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Author Topic: Women Reading the Epistle  (Read 8204 times) Average Rating: 0
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ania
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« on: October 29, 2003, 05:38:38 PM »

Hi Everybody (Hi Dr. Nick)
Anyway, got a question...  though I know eventually I could get this answered if I called home, the phone there seems prepetually busy, so I figured I'd ask here...
What are the rules for what women can participate in the service.  I have seen women read the epistle before, as well as many other readings (have read myself, though I made the choir director swear he'd never make me again, since I'm dislexic & messed up pretty much everything).  I've also heard of an old abbess back in California (may she rest in peace) who would participate in reading the 12 Gospels on Holy Thursday.  Also women holding the napkin during communion...  just curious, as it came up in conversation & I didn't know exactly, if someone can help me out, it'd be great.
Thanks,
Ania
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« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2003, 05:57:09 PM »

I was at St Irene Chrysovalantou Monastery in Astoria, Queens (Greek Old Calendarists who are under Constantinople).  A nun read the epistle, to a mixed audience.  I didn't mind.

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« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2003, 06:12:03 PM »

I have witnessed woman reading the Epistle in both the Greek (small church in Ocean City, MD) and an Antiochian church (Sts. Peter and Paul in Potomac, MD) AND their heads were uncovered!  Grin
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« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2003, 06:47:24 PM »

It is not unusual for a woman to read the Epistle in an OCA church if a man is not available/willing to do so.  However, while a man is expected to enter the Altar to receive the celebrant's blessing before reading the Epistle, a woman may not do so.  I am required to get a blessing to put on a stikharion before reading the Epistle, and then I am required to go into the Altar to receive the celebrant's blessing just before reading the Prokeimenon before the Epistle.

Outside of Divine Liturgy, whether in OCA or ROCOR churches, I have witnessed women reading the Six Matinal Psalms and the Matinal Canon troparia at Matins, and the Reader's parts at Vespers as well when a tonsured Reader was not available.   Personally, I welcome the respite it gives me, especially at an All-Night Vigil when we can alternately chant the troparia of the Matinal Canon--it enhances the Service, IMHO.

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« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2003, 08:22:15 PM »

At my former (OCA) parish it was quite common for women to read the epistle. There, they have the (innovative?) practice of having both the men and women who are to read approach the Royal Doors for a blessing and not go into the altar. Also, it was quite common there for women to hold the cloth during the reception of communion. I've seen this done in several OCA and Antiochian parishes...is this common anywhere else?

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« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2003, 08:24:03 PM »

I saw it at a uniate church once.

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« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2003, 09:17:25 PM »

My priest doesn't allow either male or female readers to go behind the iconostasis for the blessing prior to doing readings.  He always comes out to give the blessing to the reader.  Also, he allows women to do the reading even if men are available.
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« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2003, 09:18:24 PM »

I saw it at a uniate church once.

Joe Zollars

I too. They also had altar girls.
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« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2003, 10:04:18 PM »

The uniate church I attend (st. nicholas of myra) has a woman chanting the epistle and pretty much everything else, but she is in a small balcony behind the tiny congregation.
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« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2003, 10:38:20 PM »

Damn uniates....
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« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2003, 12:31:04 AM »

now I admit I didn't see female altar servers, of course there was only one in his late 20's.

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« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2003, 01:12:39 AM »

Blessing behind altar or out of altar could be a matter of local practice (I see it at SVS but not in my old Ruthenian Greek Catholic parish).  It also could be based on whether the reader is really a reader or is just fulfilling the role of reader.

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« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2003, 01:45:33 AM »

Blessing behind altar or out of altar could be a matter of local practice (I see it at SVS but not in my old Ruthenian Greek Catholic parish).  It also could be based on whether the reader is really a reader or is just fulfilling the role of reader.

I have a photo somewhere of a "Lesser Schema" nun at Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery, Otego, NY (OCA), receiving the blessing of His Grace, Bishop +MERKURII of Zaraisk, Administrator of Moscow Patriarchal parishes in the USA and Canada, who was guest celebrant of the Divine Liturgy that Sunday at the monastery, *in the Altar* before chanting the Prokeimenon and Epistle of the Liturgy.  Perhaps this practice exists in other women's monasteries as well, where men are not usually present to perform the duties of Reader.  Anyone know?

As far as the practice of going into the Altar to read the Epistle, this past Sunday I was *not* given a choice in the matter.  His Grace, Bishop +NIKON, was serving the Liturgy and I stood in my usual place in the middle of the church so that I could quickly return to the choir loft after "doing my Reader thing" without going into the Altar.  Bishop +NIKON would have none of it and had Fr. Michael call me into the Altar through the Deacon's door to receive the Bishop's blessing before reading the appointed Epistle of the day.  Fr. Michael told me that it would have to be done that way from now on at the Bishop's directive and that I would have to be blessed to wear my stikharion when reading the Epistle as well (I do not wear my stikharion at any other time during the Liturgy, nor do I ordinarily wear it at other Services when reading/chanting).

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« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2003, 04:52:45 AM »

I have visited several different female monasteries (including some extremely conservitive ones) and at every service there was at least one of the monastics behind the altar. The ones I have seen are usually advanced in age but they where serving a purpose.

I should point out there is no sex restriction on who can be behind the Iconastas. The only restriction is the person must have a purpose for being there.

