The Seattle Times published a lovely photographic article about the celebration of Pentecost at Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Seattle. The greenery is beautiful and abundant; it makes me question my view on the proper liturgical color for the feast.
Have a blessed week!
The AHC seeks to help preserve the corporate identity and heritage of the People Israel within the Church. By gathering the Jews who have entered the Church, we hope to help them rekindle and live out their collective vocation, giving corporate witness to Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and His Church.
A.H.C president David Moss provides an informative interview for Faith Magazine: “Are Jewish Converts still Jewish?”
The problem of Jewish identity may briefly be described as follows. When a Jew enters the Church, he enters into a community and culture that has become sociologically, for want of a better word, Gentile. The term Gentile refers to the non-Israelite peoples of the world.
Consequently, the Jewish convert is separated from his people, his culture and his heritage. Then, through assimilation to the prevailing culture, his offspring are no longer considered part of the People Israel.
Most importantly, the corporate vocation given to the People Israel can no longer be fulfilled, either in the convert or in his offspring. This is the case because, since the 3rd or 4th century, the People Israel have not had a corporate presence in the Church. Thus, in the Jews that enter the Church, the People terminate.
What do you mean, the people terminate?
The basic way that Jews preserve themselves and their heritage is through their offspring. The Jewish community recognizes the offspring as a Jew and, therefore, a member of the People Israel. Through the community, the individual is given his or her identity as a member of that community.
However, when a Jew enters the Church and marries, there is no community recognition of the offspring as members of the People Israel. Thus, the offspring, in effect, become Gentile. And even if the family attempts to preserve some aspects of their heritage, by the second or third generation, those aspects have disappeared and the offspring have completely lost any sense of their identity as Israelites.
So, even if the convert continues to describe himself in terms of his Jewish origins, the preservation of the People through his offspring comes to a halt. Thus, my statement that ‘the People terminate’.
That explains why, when I was interviewing a Rabbi about interfaith marriage, he stated that every Jew that converts or marries and does not raise their children Jewish - that is like another Holocaust. I was startled by the comment. Is this what he was referring to?
Yes. The way it’s communicated doesn’t add clarity. But, the Rabbi uses the term holocaust in the sense of how many Jews are lost. The People Israel have a God-given vocation in this world. They, therefore, also have an obligation to preserve themselves and their vocation.
Auster addresses the same issue in his post, “Made Whole.” When one of Auster’s readers, a Jewish Christian, noted that he felt alienated due to his becoming a Christian, Auster responded:
Two caveats. First, I would say that while some Jews have an intense negative reaction against Jews who have become Christians, not all do.
Second, I, as a Jew who became a Christian, want to assure Jewish readers, who may be concerned on this point, that I have no design to use this site to encourage the conversion of Jews to Christianity. In this area, I am truly a respecter of individuality and of the uniqueness of the Jewish people.
I first expressed my thoughts on this subject many years ago when a Christian friend asked a question that Christians often ask: “Why didn’t the Jews at the time of Jesus become Christians?”
I answered more or less as follows:
Under Judaism, the believers come into relationship with God by collectively following the Jewish law. Under Christianity, the believers comes into relationship with God by individually following Jesus Christ. Judaism and Christianity are two different religions, two different approaches to God. They are not interchangeable. If the Jews had become Christians, they would have ceased to exist as Jews. Since they were the recipients and legatees of the first revelation of the true God, which they naturally valued above all else, it would have been unreasonable to expect them to give that up, to give up the Jewish dispensation, to give up their very identity and existence as a people formed around that dispensation, in order to become followers of Jesus. Of course some Jews, who were called, did follow Jesus. But the majority didn’t. While I believe that the Christian revelation is higher and truer and more complete than the Jewish revelation, the Jewish revelation, as the predecessor of the Christian revelation and the very condition of its existence, should be respected.
I then wrote the following comment. Auster’s response commentary is in bold:
I do not believe that Providence drives history in an absolute sense. The world is too wicked, and there are far too many nobler and better roads untraveled. God works with us and through us, but it appears as if he refuses to play chess with men as his pawns. That said, I often wonder why something like a “Mosaic rite” never came to pass.
