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Orthodoxy through another perspective
09-04-2010, 04:34 PM,
I can't help feeling that life is a journey from A to B. We can't chose A because it is our origin at conception, but we can chose B which in my case is God. As with any journey there is a route to be followed, and this is another choice - which route. As life progresses it becomes apparent that there are many pathways from A to B. It is quite possible to change pathways yet keep making progress to B.

In my case I spent sixty years on the Roman Catholic path. One is entitled to ask 'why change'. It would be easy to simply criticise Rome, since an awareness of its faults was a significant element, but I am not silly enough to imagine that Orthodoxy is faultless. So, it's not just a matter of moving to a 'better' pathway, but rather the right one for me.

I suspect that the reasons for my move are many and complex, and I have not worked them all out yet. But I do know I am in the right place. One aspect is the nature of the spirituality of the OC liturgy. The nearest I have ever been to this before was in a period in a monastery some years ago. Of course, since then I have been subjected to the factors discussed by Father Simon in the Lent sermon elsewhere on this forum. The rushing about, the desire for personal recognition, acquisitiveness, and a lack of true humility seem to characterise my life for some time past, resulting in the inevitable tiredness that limits activity in matters that are really important

My immersion in the Liturgy has proved the beginning of a cure for these ills - or at least I hope so. I find it so prayerful and profound. There is a quiet joy, and Jesus' love for me is so clear. I am finding myself doing exactly what Father Simon writes: simplifying my life of much of my extraneous things and activities. But herein lies a problem.

I have a family, and thus have accepted the task from God of looking after them. This gives me much joy too. But at the same time I am minded of Martha. I sometimes wonder what exactly Jesus would say - do I continue with my family care, or do I abandon them for Him. Given the opportunity, I suspect I would enter monastic life again so that I can devote myself totally to God. But that would reject the care of my family which He has asked me to do. This, it seems to me, is the classic dilemma of the layman. How does one reconcile these two apparently opposing ways of life?

It seems to me that the answer is an acceptance that each role in God's family has its own significance and value. Each is just as important as the others. It is impossible and illogical for us all to aspire to being a Patriarch, despite the importance and significance of that office. God is satisfied with us if we do what He asks, however humble or exalted the task may be.

Which brings me back to the Liturgy. It is during this Divine prayer that I am able to achieve the prayerfulness that I might otherwise get as a monk. The spirituality allows me to return to my family refreshed and re-energised to carry on with God's task. Hence the nature of the Liturgy is critical for me. By all means permit attendance for part of the service for those for whom it is appropriate, but I hope you will not mind a newcomer pleading that to me it is essential to retain the full majesty and beauty of our long and wonderful Liturgy.
With love and prayers,
09-04-2010, 09:04 PM,
St. James? service
Hello Fr. Simon,
Christ is Risen
For those who are unsure of the Orthodox faith, the greeting ?Christ is Risen? and reply ?He is Risen indeed? is what is used from Pascha until the Ascension.
In the tradition of the Orthodox Church the service generally lasts for three hours this is especially with the St. Basil liturgy. I have been to several liturgy services, one of them being for school children, their was no mampy, pamby stuff there, and no ! can we have a shorter service either.
How about the dedicated football fans that travel up and down the country and even to Europe to watch their football team, through snow, hail, rain and storm , they do not look for a shorter match. Then their is all those young teenagers (that may not go to Church) but can spend a whole week-end at Glastonbury through rain muck and mud no! Shortened service here is there. Just to listen to their favoured pop-group / singer. As you know Fr. Simon there are some Orthodox services held in Glastonbury Abbey, and the people travel from Bournemouth, Waterlooville and Portsmouth to these services. For myself I always feel cheated as the St. James? service is about half hour to an hour shorter, I am one of many that does not want the services made shorter. Those of you feel they need a shorter service could try else where, and they will find out shorter services empty churches.
Fr. Simon, perhaps you should post in here all the arrangements required for setting up a mission so people can see how to get on with something that is both short and local.
10-04-2010, 09:35 AM,
orthodoxy through another perspective
Just two points:

1/ The length of a service is no problem for me, though I have to say that, in one way, I never want the services to end because it is during the Sunday service that I feel most in contact with reality.
2/ Regarding young people, during the Syriac Orthodox liturgy in London I see a wide range of age groupings, with a number of very young people helping in whatever way they can. This is no doubt because the Faith is the unifying factor of people who have been exiled and are determined to preserve not just an ethnic, but more importantly, a religious identity.

Kirk Yacoub
10-04-2010, 12:26 PM,
Just to be clear, I don't think anyone is saying that the Sunday liturgy is too long - interestingly enough the same conversation is taking place on another Coptic forum.