There is also confusion about who can read in the church. Reading  is just limited to someone who has a blessing to do so. Some percieve this to mean that the person must be blessed a "Reader" in order to read, however the blessing this is refering to is much less formal. To be blessed to read in the church simply means with the protostamino's blessing.
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« Reply #14 on: October 30, 2003, 02:30:55 PM »

Food For thought:

CANON LXIX of the 102 CANONS:
Let it not be permitted to anyone among the laity to enter within the  
sacred altar, with the exception that the Imperial power and authority  
is in no way or manner excluded therefrom whenever it wishes to offer  
gifts to the Creator, in accordance with a certain most ancient  
tradition.

CANON XLIV of the 60 CANONS:
That women must not enter the sacrificial Altar.

CANON XV of the 37 CANONS (c.LXIX of the 6th.):
Nuns must enter the holy bema in order to light a taper or candle, and  
in order to sweep it.
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« Reply #15 on: October 30, 2003, 02:43:33 PM »

And what if the ruler is a woman? Hmmm....  Wink
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« Reply #16 on: October 30, 2003, 07:20:49 PM »

And what if the ruler is a woman? Hmmm....  Wink

If the ruler is an Orthodox women, she may indeed enter the Altar through the ROYAL gates.  In the same way, an Orthodox male ruler may enter the cloistered area of a women's monastery to inspect it.

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« Reply #17 on: October 30, 2003, 08:56:40 PM »

And what if the ruler is a woman? Hmmm....  Wink

If the ruler is an Orthodox women, she may indeed enter the Altar through the ROYAL gates.  In the same way, an Orthodox male ruler may enter the cloistered area of a women's monastery to inspect it.

Hypo-Ortho

I think Hypo-Orthodox is correct, I remember reading that the Byzantine Empress Irene, who ruled alone, exercised such an action while worshipping in Hagia Sophia.  I can not recollect in which historical work I read it, if I remember it, I will post the reference.  Irene, a great iconodule, is most known for her restoration of icons in 787 AD.
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« Reply #18 on: October 31, 2003, 01:45:36 AM »

I thought Hypo was correct as well but didn't want to say anything till I knew something for sure.

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« Reply #19 on: November 03, 2003, 03:21:13 PM »

I am not wild about the practice of having female readers, but I think it is important to be sane about this and not go off on some super-conservative tirade either.  My thoughts on the matter are as follows:  If a parish has tonsured male readers present at its services, then those tonsured readers SHOULD read the Epistle.  That is their function. That is why the Bishop tonsured them in the first place.  If they are present but don't want to or refuse to read, I would have a real problem with that.  It would appear to be shirking the duty to which they have been called by their bishop.  However, the Epistle must be read.  If no tonsured readers are present, then I cannot get upset over a woman reading the Epistle.  The CONTENT of the Epistle lesson is more important that who happens to read it.  Another question might be: if we are going to rotate who reads the Epistle so that people began to view it as their "right" to read it, at least occassionally, then we need to ask ourselves why even bother to have tonsured readers anymore who are specially consecrated to this task by the bishop.?  Just some food for thought.
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« Reply #20 on: November 03, 2003, 03:33:52 PM »

Another question might be: if we are going to rotate who reads the Epistle so that people began to view it as their "right" to read it, at least occassionally, then we need to ask ourselves why even bother to have tonsured readers anymore who are specially consecrated to this task by the bishop.?

Good point!

I think you see this blurring of positions within quite a few parishes- based on some vague notion of "equality"...and equality that comes through the laity usurping the holy orders of the Church. Whether it's the laity reciting the deacon's "Amens" if the secret prayers are read audibly(i.e. Priest: This bread to be the body of your Christ- People: Amen!), or what you've mentioned about the position of the tonsured reader, it all seems to stem from the same desire.....the desire for equality. The idea that "what they're doing up there"(the altar), or "what the men get to do" is something that all of the laity have to participate in more fully in order to really be a part of the liturgy.
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« Reply #21 on: November 03, 2003, 07:04:17 PM »

Josh you bring up an intersting point.  There is a sort of feeling out there that unless you actively "doing" you aren't fully participating.  I've done both...last Saturday's liturgy I was the altar boy, reader and chanter (FWIW I'm not a tonsured reader).  When I go to Liturgy (or any church service) at Saint Anthony's I stand and that's it....no chanting, no responses, nothing like that.  Amazingly I can participate without stealling the deacons part or even hearing the priest's silent prayers.  People in general have a very fuzzy notion of what lay participation is.  It's a large and complicated topic and I can't really put my finger on it...if this makes any sense it is both a comibation of clericalism and anti-clerical feelings.
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« Reply #22 on: November 03, 2003, 07:28:12 PM »

What is liturgy?
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« Reply #23 on: November 03, 2003, 07:50:14 PM »

What is liturgy?  

Ees da vork of da peoples, ja? Huh :-

Ja wohl! Roll Eyes
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« Reply #24 on: November 03, 2003, 07:54:15 PM »

Different people have different roles at different times.  I feel like I am participating even if I am not doing the responses, the chanting etc.

Is it wrong to listen and to pray?
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« Reply #25 on: November 03, 2003, 08:12:45 PM »

What is liturgy?  

I think Mor might be trying to tell us we should really be calling it the Divine Liturgy. Maybe? Or maybe he's trying to say that "liturgy" really means, in Greek, "the work of the people"? Hmm.....

 Smiley
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« Reply #26 on: November 03, 2003, 08:14:33 PM »

What is liturgy?  

