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Cardinal Ratzinger on the Contemplation of Beauty
Zenit ^ | 05/03/05 | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Posted on 05/03/2005 7:06:40 AM PDT by ninenot

ROME, MAY 2, 2005 (Zenit.org).- ZENIT is reprinting this message that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) sent to a meeting of the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation in August 2002. The group was meeting in Rimini, Italy.

* * *

"The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty" By Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

Every year, in the Liturgy of the Hours for the Season of Lent, I am struck anew by a paradox in Vespers for Monday of the Second Week of the Psalter. Here, side by side, are two antiphons, one for the Season of Lent, the other for Holy Week. Both introduce Psalm 44 [45], but they present strikingly contradictory interpretations. The Psalm describes the wedding of the King, his beauty, his virtues, his mission, and then becomes an exaltation of his bride. In the Season of Lent, Psalm 44 is framed by the same antiphon used for the rest of the year. The third verse of the Psalm says: "You are the fairest of the children of men and grace is poured upon your lips."

Naturally, the Church reads this psalm as a poetic-prophetic representation of Christ's spousal relationship with his Church. She recognizes Christ as the fairest of men, the grace poured upon his lips points to the inner beauty of his words, the glory of his proclamation. So it is not merely the external beauty of the Redeemer's appearance that is glorified: rather, the beauty of Truth appears in him, the beauty of God himself who draws us to himself and, at the same time captures us with the wound of Love, the holy passion ("eros"), that enables us to go forth together, with and in the Church his Bride, to meet the Love who calls us.

On Monday of Holy Week, however, the Church changes the antiphon and invites us to interpret the Psalm in the light of Isaiah 53:2: "He had neither beauty, no majesty, nothing to attract our eyes, no grace to make us delight in him." How can we reconcile this? The appearance of the "fairest of the children of men" is so wretched that no one desires to look at him. Pilate presented him to the crowd saying: "Behold the man!" to rouse sympathy for the crushed and battered Man, in whom no external beauty remained.

Augustine, who in his youth wrote a book on the Beautiful and the Harmonious ["De pulchro et apto"] and who appreciated beauty in words, in music, in the figurative arts, had a keen appreciation of this paradox and realized that in this regard, the great Greek philosophy of the beautiful was not simply rejected but rather, dramatically called into question and what the beautiful might be, what beauty might mean, would have to be debated anew and suffered. Referring to the paradox contained in these texts, he spoke of the contrasting blasts of "two trumpets," produced by the same breath, the same Spirit. He knew that a paradox is contrast and not contradiction. Both quotes come from the same Spirit who inspires all Scripture, but sounds different notes in it. It is in this way that he sets us before the totality of true Beauty, of Truth itself.

In the first place, the text of Isaiah supplies the question that interested the Fathers of the Church, whether or not Christ was beautiful. Implicit here is the more radical question of whether beauty is true or whether it is not ugliness that leads us to the deepest truth of reality. Whoever believes in God, in the God who manifested himself, precisely in the altered appearance of Christ crucified as love "to the end" (John 13:1), knows that beauty is truth and truth beauty; but in the suffering Christ he also learns that the beauty of truth also embraces offence, pain, and even the dark mystery of death, and that this can only be found in accepting suffering, not in ignoring it.

Certainly, the consciousness that beauty has something to do with pain was also present in the Greek world. For example, let us take Plato's "Phaedrus." Plato contemplates the encounter with beauty as the salutary emotional shock that makes man leave his shell and sparks his "enthusiasm" by attracting him to what is other than himself. Man, says Plato, has lost the original perfection that was conceived for him. He is now perennially searching for the healing primitive form. Nostalgia and longing impel him to pursue the quest; beauty prevents him from being content with just daily life. It causes him to suffer.

In a Platonic sense, we could say that the arrow of nostalgia pierces man, wounds him and in this way gives him wings, lifts him upwards toward the transcendent. In his discourse in the Symposium, Aristophanes says that lovers do not know what they really want from each other. From the search for what is more than their pleasure, it is obvious that the souls of both are thirsting for something other than amorous pleasure. But the heart cannot express this "other" thing, "it has only a vague perception of what it truly wants and wonders about it as an enigma."

In the 14th century, in the book "The Life in Christ" by the Byzantine theologian, Nicholas Cabasilas, we rediscover Plato's experience in which the ultimate object of nostalgia, transformed by the new Christian experience, continues to be nameless. Cabasilas says: "When men have a longing so great that it surpasses human nature and eagerly desire and are able to accomplish things beyond human thought, it is the Bridegroom who has smitten them with this longing. It is he who has sent a ray of his beauty into their eyes. The greatness of the wound already shows the arrow which has struck home, the longing indicates who has inflicted the wound" (cf. "The Life in Christ," the Second Book, 15).

The beautiful wounds, but this is exactly how it summons man to his final destiny. What Plato said, and, more than 1,500 years later, Cabasilas, has nothing to do with superficial aestheticism and irrationalism or with the flight from clarity and the importance of reason. The beautiful is knowledge certainly, but, in a superior form, since it arouses man to the real greatness of the truth. Here Cabasilas has remained entirely Greek, since he puts knowledge first when he says, "In fact it is knowing that causes love and gives birth to it. ... Since this knowledge is sometimes very ample and complete and at other times imperfect, it follows that the love potion has the same effect" (cf. ibid.).

He is not content to leave this assertion in general terms. In his characteristically rigorous thought, he distinguishes between two kinds of knowledge: knowledge through instruction which remains, so to speak, "second hand" and does not imply any direct contact with reality itself. The second type of knowledge, on the other hand, is knowledge through personal experience, through a direct relationship with the reality. "Therefore we do not love it to the extent that it is a worthy object of love, and since we have not perceived the very form itself we do not experience its proper effect."

True knowledge is being struck by the arrow of Beauty that wounds man, moved by reality, "how it is Christ himself who is present and in an ineffable way disposes and forms the souls of men" (cf. ibid.).

Being struck and overcome by the beauty of Christ is a more real, more profound knowledge than mere rational deduction. Of course we must not underrate the importance of theological reflection, of exact and precise theological thought; it remains absolutely necessary. But to move from here to disdain or to reject the impact produced by the response of the heart in the encounter with beauty as a true form of knowledge would impoverish us and dry up our faith and our theology. We must rediscover this form of knowledge; it is a pressing need of our time.

Starting with this concept, Hans Urs von Balthasar built his "Opus magnum of Theological Aesthetics." Many of its details have passed into theological work, while his fundamental approach, in truth the essential element of the whole work, has not been so readily accepted. Of course, this is not just, or principally, a theological problem, but a problem of pastoral life that has to foster the human person's encounter with the beauty of faith.

