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Orthodoxy through another perspective
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

Messages In This Thread
The Church of the Imagination - Rick Henry - 01-04-2010, 08:11 PM
[] - John Charmley - 01-04-2010, 09:21 PM
[] - Fr Gregory - 02-04-2010, 02:52 AM
[] - John Charmley - 02-04-2010, 08:04 AM
[] - John Charmley - 02-04-2010, 10:12 AM
[] - Rick Henry - 03-04-2010, 11:50 PM
[] - John Charmley - 04-04-2010, 09:12 AM
[] - Rick Henry - 05-04-2010, 03:46 PM
[] - John Charmley - 05-04-2010, 06:16 PM
[] - Fr Gregory - 06-04-2010, 05:32 AM
[] - John Charmley - 06-04-2010, 09:07 AM
[] - Simon - 06-04-2010, 12:48 PM
[] - John Charmley - 06-04-2010, 01:18 PM
On Playing Our Part - Rick Henry - 06-04-2010, 04:03 PM
[] - John Charmley - 06-04-2010, 04:31 PM
[] - Rick Henry - 06-04-2010, 05:09 PM
[] - John Charmley - 07-04-2010, 01:14 PM
[] - Simon - 07-04-2010, 01:27 PM
[] - admin - 07-04-2010, 01:41 PM
[] - John Charmley - 07-04-2010, 02:12 PM
[] - Antony-Paul - 07-04-2010, 08:15 PM
[] - John Charmley - 07-04-2010, 10:06 PM
[] - admin - 08-04-2010, 09:01 AM
[] - John Charmley - 08-04-2010, 11:06 AM
[] - Rick Henry - 08-04-2010, 01:20 PM
[] - Rick Henry - 08-04-2010, 01:38 PM
[] - admin - 08-04-2010, 04:24 PM
[] - Rick Henry - 09-04-2010, 11:35 AM
[] - Antony-Paul - 09-04-2010, 04:34 PM
St. James? service - James-Antony - 09-04-2010, 09:04 PM
[] - admin - 10-04-2010, 12:26 PM
[] - Simon - 10-04-2010, 04:46 PM
[] - Fr Gregory - 11-04-2010, 06:31 AM
[] - John Charmley - 12-04-2010, 05:11 PM

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