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« on: May 24, 2011, 03:01:21 PM »

I read in a book by N.T. Wright last night something to the effect that we know more about Jesus than we do about the early Church up until 125 A.D.

I find that very interesting.  From what little I know about the Orthodox faith, the liturgy is based on services some 300 years AFTER Jesus' death/resurrection. 

What does the Orthodox Church have to say about the EARLY CHurch from say the death of Jesus up until 125 A.D.?

Is it possible that the early Church was different than the present liturgies?

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« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2011, 03:07:53 PM »

The basic structure of what was used in the early centuries is still recognizable today in the liturgy, but, no, it is not exactly the same. The faith is the same, however, and the Orthodox Church is the same body now as it was in the age of the Apostles.
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« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2011, 03:14:11 PM »

In some ways the liturgy was very similar (repetitious prayer, Eucharistic focus, Bishop(priest) presiding over the liturgy and sacraments). However some has changed.

Some change is due to persecution. For example, many liturgies included entire meals where people would bring food to reenact the 'last supper'. Despite being unwieldy as converts grew, having an illegal religion with gatherings of a large meal is difficult to hide.

The majority of the early years of the Church is courageous efforts by missionaries and laity living out their faith (a counter cultural expression) against a pagan society that values the passions and finds struggle a natural order of life. They would meet in the house of a priest and worship with the OT, as well as the available Gospels and letters from leading bishops. This is not the same as a coffee hour bible reading, it was the liturgy. However, an illegal Christianity had little ability for public churches, not to mention the lack of funds for an expensive undertaking.
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« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2011, 03:24:49 PM »

Christ is risen!
I read in a book by N.T. Wright last night something to the effect that we know more about Jesus than we do about the early Church up until 125 A.D.
That would be odd, seeing that everything we know about Jesus we know through the early Church until 125 AD and beyond.  The writings of the Early Church Fathers before 125 AD is about the same length as the whole NT, which was formed in the context of the early Church.

I find that very interesting.  From what little I know about the Orthodox faith, the liturgy is based on services some 300 years AFTER Jesus' death/resurrection.
No, they are the continuation of services at least 300 years before Christ and in His day.  The Liturgy of the Word (the part of the DL until the Great Enttrance) comes out of the synagogue service, the Liturgy of the Eucharist from the Temple service, the Paschal celebration, the appearance of the risen Christ, and the breaking of the bread of the Apostles in Acts.

What does the Orthodox Church have to say about the EARLY CHurch from say the death of Jesus up until 125 A.D.?
the same thing we said then.

Is it possible that the early Church was different than the present liturgies?
No.
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« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2011, 04:50:35 PM »

I find that very interesting.  From what little I know about the Orthodox faith, the liturgy is based on services some 300 years AFTER Jesus' death/resurrection. 
Liturgy can change a bit in some aspects; addition of a prayer here, lengthening or shortening of a segment of the service, etc. It certainly has over the centuries. But after the Christians were kicked out of the Synagogue and the form that Ialmisry described took root, the Holy Tradition was set and has not changed.

You might be interested in this:

http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/2011/04/liturgy-in-johns-gospel/
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« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2011, 05:00:16 PM »

I read in a book by N.T. Wright last night something to the effect that we know more about Jesus than we do about the early Church up until 125 A.D.
The Gospels form a pretty darn long account, my friend, and for good reason! But that's not to say we don't know very much about the pre-125 AD church as well. Probably from before that date are the Didache, 1 Clement, Ignatius's letters, the Book of Acts, Mathetes to Diognetus, St. Paul's letters, and Polycarp to the Philippians, each describing a bit about what the early church is.
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« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2011, 03:27:40 PM »

why isn't a liturgy from the early 100s used? 
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« Reply #7 on: May 26, 2011, 03:30:06 PM »

why isn't a liturgy from the early 100s used? 

