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Author Topic: On the Dialogue between the Angels and the Cherubim at Christ's Ascension  (Read 1917 times) Average Rating: 0
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EkhristosAnesti
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« on: May 07, 2008, 09:43:37 PM »

Dear all,

During the Resurrection Liturgy according to the Coptic Orthodox rite, we have what we call the 'Resurrection Enactment' which is essentially a dialogue in chant that takes place between a deacon standing outside the sanctuary (who represents an Angel accompanying the Lord Christ), and the priest who is inside the sanctuary (who represents the Cherubum guarding the gates of paradise). The following dialogue then takes place:

Angel: Christ is Risen.
Cherubim: Indeed He is Risen.
(x3)
Angel: Open your gates O you Kings, and be lifted up you everlasting doors (x2). Open your gates O you Kings, and be lifted up you everlasting doors, that the King of Glory may enter!
Cherubim: Who is the King of Glory?
Angel:  The Almighty Lord, Who is strong, powerful, and mighty in battles; He is the King of Glory!

The context of this enactment (taking place during the Resurrection Liturgy) implies that the dialogue took place upon Christ's ascent to paradise immediately proceeding His descent into Hades (and hence not his ascent into Heaven after 40 days). Another contextual factor that reinforces this is the fact that, according to our rite, whilst the deacons outside the sanctuary represent the Angels accompanying the Lord, the congregation represent the righteous saints who have been delivered from Hades. The purpose of the 'ascension' being commemorated is thus not the Seating at the Right Hand of the Father, but simply the leading of the liberated saints to their new home--Paradise.

According to the Syriac and Armenian rites, however, this dialogue is commemorated on the eve of the Feast of the Ascension, and both traditions seem to be based on a tradition related by St Dionysius the Arepagite.

I personally don't think it problematic to conclude that this dialogue took place twice, but I am curious to know if it is commemorated in the EO tradition and, if so, on what particular occasion: the Feast of the Resurrection or the Feast of the Ascension?
« Last Edit: May 07, 2008, 09:44:08 PM by EkhristosAnesti » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2008, 09:47:43 PM »

Some of the text is identical to the consecration service of a church which comes from one of the Psalms.  Maybe the text is chanted on the Vespers or Matins of Ascension.
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« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2008, 12:37:13 PM »

Dear all,

During the Resurrection Liturgy according to the Coptic Orthodox rite, we have what we call the 'Resurrection Enactment' which is essentially a dialogue in chant that takes place between a deacon standing outside the sanctuary (who represents an Angel accompanying the Lord Christ), and the priest who is inside the sanctuary (who represents the Cherubum guarding the gates of paradise). The following dialogue then takes place:

Angel: Christ is Risen.
Cherubim: Indeed He is Risen.
(x3)
Angel: Open your gates O you Kings, and be lifted up you everlasting doors (x2). Open your gates O you Kings, and be lifted up you everlasting doors, that the King of Glory may enter!
Cherubim: Who is the King of Glory?
Angel:  The Almighty Lord, Who is strong, powerful, and mighty in battles; He is the King of Glory!

The context of this enactment (taking place during the Resurrection Liturgy) implies that the dialogue took place upon Christ's ascent to paradise immediately proceeding His descent into Hades (and hence not his ascent into Heaven after 40 days). Another contextual factor that reinforces this is the fact that, according to our rite, whilst the deacons outside the sanctuary represent the Angels accompanying the Lord, the congregation represent the righteous saints who have been delivered from Hades. The purpose of the 'ascension' being commemorated is thus not the Seating at the Right Hand of the Father, but simply the leading of the liberated saints to their new home--Paradise.

According to the Syriac and Armenian rites, however, this dialogue is commemorated on the eve of the Feast of the Ascension, and both traditions seem to be based on a tradition related by St Dionysius the Arepagite.

I personally don't think it problematic to conclude that this dialogue took place twice, but I am curious to know if it is commemorated in the EO tradition and, if so, on what particular occasion: the Feast of the Resurrection or the Feast of the Ascension? 

IIRC it's only done (at least in the Greek practice) during the consecration of a Church (the dialogue of "Lift up you doors...").  There are some EO churches that I've heard do something like what you describe above, though.  They do it on the Feast of the Resurrection.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2008, 12:38:11 PM by cleveland » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2008, 12:39:26 PM »

IIRC it's only done (at least in the Greek practice) during the consecration of a Church (the dialogue of "Lift up you doors...").  There are some EO churches that I've heard do something like what you describe above, though.  They do it on the Feast of the Resurrection.

