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Author Topic: Should some things done at the altar be kept entirely out of view?  (Read 2170 times) Average Rating: 0
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Salpy
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« on: August 23, 2008, 03:09:01 PM »

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,9840.msg247210.html#msg247210

If you look at the youtube video linked in reply 175 of the above thread, it shows a Good Frdiay ritual which is done every year in the Syriac Church, but which is not seen by the faithful in the congregation.  If you notice the comments posted with the youtube video, you will see that four people were very offended by this and stated that such a ritual should never be broadcast, as it is so sacred and is done outiside the view of the faithful.

I'm wondering how common this thinking is.  Is it supported by Church Tradition or is it just a popular piety that certain things should not be seen by the eyes of anyone but clergy?  With regard to this particular video, I am assuming the priests of St. Ephrem Cathedral, as well as the bishop, approved it.  That is because they must have known they were being videotaped, and the entity showing the video on youtube seems to be the cathedral.

However, I am wondering if the four people who made the comments have any basis for their objections.  I am putting this in the Faith section, because I'd like to hear about this from the perspectives of other Churches, in addition to the OO.  In other words, do the EO's or the Catholics have any rituals that are not supposed to be seen by laypersons?  In the Armenian Church, there are times when the altar curtain is drawn, but I would think that if someone videotaped what happens behind the curtain, it would be O.K. for laypersons to see it.  I'm not sure though. 





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« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2008, 03:17:02 PM »

Christ was flogged and crucified publicly and buried with only a few persons present.  The curtain of the temple was split in half separting the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple.  The 2004 Patriarchal Divine Liturgy (including what happens inside the altar) was broadcast over Closed Circuit Television and probably televised to Greek Satellite providers like Antenna in USA.

While I have a dial-up Internet Connection and cannot see the entire video, at first glance, I wouldn't object to the video being published on YouTube.

Edited for elaboration and content.
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« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2008, 03:21:50 PM »

Towards the end of the video they seem to crawl under the floor of the altar with the shrouded cross. Anything we can see thru the Holy Doors when open is fine with me. Otherwise it seems that they are performed behind closed doors for a reason.
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« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2008, 02:07:03 AM »

Anything we can see thru the Holy Doors when open is fine with me. Otherwise it seems that they are performed behind closed doors for a reason.

That seems to be the attitude of the Syrians who commented about the video.  I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of others agreed.  I can understand it.  I'm just wondering how grounded this is in Tradition.
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« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2008, 03:13:08 AM »

Well, considering that at one time catechumens were expelled from the Liturgy precisely because the Holy Mysteries were reserved solely for the faithful and were not allowed even to be seen by those outside the flock of the baptized... Undecided  Granted, many churches don't expel their catechumens anymore--some don't even read the command of expulsion--so I don't know how much this would apply today.  But if we were to follow the ancient practice, there is no way I can see that any Orthodox church would allow their altar to be videotaped during the Divine Liturgy for publication on youtube.
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« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2008, 05:53:47 PM »

^ Regarding the expulsion of the catechumens, I know my priest has gone back and forth on this issue. Sometimes the command of expulsion is read, sometimes not. He's even expressed sentiments of wanting to remove the catechumens during that time, but he will not unless we have a catechism class set up for them at that time.

I don't believe there is any question as to what the most ancient practice was. The real question is what is necessary for us to continue and what was merely cultural? I don't feel qualified to answer that question.
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« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2008, 06:40:15 PM »

It is still read in our parish. But unless you expel all inquirers, non-orthodox and visitors as well, there is no point in expelling the catechumens. My husband and I think that hearing the expulsion is a good reminder to us all of just how sacred the the eucharist is.
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« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2008, 07:59:53 PM »

Well, considering that at one time catechumens were expelled from the Liturgy precisely because the Holy Mysteries were reserved solely for the faithful and were not allowed even to be seen by those outside the flock of the baptized... Undecided 

That's the thing I am wondering about.  Holy Communion is the most intimate moment between Christ and the faithful, which I assume is why the unbaptized couldn't see it back in the old days.  However, I am sure that I have seen youtube videos showing people taking Communion.  Would even this be proper?  Where do we draw the line between keeping something so sacred that it cannot be seen by anyone except a few, and on the other hand allowing nonbelievers to see it as a way of educating them and possibly drawing them to the faith?

