Posts Tagged ‘services’

That’s the upshot of these words of the late Fr. Alexander Schmemann (OCA).  (Link may break after this year; I don’t know if it’s tied to today’s date, as Clean Monday or Pure Monday, the first day of the Great Fast this year, or not.)

An important liturgical and devotional tradition of Byzantine Christianity during the first week of the Fast is the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, a big Orthodox hymnwriter.  Here’s OrthodoxWiki’s briefer discussion, and at bottom of OrthodoxWiki’s article are links to the four portions of this great reflective hymn, sung in sequence Monday through Thursday nights during Great Compline, normally a Night Prayer service (links to service texts at bottom again).  There are also links to the Canon’s portions here.

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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.’