Getting on and off the train: in praise of Orthodox worship

Getting on and off the train: in praise of Orthodox worship: For the layman the church services are like riding the commuter train: you get on and off as you need...

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  • Well, that's as may be.

    The article seems to be rather dismissive of (for example) the modern RC Mass ,which, of course, is not dissimilar to current Anglican/Lutheran practice.

    I'm sure that many of us on these boards are not too happy with that, given that not all of us have been brought up in the Orthodox tradition.

    What would you like us to discuss?

    IJ
  • finelinefineline Purgatory Host
    I’m also wondering what we are to discuss, though I do find it interesting to look at different church traditions. I went to a Coptic orthodox service one time, and it was their Palm Sunday, so the service was all day long - I think from 10am to 4pm, with a lovely lunch in between, a vegan buffet, as their tradition is to eat vegan over Lent.

    They warned me about the length when I arrived - I was the only white person, so they knew I was an outsider, and they asked who I was and what church I was from. Most Sundays their service is just two hours, but this was longer because of it being Palm Sunday. But I was happy to stay. There was a more relaxed atmosphere to it than Anglican and Catholic masses. Not so much about whether or not people were laiety, but more that some were more traditional to their own culture, with the women wearing head coverings and being in the kitchen, and those people were there from the beginning and standing up, while others were students, more adapted to UK culture, wearing more casual clothes, the women not wearing head covering, and they wandered in significantly later, an hour or two into the service, and they sat down, in a casual manner, and were quietly chatting to each other - not in a way that was disrespectful, but just different. And generally the Ethiopians were more formal and the Egyptians were more laid back.

    We were all given palm leaves to make palm crosses out of, and this occupied the congregation in great detail - they made intricate crosses, at the same time as reciting the prayers. Not the simple crosses you get at Anglican and Catholic churches - this was serious skilled origami. One student made a ring from hers and gave it to me. And later I gave it to a child who wanted it. It was a nice laid-back atmosphere. And there was spare bread afterwards, which hadn’t been blessed, so I was told I could have some of that bread even though I couldn’t take their communion.

    I think these sorts of differences are often cultural - that there is no right or wrong, necessarily, but people are very influenced by their culture, even, in this case, the ones who had adapted in many ways to British culture. In the UK, things are on time, and there are lots of rules about doing things a certain way. A nun here in the UK told me that British nuns stick far more strictly to rules because it’s part of our culture, whereas Italian nuns don’t. I notice the same with the Neocatechumens who have come here from Italy and Spain. Their Mass supposedly starts at a certain time, but in reality it starts about half an hour later. The kids run around the altar in a way that the Brits think is very disrespectful, but it is not in their culture - their kids are well behaved according to the guidelines they are given.
  • It's certainly true that, for those of us from the 'Western' tradition, Orthodox services (of whatever type) can be very different, and, indeed, exotic.

    Whether we would want that as our regular diet, of course, is another matter!
    :wink:

    IJ
  • finelinefineline Purgatory Host
    I wouldn’t mind it, actually. God is God, transcending worship styles and conventions. I would feel a bit like an outsider, but I generally do anyway, whatever church I go to, so at least here I’d have a concrete, socially acceptable reason for not quite fitting in!
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Most us us like it.
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    I spent some time in St. Petersburg. I like it too.
  • Yes, but (a) would you want it every week, and/or (b) is it better than what you (may) have in the Western tradition?

    Just to open up the OP a bit....
    :sunglasses:

    IJ
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Yes, but (a) would you want it every week, and/or (b) is it better than what you (may) have in the Western tradition?
    Well, I think it’s safe to say @mousethief wants it every week. :smile:

    Me, maybe not, but not because it’s not beautiful or I think there’s anything “wrong” about it. It’s just not my “home,” as it were.
    fineline wrote: »
    God is God, transcending worship styles and conventions.
    This.

  • Quite so.

    Them as likes that sort of thing will find that the sort of thing they like.

    No one size fits all, as has been said on these boards ad nauseam.

    IJ
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    God transcends worship altogether. And yet, we persist.
  • finelinefineline Purgatory Host
    Yes, but (a) would you want it every week, and/or (b) is it better than what you (may) have in the Western tradition?

    (a) Sure. I could. This woud be no problem for me.

