Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Modern liturgical uniformity and early liturgical "diversity"

liturgy liturgics tradition change history

  • Please log in to reply
14 replies to this topic

#1 Paul C

Paul C

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 28 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 14 February 2015 - 07:57 PM

Greetings in Christ!

 

I have recently begun a independent study of the history of the Divine Liturgy, something I wanted to do while studying the history of Eastern Orthodoxy in college but did not have time for.

 

I have been looking primarily at the works of Paul F. Bradshaw and Robert Taft, with a bit of Gregory Dix.

 

One thing modern liturgical scholars certainly agree on is that the liturgies of the earliest centuries, both in structure and in content, were highly diverse.  The scholars demonstrate in their writings that as Christianity spread and became more socially prominent (and especially once Christianity became sanctioned by imperial authorities), a process of conformity occured.  This narrative, the shcolars say, is contrary to the "traditional" teaching that diversity arose out of an original uniformity as Christianity encounered and was embraced by new cultures.  The latent idea seems to be that diversity is "good" and later uniformity was somehow a loss for Christianity. 

 

So, my first question is: Are there any modern scholars or writers who disagree with or who have been critical of Bradshaw, Taft, etc. ?

 

My second question is:  What are we to make of the idea that the uniform structure of the divine liturgy is a culturally-situated product of late Roman (Byzantine) imperial society, not an organic evolution from the practice of the Apostles?  (Why is is necessary that modern European or American Orthodox Christians maintain a Byzantine imperial liturgical structure?)  I ask this not in a sense of criticism or doubt concerning the Church (as I find the Liturgy to be incredibly beautiful), but because I have been asked the question by others who are not Orthodox and could not really give an answer. 

 

In Christ,

Paul



#2 Deacon John Martin

Deacon John Martin

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 122 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 15 February 2015 - 04:19 AM

I’m not a liturgical scholar, but I’ve read a little bit of Bradshaw and Taft. The fact that the Liturgy is culturally situated doesn’t really bother me. After all, Christ came at a specific time, in a specific cultural milieu. Christianity spread partially thanks to Roman domination. The Fathers used Greek philosophy to help formulate doctrine. A secular scholar would interpret the data in a rather rationalist way, reducing the Gospel to a number of historical factors. But we believe that God is guiding history and the Church. Besides which, what would an “organic evolution” of the Liturgy look like, one that has no cultural influences?

 

A good article might be Fr. Michael Pomazansky’s The Liturgical Theology of Fr. A. Schmemann.



#3 Paul C

Paul C

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 28 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 15 February 2015 - 09:37 PM

Thank you for the response and the excellent article, John!

One way I have thought of this before was that the increasing uniformity of liturgical practice within the later Roman Empire was a way to make sure everyone was on the "same page" liturgically, if you will.

It seems to me that modern scholarship tends to see diversity as an absolute "good" in every field dealing with history, the humanities, etc. (I have an inkling that this attitude is taken from evolutionary theory, where greater diversity leads to a greater chance for survival). Thus, I can see why modern liturgical scholars would look for and praise diversity within early Christian worship (and then condemn the conformity that occurred later).

Additionally, early christian liturgical diversity could be used as a justification for the myriad forms of worship that exist among groups calling themselves Christian today. Still, it seems that even the diversity described by Bradshaw, et al., does not indicate drastically divergent methods of worship.

However, this is all conjecture. I would love to hear more from others more knowledgeable than I on the subject of early Christian liturgical diversity and how it relates to later uniformity.

In Christ,
Paul

#4 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,028 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 15 February 2015 - 09:43 PM

Liturgical scholars don't determine the direction of the Church - the Holy Spirit does. If it seemed good to Him to have uniformity of liturgical practice, who are we to gainsay Him?



#5 Anna Stickles

Anna Stickles

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,365 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 15 February 2015 - 10:29 PM


I wonder to what extent Liturgical uniformity arose as a response to preventing heresy. As Christianity came out of the persecutions and the high spiritual quality of the Church declined, then we see the various heretical bishops using the fluidity of the liturgical practice to insert their own teachings, so liturgical conformity seems to me the logical outgrowth of fighting against this, but I have never done any research on it. I just remember a few things said by St. Basil and a few others in their comments of how the heretics were changing ancient practice to suit their own doctrine.

 

 (Why is is necessary that modern European or American Orthodox Christians maintain a Byzantine imperial liturgical structure?)  I ask this not in a sense of criticism or doubt concerning the Church (as I find the Liturgy to be incredibly beautiful), but because I have been asked the question by others who are not Orthodox and could not really give an answer. 

Is our Liturgy primarily a Byzantine cultural relic, or is it something more universal?   If it was primarily a particular cultural phenomenon then why does it have so much universal appeal that 10th century pagan Rus and 21st century Americans can both be so attracted to it as to change their religion, and find in it, heaven on earth?  Just some thoughts.