All too often arguments fall on deaf ears because in our world too many contradictory arguments compete with one another, so much so that we are spontaneously reminded of the medieval theologians' description of reason, that it "has a wax nose": In other words, it can be pointed in any direction, if one is clever enough. Everything makes sense, is so convincing, whom should we trust?

The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes, so that later, from this experience, we take the criteria for judgment and can correctly evaluate the arguments. For me an unforgettable experience was the Bach concert that Leonard Bernstein conducted in Munich after the sudden death of Karl Richter. I was sitting next to the Lutheran Bishop Hanselmann. When the last note of one of the great Thomas-Kantor-Cantatas triumphantly faded away, we looked at each other spontaneously and right then we said: "Anyone who has heard this, knows that the faith is true."

The music had such an extraordinary force of reality that we realized, no longer by deduction, but by the impact on our hearts, that it could not have originated from nothingness, but could only have come to be through the power of the Truth that became real in the composer's inspiration. Isn't the same thing evident when we allow ourselves to be moved by the icon of the Trinity of Rublëv? In the art of the icons, as in the great Western paintings of the Romanesque and Gothic period, the experience described by Cabasilas, starting with interiority, is visibly portrayed and can be shared.

In a rich way Pavel Evdokimov has brought to light the interior pathway that an icon establishes. An icon does not simply reproduce what can be perceived by the senses, but rather it presupposes, as he says, "a fasting of sight." Inner perception must free itself from the impression of the merely sensible, and in prayer and ascetical effort acquire a new and deeper capacity to see, to perform the passage from what is merely external to the profundity of reality, in such a way that the artist can see what the senses as such do not see, and what actually appears in what can be perceived: the splendor of the glory of God, the "glory of God shining on the face of Christ " (2 Corinthians 4:6).

To admire the icons and the great masterpieces of Christian art in general, leads us on an inner way, a way of overcoming ourselves; thus in this purification of vision that is a purification of the heart, it reveals the beautiful to us, or at least a ray of it. In this way we are brought into contact with the power of the truth. I have often affirmed my conviction that the true apology of Christian faith, the most convincing demonstration of its truth against every denial, are the saints, and the beauty that the faith has generated. Today, for faith to grow, we must lead ourselves and the persons we meet to encounter the saints and to enter into contact with the Beautiful.

Now however, we still have to respond to an objection. We have already rejected the assumption which claims that what has just been said is a flight into the irrational, into mere aestheticism.

Rather, it is the opposite that is true: This is the very way in which reason is freed from dullness and made ready to act.

Today another objection has even greater weight: the message of beauty is thrown into complete doubt by the power of falsehood, seduction, violence and evil. Can the beautiful be genuine, or, in the end, is it only an illusion? Isn't reality perhaps basically evil? The fear that in the end it is not the arrow of the beautiful that leads us to the truth, but that falsehood, all that is ugly and vulgar, may constitute the true "reality" has at all times caused people anguish.

At present this has been expressed in the assertion that after Auschwitz it was no longer possible to write poetry; after Auschwitz it is no longer possible to speak of a God who is good. People wondered: Where was God when the gas chambers were operating? This objection, which seemed reasonable enough before Auschwitz when one realized all the atrocities of history, shows that in any case a purely harmonious concept of beauty is not enough. It cannot stand up to the confrontation with the gravity of the questioning about God, truth and beauty. Apollo, who for Plato's Socrates was "the God" and the guarantor of unruffled beauty as "the truly divine" is absolutely no longer sufficient.

In this way, we return to the "two trumpets" of the Bible with which we started, to the paradox of being able to say of Christ: "You are the fairest of the children of men," and: "He had no beauty, no majesty to draw our eyes, no grace to make us delight in him." In the passion of Christ the Greek aesthetic that deserves admiration for its perceived contact with the Divine but which remained inexpressible for it, in Christ's passion is not removed but overcome.

The experience of the beautiful has received new depth and new realism. The One who is the Beauty itself let himself be slapped in the face, spat upon, crowned with thorns; the Shroud of Turin can help us imagine this in a realistic way. However, in his Face that is so disfigured, there appears the genuine, extreme beauty: the beauty of love that goes "to the very end"; for this reason it is revealed as greater than falsehood and violence. Whoever has perceived this beauty knows that truth, and not falsehood, is the real aspiration of the world. It is not the false that is "true," but indeed, the Truth.

It is, as it were, a new trick of what is false to present itself as "truth" and to say to us: over and above me there is basically nothing, stop seeking or even loving the truth; in doing so you are on the wrong track. The icon of the crucified Christ sets us free from this deception that is so widespread today. However it imposes a condition: that we let ourselves be wounded by him, and that we believe in the Love who can risk setting aside his external beauty to proclaim, in this way, the truth of the beautiful.

Falsehood however has another strategem. A beauty that is deceptive and false, a dazzling beauty that does not bring human beings out of themselves to open them to the ecstasy of rising to the heights, but indeed locks them entirely into themselves. Such beauty does not reawaken a longing for the Ineffable, readiness for sacrifice, the abandonment of self, but instead stirs up the desire, the will for power, possession and pleasure. It is that type of experience of beauty of which Genesis speaks in the account of the Original Sin. Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was "beautiful" to eat and was "delightful to the eyes."

The beautiful, as she experienced it, aroused in her a desire for possession, making her, as it were, turn in upon herself. Who would not recognize, for example, in advertising, the images made with supreme skill that are created to tempt the human being irresistibly, to make him want to grab everything and seek the passing satisfaction rather than be open to others.

So it is that Christian art today is caught between two fires (as perhaps it always has been): It must oppose the cult of the ugly, which says that everything beautiful is a deception and only the representation of what is crude, low and vulgar is the truth, the true illumination of knowledge. Or it has to counter the deceptive beauty that makes the human being seem diminished instead of making him great, and for this reason is false.

Is there anyone who does not know Dostoyevsky's often-quoted sentence: "The Beautiful will save us"? However, people usually forget that Dostoyevsky is referring here to the redeeming Beauty of Christ. We must learn to see him. If we know him, not only in words, but if we are struck by the arrow of his paradoxical beauty, then we will truly know him, and know him not only because we have heard others speak about him. Then we will have found the beauty of Truth, of the Truth that redeems. Nothing can bring us into close contact with the beauty of Christ himself other than the world of beauty created by faith and light that shines out from the faces of the saints, through whom his own light becomes visible. ZE05050220


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Ecumenism; Evangelical Christian; General Discusssion; Judaism; Orthodox Christian; Religion & Culture; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: aristotle; augustine; beauty; christ; isaiah; plato; popebenedictxvi; psalms
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1 posted on 05/03/2005 7:06:41 AM PDT by ninenot
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To: american colleen; sinkspur; Salvation; CouncilofTrent; narses; arkady_renko; SMEDLEYBUTLER; ...

