enough to deserve terms of endearment like his people’s actual fathers – Greek Despota mou, My master (dating from before “despot” took on negative connotations); Slavonic Vladyka (pronounced VLAH-di-ka); Arabic Sayidna/Sayedna; etc.  A Holy Orthodox Bishop is clearly much more to devout Orthodox than an administrator, stated clerk, moderator, chairman, governor, faction leader, etc. – yet ideally not “over” his Church as if not part of it himself, but WITHIN it, “episcopus in ecclesia.”  So ideally all this is what’s being manifested in an Orthodox Hierarchical Divine Liturgy.

However, sometimes a Bishop serves Liturgy very plainly too.  Once at St. Tikhon’s, I think it was right after something big there, ie, alot of work for the Bishops and clergy and monks, I attended liturgy and Metr. Herman was the only cleric on hand, and except for a couple plain run-throughs of the diptychs, it was pretty much a normal Liturgy.  IIRC even the choir was minimal.  So apparently it’s not always considered a requirement that if a Bishop serves, it has to be ‘slam-bang.’

Christ is Risen!  Indeed He is Risen!

Yes, on the Third Monday of Pascha yesterday morning – May 12 (NS)! – some snow stuck to the ground in higher elevations of southwestern Pennsylvania (link may break), the Commonwealth where I and alot of other Orthodox live!

This discussion goes back to my recent post occasioned by the (Western) Good Friday Blizzard in the U.S. Midwest,* pointing out that the (small-T) traditional Western association of Easter with Spring is actually more likely to be fulfilled by Orthodox Pascha – for the next few thousand years anyway, if the Lord doesn’t return in Glory first – because at this time it’s usually one, two, or five weeks later than Easter, and will gradually get later vis a vis the seasons, over time, until of course it reaches Northern Autumn, at which point it will start moving back behind the other way, so to speak, toward Northern Spring.  Anyway, that means it’s alot less likely to snow in the Northern Hemisphere, or be wintry-cold; not impossible, just less likely!

I’ve been prevented by circumstances from replying to A Simple Sinner’s challenge there until now, among them my own continued study of the Calendar situation within Orthodoxy, and between Orthodoxy and Catholicism / Protestantism.  What I’ve learned is that Old Calendar Christianity – ie, most of Christendom before 1582 – essentially knowingly sacrificed, and continues to sacrifice, a little bit of astrological** accuracy in favor of perfect Liturgical convenience.  (As one calendar expert opines [quoted here], “However accurate we might try to make them, calendars should be judged not by their scientific sophistication, but by how well they serve social needs.”  Or as Another putteth it, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.”)

As a result of the determination of the Orthodox Paschalion or scheduling of Easter during the first Christian millennium (pursuant to the decision of the First Ecumenical Synod, the Council of Nicea, in AD 325), Western and Byzantine Christian worship services fell into a 532-year cycle discussed briefly and relatively simply here with relatively little polemic.  NB: Father Alexander, with the staunchly Old-Calendar Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, misspoke at one point: the 19-year cycle is lunar, and the 28-year cycle is solar, not the other way around.  Vis a vis the Julian calendar of dates and leap years, the dates of the moon phases calculated for planning purposes – approximate to the observed phases – follow a sequence that repeats every 19 Julian years.  And as the same linked paragraph also notes, Julian dates recur on the same days of the week every 28 years.  28 times 19 equals 532, the two cycles resynchronizing together every 532 years.

It wasn’t just about Easter / Pascha.  For medieval Byzantine Christians, nearly every day of the year was – and for all Orthodox still is – describable in relation to Pascha, whether it’s a day of a week of the Triodion (pre-Lent), the Great Fast (Lent), Holy Week, the actual Pascha Season, or weeks after Pentecost for the rest of the year and early the following year until the Triodion comes around again.  Most people don’t make this connection – it took me a while – but literally every day is a Moveable Feast!  For medieval Western Christians, only the Season(s) of Advent / Christmas / Epiphany were taken out of the relationship to Easter, days of these weeks being defined specially.  (Byzantine Christians didn’t have such a liturgical Advent [just our Nativity Fast], nor an Epiphany / Theophany ‘season’ really.)  When I was going through Catholic schools and seminaries, even “Ordinary Time” was discussed Pentecostally in terms of “the life of the Spirit in the Church,” even if the name “Ordinary Time” seems like “generic/not exciting”!

