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The Priest's Silent Prayers in the Divine Liturgy

Tikhon29605

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I would like to invite a discussion of the Priest's Silent Prayers in the Divine Liturgy. I am aware that the prayers that the priest prays "in a low voice" are a subject of much discussion within the OCA today. My purpose in starting this thread is NOT to condemn any priest (or jurisdiction, for that matter) for saying these prayers aloud or in secret. I am not interested in pointing fingers at anyone. My purpose is merely to state some observations I have made, and to learn from others who obviously know more about this matter than I do.
My current priest (whom I truly respect) preached a sermon Sunday almost demanding that Orthodox priests worldwide recite these prayers in a loud voice. Himself an adult convert to Orthodoxy, he had just returned from a trip to the Old Country and was apparently horrified that there are still Orthodox priests who follow the rubrics and say these prayers in a low voice. He is a graduate of Saint Vladimir's Seminary.
On the other hand, just a few years ago, when I went on a pilgrimage to Saint Tikhon's Monastery I met another OCA priest who was just as scandalized that any priest would DARE recite these prayers aloud. He was also an adult convert to Orthodoxy.
When ever I have worshipped in a Greek Orthodox Church, these prayers have always been recited in a low voice. I've never been to the "Old Country" but every video I've ever seen, every CD I've ever heard from Greece, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia etc., all of them say the priest's prayers in a low voice.
Every ancient Liturgy that I have studied or read always contains prayers with the rubric "the priest prays secretly" or "the priest says in a low voice". In fact, from my study of Church History, this seems to be the universal Christian practice. I simply cannot find an ancient liturgy that does not have rubrics for the priest to pray certain prayers in a low voice.
From what I can gather, it seems to me that praying the prayers aloud is limited to graduates of Saint Vladimir's Seminary, and esp. those who were influenced by Father Alexander Schmemann. I am IN NO WAY criticizing St. Vladimir's or the beloved Father Schemmann of blessed memory for doing this. Personally. I love to hear the Anaphora chanted aloud. It can be quite moving. However, I do suspect that doing it aloud is a modern adaptation (not that that makes it evil or wrong in any way). I also know that my Bishop is aware of this and blesses his priests to say the prayers aloud or in a low voice according to their preference. For instance my parish priest always says them aloud, but when the bishop celebrates in our parish , the bishop recites them silently. I am interested in others comments and stories about this.
 

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That's right in perhaps all venerable rites and traditions of the Church (Coptic, Tridentine Latin, Byzantine, etc) the important prayers of the Anaphora were said in low voice.

In the liturgies I've attended (GOC) part is said aloud and part is said silently. I'm afraid that if they decide that now all prayers will be said aloud, that would be an open door to more changes, and this would not be possitive.
 

Keble

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Well, the Anglicans have always said all the prayers audibly, proving that being able to hear the anaphora is surely the road to perdition. ::)
 

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I think part of the issue here is how we understand the words "mystikos" and "taino" in the rubrics. If they mean silently or in a low voice, what then do they mean in the text of the cherubikon?
 

Mor Ephrem

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Tikhon29605 said:
When ever I have worshipped in a Greek Orthodox Church, these prayers have always been recited in a low voice. I've never been to the "Old Country" but every video I've ever seen, every CD I've ever heard from Greece, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia etc., all of them say the priest's prayers in a low voice.
Writing from the library...

Every liturgical rite has at least some silent prayers. In the Syrian rite, for example, these are, by and large, prayers the priest prays silently while performing some rite in order to prepare himself or what not. At least that is my observation.

However, in the Byzantine rite, there seem to be many more prayers that are taken silently. Skimming the text of the Divine Liturgy in the Jordanville Prayer Book, you would think that the entire Divine Liturgy was simply a service of litanies with a few extras thrown in, since they omit the prayers taken silently. Looking at an OCA book with the Divine Liturgy, I see much that is italicised, seemingly indicating that much is taken silently, even though it is there in the book.

