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Author Topic: Eastern Rite and wrongs  (Read 4551 times) Average Rating: 0
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The young fogey
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« on: March 11, 2003, 01:06:59 PM »

Went to the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete last night at a church that will remain unidentified and was underwhelmed - sure, it was orthodox and Godward but it was also too long and badly sung so even if one knows the language it was hard to follow. I didn't understand about half of it. Makes one see the Protestants' point about gabble in 'a tongue not understanded of the people'. Congregation: about eight, including the ad-hoc-sounding choir of about four. Dreary. (So much so most of the congregation stayed away!) Not 'penitential', just bad! It would have been more 'soul-profiting' for me to stay home and read evening prayer from the Book of Common Prayer! Tonight I may try another church instead.

The service seems to be in the framework of Great Compline, which is off the wall the way it jumps around, with the 40 'Lord, have mercys' and the 'O come, let us worships' done twice and Ps. 69 apparently repeated too.

I much prefer the more straightforward (but still recognizably Eastern) order of Little Compline, the basis of the 'Anglo-Byzantine' evening prayer I use at home (which grew out of Lance Weakland's scheme using the kathismata, as described on my site), framing the psalms (two or three in sequential order through the month, following the Book of Common Prayer) and a Bible reading.

Also, I think Russian congregations (not that it's my place to tell Russian congregations what to do) should scrap the Vigil (except maybe for the great feasts) and do Vespers (something like what churches in the Greek tradition, including the Arabs, already do), but real Vespers with psalms instead of the '-æ-+-¦-¦-¦-+-è -+-â-¦-è' medley where the Word of God should be. (The corner-cutting only makes merciful sense when you are doing real readings later during Matins as part of a Vigil.) Add a Bible reading too. But two+ hours in church at night for nonmonastics isn't realistic.
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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2003, 01:38:02 PM »

Too bad to hear you had such a lackluster experience last night at the canon.  Everything went wonderfully at our parish.  We had around 15 people, including 7 choir members(3 sopranos, 2 tenors, 1 bass, 1 alto) and two priests.  The nine Heirmos(heirmi?) of the Canon itself aren't technically difficult to sing, but if you don't have enough of a choir to present a "full" voice it can degrade quickly.  The year before, however, was as bad as your experience if not worse.  We repeatedly had to stop in mid-hymn so the director could repitch the choir.  All you can really do is pray and continue working on it.  We practiced the Canon music twice before the actual service(on saturday and after liturgy on sunday) and the practice paid off.
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« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2003, 01:43:14 PM »

I also attended the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete last night, Serge, the Canon being frameworked within the Service of Small Compline.

The church was lit only by candlelight.  The service was entirely in English and very understandable, but lasted a mere hour and eighteen minutes---and I WANTED MORE!  The congregation was not too large, but the previous priest held Great Canon on only two nights of the first week of the Fast, so this was a new experience for our newly-ordained priest--his first Great Canon as a priest--and for some in the congregation as well, all of whom worshipped reverently and with great  compunction.  The small choir (which rehearsed the service for two straight hours immediately prior to Compline) chanted softly, almost as if in the background in hushed tones, adding even more reverence to the service.  

AFAIK, this service is SUPPOSED TO BE LONG, intentionally monotonous (but I did not find it so!) and not rushed, Serge, and then gets shorter each successive evening.  Did you have the text available so that you could actively participate?

Perhaps you still have some "residual Anglican" left in you, Serge, and you would feel "more at home" in Western Rite Orthodoxy?   Huh

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« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2003, 02:05:17 PM »

Thanks for the replies. No, I didn't have the text to follow. I knew it was risky to speak freely here, considering the 'Eastern rites are always perfect and everything else is wrong' temptation/bias that exists here (risking personal swipes if one questions that), but I didn't care. I never claimed to be residually Anglican or anything else, but no matter. All that matters to me really is, first, orthodoxy and 'Godwardness', and, second, ritual integrity - I'm not saying Eastern churches shouldn't be Eastern. Just that even when it's 100% -¦-+-ü-é-+-ç-+-ï-¦ it still can go dreadfully wrong. That's reality, owing to fallen human nature.

