Posts Tagged ‘worship’

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.)

Advertisements

A very insightful post at Alana Roberts’ blog.  She’s converted from Evangelicalism.

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…

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.)

An Akathist (sometimes spelled Akafist or Acathistos, etc.) is a poetic or quasi-poetic devotional service dedicated to a Saint or God Himself, or themed around a Feast day, a need being prayed for, possibly other things.  It’s divided into stanzas, each of which is called an Ekos (Ikos, Oikos) or a Kontakion.  Several times during the year an Orthodox parish might serve the Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos, including during the Great Fast as now.

  1. Ekos 7 of this Akathist reads, “The Creator showed us a new creation when He appeared to us who came from Him. For He sprang from a seedless womb, and kept it incorrupt as it was, that seeing the miracle we might sing to Her….”  This “new creation” echoes 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ – Behold! A new creation!”  Never have I associated St. Paul’s “new creation” with Christ’s own Incarnation as in this Akathist, but usually with Genesis and some relatively vague renewal of prelapsarian Creation.  But as o/Orthodox Christianity is about joining energetically with Christ, then linking us even with His miraculous Incarnation is totally appropriate and mind-blowing!  It’s even bigger than renewing Genesis!  Actually Quaker founder George Fox had an expression about a potentially two-stage perfectibility, first “to the state Adam was in before he fell,” and from there “to the state of Christ that never fell.”  Pretty wild.  (Not that God literally becomes incarnate in us of course; something like that is the heresy of Appolinarianism.)  It also underlines the importance of the Incarnation for Orthodoxy; it’s not merely a prelude to Calvary or even Pascha, but wholly part of Christ’s saving activity, uniting created nature to Uncreated in Himself, and human and Divine natures in Himself, in fact making salvation possible … and “all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
  2. Kontakion 11 reads, “Every hymn is defeated that trieth to encompass the multitude of Thy many compassions; for if we offer to Thee, O Holy King, songs equal in number to the sand, nothing have we done worthy of that which Thou hast given us who shout to Thee: Alleluia!”  This is a poignant image of how far and different God is from created things including ourselves; how nothing we do can save us or raise us to godhood by ourselves, yet how hard we must work to collaborate with the only real God; perhaps even why encountering His Uncreated Energies without sufficient Purification in life will feel like a painful, purifying fire, which however will never lead to perfection, ie, the fires of “hell,” because of the infinite separation between us and Him.

Orthodox prayers are highly “theological,” not in the first place sentimental like Western prayers, because “we do not know how to pray as we ought.”  There’s feeling also, but it takes second place to theology – as it should in life.

The same person offered this reflection on Orthodox church (temple) architecture (curly brackets by me):

Everything about the church is designed to make us think of God. The churches (unless purchased from another church) are built in the shape of a cross. You walk in where the base of the cross would be. The entrance to the {nave} is at the base of where Christs’ feet would be and the {altar or sanctuary area}, where only the priests go, is where Christs’ head an crown {of thorns} would be.

If you look up in an Orthodox (or old Catholic church) you see the face of Christ and angels depicted. The angels often don’t have faces– I think that these are the Serafin.

Incense in the church flows upward to where Heaven symbolically is. We light candles that represent us (the wax,) melting to God’s will (the heat) which comes from light (God.) The wick is our passion burning for God.

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.