Perhaps it is because I am not used to this, but I think some of the prayers that are currently taken silently should not, particularly the Anaphora. Some of the prayers taken silently clearly (at least to me) involve the rest of the people; those should be taken aloud, while those more specific to the priest could be taken silently. This is my opinion. Listening to webcasts, and attending in person, I have experienced Byzantine Liturgies where the time involved for the choir/cantor to sing a certain hymn doesn't seem nearly enough for the priest to take the prayer he is supposed to say at that point silently (CD's and tapes don't always have this problem, I notice it more in parishes). Often, I wonder if they even bother taking the prayer at all, preferring to omit it rather than have a big silent gap between the hymn and the priest's vocal conclusion of the prayer. Or maybe they skim the page? Speed-reading? I don't know, but it just seems highly irregular when I experience this, and wonder what the problem would be in taking more aloud.
 

ella

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Hi, let me introduce myself. I am a convert to Orthodoxy, a woman of a "certain age". Read 55 years old. :)

I have studied the issue of the silent prayers. I even asked Fr. Hopko last year. What I have learned is that the practice began sometime in the sixth century I believe. Justinian actually forbade it. It seems to have begun at about the same time as the faithful stopped receiving frequent communioin.

From the words of the prayers, it is clear that when they were composed that they were intended to be said aloud. They are written as "we" not "me". (except for the priest's prayer for himself.) As we know, as a word, liturgy means a common work of the people. It is the whole people of God gathered in the same place that day who offer the prayers. That is why the people say "Amen" afterwards.

The folks at St. Tikhons beleive (at least one priest but he is a teacher) that the prayers should be said silently because of the "mystery" of the service.

While Fr. Alexander was a proponent of saying the prayers aloud, he wasn't the only one. Archbishop Paul of Finland was a very strong proponent of the practice. He explains why in his book, is it The Faith We Hold..it escapes me now.

Fr. Schmemann mentioned in his journal after having served at a very Russian parish one that he had forgotten what the "Russian" service was like. He said that alost everything that could reach the people was hidden from them. Or read silently.

Oh, one other thing. The repeated litinies...were introduced to "cover" some of the silent prayers.

I tend to agree with the above. The silent prayers are beautiful and really tell us why we are there. They explain what God has done for us. "Thou it was that brought us from non-existence into being...and when we had fallen away did not cease to do all things until thou had brought back to Thee and endowed us with Thy Kingdom which is to come." (from memory so forgive any mistakes.)

I believe reading the prayers aloud is really going back to the early intent. Correcting a change that was made, rather than as the beginning of the end for the Liturgy!

Also, as you know, the bishop of the Russian Church had prepared for a Great Council in 1917...not a good year. In this council they were going to, among other things, re-institute reading the prayers aloud. And Russia at that time had the best educated Orthodox theologians in the world. oops..no more room...in Christ, Elizabeth
 

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If you read the prayers, it is obvious that some are meant to be prayed silently and some aloud. So we should just look at the hymns and go accordingly. There is no good theological reason why a prayer meant for the congregation should be said silently--none.

anastasios
 

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"Silent Prayers" are one of those unfortunate "power trip" issues that have corrupted the Church.

In the same vein, I find it interesting that in many of the Orthodox churches that I have attended in MD/DC area, that the priest(s) no longer asks (in a loud enough voice that can be heard) for forgiveness ("Brothers and Sisters, forgive me") when they are about to partake of the Eucharist, but simply just turn and bow to the celebrants and mumble.

Power and Pride.
 

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TomS said:
"Silent Prayers" are one of those unfortunate "power trip" issues that have corrupted the Church.

In the same vein, I find it interesting that in many of the Orthodox churches that I have attended in MD/DC area, that the priest(s) no longer asks (in a loud enough voice that can be heard) for forgiveness ("Brothers and Sisters, forgive me") when they are about to partake of the Eucharist, but simply just turn and bow to the celebrants and mumble.

Power and Pride.
Power trip? Maybe, but I think a stretch. I'd hardly call it corruption - more of a manners/praxis issue. I personally have no problem. I think our priest (OCA) says them in a quiet voice - you can hear them if you're near the front, but probably not at the back.

The bowing and mumbling is cheezy though. ::) I think to many priests, they forget the meaning and just do it as a formality. Just flat out slopiness.
 

TomS

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Elisha said:
I'd hardly call it corruption - more of a manners/praxis issue.
Yes. Maybe corruption was too strong of a word.

I am thinking along the lines that somewhere back in history it was decided that in order to convey the "power" and provide more respect for the Priest that this was instituted. It smacks me way to much of RC-ism.

It may have made sense at one time, but no longer.
 

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I would not consider it a power trip on the part of the priest to keep it silent. A priest is concerned for the salvation of his congregation afterall. I do find it interesting that Justinian forbade keeping the prayers silent.

For me it does not matter one way or the other. I find spiritual enrichment from the litanies and the common prayers that are chanted. My Divine Liturgy book (OCA) does have the silent parts in italics. I read them during the liturgy if I am not following along with one of the litanies.