I empathize with your view of rabbinical Judaism. It would be a loss to see its wisdom perish. Yet, Christ did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. [LA replies: This is one of Jesus’ statements in which he is speaking his own language, not ordinary language. He may have meant that he was fulfilling the Jewish law in the true, spiritual sense, but from the ordinary point of view of the Jews, he certainly was coming to destroy it. There is no question that his teachings meant the end of the Jewish religion, for example, of the laws governing the Sabbath. So let’s drop the Kumbaya and frankly admit that there was an either-or situation here.] I wondered why you reacted so negatively when Ann Coulter had her episode with Donny Deutsch [covered here]. Perhaps, your opinion about the everlastingness of the covenant played a part. However, I do not see why there could not be a rabbinical expression of Christianity for the descendents of Jacob. It appears that such was the early Church in Palestine and among the diaspora communities throughout the empire. Had more Jews converted, then perhaps something like Mosaic law Christians would have survived. As it was, Jewish Christians were absorbed into the general mass of Christians, the vast majority of which converted from the nations.
I also do not think that Christians come to Jesus Christ as individuals. That is a rather modern, and to be frank, Protestant, manner of describing Christianity. The gospel is not a set of intellectual doctrines but rather the life in Christ, which is a life of being fellow members of one body. Christianity is essentially communal, even for the hermit in the desert. [LA replies: Good point about the communal nature of Christianity, but at the same time Jesus is constantly telling his disciples what they need to do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and in the Gospel of John this is primarily through the relationship of the individual person with Jesus Christ. A community of believers may share in that relationship, but each individual must have it. Paul said, “Work out your own salvation.” Each of us is an individual self and center of consciousness. Even within a church community, each of us must experience for ourselves—and thus each of us must figure out in practical terms for ourselves—what the Way consists of.]
I certainly do not know what is correct when it comes to the relationship / extension / fulfillment of God’s covenant(s) with man. Yet, it seems reasonable to think that the Mosaic law, and the special way of life that developed among the Jews, does not preclude Christianity. It was the seed bed of the apostolic mission. I see no reason why it needed to end. I suspect that thoughts to the contrary demonstrate a spectacular success for hell’s strategic planning.
P.S. Thank you for your post on Saint Mark’s gospel. I find it odd that few people comment on the humor in the scripture. The reaction of the disciples to Jesus’ comment about having been touched is very funny. Like the boy who fell asleep and then fell out of the window during Paul’s preaching—no one seems to notice that they’re funny.
I therefore find it heartening that there is an organized effort to establish something like what I proposed to Auster in the Roman Church. Moss continues in his explanation of his association’s purpose:
Our goal is to preserve the identity and heritage of Israelites within the Catholic Church, through the establishment of a Hebrew Catholic Community juridically approved by the Holy See.
By identity, I mean their election (calling, vocation). The election is a choice of God that applies to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that is, to the People Israel of the flesh. It is collective and it is eternal.
Today, the Jew who enters the Church is unable to fulfill his vocation as a member of the People. Instead, he enters the Church and assimilates to the prevailing culture.
Isn’t this true of all cultures or is that not a fair question?
There are similarities. You can look at converts from other peoples, cultures and religions and, at times, see their own people turn against them because they feel like the convert has betrayed them.
In these cases, we are dealing with human nature. In the case of the People Israel, however, the issue is of a people created, formed, and preserved by God, a people still intimately connected to the ongoing drama of salvation history.
For example, the Catechism states that Jesus will not return until all Israel recognizes Him. Thus, it appears that there is a connection between that part of the People Israel we identify as Jews and the second coming of Jesus.
Yet, how will His people recognize Him if they are not given the opportunity to consider the Gospel? And, since the program of the Church today, with respect to the Jews, is one of dialogue, not evangelization, how will the opportunity to consider the Gospel arise?
I believe the dialogue is important and good because of the history of Catholic Jewish relations. Healing, respect, trust, honest communications, learning about the other, and shared efforts in the social arena are all necessary and important.