Because the true Church is inspired by the Holy Spirit, not a fanatical devotion to one particular historical form.
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« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2011, 03:32:01 PM »

why aren't new liturgies developed that incorporate advances in technology etc.  Priests use the internet and facebook etc, why not incorporate some of this into the liturgies?
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« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2011, 03:35:22 PM »

why aren't new liturgies developed that incorporate advances in technology etc.  Priests use the internet and facebook etc, why not incorporate some of this into the liturgies?

srsly?
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« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2011, 03:36:08 PM »

Yeah, seriously?Huh
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« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2011, 03:39:52 PM »

Yes, I am serious. 

I do not see why the liturgy of St John Chrysthonom and St Basil have to be the only liturgies.  If the Church is evolving and changing in other ways, why not the Liturgy? 


I remember in a Cathecumen class I asked this and there was no good answer.  He said the liturgy used to be 8-9 hours, and I said why did they shorten it, and he said that it was too long, and then I asked why not modify it further?  And he gave no answer.

Why is the litrugy set in stone?
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« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2011, 03:41:52 PM »

Yes, I am serious. 

I do not see why the liturgy of St John Chrysthonom and St Basil have to be the only liturgies.  If the Church is evolving and changing in other ways, why not the Liturgy? 


I remember in a Cathecumen class I asked this and there was no good answer.  He said the liturgy used to be 8-9 hours, and I said why did they shorten it, and he said that it was too long, and then I asked why not modify it further?  And he gave no answer.

Why is the litrugy set in stone?


That's not what you asked. Decide what question you are asking.
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« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2011, 03:43:39 PM »

It's not as is evidenced by the multiple liturgies celebrated within the Orthodox Church. And if you are seriously saying we should incorporate PowerPoint slides and Facebook into the liturgy, well, maybe you would prefer a nondenominational Protestant mega church...
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« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2011, 03:48:09 PM »

I am not advising the incorporation of anything into the liturgy.  I am only hoping to point out that at some point there was a Liturgy, and that liturgy was 8 hours long, and that liturgy was then changed.  I am only hoping to point out that there is no reason--as far as I can see which no doubt isn't too far--why the liturgy cannot be further changed to make it a little more acceptable to the modern culture. 

Your remark about the mega-church was mean-spirited as far as I am concerned.  I am an honest seeker with honest questions.
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« Reply #15 on: May 26, 2011, 03:54:58 PM »

I am not advising the incorporation of anything into the liturgy.  I am only hoping to point out that at some point there was a Liturgy, and that liturgy was 8 hours long, and that liturgy was then changed.  I am only hoping to point out that there is no reason--as far as I can see which no doubt isn't too far--why the liturgy cannot be further changed to make it a little more acceptable to the modern culture. 

Your remark about the mega-church was mean-spirited as far as I am concerned.  I am an honest seeker with honest questions.

I doubt any liturgy was ever in itself eight hours long. That seems an exaggeration. Essentially, the way we worship, despite the various changes, which are not actually fundamental changes, is much the same in the first century as it was in the fourth century, as in the sixteenth century, as is today. The various changes are minor. The spirit and form of the liturgy is basically the same. The way we pray and what we believe go together. Our liturgy has maintained a remarkable stability, which you might see if you investigate further.
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« Reply #16 on: May 26, 2011, 04:06:13 PM »

why the liturgy cannot be further changed to make it a little more acceptable to the modern culture.

To be more precise you probably mean contemporary culture. What do you see as being part of the liturgy and not part of it? I can assure you that what goes on where I go on Sunday looks a lot different that whatever was happening in 12th Greece.

From electric lighting, to climate controlled air, to the use of English (even the question of which English to use is debatable), pews, including the President in the litanies, the architecture of the building, depending on the liturgy being celebrated it might be abbreviated for a variety of reasons or performed at the "wrong" time of day or "wrong day" altogether, allowing to break fast for Thanksgiving,  I can keep going on if you would like and I barely know what I am talking about.

Others could probably point more "substantial" aspects which might have changed, if you think the above are superficial comments.

