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The richness of the Liturgy vs. visions of an early simplicity


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#21 Olga

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 12:05 PM

To echo what Fr Raphael has said above:

Spend a year attending as many Orthodox services as you can, and/or according to what the local parish offers, and absorb what is done, sung, read and chanted, and you'll know most of what Orthodoxy teaches. And, the liturgical structures might stick, too! :-)

#22 Paul Cowan

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 01:07 PM

Read the words of Justin Martyr in describing the worship service in the other thread, if you are truly interested.


Yes I am. Can you link me to that thread?

#23 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 01:15 PM

The liturgy has it is true developed over the centuries. But this is not at all in terms of historical theories which start with a theoretical simple core (theoretical because the earliest evidence itself shows that there was nothing simple to such services) which then get 'covered over' with layers & layers of foreign material. Such theories are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the Liturgy itself, seeing opposition where it does not exist, between the apostolic period and what comes later. It is also based on a misunderstanding of the Church, not recognizing that what we presently see in the services & theology is a conscious result from that effort to express the apostolic inheritance or deposit which has been granted to the Church by Christ.

In other words the reality that we presently participate in during the Liturgy is that continuity which has always been there from the time of Christ and the apostles, and St Justin and beyond. In a sense that is exactly what makes it a Liturgy in the first place- ie the continuity of that life in Christ which we find in the ongoing life of the Church- in Her worship, in Her piety, in Her spirituality. For the Church is always an expression of the one reality of Christ- again which we see clearly witnessed to by Christ, and proclaimed by the apostles, and by St Paul.

The idea of 'apostolic simplicity' then is based on a basic misunderstanding and fiction about the apostolic Church. This idea substitutes modern theories of historical development and thus misses out on the fact that there was nothing 'simple' about the apostolic faith (unless you are speaking of the virtue of simplicity- although in apostolic times St Peter already comments on the complicated manner of St Paul's thought and that some do not understand him); that the worship and expression of the apostles after Christ had already moved in a dramatic way beyond its Judaic expression (what else than this is the point of the Acts of the Apostles, of most of the Epistles; and really when you think of it of the Gospels themselves than to express this dramatic turn of the Apostolic Church? Which then is taken a further step by St Justin in his dialogue with Trypho).

There never was then a time of 'apostolic simplicity' in the early Church- at least not as it is often portrayed nowadays. The full integrity of Her liturgical life was already there and so was Her theology, and piety. If we have a hard time believing this then we should go back to the Gospels and Epistles and read these without prejudice and with open minds.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#24 Sacha

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 01:40 PM

The liturgy has it is true developed over the centuries. But this is not at all in terms of historical theories which start with a theoretical simple core (theoretical because the earliest evidence itself shows that there was nothing simple to such services) which then get 'covered over' with layers & layers of foreign material. ....

There never was then a time of 'apostolic simplicity' in the early Church- at least not as it is often portrayed nowadays. The full integrity of Her liturgical life was already there and so was Her theology, and piety. If we have a hard time believing this then we should go back to the Gospels and Epistles and read these without prejudice and with open minds.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael


Can you point me to the earliest evidence that you reference above? Thanks.

#25 Sacha

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 01:43 PM

Yes I am. Can you link me to that thread?


http://www.monachos....ight=collection

my posts start at #215.

#26 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 01:57 PM

Can you point me to the earliest evidence that you reference above? Thanks.


Sasha- This is how we read what is already witnessed to in the Epistles. But I don't think that it can be proved 'from the outside' as it were. First we have to experience the Liturgy and begin to let its continuity with what is apostolic sink in.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#27 Anna Stickles

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 02:32 PM

Sacha,

In other words the reality that we presently participate in during the Liturgy is that continuity which has always been there from the time of Christ and the apostles. In a sense that is exactly what makes it a Liturgy in the first place- ie the continuity of that life in Christ which we find in the ongoing life of the Church- in Her worship, in Her piety, in Her spirituality. For the Church is always an expression of the one reality of Christ.

