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How many people are necessary for a liturgy?

MarkosC

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Trivia question: is there any canonical rule about the bare minimum number of people to conduct a "full" liturgy (i.e. not a reader's service) in a parish using the present Byzantine books?

My impression is that all you need is a priest, a cantor, and an acolyte for most services, from the Divine Liturgy through Vespers to the Paraklesis.  Deacons, laity, and other cantors/servers/higher clergy would be nice for most of these services, but are not strictly necessary.

Thanks!

Markos
 

Andrew21091

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Two is the minimum. A priest and a chanter. Elder Paisios the Athonite related once where it was just him and a priest during a Liturgy. Its probably pretty common on Mt. Athos where there are only two monks at a hermitage and if one is a priest, they will serve Liturgy while the other chants. There are also accounts where St. Papa Nicholas Planas served Liturgy with only a chanter.
 

ialmisry

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I know priests who won't celebrate a DL unless there is at least one person who will be communing.

IIRC,the Ethiopian Church requires a priest, a deacon, a cantor and a three laymen, or something like that.  The idea, there has to be two or three gathered in His name for Him to come upon the altar.
 

Second Chance

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I think that a strong case may be made, in mormal circumstances, for the participation of the laity in any Liturgy. I offer to you Father Schmemann's take on the role of the clergy and laity in the Church (excerpt):

"The Meaning of "Lay"

The words lay, laity, layman come from the Greek word laos which means people. "Laikos," layman, is the one who belongs to the people, who is a member of an organic and organized community. It is, in other words, not a negative, but a highly positive term. It implies the ideas of full, responsible, active membership as opposed, for example, to the status of a candidate. Yet the Christian use made this term even more positive. It comes from the Greek translation of the Old Testament where the word laos is applied ordinary to the People of God, to Israel, the people elected and sanctified by God Himself as His people. This concept of the "people of God" is central in the Bible. The Bible affirms that God has chosen one people among many to be His particular instrument in history, to fulfill His plan, to prepare, above everything else, the coming of Christ, the Saviour of the World. With this one people God has entered into "covenant", a pact or agreement of mutual belonging. The Old Testament, however, is but the preparation of the New. And in Christ, the privileges and the election of the "people of God" are extended to all those who accept Him, believe in Him and are ready to accept Him as God and Saviour. Thus, the Church, the community of those who believe in Christ, becomes the true people of God, the "laos" and each Christian a laikos — a member of the People of God.

The layman, is the one, therefore, who shares in Divine election and receives from God a special gift and privilege of membership. It is a highly positive vocation, radically different from the one we find defined in Webster. We can say that in our Orthodox teaching each Christian, be he a Bishop, Priest, Deacon or just member of the Church is, first of all, and before everything else a layman, for it is neither a negative nor a partial, but an all-embracing term and our common vocation.. Before we are anything specific we are all laymen because the whole Church is the laity — the people, the family, the community — elected and established by Christ Himself.

The Layman Is Ordained

We are accustomed to think of "ordination" as precisely the distinctive mark of clergy. They are the ordained and the laity, the non-ordained Christians. Here again, however, Orthodoxy differs from Western "clericalism," be it Roman Catholic or Protestant. If ordination means primarily the bestowing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the fulfillment of our vacation as Christians and members of the Church, each layman becomes a layman — laikos — through ordination. We find it in the Sacrament of Holy Chrism, which follows Baptism. Why are there two, and not just one, sacraments of entrance into the Church? Because if Baptism restores in us our true human nature, obscured by sin, Chrismation gives us the positive power and grace to be Christians, to act as Christians, to build together the Church of God and be responsible participants in the life of the Church. In this sacrament we pray that the newly baptized be:

    "an honorable member of God’s Church

    "a consecrated vessel

    "a child of light

     "an heir of God’s kingdom,
   
     that "having preserved the gift of the Holy Spirit and increased the measure of grace committed unto him, he may receive the prize of his high calling and be numbered with the first borne whose names are written in heaven".

We are very far from the dull Webster definition. St. Paul call all baptized Christians "fellow citizens with the saints and the household of God" (Eph. 2:1a). "For through Christ"— he says — ye are no more strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints... in whom all the building fully framed together growth unto a holy temple in the Lord, in whom ye also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."

