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Byzantine Splendor and Roman Sobriety

Sleeper

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This is a thoughtful post on the Eastern and Western Rites: http://www.ccwatershed.org/blog/2014/jan/9/byzantine-splendor-and-roman-sobriety/

Some quotes:

"Many have noted that the traditional Western Mass seems more intent on reminding the worshiper of the death of Christ on the Cross and the believer’s own sinfulness and unworthiness, while the Eastern Divine Liturgy brings to the forefront the eschatological victory of Christ in whose triumph the Christian shares whenever he partakes of the Eucharist, the food of immortality.

It is easy, however, to exaggerate the difference between the “downward” symbolism of the Mass (Christ as suffering redeemer, Christians as miserable sinners) and the “upward” symbolism of the Divine Liturgy (Christ as eternal victor, Christians as already glorified in Him). After all, both liturgies frequently recall the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Our Lord. Even if the traditional Latin Mass emphasizes the advent of Christ as Redeemer and the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary, and in this way places the accent on man’s sinfulness and God’s infinite mercy, leading to purification and the forgiveness of sins, it could hardly be imagined that the Mass lacks an eschatological dimension. Similarly, if the Eastern liturgy tends to place worship in the context of the Eschaton, the kingdom of the Holy Spirit, in which the life of Christ figures as the exemplar of what all Christians are called to become anew—the image of the Logos—it is no less evident that the Eastern liturgy continually refers to the ongoing drama of redemption.

Perhaps the Western soul is more sharply conscious of the incompleteness of our present state, our need to work out salvation “in fear and trembling.” The traditional Mass expresses the feeling of homesickness, the longing sinners have for heaven, and raises up before our eyes the Cross of Christ as our bridge, our path, to heaven. In the liturgy’s solemnity, majesty, beauty, and silence, in its confessions of sin and hieratic distances, we taste the glory of heaven while being reminded of the sins and limitations that keep us away from the fullness of the kingdom. Thus there is both great joy and great sorrow. Are we not victors in Christ? Has He not risen from the dead and ascended to make intercession for us at the right hand of the Father? Is not the kingdom of God here and now, among those who are incorporated into Christ? Yes—and yet, this is not an unambiguous, final yes on earth, but a yes mixed with all the no’s of humanity, of the sin and death which reign in the kingdom of the prince of this world, the no of unconversion, the no of relapsing, the no of impenitence. Our joy is complete in its Source, but we are not completely His. Our Lord is risen; we are striving to rise. Our Lord is ascended into heaven, we are still torn between heaven and earth. Our Lord is in glory, but we are blinded by His glory, our eyes are not fully purged, our hearts not fully aflame with the love of God...

In the traditional Roman liturgy, the word “glory,” and the reality it signifies, is everywhere. One grows accustomed to hearing it, like a sweet song from afar: gloria . . . gloria . . . gloria. The whole purpose of the Christian life, and the goal towards which it moves, are expressed, evoked, fulfilled in this most serene of liturgies. The sparseness of the rite, too, in comparison to the East, has its own loveliness: “to thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.” It is a liturgy at once of glory and of mourning, of exile, of longing."


He goes on to lament the changes made to the Roman Rite after Vatican II. It's worth a read.
 

wainscottbl

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Thanks. A good comparison and one RC friend said, "The Vatican needs to get its act together if it wants people to stop going to Orthodoxy." He got on me for my consideration of Orthodoxy but I think he's seen a couple friends go east, either out of Rome, or from Protestantism, going east rather than to Rome.

I also have to admit the Tridentine Liturgy fails in superficial splendor than to the Eastern Orthodox liturgy. But the Latin Mass is great. Vatican II stupidly messed up the Latin liturgy and it's why so many Protestants do end up going to Orthodoxy rather than Rome if they do their early church research. They get turned off by something that looks noting more than an Episcopalian liturgy. They were hoping for the glorious stuff of movies.
 

Mor Ephrem

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Sleeper said:
"Many have noted that the traditional Western Mass seems more intent on reminding the worshiper of the death of Christ on the Cross and the believer’s own sinfulness and unworthiness, while the Eastern Divine Liturgy brings to the forefront the eschatological victory of Christ in whose triumph the Christian shares whenever he partakes of the Eucharist, the food of immortality.

It is easy, however, to exaggerate the difference between the “downward” symbolism of the Mass (Christ as suffering redeemer, Christians as miserable sinners) and the “upward” symbolism of the Divine Liturgy (Christ as eternal victor, Christians as already glorified in Him).

...


Let's assume a fair comparison: a solemn Sunday Mass in the (traditional) Roman rite and a Sunday Divine Liturgy with priest and deacon(s) in the Byzantine rite (the article says "Eastern Divine Liturgy", and it never fails to annoy me that for most Roman Catholics, if they know of the East at all, the only "East" that exists is the Byzantine rite and, in a pinch, the Maronites...but I'll let that pass). 

Assuming such a fair comparison, how much of the stereotype discussed above can be discerned from the liturgical celebrations themselves as opposed to the "popular" piety more or less proper to each tradition?  My impression, based on my own experience of observing and/or worshiping in these traditions, is that the "difference" Dr Kwasniewski discusses is in the piety with which worshipers approach the Liturgy and not in the liturgy itself, which is usually good about keeping things in proper balance. 
 

LBK

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Orthodox hymnography for Holy Week is quite instructive, in maintaining the right balance: not dismissing the drama of the Passion, but never losing sight of the anticipation of the salvific joy of the coming Resurrection. Iconography also reflects this.
 

LBK

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Christopher McAvoy said:
LBK, do you find the Hymnography for Holy Week in the Latin rite of the Orthodox Church able to express the faith well enough?
I do not have access to any "Latin rite Orthodox" hymnography, so I can't comment further.
 

Alpo

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LBK said:
Christopher McAvoy said:
LBK, do you find the Hymnography for Holy Week in the Latin rite of the Orthodox Church able to express the faith well enough?
I do not have access to any "Latin rite Orthodox" hymnography, so I can't comment further.
Here you can find some examples. Check the Liturgy Propers and the Divine Office Propers.

http://www.allmercifulsavior.com/Liturgy/Liturgics.html
 

LBK

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Alpo said:
LBK said:
Christopher McAvoy said:
LBK, do you find the Hymnography for Holy Week in the Latin rite of the Orthodox Church able to express the faith well enough?
I do not have access to any "Latin rite Orthodox" hymnography, so I can't comment further.
Here you can find some examples. Check the Liturgy Propers and the Divine Office Propers.

http://www.allmercifulsavior.com/Liturgy/Liturgics.html
I would need the full text of the Holy Week services (at least from Holy Thursday onwards) to be able to provide a meaningful comparison. Single hymns cannot.
 
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