At my previous parish, which was Antiochian, I recall this being done on Pascha.  I've not seen it done at my OCA parish.
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« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2008, 12:44:15 PM »

This is also done in the Romanian churches of Transylvania at the end of the Paschal procession, in front of the closed doors of the church.
The priest says:" Open you doors, o you lords ..." to which a chanter or the sacristan from inside replies:"Who is this king of glory?".
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« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2008, 12:56:36 PM »

At my previous parish, which was Antiochian, I recall this being done on Pascha.  I've not seen it done at my OCA parish.

...which makes sense, since Antioch is on the Greek and not Slavic typicon.  The OCA mission I was at during college did it, but that was because the priest was on loan from the AOA at the time.  I like singing "Come Ye Receive the Light..." before "Thy Ressurection..." in the Greek practice (especially with a soloist - I think it is actually supposed to be a priest).  It seems to setup "Thy Ressurection.." as opposed to just being a "read, get set, go!" type of thing.

Another thing - I think this conversation (from one of the Psalms - 48?) is also done during a church Consecration.  I maybe not be remembering correctly though.
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« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2008, 01:09:18 PM »

^The Psalm this dialogue is taken from is 23 (septuagint numbering).

We use this same dialogue beforewe reenter the sanctuary after hearing the Gospel according to St. Mark outside.  I had no idea until now that this was supposed to be a dialogue between angelic powers.  Now I understand its significance.
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« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2008, 02:05:58 PM »

Interesting, this reminds me of the Chaldean/Assyrian Church of the East Gayasa which takes place on Easter Sunday.  The Gayasa is a dialogue between the good theif and an angel at the gates of heaven.  The theif is trying to get into heaven and the angel is preventing him from entering.  It ends with the theif showing the angel the cross and forcing the angel to bow before it. 

The hugoye periodical has a translation of the gayasa text.  Here it is.

http://syrcom.cua.edu/Hugoye/Vol5No2/HV5N2Brock.html

Here is a video.  I am guessing it is in Syriac but possibly Arabic.

http://babylonia.dk/gayasa.htm

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EkhristosAnesti
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« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2008, 02:33:09 AM »

Well, here is the issue that I ultimately need clarification with respect to:

The Coptic tradition of commemorating this Angelic dialogue during the Resurrection Liturgy (which, as per the above replies, seems in line with some of the EO traditions) always left me with the impression that immediately after Christ's descent into Hades, Christ ascended to Paradise with the righteous so as to lead them into their new home. It was upon this ascension that the dialogue took place. This ascension differed from 'the ascension' which took place 40 days later, and which was an ascension into the highest heavens for the purpose of Christ's being seated at the right hand of the Father.

Since my last post I further discovered that the Armenian tradition is based on an account of the event related by St Gregory the Illuminator. Ultimately I am trying to find a way to reconcile these traditions. Is it the case that the dialogue occured twice? Is it the case that my initial inference is incorrect--that there was no "mini-ascension" immediately after the descent into Hades and that the Resurrection Liturgy is in fact looking forward to the Ascension?

Can anyone shed any light on this issue?
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« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2008, 08:32:18 AM »

Is it the case that my initial inference is incorrect--that there was no "mini-ascension" immediately after the descent into Hades and that the Resurrection Liturgy is in fact looking forward to the Ascension?
The "everlasting doors" of Paradise are opened for us. Christ has no need for the doors to be opened for Him, since He is not absent from Heaven when Incarnated nor when He descended into Hades.
St. Athanasios says this in "On the Incarnation":

Quote
"Here, again, you see how right and natural it was that the Lord should suffer thus; for being thus "lifted up," He cleansed the air from all the evil influences of the enemy. "I beheld Satan as lightning falling," He says; and thus He re-opened the road to heaven, saying again, "Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors." For it was not the Word Himself Who needed an opening of the gates, He being Lord of all, nor was any of His works closed to their Maker. No, it was we who needed it, we whom He Himself upbore in His own body—that body which He first offered to death on behalf of all, and then made through it a path to heaven." (On the Incarnation 25)
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EkhristosAnesti
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« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2008, 09:00:56 AM »

Yes, ofcourse. St Ambrose makes the same point as far I recall. I have the NPNF series on CD so I already did a quick word search of the relevant verse to see what I could come up with. Still, the Psalm explicitly asserts that the doors be opened "that the King of Glory may enter"--again, not that He was in need (as is the case with essentially anything and everything the Incarnate Word did).