The Layman in the Liturgy

We think of worship as a specifically clerical sphere of activity. The priest celebrates, the laity attend. One is active, the other passive. It is another error and a serious one at that. The Christian term for worship is leitourgia which means precisely a corporate, common, all embracing action in which all those who are present are active participants. All prayers in the Orthodox Church are always written in terms of the plural we. We offer, we pray, we thank, we adore, we enter, we ascend, we receive. The layman is in a very direct way the co-celebrant of the priest, the latter offering to God the prayers of the Church, representing all people, speaking on their behalf. One illustration of this co-celebration may be helpful; the word Amen, to which we are so used, that we really pay no attention to it. And yet it is a crucial word. No prayer, no sacrifice, no blessing is ever given in the Church without being sanctioned by the Amen which means an approval, agreement, participation. To say Amen to anything means that I make it mine, that I give my consent to it... And "Amen" is indeed the Word of the laity in the Church, expressing the function of the laity as the People of God, which freely and joyfully accepts the Divine offer, sanctions it with its consent. There is really no service, no liturgy without the Amen of those who have been ordained to serve God as community, as Church.

And, thus, whatever liturgical service we consider, we see that it always follows the pattern of dialogue, cooperation, collaboration, cooperation between the celebrant and the congregation. It is indeed a common action ("leitourgia") in which the responsible participation of everyone is essential and indispensable, for through it the Church, the People of God, fulfills its purpose and goal."

My emphasis--Second Chance

http://www.schmemann.org/byhim/clergyandlaityinthechurch.html
 

Fr. George

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MarkosC said:
Trivia question: is there any canonical rule about the bare minimum number of people to conduct a "full" liturgy (i.e. not a reader's service) in a parish using the present Byzantine books?

My impression is that all you need is a priest, a cantor, and an acolyte for most services, from the Divine Liturgy through Vespers to the Paraklesis.  Deacons, laity, and other cantors/servers/higher clergy would be nice for most of these services, but are not strictly necessary.
Two is the minimum for sacraments - Priest or Bishop + someone else.  As for the rest (Vespers et al.), I don't know if there are restrictions.
 

Shanghaiski

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I don't know if there's a hard and fast rule. If a liturgy is served, it will always have a communicant in the priest, because if a priest cannot commune, he cannot serve, right? As for needing someone to respond to the prayers, there are times when the priest says, "Let us pray to the Lord," and answers himself with the "Lord have mercy," for example, when he is vesting.
 

Second Chance

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Shanghaiski said:
I don't know if there's a hard and fast rule. If a liturgy is served, it will always have a communicant in the priest, because if a priest cannot commune, he cannot serve, right? As for needing someone to respond to the prayers, there are times when the priest says, "Let us pray to the Lord," and answers himself with the "Lord have mercy," for example, when he is vesting.
All of these answers answer the OP as if the question is "what is the minimum number of people necessary for a Liturgy?" I am trying to get beyond the minimum number that must be present before the Liturgy may be started. Let's say that this coming Friday, a church with 100 members is celebrating Holy Transfiguration. What should be the number be above the two that are absolutely required, keeping in mind that the Liturgy is by and for the laos? And, who should the participants be? I would think that you should have a priest, assigned deacon/s, sub-deacons if you have them, at least two altar servers, at least one reader, the choir and a number of regular parishioners. (I am assuming that all of these folks are healthy and in town). You know, if I were a priest on such an occasion and only one other person showed up, I would seriously question my effectiveness and the commitment of the congregation.
 

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Why did St. Theophan perform the Liturgy by himself? Come to think of it, how?
 

ialmisry

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Shanghaiski said:
I don't know if there's a hard and fast rule. If a liturgy is served, it will always have a communicant in the priest, because if a priest cannot commune, he cannot serve, right? As for needing someone to respond to the prayers, there are times when the priest says, "Let us pray to the Lord," and answers himself with the "Lord have mercy," for example, when he is vesting.
Vesting is the work of the priest. The DL is the work of the assembly "ekklesia," and you need at least two to 'assemble.'
 

Fr. George

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Shanghaiski said:
I don't know if there's a hard and fast rule. If a liturgy is served, it will always have a communicant in the priest, because if a priest cannot commune, he cannot serve, right? As for needing someone to respond to the prayers, there are times when the priest says, "Let us pray to the Lord," and answers himself with the "Lord have mercy," for example, when he is vesting.
There is no Church in the EO communion (or OO, AFAIK) which would allow for a liturgy with only the celebrant.
 

ialmisry

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Fr. George said:
Shanghaiski said:
I don't know if there's a hard and fast rule. If a liturgy is served, it will always have a communicant in the priest, because if a priest cannot commune, he cannot serve, right? As for needing someone to respond to the prayers, there are times when the priest says, "Let us pray to the Lord," and answers himself with the "Lord have mercy," for example, when he is vesting.
There is no Church in the EO communion (or OO, AFAIK) which would allow for a liturgy with only the celebrant.
Come to think of it, I can't think of any Holy Mystery that you can celebrate with only the celebrant. Why would DL be the exception?  Would make as much sense as a priest confessing to himself and giving himself absolution.
 