Again depends on what you are trying to get at.
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« Reply #17 on: May 26, 2011, 04:16:25 PM »

Agent:

The liturgy does change certain ways over time. But it changes slowly, organically, over hundreds of years, through the will of the people and the wisdom of waiting to see how one age judges the previous one.

It hasn't stopped changing, the change just never sped up or slowed down for you.  Cheesy
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« Reply #18 on: May 26, 2011, 04:19:02 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

why isn't a liturgy from the early 100s used? 

It is, the prayers, hymns and structures of the Orthodox Liturgy are part of a continuum which adapts only ever so slightly, evolving at a similar pace to geologic or glacial time.  However rest assured that the Divine Liturgy has been maintained continuously since the Apostles.  Perhaps some of the pageantry, elaboration of symbolism, theatrics, and setting have changed because of the progress of the Church, but the fundamental spiritual and structural and even some of the literal elements have remained fully intact.  They may not necessarily be verbatim, but they are close enough as is spiritually necessary to maintain the same sanctification.

why aren't new liturgies developed that incorporate advances in technology etc.  Priests use the internet and facebook etc, why not incorporate some of this into the liturgies?

Well, we do! What about using modern PA systems? Electric lighting (I've even seen electric candles on the Altar!!)? Modern buildings with AC/Heating? Video recording equipment and streaming live footage into other rooms (say on crowded days). Further, in my own parish and several Non-Ethiopian parishes I've attended PowerPoint slide shows have been incorporated to display the text of the Liturgy for people to be able to sing and follow along.  Should we go any further? I'm not quite sure how that is even feasible, what exactly technological advancements did you have in mind? Animated graphics or sound effects? Even if such things were added in the right spirit, would they exactly be in good taste?

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« Reply #19 on: May 26, 2011, 04:25:17 PM »

I am not advising the incorporation of anything into the liturgy.  I am only hoping to point out that at some point there was a Liturgy, and that liturgy was 8 hours long, and that liturgy was then changed.  I am only hoping to point out that there is no reason--as far as I can see which no doubt isn't too far--why the liturgy cannot be further changed to make it a little more acceptable to the modern culture. 

Your remark about the mega-church was mean-spirited as far as I am concerned.  I am an honest seeker with honest questions.

The honest answer to your question is that there is no place in the liturgy for most kinds of technology.

We have electric lighting, heating and ac systems, some have sound systems (mics for priest and choir/cantor with speakers not in plain sight to distract the faithful). This is about the extent of what can be utlilized in the liturgy - there just isn't a place for praise bands, tv/computer screens, etc in the liturgy. I've seen screens (tv, computer, projector) used as part of presentations that were given by speakers outside of the liturgy, but there just isn't any place in liturgical worship for any of that stuff.

As far as the liturgy being changed, it can be, but it still has to accomplish the purpose for which the people are gathered. It also has to be done in accord with the local synod of bishops. Honestly, there hasn't been a real urgent need to change the liturgy. My particular church allows women and men to stand wherever they wish, women are not required to cover their heads, people can keep their shoes on, the liturgy is done in english, there are pews, and there is no dismissal of the catechumens - all of which, in the overall picture of Orthodoxy around the world, is very accomodating to our culture. I've heard some even have organs.

I don't know exactly what kinds of changes or modernizations you have in mind, but the purpose of the liturgy has never changed, so the form has stayed relatively the same thoughout the centuries. Here is one early account of the liturgy from the second century which bears witness to what we do today with the liturgy of the word (scripture reading and sermon) followed by the liturgy of the faithful (celebration of communion) with hymns and prayers being celebrated on sunday.

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.
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« Reply #20 on: May 26, 2011, 04:29:41 PM »

Perhaps if you propose a specific change as opposed to "Well, why don't they just have more technology" someone might be able to give you a real answer. 