For myself, I am simply wanting to explore the content of our Orthodox tradition, which has produced canonical eucharistic services which did not require the full suite of supporting services to be prayed and which were used on occasions other than Sundays. One of these, now redundant forms in Oriental Orthodoxy but not in Eastern Orthodoxy, is the pre-sanctified liturgy - as an example of such a form.

On another Coptic forum someone has commented that Pope St Kyrillos would pray a weekday liturgy in about 50 minutes. (I don't know how). I must suppose both that it was possible for him to be entirely reverent in such a liturgy, but also to respond to the needs of those who wished to attend a morning eucharist before having to go to work and could not attend for 3 hours.

The pre-sanctified liturgy was also a means of the eucharist being able to be communed under the presidency of a deacon in need rather than a priest. I can imagine that in the circumstances of the time in which St Severus formalised such a rite there were occasions when it was appropriate - and certainly it was providential that he allowed such a rite since in the decades and centuries following there were often times and places without even an Orthodox priest very regularly available.

The issue, for me, is not about the pre-sanctified liturgy or about the length of services, so much as asking the question of myself as to whether there are legitimate and traditional forms of our Orthodox practice which communicate our faith better or differently in the circumstances and times we now find ourselves in.

We can be sure that the practice of modern Copts is not the same even as that of Copts in the 1850's, which was not the same as that of Copts in the 850's or the 550's. We do not have an inflexible and unvarying tradition - indeed we believe as a matter of faith that the Holy Spirit is always present in the Church such that today is the day of salvation.

As far as I can see we are already comfortable using the internet as a means of ministry. We have produced our own English language editions of Coptic rites. We are trying to be present to the 21st century in England (and the US and elsewhere). We do sing good English hymns. We do venerate our Western saints. We have already inculturated our faith to some extent. Had we simply copied the Coptic forms and used the Coptic language and the Coptic tunes then we would be missing something important and would surely not be becoming Orthodox in the same way as we are.

So I am not concerned about the length of the Sunday Liturgy. As we have described, there are possibilities to come in later if necessary. And my Sunday morning is dedicated to the service. I am never planning to do anything else. But if I was to do a weekday morning liturgy and expect anyone to be able to attend then I do wonder how the Copts and other Orthodox handle not having 3 hours and yet facilitating folk receiving communion during the week? This was one of the reasons the pre-sanctified liturgy was and is used. My local Anglican Church does facilitate a morning eucharist, and of course this is much shorter than our liturgy. Yet how have Copts managed through the ages? If they rise at 5am and finish the liturgy by 8:30am then that is one way. I am sure that happens, or they attend as soon as they are able I guess, perhaps by 7:30am at the latest? I see that St Mark's, with several priests and loads of deacons of course, have a weekday liturgy from 6am to 8am. But the main Sunday liturgy is from 8:30am to 12:30pm. Therefore they must reduce the services in some way to facilitate folk being able to receive communion before going to work. The English language liturgy on a Saturday also seems to be 2 hours rather than 4. As I have said, I don't think has anything to do with the Sunday liturgy. But it is asking what the Coptic and wider Orthodox tradition has to say about eucharistic and non-eucharistic celebrations on other occasions.

Likewise, I know that many Copts will spend 3 or 4 hours of a Friday and/or Saturday evening praising God, but it was Father Athanasius Iskander who warned me many years ago not to try and do everything all at once. Is it only appropriate to do the Praises canonically, and take 3 to 4 hours, or is it possible to excerpt them and have a period of prayer or study as well, so that folk are able to experience something of the Praises, while also being taught, and also being encouraged to pray? If we only have folk for one mid-week slot a fortnight then it is not possible to do everything. But teaching, prayer and praises are all useful, and good things for enquirers, catechumens and members to experience in part.

We once asked our varied and variable congregation what they thought of our musicality, and they were all happy with it and thought the simplicity was a benefit. So we stopped worrying that we were not using either the Coptic or another Orthodox musical tradition. I just wonder whether there needs to be a balance somewhere between saying 'this is what we do' and 'how do you find what we do and what else would you like to be able to do'. On the one hand all we do at Chatham is 'what we do', but on the other hand I do want to be responsive to the needs of people and our present context and situation. I don't want someone to say in a few years time - you have never provided teaching, or you have never allowed us to praise, or you have never allowed us to pray informally as a community. Yet in our present circumstances, and perhaps in our Western context, this need to do many things to develop a properly rounded spirituality does seem to require sometimes some flexibility since we are not able to have several priests serving different ministries at different times and days of the week. We might only have - for the foreseeable future at Chatham - a Sunday liturgy, two fortnightly evenings together, one of which will be a Liturgy - and one Raising of Evening Incense. I would love us to incorporate some aspects of the Praises, for instance, but it would not be possible to do the whole rite any times soon and therefore there would have to be some excerpting.

