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Author Topic: Divine Liturgy celebrated alone  (Read 2881 times) Average Rating: 0
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The_Convert
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« on: July 19, 2013, 01:47:57 PM »

On the OCA website, I was reading the life of Saint Theophan the Recluse. I was struck by the following:

Quote
Beginning in 1872, he cut off all relationships with people (except for his confessor) and no longer left his cell to attend church. He built a small chapel in his quarters and dedicated it to the Lord’s Baptism. For ten years he served there on Sundays and Feast Days. For the last eleven years of his life he served every day by himself. Sometimes he would sing, and sometimes he kept completely silent.

This struck me as odd, because I was under the impression that it was always impermissible for a priest to celebrate the Divine Liturgy alone, but here we have a saintly monk doing that regularly for several years. Is there some exception to the proscription against private Liturgies? Or am I missing something in the biography?
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« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2013, 01:55:06 PM »

Always and never are two words that don't always work out in Orthodoxy.

The norm is for liturgies to be done communally. This appears like an exception. Just as the norm is 2-dimensional images, but there have been statues as exceptions.
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« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2013, 01:56:36 PM »

On the OCA website, I was reading the life of Saint Theophan the Recluse. I was struck by the following:

Quote
Beginning in 1872, he cut off all relationships with people (except for his confessor) and no longer left his cell to attend church. He built a small chapel in his quarters and dedicated it to the Lord’s Baptism. For ten years he served there on Sundays and Feast Days. For the last eleven years of his life he served every day by himself. Sometimes he would sing, and sometimes he kept completely silent.

This struck me as odd, because I was under the impression that it was always impermissible for a priest to celebrate the Divine Liturgy alone, but here we have a saintly monk doing that regularly for several years. Is there some exception to the proscription against private Liturgies? Or am I missing something in the biography?
It doesn't say that he prevented people from coming to his services. If a priest is alone at 9 AM in the church and the DL is scheduled to begin then, he can start the service, can't he? and just because no one shows up doesn't mean he should stop during the service.
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« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2013, 02:05:30 PM »

I know a situation where this was done recently. I was quite surprised when I heard of the person doing it. It obviously isn't allowed though.
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« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2013, 02:06:10 PM »

On the OCA website, I was reading the life of Saint Theophan the Recluse. I was struck by the following:

Quote
Beginning in 1872, he cut off all relationships with people (except for his confessor) and no longer left his cell to attend church. He built a small chapel in his quarters and dedicated it to the Lord’s Baptism. For ten years he served there on Sundays and Feast Days. For the last eleven years of his life he served every day by himself. Sometimes he would sing, and sometimes he kept completely silent.

This struck me as odd, because I was under the impression that it was always impermissible for a priest to celebrate the Divine Liturgy alone, but here we have a saintly monk doing that regularly for several years. Is there some exception to the proscription against private Liturgies? Or am I missing something in the biography?
It doesn't say that he prevented people from coming to his services. If a priest is alone at 9 AM in the church and the DL is scheduled to begin then, he can start the service, can't he? and just because no one shows up doesn't mean he should stop during the service.
No I don't think the DL can begin without another present. I recall several years ago that I arrived for a service before anyone else - and it was already a couple of minutes past the scheduled hour to begin - the priest was relieved and dragged me to the chanter's stand, even though I had only recently been chrismated and had never before attended that particular service.

Though it may be implied, the article does not specify that it was the DL that St Theophan was celebrating. He may have been celebrating some form of Reader's services. Just a speculation.
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« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2013, 02:09:17 PM »

On the OCA website, I was reading the life of Saint Theophan the Recluse. I was struck by the following:

Quote
Beginning in 1872, he cut off all relationships with people (except for his confessor) and no longer left his cell to attend church. He built a small chapel in his quarters and dedicated it to the Lord’s Baptism. For ten years he served there on Sundays and Feast Days. For the last eleven years of his life he served every day by himself. Sometimes he would sing, and sometimes he kept completely silent.

