Thursday, November 30, 2006

Patriarchal Divine Liturgy

Truly remarkable video coverage of the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. George attended by the Pope. I've never seen so complete an online video of the Divine Liturgy. Such an intimate glimpse into the holy mysteries of the Greek Church truly is a gift by itself.

Lots of random thoughts and observations:

1) The commentary covering the Papal visit in general has been most interesting. On EWTN, Raymond Arroyo and his special guest, Msgr. Stern, have been way too sanguine about the balance of unity and conflict between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, especially Arroyo who has slipped into callous error when he makes statements that the two churches have the same sacraments, priesthood, etc. There is far more separating the two churches than the role of the papacy. The Orthodox see the different understandings of the See of Peter as symptomatic of a greater loss or disordering of apostolic fidelity in the Catholic Church, not just as a single-issue policy problem that can be corrected by juridical fiat. The key to getting the Orthodox is this: everything is about the liturgy, really everything.

2) The very learned Orthodox commentator during the Divine Liturgy was impressive in his ability to make plenty of subtle jabs at Catholic strawmen while being very instructive of the Orthodox Liturgy. Nothing really new if you've studied the traditions of Orthodox polemics, but I almost felt he was deliberately counteracting the Western reflex of grasping for easy and cheap bonhomie. Understandable in that context, but by itself, a bit overwrought. He spoke of Orthodoxy's understanding of the epiclesis as the Spirit's transformation of the entire community (not just the elements) into the Eucharistic Body of Christ (read: unlike those Catholics who think Jesus is "magically" in the eucharistic elements only). Sure, I get his point, but the Orthodox have got to stop characterizing the Catholic Church by its worst theology at the fringes. There are real differences in official eucharistic theologies, but "magical Jesus bread" ain't one of them.

2a) After the Liturgy, Arroyo makes an awkward disclaimer that the commentary was not from EWTN but from Vatican TV. He tried to be oblique about it, but it was obvious he and EWTN didn't like the Orthodox commentary. Gotta protect the dumb Catholic flock from Orthodox propaganda. Sheesh, lighten up. Yeah, it was a bit tendentious, but it was a lot more theologically meaty in contrast to the sugary EWTN analysis. Plus, do you really want to be pitting EWTN against Vatican TV?

3) The Divine Liturgy really is LONG, which isn't news to me, but it made me think of that as the reason they don't like pews. Keeping them on their feet reduces the snoozing that would be pandemic if they had pews.

4) The Christological and apostolic superiority of the Divine Liturgy should be stunningly obvious when compared to Protestant liturgies or most modern incarnations of the Novus Ordo Mass. I just don't get why any Catholic would want to move further away from the Orthodox sense of liturgy.

5) The superiority of the Divine Liturgy to the "RadTrad" Mass (which I do not equate with the Tridentine Mass) is also stunningly obvious. Why the SSPX-type schismatics find so much value in mostly inaudibly muttered prayers by the priest and only the most miserly acknowledgement of the congregation's presence still has me baffled. Secondly, RadTrad Masses have become so hyper-choreographed as to be oozing with self-consciousness; it's really starting to overshadow the liturgical good they stand for. When I've attended these Masses, the heebie-jeebies I sometimes feel comes from the subtext of all the precisioned genuflections and secret prayers: "WE are so cool and traditional. WE are the REAL Catholics." That all may be true, but true liturgy, as the Orthodox show us, should be a total abandonment into Christ (and not a total abandonment into OUR total abandonment) which washes out whatever self-posturing and self-consciousness we have in attending to the sacred mysteries. There were plenty of signings of the Cross and sacramental gestures in the Patriarchal liturgy, but they just did them without much concern for how it looked to others. The choir chanted in a simple circle without much need of exacting intonation or posture. A whole multitude of actors running around chanting, blessing, censing, processing not just the presider and his two sidekicks. It's almost chaotic, and we Catholics need not imitate it, but it has an ecclesiological authenticity that's not in the RadTrad Mass.

6) The Divine Liturgy shows the superiority of vigorous chant over blaring organs. I'm getting so tired of not knowing whether any sound is coming out of my mouth because the organ is drowning out or blurring all other voices. The constant chanting of the Orthodox is truly more mindful of the cloud of witnesses than what an organ produce.

7) The effusive presence of Our Lady in the Divine Liturgy also puts our Masses to shame. I don't think I've ever heard a good reason why Catholic Masses don't really include her, except in passing in a couple of prayers. I thought Catholics are supposed to be excessive about Mary.

8) The papal ermine-trim mozzetta's growing on me. I used to think it made him look that much more like Santa Claus.

9) Never noticed before how the gesture of bowing with clasped hands, common in the Mass, does not seem to be reflected in Orthodoxy. On that count, Catholicism is closer to Buddhism and Hinduism.

10) "Two lungs" metaphor - don't wear it out.

11) Orthodox chants in Korean - now I've never heard that before.

12) Did I mention the Divine Liturgy's long? Aside from that glaringly egregrious injustice, Orthodox liturgy is simply unimpeachable, even from the Catholic perspective.