A 'think piece' which will help you understand R's approach to the Liturgy, for openers.


2 posted on 05/03/2005 7:14:56 AM PDT by ninenot (Minister of Membership, TomasTorquemadaGentlemen'sClub)
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To: ninenot
No wonder the left hates him: he turns their language and their works back opon them. He has such a deep understanding of the modern world.

Makes me want to get my German back.

3 posted on 05/03/2005 7:34:01 AM PDT by CasearianDaoist
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To: ninenot
Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. Whoever sneers at her name as if she were an ornament of the beourgeois past...can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.

- Hans Urs von Balthasar

The Glory of the Lord

I believe that B16 is also a fan of von Balthasar. I like the above quote because I have always felt that it explains a lot about the general ugliness of the post VatII Church (which is, in general, often lacking in truth and, as we have seen with the homosexual scandals, has sometimes even abandoned goodness). In some mysterious way, the true, the beautiful and the good are inseparably linked.

4 posted on 05/03/2005 7:42:34 AM PDT by livius
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To: ninenot

Pope Benedict is not only briiliant; he has the soul of a poet.


5 posted on 05/03/2005 7:43:27 AM PDT by Miss Marple
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To: livius

Ummmnhhh...

I've always maintained that the 'truth/beauty/goodness' triangle is inextricably linked to the self-definition Christ offered: 'I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life,' making Life and Way (Hebrew meant 'Commandments' as well) equivalent to Beauty and Goodness.

It's that old 'perfections' stuff, and R. does a better job of this than anyone I've read, particularly when he brings it down to discussion on the real nature of music in the Liturgy.

He's awesome, and as mentioned above, the intellectualoid lefty-wonks cannot defeat his argumentation.

Heh, heh, heh....


6 posted on 05/03/2005 8:17:36 AM PDT by ninenot (Minister of Membership, TomasTorquemadaGentlemen'sClub)
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To: Miss Marple

His capacity to link concepts is inspiring. Every paragraph makes you think of another logical conclusion, or of another application.

His works are tours-de-force.


7 posted on 05/03/2005 8:20:21 AM PDT by ninenot (Minister of Membership, TomasTorquemadaGentlemen'sClub)
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Comment #8 Removed by Moderator

To: ninenot

The Bridegroom

This is the icon of which His Holiness speaks. The first three days of Holy Week in Orthodoxy we celebrate the "Nymphios" or Bridegroom, devotions. They are among the most beautiful, meaningful and didactic of all the devotions of Orthodoxy. The juxtaposition of the words, prayers and chants of these services with this icon of Christ as he was tormented and mocked drives home forcefully for the Orthodox just what +Benedict XVI is speaking of. To my own way of thinking, it seems to me that His Holiness is speaking of a far more profound and transcendent matter than simply the beauty of the Mass. Please continue to post his writings. They will demonstrate why so many Orthodox are so enthusiastic about his election. Imagine a Pope of Rome quoting a post schism Orthodox theologian. I'll ping the Orthodox list with this this evening when I get home from the office.


9 posted on 05/03/2005 8:33:15 AM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis

You are absolutely correct that 'this is not just about the Mass'--but his discussion of Beauty above is reflected in his discussions of liturgy, particularly of liturgical music.

R.'s quote of Orthodox theologian should not be surprising; the O'dox icons have a great deal to teach the RC's, which have always been more 'loosey-goosey' in liturgy and art norms.


10 posted on 05/03/2005 8:40:50 AM PDT by ninenot (Minister of Membership, TomasTorquemadaGentlemen'sClub)
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To: ninenot
A(nother) wonderful piece by Cardinal Ratzinger. Thank you for posting it.

This paragraph in particular touched me:

Being struck and overcome by the beauty of Christ is a more real, more profound knowledge than mere rational deduction. Of course we must not underrate the importance of theological reflection, of exact and precise theological thought; it remains absolutely necessary. But to move from here to disdain or to reject the impact produced by the response of the heart in the encounter with beauty as a true form of knowledge would impoverish us and dry up our faith and our theology. We must rediscover this form of knowledge; it is a pressing need of our time.

11 posted on 05/03/2005 10:11:24 AM PDT by ELS (Vivat Benedictus XVI!)
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To: ninenot
"You are absolutely correct that 'this is not just about the Mass'--but his discussion of Beauty above is reflected in his discussions of liturgy, particularly of liturgical music."

Please understand that my comment, or rather observation, was in no way intended to reflect negatively on the Mass. It is rather that the Pope's comments on the beauty of the Bridegroom reflect a profound and sublime Christian Truth continually preached by The Fathers. All of our devotions and Liturgies in The Church, and most assuredly our Icons, have at base both a salvific and a didactic effect which are inextricably intertwined. Every prayer, chant or motion in our Liturgies have a purpose to advance us in theosis. Nothing is left to chance and nothing is meaningless. Their very beauty, as the world defines beauty, reminds us that when we pray as a Liturgical people, as the People of God, we are not at all in this world, but rather praising and supplicating our Lord and our God in communion with the saints who have gone before us. Our Icons, the devotion to which the whole Church proclaims, both call us and allow us to enter into the ultimate reality of existence, of Eternal Life, in Christ as partakers of His divine nature.
12 posted on 05/03/2005 10:40:12 AM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: MarMema; crazykatz; don-o; JosephW; lambo; MoJoWork_n; newberger; Petronski; The_Reader_David; ...

Ping


13 posted on 05/03/2005 2:23:15 PM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Miss Marple

"Mystical" Poet


14 posted on 05/03/2005 7:29:05 PM PDT by okokie (Terri Schivo Martyr for the Gospel of Life)
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To: ninenot

This thread reminds me of a book by then Cardinal Ratzinger-"Spirit of the Liturgy"(title?).I'm going to buy it when I can afford to buy it. I've already sent for-"Milestones"-his autobiography. Thanks for the thread.


15 posted on 05/03/2005 7:54:33 PM PDT by Lady In Blue ( President 'SEABISCUIT' AKA George W Bush)
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To: father_elijah; nickcarraway; Siobhan; Maeve; NYer; BlackElk

ping


16 posted on 05/03/2005 7:55:22 PM PDT by Lady In Blue ( President 'SEABISCUIT' AKA George W Bush)
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To: Kolokotronis; ninenot; Lady In Blue; Miss Marple; sandyeggo; livius
Kolokotronis, thanks for the ping. I am, as you know, one of those Orthodox who are very optimistic about Pope Benedict, although I also understand the concerns of those who are not. This was a very interesting article, indeed. It is not one of the then Cardinal Ratzinger's most outstanding articles, but it has numerous points of great interest.

