I see your point. As a convert you must necessarily be particularly sensitive to not being perceived as bringing your "Protestant baggage" with you. As a subdeacon (although this applies to all of us), you would also be careful with "faithfulness and obedience to what we have received." Yet, I think it may be a particular conceit to be 100% faithful to all things. There is no question that we must be 100% to the faith but unless we do this with understanding, there is a problem no? I am not saying that you lack such understanding. What I am questioning, or rather driving at, is that it is more important for us to worship and to believe, as Apostle Paul says "I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind." (1 Corinthians 14:15). In my mind, it is important to understand, and not merely take as a given, what we do. If something that was passed down to us is not central to the faith, we should prayerfully consider whether we should do something else that is more truthful to our faith, which is supposed to be one and the same throughout all ages.
An example would be pews. Surely, we can agree that this is indeed a small matter, not worthy of great division. Another would be the interpretation of certain rubrics. In the Anaphora, for example, the Greek Church has decided to interpret the Rubrics as instructing a priest to day certain prayers "in a low voice" rather than "secretly." I read in a previous discussion (it may have even been on this thread) that in practice all the people hear these prayers as the priest is usually outfitted with a lapel microphone). In my church, these prayers are chanted aloud by the Priest (with the exception of the prayers between the "We praise Thee" and "And make this bread the precious Body of thy Christ." Now, this issue is a weightier one because it touches upon ecclesiology and the role of the laity. Just as you are afraid of Protestant baggage (too high a role for the laity), I am afraid of Roman Catholic baggage (too low a role for the laity). Another way of saying this may be that I am leery of anything that divides the laity and the clergy into two separate species of Christians. The people saying the amens to the Epiklesis prayers help to preclude this and do not hurt our ecclesiology at all, even though it is indeed against some rubrics.
Thank you for your thoughts and insights here. I do agree with you about "what we have received" encompassing more than just externals. I had intended it in that sense - indeed, externals don't exist on their own. My own pre-Orthodox background is Anglo-Catholic, although growing up I didn't learn that term until my late teens. Having grown up in part of the world where Anglicanism is uniformly Anglo-Catholic because that was the flavour of missionary that was sent there, there was simply no need to distinguish it from anything else. We were simply Anglican. It was only when I moved back to the UK (having been born here but left at an early age), that I was confronted with Anglicans who didn't believe in the sacraments, who didn't ask the prayers of the Saints, who didn't use incense, or chant, or wear vestments, or believe in the Eucharist, and such like. It was only then that i began to appreciate that the way I worshipped had been coloured by a very interesting history of the Church of England. Having developed a love for the mediaeval western rites, I began to see how they were based on a very different understanding of worship from the rites with which I had been brought up, and I saw the influence of the reformation and post-reformation period on how we perceived things. I saw that the different orders within the church (of which only prietshood and laity remained in the CofE, the minor order having been abolished centuries ago and the diaconate being basically non-existent to all intents and purposes) were not just convenient categories but were real ministries actualised in the Church's worship and most of all at the Eucharist, (of course, my understanding of what the Church is was very different at the time but the point remains).
I understand your reticence about espousing anything that could be seen to perpetuate the excessive division between clergy and laity just as I can understand the reaction of the reformers against just this, as the late mediaeval rites had come to be heavily privatised in practice
. Yet they went too far to the other extreme. Instead of restoring the people's parts to them so that they could participate that way, they instead introduced the concept that the only true way of participation was to be focussed on the priest. This manifested itself in various ways in different places and over time, including the priest having to vest in front of the people, the abolition of the mystical prayers, the removal of rood screens, the priest having to face the people (if not in canon then at least in public perception), and so forth. I reacted against this even when I was still Anglican and it was always a source of tension for me from then on, especially as so many of those around me held onto this legacy. When I tried to explain the interwoven elements of the priest's and people's parts of the mediaeval mass, my friends simply saw the people being excluded from what the priest was doing. Where I saw the priest and people, facing east together, praying together, looking together towards the New Jerusalem, my friends saw the priest with his "back to the people". The mindset was so heavily entrenched that there was simply no challenging it.
