Saturday, December 19, 2009

What people should not be doing in church

In the service books of the Orthodox Church, there is a firm line between what the priest does and what the people/choir do. Of course in modern Catholicism and Protestantism which still use some form of the historic Western Liturgy, many people erroneously claim that the prayers that the priest and/or deacon prays should also be reserved for them. Oftentimes, while the people/choir are singing a hymn or antiphons, the priest is praying and we only hear him at a Doxology. Many people suggest that the choir/people sing the hymn and then the priest and the people pray together. Such is dangerous for it eliminates the sacral nature of the ministry and makes the priest into a mere leader rather than as the leader and intercessor of his flock before the dread judgment seat of Christ as represented in the altar. Such is why it is always appropriate that the priest always face the altar and pray not the people. In a courtroom, you don't plead your case to the judge with your back turned to him and plead it to those in the seats who have no bearing whatsoever on the actual decision, do you?

One of the things that really bothers me is the "democratic" mentality that has infused many Orthodox, both cradle and convert alike. The prayers of the priest are everyone's they claim. They forget that the ordination to the priesthood is a sacrament. St. John Chrysostom says that after the Incarnation of our Lord and God and Saviour, the most important gift God gave to mankind is the priesthood. The priest has been called away and is signed with the countenance of our God to adminster the mysteries for the flock faithfully. Such is what he will be judged for at the last judgment. I can only imagine the dread and terror that would strike me if I were given the lamb in my hands at my consecration and told that I will have to make answer to the Judge that I did this with reverence and fear and did it with the spritual well being of my flock in mind (for receiving and not receiving alike). The priest, in the sacred scheme of things is thus not like you or me. We celebrate together but not in the same fashion. We complement each other.

Thus, the priest's and deacon's prayers are not meant for us. This is especially true at the epiclesis, where the priest (not us) calls the Holy Spirit to descend and "Make this body the True Body of Thy Christ" and "This to be the True Blood of Thy Christ", "changing them by the Holy Spirit." Now, the service books will indicate, wrongly, that the first two of these petitions are responded to by the people with "Amen" and at the third petition, the people will respond, "Amen, amen, amen!" All of this is absolutely and unequivocally WRONG! The "Amens" are to be spoken by the deacon and the deacon only! The modern service books do not say this, but such a practice of the people usurping the deacon's role is again to suggest that there is no difference between the clergy and the people, when there is. Even the epiclesis itself is to be chanted silently by the priest as we should be in terror and awe and even on our knees (if not a Sunday) for the transformation that is about to take place. Here is another source which confirms what I say.

It is not for us to usurp the roles which are granted to the clergy exclusively. The people are not priests. If they are called to be, that is different, but make no mistake that to blur the distinction between clergy and people is to blur the distinction between the creator and created, between substance and likeness, between Christ and His Church.

1 comment:

  1. Do you know how many Orthodox churches in this country are lucky enough to have a deacon serve? Few. Very, very, very few.

    I have yet to be in a Greek Orthodox Church (and I have been in many) that have any deacons serve there. To the Greeks, a Deacon is a seminarian in training for the priesthood.

    So what is an Orthodox church supposed to do if they don't have a deacon? Have the priest say "Amen" to his own prayer?