Therefore, for Byzantine and High-Church Western Christians then and today still, any given day has two aspects.  Easterners characterize these as the Menaion and the Paschalion, ie, the Fixed and the Moveable – the commemoration of the numerical calendar date, and that of the relation to Pascha.  (This is why some of us consider it imprecise to call the Old Calendar as used in most of the Orthodox Church “the Julian Calendar.”  Caesar didn’t know about the Resurrection of Christ, because JC – the earlier one who only thought he was god – died too soon!  OC Orthodox’ Menaion is Julian, but the Paschalion is Hebrew.)  Westerners traditionally thought of them a little differently, the Liturgical Season (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost) or “Temporal Cycle,” and the saint’s feast of the numerical calendar date otherwise, the “Sanctoral Cycle.”

Why is all this important?  Because as I said, the sequence of services – not just Eucharistic Liturgy, but also the Hours and some other Church services – repeated every 532 years.  Each day’s services were also complicated by multiple commemorations on many days of the year, and because of the Menaion and Paschalion (to use the Eastern terms) seeming to jump with regard to each other yearly, a priest needed help putting together any given day’s services.  He didn’t invent them himself eventually, but had the accumulated Holy Tradition in this regard to guide him.  As Fr. Alexander said in the linked article, for Orthodox the key to this (big-T) Tradition is called the Typikon (or Typicon), a big book that describes all the possible combinations of feasts and fasts for the 532-year cycle.  ISTM the Church of Rome had something similar whose most common name seems to have been the Ordinarius, the basis of the Ordo, although as this (old) Catholic Encyclopedia article emphasizes, it varied a bit with the addition of local, regional, or national feasts, or those pertaining to a particular religous or monastic order, and their interaction with the universal (Latin) feasts; this is also true in Orthodoxy, without vitiating the reliance on the Typicon as a whole.  Examples of Orthodox versions of the annual extracts from the Ordinarius that were eventually printed by dioceses, provinces, nations, and orders of the Church of Rome (as the CE discusses) include these from the (Old Calendar) Diocese of Alaska of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), and the “2008 Tipic” currently available on the homepage of the OCA’s (New Calendar) Romanian diocese.  (I don’t know if all the OCA’s dioceses do their own Orders of Divine Services; the Romanian diocese’s commemorations might vary from those of the rest of the OCA due to their Romanian traditions, most of the rest of the OCA being of Russian or Carpatho-Russian heritage.  And Alaska is their only remaining OC diocese, so its Menaion would differ from most of the rest of that jurisdiction [though they also have a few dozen OC parishes in other dioceses].)

So what?  I believe Fr. Alexander exaggerates when he complains that parishes and jurisdictions on the Orthodox New Calendar “throw the Typicon in the trash.”  IIUC, they will only gradually, over the centuries, accumulate combinations of feast-days not currently covered by the Traditional Orthodox Typikon.  But most usage of the Typicon t/Traditionally didn’t consist of the ‘dartboard’ approach he and others often employ – impressively – to prove its usefulness, but instead just marching through it day by day, week by week.  The Typikon in a sense was the calendar, covering both Menaion and Paschalion.  The same for the Ordinarius in the West.  I can’t find discussion of the impact of the Gregorian Calendar reform on the Ordinarius and the Ordo, but since the Western Church went from a 532-year cycle to a nearly 6-million-year one, it has had to require increasing intervention by Rome to account for unaccounted-for combinations of universal (Latin) and other feasts, a significant departure from Tradition.  Or massive depletion of feasts from the calendar, as has happend in the last few generations, with the liturgical “reform’s” increased focus on the Seasons, and the ‘lay-off’ of certain well-known but ancient Saints now questioned, such as Christopher and Philomena, and the Great-Martyr George for God’s sake!  (Sorry, I almost never take God’s Name in vain; but here, is it?!  In any case, Orthodox often include prayers and especially hymns from more than one saint-of-the-day, as well as from the season, in Liturgy, similar to what the Tridentine Mass did.)  As Dr. Roman points out in the linked article, this approach too is highly not-Orthodox – and he’s an Eastern Catholic!  Or even a dramatic simplification of the calendar and approach to feasts: for instance, I have no idea what most of this even means, since I have no memory of the Latin Liturgy before Vatican II.  “Semi-double of the Second Class”?!!  Today Latin observances are in order of increasing importance: Commemorations (ie, de-emphasized Optional Memorials during Lent), Optional Memorials, Obligatory Memorials, Feasts, and Solemnities … period.  In fairness, I don’t know what most of the Orthodox Orders of Services I linked to above are talking about either, since I haven’t had a chance to study the finer points of Orthodox Liturgy yet.  But I’ve probably seen or heard it in church, and I know it’s all hugely valued by Orthodox Holy Tradition, so much that if you touch the Liturgy, there’s rioting in the streets of Greece, even deaths … or (successful) mass resistance to Communist-backed “renovationism” in the USSR in the ’20s.  (I never heard that in “History of the Soviet Union” in college!)  And again in fairness, as Fr. Alexander points out, in the Orthodox New Calendar aka Revised Julian, there’s no cycle, it’s completely open-ended, so that it will require updating at the beginning of just about every century by dioceses or jurisdictions or synods.