In the Armenian Church, the deacons chant something before the Great Entrance telling not only the catechumens, but also the penitents, to leave.  I've heard of very ancient church buildings in Armenia where the narthex is bigger than the nave (is that the right word?) because they were so strict about this.

Also, the Armenian Church has the unique practice of keeping the curtain closed during the entire liturgy, during Lent.  It is such an ancient practice that no one really knows the original reason for it.  However, scholars believe it is because the catechumens used to be baptised at Easter, and during Lent they were allowed into the church for the liturgy so they could be prepared.  To protect the altar from being seen by catechumens, the custom of closing the curtain during Lent began.

Now I know I have seen youtube videos of Armenian liturgies, showing the altar.  So where do we draw the line when it comes to letting "outsiders" see what is sacred?
 
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« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2008, 11:31:47 PM »

Now I know I have seen youtube videos of Armenian liturgies, showing the altar.  So where do we draw the line when it comes to letting "outsiders" see what is sacred?

Does a line even have to be drawn separating the faithful (which includes "outsiders") from the clergy?  I know in the GOA for about the last decade, the Royal Doors remain open at all times during the Liturgy, Vespers, Matins, etc.  I don't know if the change came from the EP directly, from the Archbishop with the blessing of the EP or if each Hierarch makes the decision.  I recall as a child that the Royal Doors were closed before Communion and remained open only on the 5 Sundays after Pascha.  I view the keeping open of the Royal Doors as an unjustified innovation (if someone told me why the change was made, I may be OK with it)....
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« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2008, 07:25:39 PM »

Does a line even have to be drawn separating the faithful (which includes "outsiders") from the clergy?  I know in the GOA for about the last decade, the Royal Doors remain open at all times during the Liturgy, Vespers, Matins, etc.  I don't know if the change came from the EP directly, from the Archbishop with the blessing of the EP or if each Hierarch makes the decision.  I recall as a child that the Royal Doors were closed before Communion and remained open only on the 5 Sundays after Pascha.  I view the keeping open of the Royal Doors as an unjustified innovation (if someone told me why the change was made, I may be OK with it)....


Some OCA parishes, such as mine have an iconostasis made of wood lattice. You can tell what's going on even when the Royal Doors are closed. The Greek parish I used to attend kept the Royal Doors open during the entire liturgy. I think part of the motivation is people in our mostly Protestant society find the idea of closing the congregation out for a substantial part of the liturgy somewhat distasteful. Whether or not there is a real issue with it I'm not qualified to comment.  Wink


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« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2008, 07:52:05 PM »

^ I can certainly imagine this being most distasteful to the Protestant world, which would view this as a classic example of  two levels of spirituality in the church-laity and the elite clergy.

I am curious about this ritual of the shrouded cross. Is it unique to the Syrians? It seems very strange to me.
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« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2008, 07:52:14 PM »

Does a line even have to be drawn separating the faithful (which includes "outsiders") from the clergy?  I know in the GOA for about the last decade, the Royal Doors remain open at all times during the Liturgy, Vespers, Matins, etc. 

Not in every parish.  And they're really the "Beautiful Doors."  The "Royal Doors" are the center doors at the back of the Nave, where the Emperor would enter the Church.

I don't know if the change came from the EP directly, from the Archbishop with the blessing of the EP or if each Hierarch makes the decision. 

The last listed above (i.e. individual hierarchs).

I recall as a child that the Royal Doors were closed before Communion and remained open only on the 5 Sundays after Pascha. 