 

Maybe the way this could be addressed with someone outside the Church is to explain what is happening and why in terms of our theology and how the Liturgy is a living symbol of the divine economy of salvation and our whole life in Christ. The other Christian traditions have stripped the liturgical practice down to mechanics and it is no longer a mystagogy.    


Edited by Anna Stickles, 15 February 2015 - 10:30 PM.


#6 Christophoros

Christophoros

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 404 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 17 February 2015 - 02:30 PM

Liturgical uniformity may not have been imposed to prevent heresy, but the existing Orthodox (“Byzantine”) rite exists as the almost sole rite in Orthodoxy largely because of heresy. In the first millennium of Christianity, the ancient patriarchal sees had their own distinct rites. Those rites can still be found among certain schismatic/heretical communities which separated from the Church, and among some Uniates. During the early Christological controversies, the majority of the hierarchies in the Patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch fell away from the Orthodox faith, along with Rome after the 11th century. This left the Patriarchate of Constantinople - and its “Byzantine Rite” - as the only ancient primatial see that remained faithful to Orthodoxy. Due to this and its position as capital of the empire, its liturgical practices gradually spread over the entire Church.



 



#7 Kosta

Kosta

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,516 posts

Posted 17 February 2015 - 03:08 PM

You would have to go over every little custom and practise to see why some practises were done away with and others arose. The washing of a neophytes feet at baptism as practised in the far west was done away with by Rome as to not confuse the sacrament with the biblical custom and equate the two.
Perhaps when most of the empire converted away from paganism and infant baptism became the norm, drinking a mixture of milk and honey which was a widespread tradition was no longer needed as babes can't recognize the symbolism.

We know the celebration of pascha in the Asia Minor churches was done away with in favor of a Sunday pascha at Nicea. The rich tradition of prophets and prophetesses in Asia Minor and elsewhere fell off after the montanist heresy. The Jerusalem/Antiochan/Byzantine tradition of upholding saturday as festal and celebrating D.L. won over the roman tradition of keeping the sabbath a somber fast day.

We know in the very late 4th century the east split off their dual feast of Nativity/ Theophany and adopted the roman celebration of the Nativity on Dec 25th, whereas the west adopted the eastern feast and added the Jan 6 feast day of the Theophany onto their calendar. We also know the Carthage church at first protested against this addition saying Dec 25 was of ancient tradition but a Jan6 Feast was an unknown innovation. We can go on and on.

#8 Paul C

Paul C

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 28 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 19 February 2015 - 07:41 AM


"Is our Liturgy primarily a Byzantine cultural relic, or is it something more universal?   If it was primarily a particular cultural phenomenon then why does it have so much universal appeal that 10th century pagan Rus and 21st century Americans can both be so attracted to it as to change their religion, and find in it, heaven on earth?  Just some thoughts."


 This is a great point.  There is, indeed, something "universal" about the "feel" of the Divine Liturgy, as culturally situated as it's development was within imperial Byzantine civilization.  I was certainly attracted to the Byzantine liturgy when I first encountered it; it called me to "dig deeper" and convert to Orthodox Christianity from atheism.   At the same time, I have known people who were repulsed by it.  So while I might think it is beautiful and "cosmic" in nature, they see its rigidity, antiquity, and complex structure as a barrier to encounter with God.  After all, from what I understand, many elements of the Byzantine liturgy developed within certain historical conditions that no longer apply (for instance: the entrances as originally involving the Roman (Byzantine) Emperor,  and the departure of catechumens, which I have never seen actually enforced).  We maintain the structure, but without the conditions that informed it. 

 

Nevertheless, I cannot honestly say that I know anything about the other liturgical rites and how they differ from that of the Byzantine Rite.  Do the other "rites" even survive in textual or practical form to this day, or were they lost with time?



#9 Phoebe K.

Phoebe K.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 278 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 19 February 2015 - 12:36 PM

The departure of the caticumins is still practiced in a number of monasteries (one of my Priest's theological students who was received into Orthodoxy earlier this year told of several times when he was visiting monasteries he was asked to leave the liturgy at that point), My parish also encourages catacumins to at least withdraw to the Narthex at this point in the service (when we have adult catacumins that is).

 

There has been recentreserch in the UK into the early British rights which evolved into the Sahram and York rights in the early middle ages, from what survives of these very early services there is a high similarities to the practices of the Byzantine liturgies, including amphoms, entrances and two distinct parts to the service.  I have only seen a little on this though I suspect there will be academic documents somewhere.  The Sahram right is avalable in Latin, I used it in resrech when I was an undergraduate, this is one of the earliest western liturgies to survive and can shead some light on those which preceded it to a liturgy scholar.



