Editor’s Note: Thoughts on Co-Ministry (Syndiaconia) in Liturgy apply in Church Governance
Apart from the too-often presence of a medieval mentality among some of our clergy, hyper-clericalism itself can be a force in de-churching people, especially youth. It sometimes appears that there is an actual effort to exclude the Royal Priesthood from actual and full participation in the Divine Liturgy and other services. Moreover, the clear dialogues and exchanges of blessings are often not observed. When I bless the people with “Peace be with you all,” they actually return the blessing, blessing me in return, “And with your spirit.” I do not bless only the choir, nor do I want a mere melody in return. I need the blessing of the CONGREGATION (not a choir who are not actually returning my blessing, but singing a song). The dialogues between the ordained clergyman who is serving and the royal priesthood who are supposed to be concelebrating, is at the very heart of the Liturgy. Indeed, the Holy Fathers make the assent of the people of God (laity) necessary in order for me to enter into the Anaphora.
Here are the actual words of some of them: The Orthodox Church regards this prayer as the entry to the Anaphora, the mystical liturgy itself. Its inauguration requires first the declaration of the people’s assent, “It is meet and right.” “The offering of thanksgiving again is common: FOR NEITHER DOES HE GIVE THANKS ALONE, BUT ALSO ALL THE PEOPLE. FOR HAVING FIRST HEARD THEIR VOICES, WHEN THEY ASSENT THAT IT IS `MEET AND RIGHT’ TO DO SO, THEN HE BEGINS THE THANKSGIVING” (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 18, on 2nd Corinthians, 4th century). “When all make their profession of the divine faith together, they anticipate the mystical thanksgiving…In making that thanksgiving, the worthy confirm their gratitude for God’s kindness, having no other way to reciprocate God’s infinite blessings” (St Maximos the Confessor, The Mystagogia, 34:31 7th century).
“The priest says: `Let us give thanks unto the Lord.’ THE PEOPLE AFFIRM: `IT IS MEET AND RIGHT’ …” (St Germanos of Constantinople, Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, 41. 8th century).
Notice that the faithful assent, “It is meet and right [so to do];” the choir does not simply abolish the assent of the people of God by launching into a hymn that negates the meaning of the assent of the Royal Priesthood. One may follow with a hymn, “We worship the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”. But the assent of the people, “It is meet and right [so to do]” is the essential assent of the people, and the priest is to wait for this, and then continue.
Note also that it says “all the people,” not a select group of musically “better” people. Nor can we argue that the priest is “serving the liturgy on behalf of the people”. He is to be concelebrating the liturgy together with the people. Closing the Holy Doors during the Liturgy only amplifies the attempt to close the royal priesthood out of their role in the Liturgy, and it is the more onerous since it has utterly no meaning whatsoever, but merely depends on how much and what kind of jewelry the serving priest is allowed to wear. It is about clergy rank and nothing else. There is, of course, much more than this to suggest why so many young people leave the Church, the politicizing of our religion ranking very high among them. We will have a discussion of this on our Facebook Blog in the following days.
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo