Also, if the people do not say the "amens" what are the people praying at this time?
Chanting an asmatic version of "We praise You, we bless You, we give thanks to You, and we pray to You, Lord our God."
Bingo! The amens are supposed to be the response of the congregation to the priest's invocation; the common assent that completes the prayer. When there is a deacon, he says the amens not only on his own behalf but also on behalf of the congregation. When there is no deacon, the congregation must say them out of necessity. Of course, when the prayers are not heard by the congregation, the deacon must say them anyway.
Incidentally, is this akin to the riddle of the tree that falls in a vast forest?
Yes, that is what they are supposed to be doing according to my research. but in the antiochian archdiocese, that hymn is moved after epiclesis. As far as the congregation filling in for the deacon, I would say that such practice is incorrect only because the people ARE NOT clergy.
Does anyone think that it makes sense for the Liturgy, the Church's common work, to be restricted to the clergy (only part of the Body) especially in its most crucial parts? Please do not cite rubrics here or give me the tired "that's the way we have always done it" excuse. I am talking about theology and ecclesiology.
As far as I know, the Church of Greece, among others, has explained that it is correct to say the so-called secret prayers in a normal voice (that is not to exclaim them). In a small church, the congregation will indeed hear the anaphor/epiklesis. In a situation where the clergy are miked, the same will happen. It indeed takes either a willful act to say them silently or the lack of technological support for the congregation not to hear the entire anaphora.
I will reiterate the theological and ecclesiastical points that have been made on this subject.
- The Divine Liturgy is not a magical act performed by the clergy, but that it is the common worship/work of the entire Body of Christ--clergy and laity alike.
- The Anaphora and the Epiklesis are the critical parts of the Divine Liturgy.
- The clergy (Bishop, Priest and Deacon) offer most prayers on behalf of all, not of themselves.
- The Deacon commonly leads the litanies on behalf of the people and responds to the Bishop/Priest prayers and invocations on behalf of the people, whenever the choir is not called to do so.
- The people commonly chant or sing along with the choir.
- Whenever there is no deacon, the priest substitutes for him in leading the litanies and the choir/people complete the prayer with the proper response.
- Thus, there is a part for each actor in the Divine Liturgy but there are sound reasons why the "symphony" is constructed as such. I don't want to get into the development of the Liturgy lest I inflame passions even further. Suffice it to say that we need to look behind the rubrics.
- The primary principle here appears to be that in matter of clergy prayers and invocations on behalf of all, the assent of all is required to complete the action. Thus, in the absence of a deacon, it makes no sense for the priest to say the amens of the epiklesis or for them to be omitted. Unfinished prayer and, dare I say it, perhaps an ineffectual act.
Let me be sure I understand you here. Are you saying that if the Amens of the Epiclesis are not said outloud by the people that the Eucharist isn't validly consecrated? Is that what you are saying? Because if that is what you are saying, it is utter nonsense. The sacramental change of the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is not dependent on whether the Amens are said by the people, the deacon, or the priest himself. Lay people are not clergy and do not have the power to consecrate the Eucharist. Period. We lay people can give our witness to the consecration of the Eucharist, but we dare not think that our Amen bring it about.
Have you ever considered that in the Old Country nearly all of the Orthodox serve the liturgy by having the priest recite the prayers in a low voice. Go visit Greece, Romania and Russia and see for yourself. Saying the prayers outloud is the innovation. The established tradition of the church was always to say some prayers in a low voice. Research all the old Christian liturgies and you'll find that ALL of them have what they call "secret prayers" of the priest, whether its the Latin Mass, Chrysostom's Liturgy, the Coptic Liturgy, the Jacobite Liturgy of the Syrians, the Armenian Liturgy, the Ethiopian Liturgy or the Assyrian Liturgy.
Please don't misunderstand me. I am not saying there is anything wrong with reciting the prayers aloud. But 2,000 years of Christian tradition and practice is on the side of saying them in a low voice. Reciting them aloud is a very, very recent practice in the history of the Church and comes from the influence of Vatican II ideas on the Orthodox Church. That's why this is mostly a Western phenomenon, because the Orthodox in Greece, Russia and Romania were not really effected by Vatican II like our religious culture in the United States was. If this isn't the case, can anyone show me any instances of Orthodox reciting these prayers aloud BEFORE 1962 (the year the Second Vatican Council started)?
