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Author Topic: Nativity Services of the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches  (Read 692 times) Average Rating: 0
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Carl Kraeff (Second Chance)
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« on: December 27, 2011, 04:58:30 PM »

I have been stuck at home and had the opportunity to watch Christmas services at various heterodox churches. I was frankly shocked by the following.

1. The Episcopal hierarchical service at the National Cathedral. This was a stange mixture of vaguely Christian and some unidentifiable elements. The female priests and bishops were jarring but no more so than their demeaner and words; they could have been presenting at a business meeting. No awe, no sense of the Holy.

2. A Roman Catholic hierarchical service, I believe at Buffalo, NY. Everybody was serious and I could definitely say that these folks were Christians. However, the Mass was so simplified (as compared to Orthodox DL) that I did not perceive a sense of the Holy here either. It was interesting to see nuns serving the Chalice but jarring to have a young teenage girl in a nice party dress read the Holy Gospel.

3. A Lutheran service at a local church (Deep South). Looking at brick walls all around (nothing more than bricks!) distracted me to no end. Plus, they seemed to be worshipping in mind only. Well, you can throw in some emotions that were stirred up by Christmas carols that were nicely sung. Again, there seemed to be a mixture of genders amongst those folks at the Altar area.

4. A Southern Baptist Christmas pageant that was more shlock than anything else, with the three kings parading with their retinue to the manger, all dressed by the props department of Kismet! I used to think that the Southern Italian baroque was too much, but these sturdy Baptists did their best to out both Neopolitans and Cecil B DeMille. BTW, their Christmas service featured their conviction that the Incarnation was necessary so that Christ would be crucified to appease God the Father.

In none of the services was there a sense of the Holy, or a tangible focus for the worshippers. In most cases the arrangement was essentially of a circle or rectangle where folks were facing each other, like a counseling group. In the case of the Catholic service, at least there was an altar but that was situated in between the celebrants and the congregation, with the back of the celebrants facing the tabernacle that holds the Body and Blood of Christ. I am of course biased in my observations but it really bothered me that all of these folks were worshipping so differently that us. And, I should repeat, the main difference was that they seemed to use their mind much more than their whole being. A perfunctory exercise IMO.

I am sharing my observations and conclusions with y'all so that you can set me straight if I am wrong. I apologize in advance if I have hurt anybody's feelings. Please accept my sincerest wishes for a blessed Nativity Festal Season.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2011, 05:00:54 PM by Second Chance » Logged

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NicholasMyra
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« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2011, 05:03:10 PM »

I could definitely say that these folks were Christians.
So, what church did y'all convert from?  Grin
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« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2011, 05:17:24 PM »

In none of the services was there a sense of the Holy, or a tangible focus for the worshippers.

I wonder if one was to video tape the expressions of the faithful of the parishes I regularly attend on Sundays (I bounce between an OCA and UOC parish) if you would think we were filled with a "sense of the Holy."

Some probably would look bored. Others might be distracted by trying to keep the "little ones" quiet and settled during the Liturgy. You probably would see a few that had fallen asleep during the sermon. I'm sure a few might be able to put together a pious expression or two, but the last time I checked, God judged our hearts, not necessarily our outward expressions as to the depths of our devotion.

I have attended services in person of other denominations within Christianity, and I have also watched services on TV. (I have enjoyed watching Mass and the saying of the Rosary on EWTN on more than one occasion) and the  I think it is very unfair to watch one service and to make a judgment as to the level of reverence or regard for God based on that one service.

In reality, most other Christian worship services are pretty watered down when compared to the Divine Liturgy. We Orthodox like pomp and circumstance. Our vestments are more decorated than most, our churches are fancier than most, and we do have a fondness for our "smells and bells."  Smiley

I say this, not as a criticism for us Orthodox, but to point out that it really is an unfair comparison to put a Lutheran service next to the Divine Liturgy and hope that the Lutheran service will pass muster. Martin Luther intentionally watered things down. That was part of his "reformation." So naturally, Lutheran Churches are not going to be as highly decorated, etc., etc., as Orthodox parishes.

Like you, I am biased and love our Orthodox services and all of the beauty that comes with our Churches. However, I would never doubt the sincerity of those in the pews of another church.

The person you saw sitting in the pew on TV may have been struggling with their faith in God this year, and chose that service to try to reconnect in some way with the Almighty. Something drew them to Church that day. And the fact of the matter is that they were in Church, and not out at some strip club or doing something awful. So, give credit where credit was due. They came to celebrate Christ's Nativity in their own way, and that's what they did.

May God bless them for it.
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« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2011, 06:12:29 PM »

2. A Roman Catholic hierarchical service, I believe at Buffalo, NY. Everybody was serious and I could definitely say that these folks were Christians. However, the Mass was so simplified (as compared to Orthodox DL) that I did not perceive a sense of the Holy here either. It was interesting to see nuns serving the Chalice but jarring to have a young teenage girl in a nice party dress read the Holy Gospel.

I don't know but it's always been my experience (a good part of my dad's side of the family is RC so I grew up going to the midnight mass for Christmas every year, and have been to one since I began inquiring into Orthodoxy) that they do the same thing we do. We have the liturgy of St John Chrisyostom (our typical divine liturgy) with (at least in the russian tradition) festal psalms for the three antiphons, the appropriate troparion and kontakion in their proper places, a festal prokeimenon, and a festal hymn to the Theotokos. They celebrate their typical mass with the appropriate festal hymns, gradual, and prayers in their appropriate places in the mass. Aside from the normal stuff that Orthodox would find unusual in a RC mass (female altar servers, etc), I would say they consider it more holy than any given sunday and treat it as so.

But then again, this is just my experience.
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« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2011, 06:47:51 PM »

There is nothing like Byz pomp and circumstance TM, in conclusion.
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« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2011, 06:49:30 PM »

I could definitely say that these folks were Christians.
So, what church did y'all convert from?  Grin

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« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2011, 12:36:14 AM »

I have been stuck at home and had the opportunity to watch Christmas services at various heterodox churches. I was frankly shocked by the following.

1. The Episcopal hierarchical service at the National Cathedral. This was a stange mixture of vaguely Christian and some unidentifiable elements. The female priests and bishops were jarring but no more so than their demeaner and words; they could have been presenting at a business meeting. No awe, no sense of the Holy.

I'm somewhat puzzled as to which service you watched. I skimmed through the Christmas Eve service, and while there were a few elements I could comment on (and I didn't listen to all of the sermon, as my daughter was looming over me for daring to keep her away from Tumblr), by and large the service was done in the cathedral's traditional, grand style. (Did you catch the Haile Salassie cross in the processions?)

One has to understand one aspect of this: doing anything at the cathedral is heavily constrained both by its great size and by the reverberation and other acoustic vagaries of the place.  One   has   to   learn   to   speak   in   a   more   state - ly   man - ner   there,   or   else   no  - bo - dy   can   un - der - stand   you. There is also a tendency to drone. Processions take forever, as does communion. It's hard to maintain the impression of a personal solemnity in this.

The building also presents a problem which it may be hard to appreciate if one has not actually been there. The problem, essentially, is that Frohman's vision of the church lapsed into a kind of medieval recreationism which at points got in the way of actually using the building. He was famously reluctant, for instance, to work out the restroom facilities. In the case of the main floor, one can see both on plans and by standing at the back of the nave that the building is not straight; there is a quite noticeable jog in the church at the crossing. Frohman's intent in this was to avoid a tunnel effect looking straight down the nave, but the problem is that between the elevation change at the choir, the kink, and the rood screen, it's almost impossible to see the high altar from anywhere in the church. In a medieval cathedral the choir and sanctuary tended to function as a sub-chapel, and that's the building that Frohman made. In a more modern neo-Gothic building there would be no screen, and the choir would be much more open, allowing the high altar to be seen clearly from the nave. As it is, within a decade of the completion of the nave, a subsidiary altar was set up in the crossing; more recently the platform seen in this video was erected. The thing is that the 1979 liturgy is more attuned to the old arrangement. The service is now in two parts, and the focus of the action shifts from the lectern and pulpit to the altar at the offertory. Pulling the altar through the choir disrupts the physical arrangement, so that the choir no longer has a function as liturgical space.

As to the changes in the service:
  • IIRC they took the option to substitute another hymn for the Gloria.
  • They used a non-standard set of prayers of the people, which possibly did not satisfy the rubrics (I didn't listen to them all).
  • They skipped the confession, which has become a common practice on major feasts.
  • If you listened carefully you may have noticed that the response to "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God" was briefly garbled. It has become fashionable to avoid saying "give him thanks and praise" but people came up with two differing "solutions", and a lot of people say "him" anyway, either out of stubbornness or because our lips are on autopilot.
  • The post-communion prayer was also non-standard.

I didn't identify anything as non-Christian, but the form of the prayers of the people was way outside convention, and the post-communion prayer was unrubrical but I thought not an unworthy prayer. Everything else was done as it has been done there for nigh on to forty years.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2011, 12:36:45 AM by Keble » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2011, 12:45:25 AM »

I would add one additional observation: back in the old days, in our neo-Gothic Episcopal church, everyone, including the choir, would have turned to face the altar at the Creed and at the Sursum Corda, and they would have approached the altar, to kneel at the rail, ascending the steps at the foot of the choir and passing though it as if passing through the choirs of angels in heaven. And the priest and servers would have faced the reredos, or the cross, or the east window, along with all the congregation. This was a better pattern. The current in-the-round pattern is said to emphasize immanence, but personally it seems to me that communion, being immanence itself, hardly needs such emphasis. But perhaps that's just my prejudices.
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