Tuesday, February 11, 2014

An Excellent Question about Liturgical Variation between Parishes

Question #3: You speak of a collaboration between "faithful Orthodox Christians, the clergy and the hierarchy" - how will you coordinate this collaboration? My first instinct is to see this as a problem - it sounds like a "book by committee", but perhaps you can help me see how this might work. There is also a great diversity of opinion, and a great number of clergy in the US even in the same jurisdiction celebrate liturgy differently. For example, a) some priests never close the Beautiful Gate and the curtain, others do. Some hierarchs forbid it, others do not; b) some priests preach the sermon after the reading of the Gospel, others do not; c) some priests do not read the inaudible prayers aloud, others do etc… etc… the list is quite lengthy
Response: You have a great point. To be completely honest, we have never envisioned a book by committee- but rather from a core group that will submit manuscripts regularly to the hierarchy. Having spoken to several Orthodox clergy, we will seek the blessing and endorsements from Hierarchs in the US and abroad before official work commences and when the manuscript is near completion.

The way that the DLP will be presented is a distinct advantage. It is not meant to be a historical book on the development on liturgical vessels, vestments, or rubrics. It is for the edification and knowledge of the faithful, encouraging them to "lift up their hearts."
We think that this point would be well illustrated by an example. During the Creed, in the Greek Liturgical tradition the priest gently waves the aer over the holy gifts. " As ours is a devotional book we will state that this motion has a symbolic meaning. For us as Orthodox Christians, it calls to mind that the Creed is for us the victorious flag of Christianity, which despite persecution always emerges victorious. This explanation is in several patristic texts- Greek and Russian.

In regard to the beautiful gate and curtain, we intend to have descriptions of these objects in the part of the book that describes the Architecture and Design of the Orthodox Church. We could add a comment after describing their historical and devotional value that in many places the use of the curtain has been retired. We will seek further guidance from hierarchy whether we should incldue these rubrics.

We feel that certain practices, such as the tradition of males and females sitting separately on different sides of the Church, is not a part of parish life in Greek Orthodox parishes in this country. If it was included, one can imagine how some might see this negatively as advocating outdated practice.  We have to realize that not every practice in the Orthodox world can be included, and remember that this volume is geared toward faithful in the parish setting.

In the end, we would trust the judgment of the clergy collaborating with us.  For the silent prayers, as they are to be said in a low voice, we think that this instruction should be reproduced in the text and why they are to be said silently.  However, we would qualify this ancient practice by stating  that some priests pray the inaudible prayers aloud so that the faithful might appreciate their beauty. As to the placement of the Homily, we would not even include it as different priests do insert it at different places during the Liturgy.

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