Father Peter
10-04-2010, 04:46 PM,
Dear James-Antony,

He is Risen Indeed!

The following are the guidelines agreed for establishing a British Orthodox mission. They are brief and hopefully not over demanding and allow for local prayer, worship and teaching and yet also require, 4 times each year, a pilgrimage to a British Orthodox Church.

Proposed British Orthodox Missions

General mission arrangements:

Regular Sunday(?) worship is to be one of the Hours from Glory to God (Agbia or Hours). (Teaching to be via cassettes, DVDs, books, discussion, etc ? with possible occasional visits from others).

The physical resources for such a service of prayer: a venue, Glory to God (Agbia or Hours) books, 3 icons (Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Mother of God and the saint under whose patronage the mission is dedicated), 3 candles (one in front of each icon). Suggested additional resource: a second icon of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, tin containing sand and short votive candles for people to light as they venerate this icon.

Initially the British Orthodox Church will help with funding the mission (when such funding is actually available which isn?t always guaranteed at any given moment!) but the mission must, from its very beginning, work towards later self-funding. (The possibility of meeting in someone?s home initially may be one way of providing a venue and keeping costs down. It might also allow a slightly less formal ethos or atmosphere).

The aim of the committed members must be to attend a British Orthodox Liturgy for a minimum four times each year (approximately quarterly), including Holy Pascha ? the Paschal pilgrimage should aim to include Holy Thursday evening and Good Friday. These quarterly Liturgies are to be attended as a group, not merely by individuals (either in one or two cars depending on numbers or by minibus). They are a Liturgical pilgrimage for the members of the mission together. This quarterly Liturgical attendance and annual Paschal attendance is considered essential for grounding the mission within the Orthodox Liturgical cycle and as part of bringing the people into Orthodoxy.

Support and responsibilities:

The local co-ordinator is to be responsible for the practical running of the mission, the one running the mission on the ground with such back-up as may be available from clergy.

A priest is to have pastoral responsibility for the mission. This pastoral responsibility shall include being spiritual father to the co-ordinator and praying for the mission. It shall also include ?being there? for the co-ordinator via ?phone and email. Should a priest become available to visit either for Evening Incense and/or Morning Incense and Divine Liturgy this should be seen as an ?extra? in addition to the four quarterly Liturgical pilgrimages and not instead of these).

Concluding Comment:

This could be read as a ?hard? response but it?s no good pretending that British Orthodox Church life is going to be easy, especially in the early stages, for new missions as we simply don?t have sufficient clergy resources available to make things less difficult. It may well be for all we know that future clergy may come out of these missions but at this time we don?t have the clergy manpower and it?s no good pretending otherwise. It seems better to approach things realistically and honestly.
11-04-2010, 06:31 AM,
Perhaps I am in a minority, but I certainly consider the average Orthodox Liturgy, and certainly the Coptic Liturgy, to be far too long when celebrated outside a monastery. It may be that few of the writers on the Forum have experienced the full ? by which I mean ?full? ? Coptic rite. Celebrated correctly (which it very rarely is in parishes), the Liturgy begins with the Raising of Evening Incense and the singing of the Hours and associated prayers, the previous night (which, commencing around 6.00 p.m., might conclude by midnight). This must be followed by the Raising of Morning Incense and the singing of the Hours in the morning, and then the Liturgy. Beginning at 7.30 a.m. it might be concluded around mid-day. There is, in the Coptic tradition, no basis for leaving out a single element.

Orthodox liturgies are essentially monastic rites, not parish rites (an important distinction made in relation to the daily offices by the eminent liturgical scholar, Baumstark, who noted an early division between ?Cathedral? and ?Monastic? forms).

It might be said that the laity need not bother to attend the full Liturgy (and, indeed, very few Orthodox laity do ? I have celebrated the Coptic Liturgy in a church with fifteen people present until immediately prior to the Gospel when suddenly another 500 appeared!). This raises the obvious question: if the parts they do not attend are not essential, why use them? Wouldn?t it be preferable to have a whole liturgy that the whole People of God attend?

I recently observed a celebration of the so-called Liturgy of St Gregory. This is, essentially, the Tridentine Mass slightly adapted and approved for use by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and the Antiochian Orthodox Church in their Western Rite parishes. It was a said (as opposed to sung) celebration and without a sermon. It involved basic vestments and ceremonial, and only a Priest assisted by a Deacon. It was simple, dignified and inspiring ? and lasted less than an hour. Had hymns and a sermon been added, and the liturgy been sung, it might have taken slightly less than two hours.

