Author Topic: Western Christmas/Eastern Pascha  (Read 2547 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline BJohnD

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 213
  • St. John of Damascus, pray for us.
Western Christmas/Eastern Pascha
« on: December 29, 2004, 06:51:09 PM »
This may be a more appropriate topic for the Liturgy forum, but I decided to post it here because I'm most interested in the reactions of those who have converted or are thinking of converting from Protestantism, Anglicanism, or the RCC. The general concept has been kicking around in my head since I returned from Compline & Matins on New Calendar Christmas Eve.

In an old Onion Dome piece (recently recycled), a convert choir member complains that he "doesn't like 'When Augustus Ruled the Earth'" and pleads with his parish to include some Western Christmas carols in its services. As silly as that is, I have to admit that after my third Christmas in an Orthodox parish I have some sympathy for this fictional fellow's point of view. For me, some intangible something, some oomph, that I experienced in my old ECUSA life is missing from the Orthodox Nativity services.

On the other hand, I couldn't agree more with what a friend said to me just before my first Orthodox Pascha: "Once you've been to one, you'll never go back." There is nothing else on earth quite like it. 'Nuff said.

My personal feeling can be summed up like this: The West "owns" Christmas, while the East owns Pascha.

For those of you still reading and not already bashing out replies ;) let me add that I'm talking purely about emotion here -- gut reaction, you might say -- and not theology. I'm really curious to see whether others who have turned East have had similar reactions -- or opposite ones. Also, for those who agree with me, I'd be interested on your take as to why that is.

Finally, allow me to add I wouldn't go back for all the Christmas carols in the all the hymnals of the West. :)

« Last Edit: December 29, 2004, 06:52:54 PM by BJohnD »

Offline Fr. David

  • The Poster Formerly Known as "Pedro"
  • Archon
  • ********
  • Posts: 2,833
Re: Western Christmas/Eastern Pascha
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2004, 10:54:50 AM »

I know what you mean.  In fact, the parish in Tulsa in which I was chrismated (and in which I participated in the Nativity liturgy this year) sang Joy to the World and Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming after the liturgy (not during, of course!).  While that may offend the ears and sensibilities of many on this forum, it had been a tradition in that mostly-Lebanese, ethnic parish for easily longer than I've been alive (25 years).  So while that parish is most likely a rare bird in that regard, it does feel gratifying to hear some of the "old songs" (ironic, no?) I grew up with.

Having said that, I think my "ear," as it were, is still very western, though I be in an eastern church.  The Russian tradition of the OCA is, in general, much more to my liking musically than the Byzantine flavor of the AOAA or the GOAA.  While they don't belt out Good King Wenceslas, I find much of the ooomph of which you speak to be more present in the Russian tradition.

This is, of course, the highly subjective and admittedly biased opinion of someone who also adores the Western Rite in general and in Orthodoxy in particular and who needs his "fix" of gregorian chant every so often, so I'm sure there are others out there who find a "Byzantine Nativity" more than satisfying.
Priest in the Orthodox Church in America - ordained on March 18, 2012

Oh Taste and See (my defunct blog)

From Protestant to Orthodox (my conversion story)

Offline BJohnD

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 213
  • St. John of Damascus, pray for us.
Re: Western Christmas/Eastern Pascha
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2004, 01:13:09 PM »
Thanks for your reply, Pedro.

Fascinating that this small-t tradition would be found in an older, ethnic parish. Very cool. Perhaps they're just more comfortable in their own religious skin, so to speak, and aren't as worried about doing the "wrong thing" than, say, a newer, convert-heavy parish?

I'm with you on church music. Even though my interest in Orthodoxy began when I read Norwich's Byzantium trilogy in the late 80s-early 90s, I prefer the Russian style. Isn't there an old Slavophile joke that goes, "The Greeks invented it; the Russians perfected it"?

What I'm really curious about is why the West seems to have such an ability to capture the "joy of Christmas" in its liturgical music/carols. My personal opinion is that much of this is due to the greater emphasis placed on the feast in the Western world. Speaking very generally, it seems to me that in the last hundred years or so Christmas has risen to an equal position with Easter in the popular piety of the West -- perhaps even higher. Too simplistic? Perhaps. I don't think Western theology has raised Christmas to the level of Easter, of course. I mean the popular sentiment of the people. Orthodoxy, on the other hand, seems never to have lost the idea that Pascha is the Feast of Feasts, and this is reflected in the Church's music.

Offline The young fogey

  • Archon
  • ********
  • Posts: 3,159
  • Milhouse van Houten in a Raymond Chandler novel
    • A conservative blog for peace
  • Faith: Catholic
  • Jurisdiction: Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Roman Rite
Re: Western Christmas/Eastern Pascha
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2004, 01:31:18 PM »
My personal feeling can be summed up like this:  The West "owns" Christmas, while the East owns Pascha.

Easter might be No. 1 theologically in the West too but culturally you're absolutely right. (The secular world ignores Easter but celebrates Christmas!)
"You always were a historically illiterate jerk, John." - OicwR doyen Stuart Koehl

Russian icons and Byzantine prayers at home; Ukrainian Catholic parish once a month. Traditional Latin Mass most other Sundays.

High-church libertarian

Offline Arystarcus

  • High Elder
  • ******
  • Posts: 836
Re: Western Christmas/Eastern Pascha
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2004, 09:45:36 PM »
(The secular world ignores Easter but celebrates Christmas!)

That's cuz they're greedy. :D

Why settle for chocolate and cadbury eggs when you can have gifts?

In Christ,
« Last Edit: December 30, 2004, 09:46:32 PM by Arystarcus »