The Formation of the Weekly Liturgical Cycle (Vol IV, Ch 4)

From Michael Ruse:

We now start Part Three with The Weekly Cycle of Divine Services. There is a brief part on the Formation of the Weekly Liturgical Cycle that is followed by Chapter 5 on the Sunday Services and Daily Services. 

 Vespers is the first worship service of the week. That makes it the best preparation for Sunday worship service. Just as God rested, often depicted in icons as sitting restfully, after creation, so Christ rested after his “remaking” of all mankind through His incarnation, death, burial and resurrection. So, Christ’s resurrection and incarnation through Mary, the Theotokos fill much of the content of the stichera (verses in Greek) of the daily and weekly cycles that will be covered in Chapter 5. Join us this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. for catechesis in daily and weekly liturgical cycle of the Church and vespers at 6:00 p.m

The Divine Liturgy (Vol IV, Ch 3)

From Michael Ruse:

We will conclude Chapter 3 with the section pp.196-214. Then, we will begin Part III, The Weekly Cycle of Divine Services. The section will cover the Conclusion of the Liturgy and the origins, development and content of the Liturgy of Pre-Sanctified Gifts. After or before the liturgy, so-called “private” services like akathists, weddings, baptisms and panikhidas may be offered. Metropolitan Hilarion’s concern for the practical and theological order of worship and the liturgical life of the Orthodox Church is highlighted by his reference to Bishop Afanasy Sakharov on services after liturgy. 

 The liturgy of the pre-sanctified gifts is not performed as a part of the eucharistic liturgy that we’ve already discussed, but the content of the prayers is connected, especially in the litany of the priest. That prayer clearly proclaims that Christ is in the mysteries as He is described in the English language as “unseen, unutterable, hidden treasures, invisible King.” We can be prepared for all of these realities by participating in the earlier prayers of the faithful that concern our senses that, “by the life-giving death of Thy Christ has translated us from corruption to incorruption, do Thou free all our senses from deadly passions.” 

 The tone of the liturgy of the pre-sanctified gifts may have certain features of veneration that may look similar to the Roman Catholic “adoration,” but Metropolitan Hilarion argues that the liturgy of the pre-sanctified gifts wasn’t a transplant from the West. 

 There are also important prayers for catechumens awaiting baptism or needing more instruction through Old Testament readings. Join us this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and learn how to extend the liturgy’s conclusion to the rest of our day and week into our homes and jobs. 

The Divine Liturgy (Vol IV, Ch 3, pp.174-195)

From Michael Ruse:

This section will cover the parts of the Liturgy: the Prayer of Intercession, the Preparation for Communion and Communion. With the small exceptions of a trinitarian formula added to the end of the doxology and communing with a spoon, Orthodox Christians have kept ancient Church tradition trustworthily alive. That includes the eucharistic formula we hear “the holy things are for the holy,” a deep reverence and lively preparation for receiving the eucharist, communing always with both bread and wine together, communing infants and children, and the meaning of communion as becoming one with Christ. An implication could be drawn that only humans can be thankful for such a communion with the body and blood of Christ. 

 It is reassuring to read that Church Fathers also thought about the idea of the worthiness of people who approach the holy mysteries of the Church. From the liturgy itself, Metropolitan Hilarion shows us that all the saints, all the faithful, all the baptized in preparation, all ages, all people from different walks in life are called to holiness and called worthy by Christ. Nothing seems more inclusive and more representative in life-giving terms of the very heart of the Orthodox tradition than these parts of the divine liturgy. So, don’t miss out on this liturgical presentation this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. 

The Divine Liturgy (Vol IV, Ch 3, pp.155-174)

From Michael Ruse:

John Bell will present the next part on the Divine Liturgy. Previously we covered the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. Now we will read about the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, the longer of the two liturgies. 

 There are two major topics: the Eucharistic Canon in the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great and the Change of the Holy Gifts. The prayers of the eucharistic canon are one of the main texts we study, and we start from the ancient belief of the Church that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. 

 We find in the prayers the Trinity’s good will toward us and the many helpful actions done for us such as the giving of the Law, the prophets, holy men and women, and finally Christ himself. All of human history seems encapsulated for us in an offering prayer. We find the names of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We find mercy and salvation. God who is outside of time and “without beginning” comes to us in time during the liturgy. Naturally, theologians begin to ask when that change happens exactly. Metropolitan Hilarion describes the evolution of that kind of thinking through Western and Eastern theologians like Thomas Aquinas, St. John of Damascus, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Nicholas of Cabasilas. In the East, the teaching is that the change happens after the epiclesis, and eastern theologians have taught that trying to find an exact explanation is futile. We should be content to live in the mystery. 

A key point is that no matter which liturgy that is being celebrated today (Roman, the Apostle Mark, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, the Apostle James, St. Gregory the Enlightener of Armenia), they all pray for the change of the holy gifts into the body and blood of Christ. Join us all this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and taste some of the goodness of God in the study of the liturgical prayers of St. Basil the Great.