A shorter, simpler liturgy also addresses two other significant problems. First, if the liturgy takes, say, two or three hours, when do we have time for either education or community building, especially in a small church like ours when people may have to travel long distances to attend? Can we ask people to stay for another hour for an educational program, and yet another hour for, say, lunch and getting to know one another? Or doesn?t education in the Faith and the building of community matter?

Second, what might be thought of as ?full? liturgies require that the clergy are properly trained and fully competent in celebrating them. I think such liturgies need to be done properly or not done at all! Better a simple liturgy well celebrated than something grander which is not. The Coptic rite is, alas, horrendously complicated in its ceremonial requirements. I had the inestimable benefit of being trained in the rite by an extraordinarily knowledgeable and ultra-conservative senior Priest (and former Abbot). The painful months of training and the stressful ?examinations? gave me a deep appreciation of the rite, but no desire to use it on a regular basis. It also led me to feel great discomfort when I see the rite used incompetently ? rather like listening to Grand Opera being performed by amateur singers accompanied by the local school band.

The question of the length of the liturgy involves a further question which had been raised on the Forum recently which, if I might paraphrase it, is what is the relationship between our ?ordinary? lives and responsibilities, and our obligations to prayer and worship? There are, sadly, those who apparently believe that God requires them to spend endless hours in church even at the expense of their obligations to family, work and community.

This is, in part, I suspect a consequence of the myth perpetrated in some Orthodox communities that the monastic life is the ideal and that those who cannot follow that ?higher? path must imitate it as far as possible. The monastic path is neither higher nor lower, merely different. Those who are called to be parents, to care for families, to have vocations in the world are as much called as those drawn to the monastic life. And those who are called to a life in the world have the same obligations and responsibilities to service, commitment and education as monks and nuns. Abandoning family or marital responsibilities (allegedly) to worship God is not, I think, true worship. Any more than the employee who cannot worthily earn his wages because he is too tired from too many hours of church attendance.

I do not accept the distinction been ?ordinary? and ?spiritual? life. I am required to manifest my Orthodox Faith no less in my university teaching and my Tribunal hearings than in my formal or personal worship. Each is, in fact, ?liturgy?. Each must demonstrate the highest standards of commitment, dedication and energy. If I fail adequately to prepare for a lecture because I have been too busy at church or in prayer, I am betraying my students and, indeed, effectively stealing from my employer who pays me to teach.

We need to rediscover what might be called the asceticism of the life in the world rather than assuming that we could be ?really holy? if only we could spend all our days in prayer and liturgy.

It is entirely unreasonable to expect, let alone demand, that men and women who bear heavy responsibilities for their families, for earning a living, for sharing in the lives of their communities, must be able to set aside excessive hours each week to attend church. We should be inspiring them to live their Faith in their lives in the world, rather than implying that they are somehow spiritually inferior. We should be offering them Divine Worship that meets their needs.

Sadly, Fr Peter?s suggestion of a ?Liturgy of the Presanctified? ? by which I assume he really means a service with Holy Communion outside the celebration of the Divine Liturgy ? is seriously problematic in Orthodoxy. In the Coptic Orthodox tradition the reservation of the Sacrament has been strictly forbidden for centuries (although it clearly was common practice in early centuries). Without Reservation there cannot be Communion outside the Liturgy (other than, as is the case with the Copts, when the Sacrament is taken to the sick, for example, immediately following the Liturgy).

Even without adopting a different liturgy (such as that of St Gregory), we can simplify our celebrations and reduce the commitment in time. The Liturgy does not need to be sung on every occasion, we do not need to use the fullest vestments at every celebration, we do not need a full complement of assisting ministers every time. Consider a simple said celebration of the Liturgy of St James with minimal vestments, and a Priest assisted only by a single Deacon!

No doubt these comments will provoke ? at the very least ? discussion!

Fr Gregory
12-04-2010, 05:11 PM,
That, dear Fr. Gregory, was a classic. for which many thanks.

In our daily lives, which we know as well as the Aboriginal people know the desert, we should look for the water; it would make a change from complaining about the desert for some of us Smile

In Him,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
27-07-2013, 12:10 AM,
RE: Orthodoxy through another perspective
Alonsonnk, could you explain this a bit more coherently. I am struggling with what you are saying.

Are you saying that a Jesuit said that Clericalism should be eliminated? If so, what has this to do with Orthodoxy? Rome has its own problems and they need to deal with them.
"The true Christian is a warrior making his way through the regiments of the invisible enemy to his heavenly homeland." - St Herman of Alaska.

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