Maybe another way to grasp this is to understand that Christ instituted Christian worship to be an image of both the Kingdom of God and of our Life in Christ. It is both an image of and a way for us to participate in heavenly realities even while we are here on earth. Christian worship from the beginning, like the worship instituted by God for the Jewish nation, is meant to make visible to ur senses the realities of life and worship in heaven. The book of Hebrews talks in depth on this.

"1 Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. .... 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; ...23 Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;

"For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come and not the very image of the things... He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." ch 10:1, 9,10

Notice how the Jewish worship is a copy, an image, of what is in heaven. And that the underlying assumption in this whole section is that the regulations of worship in the new covenant also are to maintain faithfulness to being an accurate image of this heavenly reality, and in fact to reflect it even more clearly then the old covenant. Most of Hebrews is beautiful, yet hardly simple, liturgical theology.

One of the most beautiful statements of Christian worship is found in Heb 12.

" 18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear" 22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel."

And what do we find when we come to an Orthodox Liturgy? Is it not exactly what is described here? To understand this more fuly though one has to both participate in the Liturgical year and also read Orthodox commentaries on the symbolism in the liturgy.

And when we are invited into the Orthodox sanctuary for worship, is the following not still the invitation?

" 19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." ch 10

Any Orthodox reading this passage can automatically see the references to our sacramental, liturgical worship - the holy place, the Eucharist, baptism, a confession of faith, the gathering of the faithful as a body joined in love.

Edited by Anna Stickles, 09 June 2011 - 03:15 PM.


#28 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 02:51 PM

Excellent! This is exactly what I meant. What we nowadays often call sacramental worship and what in previous times (even the apostolic) was called mystical worship.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#29 Anna Stickles

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 03:23 PM

It is hard to change what you call things once you get into a habit, but now that I have a better grasp on "mystery" and "mystical" I think maybe this is a better word. :-)

#30 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 03:58 PM

The idea of 'apostolic simplicity' then is based on a basic misunderstanding and fiction about the apostolic Church.


Oh how incredibly true.

There never was then a time of 'apostolic simplicity' in the early Church- at least not as it is often portrayed nowadays.


Actually, in my rather unauthoritative opinion portrayal is only one symptom of the problem of modern scholarship's arrogance towards historical reality. It really is about a lot of modern assumptions that are just plain wrong.

Modern man tends to assume his anscestors were stupid. We tend to assume they were unsophisticated. We tend to assume things in centuries past were plain, and unadorned. And I won't go into explaining a folk proverb most have likely already heard about the problem of "assuming".

For example, Galileo didn't get into trouble with the Pope because he proposed the Earth orbited the Sun! Copernicus had proposed the same thing years earlier, and remained a priest in good standing with the Vatican. Galileo got himself into trouble by publishing a pamphlet where he called the Pope: "Simplisicus" (which should be easy enough for Anglophones to translate fairly instinctively - yes, that's exactly what he called the Pope). That was not a smart thing for a guy who was living under the patronage of the Pope (ie. the Pope was funding him!), and in a day and age where the Pope was also a temporal ruler, and the temporal rulers of the day tended to have people executed for less. He kinda "bit the hand that fed him". The fact that he only got house arrest was a sign of rather generous leniency, really.

Modern people tend to assume that folks thought the Earth was flat until the Renaissance. Perhaps many peasants did. But medieval academics weren't that dumb. The knowledge that the Earth was a sphere was speculated as early as the 6th Century BC, and confirmed through astronomy by the 3rd Century BC! And they worked that out without calculators and computers! I defy any here to do the same without modern equipment!

Archaeological evidence recently unearthed about first Century synagogues show that they were decorated with frescoes and carvings throughout (not unlike the covering of our Temple walls with icons, as we do today in the Orthodox Church!). The assumption that early Churches would have been plain, unadorned rooms, with little more than a pulpit, and places for people to sit has no basis in fact, and, I would contend, is in reality a borrowing from Islam. Perhaps it's a bit inflammatory, but I've often thought (as one who converted to Orthodoxy directly from Evangelical Protestantism!) "Protestants are some of the nicest Muslims I've ever met."