Long story short, nearly all the world’s Orthodox keep the Traditional Orthodox Paschalion,*** and the overwhelming majority of the world’s Orthodox keep the Traditional Orthodox Calendar aka Julian (though a minority in the Western world), among many, many other reasons, because this Menaion and Paschalion are, mathematically speaking, internally perfect.  They trade one day every 134 years vis a vis the sun and stars and climatic seasons, for the convenience of continuing to follow the Services sanctified by centuries of Orthodox Fathers and Mothers of the Church, Saints, and the All-Holy Spirit of God, without requiring any more novel Hierarchical intervention than necessary (eg, when new Saints are added to the calendar), or the gutting of the calendar or its feasts and Saints (most of the world’s Orthodox treat their Saint’s name-day more importantly than their “birthday according to the flesh”), or of the Liturgical Tradition itself.  And it’s not rare among Orthodox to express doubt that the Lord will delay His Return in Glory long enough to let us seriously worry about Pascha in Northern Autumn – though if He does, there’s always the Southern Hemisphere!  (I guess then they’ll trade kielbasa at the parish Pascha bash after late-night Liturgy, for “shrimps on the barbie“!  Or wait, they’re shellfish and not part of the Fast.  You get what I mean though….)

Think of it computerwise: The raw data are (1) the universal calendar, (2) the elements of the Liturgies (Eucharist, Hours, etc.), (3) a national or regional calendar, and (4) a local calendar.  The Typikon or Ordinarius is/was the database assembled from these raw data.  Holy Tradition is/was the software.  And the annual Ordo’s or other printouts are the output.  Michael Purcell (Orthodox) says his Menologion 3.0 software (both calendars) is ready for download and use on your computer, but generally speaking, the Typikon is in some ways similar to that, and in other ways different, as you could see sampled at the Alaskan and Romanian links above.  To really see it computerwise, a Melkite Catholic priest (Gregorian Calendar) has computerized (5.6 MB) an unofficial software version of his diocese’s typicon for the next 1,000 years(!), and although he says the Hours will be added in a software update expected at the end of next year, the list of options just for Eucharist is more than the Menologion provides, because the Menologion isn’t intended to provide those things.

(*–As well as part of a long-term ongoing attempt to get my head around Orthodox calendar stuff for the sake of explaining it here.)

(**–As they called it a long time ago.)

(***–Metropolitan KALLISTOS [Ware] in The Orthodox Church says Finland’s Orthodox are required by the government to follow the Gregorian Calendar, ie, not even the Revised Julian.  I don’t know why Constantinople’s Estonians do, representing one in eight Orthodox in that country.)

The valuable copy of the Priest’s Service Book that used to be available on the site of Sts. Peter and Paul OCA parish in Meriden, Connecticut, seems fully available via the Wayback Machine.

It’s the Russian-oriented translation (into English) by Archbishop DMITRI of Dallas and the South, including directions (rubrics), prayers, and hymns from very many Orthodox Church services.  With my health, I find it useful in following along with the Services on my own at home, although lacking commentary or footnotes (it’s only a translation), it’s a little difficult for my small and Orthodoxly-inexperienced mind to make sense of sometimes.

Other versions of it – not Abp. Dmitri’s – seem available in print for purchase.

What follows is an extended quote (from pp. 9-10) from Women and Men in the Church, a 1980 work/study by a committee of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). I’m still wrestling with all its implications, myself, but thought I’d offer it here as an example of an Orthodox approach to questions and issues:

Sacraments and Saints, Councils and Canons

The Holy Tradition of the Church is rooted and grounded in the Holy Scriptures and is thoroughly shaped by biblical words and images. It is expressed in the Church’s liturgical worship and sacramental rites, as well as in her ecumenical councils and canons, the writings of her fathers and the lives of her saints. It is expressed also in her sacred art, particularly the holy icons.

Of particular relevance to the issue of women and men in the Church are the following specific sources:

  1. The sacramental rituals, particularly those dealing with baptism, churching and marriage.
  2. The more than one hundred canons of the ecumenical councils which deal specifically with men and women in the Church.
  3. The writings of the Church fathers, particularly Clement of Alexandria, Saint Augustine, Saint Gregory the Theologian, and most especially Saint John Chrysostom.
  4. The liturgical services, particularly of the conception and nativity of John [t]he Baptist and the Virgin Mary; the Annunciation; the Nativity of Christ, the Presentation of Christ to the Temple; the Entrance of Mary to the Temple; the Dormition of Mary and many services to the saints, especially saintly women.
  5. The lives of the saints, particularly the women saints. The lives and acts of women martyrs and missionaries, as well as the women ascetics and married saints, especially those who bear the title “equal to the apostles.”
  6. The holy icons, particularly the icons of the Virgin Mary, [of] the liturgical festivals mentioned above, and [of] the women saints.