I leave the judgement up to the bishops (OCA) as to what they think is appropriate. Whatever they decide should remain consistent through the whole church.
 

Asteriktos

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TomS

"Silent Prayers" are one of those unfortunate "power trip" issues that have corrupted the Church.
And people wonder why I'm so against Schmemannism. ::)

If the error isn't obvious to you, I guess explaining won't be much good. :(
 

Mor Ephrem

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Dear Justin,

What's your take on whether or not to take prayers during the Liturgy silently, and why?
 

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Paradosis said:
TomS

"Silent Prayers" are one of those unfortunate "power trip" issues that have corrupted the Church.
And people wonder why I'm so against Schmemannism. ::)
I know of Schmemann, but I was unaware he had been converted into an "ism". Indeed, I more typically hear him cited as an authority on How The West Is Bad.

If the error isn't obvious to you, I guess explaining won't be much good. :(
If the error isn't obvious to people, then it isn't obvious. Perhaps you could explain anyway. This is such an utter non-issue in Anglicanism that we have no idea why anyone would have silent prayers.
 

Anastasios

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TomS said:
"Silent Prayers" are one of those unfortunate "power trip" issues that have corrupted the Church.

In the same vein, I find it interesting that in many of the Orthodox churches that I have attended in MD/DC area, that the priest(s) no longer asks (in a loud enough voice that can be heard) for forgiveness ("Brothers and Sisters, forgive me") when they are about to partake of the Eucharist, but simply just turn and bow to the celebrants and mumble.

Power and Pride.
The reason the prayers became silent is because in big churches you couldn't hear the priest anymore so they just gave up trying to belt out all the prayers.

A priest turning and bowing to the people is a sign of humility it seems to me.

anastasios
 

Anastasios

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Paradosis said:
TomS

"Silent Prayers" are one of those unfortunate "power trip" issues that have corrupted the Church.
And people wonder why I'm so against Schmemannism. ::)

If the error isn't obvious to you, I guess explaining won't be much good. :(
Justin,

What are you talking about? Schmemann was a respected Orthodox theologian, not some anti-hiearchical, whining, liberal status-quo upsetter. When did Schmemann ever make the argument that TomS is putting forth? Justin, do you even read Schmemann or are you just basing this on hearsay? I don't think Schmemann is some sort of all-encompassing authority, but there is certainly no such thing as Schmemannism as you put forth.

anastasios
 

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anastasios said:
The reason the prayers became silent is because in big churches you couldn't hear the priest anymore so they just gave up trying to belt out all the prayers.
Or maybe that was just an excuse? I accept that to a certain extent. but now-a-days it does not make sense since most Priests' in larger churches (like St. Sophia in DC) wear wireless microphones. I can hear the Priest at St. Sophia with no problem when he talks normal, so that means that he is purposely saying the prayers quietly.

And the contents of those prayers would be of great benefit to the attendees if they were said out loud.

Bowing may be a sign of humility -- but it is not even close to hearing the words "forgive me". The Priest should do this to set an example for the attendees.

 

TomS

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Paradosis said:
If the error isn't obvious to you, I guess explaining won't be much good. :(
(Justin says as he walks away wrapped snugly in his cloak of self-righteousness)

;D
 

Anastasios

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Tom, I agree that today we should say the prayers outloud. I just don't think they developed silently out of a power trip.

anastasios
 

TomS

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Yeah, it could be that I went a little overboard on that. It comes from being raised during the Vietnam and Watergate era! :-

You know, that whole "Question Authority!" mentality.
 

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anastasios said:
The reason the prayers became silent is because in big churches you couldn't hear the priest anymore so they just gave up trying to belt out all the prayers.
I'd almost believe that except that I'm not sure that this explains saying these particular prayers silently. I tend to wonder whether it is a compensation for not chasing the catechumens out at "the doors".
 

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Keble said:
I'd almost believe that except that I'm not sure that this explains saying these particular prayers silently. I tend to wonder whether it is a compensation for not chasing the catechumens out at "the doors".
I have to agree with Keble on this. Why THOSE particular prayers? If you notice, they are the ones that are fairly intimate in nature, as opposed to being just general petitions.

That is why I leaned towards the "power trip" thing. By having these prayers said silently by the Priest, it is almost like the laity is not "pure" enough to address God on their own, but need the Priest to be their "spokesman" to represent them.

What you think?

 

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<surface>

Many thanks for the birthday wishes last week.

