3 December 2015

Browsing in Byzantium: Liturgical Greek (3)

Orthodoxy is not as monolithic as orthodoxophile Westerners sometimes like to imagine. Not surprisingly, there has been (at least) one call, in 2007, from a dozen "dissident" priests within Orthodoxy, for 'antisemitic' texts found on Good Friday and elsewhere to be excised from the Liturgy. [I don't like the word 'antisemitic' because Jews are not the only Semites. I prefer 'antijudaic'.] The 'Foreign Minister' of the Moskow Patriarchate, Archbishop Hilarion, gave a lecture which, I think, I can easily leave to speak for itself. His Excellency is one of the few people around who seem on occasion to be able to put things even better than I could myself!!

"Another divorce which needs to be mentioned is that between theology and liturgy. For an Orthodox theologian, liturgical texts are not simply the works of outstanding theologians and poets, but also the fruits of the prayerful experience of those who have attained sanctity and theosis. The theological authority of liturgical texts is, in my opinion, higher than that of the works of the Fathers of the Church, for not everything in the works of the latter is of equal theological value and not everything has been accepted by the fulness of the Church. Liturgical texts, on the contrary, have been accepted by the whole Church as a 'rule of faith' (kanon pisteos), for they have been read and sung everywhere in Orthodox Churches over many centuries ...

" ... The lex credendi grows out of the lex orandi, and dogmas are considered divinely revealed because they are  born in the life of prayer and revealed to the Church through its divine services. Thus, if there are divergences in the understanding of a dogma between a certain theological authority and liturgical texts, I would be inclined to give preference to the latter. And if a textbook of dogmatic theology contains different views from those found in liturgical texts, it is the textbook, not the liturgical texts, that needs correction.

"Even more inadmissable, from my point of view, is the correction of liturgical texts in line with contemporary norms. Relatively recently the Roman Catholic Church decided to remove the so-called 'antisemitic' texts from the service of Holy Friday ..."

(Query: have the liturgical texts of the Byzantine Churches in Full Communion with the Holy See, such as the Ukrainians and Melkites, been tampered with, 'neoLatinised',  for the sake of Political Correctness, or are they still intact? I'm sure the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has carefully checked up on this, considering how enormously concerned they are about such matters.) 

6 comments:

Matthew Roth said...

I wonder what Metropolitan Hilarion would have to say on the collect of Holy Thursday (and thus Good Friday) in the traditional form which seems to imply Judas was damned. There, the law of prayer seems different from what is considered the law of faith. In contrast, both are consistent with each other down to the present day, even in light of the change to Good Friday. As. Dr. Shaw pointed out, part of the problem is that they changed the most prominent prayer, making it ambiguous (with one correct interpretation as we know!), but they left or created new prayers which are quite clear.

John H. Graney said...

I once attended the Melkite Good Friday service. No, it hasn't been tampered with. All the (apparent) anti-Judaism was still present, and in English translation.

Froilan said...

Wouldn't that make Bugnini a saint?

Ttony said...

Father, I love your confident "I'm sure the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has carefully checked up on this". What probably happened was that the Ukrainian Eparch was asked by one of the staffers "Is there anything dodgy about your Good Friday prayers?" and he replied "It's fine: they've been okayed by Rome", sotto voce"in 628" (or whenever).

gsk said...

@Froilan: ha!

Interesting point by Archbishop Hilarion, but I'd like to quibble. Many can pray, ponder Scripture, achieve sanctity and theosis (and indeed so many have over the centuries) but few are allowed to tinker with the liturgy (rightfully so). "Because it's always been this way" is a weak argument when the nature of the Church herself is to resist change -- and the nature of the liturgy more specifically so. In fact it may qualify as a circular argument.

Banshee said...

Actually, "the assembly of the wicked" or "the synagogue of the wicked" or even "the church of the wicked" is an expression from Psalm 25/26:5:

"Odivi ecclesiam malignantium, et cum impiis non sedebo."

That also comes into Psalm 21/22:16:

"Quoniam circumdederunt me canes multi; concilium malignantium obsedit me."

Probably there's something in Jeremiah, too. Certainly there's the bit in Revelation about the "synagogue of Satan," which is a reference to the same stuff.

Anyway, it comes up in a lot of medieval Western discussions of Church and Synagogue (where it is often pointed out as referring to heretics or wicked Christians more than to contemporary Jews), so it probably shows up in Greek ones for Septuagint reasons.