The Divine Liturgy (Vol IV, Ch 3, pp.146-155)

From Michel Ruse:

Michael Ruse will present pp.146-155 in Chapter 3. This section on The Divine Liturgy focuses on the anaphora, also called the eucharistic canon, of St. John Chrysostom of Constantinople. 

The eucharistic canon includes prayers of thanksgiving, the remembrance of the Las Supper and the words of institution, the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the consecration of the holy gifts, and the commemoration of the saints and the prayer for the Church. 

Metropolitan Hilarion offers several points for his readers. The anaphora’s prayers are important to hear, to read and to understand why we come to the divine liturgy and do a “common work.” After reading and understanding the anaphora’s content, we can start to see the liturgy as our highest calling. We can recognize that “when we offer, we are ourselves part of that which we offer” as Metropolitan Kallistos explains mankind’s eucharistic vocation. Join us all this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. to find the meaning of thanksgiving, offering, and how all creation and humanity give back to God

The Divine Liturgy (Vol IV, Ch 3, pp.129-145)

From Michael Ruse:

Rebekah Galloway will represent part of Chapter 3 this week. There are few key themes in this section that Metropolitan Hilarion discusses. 

First, the fact that the Typikon of the Church doesn’t make a difference in general terms of the priesthood and the people, since they are actually “the priest vested and the priest unvested.” What Metropolitan Hilarion brings out of the Liturgy of the Faithful and the Great Procession is the idea that we – both clergy and laity – are part of the “royal priesthood.” We all offer up glory and call for the Holy Spirit to bring down grace on the bread and wine. With that being said, the priests who serve with vestments still retain their special privilege and responsibility for the community of worshippers, and the priest has his own prayers offered for himself, others, and to Christ. The priest or senior hierarch stands as both Christ “the Offerer” and Christ “the Offered One.” So we shouldn't neglect the role that the laity play as priests without vestments. 

The second section discusses the Preparation for the Offering of the Eucharist. It is noteworthy to say that Metropolitan Hilarion draws much of his opinions and sources from commentaries as well as the liturgical text and prayers themselves. The meaning behind the prayers give us a better understanding of the symbolic and personal relations that are happening during the Orthodox liturgy Typology is rich in the prayers where it refers to the sacrifices of the Old Testament that point to the Eucharist celebrated today everywhere. Metropolitan Hilarion reminds of St. Paul’s point in Hebrews that no one calls himself to “serve” God at the altar and that the blood of animals makes no difference to God; God alone calls men to service at the altar and Christ brings Himself. It’s a calling from God. 

The last sections cover the Kiss of Peace and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. When the deacon says, “Let us love one another …..,” he signals the part of the service that recalls us to put ourselves in a loving and peaceful nature toward each other before we the faithful receive the Eucharist. The practice is ancient and is mostly preserved in its use among the clergy during the service.

Join us this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. This chapter will help anyone new or unfamiliar with the Orthodox liturgy to understand the details, theology, mindset, disposition and organization of the primary parts of the divine service. 

The Divine Liturgy (Vol IV, Ch 3, Overview)

From Michael Ruse:

Join us all, both laity and clergy, to participate in an ancient practice of the Church, catechetical instruction given specifically by our very own parishioners at 4:00 p.m., and come to see Vespers at 5:30. 

This chapter will end Part Two. There will be a handful of catechetical presenters in order: Dn. Michael Coleman, Rebekah Galloway, Michael Ruse, John Bell, Polly Thurston, and Seth Hart. We will break down the in-depth content of this chapter page by page. The first group of pages goes from pp.101-129. The major sections include: the Divine Liturgy (its order, form, and meaning), the Proskomedia or Offering and the Prosphora, the Beginning of the Liturgy of the Catechumens, the Little Entrance and the Thrice-Holy Hymn (the “hierarchical liturgy” is explained), and the Liturgy of the Word

The content and layout is incredibly useful for unchurched, catechumens, serious inquirers, as well as Orthodox Christians who grew up in the Church because it reliably outlines with the essential and sanctifying details of the different parts of the liturgy that will be sure to help guide our encounter with Christ in a fuller way at the divine liturgy. 

We will be able to recognize the essential prayers and what they signify, the roles of each participant (priest/bishop, deacon, the people/choir), and some symbolic understanding of what is happening, whether noticed or unnoticed. Metropolitan Hilarion mentions the danger of the liturgy becoming symbolic-reductionism or a dramatic reenactment. Although symbolism is important for understanding some aspects of the divine liturgy, it should recede as we focus more on the reality of the kingdom of heaven and peaceful prayer to God, the Father and Christ, our true celebrant of every divine liturgy. Several particular themes that stand out in relation to the Orthodox divine liturgy are: 1) the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of this earth 2) remembering who we should remember, Christ and His life 3) peace because the word “peace” occurs in the liturgy many times, and St. John Chrysostom calls peace itself, “the mother of all good things.” 

