03 July 2009

Spontaneous Vocal Worship in the Eastern Rite?

As long-time readers know I spent 12 years in the Eastern Orthodox church and was a tonsured Reader in the Antiochian Arrchdiocese.

I still frequent Eastern Rite Catholic parishes now that I am in communion with St. Peter's successor in Rome. My home parish in the Latin Rite is officially Charismatic and encourages spontaneous vocal worship, and yes, "speaking in tongues", during Mass. There are liturgically appropriate times for such expression, known among the Church Fathers as "jubilatio".

Today I was musing about how such expression would work in the Byzantine Rite.

The Divine Liturgy in the Eastern churches has less flexibility and is treated as a museum treasure that should never be altered. Of course, one finds variations between Russians, Greeks, Antiochians, Serbs, and Romanians but nothing to convene a council about. Then you get the ultra-orthodox who only do the Liturgy in Church Slavonic or Greek and consider English as an inferior language for worship. But I digress...

There are two parts of the Divine Liturgy where I most often feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. So, maybe I'm biased about where He would inspire the faithful to break out in spontanous worship and glossolalia.

The first place is during the Trisagion. Right after the Little Entrance, when the priest comes out with the Gospel and declares "Wisdom, be attentive" the faithful sing "Come let us worship and fall down before Christ..." But where is the worship? Where is the falling down? Sounds like an invitation to DO something.

Next is the Trisagion hymn: Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us (three times). Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

HERE is the place where I imagine singing in tongues, shouting praises to God, vocal declarations of worship like I find in my Charismatic parish. What happens after? The priest declares "Dynamis" or "Again with fervor" and the faithful sing one more time "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us."

Okay, I can hear a collective groan from the Byzantine liturgists, but if you consider this seriously, it appropriately enhances what is happening at that point in the Divine Liturgy. What if people are distracted? Well, the next thing said is "Let us be attentive", so everything is brought back into order. Did the Holy Spirit set it up that way?

At the beginning of the Anaphora, right after the priest tells the faithful to lift up their hearts,"We lift them up unto the Lord" is the reply, then the celebrant commands "Let us give thanks to the Lord", with the response "It is proper and right".

Here we go again! More time to worship in the Spirit. Hearts (and for some, hands) are already lifted, why not praise the Lord with angelic tongues. This naturally leads to the next part of the Liturgy, what the Latins call the Sanctus, where we join the angels in singing "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabbaoth..." Totally appropriate in timing and order.

I don't claim any historic precedent for these musings. We know that spontanous expression did happen in the early Church, but with the establishment of organized Liturgy the freedom faded. I am not proposing that Orthodox and Eastern Catholics modify their Liturgies to accomodate such innovations.

My point is that IF spontaneous worship and speaking in tongues were to happen in a Byzantine Divine Liturgy, this is where I imagine it.

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