Yet, the dialogue has its problems. One problem arises from the efforts of some Catholics within the dialogue, as is also the case in other Catholic disciplines, to re-interpret Scripture and Tradition to the detriment of the Catholic Faith. Thus, in attempting to deal with issues that have negatively and unjustly affected the Jews, they are betraying the Catholic Faith.
What do you mean? Who is betraying the Catholic Faith?
Let me give an example outside of the dialogue which takes an extreme form: the Jesus seminar. Here, theologians vote on whether passages really reflect the words of Jesus or not. When one looks at the results of their votes, one finds that the New Testament has completely lost its character as the inspired Word of God. Others have questioned or challenged the truths of the virgin birth, the resurrection of our Lord, the miracles of the loaves, and so forth. I could go on.
Within the dialogue, you will find the aberrant notion that there are two parallel paths to salvation: one for the Jews, which is Rabbinical Judaism, and one for the Gentiles, which is Christianity. Of course, one may ask: How then do we explain that the Church was formed by Jews? that Jesus, Mary, the apostles and almost all the early believers were Jews?
Overall, however, the dialogue is necessary, important, and producing good fruit.
Returning to your original question about the goals of the AHC: I already mentioned our primary aim that is focused on preserving the People Israel within the Church. With the establishment of a Hebrew Catholic Community, the other major aim will begin to develop, that is, restoring the heritage of Israel to the life of the Church.
For 3,500 years, God has formed the People Israel. There is much in their literature, their culture, and in their spiritual and moral disciplines that will edify Catholics. God has given them certain gifts and called them, as a Servant People, to be a blessing to the nations. As a People living out their vocation within the Church, I believe they will be a blessing to the life and mission of the Church, and to their brethren outside the Church, the Jewish people.
I do not yet know what ecclesiastical format the Hebrew Catholic Community will take. There is much work that has to be done by theologians and those involved with canon law.
Scripture states that “for everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.” The AHC makes the case that the time is at hand to restore the People Israel, as a People, to the life of the Church.
So in Acts, where they discuss the problem of Gentiles entering the Church, the issue was do Gentiles need to become Jews before they can become Christian. What you are saying is that it is reversed? Now the question is can you be a Jew and become Christian?
Yes. Let me state the question as it has been asked of me: “Can I, a Jew, become a Christian without becoming a Gentile?”
In Acts, the Church was made up primarily of Jews. Through observance of the Torah, the People Israel had been formed by God to be a holy people, separated from the pagan world surrounding them. The Mosaic laws not only formed them, but it preserved them as a people.
In the New Covenant, where the Gentiles were being grafted onto the People Israel through baptism, the following dilemma faced the Jews: How were they to retain their identity if they now no longer had to observe all of the Mosaic laws?
For example, the laws regarding ritual purity (such as the dietary laws), had helped keep them a distinct people. But, in the new dispensation, Jews began to eat with Gentiles. It became apparent that their distinctiveness could no longer be preserved through these laws. And in those early days, while the understanding of what Jesus had taught was developing, you can read in the New Testament where some of the early Jewish followers of Jesus continued to observe the Torah. In fact, this situation continued through the next two or three centuries, while the People Israel maintained a corporate presence in the early Church.
But the reversal of the situation in Acts is not the only reversal we are witnessing. St. Paul, speaking to the Gentiles, taught that they, the Gentiles, had received mercy because of the failure of the majority of the Jews to believe in Jesus. But a time would come when the Gentiles, who had the faith, would lose it. And, from their failure, the Jews would again receive mercy. And with mercy, all Israel would be saved, bringing about the return to faith of the apostate Gentiles. I believe we have entered that phase of salvation history.
