Posts Tagged 'even more liturgy'

Book review: The Typikon Decoded by Archimandrite Job Getcha

French is, truthfully, not the hardest research language in the world to learn for an Anglophone, but there can be other issues of access that a translation put out by an Anglophone publisher can help minimize — like, well, access. For example, I don’t really think I would have too much of a problem with the French in Archimandrite Job Getcha’s Le typikon décrypté: manuel de liturgie byzantine (Paris: Cerf, 2009), but a quick consultation of WorldCat tells me that, were I to try to get it via interlibrary loan, my home library would have all of three options in the entire world from which they could try to acquire it. Were I to try to buy it, it would be probably close to $70 once all shipping charges and currency conversions had taken place. By contrast, even if I don’t have a problem with the French, getting Paul Meyendorff’s translation, The Typikon Decoded: An explanation of Byzantine liturgical practice (Yonkers: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2012), for $23 and free shipping is just a lot easier all around. That may not be the most scholarly attitude in the world, but I’m over it.

I will admit that I am first and foremost a bit befuddled by the title of this book. I assume it is intended to evoke Schmemann, who in Introduction to Liturgical Theology criticized the modern implementation of liturgical rubrics, arguing that liturgical taxis

was fettered and became the private possession of the typikonshckiki precisely because the ecclesiological key to its understanding and acceptance had been lost and forgotten. It is only necessary to read over the “rubrics” and prescriptions with new eyes, and to meditate on the structure of the Ordo, in order to understand that its major significance lies in its presentation of worship as the service of the new people of God… [E]verything that is important and basic in the Ordo is a Byzantine “transposition” of the original meaning of worship as the corporate act and “fulfillment” of the Church. (pp.218-19)

In other words, Schmemann is saying, the Typikon is best understood as a descriptive document of how the Church worships, not a prescriptive document of how churches should worship. I’m not here to argue or side with Schmemann; my point is simply that the title appears to be referencing this critique and suggesting that the author has taken Schmemann’s call-to-arms as his mission. The preface suggests something of this approach in talking about about how the Typikon, “…far from being merely a collection of dry and legalistic rules, is in fact a summary of two millennia of the Church’s experience… It is living Tradition and the foundation of Orthodox spiritual life” (p.7). Despite comments like that, Schmemann’s manifesto doesn’t really seem to be the practical trajectory of the book, however — which, I should hasten to say, is fine, because there are lots of other merits that make the book worthwhile, but perhaps a title less laden with baggage would have been more to the point.

So, what is the book doing? The first chapter is a very nice introduction to liturgical books used in the Byzantine rite; he uses Velkovska’s chapter “Byzantine liturgical books” in Liturgical Press’ Handbook for Liturgical Studies (1997) as a starting place, which has been a standard reference (to say nothing of the only real resource for Anglophone scholars available) up till now, but he’s able to bring a number of points up to date, which is most appreciated. It’s an excellent summary of what the different books are and the historical issues surrounding them. Following that discussion, the second chapter outlines the services of the Hours, the services celebrated daily apart from the Divine Liturgy — the Midnight office, Orthros, the Hours themselves (First, Third, Sixth, Ninth, the “Intermediary” Hours, Typika), Vespers, and Compline. Again, Archimandrite Job does a lovely job giving an introductory explanation of what the individual offices are and a brief account of where they come from.

The third, fourth, and fifth chapters are largely matters of application, dealing with the Typikon is applied for services governed by the Menaion, that is to say the observances tied to fixed calendar dates, then the Triodion, the observances leading up to Great Lent and going up through Holy Week, and finally the Pentecostarion, the services throughout Paschaltide, ending with the Feast of All Saints on the Sunday after Pentecost. As with the first couple of chapters, there are brief, useful summaries of historical matters throughout.