Fr. George

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Second Chance said:
All of these answers answer the OP as if the question is "what is the minimum number of people necessary for a Liturgy?"
Well, the OP did specify that he was inquiring about a "canonical bare minimum."

Second Chance said:
I am trying to get beyond the minimum number that must be present before the Liturgy may be started. Let's say that this coming Friday, a church with 100 members is celebrating Holy Transfiguration. What should be the number be above the two that are absolutely required, keeping in mind that the Liturgy is by and for the laos? And, who should the participants be? I would think that you should have a priest, assigned deacon/s, sub-deacons if you have them, at least two altar servers, at least one reader, the choir and a number of regular parishioners. (I am assuming that all of these folks are healthy and in town).
Yes, that would be nice.  Ideally, we would expect a certain percentage of the parish for Liturgy; however, "ideally," the Laos is present if even 1 or 2 of its members is present (remember, communion on Sunday unites us as One Body of Christ).  But at the very least, for non-Sunday great feasts, 5-10% of the parish would be wonderful.

Second Chance said:
You know, if I were a priest on such an occasion and only one other person showed up, I would seriously question my effectiveness and the commitment of the congregation.  
Thankfully, I don't share your inclination.  Too many people work, and not enough (especially of the elderly parishioners) live close enough to the parish to walk.  When they did (live close enough), weekday services had significant turnouts; now, far less.
 

Fr. George

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ialmisry said:
Fr. George said:
There is no Church in the EO communion (or OO, AFAIK) which would allow for a liturgy with only the celebrant.
Come to think of it, I can't think of any Holy Mystery that you can celebrate with only the celebrant. Why would DL be the exception?  Would make as much sense as a priest confessing to himself and giving himself absolution.
Right.  Baptism / Chrismation: priest, neophyte, sponsor.  Marriage: priest, groom, bride, sponsor.  Confession: priest, penitent.  Unction: priest (ideally 7), person in need of healing.  Ordination: Bishop, candidate, person to say "Axios." (Plus, ordination takes place in context of DL).  Monastic tonsure: Abbot/Bishop, candidate.

Small blessing of the waters is the only one (the "Great Agiasmos" takes place after DL anyway) that could be done alone, as far as I can tell.
 

Shanghaiski

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I remember reading/hearing that Elder Cleopa liturgized when he was hiding in the woods and birds with crosses on their heads came and sang responses.
 
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Second Chance said:
Shanghaiski said:
..... What should be the number be above the two that are absolutely required, keeping in mind that the Liturgy is by and for the laos?
I don't understand your question's sub-point?    The simple statement that there must be two or more gathered in our Lord's Name seems a sufficient answer to me...why are you differentiating the clergy from the Laos for whom the Liturgy is to be served?...I am pretty certain the Bishop or Priest receives the Holy Gifts first being himself a server in the Divine Service.

John
 

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Thanks, everybody.  Priest/bishop + someone to respond (cantor or not) what I suspected.  (if one were to do Great Vespers or Divine Liturgy, it would be interesting to see such a procession :D ).  And yes Andrew the experience in the hermitages is what got me thinking about this - though frankly I would have no objection to them playing a little "fast and loose" with the canons in that situation, as long as their Elder doesn't mind - that's between them and God.  

Second Chance said:
All of these answers answer the OP as if the question is "what is the minimum number of people necessary for a Liturgy?" I am trying to get beyond the minimum number that must be present before the Liturgy may be started. Let's say that this coming Friday, a church with 100 members is celebrating Holy Transfiguration. What should be the number be above the two that are absolutely required, keeping in mind that the Liturgy is by and for the laos? And, who should the participants be? I would think that you should have a priest, assigned deacon/s, sub-deacons if you have them, at least two altar servers, at least one reader, the choir and a number of regular parishioners. (I am assuming that all of these folks are healthy and in town). You know, if I were a priest on such an occasion and only one other person showed up, I would seriously question my effectiveness and the commitment of the congregation.
Second Chance,

I don't know if this is answering your question, (and I don't mean this as a personal attack ;) ) but I disagree with the bolded completely.   Yes, the laity is critical to any proper understanding of Christian public worship (i.e. liturgy), and I agree with everything Father Schmemann mentioned in that quote.  Nevertheless, the point of the worship is God; whether or not 2 or 2000 people attend is irrelevant.  The Feast of the Transfiguration and the Liturgy of the Church as a whole goes on on August 6th somewhere on Earth  - and always in the heavens - whether or not any human cares, and so my personal vote would be that Vespers, Orthros, and Divine Liturgy go on regardless of the local participation rate.  