Ees da vork of da peoples, ja? Huh :-

Ja wohl! Roll Eyes

Ha! I just figured out that that's English...
I guess my question/comment doesn't apply anymore...
 Cheesy
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« Reply #27 on: November 03, 2003, 09:46:04 PM »

My question regarding the meaning of "liturgy" was sparked by the brief exchange between Josh and Nektarios that, in its turn, was sparked by the issue of tonsured readers versus lay readers.  I think the points made there were on target, but I do think the points made only slightly later may not be as correct.  

Liturgy is the work of the people, and that means that not only the clergy and the choir, but the people also have their own proper role to exercise, and those roles cannot be mixed, but they cannot be delegated or neglected either.  

The issue of silent prayers has come up in discussion here before, and I expressed my opinions about those in greater detail in that thread.  For now, I will merely say that it is my understanding that those prayers that are now taken silently in the Liturgy of the Byzantine rite were originally taken aloud, and the people responded to them.  Nowadays, the situation in many places (in my own experience, anyway) is that priest and deacon conduct their part of the service in the altar, and the choir/chanters respond from their place, with the people not really doing much except crossing themselves, bowing, lighting candles, venerating icons, etc.  I don't doubt that these people may very well be participating on another level in the liturgy.  But it is clear, I think, that originally the people sang those things which the choirs now usually take, and the original intent was that the people would have more of an active role in the celebration than the more passive role they currently exercise.  Silent prayers and other such things now seem to be "canonised" by rubrics, and choirs are nearly universal in Byzantine churches (in my experience), and it is my opinion that these things, while not necessarily an abuse, are missing the mark.    

So it puzzles me that people can take this exceptional situation and take it to be the norm to such an extent that comments such as those above can be made.  I am not offended by it, nor do I mean offence toward those who espouse these opinions.  But to read:

and equality that comes through the laity usurping the holy orders of the Church. Whether it's the laity reciting the deacon's "Amens" if the secret prayers are read audibly(i.e. Priest: This bread to be the body of your Christ- People: Amen!), or what you've mentioned about the position of the tonsured reader, it all seems to stem from the same desire.....the desire for equality. The idea that "what they're doing up there"(the altar), or "what the men get to do" is something that all of the laity have to participate in more fully in order to really be a part of the liturgy.

genuinely makes me wonder.  

The "deacon's Amens" during the Epiclesis seem to be an element that originally wasn't "the deacon's", but the people's.  I've read at least one Orthodox Metropolitan (my bishop) say as much.  Of course they became the deacon's Amens, but only after the prayers themselves were taken silently.  Originally, the bulk of them were meant to be taken aloud, and responded to by the people.  Read the prayers, and you will see what I'm talking about (I recently read the text of the Divine Liturgy in an OCA publication, and with the possible exception of the prayer during the Cherubic Hymn, it looked to me as if all of the "silent" prayers were meant to be taken aloud).  

While the question of rotating readers may have something to do with mistaken notions of equality, I don't think one can say that the movement to take "silent" prayers aloud is for similar reasons.  I don't think it's the desire for equality.  I don't think it's simply a matter of thinking that what's going on at the altar is more important than what is going on in the nave, and so the people want access to that in the name of false equality.  

Similarly, this remark from Nektarios also makes me wonder:

and

There is a sort of feeling out there that unless you actively "doing" you aren't fully participating.  I've done both...last Saturday's liturgy I was the altar boy, reader and chanter (FWIW I'm not a tonsured reader).  When I go to Liturgy (or any church service) at Saint Anthony's I stand and that's it....no chanting, no responses, nothing like that.  Amazingly I can participate without stealling the deacons part or even hearing the priest's silent prayers.  People in general have a very fuzzy notion of what lay participation is.  It's a large and complicated topic and I can't really put my finger on it...if this makes any sense it is both a comibation of clericalism and anti-clerical feelings

I am not arguing in favour of allowing anyone into minor orders or to allow regular folks to do whatever they want on a rotating schedule or anything like that.  In the liturgy, everyone has their proper role.  It belongs to the priest to do X, the deacon to do Y, and the people to do Z.  Mixing roles is not what I'm defending.  

But the laity, by virtue of their baptism, are members of the royal priesthood.  We exercise that priesthood as the laity by praying for others and for ourselves, and by offering ourselves and all we have to God.  The fullest expression of this royal priesthood, however, is during the Divine Liturgy, and the laity exercise this by taking a more active role in joining in the prayer of the clergy at the altar by making the responses.  

Is there anything wrong with just listening and praying privately?  No.  I myself do this when visiting a church with whose rite or language I am not familiar.  But that is not the ideal, I don't think.  If that was the ideal, then I think the liturgies in use throughout "Apostolic Christianity" would be VERY different from those we have and use to this day.  It is my opinion that the whole issue of silent prayers and what not has taken the role of the people and transferred it to the choir/chanters, and that is wrong.  It doesn't allow the people to exercise their proper role in the liturgy.  

I attend EO services frequently, and they are never the same as my experiences at my own church.  I used to think it was because I was more familiar with one than the other, but now I'm fairly familiar with the structure of the more common EO services, and they are still not the same, and I think it's because I can sense the lack in the liturgy that is caused by a lack of popular participation.  The local OCA parish has beautiful services with a very nice choir, and it can be quite moving, but it doesn't hold a candle to my parish, for example.  Sure, my parish's singing isn't always at its aesthetic best, but it is sung by all the people, in a heartfelt way, and that in itself strikes you powerfully.  When the singing and the rites and everything else are done well (like this past Sunday), you can feel within your heart a warm sensation, and your body trembles, and you might even feel a bit lightheaded or misty-eyed, as you realise that this is "the essence of Orthodoxy, the True Faith".  That sounds incredibly sappy, and for me to describe it better would make me look even more sappy, but it's true.  I've experienced it.      