This was not part of the reason I initially began to explore Orthodoxy (which was for ecclesiological reasons) but, having reached the conclusion that Orthodoxy alone is the Church of Christ and that I had no option but to uproot myself from all of which I had previously been part, it is certainly one of the things that made me begin to delight in my decision to embrace Orthodoxy. All of a sudden, here it was: that mindset of each of us with our calling in the life of the Church and the actualisation of that in the Eucharist, not as something imagined from reading an historical liturgical text, and not something theorised about in a sermon about how liturgy should be bound up with life, but actually lived, here, now, in the present, before my very eyes, and now I was part of it! I really dont know how to express that feeling in words.
The first time I went to the hierarchical Liturgy, I was bowled over. There it was, all that I had never been able to experience before: the priests performing their role, the deacons theirs, the subdeacons theirs, the laity theirs, and these parts all ran simultaneously, often with everybody doing the same thing at the same time; often diverging, with different people doing different things at the same time, as the priests said prayers and the deacon censed and the choir sang; and interacting in parts as the deacons gave the litanies and the people responded; then converging at parts as the bishop brought everything together by exclaiming the doxologies of the prayers and the people gave their Amen
. Yet there was no sense of anybody being excluded from anything. It is simply that we were all of different orders, all with different functions, but our common work was one, it was a corporate act of worship, and this reflects the sacramental life of the Church, its care for its members, and its apostolic mission. There's an excellent article here
(pdf) which explores this unity of liturgy and life as expressed specifically in the diaconal ministry and order. I love that the deacon's offering of the litanies, exhorting the Eucharistic assembly to offer prayer to God, and his insertion of petitions for people in various states of need, all stems from the fact that, as deacon, it is his role to visit the sick, to comfort the sorrowful, anciently to distribute the alms of the parish to those in need, so he would know who was sick, who had died, who was pregnant, who was travelling, and so forth, and when the Christians gathered to make Eucharist, he would stand before them and lead them in praying to God for these members of their community. This is the root of the additional petitions in the sluzhebnik for insertion into the Litany of Fervent Supplication.
The blurb on the back of the Hierarchical Liturgy book from the now defunct Christ of the Hills monastery has this quotation from St Ignatius, which I have quoted before but will repeat here because it is just so beautiful and sums it up perfectly:
"Be eager to do everything in God's harmony, with the Bishop presiding in the place of God, and the Presbytery in the place of the council of the Apostles, and the Deacons, most sweet to me, entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ." "Each of you must be part of this chorus so that, being harmonious in unity, receiving God's pitch in unison, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father."
So when I see this layered approach to worship being laid aside in parts, in favour of the more linear form of worship more akin to protestantism, (and Roman Catholicism since its liturgical revisions of the 20th century), where everybody has to say the same words, or at least hear all the words said, see everything that is done, where they complain about being left out if the priest faces any direction other than towards them, or if he does or says something that they do not see or hear, it makes me feel very uneasy indeed. And when Orthodox clergy friends give their reasons for doing it, and they sound exactly like the reasons why the protestant reformers revised their services and altered their churches, I begin to wonder at the effects that this may have on Orthodox people's self-perception over time, and people's understanding of their place and role within the Church's common life.
So it is about following the rubrics, partly because my bishop would (rightly) have no qualms about correcting me or indeed my parish priest were we to do our own thing, but also because the rubrics and texts of the services exist not for their own sake but as an expression of what we do, which is itself bound up with how we understand what we are doing in worship, and our relationship to each other and to God.
So I much prefer what my bishop does. He doesn't exclaim the mystikos prayers, including the epiklesis, aloud in order to make them heard, and he doesn't whisper them so as to make them inaudible. He simply says them, and whether or not they are heard by the laity, who are performing their own role at this point, is inconsequential. I only know one priest who offers the prayers in a whisper and one who exclaims them aloud (I'm in the Church Abroad but have served in the patirarchal church and Antiochian churches, also having visited a Greek parish from time to time) so what you referred to as the interpretation of the Greek church is what I suppose I consider to be usual from my experience in various churches. It may be a transatlantic difference.
Anyway food is ready and won't eat itself. Perhaps more later.