This struck me as odd, because I was under the impression that it was always impermissible for a priest to celebrate the Divine Liturgy alone, but here we have a saintly monk doing that regularly for several years. Is there some exception to the proscription against private Liturgies? Or am I missing something in the biography?
It doesn't say that he prevented people from coming to his services. If a priest is alone at 9 AM in the church and the DL is scheduled to begin then, he can start the service, can't he? and just because no one shows up doesn't mean he should stop during the service.
No I don't think the DL can begin without another present. I recall several years ago that I arrived for a service before anyone else - and it was already a couple of minutes past the scheduled hour to begin - the priest was relieved and dragged me to the chanter's stand, even though I had only recently been chrismated and had never before attended that particular service.

Though it may be implied, the article does not specify that it was the DL that St Theophan was celebrating. He may have been celebrating some form of Reader's services. Just a speculation.

And partaken of the reserved Holy Gifts. Not unusual.
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« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2013, 02:16:28 PM »

Though it may be implied, the article does not specify that it was the DL that St Theophan was celebrating. He may have been celebrating some form of Reader's services. Just a speculation.

It could be that. Also, I noticed that there was a reference later in the biography to a 'cell attendant', so it could be that this attendant was at the Liturgy.
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« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2013, 02:52:45 PM »

No I don't think the DL can begin without another present. I recall several years ago that I arrived for a service before anyone else - and it was already a couple of minutes past the scheduled hour to begin - the priest was relieved and dragged me to the chanter's stand, even though I had only recently been chrismated and had never before attended that particular service.

Something similar happened to me last year.  I was living in an area where Oriental parishes were few and far between, and I had to figure out where to attend Liturgy on Holy Thursday.  I decided on an Armenian parish: the parish schedule said it started at 10am, so I figured I could make it there with the long commute.  When I arrived about fifteen minutes late, the priest was standing in the church alone.  When he saw me, he ran up and gave me a big hug and said that, because the time is inconvenient for people's work schedules, no one showed up, and so he was worried he wouldn't be able to liturgize, and so he prayed that God would send him someone, and apparently God sent me.  I told him he should have prayed harder, and he might've gotten an Armenian instead of a clueless Indian.  Smiley  Anyway, we served the Liturgy together, just the two of us.  Liturgically not as smooth as a normal Sunday Liturgy would've been with deacons and choir, but it was a sublime experience.  Rarely have I seen a priest commune with such compunction. 

He was new to the parish (less than half a year there, I think), so he just did the schedule the way he was told it was done last year.  I suggested that he might try an early morning Liturgy next year that would end in time for people to go to work and see if that would work out better. 

Re: the original post, I suspect that when the article says St Theophan served alone, it means he served with one person to assist him or at least be present.  That "cell attendant" could be the one. 
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« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2013, 03:43:32 PM »

^Wow!  Did you serve at the altar as deacon that day?  Was it difficult for you since the Armenian liturgy is a little different from what you are used to?
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« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2013, 04:31:58 PM »

On the OCA website, I was reading the life of Saint Theophan the Recluse. I was struck by the following:

Quote
Beginning in 1872, he cut off all relationships with people (except for his confessor) and no longer left his cell to attend church. He built a small chapel in his quarters and dedicated it to the Lord’s Baptism. For ten years he served there on Sundays and Feast Days. For the last eleven years of his life he served every day by himself. Sometimes he would sing, and sometimes he kept completely silent.

This struck me as odd, because I was under the impression that it was always impermissible for a priest to celebrate the Divine Liturgy alone, but here we have a saintly monk doing that regularly for several years. Is there some exception to the proscription against private Liturgies? Or am I missing something in the biography?
It doesn't say that he prevented people from coming to his services. If a priest is alone at 9 AM in the church and the DL is scheduled to begin then, he can start the service, can't he? and just because no one shows up doesn't mean he should stop during the service.
I've known priests who will do a Typica service or something along those lines if no one else is going to commune.
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« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2013, 04:34:33 PM »

It doesn't say that he prevented people from coming to his services. If a priest is alone at 9 AM in the church and the DL is scheduled to begin then, he can start the service, can't he? and just because no one shows up doesn't mean he should stop during the service.

He can begin with "Blessed is the Kingdom", but after that he'll have to wait for a believer to arrive who can reply "Amen" before he can continue.
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« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2013, 04:35:21 PM »

I've never heard of a blessing to Liturgize "alone."  The article may be over-simplifying (i.e. the cell attendant that others have picked up on).
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« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2013, 04:57:28 PM »

^Wow!  Did you serve at the altar as deacon that day?  Was it difficult for you since the Armenian liturgy is a little different from what you are used to?