Regarding Western Rite, please, no reverse Uniatism or more spite churches. There's been enough of that historically.
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« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2003, 02:19:31 PM »

I also attended the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete last night, Serge, the Canon being frameworked within the Service of Small Compline.

The church was lit only by candlelight.  The service was entirely in English and very understandable, but lasted a mere hour and eighteen minutes---and I WANTED MORE!  

I think it's supposed to only be about that long during the first week - since parts are done on different days.  Don't worry, you'll get the long version soon enough when the 5th week rolls around.  I'm expecting a service of ours this week to get bumped for a funeral for a cancer victim who's predicted to pass on anyday now.
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« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2003, 02:36:10 PM »

<skip>
The church was lit only by candlelight.  The service was entirely in English and very understandable, but lasted a mere hour and eighteen minutes---and I WANTED MORE!  

I think it's supposed to only be about that long during the first week - since parts are done on different days.  Don't worry, you'll get the long version soon enough when the 5th week rolls around.  I'm expecting a service of ours this week to get bumped for a funeral for a cancer victim who's predicted to pass on anyday now.  

Elisha, I'm very familiar with the longer version--when we get the "whole ball of wax" of the Great Canon within the context of Matins during the 5th week.  I must confess that I try to avoid that annual service now due to its length and my age, but, being in the choir now, it will be difficult for me to avoid this year.  Sad

We are having no services "bumped" this week, even for funerals.  We'll have Great Canon in English again tonight.

Tomorrow morning the funeral of a parishioner who fell asleep in the Lord on Saturday will be joined to the previously-scheduled Presanctified Liturgy (all in English).  And then, tomorrow evening the third part of the Great Canon will be chanted, but this time all in Church Slavonic, so, since I can't read Slavonic, I will skip tomorrow night's service, but I'll return again on Thursday evening, when it's back to all-English.  On Friday evening, the Presanctified Liturgy will be served completely in Slavonic, and I'm still debating with myself if I'll attend.

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« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2003, 04:04:16 PM »

Serge (and others)

Since I will be reading tonight at the Canon, my priest sent me a copy of the Great Compline as a .doc file.  You can find it here.  This does not include the Canon itself, but everything else, as it was prepared for readers and is not meant to be a service book.  It may help, however.
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« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2003, 04:37:04 PM »

I think you're mixing apples and oranges, Serge.  I've been to the Canon in two places, my former BC parish and here at St. Vladimir's.  In both places it was done 100% in English (as I think any service not done regularly should be).  I understood all of the words, but I can see how you might be confused about the meanings of these words, depending on the translation.  Basically, all it is is a recounting of every person in the OT that did good contrasted with a recounting of every person that did bad.  Lots of weird names but if you listen to what they did and then hear the words "oh my soul they repented but you do not" which are repeated several times during the canon it really sinks in.

As far as Vigil, I would agree that it's not the best thing to do every Saturday night in a parish setting but the more I attend it the more I love it.  The Matins part is the happy part, after all!  "Blessed art thou, O Lord, teach me thy statues!" is my favorite hymn of Matins, along with the Doxology of course. If Matins were assured to be celebrated a la Greek/Antiochian practice in the morning on Sunday before liturgy I'd be cool with that, as long as it gets done because it is just so beautiful.  But tiring.  Especially if it is done in Slavonic.  I don't know how anyone could sit through 2 hours of a foreign tongue even if he understands most of it.  For instance, I can speak Spanish but have a hard time going to Spanish Mass because it is still a foreign tongue.

Also the way the choir executes the service can be a factor.  I can imagine that a Vigil done poorly might go over 2 hours which would be a bit much, I think.  At St. Vlad's it usually lasts 1:45 to 2:15 hours--not bad.  Again, in a parish setting I would understand if only Vespers were done.

As far as cutting down/out the Blazen muz and putting in psalms?  That is totally contrary to the Cathedral rite.  Psalmody in parishes is a *13-14th* century monastic accretion into parish life--after the Latins left Constantinople this happened.  Before that, only psalm 85 was done at Vespers and it was done antiphonally--2 choirs alternated the verses with the congregation chanting "Save us, O son of God!" (much like we do the Blazen muz now, with the choirs alternating verses and everyone belting out "Alleluia!" three times).  Monasteries were the only places that recited the psalms in kathisma.