My inquiry is more concerned with issues of when the relevant dialogue took place. I know that seems like a rather trivial and pointless inquiry but this detail is important for me. I just received an email response from a Bishop confirming that the Coptic tradition is not looking forward to the ascension 40 days after the Resurrection. There is, however, strong support for the idea that this dialogue took place upon Christ's bodily ascension into the heavens. I'm thus inclined to conclude that it took place on both occasions (finding no good reason why this couldn't be the case), but would like more information as to the EO tradition of commemorating this dialogue on Pascha.

As a sidenote: A curious difference between the two dialogues noted by the Bishop is that whilst in the case of Christ's ascension to the heavens 40 days after the Resurrection the response of the heavenly orders, "Who is the King of Glory?" reflects the genuine confusion and ignorance of some of the angels (as confirmed by St Ambrose), the same response given by the Cherubim according to the Coptic tradition is not said out of ignorance, but is intended to give the Angel the opportunity to declare the majesty and might of the Risen Christ.
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"Philosophy is the imitation by a man of what is better, according to what is possible" - St Severus
EkhristosAnesti
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« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2008, 09:14:33 AM »

I just found this short article from the local South Carolina newspaper on the local Antiochian Orthodox Easter celebration:

Quote
Orthodox Christians to celebrate Easter event
About 1,000 Midlands-area residents to break fast, honor Pascha
By CAROLYN CLICK

Eastern Orthodox Christians will gather tonight in solemn candlelit processionals as they prepare for the celebration of Pascha, the Easter celebration that is the culmination of the liturgical year.

Orthodox Christians — who number about 1,000 congregants in four Midlands congregations — base their holy calendar on the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar.

At midnight, they will break a 40-day Lenten fast from meat and dairy products, and prepare for Easter Sunday and the glorious celebration of the resurrection of Christ.

“That anticipation of celebration, of breaking the fast is dramatic,” said the Rev. Gregory Rogers, pastor of St. Barnabas Orthodox Church in Lexington, an Antiochian congregation.

The congregation plans to gather at 10:30 p.m. for the procession around the church.

“We light candles and go around the church three times representing the three days that Christ was in the tomb,” he said.

On the third circuit, Rogers said, he will knock at the church door and seek entry, saying this passage from Psalm 24: “Lift up your heads, O you gates; and be lifted up, you everlasting doors, that the king of glory may come in!”

Then somebody inside the church will reply: “Who is the king of glory?”

Then Rogers said he will answer: “The lord of hosts. He is the king of glory!”

...

Source: http://www.thestate.com/154/story/386902.html

Now I just want to know whether or not, according to the Antiochian tradition, this dialogue represents an Angelic dialogue and whether this tradition is looking forward to Christ's bodily ascension 40 days after His Resurrection or whether it concerns an ascension immediately subsequent to the conquest of hades.
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EkhristosAnesti
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« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2008, 06:21:35 PM »

*Bump*

If no one on this website knows the answer to my query, can anyone refer me to an authority on the Antiochian tradition who is known to be responsive to email contact? I would like this information for an article I am preparing. Thank you in advance.
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« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2008, 10:27:53 AM »

You may wish to ask this question to His Grace Bishop Basil of the Diocese of Wichita and MidAmerica of the Antiocihian Orthodox Christian Church of North America.  His book, The Liturgikon: the Book of Divine Services for the Priest and Deacon, was published in 1989 by Antakya Press, I think you will find that he is well informed about Antiochian traditions.  The dialog is found in the Antiochian Services of Great & Holy Week and Pascha by Fr. John Winfrey and is published by the Diocese and thus must have some  basis in the Antiochian Tradition.  His e-mail address is available on the Antiochian website under his diocese.  His Grace usually responds within a 7-24 days.

Thomas
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EkhristosAnesti
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« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2008, 06:51:06 PM »

Thanks, Thomas. I did end up contacting HG Bishop Basil who turned out to be a great help. He indicated that in the Antiochian tradition, according to popular piety (he said he could not think of any theological commentary on the rite) this dialogue represents one that takes place upon Christ's descent to hades. It is Satan who asks "who is the King of Glory?" out of apprehension and confusion as to the identity of the one whom hades is about to receive. I was already aware of this tradition since coming into contact with the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus.

It's interesting how in the Coptic tradition the Cherubim poses the same question "who is the King of Glory?" though motivated by a completely different disposition: joy and zeal on account of the victory of Christ.

So, in the end, we have three different accounts of the dialogue in question! All very instructive as much as they are interesting.

HG also noted that when he visited the Monastery of St John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights-by-Maldon in Essex, England--an institution under the direct jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople--he was informed that this rite is also a part of that monastery's Resurrection Service.
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