The Typikon Decoded is quite useful as an introductory treatment of Byzantine liturgical issues; one gets a sense of the various historical poles at work — city and monastery, Jerusalem and Constantinople, Studite vs. Sabaite, contemporary Greek practice vs. contemporary Slavic practice, etc. — and how these factors are synthesized over time. In conjunction with something like Robert Taft’s The Byzantine rite: a short history, a similarly accessible treatment of some of these issues, albeit from a bit of a different angle, Archimandrite Job’s book could serve as an excellent initial reference point. One also gets a picture of the foundational scholarship that is still yet to be done for Byzantine liturgy; critical editions of the liturgical books, for example. This is a baton that somebody needs to pick up and run with; there’s a lifetime’s worth of work out there for the textual scholar interested in Byzantine liturgy (and, it should be noted, Archimandrite Job is hardly the first person to try to encourage some reader somewhere to take it on).

Some caveats must be noted, however. Other reviewers have already noted the near-total absence of Greek language liturgical scholarship by important figures such as Gregorios Stathis; besides that oversight, with the exception of a small handful of significant references — the aforementioned Velkovska, for example, and Peter Jeffery’s work on the Georgian recensions of the Jerusalem liturgical books in relation to the Oktoechos — Archimandrite Job effectively treats Anglophone scholarship as so much chopped liver. It seems very odd to this reviewer, for example, in a discussion of the state of the question of psalmody in the Cathedral Rite of Hagia Sophia, to ignore Alexander Lingas’ studies of the Great Church’s Vespers and Matins services. Granted that the Matins study remains unpublished as a book (“yet”, I am assured), but the dissertation is readily available as a PDF with a simple Google search. In Archimandrite Job’s treatment of the historical circumstances surrounding Akathistos Saturday during Great Lent in particular, his representation of the current state of the discussion was very surprising, omitting entirely the recent work of Leena Peltomaa and Vasiliki Limberis. That said, the other side of this problem is that the book is a great bibliographic reference for the Anglophone scholar for non-Anglophone research, particularly French and — perhaps more important — Russian. As much as we English speakers may have no excuse when it comes to French (and vice-versa), many of us still make excuses where Russian is concerned (myself included!), and The Typikon Decoded is an excellent reference with respect to that particular language barrier.

Other caveats are more cosmetic; I know we’re not supposed to talk about copyediting issues in book reviews, but persistent errors become distracting. Meyendorff universally chooses the verb “incense” rather than “cense” to describe the ritual action of swinging a smoking thurible, and while the dictionary tells me that’s a perfectly acceptable option, I can’t help but instinctively feel, when I read a phrase like “The priest incenses the entire congregation”, that I’m reading about a cleric giving a particularly bad homily rather than filling the room with aromatic smoke. There’s also the matter of the page header for the fifth chapter giving the chapter title as “The Services of the Pentecostarian” (as opposed to “Pentecostarion”) on every page.

Still, I should stress that these issues are cosmetic rather than substantive. In terms of substance, SVS Press and Meyendorff’s efforts are well worth it, making a very useful introductory treatment of Byzantine liturgy accessible to a wider audience, and giving a much-needed initial glimpse into Russian scholarship for English speakers.

Update, 10:34pm 26 May 2013: Sorry, two other points — a confusing reality of translating this kind of work is that hymns tend by convention to be referred to by incipit; Χριστὸς ἀνέστη, for example, instead of the Apolytikion for Pascha. Well, you have three choices as to how to do that in the target language; if they’re in a liturgical language that you expect your audience to be familiar with, like Greek, you can leave them in Greek. Or, you translate the incipits anew; maybe I refer to Χριστὸς ἀνέστη as “Christ stood up”. Or, you can decide that you’re going to use the incipits of a commonly used set of liturgical books in the target language; the Triodion and Festal Menaion of Met. Kallistos Ware and Mother Mary, maybe, and you make that point of reference explicit in a translator’s foreword. Meyendorff does not leave them untranslated, but I’m not entirely sure what he is doing; the incipits are not what I’m used to, and while I’m able to identify them from context most of the time, he doesn’t explicitly identify a schema that he’s adopting (there is no translator’s foreword or notes, and more’s the pity).

The other point is reasonably brief: a topical index would have been most welcome. Alas.