To mix Canon and Vigil together into a "services are too long" post however doesn't do justice I think because the Canon of St. Andrew is supposed to be long, tiring, monotonous, etc. like the other poster said, while Vigil is bright, glorious, and celebratory.

In Christ,

anastasios
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« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2003, 06:20:29 PM »

<skip>
The church was lit only by candlelight.  The service was entirely in English and very understandable, but lasted a mere hour and eighteen minutes---and I WANTED MORE!  

I think it's supposed to only be about that long during the first week - since parts are done on different days.  Don't worry, you'll get the long version soon enough when the 5th week rolls around.  I'm expecting a service of ours this week to get bumped for a funeral for a cancer victim who's predicted to pass on anyday now.  

Elisha, I'm very familiar with the longer version--when we get the "whole ball of wax" of the Great Canon within the context of Matins during the 5th week.  I must confess that I try to avoid that annual service now due to its length and my age, but, being in the choir now, it will be difficult for me to avoid this year.  Sad

We are having no services "bumped" this week, even for funerals.  We'll have Great Canon in English again tonight.

Tomorrow morning the funeral of a parishioner who fell asleep in the Lord on Saturday will be joined to the previously-scheduled Presanctified Liturgy (all in English).  And then, tomorrow evening the third part of the Great Canon will be chanted, but this time all in Church Slavonic, so, since I can't read Slavonic, I will skip tomorrow night's service, but I'll return again on Thursday evening, when it's back to all-English.  On Friday evening, the Presanctified Liturgy will be served completely in Slavonic, and I'm still debating with myself if I'll attend.

Hypo-Ortho

Are you saying you know me and we're at the same parish?  This "bumping" of one of the services could very possibly happen at my parish - I'm sure of it.
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« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2003, 06:25:41 PM »

Quote
I don't know how anyone could sit through 2 hours of a foreign tongue even if he understands most of it.  For instance, I can speak Spanish but have a hard time going to Spanish Mass because it is still a foreign tongue.

Also the way the choir executes the service can be a factor.  I can imagine that a Vigil done poorly might go over 2 hours which would be a bit much, I think.

Thank you. You understand.

Quote
As far as cutting down/out the Blazen muz and putting in psalms?  That is totally contrary to the Cathedral rite.  Psalmody in parishes is a *13-14th* century monastic accretion into parish life--after the Latins left Constantinople this happened.  Before that, only psalm 85 was done at Vespers and it was done antiphonally--2 choirs alternated the verses with the congregation chanting "Save us, O son of God!" (much like we do the Blazen muz now, with the choirs alternating verses and everyone belting out "Alleluia!" three times).  Monasteries were the only places that recited the psalms in kathisma.

Thanks for the historical background. The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. There is a place for constructive reform, which is a different animal from wholesale revision/rewrites.
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« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2003, 06:26:14 PM »

I too like long services. The canon is a work out for me though, the prostrations get the ol' heart a beating.

Regarding Vigil, we have people that come and stay for the whole thing every Saturday evening, but Father doesn't require that either. He reminds people that it is well enough to just come to the vespers and then leave if you cannot stand to be at church that long or have important commitments.
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« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2003, 06:51:32 PM »

Quote
I too like long services.

Chacun a son gout.

Quote
Regarding Vigil, we have people that come and stay for the whole thing every Saturday evening, but Father doesn't require that either. He reminds people that it is well enough to just come to the vespers

Which is often what I do the eves of holy days.
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« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2003, 07:03:54 PM »

Dear Serge,

I agree with you that constructive reform is fine.  My only point is that I think that people "get into" the antiophonal psalmody a la blazen muz more than the straight recitation of psalms.  For instance, today at Matins at St. Vlads we did the entire appointed kathismata and omitted 5 odes of the Canon to keep it at 2.15 hours, as part of our special Lenten retreat.  I was getting dizzy trying to sing all that psalmody. It was nice and certainly made me think of what was going on in the psalms but I prefer the hymnody.  St. Vlad's does have a 45 minute daily Matins edited by Fr. Florovsky which works well for the community.  That's another possiblility.

