The Divine Liturgy in English — one last comment (for now)

Many thanks to Esteban Vázquez, proprietor of The Voice of Stefan, who has been kind enough to notice a couple of recent postings.

One last comment about The Divine Liturgy in English for the moment that doesn’t directly have to do with The Divine Liturgy in English — can somebody once and for all clarify what the deal is with the response “Most Holy Theotokos, save us” being chanted during litanies at “Commemorating our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary…”? It was something which leapt out at me the very first Divine Liturgy I ever attended because it spoke to a fundamentally non-linear approach to worship, and I’ve been struggling to figure out the rhyme and reason to why some parishes do it, and some don’t. My parish does it, the first couple of parishes I visited did it, it’s done on the Angelopoulos, Mount Lebanon Choir, and Boston Byzantine Choir recordings of the Divine Liturgy, but it was conspicuously absent during the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy which Pope Benedict XVI attended a couple of years ago, and it’s not done on the Cappella Romana disc. It strikes me as a curious omission, given how exhaustive they’ve tried to be otherwise in terms of making sure that this Liturgy is presented as complete. Anybody want to take a stab at clearing this up for me?


4 Responses to “<i>The Divine Liturgy in English</i> — one last comment (for now)”

  1. 1 Mark Powell 10 August 2008 at 12:51 am

    Dear Richard,

    Thanks for your question about the use of the Marian canon refrain during the liturgy any time the Mother of God is invoked. This is a fairly late practice, and so we in the end opted not to include it in our recording of the Divine Liturgy. Another compelling reason for its omission is that it doesn’t appear in any of the standard service books. The same may be said for the new practice of including megalynaria of saints (sung after the “and each and all”), and the acclamation for a priest, also a late composition, and not used to this day in Athonite practice. You’ll notice another item of Athonite practice is made explicit in Cappella’s recording: when the deacon says “Stand upright. Having received the divine, holy, pure, immortal, heavenly, life-giving and dread Mysteries of Christ, let us give worthy thanks to the Lord,” the people say “Glory to you, Lord. Glory to you” (vs “Lord, have mercy”). It is a coherent response after having received communion to give thanks and glory to God, rather than to appeal for mercy, so we opted for the Athonite typikon at the advice of Fr. Ephrem Lash, principal translator of the text we employed. Perhaps here is a place we can repeat Fr. Taft’s assertion that there are no right and wrong typika, but only good and bad ones.

    As for a more standard example of “non-linearity” of the services (which, I seem to recall, at least one Archbishop of Canterbury called “Holy Chaos” ), in a hierarchical service it is common to hear “Eis polla eti” sung simultaneously with other bits, but in this case there are standard, established rubrics that govern this practice, unlike the use of the Marian canon refrain, the megalynaria of saints, and the priestly acclamation.

    Thanks for noticing these things!


    Mark Powell
    Executive Director
    Voices of Byzantium
    3131 NE Glisan St
    Portland, OR 97232
    Tel (503) 236-8202

  2. 2 Richard Barrett 10 August 2008 at 7:03 am

    Straight from the horse’s mouth — thank you, Mark!

  3. 3 Fr. Jacob lee Kulp 7 April 2009 at 12:15 pm

    About why Orthodox would say, for example at Vespers, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us.”

    Orthodox Christians do not understand themselves as calling from our life in a world separated from God and His saints in Heaven by a chasim that seperates us from them – a world where, as Augustine would say, we cannot meet God in the physical – a kind of three-story universe (Heaven, Earth, and Hell). We do not understand salvation as simply salvation from damnation to Hell due to the Fall of “all men in Adam,” as Augustine understood St. Paul to be saying in his letter to the Romans. If that were our relationship to God, then only Christ could “save us” from our damnation in common. We ought rightly then never to call out across the chasim for that kind of salvation from anyone but Christ. The Latin idea of a limited number of “channels of grace” would make sense in that kind of world. The Reformation idea of grace as something that comes from God in Heaven, across the gulf and into this world to save us, might then only come from God Himself.

    At Divine Liturgy the Church enters into Grace; we enter into our salvation in common with the Communion of saints, which includes ourselves. We include ourselves among them and live a life made possible by Jesus Christ’s having trampled down death by His death, and having sent the Holy Spirit to make a newly re-created life in common with God. It is for us to enter into that life – God’s own life. Salvation is something we have in common with others. It is never a matter of oneself alone, calling out to God, much less saints, for our salvation.

    We ask St. Andrew to save us at the reading of the Great Canon during Lent. We ask the members of the new community (the Church across time that includes all who share that life), to save us. About marriage, we say that the wife is the salvation of the husband and the husband is the salvation of the wife. Those other members of the parish that cause us so much difficulty – they too are our salvation. As we call upon so many other members of the Christ-bearing Communion of Saints to sustain us by their faithfulness in our on-going life of active participation in our own salvation, it would be odd to exclude the Mother of God who was the one from whom Christ’s body was woven in her womb. She was, in a certain way, the first Christian – the first one within whose life the Son of God took on our humanity so we could enter into His divinity. For us, she is not “the great exception,” conceived without Augustine’s idea of sin as our damnation en mass. For us she is the great example – just a humble human being who accepts as all of us must to be fully the human beings God created us to be, that our life comes from, is actively lived in common with others through, and in Him in an on-going way – not once and done; not in exceptional flashes of grace, but in an on-going faithfulness to Him and our shared life in Him.

    In a war, soldiers fight for the lives of one another, first of all. It is the same between us Christians with regard to our common life in Christ.

    Holy mother of God, save us. Holy Andrew save us, Sharon (my wife) save me – save me from isolation and the lonely path outside of our life at one with others by way of our oneness with God through His only begotten Son.

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