    (b) No. Just different in some ways. And similar in others. And actually, no more different than the differences between various types of Western churches.
  • I think I could. But I probably wouldn't go every week anyway. I don't go to church every week now any way.
  • Without wishing to embark on a tangent, is it common among Orthodox to attend the Liturgy every Sunday, or is attendance as irregular (perhaps for very good reasons) as in Western churches these days?

    IJ
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Without wishing to embark on a tangent, is it common among Orthodox to attend the Liturgy every Sunday, or is attendance as irregular (perhaps for very good reasons) as in Western churches these days?
    I think it varies. In gung-ho convert parishes, definitely every week is the standard. I can't really speak to the deeply cradle parishes, but the Russians seem to have a more anal relationship to church than the Greeks, and I'd not be surprised if that played out in attendance patterns also. We don't go every week but in part that's because of the long drive and our innate laziness.
  • Converts I know tell me that they've become more 'ethnic' as time goes by and begin to mirror the less regular habits of the cradle Orthodox ...

    I suspect the mileage varies.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    edited July 8
    Converts I know tell me that they've become more 'ethnic' as time goes by and begin to mirror the less regular habits of the cradle Orthodox ...

    I suspect the mileage varies.
    Yes the stereotype of the "hyperorthodox" convert who is more Orthodox than the Orthodox, has a great deal of grounding in reality. Also people who convert to a Russian-heritage church somehow think they need to become Russian, or at least russophiles.

    I know of two converts, both wonderful Christians and fine people, who converted to Orthodoxy after getting an undergraduate degree in Russian Language and Literature -- they kind of did it in the reverse order. But very white-bread-American people joining a Russian Orthodox Church and suddenly becoming Dostoyevsky fans, immersing themselves in the history of the Royal Family, etc., is a real (and eye-rollable) phenomenon. (Nobody on this thread ever did that. <whistles>)

    At the other end are people who drag their fundigelical baggage with them into Orthodoxy, including some prominent white supremacists such as Matthew Heimbach.
  • IereusIereus Shipmate

    fineline wrote: »
    We were all given palm leaves to make palm crosses out of, and this occupied the congregation in great detail - they made intricate crosses, at the same time as reciting the prayers. Not the simple crosses you get at Anglican and Catholic churches - this was serious skilled origami. One student made a ring from hers and gave it to me. And later I gave it to a child who wanted it. It was a nice laid-back atmosphere. And there was spare bread afterwards, which hadn’t been blessed, so I was told I could have some of that bread even though I couldn’t take their communion.
    How beautiful. Actually, the ‘spare bread’ in the Orthodox Church is indeed blessed by the priest. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, this is called Antidoron (instead of the [holy] Gifts) and it comes from the surrounding bread of the loaf from which we cut out the Body of Christ, or Lamb as we call it.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Yes. The bread has been blessed, but not consecrated (i.e. made into the body and blood of Christ by the agency of the Holy Ghost).
  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    The Antidoron is one of my favorite features of the Orthodox Church It feels generous and a good way of accommodating dogma but honoring the Great Commandments. Leetle Masha (may light perpetual shine upon her) and I discussed it. Here on earth there are constraints, but we do the best we can with them. In Heaven these will be as naught.
  • IereusIereus Shipmate
    One of the common themes visitors to our church have is commenting on the solemnity and respect given to the sacred. So much, obviously not all, of this has disappeared in the Westen churches. I asked the pastor of my neighboring Catholic parish whose relics were contained in the Altar of his church, he had no idea and wasn’t even sure if there were any! I can tell you the names and accounts of each saint in our Holy Table.
  • Orthodoxy can be bewildering but what I like is the combination of a sense of reverence with what often look to Western eyes as something overly relaxed and matter-of-fact.

    There's a kind of formal informality with Orthodoxy which you don't always find at the spikier end of the Anglo Catholic spectrum, say or the somewhat self-conscious and 'studied informality' one finds in some evangelical charismatic circles.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    13 years ago I found my home in the Eastern Orthodox Church. I've since drifted away, for reasons I won't go into here.

