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Smiling in Church

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#1 Peter Simko

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 02:00 PM

Friends,

A glorious forty days to you all.  Is it appropriate for laity and/or clergy to smile during festal or joyous Church services?  What about monastics?  Thank you.



#2 Olga

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 02:05 PM

Christ's words, from Matthew 6:

 

Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting.  Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.



#3 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 02:07 PM

Of course it is, if we are happy we smile, if we are to smile at the trivial then why not at the truly joyous. 



#4 Peter Simko

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 02:50 PM

See, this seems obvious, and yet my experience is that laity, but clergy especially, often show a serious, straight face even at blessing with holy water at Theophany, or Arise O God on Great Saturday, &c.  When I was married, our Russian photographer even jokingly told us "okay, you are Russian, and the bishop is here!" in order to get us to pose for a non-smiling photo.  Just that joke seems to suggest that even celebratory occasions for clergy are occasions to have a stern countenance.



#5 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 03:47 PM

True, but I think it is a case of concentrating on the service especially with the clergy, we don't tend to smile when we concentrate. It likely also differs based on the people involved both personally and culturally. At our parish at Pascha the mood is generally happy and tired, and I can't recall seeing people looking serious or straight face except when trying to get everyone out of the Church before the Gospel reading, at Let God Arise most people are fleeing from the face of God to their homes or so it seems. At the blessing of holy water I'm not sure, I'm concentrating on helping father and the deacon, but at the river blessings the mood is generally joyous with jokes regarding who is going in after the cross (the cross is on a piece of string as the river is far too dangerous and the U.K. far too cold in January to do this). Likewise our clergy are far from stern countenanced especially father :) even the Archbishop is generally warm and smiling when not overtired or concentrating. 



#6 Loucas

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 06:25 PM

I find much joyousness in our Liturgies. We have 2 priests and both often smile during the service even within a sermon especially during the ending of the Paschal Liturgy or Christmas, or.....well, good point Olga, we should be joyful and our countenance will express our joy.



#7 Lakis Papas

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 07:59 PM

Friends,

A glorious forty days to you all.  Is it appropriate for laity and/or clergy to smile during festal or joyous Church services?  What about monastics?  Thank you.

 

 

What is the point of this question? I fail to understand.



#8 Peter Simko

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 08:16 PM

Lakis,

This is a question I have thought about for a long time, especially taking into account my experiences above, but also from the passionless faces of the icons. We don't have an image of a grinning Christ, and when icons typically display emotions on a spectrum between devastation and astonishment, I think that our display of joy outwardly is a reasonable question when it comes to worship. I suppose that I expected an answer in the affirmative, but I was particularly interested in the reasoning. When Christ blesses those who mourn and cries woe to those who laugh, it can be a bit confusing to realize that smiling is not frowned upon... :)

#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 08:46 PM

Icons are not portraits in the usual artistic sense and are not intended to convey fleeting emotions. Icons of saints convey another reality beyond time and space and are an aid to veneration of the saint depicted.



#10 Loucas

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 08:54 PM

The icons in my church were all done by 2 brothers from Thessaloniki. The expressions one the face of Christ on the cross as well as the "extreme humility" icon are not smiles nor frowns but have a glow of peace. The term passionless with regard to iconography should refer to without 'the passions". But anyway I have already pointed out, smile with joy glow with hope shine with content. This of course is different from "laughing" like it is funny or in disbelief. Joyful laughter is an expression of joy, happiness, contentment approval. Go to church this coming Sunday, bring an icon with you, gleam with joy at the restoration of the icons and Orthodoxy.



#11 Peter Simko

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Posted 17 March 2016 - 01:19 AM

Andreas,
With how frequently Orthodox Christians are instructed not to fall victim to such fleeting passions, and as we are icons of Christ ourselves, then why is smiling okay in the Liturgy, when we ourselves are mingling with Paradise, outside time and space? I am just interested in how we understand this. Thank you all again.

#12 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 March 2016 - 07:24 AM

The Holy Fathers say that Christ in His humanity displayed the 'blameless passions'. In other words, He experienced emotions such as grief - He wept at the death of Lazarus - and anger - at the Pharisees and the traders in the Temple. He thus displayed such aspects as affections and emotions of the human nature He took upon Himself. Emotions should be thought of here as affections in the patristic sense, not in the more modern and common sense as sinful impulses. In icons, we see Christ Himself as He is - as Theanthropos Who deified human nature at His glorious Ascension. We are called to theosis by grace and in the icons of the saints this is what we see. That is why those depicted in icons are not shown smiling - the blameless passions of this life have been left behind, superseded by heavenly joy.


Edited by Rdr Andreas, 17 March 2016 - 07:35 AM.


#13 Loucas

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Posted 17 March 2016 - 01:12 PM

I myself completely understand the serious, contemplative depictions of Byzantine Iconography. It is not showing anger or sternness but seriousness. We gaze upon the Icon and are now connected to the Holy. Of course the question posed is smiling in Church. Someone can recite the writings of Holy Fathers and Mothers and please print some Hymnography as well, But please, do we honestly believe that God's message to us is not to smile and be joyful in his house, not to sing out with hope and praise. God created us in his image and likeness then came down to earth took our form and conquered death by death for us and we should be stern and emotionless in his presence and not show happiness, sorrow, joy? HMMMM, thank you for setting me straight.



#14 Peter Simko

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Posted 17 March 2016 - 01:44 PM

Thank you again for the responses.  If I understand correctly then, Andreas, you are saying that the smiling we do within worship is also one such display of the blameless passions (which Christ voluntarily took on--so certainly not sinful, of course), but not a display of the heavenly joy which the Saints experience in the green pastures of the Kingdom.  Does heavenly joy not result in smiling, or are we mortals in this life not capable of true heavenly joy within the liturgy of the Holy Church?

 

I am sure that I am sounding difficult, and perhaps this question seems meaningless to some, but I sincerely appreciate all the answers I am getting.



#15 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 March 2016 - 01:47 PM

I don't know what they do in heaven - about expressing joy, I mean, and I may never find out, but I guess that the blessed experience joy in a different way, especially since they are currently souls without bodies.


Edited by Rdr Andreas, 17 March 2016 - 01:48 PM.





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