I know the liturgical avant-garde don't like them, but...

I'm with the pro-quiet prayers faction: some prayers done aloud, others 'mystically'. 'The blessed mutter of the Mass' by any name. Heard it done in more than one rite and love it.

AFAIK Fr Alexander Schmemann never advocated changing the Russian Orthodox ceremonial - just looking at it in a different way.

Got his little book on the Our Father (taken from a Radio Liberty broadcast he did in Russian to the then-USSR) for my birthday and love it. It's simple Christianity.
 

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I believe they are the ancient equialent of a "power trip".

Schemmanism? Have you read any of Fr. Alexander's works?

How can the People of God be anything but edified by hearing the beautiful prayers of the anaphora and epiclesis? How can this be bad? What is the theological reason for this? Remember this is NOT the way "we have always done it."
 

Tikhon29605

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To add some further nuances to this discussion, my parish priest (who favors saying all of the silent prayers aloud) told me that as far as he has been able to determine, the oldest liturgical usage was for the prayers of the Anaphora to be recited ALOUD. However, he also told me that except for the Anaphora, the earliest usage seems to confirm that they were recited in a low voice, as the rubrics direct. He does not try to justify reciting the rest of the prayers aloud by historical example. Rather, his approach is pastoral. I am guessing that this pastoral approach probably had something to do with Father Alexander Schemmann's desire to have more of these prayers recited aloud. My priest has asked some thought-provoking questions about the silent prayers, such as: 1) Is it a good thing to ask people to sing "Amen" to the conclusion of a prayer they cannot hear? 2) Would not a person be catechized better by hearing all the prayers recited aloud in their proper context? 3) Many of the silent prayers are written in the plural ("we" instead of "I"), and seem to make better sense liturgically by being recited aloud. 4) And the last question, although it seems to imply a judgment, must be asked according to my priest: Do people favor the silent prayers OVER prayers recited alound because it is quicker and makes Liturgy shorter? Is this the basic motivation? I think back to my experience at St. Tikhon's when I was discussing this issue with a delightful convert priest. First of all, he seemed almost scandalized that any Orthodox priest would dare to say these prayers aloud. (That's when I told him my bishop had blessed such a practice.) And then his next question was "Does your priest recite the Anaphora of Saint Basil aloud too?" "Yes, Father," I replied. "Wow! That must take FOREVER!!!" was his response. Just a few thoughts to ponder on this issue. Please note I respect BOTH practices.
 
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I am familiar with both practices, but prefer the "silent" prayers of the Liturgy to be read aloud.

In my parish, our now retired former pastor *never* read the "silent" prayers aloud. Our newly-ordained present pastor will occasionally read some of the Anaphora prayers aloud, more or less depending on the time factor and pastoral discretion as he is "the new guy on the block." However, he has introduced the practice of *always* reading the Epiklesis prayer aloud at all Divine Liturgies he serves, to which the congregation reponds with resounding "amen's."

Hypo-Ortho
 

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It seems that only a couple of months ago that this topic consumed large amounts of bandwidth over at the Indiana Orthodox Listserver. The 'controversy' seemed to die out in exhaustion.
I personally am with those who defer to their bishop and suggest those who wish to complain (on either side) to take it up with with their priest and/or bishop.
I also recommend "The Orthodox Liturgy" by Hugh Wybrew, Saint Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1990, for a very good detailing of the development of the Divine Liturgy. Wybrew's Anglican editorials are even kept to a minimum. Many of the points brought up in the posts above are covered and page 115 pointedly discusses these 'silent prayers', Justinian, St.John Chrysostom's views on the matter and WHY they became said 'silently'.
The history is surprising in many respects and I especially enjoyed the development of the priesthood in the hierarchy in contrast to the original roles of the bishop and deacon(s) in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.

Demetri
 

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<surface>

I also recommend "The Orthodox Liturgy" by Hugh Wybrew, Saint Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1990, for a very good detailing of the development of the Divine Liturgy. Wybrew's Anglican editorials are even kept to a minimum. Many of the points brought up in the posts above are covered and page 115 pointedly discusses these 'silent prayers', Justinian, St.John Chrysostom's views on the matter and WHY they became said 'silently'.

The history is surprising in many respects and I especially enjoyed the development of the priesthood in the hierarchy in contrast to the original roles of the bishop and deacon(s) in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
I've not only read it but once was slightly acquainted with Canon Wybrew in England.

You can browse and buy the book through a link towards the bottom of this page.

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