What does this have to do with our Liturgies? Nothing directly. But the historical assumptions behind any attempt to "get back to Apostolic simplicity", or even to "do things the way the early Church did" makes these forays extremely dangerous and misleading. These, and similar, assumptions are used to dismiss huge swaths of evidence to the contrary just because it's inconsistant with the way they feel about history.

Shameful academics really. But that's just my 2 kopecks. Your mileage may vary...

#31 Olga

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 11:27 PM

What does this have to do with our Liturgies? Nothing directly. But the historical assumptions behind any attempt to "get back to Apostolic simplicity", or even to "do things the way the early Church did" makes these forays extremely dangerous and misleading. These, and similar, assumptions are used to dismiss huge swaths of evidence to the contrary just because it's inconsistant with the way they feel about history.


An analogy would be the use of Erasmian pronunciation of Greek by academics and scholars. Erasmus had little choice but to attempt to reconstruct what he thought was Greek pronunciation (I suspect native Greek-speakers would have been rather thin on the ground in his part of the world at the time). Similarly, Christian reconstructionists attempt to define and describe early worship practices with the scant written material available. In both cases, the attempt may be honourable, but the results are very, very wide of the mark. In both cases, the existence of continuous, living traditions are either not drawn from due to their obscurity, or, more problematically, wilfully ignored or denigrated, as, as Fr Cyprian pointed out, it doesn't suit this or that agenda.

Edited by Olga, 09 June 2011 - 11:49 PM.


#32 Anna Stickles

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 12:53 AM

In both cases, the existence of continuous, living traditions are either not drawn from due to their obscurity, or, more problematically, wilfully ignored or denigrated, as, as Fr Cyprian pointed out, it doesn't suit this or that agenda.

It's interesting that in more recent archeology they are now drawing more on living traditions. When we went to visit Mesa Verde and a number of Anastasi sites a few years ago there was much in the educational blurbs about how archeologists are using the living traditions of the modern day descendents of these tribes as a source of information to help learn about the past. But as far as I could gather this has only started to be explored in the last 10-15 years.

#33 Christina M.

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 01:02 AM

It's interesting that in more recent archeology they are now drawing more on living traditions. When we went to visit Mesa Verde and a number of Anastasi sites a few years ago there was much in the educational blurbs about how archeologists are using the living traditions of the modern day descendents of these tribes as a source of information to help learn about the past. But as far as I could gather this has only started to be explored in the last 10-15 years.

That reminds me of this new article here:
http://arstechnica.c...ology-right.ars. Which shows that Greek oral traditions might have correctly described geographical changes which happened 4,000 years ago.

That's a long time to preserve accurate oral traditions.

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 25 July 2011 - 01:17 AM.
fixed clickable link


#34 Paul Cowan

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 01:44 AM

http://www.monachos....ight=collection

my posts start at #215.


You wrote:

Instead what we find are very basic gatherings in the NT as well as descriptions such as this from Justin Martyr:



Weekly worship of the Christians

And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration."


I read the dozen or so posts before and after your post. You and they are saying the same thing in both threads.

If I were to try to describe what my church does on Sunday, it woudl sound very similar to the above. I would not go into the details of the process, but the hightlights as Justin Martyr has done. I am not looking to prove a point, but you have not proven yours. I can't support your position. Sorry

Paul

#35 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 04:40 AM

... Anastasi sites...

Isn't it "Anasazi"? I was scratching my head trying to figure out what kind of resurrectional sites they'd have at Mesa Verde... :)

#36 Sacha

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 04:52 AM

You wrote:


I read the dozen or so posts before and after your post. You and they are saying the same thing in both threads.