#10 Father David Moser

Father David Moser

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 3,581 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Cleric

Posted 19 February 2015 - 02:43 PM

While it is not the dominant practice in this country - probably not in the world overall - and not in my own parish, I don't see a real problem with dismissing the catechumens at this point if (and its a big if that no one addresses!) the dismissal is done with the same intent and provision that was its intent.  The catechumens are dismissed at this point 1. because they cannot participate in the liturgy of the faithful and 2. for further catechetical instruction leading to their baptism and full inclusion in the liturgy.  It is the 2nd point that is never addressed (at least in my experience).  If the catechumens are dismissed, they are gnerally expected to go "somewhere else" - maybe to the hall for a cup of coffee if they stay around at all.  More often than not they just wander away, sometimes never to return.  If one is going to dismiss the catechumens, then the catechist (frequently a member of the clergy, but not necessarily) should go with them and gather them into a place for instruction and teach them about the Christian faith so that they might move closer to becoming Orthodox Christians.  Without such spiritual care the dismissal of catechumens in modern society is simply selfish elitism on the part of the faithful who remain and serves no real purpose for the Church.  But then, this is only the ravings of a coffee starved brain and after all what do I really know.

 

Fr David



#11 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,028 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 19 February 2015 - 04:55 PM

If the catechumens have to leave, it wouldn't go amiss to explain to them why they are to leave, and instruct then in the liturgy of the faithful so that at their first full Divine Liturgy, they can participate fully.



#12 Jeremy Phillips

Jeremy Phillips

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • 5 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 19 February 2015 - 10:46 PM

While it is not the dominant practice in this country - probably not in the world overall - and not in my own parish, I don't see a real problem with dismissing the catechumens at this point if (and its a big if that no one addresses!) the dismissal is done with the same intent and provision that was its intent.  The catechumens are dismissed at this point 1. because they cannot participate in the liturgy of the faithful and 2. for further catechetical instruction leading to their baptism and full inclusion in the liturgy.  It is the 2nd point that is never addressed (at least in my experience).  If the catechumens are dismissed, they are gnerally expected to go "somewhere else" - maybe to the hall for a cup of coffee if they stay around at all.  More often than not they just wander away, sometimes never to return.  If one is going to dismiss the catechumens, then the catechist (frequently a member of the clergy, but not necessarily) should go with them and gather them into a place for instruction and teach them about the Christian faith so that they might move closer to becoming Orthodox Christians.  Without such spiritual care the dismissal of catechumens in modern society is simply selfish elitism on the part of the faithful who remain and serves no real purpose for the Church.  But then, this is only the ravings of a coffee starved brain and after all what do I really know.

 

Fr David

 

Father, bless.

 

What you've described is what happens at St. Andrew in Riverside, CA. The catechumens are dismissed about 45 Sundays out of the year for further catechetical lessons on a wide variety of topics pertaining to Orthodoxy. Fr. Josiah teaches the main catechism classes during the Nativity and Great Fasts on Saturdays and commissions about 15 parishioners to teach the Sunday catechism classes. We've had this program for about 3 years now and seems to work fairly well.



#13 Deacon John Martin

Deacon John Martin

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 122 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 20 February 2015 - 04:16 PM

It seems to me that many of the doctrinal beliefs and practices of Orthodoxy are even more offensive to modern sensibilities than any external liturgical trappings.



#14 Ryan

Ryan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 837 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 13 March 2015 - 03:35 PM

Liturgical scholars don't determine the direction of the Church - the Holy Spirit does. If it seemed good to Him to have uniformity of liturgical practice, who are we to gainsay Him?

 

Our liturgical uniformity was not an organic occurrence. Nor did it arise out of a need to combat heresy (some of the worst heresies came out of Constantinople). It really came from the attitude of imperial = better, an attitude which sadly seems to persist long after the empire is gone. For example, the Georgian rite (related to the Jerusalem rite) was gradually suppressed due to monks returning from Athos saying that the rite of Constantinople was better.  If someone wants to say that the Holy Spirit did it, one could with equal authority say the Holy Spirit wants to reinstate the old rites.

 

The Russian church's denunciation of the old rite was clearly a massive error, as the Moscow Patriarchate has itself acknowledged 300+ years later, so don't assume every major development is the work of the Spirit.


Edited by Ryan, 13 March 2015 - 03:41 PM.


#15 Ryan

Ryan

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 837 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 13 March 2015 - 03:38 PM

"Nevertheless, I cannot honestly say that I know anything about the other liturgical rites and how they differ from that of the Byzantine Rite.  Do the other "rites" even survive in textual or practical form to this day, or were they lost with time?"

 

Many of these rites can be found in the Oriental Orthodox churches, e.g. Alexandrian, Syriac. If we reunite with them, I suppose those rites will be ours again. There is also the Liturgy of St. James still celebrated on a limited basis in the Eastern Orthodox church.







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: liturgy, liturgics, tradition, change, history

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users