What concerns me upon reading it is that Wybrew documents/charts the changes in the liturgy that shows that it is not nearly as ancient in its present form as I had assumed it was, and that it continued to evolve until the 14th century.
He's right. It isn't. Why should this bother you? In fact, a complaint that I have regarding Western liturgy is that it is in a certain way too traditional
. By this I mean that it doesn't reflect the Orthodox triumph over heterodox movements through the centuries the way Eastern liturgy does. Of course, Eastern liturgy is in this
sense very faithful to Tradition. But it's more creative than Western liturgical forms as well, as a result.
He also shows that iconography, instead of being a spiritual art form, was largely copied from the style of imperial art, and he confirms (as I've read elsewhere as well) that the clerical garb was originally just a retaining of the then-current style of clothes when the people started to begin wearing more modern fashions, plus the later adoption of aspects of royal dress.
Does he say that about iconography? I don't remember. Of course, he's right about the clothing depicted in icons and clerical garb. So what? Christians have always used things from the culture they inhabit, baptising them into the life of the Church. Do you think the liturgy and complete sets of priestly vestments just fell from the sky one day? Orthodoxy has always insisted on the idea that God and humans work together in synergy
. I think this is just one more example of that.
He shows how the liturgy evolved into a form where in a sense the laity and the clergy were carrying on two separate ceremonies at the same time, and how the structure of the church and the iconostasis, etc., was both a result and cause of this.
The majority of liturgical scholars seem to subscribe to a view something like this. Although a deformation, as other posters have mentioned, it doesn't mean that at its heart the liturgy is not inspired by the Spirit of God.
He shows how as the liturgy changed, attempts were made to relate its various features to aspects of the Life of Christ - some of which seem plausible, but others of which seem a bit fanciful.
As I recall, he does go into this a bit, but he rightly criticizes many of these interpretations for being a kind of "folkodoxy" that tragically took hold in the early Byzantine period amongst the laity. For example, the idea that at the Great Entrance, we see Jesus triumphantly going to Jersusalem and to his sacrificial death. Tragically, the idea developed amongst people, that since they were seeing the whole life of Christ played out before their eyes, there was no need to go to communion(!) This is a great abuse, its legacy remains a sore spot of contention in the Church to this day.
Now, if one is willing to believe that the church is always led by the Holy Spirit, then one can overlook these things and say: "The church did it, I believe it, that settles it." But as I read Wybrew, it made me question some of the popular Orthodox claims for itself and its liturgy - i.e., that it's Apostolic and goes back 1,000-1,500 years and is "what the Church received and passed on faithfully from the Apostles."
I don't like everything in Wybrew's book. Sometimes I think he might be overstating or oversimplifying some of his arguments. But the fact is that he is correct: the liturgy did develop over time. Sometimes it didn't develop for the right reasons. And yes, some things were not added until much later. The hymn to the Theotokos ("It is truly meet" right after the consecration of the gifts), for example, was not added until the 12th century. Every liturgical scholar worth his/her salt knows stuff like this. For me, it doesn't make the hymn to the Theotokos any less important or relevant. I think it's a very good fit where it is.
I'm also (slowly) reading Dix's THE SHAPE OF THE LITURGY, and he in more detail charts the development and changes in the liturgy. From what I've read so far, I haven't found what Dix has written to be of as much concern - but I haven't yet finished it.
I don't remember why, but I don't like Dix. Someone remind me why I don't like him.