But I realise that others may feel the same in their own churches, even if I wouldn't, so I want to hear more.

People in general have a very fuzzy notion of what lay participation is.

What is lay participation?
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« Reply #28 on: November 03, 2003, 10:06:17 PM »

In whichever parish I've belonged, in whichever EO church I've attended, I've always sung along with the choir, at least those unchangeable parts of the Divine Services, including the Holy Liturgy, with which I am most familiar.  In some parishes other than my own (and not even in my own jurisdiction), I've received dour looks and disapproving glances from some, but in most places I've been invited to sing with the choir, and today (bragging), I'm the lead bass in my own parish's a-capella choir.  

IMHO, there's no reason whatsoever why EVERYONE cannot sing the responses to the Great Ektenia, the Little Ektenias and all the other Ektenias; no reason why everyone cannot join in chanting or reciting the Symbol of Faith, the Lord's Prayer, and the Prayer before Communion: "I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ...."  No major liturgical upheaveal required to do this, and all the parts I've mentioned are really the PEOPLE'S PARTS!

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« Reply #29 on: November 04, 2003, 12:25:41 AM »

What I was trying say, although inarticulately is that whether I am standing in the back not chanting, not reading an epistle not singing the responses out loud I feel that I am participating as as when I am altar boy, reading the epistles or chanting.  When I am doing the former I am actively following along, thinking about what the meaning of what is being sung is and praying with the liturgy.  To say that is is not possible for people in this latter role to participate as much as someone holding a more outwardly active role in the liturgy carries some ugly (and unOrthodox implications).
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« Reply #30 on: November 04, 2003, 02:43:57 AM »

To say that is is not possible for people in this latter role to participate as much as someone holding a more outwardly active role in the liturgy carries some ugly (and unOrthodox implications).  

Well, there are certainly people who can sing everything very well, but whose minds are elsewhere, and there are people who do not utter a word in church, but internally they are one with God.  The latter obviously would be participating more than the former.  Clearly, I don't hold that the person who is not singing is not participating.  What I am saying is that the ideal is that a person fully and actively participate in the popular parts of the liturgy, body and soul, and not just one or the other, and the liturgies imply just that.
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« Reply #31 on: November 04, 2003, 05:12:14 AM »

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I HIGHLY RESPECT the traditional Orthodox usage of reciting many of the priest's prayers in the Liturgy silently.  My next statemet will sound contradictory.  My preference is for these prayers to be recited aloud.  I also HIGHLY RESPECT those who meticulously follow the rubrics of the Liturgy and and don't take the "Amens" at the Consecration of the Holy Gifts away from the Deacon. Nevertheless, the parish to which I belong (and which I love) says these "Amens" aloud by the entire congregation and our priest says all his prayers aloud too.  My point about the "Secret Prayers" of the Liturgy is this: ALL ANCIENT APOSTOLIC LITURGIES HAVE SECRET PRAYERS.  They are UNIVERSAL. We Eastern Orthodox have them.  The Roman Catholics had them until they eliminated them at the Second Vatican Council in 1965.  The Coptics have them.  The Aremenians have them.  Even the less well know Assyrian Church of the East (sometimes called the "Nestorians") have them.  I've even read some articles that say the "secret prayers" are such an old tradition that the practice may have its roots in Judaism and was something that was simply carried over from the Synagogue into Christianity (like singing the Psalms).  I'm not so sure that all the secret prayers were EVER all recited aloud.  The universality of secret prayers in all Christian liturgies is a strong testimony against it.  My parish priest (who is quite the liturgical scholar and who recites ALL these prayers aloud) says the only thing we can say with CERTAINTY is the the Ananopha was originally recited aloud.  As far as all the other prayers are concerned, they probably never were recited aloud until modern times.  Father Seraphim Rose called it the "Protestant Reformer mentality" that says the Church has fallen into "bad" liturgical habits that must be "corrected" by returning to a supposedly pristine "original use."  I know people will disagree with that, but it interesting to think about.  My parish priest, interesting enough, does NOT defend reciting the secret prayers aloud by claiming to be restoring some pristine apostolic usage that may never have existed.  His ONLY defense of the practice is a PASTORAL one.  He claims (and I agree) that people are simply CATECHIZED BETTER when they can hear all the words to a prayer, rather than just reciting an "Amen" at the end of a prayer that they can't even hear.  The pastoral argument for reciting all the prayers aloud in order to have a better taught, better informed, better catechized laity makes a LOT of sense to me, and I can certainly understand why many priests do it.  However, the idea that the laity have to audibly hear EVERY SINGLE WORD of every single prayer seems a bit obsessive complusive to me, and not unlike the Protestant Reformers of the 16th century who criticized the Church of Rome for having "secret" prayers.  This worry over people not hearing the prayers just "SMELLS" Protestant to me.  Perhaps it isn't.  I could be wrong.  But it seems to me we Orthodox ONLY became concerned about it AFTER Rome eliminated all of its secret prayers at the Second Vatican Council.  I wonder if the Orthodox laity in Greece and Russia are insisting that everything be recited aloud like so many of us are here in America? I just wonder if our lack of appreciation for the silent prayers of the Liturgy is an effect of Roman Catholic and Protestant piety on American Orthodox?  I could be wrong.  I would welcome any ideas and comments people might have.
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« Reply #32 on: November 04, 2003, 08:23:57 AM »