The first is the fact that B16 appears to be very close to a correct understanding of the Orthodox mind with regard to Platonism, although he doesn't explicitly take the final step. He indicates that the passages from Cabasilas are reflections of Platonic thought, which is sort of true (but not quite), but goes on to indicate that he understands that while for Plato, love of beauty is a love of a concept and and an abstraction -- for the Christian, this longing is fulfilled in a different way. The final step would have been to indicate in explicit language that our love is a very personal love for the spiritual beauty of a specific person: Jesus Christ. He gets there, but only those who agree with the point to begin with would see it and understand it -- it is very von Balthasarian in that sense. I think this is atypical for B16, though -- he is usually quite direct in a more patristic vein.

The second point of interest is one that B16 has discussed before in his works on liturgical and sacred art: not all that is beautiful draws one to God. In some of his other writings, B16 has explicitly talked about the changes that happened after the 13th century in Catholic art, moving away from traditional liturgical purposes and shifting emphases -- reaching a low point in the Renaissance, where the art could really no longer be said to be liturgical or sacred, even though it was very beautiful. Even though sublime themes of Christianity were being portrayed, B16 has pointed out that this art was really all about man, and turned man toward himself.

As a side-note, the Greek lay theologian Constantine Cavarnos has written about this and summarized it as follows. He writes that the beautiful and the sublime are two different things. As examples of the sublime but not beautiful he gives pre-Schismatic Western art and older, more severe forms of Byzantine iconography. As examples of the beautiful but not sublime, he gives Renaissance and other classical Western art. As an example of paintings that are both beautiful and sublime, he cites the Russian iconography of roughly the 15th century or so.

Anyway, the gapingly obvious thing about those other essays of B16 that I mention is the unspoken condemnation of most modern Catholic art and architecture: Renaissance art is positively holy compared to what we see in the interiors of most newly constructed and renovated Catholic churches and institutions. Yet the studied ugliness of the 20th century represents the application of the same principle of the Renaissance -- it's all about us.

In those same essays, B16 made the incredible (from an Orthodox perspective) statements that the RC church has never really come to terms with the 7th Ecumenical council and made it its own. And he made the even more remarkable statement that while the Catholic church couldn't restrict herself to the specifics of Orthodox iconography, she needed to embrace the *theology* of iconography that matured in the East around the 15th century.

Were she to do so, and live it out, not only would this make things less "loosey-goosey" (in ninenot's unforgettable and all-too-true words) for you RC's, it would do more to take steps toward reconciliation between Orthodox and RC's than would the return of 100 ancient icons to Russia.

The implications of a correct view of iconography are tremendous, since at the heart of the beauty of Orthodox iconography is the fact that it is true. For an Orthodox Christian, a traditionally rendered icon is as much a part of the authoritative tradition of the Church as are the writings of St. Gregory the Theologian. The details have been hammered out over the centuries just as the details of written theology have been honed. Untruth has been chiseled away. In a properly painted Orthodox icon, there is no falsehood found, no misdirection, no misplaced emphasis.

This does not happen as a result of the brilliance, creativity, or holiness of the individual iconographer, but because the iconographer has submitted to the mind of the Church through prayer, fasting, and study of traditional iconography.

The implications go even farther, into other areas that B16 has written about with great perceptiveness, such as music, since liturgical music is an aural iconography.

We who spend our entire lives trying to understand and follow the traditions of Orthodox chant are engaged in the same process of working within a tradition, and putting our creativity in the service not of doing something new or different, but of faithfully rendering the timeless liturgies with timeless chants.

There are of course very slight, almost imperceptible differences in Orthodox iconography from different places and times, and the same is true of chant. But to an outsider, the family resemblance is striking. This is unfortunately not the case with Catholic art and music, and it is this sort of thing that does more than anything to render reunion betwen Orthodox and Catholics impossible at this time.

The new Pope seems to understand the depths of the underlying problem, and even to understand that the roots go back long before the 20th century. The question is whether he will have the time and energy to address these liturgical issues when there are so many other pressing issues for his pontificate. Regardless, it seems clear that he is the right man for the job.

Thanks again for the ping.

17 posted on 05/04/2005 10:12:35 PM PDT by Agrarian
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To: Agrarian; ninenot; sandyeggo
"This is unfortunately not the case with Catholic art and music, and it is this sort of thing that does more than anything to render reunion betwen Orthodox and Catholics impossible at this time."

I remember as a kid going to High Mass, which, Agrarian, was all chanted in contrast to a Low Mass which was not. I have noticed that nowadays the hymns at a Catholic Mass seem to change every Sunday and are quite clearly not integrated into the Liturgy. In other words, those hymns seem more like a overlay to the Mass rather than of the very substance of the prayers of the Liturgy. Sandy, this is one of the problems which I was thinking of when I commented on the latitude allowed in the NO liturgy as cited by +Arinze on another thread. Agrarian is right that the reglarization and integration of the chants in the Roman Mass and the increase in the use of Icons would be of great assistance in any reunion between Roman and the East.

The music of the Liturgy is a recurring subject at Orthodox parishes among some converts. They say they miss the hymns they sang in their pre-Orthodox days at church. I don't doubt that one bit, but as we explain to them, the designated hymns of the Divine Liturgy are as much part of the Liturgy as, say, the Our Father or the Antiphons. They are not something which changes with the weather or at the whim of a priest.
18 posted on 05/05/2005 4:39:22 AM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis
the reglarization and integration of the chants in the Roman Mass and the increase in the use of Icons would be of great assistance in any reunion between Roman and the East.

How different is the chant in the east and where can we find information on the theology of the icon? I'm one who does believe that east and west need to be joined, but that there is a lot to learn about each other and a lot of minds to convince first.

The music of the Liturgy is a recurring subject at Orthodox parishes among some converts.

It's plain and simply a recurring theme among Catholics. With all luck, under BXVI a lot of the crap will fall to the wayside.

19 posted on 05/05/2005 5:17:12 AM PDT by Desdemona (Music Librarian and provider of cucumber sandwiches, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary. Hats required.)
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To: Desdemona; Kolokotronis
"How different is the chant in the east..."

There is absolutely no need for the RC church to use Byzantine or Znamenny chants or hymnography. The West has its own very rich chant tradition. It was melded into the Gregorian chant, but many other older chant forms exist.

As K. points out, the hymnology itself is a huge problem in the NO, but frankly it was also so in the low mass culture of old Catholicism as well, and the absence of other aspects of the daily office in parish life hurt Catholicism a lot, too. There is a lot of rich hymnology going un-used in the Western tradition, although there is no reason that borrowing couldn't take place from the East if it was felt to be helpful. B16 has written that "rites" in the past were not as rigidly separated as they are today, and by implication, I would assume that he is implying that borrowing can take place.