In these sources, and in these sources alone, are to be found the basic, essential and final revelation of the truth of God about women and men in the Church [emphasis in original]. All other sources are additional, and are to be judged and interpreted in the light of these sources, which means in the light of Christ and the Holy Spirit, as this light shines forth from God in the Scriptures and Tradition of the Church. This does not mean that the findings of “modern science” — biological, sociological, psychological, medical, political, economic [–] are unimportant and valueless. It means rather that they are subject to examination in the light of God’s revelation in Christ, the Spirit and the Church. It means that they are always limited and partial, and that they may sometimes simply be wrong; not “science” at all, but merely the opinions of persons who voluntarily or involuntarily are blinded by ignorance or evil. (See Romans 1:18ff). The final word in every instance belongs to the Word Himself, Jesus Christ the incarnate Son of God who remains the Lord and Master of all creation in the Church which is his body, “the pillar and the bulwark of the truth.” (I Timothy 3:15).

(Polished and expanded a little on 18 January 2008.)

How can Orthodoxy possibly dovetail with liberal Roman Catholicism?

  • Collegiality and conciliarity; no Papal Infallibility. While the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has some very supportive supporters, he’s really not supposed to be a worldwide ecclesiastical autocrat, merely “first among equals” among the bishops of the Orthodox Church, permanent chairman if you will. The Primates of Orthodoxy’s regional and national Synods wield alot of influence therein – some of it comes from being effectively CEOs of denominations – but they can still be challenged, even driven from power ‘from below,’ as recently happened with the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and a few years ago with a Greek Archbishop of America. And as far as “faith and morals” go, we place our trust in Holy Tradition, not the decrees of individual Patriarchs.
  • Spirituality. See my early posts about God’s Uncreated Divine Energies, Light, etc.
  • Contraception. You’re supposed to talk it over with your priest, but it’s not the automatic sentence of mortal sin and eternal damnation like it is in the RCC … though some disagree, and are free to.
  • A sense of Church History. We’re not afraid to find out that our Patriarchs’ posts evolved, or that monks and laity overruled some Church Councils. Actually Church history is often liberating!
  • Deaconesses. See here.
  • Collaborative ministry. From the parish to the ecumenical council, priests and bishops are within their churches, not above them. Laity and lower clergy, even lay theologians, have always had a key role in the life of the Church. In some jurisdictions they even help select bishops, primates,* and patriarchs (as seen in 2007 in Romania), did anciently, sometimes since then, and may do so more again soon, for instance in the Moscow Patriarchate, whose 1917-1918 council authorized the practice as represented now in The Orthodox Church in America (OCA). (*–The Archbishop of Cyprus’ election has a very “American” feel, with campaigning, the equivalent of primaries, the election of an Electoral College, controversy, secular media coverage….)
  • Liturgy. It may be long, but it’s great, beautiful, magnificent, etc. etc.!
  • ‘Physical’ worship. All five senses adore the Lord in Orthodox worship; the whole body is involved, even more than in the Mass.
  • Real theology. Like I’ve said before, theology has really fallen apart in the West; some trace it all the way back to Augustine of Hippo. I’ve had 9 years of parochial school, 5 years of minor seminary and novitiate, 4 years with a minor in Theology, 6 years of grad school in Western theology … and still, every time I read Orthodox Theology, it’s a revelation!
  • Art and architecture. There’s nothing like Orthodox icons and churches.
  • Music. Good Byzantine or Russian chant just might cure you of the need for guitars!
  • Divorce and remarriage; a pastoral sense, non-legalism. We don’t bother with annulment, but your bishop can grant an ecclesiastical divorce, clearing the way for up to 2 more marriages. Despite (or Because of?!) being “orthodox,” we have a reputation for leniency, compassion in pastoral practice. It’s called economy, in Greek oikonomia, the opposite of acriveia or strictness, and called into play when an exception may be necessary rather than fear losing a soul’s salvation.
  • Patristics, incl. patristic social justice. The Fathers and Mothers of the Church are the source of the best Orthodox theology (though even “100 pct. of the Fathers are 85 pct. right!”). And how’s this for social justice?: “The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the man who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the man who has no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help but fail to help” (St. Basil the Great).

A Fundamentalist who converted to the Latin Church wrote a book entitled Rome Sweet Home. I might call mine New Rome, Sweet Home: A Liberal Catholic Discovers Orthodoxy! (New Rome was the official name of Constantinople or Byzantium.)