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Liturgy and Reflection
12-03-2007, 08:44 AM,
Liturgy and Reflection
Marian Munt asks the following question:

"Although I can personally read the words of the 'Divine Liturgy' and reflect on their meaning alone and in private, this is not possible during the service due to the speed of delivery. Why is the Liturgy read through at such a pace?"
12-03-2007, 10:43 AM,
Dear Mark and Marian

A good question.

I think that one of the main reasons is that those of us at the altar know the liturgy very well, many parts of it by heart even, and therefore we tend to pray more quickly because it is already our 'own' prayer, we are not reading it anymore.

But the Liturgy should not be prayed 'too quickly', any more than it should be prayed 'too slowly'. So it may well be that we need to slow down a little so that it is easier for others who have less experience of our worship to participate more fully.

I think that there is also a difference between liturgy as a public ministry, and private and personal devotion. In that in our own quiet spaces we might well spend many moments considering just the words of the Lord's Prayer, but in a public service there is a need to complete our prayer to the Lord according to a certain order, so we expect it to take a certain amount of time.

So we need to find the right balance, and I will speak with Father and others and we will see about taking a more meditative speed, especially at those places where the content of the prayers are especially important (if one can categorise sections of the liturgy in such a way).

I wonder, as I think about this, if there is a sense of being caught up the whole experience of liturgical worship such that it is not so important that we reflect at that time on all of the prayers but rather that we share in the worship of the whole Church, past and present.

I am not sure, and I wonder what others think. But I know that as someone serving in the altar I cannot always be reflective on the words being prayed because I am busy with various diaconal responsibilities, but I still feel as though I am participating fully in the worship.

Thanks again for the helpful feedback.

12-03-2007, 12:07 PM,
Liturgical speed reading
Dear Peter, Dear Mark,

I suspect it reflects the Coptic tradition. I have found the Coptic service I attend some Sundays far speedier than the one at St. Felix, where, if I may make so bold, Fr. Anthony's resonant voice gives full enunciation to everything.

Part of the service are, of course, carried on by the priest and deacons whist the rest of us pray or chant, and again, the speed business may come from this.

It can be a little disconcerting to those unused to it, but I suspect it is no bad thing to have a look at how we do things from time to time.

In Christ,

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)
12-03-2007, 03:16 PM,
Marian Munt says:

"Obviously it is more reflective when praying alone because one should look closely at one's intentions and actions. I was conscious of two voices speaking at the same time during the service, and perhaps, as a first time, I felt it slightly disconcerting. Thank you both for your postings."
12-03-2007, 03:26 PM,
Marian Munt also says:

"This is in no sense a criticism. I enjoyed the service very much. Thank you for your welcome."
12-03-2007, 06:33 PM,
Peter Farrington says to Marian,

Dear Marian, your comments were taken entirely in the tone you meant them, and we greatly value such feedback from friends and visitors. Indeed since our desire is to open our worship to others and make our Orthodox Faith accessible to people it is really important that we have some idea of how friends and visitors experience our services and our communities.

I am glad that you were able to share some time with us in God's presence and look forward to meeting you and Mark again.

God bless your spiritual pilgrimage

13-03-2007, 05:53 AM,
Dear Peter, Dear Marian,

Reflecting upon this topic brings one thought to mind; those who have long been familiar with the Liturgy of St. James perhaps underestimate the effect it has on those to whom it is new.

It is so beautiful and so moving that those of us who are new to it quite naturally want to savour it.

I wonder whether it would be possible to have service books available for purchase? I, for one, would love to be able to linger over it and to try to learn parts of it to be incorporated into my daily prayer life.

In Christ,

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)
13-03-2007, 07:26 AM,
Dear John

This is a work in hand so I hope that a set of new editions will be forthcoming in due course.

The text of the Raising of Incense has been revised and recently re-published in a study version with an excellent and interesting introduction by Father Gregory Tillett, and I believe the same format will be applied to the Liturgy, as well as church service books being produced.

But I don't know the exact timescales and hope others will explain more.

13-03-2007, 08:48 AM,
Quote:'There are Coptic people who object, just as Catholics objected, to praying in a language which they do not understand. But the Coptic monks are insisting, and so apparently is the hierarchy of this Church, that understanding the words of a prayer is the least important part of the meaning and the value of the prayer. The monks remind me that "the Spirit intercedes for us with groans too deep for words" (cf. Romans 8:26) and, therefore, when you are groaning, when you are aching, when you are too tired to participate intellectually in the psalmody, you are still praying. The Holy spirit is unlocking the depths of that which lies within. Sometimes when the mind is fully engaged and thinking in its own terms and categories, it will not release the inward soul to discourse with God. Sometimes the mind must work itself through its desire to control and come to a kind of humility, a relaxation of its powers, so that the Spirit might work at deeper currents than those which the mind employs.
'So I think the words of the psalmist: 'Like a weaned child on its mother's lap, so is my soul within me" (Psalm 131:2). Just as the weaned child doesn't speak and yet communes with its mother so completely, we commune with our Mother Church. Our hearts are united in prayer before God, not so much by our faculties of understanding and the employment of our intellects as by the submission of our affects, our thirsts, and our appetites to our trust in God, and to a good order among each other in charity.'

(Page 49, 'Journey Back to Eden - My Life and Times Among the Desert Fathers' by Mark Gruber OSB)

I am most grateful to Peter Theodore Farrington for giving me this splendid book as a gift. It is yet another proof for me of the generosity and outgoing love which seems to characterise the British Orthodox Church.

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