Also, the Orthodox Church does still use, on occasion, the Liturgy of St. James, which has the mass of it from the first century.
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« Reply #21 on: May 26, 2011, 04:52:47 PM »

Agent--Welcome to the forum. I think that you have been asking very good questions. You have been given some good answers so far. Are you satisfied that your questions have been answered? I am sure that we have many kind, wise and knowledgeable regulars here who would be more than happy to give good, honest answers. May the Lord guide your spiritual journey.
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« Reply #22 on: May 26, 2011, 05:06:36 PM »

I fear that my questions will never be adequately answered . . .and that this venue is not necessarily that helpful to a seeker.

My problem is that I have no way of talking to orthodox christians in person.  I know none.  I have spoken with the Priest a few times, but would like to talk with somebody who does not have such a vested interest in the Orthodox Church--a "normal person" in the Orthodox Church. 

It is very hard for me to discern who is really trying to help me and who is trying to argue for the sake of winning.

I am not affiliated with any Church right now, and have no axe to grind with anyone.  I am seeking the Truth.

I have been a member of Protestant Churches and Catholic Churches and spent a good many years as a degenerate hedonistic atheist.  I am only interested in Truth now, not the traditions of men/women.  I am at square one, with no belief in anything right now.
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« Reply #23 on: May 26, 2011, 05:26:22 PM »

I fear that my questions will never be adequately answered . . .and that this venue is not necessarily that helpful to a seeker.

My problem is that I have no way of talking to orthodox christians in person.  I know none.  I have spoken with the Priest a few times, but would like to talk with somebody who does not have such a vested interest in the Orthodox Church--a "normal person" in the Orthodox Church.  

It is very hard for me to discern who is really trying to help me and who is trying to argue for the sake of winning.

I am not affiliated with any Church right now, and have no axe to grind with anyone.  I am seeking the Truth.

I have been a member of Protestant Churches and Catholic Churches and spent a good many years as a degenerate hedonistic atheist.  I am only interested in Truth now, not the traditions of men/women.  I am at square one, with no belief in anything right now.

You and I may have had similar experiences. For example, when I was 18, my father told me "You have been in Church all of your life. It is time to form your own opinion. Start from zero (is there God?) and work your way up." Another thing is that my moniker, Second Chance, refers to my return to the Church one week before the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, and I feel that, like him, my Lord in heaven and my Mother the Church have given me another chance. Hang in there. Many of us will be here for you. However, if you want to talk privately, please take advantage of the Private Messaging feature of the forum.
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« Reply #24 on: May 26, 2011, 05:30:33 PM »

I fear that my questions will never be adequately answered . . .and that this venue is not necessarily that helpful to a seeker.

My problem is that I have no way of talking to orthodox christians in person.  I know none.  I have spoken with the Priest a few times, but would like to talk with somebody who does not have such a vested interest in the Orthodox Church--a "normal person" in the Orthodox Church. 

It is very hard for me to discern who is really trying to help me and who is trying to argue for the sake of winning.

I am not affiliated with any Church right now, and have no axe to grind with anyone.  I am seeking the Truth.

I have been a member of Protestant Churches and Catholic Churches and spent a good many years as a degenerate hedonistic atheist.  I am only interested in Truth now, not the traditions of men/women.  I am at square one, with no belief in anything right now.
Perhaps you should read primary sources like the Church Fathers, instead of commentaries.
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« Reply #25 on: May 26, 2011, 05:38:03 PM »

I fear that my questions will never be adequately answered . . .and that this venue is not necessarily that helpful to a seeker.

My problem is that I have no way of talking to orthodox christians in person.  I know none.  I have spoken with the Priest a few times, but would like to talk with somebody who does not have such a vested interest in the Orthodox Church--a "normal person" in the Orthodox Church. 

It is very hard for me to discern who is really trying to help me and who is trying to argue for the sake of winning.

I am not affiliated with any Church right now, and have no axe to grind with anyone.  I am seeking the Truth.

I have been a member of Protestant Churches and Catholic Churches and spent a good many years as a degenerate hedonistic atheist.  I am only interested in Truth now, not the traditions of men/women.  I am at square one, with no belief in anything right now.
Perhaps you should read primary sources like the Church Fathers, instead of commentaries.