Quote
ALL ANCIENT APOSTOLIC LITURGIES HAVE SECRET PRAYERS.  They are UNIVERSAL. We Eastern Orthodox have them.  The Roman Catholics had them until they eliminated them at the Second Vatican Council in 1965.  The Coptics have them.  The Aremenians have them.  Even the less well know Assyrian Church of the East (sometimes called the "Nestorians") have them.  I've even read some articles that say the "secret prayers" are such an old tradition that the practice may have its roots in Judaism and was something that was simply carried over from the Synagogue into Christianity (like singing the Psalms).  I'm not so sure that all the secret prayers were EVER all recited aloud.  The universality of secret prayers in all Christian liturgies is a strong testimony against it.  My parish priest (who is quite the liturgical scholar and who recites ALL these prayers aloud) says the only thing we can say with CERTAINTY is the the Ananopha was originally recited aloud.  As far as all the other prayers are concerned, they probably never were recited aloud until modern times.

Yes. Thank you. Hooray for 'silent' (sotto voce, 'mystically' recited) priest's prayers!

Quote
Father Seraphim Rose called it the "Protestant Reformer mentality" that says the Church has fallen into "bad" liturgical habits that must be "corrected" by returning to a supposedly pristine "original use."

Quite. I'm not part of the 'cult' of Fr Seraphim but obviously agree that he had a lot of good things to say (but in much of this he, and Eastern Orthodoxy in general, was not unique - G.K. Chesterton had modernity sussed and refuted forty years earlier) and regarding church practice this is one of them.

Quote
However, the idea that the laity have to audibly hear EVERY SINGLE WORD of every single prayer seems a bit obsessive complusive to me, and not unlike the Protestant Reformers of the 16th century who criticized the Church of Rome for having "secret" prayers.
 

The only thing I'd add is I'd put 'Reformers' in mock inverted commas.

Quote
This worry over people not hearing the prayers just "SMELLS" Protestant to me.
 

Precisamente.

Quote
But it seems to me we Orthodox ONLY became concerned about it AFTER Rome eliminated all of its secret prayers at the Second Vatican Council.  I wonder if the Orthodox laity in Greece and Russia are insisting that everything be recited aloud like so many of us are here in America?


A rare example of Eastern Orthodox following modern trends, sure. Prodromos can report from Greece. I don't think anybody is doing or advocating this in Russia. After all, in both Greece and Russia, doing services in the modern form of the language - like all-audible prayers, per se not evil - is banned.

Quote
I just wonder if our lack of appreciation for the silent prayers of the Liturgy is an effect of Roman Catholic and Protestant piety on American Orthodox?  I could be wrong.  I would welcome any ideas and comments people might have.

IMO it's definitely crossover from the larger American Protestant culture.
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« Reply #33 on: November 04, 2003, 08:42:48 AM »

Prodromos reporting from Greece.

Its interesting that you mention this now Serge because usually at the Divine Liturgy, the prayers are recited inaudibly, yet at the Vigil I attended on Sunday night they were recited out loud. Same priest serving Divine Liturgy in the morning and at Vigil too.

John.
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« Reply #34 on: November 04, 2003, 10:05:01 AM »

I haven't dug through Dix on this, so I'm not all that inclined to take people's word about what all ancient apostolic prayers dictate or don't dictate. But the fact that silent prayers are what the Protestants emphatically do not do is a really bad reason to do them-- especially in a nest of converts!

Anglicans, of course, do prayers in church out loud, except in passages where silent prayer is invited. We do not have inaudible spoken prayers. That's our tradition and we have our (undoubtedly Protestant) reasons for doing so. I have to suspect that such inaudible prayers are a development, and that the reason for their development is scrupulosity. But that's just my opinion.

At any rate, this seems to me to be just another round of "my church's practices are the Only True Practices" error. We can argue at length about pews, style of iconography, chant style, etc., but much of the argument founders on the fact that different real people have different reactions to all these practices, so that any uniform analysis of how "people" are influenced by them is ipso facto wrong to some degree.

What I see happening is that, in any really truly traditional Orthodox church, the choir does all the heavy lifting and the people aren't necessarily all that tuned into the service. That goes for pre-NO Roman practice too. If I see a lot of attention to the service in an Orthodox church, and especially participation, I start looking for ex-Episcopal faces. The one conspicuous exception I've been to is the Malankara service (where I didn't stay for the Anaphora), and I have to suspect that part of the reason they all participate is that they were never in the Roman Empire.

Anyway, I have to think that any reason for inaudible prayers is long gone.
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« Reply #35 on: November 04, 2003, 10:16:27 AM »

What I see happening is that, in any really truly traditional Orthodox church, the choir does all the heavy lifting and the people aren't necessarily all that tuned into the service.

