Acquiring an Orthodox Mindset: The Divine Services
The absence of a patristic phronema in Orthodox Christians today
is also reflected in the area of liturgics. Though the underlying
problem is the samea lack of sensitivity and fidelity to the catholic
consciousness of the Orthodox Church, the symptoms are different.
While an un-Orthodox approach to the dogmas and holy Canons of the Church
may manifest itself in aberrant ecumenical activities and heretical "joint
agreements," the same ill mindset when applied to the Divine services
results in what has been appropriately labeled "renovationism."
A comparative overview should help to both illustrate and summarize the
traditional point of view that will be presented in the articles that
Church's system of liturgical services (i.e., the Typicon) is the
divinely inspired mature growth of the Apostolic embryo. The full
flower of God's revelation to His peopleas
embodied in the Divine servicesorganically
emanated from the seed of the early Church.
Typicon as we know it today has become somewhat unintelligible and
tremendously cumbersome; for it is encrusted with layers of extraneous
and repetitive material that reflect a significant shift away from,
and degeneration of, the worship forms of the early Church.
|We should have faith in Divine Providence and that the same Spirit who
"guides us into all truth" also ordains the Church's order
of worship (see quote by Fr. Michael Pomazansky, below).
||The liturgical services mainly represent the product of a "naked
chain of events," or historical cause and effect. The
Holy Spirit does not ensure that our rites are kept pristine.
|The fourth century (in the wake of the "Peace of Constantine")
saw a Spirit-guided organic development in the Divine services, as
confirmed by the witness of the Church's consciousness in the following
centuries up through our present day.
||The fourth century saw a "break," or "abrupt shift"
in the system of services resulting in "deviations" from
the purity of the Apostolic era due to the overlaying of Hellenistic
"strata" and the synthesis of new and conflicting "liturgical
|Our Task: to understand and grasp this revelation
of God to His people as contained in the Divine services. This
requires humility and ascetic struggle with a view towards purifying
||Our Task: to figure out what has gone wrong with our liturgical
services and "fix the many problems" with them. This
requires a spirit of doubt and suspicion, as well as heavy reliance
upon Western scholarship.
Key Related Articles
The Liturgical Theology of Fr. A. Schmemann, by Fr. Michael
Pomazansky. This classic article focuses on the answer to one main
question: "Has the author [Fr. Alexander] indeed escaped Western
captivity" in his thesis that the Church's understanding of
Her Divine services needs to be recovered through the use of "historico-liturgical
research"? Fr. Michael exposes the influences of modern Western scholarship
and lack of fidelity to the mind of the Church in Fr. Alexander's whole
approach to liturgics, an approach that has greatly infiltrated the minds
of Orthodox people in the West today. See related comments in Father Thomas Hopko on
Three Byzantine Commentaries on the Divine Liturgy:
A Comparative Treatment,
by Bishop Auxentios of Photiki and Fr. James Thornton. This is Ch. 2 from
Essays on Four Orthodox Liturgical Issues: A Collection of Liturgical
Commentaries Written from a Traditionalist Orthodox Perspective (Etna,
CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1996).
"Fear and Trembling" Language in Fourth-
and Fifth-Century Liturgical Texts:
From Bishop to Schmemann to a Corrected View, by Bishop Auxentios. Ch.
3 from Essays on Four Orthodox Liturgical Issues.
Comments on the Late Fathers Alexander Schmemann and
John Meyendorff: A Reply to Mr. Ognian Rangachev, by Bishop
[now Archbishop] Chrysostomos of Etna (Orthodox Tradition, Vol.
XII, No. 4.)
Pouring Water on Acid: The Sad Consequences of Spiritual
Ignorance, by Bishop [now Archbishop] Chrysostomos of Etna. This is
an important article on liturgical revisionism as a symptom of spiritual
Liturgical Renewal: an Orthodox Tradition
"If we confess that we stand on the right dogmatic path, we should not doubt
that the direction of Church life and the structure of worship which was
erected on the foundation of our Orthodox confession of faith, are faultless
and true.... We are convinced that our public prayer is based on the very
same dogmatic and psychological foundations on which it was made in Apostolic
and ancient Christian times, notwithstanding the difference in forms of
Fr. Michael Pomazansky, "The Liturgical Theology
of Fr. A. Schmemann" in Selected Essays (Jordanville, NY:
Holy Trinity Monastery, 1996), p. 102.
"...[W]ithin Orthodox theological thought there operates a certain principle of commonality
of belief. What has stood the test of time persists in the corpus of Orthodox
literature because it belongs to that which is accepted into the consciousness
of the Church, the phronema ton pateron, the "mind" of
the Fathers, that "golden thread," as Father Florovsky calls
it, that unites the Orthodox Fathers of today with their predecessors
in the past in a oneness of thought and faith."
Bishop Auxentios and Father James Thornton,
"Three Byzantine Commentaries on the Divine Liturgy," ibid.,