Yes. The first book my priest gave me to read was "The Apostolic Fathers", which are the early church writings from about AD 60-120 (during and right after the Apostolic age). Get the translation by Jack Sparks in particular, if you can find it.

Also, St Justin Martyr in his "Apologies" (not the "I'm sorry" kind, but the defensive kind) writes a lot about early Christian practice and worship. He wrote around AD 150.
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« Reply #26 on: May 26, 2011, 05:53:00 PM »

I fear that my questions will never be adequately answered . . .and that this venue is not necessarily that helpful to a seeker.

My problem is that I have no way of talking to orthodox christians in person.  I know none.  I have spoken with the Priest a few times, but would like to talk with somebody who does not have such a vested interest in the Orthodox Church--a "normal person" in the Orthodox Church. 

It is very hard for me to discern who is really trying to help me and who is trying to argue for the sake of winning.

I am not affiliated with any Church right now, and have no axe to grind with anyone.  I am seeking the Truth.

I have been a member of Protestant Churches and Catholic Churches and spent a good many years as a degenerate hedonistic atheist.  I am only interested in Truth now, not the traditions of men/women.  I am at square one, with no belief in anything right now.

The best way to get to know any Orthodox Christians is to attend a Divine Liturgy and talk with them after if they have a coffee hour. Get to know them and their faith. That's the best I can think of aside from PM'ing some of us on the forum (which I welcome your questions and concerns).


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« Reply #27 on: May 26, 2011, 07:11:09 PM »

I think the main features of the liturgy don't need much change. There is a great deal of prayer, there is the chant, there are the Epistle and Gospel, there are the prayers before Communion... I can't imagine taking anything out, but once you learn the basic elements, I think you will see that they have their place.

Perhaps you have seen a liturgy in person- if not, Orthodox churches don't mind visitors, and if you ask someone on the parish staff, or even call or write to the priest before you visit, he may help explain some things. I admit that if you are used to a different type of church service, the Orthodox liturgy may take a little getting used to, but I think you will grow to like it. Many parishes even have books or pamphlets with translations of the liturgy text, which may help you pick up the gist of events.

A good book about the process of the service is "Living the Liturgy," by Fr. Stanley Harakas. This will help you learn the different parts and what to do during them. There are also many recordings of the liturgy. If you listen to one, you may see that the liturgy propels itself along- it doesn't really need technological help, because it has its own energy.

Good luck.  Smiley
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« Reply #28 on: May 26, 2011, 07:24:23 PM »

I do not see why the liturgy of St John Chrysthonom and St Basil have to be the only liturgies.  If the Church is evolving and changing in other ways, why not the Liturgy? 
Ever heard of the Roman Catholic Church?  Grin
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« Reply #29 on: May 26, 2011, 07:36:32 PM »

I do not see why the liturgy of St John Chrysthonom and St Basil have to be the only liturgies.  If the Church is evolving and changing in other ways, why not the Liturgy?
Ever heard of the Roman Catholic Church?  Grin

Well, we needn't go that far Tongue

There is the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts, used during Lent. The Liturgy of St James is used once in awhile.

And in the Western Rite there are the Liturgies of St Gregory and St Tikhon, plus a few others.

But really, the Liturgy is a tiny (albeit very important) part of the Church's liturgical prayers. The Hours, Matins, Vespers...then a myriad of Akathists and other things...it's plenty, believe me.

Things do change, as others have shown. But the Eucharist is a sacrament and thus the liturgy doesn't change much. It's too important.
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« Reply #30 on: May 26, 2011, 08:11:33 PM »

Christ is risen!
I do not see why the liturgy of St John Chrysthonom and St Basil have to be the only liturgies.  If the Church is evolving and changing in other ways, why not the Liturgy? 
Ever heard of the Roman Catholic Church?  Grin
Yeah, the Vatican has LOTS of "evolving and changing" in its liturgy.
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« Reply #31 on: May 26, 2011, 08:14:59 PM »

Christ is risen!
why isn't a liturgy from the early 100s used? 
because 19 centuries have passed since then.
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« Reply #32 on: May 26, 2011, 08:16:58 PM »

Yeah, the Vatican has LOTS of "evolving and changing" in its liturgy.
The Vatican probably has a lot less than the rest of the Roman Catholic Church, actually.
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« Reply #33 on: May 27, 2011, 01:16:00 AM »

Christ is Risen!