If I were to try to describe what my church does on Sunday, it woudl sound very similar to the above. I would not go into the details of the process, but the hightlights as Justin Martyr has done. I am not looking to prove a point, but you have not proven yours. I can't support your position. Sorry

Paul


Paul, this will be my last post on this topic. I quote Mrs Griffith who posted the following on this thread on pg 3:

"Ok, dear Father, as she shakes her head in a clueless way. I hear these words used in Orthodoxy and yet I don't know what they mean. Sometimes I get the feeling that the mindset in the Orthodox faith is that we are supposed to learn by osmosis. But, I don't learn that way. Ah....blame it on my Western mind - I can just hear someone saying that we Westerners think differently. Well, as an educator I've learned that differentiated instruction is often necessary, that Howard Gardner was right, and that different people learn differently. So, Father, I give you a pedagogical opportunity here on Monachos, you being the mentor and me the mere mentee. Could you please answer the following questions in a clear, and preferabley concise manner?

1. When is the 9th hour? (9 pm?)
2. Why is there a 9th hour and what is its purpose?
3. What prayers are said during the 9th hour?
4. Why specifically is Vespers done and how should I benefit from it?
5. What is Compline?
6. When is Compline done?
7. What prayers are said during Compline?
8. What is the purpose of Compline?
9. What is the purpose of the Midnight Office?
10. What prayers are said at the Midnight Office?
11. What are Matins and Orthros specifically?
12. Is there a difference between Matins and Orthros?
13. Are there specific times that Matins and Orthros should be done?
14. What is the purpose of Matins and Orthros?
15. How should I benefit in attending Matins/Orthros?
16. What are the 1st, 3rd, and 6th hours?
17. What is the purpose for having these hours? (1st, 3rd, 6th)"
18. What prayers are said during these 3 different hours?


Next, carefully pay attention to the level of complexity of the ritual in the following link:

http://www.holytrini...ces_sokolov.htm

Now I ask you: Can you honestly tell me that such questions (legitimate ones I understand why she is asking them, I would be overwhelmed too) and such complexity in the link above, can be supported by the simple reading of the book of Acts, and Justin's description or any of the other earliest descriptions of church services?

My central point, is that the OC and RCC have transformed what used to be a simple (but deep, a point that is lost on some many of the posters who've commented so far) liturgy into an extraordinarily complex thing. (I remember growing up in the catholic church, and even in my teens being frustrated at not understanding much behind the rituals, I was given the same advice that is handed out here: Just participate.) Some have denied this, saying the liturgy was always the same, others have said, no, we have evolved/developed the liturgy to what it is today, it is more mature, deeper. To which I respond that if modern day believers are having trouble with the complexity with the liturgy, (and Darlene is not the first to express this, Owen Jones has also lamented the lack of a connection in homiletics but that is another matter altogether), then could it be that what you think is deep is actually counterproductive? This is not a matter of denigrating what you cherish, it is a hard question to ask, and I ask it.

As for those who call my efforts reconstructionism, I will simply say that St Jude says that the faith (which includes the liturgy) was once and for all handed down to the saints. If it was once and for all entrusted, why the need to add to it? Why the need to make it 'deeper'? Did not Christ bless Mary at his feet, and remind Martha not to fret about a million things so to speak? Could it be that the OC is like Martha, working hard at impressing the Lord when He is impressed with a simple but deep devotion?

If you feel that this is not the case, which is overwhelmingly the response, then so be it. I am more than happy to give you and others here the last word.

God's Blessings to All,
Sacha

#37 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 05:37 AM

Pardon me for jumping in. I realize these comments weren't directed to me, so please feel free to ignore them, as it is quite presumptive of me to answer questions posed to someone else. However, I hope you may forgive and indulge me a bit.

Can you honestly tell me that such questions (legitimate ones I understand why she is asking them, I would be overwhelmed too) and such complexity in the link above, can be supported by the simple reading of the book of Acts, and Justin's description or any of the other earliest descriptions of church services?


I hope you don't find it offensive, but it is often necessary to remember that a simple reading of any text is not the same as a simplistic reading of the same. Paul's point that the descriptions you are referring to are simply "highlighted excerpts", and not an exhaustive description remains apparently uncomprehended.

My central point, is that the OC and RCC have transformed what used to be a simple...


I'm sorry, but I'll stop you right there and point out it's simplicity is being assumed without any conclusive documented evidence to back it up. Again! Your (or anyone else's) "simple reading" of off hand depictions of the early Church's worship are not conclusive, as these comments were obviously not intended to be comprehensive. See my above comment about assuming.

