Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Orthodox and the Artificial

The Orthodox and the Artificial

If there is a future for Orthodox Christianity in America, it will be grounded in its authentic expression of Christianity. Our claim is that we have a living and organic continuity with the Apostles, and the Eucharist we celebrate is the same which was celebrated by Christ with those Apostles in the Upper Room. Each time we gather together for the Eucharist, we participate in the Sacrifice offered once and for all on the Cross. Christ made this manifest around a table, so in essence we too are gathered around a table as well during the Liturgy.

The Eucharist then, is at heart a very simple act; simple yet mysterious. The Liturgy has developed, to be sure, but always keeping in fidelity with the central act of offering by the priest. Every hymn, every vestment, every work of Church art and architecture is never an "innovation" so much as an accessory intended to deepen the mystical experience of the Sacrament.

It is in stating this, then, that I have grown seriously concerned with the use and overuse of instrumentation in the Liturgy. Over centuries the Church has corporately developed a discipline towards Liturgical music particularly demonstrated by the tonal system. Once again, the underlying wisdom behind this is the deepening of the experience of the central offering, particularly repentant and triumphant tones when appropriate. If there is to be instrumentation during the Eucharist, let it be orient the congregation towards the altar. The abuse of the organ, synthesized beats, and raucous tunes do nothing but direct attention to the choir instead. Choirs, of course are expendable, but the altar is not.

If the hallmark of our faith is authenticity, why do we then trade that in for the artificial? If the new generation of Orthodox Christians were simply looking for a good beat, they'd find better quality productions elsewhere. We should be experiencing the Liturgy in calm and in peace, not as if we were at a concert, but instead the Holy Table of Christ.

-Steve K.


Joe V. said...

It's interesting ... an Icon is just a painting unless one has the wisdom of Faith. Some may look at the Icon and think they can draw it prettier, or make it look more modern .. but then it is no longer an Icon.

In the same way, that horrible keyboard just destroys many Liturgies .. takes the focus away from the words and onto the electronic beats. And yet, this is tolerated in many of our Indian Orthodox churches because of the overwhelming ignorance

Jason Kora said...

Well said. I think, again, it starts with people being properly educated about the liturgy.

Suraj Iype said...

Joe and Jason,

I dont think it is about people being educated about the liturgy, I guess one entire lifetime will be too short for one to gain an education about our theology or liturgical theology as the case may be.

We have to experience the liturgy. It has to move us. That is the education we need.
One cannot be educated to do the 40 postrations during lent. One has to moved enough to do that.

The indiscriminate use of organs, electronic beats and the silence of many parish priests is a sign that the authentic experience of Orthodox liturgical life is perhaps absent.

All this "let us be relevant" stuff is just to try and fill the void that exists.


Anonymous said...

My apologies, but I must say this: lol. Correcting common notions? Doesn't that result in Achen's being pushed out of their own parishes? My solution: learn to ignore the annoying choirs and keep my focus where it should be. And try to fix things later, in a time when people accept corrections. After all, all of us that bother to comment on here are probably strong enough to focus on liturgy and ignore distractions. No?

street theologian said...

Parishes don't belong to Achens. Achens serve parishes.

Needless to say, the idea isn't that we're trying to radically overthrow the establishment. There is never any need for confrontation. The point is that the something is actually being taken away from the liturgy that needs to be restored in order for everyone to experience something deeper.

Of course if we wanted to focus on the liturgy minus the distractions, what other distractions could we tolerate as well?