Dear Agent,

Maybe, God willing I can help a little, a least I hope I can. You ask what was the liturgy of the early church like, has it changed any substantial way, if so, why can't it continue changing--perhaps including technological "enhancements" of one sort or another.

Has the Church changed since's it's beginning? The answer has to be both yes and no.  Does a seed of corn change to become a stalk? Yes and no. The form certainly changes. It begins as a smooth tooth shaped seed and soon enough has roots and long floppy leaves; it grows tassels and in the end is hundreds if not thousands of times larger than the original seed. Yet, seed and stalk are ontologically contiguous. They are the same life without addition or subtraction. The stalk was what the seed needed to be in order to make more seed…just like itself.  There, by the way is one of the great tests of the faithfulness of the Church…is it capable and does it still reproduce in kind after caliber of those celebrated Christians of the first Pentecost.  I would say given the evidence of such notables as St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. Silouan, Mother Gavrielle, and Elders Sophrony, and Paisios (among several others), the first seed is still growing strong.

So how has the Church changed without changing, especially with respect to the liturgy and how Christians worship? And, what drove such changes as have been made. Christian worship has two historical taproots, one in the worship belonging to the synagog, which itself is a ancient historical outgrowth of the main and most ancient taproot, the worship belonging to the Temple. That worship was transferred whole from the worship associated with the Tabernacle, and that worship was revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and first implemented by the High Priest Aaron together with his sons.  So our worship is not, nor ever can be ad hoc, or be revised/supplemented to suit some individual or private groups religio-creative impulses.  Where it develops, where it changes, it is in a manner consistent with and expressive of its unchanging ontology.  The liturgy is adapted to our need and it has adapted to meet our need a handful of times across the centuries.

The first liturgy is attributed to St. James, back in NT times, but from what we know of those ancient times, its implementation in the early apostolic era had features we are not so accustomed to, even though some are mentioned by St. Paul.  For example, another poster mentioned the original meal associated with the Divine Liturgy. Believe it or not after the breaking of the bread portion of the Liturgy (the part we are most familiar with) tables were lined up down the center of the church, with the head table resting against the Holy Altar. The monastic table is still consider the mystical and historical extension of this practice, which is why there are some particular customs and observations that go with sharing a monastic meal.  St. Paul mentions these feasts as sometimes being an occasion where the well to do leave out the less well to do when everyone brought food for the feast. Unfortunately, the stingy too often remained stingy, and those just looking to graze off other's labors grew too wanton at these feasts forcing the Bishops to little by little discontinue this practice until it was all but unheard of outside the monastic preservation by the 4th century. So we lost the meal almost entirely….but one little bit remains in every Orthodox parish…the gift of the antidoran after Holy Communion.

The Divine Liturgy itself continued wherever Christian communities rooted, and a number of variants grew up in those different communities around the Mediterranean. These liturgies go back to St. James' liturgy joined together with related material incorporated from founding other apostles and apostolic era witnesses. These are the earliest versions of the ancient liturgies such as the Qurbana, the Liturgy of St. Mark, the Baradak of the Armenians, and Sarum liturgy of the early Roman Church. As one poster noted, some of those early celebrations were long indeed, even up to 8 hours.  Of course those communities who did such things, like the Egyptian Church in the time of St. Mark and his disciples, believed the light was the proper time for worship and hearing of scripture…eating, drinking, physical labor, bodily needs, etc. those all belonged to dark hours and were saved until then.  I doubt many of us today are so able and so hearty as those worthy forbearers in the faith.  Given the needs of the time service grew shorter for most Christians. This was especially so after its legalization and the rise of monastic communities. The monastics tried to preserve the more rigorous ancient practice as much as possible while the laity in the world, who had to deal with the cares of the world were given shorter (but still long by our standards) services.  There was one major redaction under St. Basil who got it down to about 2 to 3 hours, depending, and a generation later St. John Chrysostom pared out some redundant sets of prayers (holdovers from longer fuller services that included associated psalms and hymns) which is what we still use today…which basically means the core form of the Divine Liturgy has been settled since the 5th century more or less. 