If the Church you visited/attended has a bad service, perhaps you can volunteer to help make it more bearable?  Of course if the choirmaster is uncompromising that might be a problem  Wink  Some places do things the way they do b/c no one knows better!  I can supply you with good English translations with music for some of our Vigil material if you'd like.

In Christ,

anastasios
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« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2003, 10:28:25 PM »

Elisha<<Are you saying you know me and we're at the same parish?  This "bumping" of one of the services could very possibly happen at my parish - I'm sure of it. >>

I don't think I know you, Elisha, nor do I think we belong to the same parish--unless you live in New England too! Grin  But we're *not* "bumping" any services here because of the funeral: The body will be brought into the church for the Presanctified Liturgy at 9:30 am., after a Panikhida in the funeral home at 9 am. The Parastas (Funeral Matins) will immediately follow the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.  

As the deceased was a colonel and a member of many veterans' organizations--and a prominent parishioner who regularly attended all services as long as he was physically able to do so--a large congregation of worshippers is expected to be in our church tomorrow morning.

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« Reply #14 on: March 12, 2003, 01:19:12 AM »

Hypo,
Just got an e-mail from my Priest, Fr. Lawrence.  Constantinos died peacefully at 4:30 am, receiving Holy Communion and Confessing the night before.  Panakhida 6:30 Thursday before the Canon and Funeral Friday noonish.  May God have mercy on his soul.  Memory Eternal.
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« Reply #15 on: March 12, 2003, 09:04:58 AM »

Hypo,
Just got an e-mail from my Priest, Fr. Lawrence.  Constantinos died peacefully at 4:30 am, receiving Holy Communion and Confessing the night before.  Panakhida 6:30 Thursday before the Canon and Funeral Friday noonish.  May God have mercy on his soul.  Memory Eternal.

Memory eternal both to the Servant of God, Constantinos, and to our parishioner, the Servant of God, James!

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« Reply #16 on: March 12, 2003, 02:36:47 PM »

Post Script:

The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts got "bumped" this morning to the chagrin of our priest and some (not all) parishioners.

As the mostly Roman Catholic family of the deceased did not understand what a Presanctified Liturgy was nor its length, they raised objections in the funeral home at the instigation of the funeral director (increase in hourly cost for pallbearers).  So, the Burial Service *preceded* the Presanctified Liturgy.  Our new priest had to very forcefully insist that the casket be opened when it was brought into the church too--the funeral director kept repeating that the previous Russian Orthodox priest of 44 years allowed them to have closed caskets in church!  (Not surprising to me, btw--we finally have an '"orthodox" Orthodox priest!!!  Smiley  )

However, as a result of the confused last-minute reversal of order of services, our priest could not go to the committal at the cemetery 10 miles away after the Funeral Service in church.  I wonder how that is going to play with the deceased's family!  (I did notice the family's RC priest scurrying around the funeral home.)

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« Reply #17 on: March 12, 2003, 08:32:50 PM »

Prayers for Constantinos.

Went to another place for the Great Canon tonight and it was much, much better. The framework was Little Compline. The whole service was intelligible and incidentally there were a few more people in the congregation.
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« Reply #18 on: March 13, 2003, 01:06:23 AM »

Whew!  Long night in church...Presanctified at 6pm, lenten meal at 8pm, Canon at 8:30.  Didn't leave church until after 10pm.

Now it feels like lent has began. Smiley
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« Reply #19 on: March 13, 2003, 09:25:14 AM »

Whew!  Long night in church...Presanctified at 6pm, lenten meal at 8pm, Canon at 8:30.  Didn't leave church until after 10pm.

Now it feels like lent has began. Smiley

Great Lent has indeed begun, David.  Referring to yesterday's unfortunate reversal of the order of services that I made above, there was also some emotional upset caused by the tackiness of the funeral director with his microphone and an obvious lack of communication between our new priest and the funeral director, a man of the "old school" not willing to bend to change easily, and his publicly announcing first that the funeral service in church would be three-hours long, then that the three-hour service had been reduced to one (i.e., the mourners were "getting out" of attendance at Presanctified Liturgy)!