Vespers, Compline, Midnight Office, Matins, the Hours (Vol IV, Ch 2)

From Michael Ruse:

Earlier in Chapter 1, subsection on Worship and Theology, Metropolitan Hilarion said that despite any talk or desire of simplifying or changing Orthodox worship for today’s age, “Not a single local Orthodox Church …has deemed it possible to revise the liturgical Typikon, even though in the Church’s experience, certain essential changes have been made in the Typikon’s use …” (Chp.1, p.11). 

 In Chapter 2, the Typikon – essentially the Church’s liturgical book for divine services – will draw us into the order and rich subject matter that “makes Orthodox worship a veritable school of theology.” It orders the psalms, Old Testament Biblical canticles, troparia, aposticha, and the various services of Vespers, Compline (apodeipnon=after dinner prayers), Midnight Office, Matins (a.k.a. Orthros), and the Hours (primarily the 3rd, 6th, 9th hours). We have been touching on the concept of time in our weekly discussions. Everyone has make decisions daily not only how to spend time (it is an important thing to spend) but also how to order one’s use of time. 

 The Church Typikon makes an encounter with Christ in liturgical prayer possible literally at any time, day or night, as much as we are able to do that. Much of the content of the Typikon comes from the Psalms and how they were used in early Christian and monastic traditions. If you ever wondered why certain Psalms are being sung, why they happen at certain points in the services, this chapter will not let you down in giving you that answer. Out of all of the non-Eucharistic services, Matins is uniquely the most monastic in character. Metropolitan Hilarion offers us a great benefit by easily outlining some of the themes and concepts behind the selection of readings from the Psalms so that we can attune ourselves to the that rich content, since even the most attentive worshipper can often miss a lot of what is being spoken or sung during the liturgical service. Another important aspect of this chapter touches on both the ancient practices that focused on set times, forms and gestures of prayer. Sitting down, stretching out one’s arms upward, and rising up early or standing at night are not nice suggestions, but essential bodily and timely ways of prayers.

 Join us this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. to either introduce yourself to the heart of Orthodox worship or to keep deepening your own understanding of liturgical services and become fluent in its poetic language and structure. 

Worship Services of the Daily Cycle  (Vol IV, Ch 1)

From Michael Ruse:

Hubert Bays will present Chapter 1 in Part Two. Metropolitan Hilarion starts this topic with the section on The Mystical Supper because Christ fulfilled the Eucharist and He is the paschal meal. From there, we understand that Christ commanded his disciples to “do this in remembrance of me” and no longer in remembrance of only Egypt. How do we remember Christ? “The Eucharist itself” is the focal point. Metropolitan Hilarion explains the celebration of the Eucharist in the next section, The Eucharist in the Early Church. The Apostolic community also worshipped by reading or singing hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs as St. Paul says. Liturgical rituals were written as early as the 2ndcentury AD. These are outlined in the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, which give witness to the same elements and beliefs of worship as today’s Orthodox Church. 

 Although the Eucharistic communities had a ritual and liturgical character, some of the earliest Christian communities had space for improvisation and much local variety. The uniformity we might see today had developed over time and between different centers of Christianity in Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople. There is a place of importance for precise definitions of theology called horoi (literally boundaries in Greek) that flourished in Constantinople among the Greek Fathers. In the Semitic traditions, they understood worship and theology as more about “praising God in prayer” and in spiritual poetry, as St. Ephraim the Syrian has shown in many of his widespread compositions. His poetry influenced later Byzantine hymnographers who borrowed from his model such as St. Romanos the Melodist, and his poetry formed worship in Byzantium. 

 Other sections include The Eucharist of the Early Byzantine Period that begins with the Edict of Milan promulgated by Emperor Constantine in 313 AD. Metropolitan Hilarion discusses the Liturgies of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom as well as the ancient Liturgy of St. James of Jerusalem used in the Christian East today. The Non-Eucharistic Services of the Daily Cycle covers material about praying the hours at certain times of the day. The Growth of Christian Hymnography explains how the Syrian tradition influenced Greek and Byzantine hymn-writing traditions, which links St. Romanos the Melodist and St. Andrew of Crete to St. Ephraim the Syrian. The last two sections are Worship in Constantinople and The Monastic Character of Orthodox Worship. 

 Join us after the Ninth Hour this Saturday at 4:00 pm to learn about some very ancient practices of prayer, worship, and poetry. 

Different Futures

Different Futures

I write these columns for the Hill Country News along with several other local clergymen. All of my fellow columnists are good guys, but I’m especially fond of Chuck Robison, because almost all of his articles are filled with references to things like “quantum convergences” and “radionic  chakras” (OK, I don’t think he’s ever actually written about radionic chakras, but I bet you that someday he will). He produces the sort of pieces I think Hunter S. Thompson would have churned out if he had lived long enough to get religion. However, as much as I enjoy Chuck’s style, I’m going to have to take issue with the column he wrote for the June 20 issue of the paper. In that article, Chuck made a pretty standard case for abortion, but, to round off his argument, he offered a proposal for how Christian communities might approach the whole issue.