On Liturgy

“It is proper and right to hymn you, to bless you, to praise you, to give thanks to you, and to worship you in every place of your dominion. For you, O God, are ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, existing forever, forever the same, you and your only-begotten Son and your Holy Spirit. You brought us out of nothing into being, and when we had fallen away, you raised us up again.”

— From the anaphora of the Divine Liturgy

WORSHIP IN THE Orthodox Church is central to knowing God and coming to know ourselves. It is the ongoing intercourse between time and eternity, space and infinity, created and uncreated. It is the manifestation of divine beauty on the canvas of worldly chaos, and is the summit of the common, public human effort to reach for the divine. It is a defining act of the human race. We all worship something, even if we think we don’t.

The posts here will pertain to the liturgical life of the Orthodox Church.

St. Nicholas Kabasilas: Doubting the Mysteries

“But, you will say, the priests who make the offerings are not always good men; some of them are guilty of the worst vices; so we are in the same doubt as we were before. When both the offerers are displeasing to God (and this does happen) where do the offerings receive the grace to be acceptable to God and accepted, consecrated and sanctifying? Surely, they cannot receive such grace; they must be truly unacceptable. We must therefore always be in doubt, since we can know nothing of the spiritual state either of the offerer or of the priest. ‘For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man which is in him’ (1 Cor. 2:11); therefore we have serious mistrust and doubt concerning the holy mysteries, and no confidence in them. And of what use is participation in the holy mysteries to the faithful if they lack firm belief?

Such arguments might be justified, and such doubts legitimate, if one regarded the priest as sovereign lord of the offering of the gifts; but he is not. That which brings about their offering is the grace which sanctifies them, since for them, to be offered is to be sanctified […]

Grace works all; the priest is only a minister, and that very ministry comes to him by grace; he does not hold it on his own account. For the priesthood is nothing other than a ministerial power over sacred things. But from what has been said it is clear that all the offerings sanctify the faithful always, since they are always accepted by God.”

Excerpt from A Commentary on the Divine Liturgy.

Theology of Ecclesiastical Music

On January 30, 2020, Fr. Maximos Constas delivered a presentation at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (GOA) titled Sing to the Lord a New Song: The Three Hierarchs and the Theology of Music. It was recorded and the video is linked to below.

In his presentation—tragically short due to the limitations of the program—Fr. Maximos mines for us the writings of the Three Hierarchs (Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom) as they relate to the theme of music. Particularly revelatory (literally) are the connections made between angelic song and worship and our own. There is much in this theology of music that is pertinent to our own day and place, and can help inform liturgical awareness on the part of celebrants, musicians, and worshipers. There are ongoing discussions concerning traditional ecclesiastical chant and translation of texts from the original Greek language that wrestle with things like intelligibility of words and appropriateness of performance styles relative to that.

Regardless, Fr. Maximos helps us access the mind of the Fathers as regards worship forms that have remained with us, and in doing so helps us appreciate how we got where we are, what we might be missing now, and where we might go from here.

Skip to minute 26:25 if the timestamp embed or link doesn’t work.

An image from the lecture.