Update #2, 10:52pm 26 May 2013: One other thing that occurred to me that I really appreciate about Archimandrite Job’s treatment of the Byzantine liturgical aesthetic vis-à-vis the application of the Typikon’s rubrics: he treats it as, in fact, a multisensory aesthetic, rather than strictly as a manipulation of texts. He makes reference to singing, to censing, to lighting of lamps, to ritual movement — he does a very nice job of presenting the services as a bodily experience of worship; it is not simply a cold transmission and reception of texts. He does this without drawing any particular attention to it, it’s simply assumed as being the case, which is why it just occurred to me that it’s one of the positive features of the book.


The difference between “of” and “for” in the definition of a word

For those of you who may be interested in the core meaning of the word “liturgy,” I give you the following relevant quote from an article titled “Leitourgeia and related terms,” written by Naphtali Lewis and published in the Autumn 1960 issue of the journal Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies:

…it was the established view in antiquity that the words of the λειτουργεία group were compounded of the elements “public” + “work”, to signify “work for the people”, hence “service to the state”. (Lewis 1960, p.117 — this article will eventually be publicly accessible here; for the time being you need a research library that either has a physical copy or access to Periodicals Archive Online.)

Read the rest of the article if you’re able and draw your own conclusions, but do note that the preposition he uses to describe the relationship of “work” and “the people” in the definition of liturgy is for and not of. He goes through five basic senses of the word as found in antiquity in the order that they appear to develop — euergetism on the part of the wealthy as a political service owed to the state, some kind of service benefiting the greater community, any kind of function that benefits somebody else, religious ritual, and (evidently) the service of a military engineer. Nowhere does he encounter a sense of the word that amounts to “task being undertaken by a large group”. Quite the opposite — it’s a task being offered by an individual for the benefit of a large group. In that sense, the idea of a θεία λειτουργεία, a Divine Liturgy, seems to be that it is the service being offered by God for the benefit of his politeia, his commonwealth (πολιτεία or πολιτεύμα — in the Apolytikion of the Cross it’s πολιτεύμα, “…καί τό σόν φυλάττων διά τού Σταυρού σου πολίτευμα” “…and guarding your commonwealth/republic/state/etc. through your cross”).

In any case, even if it is from 1960, this appears to be the present state of the research, as Lewis is still being cited in current works.

I know I’m a nobody of a grad student with a blog nobody reads, but if you are one of the two people who reads this, can you please help me put this “work of the people” nonsense to rest?

Update, 31 May 2011: Just minutes after posting the above, I saw this post over on New Liturgical Movement, which quotes Pope Benedict XVI in a letter to the Chancellor of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music:

However, we always have to ask ourselves: Who is the true subject of the liturgy? The answer is simple: the Church. It is not the individual or the group that celebrates the liturgy, but it is primarily God’s action through the Church… (emphasis mine)

I think Benedict has slightly more influence than me, so this is good.

Event of interest: Extraordinary Form Mass at Indiana University

I was poking around my alma mater‘s online events calendar this last weekend, looking for something else, when I noticed that there was a lecture scheduled for this evening (Wednesday) titled, “Liturgical History and Musical Performance Practice: Issues to consider for a performance of a Missa Tridentina,” to be given by one Fr. Dominic Holtz, O. P., of the Aquinas Institute of Theology at Saint Louis University. Well, of course I needed to be there, so I made sure it was on my schedule for the day.

The next day, my godson Matthew mentioned to me that he would be singing in a Tridentine Mass Thursday evening that was being celebrated as part of the final project for the graduate Choral Literature course. I mentioned the lecture to him, and he said, yes, Fr. Holtz was the celebrant.

So this got all kinds of interesting really quickly. First of all, the Mass is going to be at St. Paul’s Catholic Center, the Newman Center at Indiana University. St. Paul’s, and Fr. Bob Keller in particular, has been really nice to us Orthodox, having let the OCF folks use the chapel for ostensibly “on-campus” services and so on, plus they hosted the All Saints choir’s concert a couple of years ago, so as far as I’m concerned they’re friends, but they are in no way, shape, or form architecturally or aesthetically intended for a Tridentine Mass. The church was built in 1968 and decidedly reflects what was in the air at the time. Secondly, they’re using a School of Music choir for a course project but taking great pains to celebrate it as a real Mass, and bringing a priest from St. Louis to do so? Fascinating — there have been a couple of EF Masses in Bloomington in the last two or three years, but they’ve been celebrated at St. John’s, and Fr. Michael Magiera of Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis has been the celebrant.