That said, all was not said with respect to length. When the Slavs converted, they were converted by monastics and took the monastic worship forms a normative for everyone…so much so that for a couple of centuries at least Russians lived and worked like a great national monastery. Indeed it was joked in other Orthodox lands that the Russians must have feet of iron since their services were so long…often 6 to 8 hours.

During this time there was one other substantive change…not so much in the liturgy itself per se, but in how it was experienced. The first Christian temples, outside of home churches, were built on the model of the synagog. Women stood on one side, men on the other, and the bishop sat on his bema in the middle from whence he taught all.  A railing or open screen separated the men's and women's side, broken at the bema. The altar stood near the eastern wall on the men's side and when it was time to commune the women crossed to the men's side and gathered around altar with them.  In time this partition moved over to enclose the altar in the from of a railing. In the eastern church this railing grew up to become the iconostasis and in the western church it became the Rood Screen.  This brings us to the other major change.

In the centuries when the Church was subjected to persecution in the Roman empire, all worship was not done at the same time in all places. Recall the double root of Christian worship. On one side…the teaching side, it adapted the uses of the synagog to the Christian faith. On the sacrificial side the Church adapted the uses of the Temple to the needs of the Divine Liturgy…indeed the Divine Liturgy is the direct continuation of Temple worship where the Holy Gifts replace the symbolic gifts of slaughtered bulls and goats. That worship was only for the Holy…those who were baptized, in good standing and ready to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.  Everyone else was dismissed. Holy things were truly only for the holy and not anyone else. The deacon's cry of "the doors, the doors" was taken literally…all egress as locked down to ensure the solemnity and privacy of the Divine Liturgy. In fact, it was so private, the baptized kept its details pretty much to themselves.  New Christians didn't learn it all until they emerged from their baptismal washing. This was common for much that touched upon the worship life of Christians. We learn from St. Basil in the 4th century that it was only in his day were certain of these things that had been passed down orally for centuries being committed to writing for two reasons…one to not risk loosing something precious to the memory of the Church given the advancing age and numbers in the Church, second the reasons for the heroic level of secrecy no longer existed. The faith was now legal. There was no longer the risk that authorities would sees upon details of the inner life and practice of the Church and hold it up to ridicule, as Rome did with what was more commonly known of the more external matters regarding the life of the Church.

It was during this time when the secrets were being written down that eastern screens became permanently covered with icons, where in the levant, India, and Western Europe a large curtain became a fixture.  The curtain is found in Eastern Churches too…but it just covers the Holy Doors, not the entire altar area.  This curtain, the later iconstasis were put permanently in place to address the needs that arose both from no longer "actually" dismissing the catechumens and penitents. Remember, Holy Things are for the Holy. By the 4th and 5th centuries there were many in Christian ranks, not all the Baptized lived up to the standards expected of the faithful…they were effectively baptized catechumens. It was not proper for them to witness the Divine Liturgy. It was for participants only, not spectators.  All that was being achieved mystically in the altar was represented to the eyes of the people in the icons, without exposing the Holy Eucharist itself to profane curiosities.

The curtains and the icon screens serve to remind us just why such changes that have been made over time have been made.  They've been made because of our sins, because we are less faithful than those who came before us, less able, weaker, and more in need of those condescensions to our collective infirmities than those of our ancient Christian forbearers.  We struggle to keep morally clean, and fail more often than not at that, let alone do any mighty works for Christ's sake. Most of us cannot live as they lived and worship as robustly as they worship…it more likely destroy our faith than to nurture it if we tried off the bat as a community to live as they lived. God is merciful, and meets us where we are without compromising the life He offers us.