As I wrote in “The Vain Queen Consort,” ethnic chauvinism has been a stumbling block for the Jews, and Moss and such men must be vigilant not to succumb to this tendency. I find his use of “gentile” for non-Hebrew Christians somewhat problematic. The world is full of many nations, and I do not think that the Lord intends for their dissolution. John writes of the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation:
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Auster thus comments:
In the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, there are still distinct nations, and kings of nations, and these are the glories of humanity which are brought before the throne of God, and there transfigured in the light of Christ. Mankind, following the end of the world, is still providentially constituted of separate nations, which give it its character and distinctiveness, even as, for example, our earth is constituted of separate continents, islands, mountain ranges, and valleys, which give it its shape and its meaning. The physical earth is not a homogenous mass consisting of nothing but “equal” individual particles, and neither, in the biblical view, is mankind.
We need to keep such passages along with God’s covenants in mind when we ponder Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
As human sexuality is part of God’s plan, so are the nations. Yet, there is a more fundamental unity through Christ, who redeems and transfigures us into something even higher than the apex of creation. As such, Moss’ basic categorization of men into Hebrews and the nations—that is, everyone else—appears to go against two thousand years of Christian practice. If we are to dismiss heretical revisionism that has delusions of recovering the “authentic gospel” from “Pauline distortions,” we must take the tradition seriously. I am open to exploring roads not traveled, as mentioned above, and I would welcome a development of something like my imagined Mosaic rite, but the primary distinction among men for Christians is between those who have answered the invitation to come to the feast and those who have not yet answered. If certain merrymakers wear distinctive hats and eat special foods, then there is room at the banquet for such differences.
Moreover, we mortals do not know who will be kicked out of the party for having come unprepared, and we do not know who may be on the way to the festivities though they have not yet arrived. So, we ought to beware of triumphalism due to our presence at the festival.
I wish Moss and his friends the best in their endeavors. I would like to see the same development in the Orthodox Church. When I was researching places to visit in Jerusalem, I discovered Archpriest Aleksandr Abraham Winogradsky Frenkel, who serves at Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church in the Old City. He shepherds a multiethnic, multilingual parish, where the services are in Hebrew on Saturdays. Here is the Trisagion in Hebrew:
A few Orthodox Christian Mission Center bulletins contain an article on Fr. Aleksandr’s work:
Spring 2005: pages 24 and 25 (pdf page 13)
Fall 2007: pages 8 and 9 (pdf page 5)
The number of Russian immigrants continues to rise in Israel, and many of the immigrants have a connection to the Russian Church. They immigrate as Jews under the Law of Return, but many are converts to the Church or have relatives in the Church. This growing community, with priests like Fr. Aleksandr, may develop into the roots of a future Hebrew Orthodox Christian culture.
The Bovina Bloviator posted a disturbing video last summer of a Western themed mass in Austria—Western as in cowboys and barbeques: “The Catholic Church in Austria: Defining Deviancy Downward” Here is the Gloria.TV coverage of the event and of the controversy:
Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, evidently supported the event which occurred previous years despite protests to the Cardinal. Here is Gloria.TV’s coverage of the “mass” in A.D. 2010. From what I have been able to find online, the protests finally worked to get the mass cancelled last summer. One wonders, however, why such an abomination was ever considered or allowed.
I hope that everyone is having blessed holy week.
Last month, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf commented on an article by Louis Verrecchio who wonders about the connection between the liturgical woes of the Roman Church following the Second Vatican Council and the widespread moral confusion and apostasy among the children of that community. You may read Fr. John’s “Did liturgical optionitis and degraded liturgy lead to dissent about morality?” and Mr. Verrecchio’s piece at the Catholic News Agency, “Liturgy’s effect on gay ‘marriage’ debate.”
The Christian experience of two millennia has vouchesafed the trustworthiness of the principle lex orandi, lex credendi. If we destroy one, the other will follow in its ruin.
One of the arguments that Protestants, papists, and the Orthodox have involves the way we see doctrinal, canonical, liturgical, and practical development in the Church. Certain extreme Protestants reject the whole Christian experience outside (and thus after) scripture. Protestants of another stripe wish to reinvent their religion in every generation by following the passing fads of the world. Papists accuse the Orthodox of being stuck in antiquity, late antiquity, the Middle Ages, or whenever it suits them to locate us, thinking that the Orthodox emphasis on continuity stifles the Spirit (and not only the Zeitgeist). The Orthodox accuse Westerners of casually disregarding precedent and of exalting contemporary authority over the consensus of our forefathers who, in the Orthodox view, inherited and passed along the apostolic faith.