Anyway — I’ll have more to say when I have more time in which to say it, but what I will say for the moment is that I found Fr. Holtz’s lecture very engaging on, and sensitive to, a number of issues, and he also came across as quite knowledgeable. I am looking forward to the Mass, and I think it would be a good thing for anybody in the area for whom this kind of thing is of interest to go and show their support, particularly given that it is being held at St. Paul’s. It will be at 8pm (with a brief talk at 7:30pm), at St. Paul’s Catholic Center, 1413 E. 17th St., Bloomington, IN. Hope to see you there; I’ll be the guy crossing himself in the wrong direction.

real live preacher visits St. Anthony’s again

Gordon Atkinson went back to St. Anthony’s (although this time without his family). Once again, his thoughts speak for themselves, but I am most struck by this anonymous comment:

I wouldn’t hang out there at the Orthodox Church any more unless you’re planning on converting. Use your sabbattical (sic) to get as much variety as possible. Go to a Pentecostal or charismatic church. Try to find a black church. You will be richer for the experience and will become a better pastor to your congregation.

“I wouldn’t hang out there at the Orthodox Church any more unless you’re planning on converting.” That’s a loaded statement, to say the least. Depending on how it is motivated (and it’s anonymous, so we can only speculate), I could read wisdom or snark into it. Any thoughts?

real live preacher: “You have a hard time standing for 2 hours? Do some sit ups and get yourself into worship shape”

This is already making the rounds, but this is too good to not keep passing on. Gordon Atkinson, pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in San Antonio, TX, is on a thirteen week sabbatical and visiting various churches during that time. Here he recounts his recent visit to a Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony the Great Orthodox Church (OCA) during said sabbatical. His story really speaks for itself, but I’d like to excerpt this bit:

So what did I think about my experience at Saint Anthony the Great Orthodox Church?

I LOVED IT. Loved it loved it loved it loved it loved it.

In a day when user-friendly is the byword of everything from churches to software, here was worship that asked something of me. No, DEMANDED something of me.

“You don’t know what Theotokos means? Get a book and read about it. You have a hard time standing for 2 hours? Do some sit ups and get yourself into worship shape. It is the Lord our God we worship here, mortal. What made you think you could worship the Eternal One without pain?”

See, I get that. That makes sense to me. I had a hard time following the words of the chants and liturgy, but even my lack of understanding had something to teach me.

“There is so much for you to learn. There is more here than a person could master in a lifetime. THIS IS BIGGER THAN YOU ARE. Your understanding is not central here. These are ancient rites of the church. Stand with us, brother, and you will learn in time. Or go and find your way to an easier place if you must. God bless you on that journey. We understand, but this is the way we do church.”

I’m going back again on Sunday. I started to write, “I’m looking forward to it.” But that’s not right. I’m feeling right about it.

And feeling right is what I’m looking for.

I’ve been privy to a lot of discussions at various levels about wanting to water down or remove or totally rethink this, that, or the other element of Orthodox Christian liturgical practice, in the name of removing stumbling blocks for people who don’t know what’s going on (among other reasons). We need rows of seating instead of the normative open floor because people won’t want to stand. We need to do something other than Byzantine chant because people won’t want to hear music that’s ethnic-sounding (whatever that means). We need to cut out these parts of the services because people are watching the clock and don’t want to be at church that long. And so on and so forth.

Here’s a guy, a Protestant, a Baptist minister at that, who has absolutely no reason to be sympathetic to the peculiarities of Orthodox Christian worship. (Granted, if you poke around Covenant’s website, you’ll see that they are not exactly your average Baptist church, and they are Texas Baptist, which seems to be an altogether different beast than Southern Baptist. Nonetheless.) He has every reason to react badly to every single part of the Divine Liturgy to which he is not accustomed — no chairs, chanting he doesn’t understand, service length, and so on — and yet he instinctively gets it. Not only does he get that everything around him is done that way for a particular reason, but he gets that his discomfort has more to do with him than it does with the practices that make him uncomfortable. He realizes he doesn’t want the worship to condescend to him and his frailties.

