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Author Topic: THE ORTHODOX LITURGY by Hugh Wybrew - some comments  (Read 4185 times) Average Rating: 0
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KATHXOYMENOC
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« on: August 09, 2006, 12:37:58 PM »

Despite its length, I did not find it any more difficult to read and understand that the Hugh Wybrew book about the Divine Liturgy that is now so popular.

I just finished THE ORTHODOX LITURGY: The Development of the Eucharistic Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite, by Hugh Wybrew, a book recommended by several persons online. Wybrew is an Anglican, and has spent years associating with Orthodox Christians and studing the Divine Liturgy. Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia - i.e., Bishop Kallistos Ware, noted Orthodox author - wrote the foreword and thinks highly of the book.

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 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. 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. 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.

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'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.
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« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2006, 02:42:53 PM »

I've got my own complaints about Wybrew as well. Namely that he's an ecumenist and believes that all the Christian churches need to come together and "learn from each other". However, I didn't find The Orthodox Liturgy really shocking. Sure, the liturgy changed, but I think it's pretty clear that the Eucharist was always at its heart, and true belief about God was at its heart. Only the form around it was changing, which is perfectly solid Orthodox teaching.

As for iconography, even supporters of icons can agree that it wasn't until somewhat late that they became popular in the way they are today, but as St John of Damascus wrote, they are theologically defensible even with a late introduction.
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« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2006, 02:58:46 PM »

Incredible...two posts in one day where Culver and I agree.  Cheesy
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« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2006, 03:22:48 PM »

I've got my own complaints about Wybrew as well. Namely that he's an ecumenist and believes that all the Christian churches need to come together and "learn from each other". However, I didn't find The Orthodox Liturgy really shocking. Sure, the liturgy changed, but I think it's pretty clear that the Eucharist was always at its heart, and true belief about God was at its heart. Only the form around it was changing, which is perfectly solid Orthodox teaching.

As for iconography, even supporters of icons can agree that it wasn't until somewhat late that they became popular in the way they are today, but as St John of Damascus wrote, they are theologically defensible even with a late introduction.

Maybe the Eucharist was always at its heart, but if I recall correctly, both Wybrew and Dix indicate that at the beginning, the "sacrifice(s)" of the Eucharist were the gifts of bread, wine, etc., the people brought, as well as sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving and the sacrifice of themselves a la Romans 12:1-2, and only later did it come to be regarded as the sacrifice of Christ Himself that was being re-presented. I somewhat concluded this from reading the Apostolic and Early Church Fathers, though, and not just from Wybrew, Dix, et al.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2006, 03:24:07 PM by KATHXOYMENOC » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2006, 09:25:25 PM »

For the best study of the Byzantine Liturgy in English, I recommend reading Robert F. Taft's A History of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.  Unfortunately, out of a projected six volume series, only 3 volumes (Vol II, IV, and V) have been completed and published so far.  Taft, although (or maybe because of) being a Jesuit, is the greatest living scholar today on the Byzantine Liturgy.  Unfortunately,the works of other great scholars, such as J. Mateos, are not available in English.  I await patiently the remaining volumes!
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« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2006, 05:37:51 PM »

I found Wybrew's book fascinating, but of course one has to recognize his biases.  The whole premise of the book is that the Liturgy used to be good, pure, pristine and spotless and then became complicated and confusing over the years in the Byzantine tradition.  He is writing as a secular critic, uninterested (at least on paper) in the Holy Spirit's role in all of this.  I simply reject his idea that the early church's eucharist was purely an offering of bread and wine to God.  They may not have had a highly developed view of Christ as the one offering and offered, but the idea of the Real Presence and the transformation of the elements is pretty clear--if not in Scripture--in Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and others. 

But the book is a very interesting journey through history. It does not bother me that the Divine Liturgy has been shaped by history.  If you look at the core structure and meaning of almost all Christian liturgies, they are all remarkably similar and can obviously be traced back to a common source, even if they have developed along very different lines. 

I don't think it's necessarily bad to be critical of the way our Liturgy developed, either. I think Wybrew, Schmemann and others are right in criticizing the way the Liturgy developed into two separate rites, the secret, mysterious one for clergy and another one that the rest of the people could handle.  I rather like to hear the so-called "secret prayers" out loud, even though that's not how priests and bishops performed the Liturgy for the past 1400 years or so.  I also prefer an iconostasis where the people can see what's going on in the altar area. 
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« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2006, 05:40:11 PM »

"Secular" here defining this Angelican as non-Orthodox?

You want to hear the silent (low voiced) prayers? You can read them or become an altarserver and hear them.  Wink
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« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2006, 05:47:20 PM »

"Secular" here defining this Angelican as non-Orthodox?
You want to hear the silent (low voiced) prayers? You can read them or become an altarserver and hear them.