The Beautiful Doors have their own rubrics, which call for repeated opening and closing during the service.  There are also rubrics for the curtain to open and close.  However, not all Churches have curtains (many do not), and some don't have doors (I've seen ones with curtains but no doors).  The opening of the doors after Pascha eliminates the repeated opening and closing, but the doors do not remain shut throughout all services (they do open during Vespers, Matins, and Liturgy, at specified times and for specified durations).

I view the keeping open of the Royal Doors as an unjustified innovation (if someone told me why the change was made, I may be OK with it)....  

I don't know why the changes were made, but I'd like to hear why you feel strongly that the change is unjustified (besides the obvious reason of you not hearing a justification).
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« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2008, 08:23:44 PM »

Not in every parish.  And they're really the "Beautiful Doors."

OK, although I've never seen the term "Beautiful Doors" used in any Orthodox publication whether in Sunday School, in pews, in discussion, etc. until I read the post.

The "Royal Doors" are the center doors at the back of the Nave, where the Emperor would enter the Church.

Since there's no Empire, I suppose the "Royal Doors" were moved to the iconostasis to signify the Kingdom of God.   Wink

The last listed above (i.e. individual hierarchs).

Who can meet in Synod and make the change universal for the entire Archdiocese.  I was in York, PA on Sunday and the doors remained open for the entire Liturgy.  If 2 of the 9 GOA Hierarchs keep the Beautiful Doors open during Liturgy, only 3 more are needed for a majority.   Shocked

I don't know why the changes were made, but I'd like to hear why you feel strongly that the change is unjustified (besides the obvious reason of you not hearing a justification).

Change and why change something that wasn't broken in the first place.  Familiarity of worship.  Introduction of innovations.  I just came up with 3. 
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« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2008, 08:32:33 PM »

OK, although I've never seen the term "Beautiful Doors" used in any Orthodox publication whether in Sunday School, in pews, in discussion, etc. until I read the post.

Since there's no Empire, I suppose the "Royal Doors" were moved to the iconostasis to signify the Kingdom of God.   Wink

Eh.... When we theologize what shouldn't be theologized, then we get ourselves into trouble.  All publications in Greek refer to them as the "Beautiful Doors," by the way.

Who can meet in Synod and make the change universal for the entire Archdiocese.  I was in York, PA on Sunday and the doors remained open for the entire Liturgy.  If 2 of the 9 GOA Hierarchs keep the Beautiful Doors open during Liturgy, only 3 more are needed for a majority.   Shocked

I'm not aware of Synodal deliberation on the matter; if you are, I'd love to see the reference (and add it to my library).

Change and why change something that wasn't broken in the first place.  Familiarity of worship.  Introduction of innovations.  I just came up with 3.  

Ok.  Thanks for the background info.
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« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2008, 08:47:12 PM »

I do not understand the reference to theologizing what shouldn't be theologized.

I'm not aware of Synodal deliberation on the matter; if you are, I'd love to see the reference (and add it to my library).

My bad - I was making a hypothetical statement because I never implied that the Synod made official that the "Beautiful Doors" are to remain opened at all times.  The Washington, DC Churches still open and close the doors; Hence, the Archdiocesan District is not one of the 9.  If 3 other Metropolitans keep the doors open at all times, then we have a simple majority.   Smiley

Ok.  Thanks for the background info.

You're welcome.
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« Reply #15 on: August 28, 2008, 10:01:15 PM »

I am curious about this ritual of the shrouded cross. Is it unique to the Syrians? It seems very strange to me.

In the Armenian Church, on Good Friday, we have a sort of symbolic tomb shaped like a church.  Inside the tomb they ususally put the priest's liturgical vestments to symbolize Christ inside the tomb.  The faithful bring flowers and place them in the tomb around and on top of the vestments.  Then there is a burial service, during which the tomb is carried in procession by four men.  After the service, the flowers are distributed to the faithful. 