"where can we find information on the theology of the icon"

I'll start by posting a link to B16's article when I have time. He likes to quote Evdokimov, whom I've never read, but who is a very peripheral (and, to some, "iffy") figure in Russian Orthodoxy. I would dare say there are better works than his, and I will get some titles and links to you.

K wrote: "The music of the Liturgy is a recurring subject at Orthodox parishes among some converts..."

This is interesting. I've never met anyone who has anything to say but to talk about how wonderful and rich the music is compared to what they had grown up with. I've never once had someone ask me why we can't use western hymns.

But I think that this is partly because I've been almost exclusively in Russian parishes, where the chant has a more "accessible" feel than does Byzantine chant. But as converts are in the church more and become more infused with the phronema, they more and more prefer the old Byzantine and Znamenny chant forms. The Russians themselves can be a problem here, since some of them developed too much of a taste for 19th century Russian "romantic" forms.

"It's plain and simply a recurring theme among Catholics. With all luck, under BXVI a lot of the crap will fall to the wayside."

All I can say to that is "Amen!"

20 posted on 05/05/2005 5:54:06 AM PDT by Agrarian
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To: Kolokotronis; Agrarian

Interesting observations, and now you've made me learn some things.

The RC regs on liturgical music have been deliberately confused by a bunch of wonk/termites (I'll not go into the rest of their personal, ah, problems) since VatII; but if one goes back to Pius X's writings on the topic, one gets a better sense of what prevailed from at least (circa) 1500-1965. B-16's writings are closely aligned to the work of Pius X.

Prior to VatII, there was a distinction between the 'High' (sung) Mass and the 'Low' (spoken) Mass--that no longer exists as it was known.

During the Low Mass, there was almost no singing, although there could be a hymn prior to (and after) the Mass. In the High Mass, the Proper Chants were sung, as were parts of the Ordinary of the Mass. The Propers were most often sung in Gregorian Chant OR in psalm-tone, and like the music Agrarian refers to, the Propers had a thematic unity with the rest of the readings of the Mass. In shorthand, it was 'tightly wound.'

However, in addition to the Ordinary and Propers, the choir could also sing voluntary motets which were not necessarily thematically-consistent with the Propers/Epistle/Gospel. Some of the motets utilized texts from Scripture; others used particular prayers (e.g., an Ave Maria or Panis Angelicus, respectively.)

Hymnody was restricted to popular devotions--not Masses. NO language other than Latin was permitted during the course of a Mass. The vulgar was allowed before or after a Mass ONLY.

The Bugnini/Weakland implementing commission made two significant changes: they erased the difference between the 'High' and 'Low' Mass, and allowed hymnody to be used during Mass, in the vulgar. IMHO, these changes must be examined carefully in light of B-16's work on Sacred Music (a glimpse of which can be inferred from the posted thread-head.)

Allowing hymnody has led to an even LESS 'tightly wound' schematic of worship than was present until 1965. The vast majority of hymns familiar to Catholics were not necessarily based on themes integral to various liturgies--rather, they were seasonal, Marian, or Eucharistic. These three classes, then, HAD to serve. Ironically, while allowing 'popular participation' the richness of each Sunday's theme-scheme was truncated, because current praxis does NOT require the priest (or anyone else) to sing or even recite the Propers--the Introit, Offertory, and Communion versicles. And because it is not required, it is not done, period.

So we have 'given a haircut' to the Mass; where the hair used to be specific and ornamental, it is now a military 'butch.' The best the iconoclasts can say is that 'there is still some hair there.'

Without extensive comment, the remaining hair has also taken on some characteristics which are unsettling--the equivalent of very bad purple or red-dye jobs...

I think that there is much to be said which is positive about the post-1500 well-composed Mass Ordinaries and voluntary motets. It is legitimate to argue that many of these demonstrate the Church's "universality," as a variety of cultural influences were 'baptized' into the service of the Church (for example, Durufle's 4 Motets, compared to Mozart's 'Ave Verum.') But as Ag. points out very well, the situation today is almost 'no bounds;' and it is confusing.


21 posted on 05/05/2005 6:39:05 AM PDT by ninenot (Minister of Membership, TomasTorquemadaGentlemen'sClub)
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To: Desdemona; Agrarian

Des, you can get a 4-CD package which includes different kinds of RC Chant (Archiv 435-032-2)--Ambrosian, Mozarabic, Gregorian are included.

There are also recordings of G.O. and Russ.O. chants out there, although I don't have any...


22 posted on 05/05/2005 6:54:08 AM PDT by ninenot (Minister of Membership, TomasTorquemadaGentlemen'sClub)
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To: ninenot; Agrarian; Desdemona
In great haste as I am at the office and leaving for court. Here's a link to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese audio page which has a wealth of chant in both Quicktime and Realaudio formats.

http://goarch.org/en/multimedia/audio/

By the way, Agrarian's comment on Gregorian chant is on the money. It is absolutely magnificent. No need to reinvent that wheel!
23 posted on 05/05/2005 7:06:52 AM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: ninenot; Kolokotronis
Your explanation of how hymns inappropriate to the liturgy became part of the mass is very interesting. Basically what you're saying is that they essentially eliminated the high mass, and then allowed popular devotional material to be integrated into a low mass. In other words, it's why modern American masses feel so familiar to Lutherans and Methodists nowadays.

I'm away from my home computer, but will make some comments by way of describing how Orthodox chant works.

First, there is no high/low distinction in Orthodoxy. One either does the Liturgy or one doesn't. It is always sung/chanted (the terms are interchangable -- I prefer "chant", since it is a term that can't be used for inappropriate forms of music. One can hardly say that a choir "chants" a florid Italianate Russian setting of the Cherubic Hymn.

The position of the reader/psaltis/canonarch/chanter is still a very important one in Orthodoxy -- in the Greek practice in particular, there is a strong tradition of having one or two men who chant the responses, either leading the congregation, which joins in on the fixed and familiar parts, or doing it without congregational participation on the variable material.

The bottom line is that one doesn't need a trained choir to do sung services, although it certainly adds "polish" to the services. Timothy (Bp. Kallistos) Ware has a beautiful passage in "The Orthodox Church" that describes the reaction of an Englishman to attending a service in a little room in London where a priest, a deacon, and a solo chanter did a service by themselves that took his breath away.

My next comment is that older monophonic forms of chant, Western or Eastern, can easily be chanted well by one or two chanters, or by a trained choir. Once Catholic music made the turn into polyphony, it became the province of trained and even professional singers. There are parts of our services that should be sung by the trained singer(s) on kliros, and the Russians adopted some pretty florid stuff that requires a top-notch choir and isn't material on which it is easy for people to sing along. But in general, traditional chant forms in the Orthodox Church are actually fairly easily learned by the congregation over time with repetition. I would assume that the same is true of basic traditional Western monophonic chant.