By secular, I mean that he writes from an historical/critical perspective, rather than out of an interest in what the Holy Spirit was or wasn't doing with the Liturgy.  It's not necessarily bad to write this way, but when writing about the Bible or the Liturgy from this perspective is it really not possible to bring in the Holy Spirit or Providence.

I am an altar server, and I still can't hear them! Smiley
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« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2006, 05:50:27 PM »

I am an altar server, and I still can't hear them! Smiley

Is outrage!  Grin
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« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2006, 04:57:55 AM »

Is this author advocating a reform similer to the travesty that happend to the catholic mass in Vatican II.
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« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2006, 04:58:58 AM »

oops similar
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« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2006, 05:17:38 AM »

You want to hear the silent (low voiced) prayers? You can read them or become an altarserver and hear them.  Wink

IMO, there is absolutely no justification for the majority of these prayers, with some exceptions, being read silently.  Justinian tried to stop it, but it has nevertheless, tragically in my view, taken hold. 
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« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2006, 05:49:55 AM »

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. 

Quote
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.

Quote
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.

Quote
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.

Quote
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.

 
Quote
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.   Wink
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« Reply #13 on: December 04, 2006, 06:03:53 AM »

Is this author advocating a reform similer to the travesty that happend to the catholic mass in Vatican II.

From what I can recall, the answer would be a definite "no."  He's simply laying out how, in his view, the Divine Liturgy took shape.
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« Reply #14 on: December 04, 2006, 06:25:49 AM »

Hmm sounds like an interesting book.
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« Reply #15 on: December 04, 2006, 09:15:43 AM »

Pravoslavbob,

Dix was a Romanophile to the point of putting down the Eastern liturgies when comparing them to the Roman Rite, too busy and florid compared to the simple beauty of the Roman Rite and such.

Fr. Deacon Lance
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« Reply #16 on: December 04, 2006, 10:46:31 AM »

I certainly hope modern scholarship never brings to light issues with the Bible.
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« Reply #17 on: December 04, 2006, 04:13:19 PM »

Interesting stuff. The same could be said for the development of Western rites and vestments.

Liturgy begins as a bud and (ideally) gradually flowers. It is supposed to develop, as long as the development is in the spirit of the past.

As for Vatican II, the liturgical reforms set out in the Council documents are not really the problem, it is somewhat in the 1970 missal that went above and beyond what the documents called for, but especially in the vernacular translations of the missal and the disregard of too many bishops and priests for even the 1970 missal.

I'm not against allowing the vernacular into the mass or allowing the congregation to do more of the responses. It's just that these reforms were implemented in such a shoddy way, along with bringing in other abuses. Like with so many things in that radical era, people thought they should just throw out everything and start new.

I hope, as the Reform of the Reform continues, the liturgy gets back to developing slowly and organically.



I think a good model of what I would like to see in a vernacular mass is the Anglican Use rite allowed to Anglican parishes which cross the Tiber.
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« Reply #18 on: December 05, 2006, 12:56:40 AM »

Pravoslavbob,

Dix was a Romanophile to the point of putting down the Eastern liturgies when comparing them to the Roman Rite, too busy and florid compared to the simple beauty of the Roman Rite and such.

Fr. Deacon Lance

Thank you, Father Lance.  But there was another thing about Dix that I didn't like and don't remember.  It's something to do with his reasoning about how liturgy evolved, I think.

James Bob
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« Reply #19 on: January 05, 2007, 06:33:25 PM »

So would this book be good for someone like myself, who is looking for the meaning and history behind the Divine Liturgy?
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« Reply #20 on: January 05, 2007, 06:53:01 PM »

This might provide some of the history behind the Liturgy; however I would not make this book the only resource you would study.

For the meaning, though, Cabasilas' Commentary on the Liturgy is one of my favorites, as well as his Life In Christ
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« Reply #21 on: January 06, 2007, 09:34:49 AM »

Not only have I read the book, I've met Canon Wybrew a few times. He's a Modernist but I agree with Fr Chris; the book is a good resource if you read it along with Cabasilas.

The 1965 Roman Missal with the minor edits actually following what the council said wouldn't have been bad as the default setting for the rite today. (A lot of people at the time thought that would be the extent of changes to the Mass.)

Likewise the Anglican Use but that'll never happen because many of the RC powers-that-be are Modernists and have an Irish hatred of things perceived as English which are why they asked for modern paraphrases in the vernacular instead of Book of Common Prayer or King James English. A handful of ex-Episcopalians in Texas get to have it because Rome made the bishop do it. There are no plans to keep it going once these people die.
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