...(but deep, a point that is lost on some many of the posters who've commented so far)...


I see absolutely no evidence that anyone doesn't think our Liturgies are deep in any of the posts in this thread. If anyone's missing a major point...

...could it be that what you think is deep is actually counterproductive?


Always a possibility, and thank you for bringing it up. The living tradition of the Church and the repeated experience of hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Christians (and presumably RC's too, within their tradition - just pointing that out to be fair) is, however, the opposite. The complexity of our services, gives us something to continue learning throughout our entire lives. Just because it cannot be fully plumbed in an afternoon, does not mean that it is not worthwhile. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Orthodoxy can be fully grasped by a child, yet the brightest academic will never fully plumb it's depths before leaving this mortal realm.

As for those who call my efforts reconstructionism, I will simply say that St Jude says that the faith (which includes the liturgy) was once and for all handed down to the saints. If it was once and for all entrusted, why the need to add to it? Why the need to make it 'deeper'?


Actually, the faith once and for all handed down to the saints may include the Liturgy, but only as a concept, not as something eternally locked into a first Century liturgical form. If that was so, then there should have been no need for the First Ecumenical Council to formulate the Symbol of the Faith (which, obviously, had not previously existed). There would have been no ability to have the Trisagion hymn added to our many services after it's divine revelation. Similarly, we would not have our hymn "It is truly meet" in it's current form - as the first part (everything before "More honorable than the cherubim") was added later after an angelic revelation to a monk on Mt Athos.

Liturgics and Liturgies change. They just do. Certainly that isn't license to cut-and-paste and create "modern" liturgies a la Vatican II, nor is it appropriate to try to reconstruct first century liturgics based on not much more than modern man's fantasies about the first century. But, they do change - slowly. Generally, over centuries. To try to live in a world, or even a Church, that willfully ignores that is to throw away the history that makes us who we are (another bizarre attempt by modern man to bury his head in the sand).

Please forgive me, if my words seem offensive. I assure you, that was not the intent.

Monk Cyprian

Edited by Cyprian (Humphrey), 10 June 2011 - 05:40 AM.
corrected typo


#38 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 01:25 PM

Fr Cyprian wrote:

The complexity of our services, gives us something to continue learning throughout our entire lives. Just because it cannot be fully plumbed in an afternoon, does not mean that it is not worthwhile. Quite the contrary, in fact.


This I think is a very valid point. It's also valid I think for someone to bring up the question of why our services became more complex over the centuries (rather than the secular theory of development which posits a layering over of a pristine original core). I don't have more definitive evidence right now- but speaking in general it does seem correct to maintain that monastic worship of 4thc Egypt for example was less complex in terms of structure than what we have inherited from the typikon of St Sava (and which the whole Orthodox church now uses). Once we take into account the point made yesterday, that simplicity of structure (the rubrics) does not at all imply simplicity of theological meaning (ie its mystical depth which is a continuum in Orthodoxy from apostolic times on), then we can I think still come back to the question of why our services are so complex in structure now as compared to many centuries ago. Does this represent a degeneration of true Christian spirituality? Is it the end result of a plastering over of a pristine core of Christian worship?

The answer to these questions can only come from accounting for the origin of these services and why the Church adopted them. We need to recognize then that our present day services were developed within a monastic environment. It is this which gives them a particular ascetic dynamic (why do we so often though in modern times approach liturgics from an almost purely external point of view: a list of things we do next in the service; rather than as a description of the unique dynamic which each service is meant to provide through its structure?). Simultaneously with the ascetic, the services were also developed within a theological environment which gives them a theological dynamic. The particular way then in which these two harmonize within our services- the ascetic & the theological- describes the character of our present day services and likely also explains why this particular typikon of St Sava was adopted and retained by the Orthodox church at large.