What is beautiful about the Syrian service is the way they annoint the cross, which obviously represents Christ, and the way they seal it in a symbolic tomb in the back of the altar.

If you look at the video in reply #143, below, the Copts seem to annoint an icon, but I have no idea if they do a symbolic sealing in the tomb, the way the Syrians do.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,9840.msg234785.html#msg234785
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« Reply #16 on: August 28, 2008, 10:07:42 PM »

Thanks, Salpy! that's very interesting! Do you have any idea how old this custom is?
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« Reply #17 on: August 28, 2008, 10:45:24 PM »

Even though I generally tend to agree that certain things shouldn't be recorded, if there is a particular reason why such a recording should be made, and the appropriate permissions are granted, I don't see anything really wrong with this.  In the video in question, an archbishop led the rites, and presumably gave his permission (or at least didn't smack the cameraman in the face).  But a lot of people would agree with the four people who commented on the sacredness of the moment being recorded.  In every tradition, there are certain things which popular piety elevates to an especially high status.  This popular piety often becomes part of the tradition, and is valid and good, although sometimes "popular piety" is just plain ignorance (and I don't mean that in a demeaning way, but in a "theologizing what shouldn't be theologized" way). 

But I do have a gripe.  Several people have commented that this ritual is conducted in the altar, with the veil drawn across it, so that none in the congregation can see it.  This is true; that's what the rubrics call for.  Then why, as in four and half minutes into the video, do we see that the washing, anointing, and wrapping of the cross--which are part of this so-called ultra-holy rite that no one should see--are done with the veil drawn back, in plain view of the congregation?  This is NOT what the rubrics call for, but if you are going to violate them and refuse to veil the altar at that holiest of moments, why blame a cameraman for recording it and putting it on Youtube?     

And another clarification: what some posters here referred to as crawling behind the altar, out of sight, is not because no one should see the rite; in fact, it is because the washed, anointed, and wrapped cross is "buried" under the altar, and in a particularly symbolic way at that.  I suppose if we had glass altars, you could see that too, but we don't.  In this case, the explanation is practical, and has nothing to do with veiling.         
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« Reply #18 on: August 29, 2008, 11:44:25 AM »

Even though I generally tend to agree that certain things shouldn't be recorded, if there is a particular reason why such a recording should be made, and the appropriate permissions are granted, I don't see anything really wrong with this. 
True. Even museums and theatres restrict recording.
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« Reply #19 on: August 29, 2008, 09:23:11 PM »

True. Even museums and theatres restrict recording.

Though the reasons are more to do with copyright protection, commercial concerns, and, in the case of many fragile museum and gallery exhibits, reducing damage from flash photography, rather than any sense of reverence.
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« Reply #20 on: September 05, 2008, 03:48:35 PM »

In the Armenian Church, on Good Friday, we have a sort of symbolic tomb shaped like a church.  Inside the tomb they ususally put the priest's liturgical vestments to symbolize Christ inside the tomb.  The faithful bring flowers and place them in the tomb around and on top of the vestments.  Then there is a burial service, during which the tomb is carried in procession by four men.  After the service, the flowers are distributed to the faithful. 

What is beautiful about the Syrian service is the way they annoint the cross, which obviously represents Christ, and the way they seal it in a symbolic tomb in the back of the altar.

If you look at the video in reply #143, below, the Copts seem to annoint an icon, but I have no idea if they do a symbolic sealing in the tomb, the way the Syrians do.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,9840.msg234785.html#msg234785

In the Coptic Church it's usually an icon of the Crucified Lord that is being buried with spices, sweet fragrances, and rose petals.  It's probably been already anointed way back when a bishop or patriarch appeared (at least it should have already been anointed along with the anointing of the Church).  But it seems that just as the Syrian Church has a burial for the Cross, so we also have a burial of an icon.
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