These are broad accusations, and all of them are somewhat unfair—although I have met several Protestants who fit the “reinvent your own personal wheel” caricature rather well. Should they even qualify as Protestants, though? There cannot be Christianity without truth claims. Yet, the rest are not wholly accurate. Even the most ardent sola scripturist holds onto much of the Christian tradition without admitting as much. He makes many unprincipled exceptions to his model of authority, though he remains ignorant of his inconsistency. Were he aware, he would be forced to entertain heresies that he cannot stand or to give up his rather unscriptural doctrine of sola scriptura. Moreover, there are many riches of Western and Eastern reflection on the history of the Holy Spirit’s presence and activity among the people of God. Cardinal Newman was not the only man to wonder what development means in the Church.
Orthodox doctrine and practice are quite ancient, and yet there have been changes. Most of the interesting changes involved great controversies that were the defining theological and political issues of their time. They came about because the challenge of heresy or misunderstanding became acute and the Church had to make explicit what Christians before held latent. An in depth discussion of Trinitarian theology did not occupy Christians’ attention due to philosophical musings at churchmen’s leisure. Rather, it happened because Arius explored a possible way of thinking about the Trinity within a certain philosophical world view, and it struck a significant number of Christians as wrong. The controversy ensued, mutating often through the years into one of ecclesial and imperial politics and of narrow personal interests of some figures involved. The result, however, was a deeper intellectual understanding of what the deposit of faith entails.
Other changes happened slowly and sometimes unnoticed. The development of monasticism institutionalized the prophetic witness of individual ascetics—a change that profoundly influenced world history. Yet, one could argue that the monastic, ascetic ethos goes back to the Hebrew prophets and never departed the Abrahamic tradition. The rise of female monastics probably led to the disappearance of deaconesses. Monasticism’s growth in importance surely contributed to the celibate episcopacy.
There are some changes, though, that occurred due to what I call existential logic. Sometimes, life lived—and the resulting culture of a community wherein life is lived in a certain way—embrace countless principles and values that people hold without necessarily reflecting upon them. Human beings, despite all their fallacies and convenient exceptions to principles, remain logical agents who like consistency and intelligibility in life. Men tend toward undoing contradictions in their thought, values, and actions; they also tend to assimilate new ideas and experiences into their overall understanding and experience of the world. This is existential logic.
A Christian community lives—or aspires to live—the gospel, and as such it tends to develop a Christian culture. Diversity exists across Christendom, but there are certain themes that become dominant in a culture of a converted people. The existential logic of those who live their life in the Church transforms their pagan, pre-Christian ways and leads toward the “baptism” of many practices. A good deal of popular piety expresses this transformative aspect of the faith.
Last week in the “Paradox of the Hebrews,” I suggested that the increase in Hebraic obedience to God that Gibbon considered might be due to group maturation. Eventually, the lessons of the people are going to sink in. I think that existential logic might be responsible for this, as well. The longer the Hebrews lived under the Mosaic law, the more they absorbed the lessons of that law and developed a complete culture in harmony with that law. During the forty years in the wilderness, the Hebrews may have had Moses and the visible presence of the Lord with them night and day, but they were still a rather paganized people whose way of life had been shaped by living among the Egyptians for generations. Long after the age of the prophets, Pharisees preached to what seemed a much more obedient and observant population. One may ask if the impressive work of rabbinical legal scholarship could have come to be in the desert. It is unlikely. The Hebrews had to mature. Of course, men always sin, err, and transgress their own principles, but they fall short less often when there are strong communal supports that nourish the beliefs and practices of their people.