As a side-note, when I browse through modern Catholic missals, the songs I encounter are just plain hard to sing. They use odd intervals, odd syncopations, etc... They look simple on the page, but I can only imagine what they sound like with a congregation trying to sing them. By contrast, we have chant melodies that look tough on the page, but in practice they are easily memorized and applied to text by people sight-reading material. Again, there has got to be traditional stuff in the ancient Catholic tradition that would do the same thing.

The other very important point that I touched on earlier is that the currently used Orthodox liturgical tradition that has done such a tremendous job of teaching and preserving the faith is not just our Divine Liturgy. Most parishes do Vespers on Saturday evening or Matins on Sunday morning, and many (like mine and Kolokotronis's) have both. There is a lot of fixed and variable material in these services. All has been "scrubbed" over centuries of use for beauty and doctrinal purity. The Orthodox parish norm is actually the monastic cycle. In practice, the entire cycle isn't done, and there are some abbreviations, particularly at Vespers and Matins, in many parishes. But the standard toward which we all look is the full monastic daily cycle.

Catholic parish practice has mostly devolved over the centuries to a single service. It is why so much damage was able to be done just by reworking that one service in the NO. Part of this is the result of having services that were not in the vernacular. But again, these services and hymnology very much exist in the Western tradition -- why aren't they being used? There are multiple traditional "canons" of the mass in the Western (and Eastern, for that matter) tradition. Why weren't those used if they wanted variety, instead of these newly composed things? There are countless pieces of patristic hymnology that are there, most of them translated into English. Why weren't they pressed into use. I guess I just don't understand...

24 posted on 05/05/2005 12:20:10 PM PDT by Agrarian
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To: Agrarian
There are countless pieces of patristic hymnology that are there, most of them translated into English. Why weren't they pressed into use. I guess I just don't understand...

Would you feel better if I told you that it's NOT cynical to think in terms of "follow the money..."?

25 posted on 05/05/2005 1:34:30 PM PDT by ninenot (Minister of Membership, TomasTorquemadaGentlemen'sClub)
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To: ninenot

"Would you feel better if I told you that it's NOT cynical to think in terms of "follow the money..."?"

The simple grandson of simple Greek peasants is confused.


26 posted on 05/05/2005 3:12:31 PM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis

With regards the virtual suppression of 'patristic hymns' and the promotion of 'new hymns,' (not to mention 'new psalm-tones, new Ordinary settings, etc. ad nauseam,) a few observations from a practitioner...

In 1965, THE gold-standard hymnal was "Our Parish Plays and Sings," published by The Liturgical Press c/right 1959. It had about 90 hymns, plus several Chant ordinaries, psalm-tones, and other miscellaneous pieces of music.

It no longer exists, despite its utility.

By 1970, with the readings-cycle now increased to 300% of the prior Rite, "hymnals" became almost useless and were replaced by fascicles--missalettes--which contained the readings and hymns, as well.

There were a few trends, in addition. "New" music had to be created, because through vote-manipulation the Bishops' Subcommittee on Music had licensed folk/folk-rock/"guitar" music. Weakland of Milwaukee was a principal engineer of this fraud, which actually did NOT have any legal force.

Regardless, "new music" was created and sold. If that music utilized the new English translations, the royalties HAD TO GO TO ICEL, the sole body responsible for the English translation.

As a result, only a couple of publishers were quick enough on their feet to make the transition to a "fascicle" house--and they printed the "new music" (think St. Louis Jesuit crap) as part of the missalette. Other hymnbook publishers died on the vine, unless they had significant libraries of "other music" they could sell.

The zeitgeist also had negative effects on parish choirs and organists (who needs them? Bongo-groups are cheaper and just fine...), AND by the 1980's, the capital cost of the new publishing technologies was extremely burdensome.

More publishers died, or were purchased. Coca Cola actually owned the library of at least two major RC music publishers by 1985.

Real hymnody (such as that found in the older English and German books from the 1700's/1800's, is not being written, with few exceptions.

So: the publishers which had actual artistic standards are virtually all gone. What remains are those which were able to pay ICEL's demands and purchase/print "new" music, pushed very hard by the powers-that-be (Weakland) during the 1970's.

The same 90 or so "old hymns" are in most hymnals and fascicles--along with another 90 or so pieces of "new" garbage. The garbage is pushed by the now-graying but still influential revolutionaries--ironically, the "old hymns" are the ones which are actually sung by people in the pews.

The money went to ICEL and to certain authors who were NOT compensated for the quality of their offerings. The money did NOT go to those who published artistically-sound materials for choirs (few were there) or organists with artistic training (even fewer of these are around.)

Follow the money and you'll find the dreck.


27 posted on 05/05/2005 3:40:20 PM PDT by ninenot (Minister of Membership, TomasTorquemadaGentlemen'sClub)
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To: ninenot

Oh!:(

Now one more question. Why did the people and the priests put up with it? I'm telling you, we'd lynch any priest who tried this and topple any bishop, metropolitan or even Patriarch. BTW, did you read where it seems the Patriarch of Jerusalem, an arch scoundrel if ever there was one, may well have been toppled himself by his brother bishops and the archmandrites out there? That's how we often deal with hierarchial dogs.


28 posted on 05/05/2005 3:55:48 PM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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Comment #29 Removed by Moderator

To: sandyeggo

" He went on to say more - perhaps it is quite familiar to you, but it is new to me, and maybe I'll type it up for you tonight."

Please do!


30 posted on 05/05/2005 5:12:24 PM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis
Why did the people and the priests put up with it?

According to Thomas Day in "Why Catholics Can't Sing," this was not so much a revolution as an outworking of something that was already pretty badly broken. Day says that the Irish ran the show in American Catholicism (largely true) and they they were brought up with a certain suspicion of very elaborate church music because they associated it with Anglicanism during the penal years in Ireland. (When Anglicans had big stone churches with bells, pipe organs, and choirs, and Catholics met for Mass around large rocks in open fields.) Day's point is that, with rare exceptions (often involving German or Italian prelates or congregations), music in the American Catholic Church has never been especially dignified or noteworthy.

You also have to remember that the Tridentine Mass was not really a participatory experience for the laity -- it was a dialogue between the priest and the server (Low Mass) or between the priest and the choir (High Mass). Oddly enough, we've now come full circle, because most Catholic parishes have an overmiked cantor or two who do most of the singing; the people in the pews just sit there. When my previous parish went from more traditional fare to a tinkly piano player and bad contemporary hymnody, many of the people stopped singing. (Some of them, like me, just left another parish.)

Anyway, because of the non-participatory nature of things, people "put up with it" because it wasn't something they were really involved in in the first place.