Yes, I did.  When we went into the sacristy to vest, the priest told me "This is going to be rough, but we'll make it". 

I'm familiar enough with the Armenian Liturgy that it wasn't so bad.  He did all the "deacon parts" that needed to be done in Armenian, let me do other things in English, and otherwise, my job was to cense.  Periodically, he'd stop to tell me what to do next, "Please get this for me", etc.  It was a trip, but he was right: we made it.  Tongue 
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« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2013, 05:13:18 PM »

That is so cool.
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« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2013, 05:30:30 PM »

It was nice, and no pressure since no one was there.  Maybe I'll have to learn Armenian and make a habit of it.  Tongue
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« Reply #15 on: July 19, 2013, 08:07:11 PM »

It doesn't say that he prevented people from coming to his services. If a priest is alone at 9 AM in the church and the DL is scheduled to begin then, he can start the service, can't he? and just because no one shows up doesn't mean he should stop during the service.

He can begin with "Blessed is the Kingdom", but after that he'll have to wait for a believer to arrive who can reply "Amen" before he can continue.

Precisely. A liturgy (literally the work of the people) cannot proceed without the presence of at least one other person other than the priest. This sense of community, indeed, of the Eucharist itself, is also reflected in Christ's own words: When two or three are gathered in My name, there I am among them.
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« Reply #16 on: July 19, 2013, 10:02:23 PM »

My first priest told me that a liturgy cannot be served by the priest alone.  There has to be at least one other person there in order for the liturgy to be served.
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« Reply #17 on: July 20, 2013, 03:38:59 PM »

Shortly after I was Chrismated I was helping Father in the altar on a weekday Liturgy and nobody else had shown up. He said "Thank goodness you're here, because we can't go past a certain point in the Liturgy without a second person." He told me, if I'm remembering right, that it was the part just after the gospel reading. Everything up till that point is just prayers and reading Scripture, which anyone can do, but to 'make' the Body of Christ we have to have the Body of Christ.

I might be remembering wrong and it was just before the gospel...I'm not sure. I know though that he said he can start it and go for a while hoping someone shows up.
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« Reply #18 on: July 20, 2013, 03:46:49 PM »

It would be tragic to have a liturgy with the priest alone, but at least St. Theophan the Recluse served with his attendant. I remember times when I was the only acolyte, but not when there was literally no-one else besides me and the priest doing the liturgy. That would be extreme?
P.S. If a priest and deacon are together on their own, can they celebrate the liturgy or do they need to wait for a 3rd person?
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« Reply #19 on: July 20, 2013, 03:50:37 PM »

Shortly after I was Chrismated I was helping Father in the altar on a weekday Liturgy and nobody else had shown up. He said "Thank goodness you're here, because we can't go past a certain point in the Liturgy without a second person." He told me, if I'm remembering right, that it was the part just after the gospel reading. Everything up till that point is just prayers and reading Scripture, which anyone can do, but to 'make' the Body of Christ we have to have the Body of Christ.

I might be remembering wrong and it was just before the gospel...I'm not sure. I know though that he said he can start it and go for a while hoping someone shows up.

I think most people would have a big problem with that. You can't cut out the litanies of the Liturgy of the Word the way you can when doing a Vespers or Matins on your own, and the whole service involves call-and-response. Secondly all the prayers of the priest presuppose the presence of others. The prayer of the third antiphon, for example, specifically says "You have given us grace to make these common and united prayers, and have promised that when two or three agree in your name..." etc. How can these be said alone? And who is the Epistle and Gospel being proclaimed to?

P.S. If a priest and deacon are together on their own, can they celebrate the liturgy or do they need to wait for a 3rd person?

If the deacon performed the role of the people/choir and the priest did the deacon's parts (as is the norm in parishes without deacons), then it would be possible.
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« Reply #20 on: July 20, 2013, 03:51:13 PM »

P.S. If a priest and deacon are together on their own, can they celebrate the liturgy or do they need to wait for a 3rd person?