Anyway, I think of existential logic when I hear primitivist challenges from certain “Bible Protestants.” These folks dismiss anything that is not mentioned explicitly, at least to a clarity and full elaboration sufficient for their liking, in Holy Writ. If these chaps stopped and considered existential logic, a lot of what they find objectionable would make sense to them. Why do we honor the Theotokos in the particular ways that we do? It is simple. Consider who she is and what she does in salvation history. Then, traditional Christian practice through the ages makes sense. Why do we revere the holy vessels that are used for the Eucharistic service? I do not know the history of such practice, but I doubt that there were many canons in the first and second centuries about those vessels. Yet, when you consider what the Eucharist is, these practices make sense. It is for this reason that the apostolic age in the first century should not be the definitive model in all ways for Christians today. A community must live its way of life for some time, and then changes occur that reflect the fundamental truths and values of that community.
I found an interesting article yesterday on Orthodox Answers: “Clerical Celibacy,” by Fr. Laurence Cleenewerck. Fr. Laurence notes the movement in the Roman Church to defend the apostolic origin of clerical celibacy, and then he reviews the history and reasons underlying clerical celibacy in the East and in the West. It is relatively brief, given the subject matter, and quite informative. Most interesting to me was the parallel that early Christians saw between the ordained ranks of the new covenant and the Levitical system. The development of Christian doctrine and vocabulary seem to unfold quite dramatically within the scriptural imagination.
Last week, I discovered a funny site that showcases absurd vestment choices, primarily in the Anglican communion. Laugh, cry, and indulge in sectarian pride and bigotry with Bad Vestments.
Some of the vestment styles that the blogger finds egregious are not too bad, but most are horrible. In viewing them, one wonders who thought that such was a good idea. Remember that a chain of bad decisions had to have existed, from the tailor to the parish purchaser to the person wearing the vestments. However, it is not that surprising in the case of the Anglicans. If your religion has lost its collective mind, then appropriate liturgical fashion sense ought to deteriorate soon, as well.
Also, I find many Anglican “clerics” to look rather creepy. This may not be fair, but on looks alone would you trust this man with your children?
It seems as if this fellow, Mr. Duncan, is one of the decent Episcopalian leaders who wishes for his sect to remain Christian, more or less. Yet, I find the look a bit pervy. Perhaps, my Eastern bias is too strong; I prefer bishops to look like Santa Claus or wizards. For instance, compare this Anglican “bishop,”
to one of our own, the late Archbishop Micah of Yaroslavl,
Who looks more like an heir to the apostles?
Getting back to Bad Vestments, you will enjoy the site, with its amazingly atrocious finds and its irreverent commentary. I particularly like this stole story:
This is an example of a good vestment idea that wasn’t brought off particularly well. The dove and the fire are perfectly fine representations of the Holy Spirit. Just don’t have the dove flying toward the fire on one side and absent in the other.
It reminds me of one of my favorite t shirt designs:
Perhaps, the E.C.U.S.A. could incorporate the design into vestments and thereby raise awareness of roadway duckling fatalities.
I have witnessed Roman and Orthodox liturgies in many languages and in many lands. The one part of the liturgy that is always done well is the Sanctus.
Holy, holy, holy
Lord of Sabaoth.
Heaven and earth are full of thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest!
I do not know the terms for the various parts of the liturgy. I therefore do not know if the Sanctus is considered part of the Anaphora or some other section. If it is a part, the entire Anaphora, and especially the Sanctus, is probably my favorite part of the liturgy. I do not normally sing, but sometimes I cannot help myself starting with “A mercy of peace; a sacrifice of praise!”
It is amazing that even in Roman Novus Ordo parishes that typically butcher the mass, they still sing this section soberly and beautifully. It is as if all the corruption in the world cannot taint its splendor. I do not know if liturgical Protestants have kept it well, but the Romans have managed to do so.
The only other thing that American papists have safeguarded appropriately is when their priests pray, “Through him, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.” Most of the time, this beautiful pray compels our thoughts to the holy and sublime.