I don't think you can really know whether people are tuned into the service or not. Okay, some will be obvious, but any case, you will find in pretty much every large church, regardless of tradition, a fair number of bench warmers. The only difference is the truly traditional Orthodox churches don't have any benches to warm Grin

John.
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« Reply #36 on: November 04, 2003, 01:42:48 PM »

It seems to me that the line of thought followed by those who wish to have the secret prayers read aloud, to recite the amens with the deacon, to leave the Royal Doors open for the entirety of Divine Liturgy and thereby completely disregard the rubrics handed down(in the Russian tradition) from our holy father St. Sabba of Jerusalem- It seems these people are the ones who will soon be arguing for the lowering of the iconostasis, for the changing of services, etc. all in the name of making the service somehow more "accessible" to the people. However, as happened in Vatican II, the stripping away of these seemingly small things will inevitably lead to the stripping away of certain elements of mystery, certain aesthetic qualities, and symbolism. Due to our Westernized, linear, cut and dry ways of thinking  and our modern theological arrogance (that we somehow know SO much better than the rubrics!) - we’re seeing these changes taking place.

As you probably know, it was Emperor Justinian who declared that the priest's prayers must be read aloud for the benefit of the people. What I find so interesting about that is this- the same people who are all for the recitation of the secret prayers so the laity can hear, are the same people who look down upon the path Orthodoxy took during after Constantine (symphonia, etc.). Here, these theologians believe, Christianity lost its true meaning and was reduced partly to a "cult of saints and their relics". They also believe that the concept of personal piety overtook the concept of corporate worship(which was formerly centered on the Eucharistic banquet), thanks to the influence of monasticism. For further reading, check out Fr. Schmemann's "Introduction to Liturgical Theology", or better yet, Fr. Michael Pomazansky's essay on that particular essay. Fr. Schmemann's writings on liturgical theology (and that nasty post-constantinian era!) seem almost thoroughly protestant.

So, I find it interesting that the modern "enlightened" theologian, in an attempt at liturgical archaeology, has adopted the recitation of the secret prayers for all to hear. Why pick and choose? Why not be consistent. If you're going to reject the fruits of that era and strive to rediscover true Christian worship only in the 4th century and earlier, you might just have to scrap saying the secret prayers out loud.



I'd like to share with you some words of Bishop Tikhon of the OCA on this topic:

Yes, the modern (since about the 1960s) repetition of the other, the diaconal Amens, by first some seminarians at SVS and later in the parishes of its graduates, or those who went to Ed Day and heard them, despite objections from many observant clergy and Laity even then (the first such
forceful objection I ever heard came from Fr. John Tkachuk), cannnot be based on any congregational "assent". However, these objections seemed to be on formalistic grounds. No one had seemed to teach or derive any teaching from such actions in any way inimical to the Faith as we have
received It. It has only been in the latter couple decades of the twentieth century that one has begun to hear the repetition of the Diaconal amens (not the Amens in the Words of Institution, touted, (oddly enough) as
"Participation", a word of incredible weight and power in our time, treated almost as something new or something long-lost now being recovered just in time by the advanced Orthodox of the Americans and Western Orthodox Man in
general. What to me is appalling, is that some of the Faithful, unprepared at all for this innovation by an Orthodox teaching on which to base it, have often
succumbed to a temptation to believe that these "Amens" of "theirs" actually ASSIST in the transformation of bread and wine into Christ's Body and Blood. No Deacon, I assure you, ever thought such of his pious interjection and comment (far from any "assent!"),as Participation in Anything.




P.S. Please go easy on my presentation of Fr. Pomazansky's critique of Fr. Schmemann. I just came from a very Schmemanny parish  and even though gone, it's still rubbing me the wrong way. Great people there...just not my schtick.

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« Reply #37 on: November 04, 2003, 02:24:01 PM »

It seems to me that the line of thought followed by those who wish to have the secret prayers read aloud, to recite the amens with the deacon, to leave the Royal Doors open for the entirety of Divine Liturgy and thereby completely disregard the rubrics handed down(in the Russian tradition) from our holy father St. Sabba of Jerusalem-

Peter,

There is not one line of thought.  Please don't lump things together.

I support reading the silent prayers aloud, for instance, because that is simply the right way to do it.

I do NOT support leaving the royal doors open the entire time because that seems to be done for liberal purposes.

Reciting amen's with the deacon, well I don't know, the jury is still out on that one.

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« Reply #38 on: November 04, 2003, 02:27:33 PM »

BTW, unlike some of the less precise "lumping" that occured above, most people I know do not support reading "each and every word" of the silent prayers out loud.

I and most people I know are only for reading the ANAPHORA out loud.

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« Reply #39 on: November 04, 2003, 02:28:21 PM »

Another point:

Someone pointed out that the Copts, Armenians, and Assyrians all have silent prayers.  True--but they all also say their anaphoras OUT LOUD.

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« Reply #40 on: November 04, 2003, 02:33:51 PM »

I support reading the silent prayers aloud, for instance, because that is simply the right way to do it.

I do NOT support leaving the royal doors open the entire time because that seems to be done for liberal purposes.

Reciting amen's with the deacon, well I don't know, the jury is still out on that one.

anastasios

Ok, well I guess that settles it then. Let me know when you
decide on the amen's and we'll be all set.  Wink

In all seriousness though- I'm very wary of changing things that have been done in the Church for 1600 years. Especially at our point in human history, where rationialism and selfishness have reached all time highs. Are we, the saltless products of late 20th century, abnormal America, qualified to propose these kinds of changes? The saints of the past 1600 years didn't seem to have a problem with Theosis- all the while not hearing the "secret prayers" or taking over the deacon's prescribed "amens". Yet, in a day when general piety has hit rock bottom, we want to change a  system that 1600 years worth of Orthodox Christians grew within.

