Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Modernist Revision of the Divine Liturgy: Part 8

This article on the WCC website, though more than a decade old, remains an accurate statement of the intentions of modernists regarding the Orthodox liturgy. The notoriously liberal monks at New Skete Monastery, formerly Catholic, but received into the notoriously liberal Orthodox Church in America (a jurisdiction whose autocephaly has never been universally recognized), corrupted by the modernist heresy so prevelant in the Roman church, manifested in the liturgical reforms in the wake of Vatican II (which, I should state, were a dreadful perversion of what Vatican II actually authorized; in terms of seeking reconciliation with the Orthodox, and in terms of the change of theological emphasis that Vatican II produced, it was, by itself, a movement in the direction of Orthodoxy), naturally want to do the same thing to the Orthodox church.

In this series of articles, I have enumerate many of their desired reforms, and then explained why these reforms are deadly, from the perspective of Confessional Orthodoxy.  This article is a bit different, in that it addresses two points which are in fact valid problems, although one cannot trust modernists such as the monks at New Skete to be able to provide meaningful solutions

Suggestion no. 8: Addressing The Preaching Deficit

"The word of God is also made present through the sermon, which is an integral part of liturgical worship. But all too often the sermon is of poor quality or simply omitted. Our churches should devote special attention to this critical need."

What should be done about this:

The splendid, mystical, ethereal atmosphere of profound holiness that dominates the Divine Liturgy is almost palpable; given that the Orthodox alone have preserved a Eucharist the reality and validity of which is beyond question, this has a distinct impact on the environment within the liturgy itself.  It has thus become challenging for even the most aggressive Orthodox priests to offer a compelling homily in the thickness of this atmosphere, fully vested and with the great spiritual presence of the Cherubim and Seraphim pressing down upon them.  The natural urge for a brief, spiritual homily in the Divine Liturgy is instinctive and should be followed; the Priest should not drone on as if he were Calvin, but rather should deliver a message that is spiritual, above the petty concerns of this world, and beyond the purely rational exploration of the faith.   Brief patristic homiles might be recited, or metrical homilies intoned.

However, the atmosphere in the Divine Liturgy itself does not abrogate the need for proper catechesis.  I propose to revitalize the languishing Sixth Hour as the forum for preaching, following the restatement of the daily scripture lessons during the Third Hour, with both hours forming one continuous service, with a 30 minute break between them for purposes of hearing confessions.   In this manner, the opportunity for longer, more intellectual sermons for the purpose of inspiring the congregation and catechizing them in the faith exists, and the Orthodox might better compete with the Protestants and better live up to the standard set by St. John Chrysostom.

Suggestion no. 9: Restoring Daily Prayer

"Other aspects of liturgical worship should not be overlooked. In 20th century Orthodox parish life, the daily office as a communal activity has been virtually abandoned. A Sunday-only church is a church deprived of much of the power of Scripture and most of the treasures of Orthodox hymnography. Our churches must explore new ways in which the discipline of daily prayer can be restored."

What should be done about this:

This is surely the most valid suggestion of the monks at New Skete, one which might be said to sincerely lack any trace of the impiety or disastrous ecumenism and modernism that characterizes the rest of their article.   By cutting back services to just a Sunday morning service, which is de rigeur in many Antiochian parishes, and is even advocated by some, we alienate those who, for whatever reason, are unable to attend the primary liturgy, and also fail to maintain our obligations to celebrate both the Divine Liturgy and the Divine Office to the fullest extent possible.   The more services a parish offers, the more opportunities it provides for laity to attend.  

The Church of England in recent years has saved many parishes in the City of London, which would otherwise be white elephants, by repurposing them as places of prayer during the lunch hour, for the tens of thousands of office workers in the Square Mile, which nowadays has a mere 900 residents.   Americans and those unfamiliar with London should note that I am not referring to Greater London, which is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, but rather to what one might consider its "downtown" or "financial district," an area surrounding St. Paul's Cathedral that represented the original extent of London proper (the rest of London consisting of other boroughs such as Westminster, Kensington, Southwark, Greenwich, and Lambeth; many years in the past, these were distinct villages surrounding the City of London, but now all have been amalgated into one great city; the City proper however refers to an area of just one square mile, which once had a large residential population, but which today consists almost entirely of office space).

This idea, like black vestments and four part harmony, originated outside the Orthodox church, but is nonetheless a very good one; Orthodox parishes in urban areas can serve their congregants on weekdays by providing noontime prayer services.   I would suggest that the Divine Liturgy be celebrated on Wednesdays, Fridays, and feast days, the Typika on Mondays, and the Hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, except in Lent; if an evening service of the Presanctified is not well attended, then this is the time to do it.

In like manner, suburban congregations have already had great success providing services in the early morning, available to parishioners before work, and services in the evening, after work; this is the manner in which most midweek feasts are actually celebrated these days.

Orthodox parishes should improve their offering of recreational and family events, and couple these with weekday services.   Tired parents coming home from work, who want to spend time with their children, should be offered a strong incentive to do so in the church; Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has argued passionately that the atmosphere in the Orthodox church is, and should be, that of being at home, rather than the rigorous feeling of "soldiers on a parade ground" one encounters in Catholic parishes; to this end, let us make attending evening services as appealing as sitting on the sofa watching television, by coupling them with various forms of family friendly activity, and by providing within the nave itself comfortable seating; not obstructive pews, but movable chairs, that can be rearranged and that will not obstruct the pious who have the strength to stand, but that will allow the tired to rest, and bask in the holiness.   One should look to the church as a second home, a home away from home, and a place to escape all worldly cares, not just on Sunday morning, but every day of the week.

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