Of course, it is a shame that only a small portion of the modern Roman mass remains, liturgically, quality guaranteed. Yet, with horrid songs like “One Bread, One Body,” what can one expect? I just looked up that wretched, awful, saccharine, Benji soundtrack treacle posing as a hymn, and it figures that a Jesuit—John Foley—composed the anti-tune in A.D. 1978. His Wikipedia article also notes that he wrote “The Cry of the Poor” the same year. I have never heard that song, but I already know that I hate it. Awful, awful, awful silly Jesuits and the madness that they have wrought!
This entry is about the majestic Sanctus, however. It does its job of directing our minds to the transcendent. Here is the hymn in Greek and in Latin.
Ἅγιος , ἅγιος , ἅγιος
πλήρης ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ τῆς δόξης σου,
ὡσαννὰ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις.
Εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι Κυρίου.
Ὡσαννὰ ὁ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις.
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis.
As much of a natural Luddite that I may be, I love the internet. I remember the days when an answer to an obscure question might require hours of research at the city’s main library. Now, one can find such information online in less than a minute. Of course, such “old-fashioned” skills are useful, and the ease of online research may have some unfortunate consequences for the new generation. Nonetheless, I feel fortunate to have lived in both eras.
One of the more interesting opportunities that the world wide web affords us is the ability to encounter various points of view so easily. In the “real world” meetings places of classrooms, cafés, train cars, youth hostel lounges, and church meals, it takes a considerable amount of time investment to discover people who share certain interests and to build up a relationship so that such matters can be discussed. The internet facilitates this process, though the depersonalized medium has its own shortcomings. For example, many folks feel free to behave like arses in ways that they would not so act among flesh and blood associations. Still, the phenomena of discussion groups, blogs, and alternative news sites are quite exciting.
In tribute to this new medium, today and tomorrow I am offering some sites that I find interesting. You may enjoy them, too. On this Lord’s day, I offer some sites that focus mainly on religion, though with commentary about society at large, while tomorrow’s entry will concern sites about truth more generally. Besides these, I recommend my “blogroll” offerings in the left column of each subject area, as well.
American Orthodox Institute
Glory to God for All Things
Journey to Orthodoxy
Roman Catholic sites:
Thomas Peters’ American Papist
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf’s What Does the Prayer Really Say?
Yesterday, in “Calvinism Redux,” I addressed some concerns by commentator Jack soi-disant the Ripper about Calvinism. In this post, I would like to field his questions about Christian worship.
In the comments section of “Steve Harvey and Dionysian Protestantism,” Jack writes:
Also, what exactly about the crowd makes you believe that they have swung too far the other direction than Calvinists? It seems that you are ascribing a moral standard to a matter of personal preference: Joseph would like his worship services to be slightly more active than the Calvinists, and slightly more subdued than the Pentecostals. “Greek Orthodoxy Rocks!”
Jack accuses me of making my personal taste the litmus test for correct worship. As a personal accusation, it demands a somewhat personal answer. With regard to such, Jack has the causality backward. My personal preference for a “worship style” was not a factor at all in my conversion to Orthodoxy. To be blunt, I did not really care for worship at all. Having been nourished in a Calvinist culture, I was not interested much in worship. I wanted truth. I rejected the religious traditions of my ancestors because I believed, based on the evidence that I considered, that they had corrupted the gospel of Christ. My conversion was completely intellectual in origin and in substance. I remember quite clearly an episode where I was walking on campus with an Orthodox priest, having a discussion about the faith. I had just visited his parish, and he wanted to know what I thought of the worship. I told him that it was fine, but that I was not very interested in worship. It was not what drove me. He laughed and said that many people convert because of the worship. He then somewhat scolded me and said that being an Orthodox Christian was mostly about worship. The central Christian act is worship. I acknowledged the truth of such—in the abstract. Of course, I reasoned, it is proper that the object of man’s attention is the highest possible object—namely, God. Thus, in agreeing with the priest, I continued to disagree with him without realizing it. It was only after several years in the Church that I came to see what others see immediately. The pagan emissaries who visited Constantinople knew that they witnessed heaven on earth when they attended the divine liturgy in the great Cathedral of Holy Wisdom. For they were pagans. I had been largely raised according to Calvin’s instructions, and the splendor was mostly lost on me. I loved beauty, and I loved order, but I did not grasp the transcendent quality of liturgical worship. Having finally experienced it, I cannot dismiss it as a personal preference.