Not all parishes use the missalettes exclusively. Parishes with good music use the Adoremus hymnal, or the Collegeville hymnal, or another one ... St. Michael (?).

Then there's the baleful influence of Oregon Catholic Press ... purveyor of the worst of the worst ...

31 posted on 05/05/2005 5:20:46 PM PDT by Campion (Truth is not determined by a majority vote -- Pope Benedict XVI)
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To: Campion

You know, now that you mention it, I don't remember anybody except the choir singing at High Masses in the Pre-Vatican II days. But that Gregorian Chant was good stuff. A few years back I was at a devotion, not a Liturgy, at church when just the priest (an Archmandrite and a convert from Roman Catholicism), a couple of other fellows and I were there. I acted as psaltis that night and at a point when we were to chant the Kyrie, I did it in the Gregorian chant of the old High Mass. The archmandrite stuck his head out of the Royal Doors with a big smile on his face!


32 posted on 05/05/2005 5:28:04 PM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: ninenot; Kolokotronis; sandyeggo
Well, with due respect to Shakespeare (and Kolokotronis!) -- the first thing to do is to burn all the missalettes. And as a former church organist, the second thing to do is to leave that thing alone. The Western tradition has such rich material, and it all goes unused.

The whole idea that people need to be following along and participating with every single word in order to be praying is a pernicious one. I can tell you that while we have liturgy books available to the congregation (although we've changed to some different translations, so they mostly go unused now), the only parts where there is and ever was genuine participation (and the participation is great on those parts) are the things people learn by heart over time -- things that are unchanging (I think you call these the "ordinary." I am NOT an anti-congregational singing person (there are some of those in the Orthodox Church, and I confess to formerly being one of them. It is just that when people are flipping through books, they generally aren't listening and praying.)

The ideal service is one where there are fixed portions that people know by heart and sing along on to traditional chant melodies, and variable material done by a trained chanter or choir, to whom the congregation listens attentively without flipping through a book.

Having seen the wretched stuff put out by the cabal out in Oregon, and seen the hundreds of copies of material sold to each parish each year of their material -- I quite believe that there is a significant "follow the money" component at work here.

But really, maybe I'm being too simplistic, but an enterprising choir director/chanter and a cooperative priest could put together beautiful services in English and save the congregation a lot of money in the process. The priest would need to be willing to be educated, and be willing to educate the parish.

Most musically educated Orthodox choir directors in the Slavic tradition, anyway, own music-notation software and produce and share their work for nothing with each other. We aren't composing new melodies and certainly aren't composing new text (that is only done if there is a new saint or something). We are applying and adapting traditional chant melodies to English translations of the liturgical texts that have been in use in Greek and Slavonic forever. Then, it's sharing photocopies of photocopies of photocopies....although in the modern era, everything is going to pdfs.

We purchase very little material, other than the original sets of service books, which last forever. The Greek Archdiocese is different -- they produce a book every year for Matins/Orthros that is disposable (text only -- any psaltis will know all the melodies by heart.) But each parish only needs to buy one copy each year for use on kliros!

I guess what I'm saying is that from my simplistic Orthodox perspective, it seems to me that you are never going to go back to the Latin mass and the 1959 hymnal that you talk about. But what you could do that would be truly revolutionary (and in line with what B16 seems to believe), would be to model the way you do liturgics on how we Orthodox do it -- but having all of your source material be from the liturgical history of the Western church. You would be the true progressives, unlike those boring, graying hippies...

Think big! Be radical!

33 posted on 05/05/2005 5:29:18 PM PDT by Agrarian
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To: Campion; Kolokotronis
"Why Catholics Can't Sing" was a very englightening book for me to read many years ago, and it explained a lot.

It is interesting what you say about the "overmiked cantors" today. I didn't know about that. Mikes are evil. If a church is too big for a solo cantor's voice to carry well, then you need a group of cantors/choir to carry it. What do you think the Greeks did in the Hagia Sophia?

And my other question would be to ask why people don't eventually follow along and sing with the cantor. My guess: there is such constant changing of text, music and melodies that no one has a chance to learn anything by heart? A related guess: the melodies simply aren't memorable or user-friendly?

Both things are death on congregational singing, and are *not* traditional practices by Orthodox lights, anyway.

I understand that things were "already pretty badly broken": B16's writings indicate that he was a reformer in the Vat II days for considered and valid reasons. But I just don't see that the choice has to be between the current state of affairs in Catholic music and the old days of non-congregational participation in either its high or low mass manifestation.

34 posted on 05/05/2005 5:40:20 PM PDT by Agrarian
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To: Campion; Kolokotronis; Agrarian

Campion's post adequately covers most of it.

When you stop to think of it, though, there's another problem, which has to do with the USA--genuine art-music is simply not produced here, and has not been for (arguably) 40+ years. Bernstein did some, Copland did some--it's very hard to come up with others.

Creators of art (strictly speaking) are waning, and have been waning, in this country and Western Europe, since the 1920's. There are a few in England, largely unknown here, and there may well be a few in the USA--who are also largely unknown.

Mel Gibson made a great work of art. Name another, in any field, since 1990...

The Irish influence never got much traction here in German/Polish Milwaukee, but "church music" is dead here, too, with a few exceptions. I think that most pastors simply did not have an interest, and certainly many of them were confused by the "spirit of the Council"--and our Archbishop was not particularly helpful.

I think Day was close--but not really correct. I think that the reason the music died was that by and large, pastors and parishioners just didn't give a damn.

As to why we didn't string up the Bishops...same reason. From the way you gentlemen Kolo/Ag have described your communities, there is a vastly more "communal" feel than that present in the RC parishes in worship, specifically. We all have the fish-fries, and socializing--but it's my impression that the RC's are much more "private" regarding worship. Regardless of the hand-holding, "greeters," and all that--

So those who objected were looked at as rather odd folks--and were definitely ostracized and marginalized by the Revolutionaries. They were ignored, or metaphorically murdered, by the Establishment and its well-orchestrated Zeitgeist.

Besides, we've been told that it is a grave sin to slap the s*&^ out of a priest.


35 posted on 05/05/2005 5:54:11 PM PDT by ninenot (Minister of Membership, TomasTorquemadaGentlemen'sClub)
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To: sandyeggo
just about the earliest church hymn I remember singing is "Sons of God" - remember that horror, ninenot?

Are you old enough to drink yet?

My formal church-organist training began in 1962, when I was 14.