As an aside, I would never necessarily equate numbers or participation ratio in church with pastoral effectiveness.  The faithful who come, regardless they're role is to the priest, deacon, cantor, acolyte, or just the average Joe/Jane, IMO should seek the Kingdom of God and accept that some (most?) people won't come, some for "just and honorable causes", others to the contrary.  Again, the point is our worship of God and participation in the life of the Church, not necessarily measurable success metrics.

I don't know if others buy that.  But it makes me feel better when I'm almost the only one in Church.   :)  
 

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Shanghaiski said:
I don't know if there's a hard and fast rule. If a liturgy is served, it will always have a communicant in the priest, because if a priest cannot commune, he cannot serve, right? As for needing someone to respond to the prayers, there are times when the priest says, "Let us pray to the Lord," and answers himself with the "Lord have mercy," for example, when he is vesting.
Correct--there is no canon that states the number required other than the priest.  There are many saints, not just St. Theophan, the served Liturgy "by themselves," but that is because they are not by themselves, because the Saints are there.  We see this, for example, with regard to St. John Maximovitch:  "I jumped up and went and served liturgy alone in my little home Church of the Cross just like he served all his life. He served liturgy everyday always starting alone. But always, almost always someone came to liturgy. But if no one came then he himself would say that angels and saints had been there. In any case, the liturgy is never in isolation, it can not be in isolation. Liturgy was his life, he lived by it and in it. It was his cover and protection."
http://www.episkopvasily.ru/en/content/Homily-St-John-Maximovich-Part-I-and-Part-II

However, it is "popular piety" today to say that a priest should not serve unless "laity" are there.  Then again, St. John and others have clearly pointed out that laity are always there--the angels and saints are always there.  I can assure you that there is NO canon that restricts a priest from serving with only himself, the angels, and the saints present.   

 

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ialmisry said:
Fr. George said:
Shanghaiski said:
I don't know if there's a hard and fast rule. If a liturgy is served, it will always have a communicant in the priest, because if a priest cannot commune, he cannot serve, right? As for needing someone to respond to the prayers, there are times when the priest says, "Let us pray to the Lord," and answers himself with the "Lord have mercy," for example, when he is vesting.
There is no Church in the EO communion (or OO, AFAIK) which would allow for a liturgy with only the celebrant.
Come to think of it, I can't think of any Holy Mystery that you can celebrate with only the celebrant. Why would DL be the exception?  Would make as much sense as a priest confessing to himself and giving himself absolution.
Except for the fact that the priest communes himself at every divine Liturgy whether there are 0 communicants or 1000.  So the analogy to confession does not hold water. 
 

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Fr. George said:
Shanghaiski said:
I don't know if there's a hard and fast rule. If a liturgy is served, it will always have a communicant in the priest, because if a priest cannot commune, he cannot serve, right? As for needing someone to respond to the prayers, there are times when the priest says, "Let us pray to the Lord," and answers himself with the "Lord have mercy," for example, when he is vesting.
There is no Church in the EO communion (or OO, AFAIK) which would allow for a liturgy with only the celebrant.
Really?  We have a lot of hermit-priests who are ripe for excommunication then. 
 

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Fr. George said:
ialmisry said:
Fr. George said:
There is no Church in the EO communion (or OO, AFAIK) which would allow for a liturgy with only the celebrant.
Come to think of it, I can't think of any Holy Mystery that you can celebrate with only the celebrant. Why would DL be the exception?  Would make as much sense as a priest confessing to himself and giving himself absolution.
  Right.  Baptism / Chrismation: priest, neophyte, sponsor.  Marriage: priest, groom, bride, sponsor.  Confession: priest, penitent.  Unction: priest (ideally 7), person in need of healing.  Ordination: Bishop, candidate, person to say "Axios." (Plus, ordination takes place in context of DL).  Monastic tonsure: Abbot/Bishop, candidate.  Small blessing of the waters is the only one (the "Great Agiasmos" takes place after DL anyway) that could be done alone, as far as I can tell. 
The priest is not a recipient of Baptism/Chrismation, because he must have already received it.  He is not the recipient of marriage, but must have either already received it or chosen monastic tonsure.  Unction--the sick priest cannot perform it because he is sick and needs another.  As for confession, unlike with Communion, the priest cannot be the confessor and the penitent.  Agiasma--the priest can partake of himself so that both the ritual and its function is partaken of immediately.  Liturgy--the priest can partake of himself so that both the ritual and its function are partaken of immediately. 

Every priest serves with an antimension with the bones of a saint present who is also present in spirit.  He always has "two or three" with him. 
 
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