I'm not saying it positively shouldn't happen- because that would be paramount to admitting the Spirit has stopped working in the Church. However, I am very, very, skeptical of where these types of changes are coming from and the spirit behind them.
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« Reply #41 on: November 04, 2003, 02:35:57 PM »

It has only been in the latter couple decades of the twentieth century that one has begun to hear the repetition of the Diaconal amens (not the Amens in the Words of Institution, touted, (oddly enough) as
"Participation", a word of incredible weight and power in our time, treated almost as something new or something long-lost now being recovered just in time by the advanced Orthodox of the Americans and Western Orthodox Man in
general.

I could not agree more.  It does seem rather adolescent of us American Orthodox to think that we have "discovered" a better way to serve the liturgy than the way our Mother Churches of Russia and Greece taught us.  Looks like that excessive "American individualism" that my priest so constantly preaches against is rearing its head yet again.  Just as we Americans "improved" on government by rejecting monarchy now we are "improving" on the liturgy in the name of "democracy" (we'd never actually say it like that) but isn't that attitude at the root of this issue?  The attitude that says: How DARE a priest say I prayer that I (the great isolated individual) cannot hear?  Of course, we forget that the actual words to these "secret" prayers are not a secret at all and can be followed in any service book by those who are concerned about the matter.  I just think the HUMBLE way to do it would be to do it exactly the same as our Greek and Russian Mother Churches do it, and not try to invent our own "American" way here.
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« Reply #42 on: November 04, 2003, 02:44:28 PM »

It seems that I am the one who went out on a limb... Tongue

My point about the "Secret Prayers" of the Liturgy is this: ALL ANCIENT APOSTOLIC LITURGIES HAVE SECRET PRAYERS.  They are UNIVERSAL. We Eastern Orthodox have them.  The Roman Catholics had them until they eliminated them at the Second Vatican Council in 1965.  The Coptics have them.  The Aremenians have them.  Even the less well know Assyrian Church of the East (sometimes called the "Nestorians") have them.

I am not against silent prayers per se.  Our Church has them in the Liturgy, and I don't have a problem with that.  It is simply my opinion that you can make a case for certain prayers being taken silently, but others being taken aloud, based on the particular prayer itself.    

I have no experience with the Armenians and Ethiopians, but only with the Copts, Syrians, and Indians.  I know that all of these have silent prayers in the Liturgy, but in my experience there are not so many that it makes me wonder.  But when I attend a Byzantine rite Liturgy done with all the "secret prayers" silently (the traditional manner), what I experience is basically a service of litanies, with Scriptural passages and a few other things thrown in.  I looked at the text of the Divine Liturgy in the Jordanville Prayer Book the other day; as you know, the English one at least doesn't include the text of the secret prayers, and what I came to believe from looking at that was that if you took away the litanies, there really isn't much left.  I'm sorry if that offends anyone (I'm sure it does), but it is merely my observation.  When I attend the old Latin Mass every so often, I find myself wondering what just happened.  Just about everything except the homily is done in a whispered, hush hush manner between the priest and the acolyte.  Where is the "work of the people" in this?  How is it still the "work of the people"?  

It's likely the problem here is that I don't understand where those in favour of silent prayers are coming from.  What is preferable about silent prayers that those who are in favour of taking some of them aloud are looked at as confused or, worse, radicals bent on trying to change things with an agenda in mind?  What are the positives of silent prayers?  

I've even read some articles that say the "secret prayers" are such an old tradition that the practice may have its roots in Judaism and was something that was simply carried over from the Synagogue into Christianity (like singing the Psalms).

It would be interesting to read more on this.  Could you point me in the right direction?  

Father Seraphim Rose called it the "Protestant Reformer mentality" that says the Church has fallen into "bad" liturgical habits that must be "corrected" by returning to a supposedly pristine "original use."

I don't see my preference for the taking of some prayers aloud as my wanting to go back to a supposedly pristine original use.  I think that is more like what the RC's tried to do after the Second Vatican Council.  I'm not advocating that at all.  

My parish priest, interesting enough, does NOT defend reciting the secret prayers aloud by claiming to be restoring some pristine apostolic usage that may never have existed.  His ONLY defense of the practice is a PASTORAL one.  He claims (and I agree) that people are simply CATECHIZED BETTER when they can hear all the words to a prayer, rather than just reciting an "Amen" at the end of a prayer that they can't even hear.  The pastoral argument for reciting all the prayers aloud in order to have a better taught, better informed, better catechized laity makes a LOT of sense to me, and I can certainly understand why many priests do it.

That argument makes no sense to me.  Why not simply keep the silent prayers, and have everyone read out of a hand missal?  Or why not have a series of adult education classes periodically that teach about the Divine Liturgy?  I could go on.  There's a lot of things you can do to educate the people that don't strictly speaking require taking silent prayers aloud.  In fact, one proponent of silent prayers elsewhere seemed to defend them absolutely, saying that the people should learn what the Liturgy says, even if they never hear those parts taken silently, so that they can assent to it with their Amen, even if they didn't hear it at that point, because they learned once before what was going on and being said.  What then?  This is not a good enough reason for taking silent prayers aloud, in my opinion, because there is a lot you could do to achieve the same result without taking them aloud.

However, the idea that the laity have to audibly hear EVERY SINGLE WORD of every single prayer seems a bit obsessive complusive to me...

