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.