36 posted on 05/05/2005 5:55:43 PM PDT by ninenot (Minister of Membership, TomasTorquemadaGentlemen'sClub)
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To: ninenot

Dear ninenot,

As long as we're recollecting here, the two earliest hymns I remember are still my two favorites, "A Mighty Fortress is our God, [I know, I know - Luther! Luther! But I can't help it.]" and "Now Thank We All our God."


sitetest


37 posted on 05/05/2005 5:58:56 PM PDT by sitetest (If Roe is not overturned, no unborn child will ever be protected in law.)
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To: ninenot; Agrarian; Campion

"From the way you gentlemen Kolo/Ag have described your communities, there is a vastly more "communal" feel than that present in the RC parishes in worship, specifically. We all have the fish-fries, and socializing--but it's my impression that the RC's are much more "private" regarding worship. Regardless of the hand-holding, "greeters," and all that--"

One of the Truths which Orthodoxy stresses is the concept of the Eucharistic and Liturgical Community. We work out our theosis, at least the vast run of us, in these Liturgical communities. There is a sort of Christian communalism in Orthodox Churches which mirrors that of the villages back in the old country. To tell the truth, though, I think that the communalism of the villages is a result of the Orthodoxy of those places and not the other way around as I have experienced the same feeling in parishes made up totally of converts. Perhaps that's why we are so serious about preserving our Liturgies etc.; we're just more connected to them as communities than the equivalent Roman parish might be. Its also possible that the "spectator" quality of the role played by the laity for centuries in the West contributed to this,


38 posted on 05/05/2005 6:04:03 PM PDT by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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Comment #39 Removed by Moderator

Comment #40 Removed by Moderator

Comment #41 Removed by Moderator

To: ninenot
http://zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=70258

right click the link, properties, left click, then the address appears, copy and paste.
42 posted on 05/05/2005 6:27:11 PM PDT by Coleus (God Bless our New Pope, Benedict XVI)
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Comment #43 Removed by Moderator

To: Agrarian
"where can we find information on the theology of the icon"

I'll start by posting a link to B16's article when I have time. He likes to quote Evdokimov, whom I've never read, but who is a very peripheral (and, to some, "iffy") figure in Russian Orthodoxy. I would dare say there are better works than his, and I will get some titles and links to you.

Please flag me when you post that information. Thanks.

44 posted on 05/05/2005 6:42:33 PM PDT by ELS (Vivat Benedictus XVI!)
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To: Agrarian
I am NOT an anti-congregational singing person

BUT, the congregational singing should be quietish and not so loud as to drown out the choir for the person standing next to you.

45 posted on 05/05/2005 6:46:45 PM PDT by MarMema
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To: ninenot; Kolokotronis; MarMema; sandyeggo
Ninenot, you are definitely right on the communal aspect of Orthodoxy. K is right about the "village" feel to pretty much every Orthodox church I have been a part of. I grew up going to a small country Protestant church in a tight-knit community, but the sense of community I have experienced in Orthodoxy is at a completely different level -- in no small part because of the way that our dependence on each other in working out our salvation is viewed.

And the liturgical services are a huge part of that. I know that some people wonder what in the world we could possibly find to do in church for 2 - 3 hours a night virtually all through Holy Week. But for us this is a journey we take together, from the first time we sing "Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom he shall find watching..." on Sunday night at the beginning of the week, to the exultant singing of "Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered..." at 1:30 in the morning at the Paschal vigil (with still another hour or more to go...)

We practically live together during Holy Week, and on Paschal weekend, we are loathe to let it end, which is why the Bright Monday liturgy attendance is growing yearly at our parish.

You are right that good art is largely a dead issue in modern America. But as you have probably gathered, none of our liturgical tradition in Orthodoxy is linked to the state of art in the culture in which we find ourselves -- not our music, not our architecture, not our iconography. That's because it isn't really art anymore (or any less) than is the way a priest swings a censer or intones the Gospel.

It is linked to the traditions of the church, and even talent-less folks who do their best to faithfully follow those traditions will manage to convey the grace that comes through them.

Mind you, the impact of icons is even greater when the person painting them has artistic talent, and the chant has more of an impact when the people chanting have good ears and voices and innate musical ability. I know that every bit of of the decades of musical training and experience that I had have been taxed to the fullest in what I do, just faithfully following these traditions, and I think any icon painter would tell you the same thing.

Sandyeggo: If I didn't think that my ideas had any chance of sparking someone's interest and action, I wouldn't bother with sharing them. I am particularly spurred to share them having read some of the insightful writings of your new Pope, who understands that liturgical reform was necessary in the Catholic church 50 years ago, and that it is equally necessary now (both in the same ways as then, and unfortunately in some new ways, now.) He has stated that it is vital that the banner of "liturgical reform" is not the property of what you and I would call "the liberals" (he was much more diplomatic in how he put it.) Hope is a great Christian virtue!

47 posted on 05/05/2005 9:44:22 PM PDT by Agrarian
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Comment #48 Removed by Moderator

To: Marcellinus
Yes, all Orthodox parishes do the full Akathistos to the Theotokos on Friday evening of the 5th week of Great Lent. In the Russian tradition it is integrated into a Lenten Saturday Matins service (but served the evening before, as we tend to do with Matins services during Lent.)

The Greeks serve it every Friday night during Lent, but in the context of Small Compline.

Greeks and Russians also sing it differently:

An Akathist is comprised of 13 Kontakia, followed by an Ikos (both are just hymns the length of short paragraphs), then a series of refrains beginning with the word "Rejoice..."

In the Greek tradition, I believe that the choir or chanters sing the Kontakion, then the priest intones the Ikos and the refrains. We tend to have the priest intone the Kontakion and Ikos, then the choir sings the refrains to a set melodic sequence (known, of course, as the Akathist melody!)

We of course do all of this in English at parishes like ours that are completely English speaking. At Greek parishes, I've only ever heard it done in Greek.

There are also countless Akathists composed in honor of various saints that are served at all different times of the year. They were extremely popular in Russia, since they were often composed in a form of Church Slavonic that was more easily understood by people than is the Slavonic of the usual services. Since all of our services are pretty much 100% understandable in English, Akathists aren't nearly as popular here in America.

As you can see, there's a lot to this topic, so no need to apologize for "ignorance" -- (at least you know what an Akathistos is.)

BTW, "Akathistos" means "without sitting" -- one stands through the entire service. Of course, we pretty much stand through all of our services...

49 posted on 05/05/2005 9:59:10 PM PDT by Agrarian
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To: MarMema
"BUT, the congregational singing should be quietish and not so loud as to drown out the choir for the person standing next to you."

Yes, I completely agree with that -- people singing in the congregation should in general only sing along on things that everyone or nearly everyone is singing. And one's singing in the congregation should definitely be at a volume that doesn't make it hard for the person next to you to pray.

Of course the most annoying thing is that rare person who feels compelled to say the priest's parts along with him. It is impossible to do that quietly enough not to be distracting to others. Fortunately, this is quite rare, and one can make sure not to stand next to that person next time...

50 posted on 05/05/2005 10:05:24 PM PDT by Agrarian
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