This is not what I am advocating.

But it seems to me we Orthodox ONLY became concerned about it AFTER Rome eliminated all of its secret prayers at the Second Vatican Council.

Well, perhaps this is the case with regard to the Eastern Orthodox.  I cannot address that.

I just wonder if our lack of appreciation for the silent prayers of the Liturgy is an effect of Roman Catholic and Protestant piety on American Orthodox?  I could be wrong.  I would welcome any ideas and comments people might have.

I'll bite, because I want to know.  What appreciation should we have for silent prayers and why?
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« Reply #43 on: November 04, 2003, 03:10:27 PM »

It seems to me that the line of thought followed by those who wish to have the secret prayers read aloud, to recite the amens with the deacon, to leave the Royal Doors open for the entirety of Divine Liturgy and thereby completely disregard the rubrics handed down(in the Russian tradition) from our holy father St. Sabba of Jerusalem- It seems these people are the ones who will soon be arguing for the lowering of the iconostasis, for the changing of services, etc. all in the name of making the service somehow more "accessible" to the people.

Well, no.  I am not Byzantine Orthodox, so this doesn't directly apply to me, but in no way am I advocating changing the services, nor am I advocating lowering/removing iconostases.  We draw large curtains across our altars, and I would not dream of abolishing that.  I'm not advocating anything like this, and don't intend to.    

However, as happened in Vatican II, the stripping away of these seemingly small things will inevitably lead to the stripping away of certain elements of mystery, certain aesthetic qualities, and symbolism. Due to our Westernized, linear, cut and dry ways of thinking  and our modern theological arrogance (that we somehow know SO much better than the rubrics!) - we’re seeing these changes taking place.

I think it depends on what change you are advocating.  Vatican II, I think, could've been done right.  I don't think it was.  Interestingly, I think the taking of more things aloud was one of the better things done (and even in the revised rites, there are silent prayers, just not as much: read the rubrics of the new missal).    

As you probably know, it was Emperor Justinian who declared that the priest's prayers must be read aloud for the benefit of the people.

Does this imply that they were always taken silently before Justinian?  

What I find so interesting about that is this- the same people who are all for the recitation of the secret prayers so the laity can hear, are the same people who look down upon the path Orthodoxy took during after Constantine (symphonia, etc.). Here, these theologians believe, Christianity lost its true meaning and was reduced partly to a "cult of saints and their relics". They also believe that the concept of personal piety overtook the concept of corporate worship(which was formerly centered on the Eucharistic banquet), thanks to the influence of monasticism. For further reading, check out Fr. Schmemann's "Introduction to Liturgical Theology", or better yet, Fr. Michael Pomazansky's essay on that particular essay. Fr. Schmemann's writings on liturgical theology (and that nasty post-constantinian era!) seem almost thoroughly protestant.

I'll have to check these out.  What I will affirm for the moment is that corporate worship is extremely important.  I don't think it's necessary to say that, but I don't think anyone would disagree.      

If you're going to reject the fruits of that era and strive to rediscover true Christian worship only in the 4th century and earlier, you might just have to scrap saying the secret prayers out loud.

Before the fourth century, was the Liturgy (or, more specifically, "the secret prayers") done silently?

It has only been in the latter couple decades of the twentieth century that one has begun to hear the repetition of the Diaconal amens (not the Amens in the Words of Institution, touted, (oddly enough) as
"Participation", a word of incredible weight and power in our time, treated almost as something new or something long-lost now being recovered just in time by the advanced Orthodox of the Americans and Western Orthodox Man in
general. What to me is appalling, is that some of the Faithful, unprepared at all for this innovation by an Orthodox teaching on which to base it, have often
succumbed to a temptation to believe that these "Amens" of "theirs" actually ASSIST in the transformation of bread and wine into Christ's Body and Blood. No Deacon, I assure you, ever thought such of his pious interjection and comment (far from any "assent!"),as Participation in Anything.


I don't know what to think of this.  In principle, I agree with him: the people saying the Amens does not assist in the transformation of the gifts so that if these are lacking, the transformation does not come to pass.  But it seems that this perspective could be taken to one extreme and allow for "Low Masses" with just the priest and a server, or not even that.  It's not just the extreme of people thinking they co-consecrate the gifts that you have to worry about, IMO.
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« Reply #44 on: November 04, 2003, 03:14:28 PM »

In all seriousness though- I'm very wary of changing things that have been done in the Church for 1600 years. Especially at our point in human history, where rationialism and selfishness have reached all time highs. Are we, the saltless products of late 20th century, abnormal America, qualified to propose these kinds of changes? The saints of the past 1600 years didn't seem to have a problem with Theosis- all the while not hearing the "secret prayers" or taking over the deacon's prescribed "amens". Yet, in a day when general piety has hit rock bottom, we want to change a  system that 1600 years worth of Orthodox Christians grew within.

I'm not saying it positively shouldn't happen- because that would be paramount to admitting the Spirit has stopped working in the Church. However, I am very, very, skeptical of where these types of changes are coming from and the spirit behind them.

This way of thinking about the situation is IMO the most powerful way of looking at it.  I personally don't think it is sufficient to defend everything, and so it doesn't necessarily convince me re: not taking some silent prayers aloud.  But I think it is a good start to countering arguments made in favour of taking some prayers aloud.
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"Best of all, Mor Ephrem won't trap you into having his baby." - dzheremi

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