The counterargument, of course, is that of the four Atkinsons who went that Sunday (him, his wife, and two daughters), only one remained by the end. I think the response to that, however, is that Atkinson demonstrates the flaw in the visitor assuming that they aren’t going to encounter anything which will challenge them, as well as the flaw in a parish assuming that visitors (and parishioners!) can’t/won’t deal with the traditional practice when confronted with it, and if they don’t deal with it the first time, they’ll never be able to adjust.

Clean week varia

I have finally posted the notes and answer key for Hansen & Quinn unit II. Click on the “Greek resources” tab and check it out. As always, e-mail me at rrbarret (AT) with any questions, comments, errata, etc. I hope it is useful. Unfortunately, it is likely to not be until after the semester is over before I can even think about unit III, but I should have a decent amount of time over the summer to devote to this project on an ongoing basis.

So, it’s the first week of Great Lent. This means, plainly, a lot of church.

At our parish, Great Compline with the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is served Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday of Clean Week. This service is, shall we say, a commitment. The Great Canon is a leisurely stroll through the Old Testament; Great Compline could be thought of as the Orthodox Workout Plan. Because, you see, we make prostrations. A lot of them.

A lot of them. Want to know what it sounds like when the cantor has had to make so many prostrations he can’t catch his breath anymore but has to continue singing regardless? Come to All Saints this Thursday evening. There is a very practical reason why the rubrics of these services call for a left choir and a right choir — it’s called survival. We, alas, don’t have that, so Fr. Peter sings responsorially with me where he can, but he has enough to do as it is as well. There are moments where I can’t catch my breath and am drooling on my cassock because I don’t even have a chance to swallow — the service has to go on, and the congregation is so conditioned to get its cues aurally that if I stop in the middle of the Trisagion to swallow, a good three quarters of the congregation stops with me.

Starting tonight and throughout the fast, we celebrate the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. This is the highlight of the week for me throughout Lent — it’s a beautiful service, and having an additional opportunity to receive Holy Communion throughout the week when our earthly food changes so drastically is something for which I’m always thankful. It is a Liturgy attributed to Pope St. Gregory the Great (and we commemorate him as “the Pope of Rome” during the service), but it is unclear exactly how that is to be understood — that is, did he write it himself (the traditional understanding)? Was it a service he witnessed in Constantinople and wrote down later (the modern understanding)? Either way, it’s a witness to the existence of the pre-schismatic undivided East and West, particularly since those in the Roman Rite also serve a form of it on Good Friday.

Friday evening we start serving the Akathist to the Theotokos. Saturday and Sunday we have the typical Vespers/Matins/Divine Liturgy cycle (although this Sunday begins the use of the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great throughout Lent), and then this Sunday evening, Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers will be served up at St. George in Indianapolis.

So, from last Saturday starting with Cheesefare Vespers through this Sunday, we’ve got at least one, if not two, services a day. In some ways it’s a nice symmetry with Holy Week; from Friday before Holy Week through Pascha there will be more like at least two services every day, so we will finish the way we started… just with more of it. (“More of what?” you ask. “Everything,” I reply.)

At its best, from a liturgical standpoint anyway, Orthodox Christianity does not gather as a community to worship on a Sunday-morning-only basis. This is, to be sure, not practical for some parishes and missions, particularly those who might not have their own building or a fulltime priest. Some parishes which do have their own building and a fulltime priest still nonetheless only serve the Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings and hold no services at any other time; I’m not sure I understand this, but I say that as somebody who from the first time he ever heard the word “Vespers” (at age 16) asked “What is it and why don’t we do it anymore?”

It being the first week of Lent also means I’m a bit on the grumpy side. “Where’s all my protein?” my body wants to know right about now. The adjustment, at least for me, usually is made by about the second week or so.

I am lucky in many respects that this is Spring Break week. Things are very quiet in general, and I don’t have to worry about schoolwork or whatnot conflicting with services… that, unfortunately, will be Holy Week, since Pascha is the day before finals begin.

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