Orthodox worship, like Orthodox doctrine, is not a casually suggested preferred option for the faithful. Its form is the way that it is for the salvation of souls. The way that Christians worship God echoes the Tabernacle, the Temple, and the days lived with the savior by the apostles themselves. Its organic evolution over the centuries reflects the wisdom and sanctity of generations of saints having lived, prayed, and worshiped God in the light of Christ’s resurrection. Like the rule of faith, the rule of worship exists for a reason. It is the proper diet for the soul for its orientation toward the eternal God.
Hence, Orthodoxy “doesn’t rock” because it is my personal preference. Rather, it has become my personal preference because I have come to see how its doxological regimen best trains our souls to relate to God. “Slightly more active than the Calvinists, and slightly more subdued than the Pentecostals” has nothing to do with it. They are not primary realities between which we must find a mean. Rather, they are both far removed distortions of the ancient Christian manner of worshiping God. With the latter, worship lacks measure and control. Emotions are ever poor guides in life, and connecting spirituality with emotion opens up a path toward dangerous and demonic delusions. You may know of Pentecostals whose religious life manically swings high and low, as they trust their fragile psychological states to be accurate measures of their spiritual progress—of their “blessedness.” Such is a recipe for prelest and despair.
With the former, worship devolves into an intellectual act. Calvinists historically have attempted to remove all non-cognitive aspects of worship from their services and from their architecture. The sermon became the central act of a Christian service; instead of the holy mysteries, Calvinists receive unending catechesis. High walls were built around family enclosures so that the congregants could only hear the preacher’s words. Visual representations of Christ, the saints, and the holy stories were banned and destroyed in iconoclastic fits. The body no longer was useful for such cerebral work. Only the voice—and mostly the voice of the preacher—was allowed to excel in its natural talents to glorify God. I suspect that many crusty preachers in their secular academic robes—note well the relevant fact that Calvin did not wear vestments to his services but rather his university robe—considered hymns a condescension to human weakness. What perversity—but how fitting a perversion for the new Cartesian modern man of only mind and will. Whereas the Christian temples of East and West testify of God the creator, maker of heaven and earth and of all that is therein, whereas they celebrate in color, in glass, and in stone the providence of God throughout history, from Adam unto our very days, whereas the worship performed in them addresses men as bodies, souls, and spirits, Calvinism reduces the Word to words and worship to harsh Sunday school lessons.
I reject worship that rejects man and his nature. Jack asks if it is “possible to strive for an authentic faith, spurn the cultural draw of ‘social morality,’ and yet still resist a charismatic form of worship?” Of course, such is possible. The ancient prescription for the Christian life aims for such a goal.
If Nietzsche is correct in his understanding of the human need for what he calls the Apollonian and the Dionysian, then I can see reflected in the Christian tradition that complementary meeting of the two. In Christian worship, the Apollonian element is unmistakable. Christian hymnography is intelligible; it speaks to our mind as well as to the lower parts of the soul. It is controlled. It is balanced. It is sober. It reflects the ancient insistence on apatheia—the tranquility of the soul, unmoved by the passions, ready and prepared to hear and to respond to the truth of God.
At the same time, the Dionysian element exists in Christian worship. Besides the Dionysian quality of Russian church bell ringing, the tonal system in the Church has meditative trance-inducing qualities. The rhythm of the chant subdues the soul as a lullaby. For instance, the Cherubic Hymn is marvellously worded, set, and placed. As the sabbath is made for man, so are worshipping conventions of the Church divinely designed to treat our diseased souls. The joy and the sorrow of the music (sometimes simultaneously, as during Holy Week) affect the passions and force them to coalesce around the message that the mind intellects and that the heart understands. Moreover, the oneness of the Christian community—the unity of Christ’s body—the unity of Christ himself—as symbolized in the Eucharistic act, is the fulfillment of all Dionysian longing.