However, if one feels called and is willing to step up to the challenge of the Christian life at it's ancient levels of zeal and rigor, one need only enter the ranks of the monastics…and all that NT glory is there, day long services, simple lives, holiness, hyper-reverent communion, the forsaking of all things to follow Christ…and who knows, you might even get to know some of those modern day apostolic caliber seeds as they ripen in the monastic ear.

And there, I think you have it in modest outline.
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« Reply #34 on: May 27, 2011, 06:57:23 AM »

Seraphim,

Thank you so much for this beautiful post.
There is so much to digest in it, as an inquirer mostly just lurking...it is very helpful to me.

Thank you for taking the time to help the original poster by being so thorough and thoughtful.


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« Reply #35 on: May 27, 2011, 09:55:44 AM »

Yes, I am serious. 

I do not see why the liturgy of St John Chrysthonom and St Basil have to be the only liturgies.  If the Church is evolving and changing in other ways, why not the Liturgy? 


I remember in a Cathecumen class I asked this and there was no good answer.  He said the liturgy used to be 8-9 hours, and I said why did they shorten it, and he said that it was too long, and then I asked why not modify it further?  And he gave no answer.

Why is the litrugy set in stone?


The other approved Liturgies that are used locally or on special Feast Days include the Divine Liturgy of St James (largely used in Jerusalem and on St James' Feast Day in other places) and The Divine Liturgy of St Mark (largely used in Alexandria and I believe by the Coptic Orthodox Church.)

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« Reply #36 on: May 27, 2011, 11:36:55 AM »

I do not see why the liturgy of St John Chrysthonom and St Basil have to be the only liturgies.  If the Church is evolving and changing in other ways, why not the Liturgy?  

I remember in a Cathecumen class I asked this and there was no good answer.  He said the liturgy used to be 8-9 hours, and I said why did they shorten it, and he said that it was too long, and then I asked why not modify it further?
It can change (within the confines of Jude 1:3), but any change must be in accordance with the phronema of the whole Church, the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim 3:15), not just the ideas of individual members, or of individual deacons, priests, or bishops, but of all of the people who comprise the Church together. Why?

"I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." (1 Cor 1:10). Ask yourself honestly where you see this even near to being accomplished in Christendom as a whole today. Orthodoxy takes this seriously: be perfectly united in mind and thought! Scripture requires us all -collectively, not just individually, to be of the same mind.

This is a basic difference -a biblical and beautiful difference as we take it- between Orthodoxy and other expressions of Christianity, which, following individual rather than collective judgment, tend towards disunity in mind and thought (I presume this needs no documentation). Orthodox is unique in its degree of unity of mind, a phronema, and we regard this as our strength rather than our weakness, as Fredericka Matthews-Green points out:

"The method was collegial, not authoritarian; disputes were settled in church councils, whose decisions were not valid unless “received” by the whole community. The Faith was indeed common: what was believed by all people, in all times, in all places. The degree of unity won this way was amazing. Though there was some local liturgical variation, the Church was strikingly uniform in faith and practice across vast distances, and at a time when communication was far from easy. This unity was so consistent that I could attribute it to nothing but the Holy Spirit." -Fredericka Matthews-Green, Facing East

Others may not perceive the strength and grace of our collective submission to the phronema of the Church; they are free to pursue their own alternate path, though they too are called by God to be convinced not only in their own mind, but have the same mind with a collective body, "submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God" (Eph 5:21; cf. 1 Cor 1:10).

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« Reply #37 on: May 27, 2011, 03:18:44 PM »

I was Chrismated a couple years ago and am VERY GLAD that the Liturgy has not changed to suit modern culture.  For example, the first thing I heard from my priest during the Liturgy is, "Blessed by the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit . . ."  I was amazed at the power of that line!  What if someone decided to take that out for the sake of modern culture?  That would have been horrible.  Is there something you find displeasing about the Liturgy?
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