I am merely asking. If the Divine Liturgy (the Anaphora and Epiklesis in particular) is not a magical act by the clergy and presupposes the active participation of the laity, the amens must be said either by the people or by the deacon who speaks on behalf of the people. So the answer to your specific question is: No, the laity does not consecrate anything; the laity assents by saying amen. This is done either directly by the laity or by the deacon on behalf of the laity. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church requires that the laity must participate in the Liturgy for a Liturgy to even take place. There is no such thing as a clergy-only Liturgy in the Orthodox Church, is there?
To be specific, the Orthodox Church forbids its priests offering a PRIVATE Mass. That is, the priest is forbidden to celebrate the liturgy alone, all by himself. There have to be at least two people present for the Divine Liturgy to be celebrated. But those two people can be any combination of people, as long as one is a priest. It could be a single priest and an altar boy. It could be two priests together. It could be a priest and one parishioner, or a priest and one monk. You get the idea. The other person present besides the priest does not have to be a lay person.
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church requires that the laity must participate in the Liturgy for a Liturgy to even take place.
I would be a little more cautious here. Orthodox can "participate" in the Divine Liturgy by simply being present in the Church when it is offered. Their prayerful attendance is considered participatory, even if they stand their silently while the choir sings all the responses and the priest prays the prayers in a low voice. Being devoutly attentive and following the liturgy and bowing and crossing one's self at the appropriate times are considered full participation in the Liturgy. Historically, this is how most Orthodox throughout the world worship at the Divine Liturgy. Granted, a more active participation (congregational singing) would be a good thing, but it isn't our reality in all parts of the world.
Lastly, concerning the priest's prayers in a low voice, I asked about that once when I, as a new convert, visited a very traditional monastery and noticed that the priestmonk said the prayers in a low voice. I asked him about it, and this was his response:
1. How loud does a prayer have to be for God to hear it?
2. Then he reminded me that if I wanted to know what he was saying, all I had to do was open up the liturgy book and follow along.
That kind of solved it for me.
Yes, I did overstate my case. I do get carried away sometimes and have to eat crow. Munch, munch...
In any case, I agree that the requirement for at least two people does not insist for one of the two to be laity. This rule, however, does not represent the normative position of the Church but is the absolute minimum--the lesser of two evils, so to speak, between having no Liturgy and a Primate Mass. We do have other such absolute minimums that folks have over the centuries accepted as the norm; for example, for folks to have at least one communion per year to remain in good standing.
I hark back to the Ignatian model, the bedrock of Orthodox ecclesiology: one bishop, surrounded by his bishops, deacons and the people. Granted that we no longer have a bishop at each congregation; that is OK because the priests do function as the bishop's deputies and the structure is preserved. Granted we no longer have deacons at each local congregation; that is OK because some of the (non-liturgical) functions of the deacon are carried out by lay ministers. Besides, the Priest hardly ever prays strictly for himself during the Liturgies of the Catechumen and of the Faithful--just as the Deacon almost always prays on behalf of the entire congregation. People nowadays forget that the author of the most common liturgy in Eastern Orthodoxy, St John Chrysostom preached that before the chalice there is no difference between men and women, adults and children, Greeks and others, and most importantly, between the clergy and laity.
So, the laity and the priest are the two types of members of the Body of Christ who are most often present at Divine Liturgy--visiting priests, the occasional episcopal visit, and the rare deacon notwithstanding. It seems counter-intuitive and theologically unsound for the priest to respond or assent to his own communal prayers or invocations.
To me the basic issue of the participation of the laity in the Divine Liturgy is how to prevent the common work from degenerating into cacophony. There are sound practical reasons why we have specific roles for readers, chanters, the deacon, the choir and the people. These reasons are not readily apparent in a typical Divine Liturgy but if one attends a Vespers or Matins Service, even once, it readily becomes apparent that it takes many service books, much training and practice to decently conduct these services. Hence, the specialization. Even so, at least in the OCA Church that I attend--where nothing is cut or omitted, many of of special hymns are repeated numerous times so that the laity can learn them and eventually sing along the choir.
These practical reasons do not apply to the hymns of the Divine Liturgy. In my church, many people sing the antiphons, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and all of the Anaphora along with the choir (to say nothing of the common responses). Rarely do we have a disconnect and, at least to me, the Lord approves for the Holy Spirit is palpable. In any case, even if in a given church the people do not sing along at any time, it seems to me that it would be enormously difficult for the people not to be able say the Epiklesis amens. First, they are not sung. Second, "amen" has only two syllables. And, third, it is highly unlikely that the entire congregation would be suffering from laryngitis at the same time.