Interesting question.  As I was taught re: our tradition, you need three: a priest, a deacon (or acolyte), and one member of the congregation.  If you have a priest and two deacons, or three priests, etc., you'll still need one person to "stand outside" and be the congregation.  But the absolute bare minimum is two.
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« Reply #21 on: July 20, 2013, 04:23:56 PM »

If the only people present for a Divine Liturgy are two priests, or a priest and a deacon, could one the deacon or the second priest not serve, but stand in for the faithful?
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« Reply #22 on: July 20, 2013, 04:29:51 PM »

If the only people present for a Divine Liturgy are two priests, or a priest and a deacon, could one the deacon or the second priest not serve, but stand in for the faithful?

In monasteries, for example, it's quite common for one priest to celebrate during a weekday liturgy while other monks who may also be priests or deacons do the chanting. So I don't see why not. As long as they weren't being priest/deacon and congregation at the same time.
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« Reply #23 on: July 20, 2013, 04:32:04 PM »

If the only people present for a Divine Liturgy are two priests, or a priest and a deacon, could one the deacon or the second priest not serve, but stand in for the faithful?

I can't speak for the Byzantine rite, though I suppose the answer would be "yes".

In our tradition, three are needed: obviously you need a priest, and you need a congregation, but you need a deacon, or one that can stand in for the deacon.  You can't just have Liturgy without a deacon or a stand-in for the deacon.  At least that's how I recall being taught.  I'm sure in a pinch two will work, but at that point I think convenience takes over.  
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« Reply #24 on: July 22, 2013, 09:33:38 PM »

If the only people present for a Divine Liturgy are two priests, or a priest and a deacon, could one the deacon or the second priest not serve, but stand in for the faithful?

I can't speak for the Byzantine rite, though I suppose the answer would be "yes".

In our tradition, three are needed: obviously you need a priest, and you need a congregation, but you need a deacon, or one that can stand in for the deacon.  You can't just have Liturgy without a deacon or a stand-in for the deacon.  At least that's how I recall being taught.  I'm sure in a pinch two will work, but at that point I think convenience takes over.  

Twice I was being a pretend-deacon with my priest at weekdays, and no one showed up. So when there was no one there to answer back that they were lifting up their hearts to the Lord, we sat and waited for a while, then went home with no offering having been made.
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« Reply #25 on: July 22, 2013, 10:58:48 PM »

For real?  You did that much of the Liturgy before giving up the ghost?  At that point we would either a) not begin at all or b) keep on going.  That's nuts. 
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« Reply #26 on: July 23, 2013, 11:18:25 AM »

yes, copts need a minimum of 3.
i haven't heard before of anyone starting past the raising of incense without the 3rd person coming though.
i've been once in a liturgy with only 4 people and no service book or projector! that made me pay attention as i couldn't hide my responses / lack of them!
if we (the 2 congregation members) got it wrong, though, the priest did the response for us and we tried harder next time!
it was lovely as we were all paying lots of attention and so our prayers were full of thought and emotion.
God also blessed us especially (i think for being up that early!)
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« Reply #27 on: August 07, 2013, 12:41:09 AM »

Though it may be implied, the article does not specify that it was the DL that St Theophan was celebrating. He may have been celebrating some form of Reader's services. Just a speculation.

It could be that. Also, I noticed that there was a reference later in the biography to a 'cell attendant', so it could be that this attendant was at the Liturgy.

Yes, this was the practice in the Latin rite Church before Vatican II. Contrary to popular belief amongst certain Orthodox clerics with Ph.D's it's never been normal to have any Eucharistic liturgy without anyone present. Two people - yes. One person - NO. It's always been a form of abuse everywhere.

In fact only in the RC church in it's POST vatican II reforms has it been considered not an abuse to have a solitary divine liturgy.

Quite interesting isnt it?
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« Reply #28 on: August 13, 2013, 09:52:45 AM »

A priest in Romania who lives as a hermit (is a monk) in the mountains says that he serves the liturgy in the forest and only some animals (including bears) come sometimes. He loves the feeling. I don't know the technical aspects of being allowed to serve the liturgy like that, but I don't see why not and we have to remember that the priest himself needs the liturgy as well as the congregation. Even if you are not a priest, can't you join the liturgy from wherever you are? Personally, I would.
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« Reply #29 on: August 13, 2013, 10:07:30 AM »

I know that it needs at least one priest and someone who isn't a priest(or deacon).
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« Reply #30 on: August 13, 2013, 10:11:54 AM »

If we do not have a priest, we do not have DL. Our priest/governing board usually cancels if a holiday gets too many serveres out of town, but I was wondering if the rules in monasteries are any different? Undecided
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« Reply #31 on: August 13, 2013, 11:19:35 AM »

...and we have to remember that the priest himself needs the liturgy as well as the congregation. Even if you are not a priest, can't you join the liturgy from wherever you are? Personally, I would.