Note though that it wasn't as if the Church was just waiting for a more perfect expression of Her own life, through Her liturgical services. Rather, when the Church adopted the typikon of St Sava (and the evidence shows that this adoption was gradual over time & place), this was done consistently in spirit with what had already occurred before. For the liturgy & daily services of the hours had always been a reflection of the mystical life of the Church, lived in communion with Christ and the Trinitarian divine life. Her life and Her liturgical services had always been one, tied together in an ascetic and theological manner.

The adoption though by the Church of the typikon of St Sava was not a simple repetition of what had come before. Rather, similar to how the shape of the church building (naos, chram) has changed over time, increased liturgical complexity of a particular direction was chosen to more fully convey the reality of the divine and cosmic worship which the church is part of. Again- I would say that much more attention needs to be given to the dynamic which these particular services provide- the reality which they place us within- in order to grasp what is really occurring in these services.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#39 Michael Albert

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 01:34 PM

Orthodoxy can be fully grasped by a child, yet the brightest academic will never fully plumb it's depths before leaving this mortal realm.


Thank you Father. That was a wonderful post and I agree completely. I would like to add a comment regarding this sentence. My family attends every possible service throughout the year. Sometimes my mind will wander during the long services and I make the extra effort to listen to the prayers. But quite often, when the service is over, I find that my toddler has grasped more than me!!! When she was really small, she would be pointing to seemingly invisble entities moving about the Church. When I would ask her what she was pointing at---she would smile and say, "angels."

#40 Father David Moser

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 02:29 PM

Having read the comments about the so-called complexity of the services, I would like to share some simple reflections. The public services of the Church encompass corporate prayer - when we come together as community of persons united into a single body to pray as one. It is for this reason that the seemingly "complex" (and I deny that the rubrics of the services are complex - they simply appear to be so for those unfamiliar with them) rubrics exist. Our corporate prayer is like a symphony - many different musicians coming together, each playing his particular part in unity to create a beautiful whole. In order for the different contributions of the musicians to create a beautiful single whole rather than a cacophony of chaotic noise, a score is necessary - something which instructs each person what to play when and how so that everything might come together in the end. Each musician works hard on his own to master his instrument, practice his part and make sure that his contribution is at its peak. Each musician is given a "simple" part of the score -his own part. But when one looks at the conductor's score it is incredibly complex by comparison, combining all the parts. Even a talented musician who looks at the conductor's score can be overwhelmed by its apparent complexity - but the more he becomes familiar not only with his own part but with the parts of everyone else and the more he "feels" the piece as a whole, the more simple that "complex" conductor's score appears.

The original questioner, Darlene, is by her own comments a relative "novice" in this musical score. She seems to be working on her own part and wants it to be as beautiful as possible. This is a good thing and I encourage her to continue to "practice" and learn all that she can. The original commentator, Sacha, looks at the conductor's score and as a non-musician is overwhelmed by what he doesn't understand (since he doesn't "read music" as it were or grasp the idea of playing an instrument). My original response to Darlene was to give a variety of resources which can provide a complete overview and enough information for her to begin to grasp the whole in order to help give her context for where her part fits. Yes, it was "a lot" of stuff all at once - but then it wasn't meant be the final presentation allowing mastery of a topic that requires not only time to study but participation in the process. And here I would take issue with the comment that she (and by implication most people) don't learn by osmosis. We do in fact learn by "osmosis" - but what we learn may be different. How is it that you learn to speak your native language - by "osmosis", by hearing, being immersed in and speaking the language. How is it that you learn the many social and cultural roles that you play from childhood - by osmosis, by living in that society and culture. We all learn by "osmosis" but there are also other things that must be learned by more structured presentation. For this we have things like catechism (teaching the inquirers), mystagogy (teaching the faithful), and theological schools such as seminary (for teaching the teachers).

Another comment that I want to make that is much more general. This website and discussion group was originally conceived and created as a place for scholarly and academic exchange. That means that the discussion is prejudiced towards more analytical and complex discussions of what might otherwise be considered minutiae. Given that many of the participants on this forum are academically inclined, is it any wonder that the discussions appear to have that tone. As a result much of the way information is presented and processed in this group can look "overly complex" - not because the topic is complex in and of itself, but because the process is inherently complex.

Fr David Moser




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