    The exoticness of it was never an issue for me. Yes, it is very different, but I found it spoke to me. And the parish was an exceptionally welcoming one of enquirers like me, and I made many friends, and felt valued, at a time I was undergoing deep depression and self-loathing. I truly knew not, to misquote Russian emissaries, whether I was in earth or heaven -- the worship was not perfect, yet sublime; the translation was often stilted or odd*, but yet it communicated deep truths; the people had faults, as did I, but no-one cared; and we were one big family. I'd found the perfect parish. And I joined it and ruined it. :wink:

    I feel equally comfortable in liturgical Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, etc. churches. I tend towards the more monastic worship styles and places, though (and always, perhaps this is heresy, favoured Vespers and Matins and Lenten and Marian August services over the Eucharistic Divine Liturgy).

    What I mean by this protracted rambling is variety is the spice of life in worship, and I would hate it to be lost. Even so far back as Egeria we have accounts of differing worship. Unity in faith seems to be the key. We can worship differently.

    Some will no doubt not be able to stomach Eastern Orthodox worship. Some will run to it. Some will enjoy it for a while, or occasionally, like me and bananas -- a fortnight of them and I've had enough for 3 months. I'd encourage all to attend at least one, or a Coptic service like fineline did (I too attended one, but not as long!) -- it is always good to be reminded worship is bigger than our parish church. And sometimes much, much stranger.


    * "...and let the nature of disembodied minds..." is one I remember; the disembodied minds referring to angels, I think (I never asked!)
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Climacus wrote: »
    * "...and let the nature of disembodied minds..." is one I remember; the disembodied minds referring to angels, I think (I never asked!)
    I think they must mean angels, but it's a bad translation. "Disembodied" implies they used to have bodies but do no longer. Probably should be "bodiless".
  • Lyda wrote: »
    The Antidoron is one of my favorite features of the Orthodox Church It feels generous and a good way of accommodating dogma but honoring the Great Commandments. Leetle Masha (may light perpetual shine upon her) and I discussed it. Here on earth there are constraints, but we do the best we can with them. In Heaven these will be as naught.

    Non-Orthodox are not always welcome to take the Antidoron. Similarly, sometimes non-Orthodox are invited to venerate icons and relics and sometimes they prohibited from doing so. In my experience, I have always been explicitly welcomed to take it in parishes in the UK or US, which tend to be very welcoming to visitors. The situation in Greece is much more mixed. I don't have enough experience amongst the Orthodox in Slavic countries to get a good idea, although I have venerated icons in Bulgaria without apparently bothering anyone.

    Almost everything about Orthodox worship can vary enormously in practice. That's true even on Mount Athos itself, where monasteries can feel very different.

  • finelinefineline Purgatory Host
    mousethief wrote: »
    Yes. The bread has been blessed, but not consecrated (i.e. made into the body and blood of Christ by the agency of the Holy Ghost).

    Ah yes, that is right - I remember now that I was told this, because I didn’t think I could eat blessed bread, but was told I could, and that it was different from the Eucharist bread. I don’t think they used the word ‘consecrated’, as their religious terminology was in their own language and they were paraphrasing, but this makes sense now you explain it this way.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    Climacus wrote: »
    * "...and let the nature of disembodied minds..." is one I remember; the disembodied minds referring to angels, I think (I never asked!)
    I think they must mean angels, but it's a bad translation. "Disembodied" implies they used to have bodies but do no longer. Probably should be "bodiless".
    Sorry; you are 100% correct. I should've said translations, not hymns.

    My first experience of Orthodoxy was most unlike Vlad's emissaries in Constantinople: young adults' Bible Study followed by Small Compline. But they had me. I never left (until 5 or so years ago). The hymns are sublime.

    But even moreso for me was Byzantine Chant. I still find myself humming or chanting a Sunday Resurrection Troparion, or a Lamentation from Holy Saturday, or crying out the words of a hymn to the Theotokos. I know some find Byzantine Chant off-putting, but I love it.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    I find it off-putting. Give me 19th century Russian hymns any day. I can only imagine Vlad's emissaries saying, "Say, we could make something really beautiful of this someday."
  • CyprianCyprian Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    I find it off-putting. Give me 19th century Russian hymns any day. I can only imagine Vlad's emissaries saying, "Say, we could make something really beautiful of this someday."

    On the feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, my former parish priest used to joke that the Slavs turned back from their siege of Constantinople because the Byzantine chant from within the city walls was just so awful.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    :killingme:
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