Does that mean if you're a hermit who's not a priest, you can just celebrate Liturgy alone in your cell with a few animals and birds attending? 

Yes, the priest needs the Liturgy because he's also a member of the Church, but that's precisely it.  He's a member of the Church, and the Liturgy is a public act of the Church's worship.  The whole point is to gather together for worship, not to somehow manage to acquire the mystical powers necessary to transubstantiate bread and wine so that you can avoid human contact in pursuit of noetic prayer. 

If a priest is a hermit and he arranges to receive one or two visitors for the sake of having a Liturgy in the place of his isolation, so be it.  I wouldn't say that is the ideal, but at least it is something.  Otherwise, why shouldn't he come down to the church for the Liturgy?  Why sacrifice orthopraxis for one's notion of prayer?   
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« Reply #32 on: August 13, 2013, 11:38:08 AM »

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...so that you can avoid human contact in pursuit of noetic prayer.

Yes. None of our saints has ever done that before...

Oh wait...
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« Reply #33 on: August 13, 2013, 11:49:26 AM »

It doesn't say that he prevented people from coming to his services. If a priest is alone at 9 AM in the church and the DL is scheduled to begin then, he can start the service, can't he? and just because no one shows up doesn't mean he should stop during the service.

He can begin with "Blessed is the Kingdom", but after that he'll have to wait for a believer to arrive who can reply "Amen" before he can continue.

Precisely. A liturgy (literally the work of the people) cannot proceed without the presence of at least one other person other than the priest. This sense of community, indeed, of the Eucharist itself, is also reflected in Christ's own words: When two or three are gathered in My name, there I am among them.

Precisely! The prayers are not complete without the people's amens.
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« Reply #34 on: August 13, 2013, 11:53:05 AM »

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...so that you can avoid human contact in pursuit of noetic prayer.

Yes. None of our saints has ever done that before...

Oh wait...

My issue is not with hermits; they have spiritual fathers and brotherhoods which help them discern if that call is for them, and for them it is a blessing.  I just don't think it's healthy from an ecclesial perspective to isolate yourself so much that you would rather celebrate Liturgy alone or with some animals rather than abstain until one can make it down to the church.  If the choice is "Liturgy once a month at the main church" or "Liturgy every day alone or with some animals", I think the Church's recommendation is the former.  That's all.  
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« Reply #35 on: August 13, 2013, 03:03:30 PM »

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I think the Church's recommendation is the former.  That's all.  

This brings up an interesting question. We have many, MANY saints that appeared to have never darkened the door of a Church. Yet they are saints and ones we are told we should emulate. Why is there such a stress on being in Church as much as we possibly can, when we have just the opposite thing happening in the lives of others?

Please don't misunderstand. Both ways seem valid and ok. Just wondering why one model seems to outweigh the other. At least in America, that is.
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« Reply #36 on: August 13, 2013, 03:38:43 PM »

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I think the Church's recommendation is the former.  That's all.  

This brings up an interesting question. We have many, MANY saints that appeared to have never darkened the door of a Church.

Almost certainly a gross exaggeration. 

Quote
Yet they are saints and ones we are told we should emulate. Why is there such a stress on being in Church as much as we possibly can, when we have just the opposite thing happening in the lives of others?

There are certain "universals" that apply to everyone, but there can be circumstances which require a different approach for particular individuals.  Weekly participation in corporate worship and the sacraments is the norm for all Christians.  But medical professionals, law enforcement officials, and others who are obliged to work on Sundays are not thus cut off from the grace of God.  Their participation will have to be tailored to their circumstances.  But their example does not mean that such would work for everyone.  Similarly, I have a friend whose diabetes prevents her from keeping the standard Orthodox fasts.  Her spiritual father allows her to eat meat, drink milk, etc. even during Great Lent in order to control her diabetes and live a healthy lifestyle.  That, and an acceptance of her "sadness" over not being able to fast "properly", is her fast.  But it does not follow that I can go to Five Guys on Good Friday and it's all the same.  The circumstances are quite different. 