Being in the choir and chanting for all of the services above, my throat was sorely parched from singing and fasting by the time for Communion came in the Presanctified Liturgy, which was now well past noon (instead of about 10:30 am).  After that exhausting morning, I did not attend Great Canon last night, which was all in Church Slavonic anyway (outreach to the Russian community), but I'll return to church tonight for the All-English fourth part.  And I'm still debating within myself on whether or not I'll attend the all-Slavonic Presanctified Liturgy (another outreach to the Russian community) tomorrow night.

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« Reply #20 on: March 13, 2003, 01:27:52 PM »

Hypo,

It must be tough to live in a parish where you cannot participate fully in all of the services.  I recognize the need to reach out to our communities, but I thank God that here in the South where our missions are primarily geared for southerners our services are 100% english.  If you have a large russian(or whatever) community, I like what Abp. Dmitri does at St. Seraphim's Cathedral in Dallas.  Saturday evening Vigil and sunday morning Divine Liturgy are always 100% english.  There is a slavonic liturgy on saturday mornings and a slavonic vespers during the week.  As a result of this many of the Russian immigrants are coming to both language services and a few of the convert parishoners are coming to the slavonic services.   This seems to be a good solution.  

I am glad that you and other people in your community were there to offer a proper funeral to your parishoner who has fallen asleep in Christ.
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« Reply #21 on: March 13, 2003, 01:33:54 PM »

In our church, the various services are aproximately 50/50-English/Slavonic with some certain services all Slavonic or all English. If we have a new immigrant couple that comes to vespers however, Father will increase the Slavonic.
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« Reply #22 on: March 13, 2003, 01:55:20 PM »

David, the outreach by way of all-Slavonic weekday Lenten services to the local rapidly-expanding Russian (and Ukrainian) community of immigrants is something new (and experimental) begun by our new priest (himself a young Russian immigrant).  It does *not* reduce the number of English-language services that this parish is used to under the former rector (now retired).  We still have an all-English Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesdays during Lent, and the Great Canon was served totally in English on Monday and Tuesday evenings this week, and all in Slavonic on Wednesday evening.  The Friday evening Presanctified will be all-Slavonic.

This will be the pattern for the remainder of the Fast: Wednesday evening Liturgy of the Presanctified all in English, followed by Lenten potluck supper (no meat, dairy or fish), and Friday evening Presanctified Liturgy all in Slavonic, also followed by Lenten potluck supper.

Our weekend services, i.e., Great Vespers on Saturday evening and Divine Liturgy on Sundays, remain mostly in English, with perhaps only 5 to 10% Slavonic.  Soul Saturday Memorial Divine Liturgies are in English, and the Panikhida following is in English and Slavonic.

I don't think the Slavonic services will attract an increase of significant number among our own present parishioners, so many of whom are elderly and do not go out evenings.

The newer Russian and Ukrainian immigrants seem mostly to be Pentecostalists (with burdgeoning "Slavic Pentecostal" congregations with church busses) or Baptists, if religious, otherwise they are unchurched.  I think Father and his Matushka are targeting the unchurched ones with the Slavonic-language services.

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« Reply #23 on: March 13, 2003, 02:12:34 PM »

Hypo, sorry for the misunderstanding.  Please forgive me.  I am glad to see your priest reaching out to so many.  He must be a wonderful spiritual father.
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« Reply #24 on: March 13, 2003, 02:28:52 PM »

Amator Dei<<Hypo, sorry for the misunderstanding.  Please forgive me.>>

David, there is nothing to forgive.  Please forgive me for not being clear enough.  Embarrassed

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« Reply #25 on: April 07, 2003, 09:57:55 AM »

Here's my own $0.02 on this.

I think that the Orthodox/Byzantine Divine Liturgy does not require much tinkering -- perhaps a litany or two that is repeated twice during the liturgy could be trimmed, but other than that it seems to work well to me.

I agree with Serge, however, that the order for Vespers and Matins (and the combined slavic Vigil service) needs to be reassessed.  I think that whatever reassessment is done should be done very, very carefully, but as they stand now these services don't seem -- to me at least, to work as well liturgically as the Divine Liturgy does  There's some room for improvement, and I think we can at least admit that without being accused of denigrating the Orthodox/Byzantine rite system in general.
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