Someone who lives the eremitic life does not become holy through abandoning the Church.  The life of the Church is what prepares them to accept that particularly radical call to solitude, and that call and lifestyle is accepted in communion with the Church--through the blessing of one's spiritual father, the support of the brotherhood, etc.  The discipline they live is blessed by the Church, but it is blessed *for them*, not as a universally applicable standard that would work for everyone.  Apart from that context, it would probably drive the unprepared and the uncalled mad or at least not toward holiness.       
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« Reply #37 on: August 13, 2013, 03:52:25 PM »

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The discipline they live is blessed by the Church, but it is blessed *for them*, not as a universally applicable standard that would work for everyone.  Apart from that context, it would probably drive the unprepared and the uncalled mad or at least not toward holiness.

So why is the "go to church as much as possible" not for everyone? If we follow your logic it seems that there are just as many people that could go the hermit route even in the world and be blessed.

We live with this situation all day everyday in the USA. It ain't easy finding a parish. So most have to pray at home alone or do some sort of Typica on Sundays. There are so many ways that the Orthodox life expresses itself, that it seems strange to expect everyone to be the every Sunday Churchgoer.
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« Reply #38 on: August 13, 2013, 04:03:48 PM »

So why is the "go to church as much as possible" not for everyone? If we follow your logic it seems that there are just as many people that could go the hermit route even in the world and be blessed.

You're not understanding "my logic".

Quote
We live with this situation all day everyday in the USA. It ain't easy finding a parish. So most have to pray at home alone or do some sort of Typica on Sundays. There are so many ways that the Orthodox life expresses itself, that it seems strange to expect everyone to be the every Sunday Churchgoer.

It's not strange to expect the ideal to be "every Sunday churchgoer".  But there are legitimate exceptions.  These are never "broadly applicable" to all people but are based on the conditions individuals find themselves in.  In your example, there are people with no access to an Orthodox parish, and so they pray at home.  But if a church opens up nearby, the situation has changed--a church is now available.  No one would seriously tell you that since you survived without a church for all this time that you don't need to go to the one that just opened up near you.  No one's going to put a gun to your head and force you to attend, but don't think for a moment that "Typica was good enough before, so it's good enough now".   
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« Reply #39 on: August 13, 2013, 07:20:51 PM »

It was nice, and no pressure since no one was there.  Maybe I'll have to learn Armenian and make a habit of it.  Tongue

I think you should do just that!
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« Reply #40 on: August 13, 2013, 08:57:08 PM »

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It's not strange to expect the ideal to be "every Sunday churchgoer".

When did this become the norm? Does anyone know?
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« Reply #41 on: August 13, 2013, 09:01:34 PM »

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It's not strange to expect the ideal to be "every Sunday churchgoer".

When did this become the norm? Does anyone know?

Acts 20:7 : "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread..." (kjv).

It became the norm during the 40 days our Lord instructed the Apostles between the Resurrection and Ascension, and has been the norm since...
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« Reply #42 on: August 13, 2013, 09:22:25 PM »

It was nice, and no pressure since no one was there.  Maybe I'll have to learn Armenian and make a habit of it.  Tongue

I think you should do just that!

The spirit is willing, but how on earth to go about learning liturgical Armenian on a budget?  Tongue
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« Reply #43 on: August 13, 2013, 09:35:04 PM »

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It's not strange to expect the ideal to be "every Sunday churchgoer".

When did this become the norm? Does anyone know?

Acts 20:7 : "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread..." (kjv).

It became the norm during the 40 days our Lord instructed the Apostles between the Resurrection and Ascension, and has been the norm since...

Yes this was the norm in liturgical centers, so to speak. Do we have any knowledge about areas that have been Orthodox for years with no priests available? What have they historically done? Assuming just reader's services right?
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« Reply #44 on: August 13, 2013, 10:01:48 PM »

What is a "liturgical center" as opposed to an "area that has been Orthodox for years with no priests available"? 
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