Thursday, May 31, 2018

Christian Worship in the Sanctuary : The Holy Sphere Where Heaven and Earth Meet

We did not know where we were, on heaven or on earth..
We only know that God dwells there among men.
Russian Ambassadors (987), in a report to Prince Vladimir of Kiev, 
upon attending a service at the Hagia Sophia cathedral in Constantinople

Now the heavenly host is with us,
And the sun now exults in the sky,
In the azure-blue domes of the temple
Clouds of incense slowly drift by.

Now the King in His splendor and glory
Through the Royal Doors enters unseen.
Our mortal lips offer Him worship,
And with us sing the great Cherubim.

O come, all ye loving and faithful,
Let us prostrate ourselves before Him
So that we may find Christ’s sacred image
In our grey, mournful daily routine.

Now the heavenly host is with us,
And eternally spring does appear.
O, do gaze at life with eyes enlightened:
The perspective of life is so clear!

Now the heavenly host becomes visible
And amidst us the Lord passes through.
The great Cherubim now sing among us,
And the soul becomes peaceful anew.

- V. Utrenev, Now the heavenly host is with us,
translated by Natalia Sheniloff (source)

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Mercy of Peace A Sacrifice of Praise

Image result for dawn sky pink

A Mercy of Peace A Sacrifice of Praise
And to thy spirit
Meet and right it is
We Lift them to the Lord
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Sabaoath, 
heaven and earth are full of thy Glory, 
Hosanna in the Highest, 
blessed is the name of the Lord Hosanna in the Highest
Amen x2
We Hymn thee, We bless thee, 
We give thanks to thee O Lord, and 
we entreat thee O our God

in English

in Church Slavonic

Sunday, May 13, 2018

"Lord, Have Mercy." [Prayer and Lamentation]

Christ's prayer on Oelber, 1468 - Carlo Crivelli
Christ's Prayer (source)


Lord, I mourn about my sinning
That caused You, Lord, such pain.
It brought You grievous suff'ring;
I sinned and sinned again.
I'm only just beginning
My depths of sin to see,
And thank You for forgiving
A sinner such as me. 

Of all the prayers that I know,
All prayers sung or read aloud –
One prayer breathes with brilliant strength,
The wondrous prayer “Lord have mercy”!

A single plea it does contain –
I ask the All-compassionate God
To save me with His awesome might,
And so I call out: “Lord have mercy”!

I sail the turbulent sea of life,
I meet with joy and poignant sorrow.
What power saves me from the storms?
The wondrous prayer “Lord have mercy”!

When tears of deep despair I weep,
And dreams of passion overwhelm me –
Then with especial strength of heart
I keep on crying: “Lord have mercy”!

And as you end your life on earth,
My soul, continue with this prayer
Beyond the grave, keep up your plea
Of hope eternal: “Lord have mercy”!

Translated from Russian by Natalia Sheniloff (source)

Zarzma monastery Friars -  God Forgive Us (in Georgian)

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Down in Adoration Falling (Tantum Ergo) by Thomas Aquinas

Related image

Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! o'er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.

To the Everlasting Father,
And the Son Who reigns on high
With the Holy Ghost proceeding
Forth from Each eternally,
Be salvation, honour, blessing,
Might, and endless majesty.

-Thomas Aquinas (1225-74)

"Tantum Ergo" is the incipit of the last two verses of Pange Lingua, a Medieval Latin hymn written by St Thomas Aquinas c. 1264.

Tantum ergo Sacramentum veneremur cernui: Et antiquum documentum novo cedat ritui: Praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui. Genitori, Genitoque Laus et jubilatio, Salus, honor, virtus quoque sit et benedictio: Procedenti abutroque compar sit laudatio. Amen

Friday, May 11, 2018

Chant in Christian Liturgy: Not Private But Public Order of Things

Dmitry Levin - Winter's river

Then, in another lovely antiphonal exchange, minister and people said, “Praise ye the Lord,” “The Lord’s name be praised.” At St. Andrew’s this exchange was sung, or rather chanted, as were all of the canticles and psalms.

If someone had asked me ahead of time about chant, I would, I think, have had an objection ready. Chant is analogous to Tibetan prayer wheels. The heathen chant. A chant is a monotonous, artificial, repetitious sequence of notes imposed on a text. It has the net effect of throttling whatever life there might have been in the text to begin with.

But here were evangelicals chanting! And not only that, I discovered that the chant tunes were beautiful beyond anything I had ever dreamed. They were extremely simple tunes, and indeed they were repetitious. A great number of words might be sung on one note before you moved on to the next. But the effect, far from throttling the texts, lifted them into what seemed the joyful solemnity of heaven itself. To the objection that to impose a rigorous meter and melody on biblical texts was to slay them, these people would have pointed us to hymns.

There one finds highly stylized words set to rigorous melodies in exact meters. But all of us find that somehow the life of the words is thereby enhanced, not quelled. The structure is the midwife, so to speak.

Chant carries this phenomenon a step further than ordinary hymns do. It eschews the great sweep of melody available to hymns. Its thrift is its genius. Like a very simple frame around a picture, or an almost invisible setting for a diamond, it sets the text up and permits it to speak, or rather, to sing. The psalms, after all, were made for singing. Scottish meter is one way of perpetuating this, but it carries Hebrew poetry into the modern idiom of iambic tetrameter and trimeter. Chant, on the other hand, stays somewhat closer to the genius of the Hebrew, which depended on balance and repetition for its effect.

Gregorian chant, which is infinitely more austere even than the Anglican chant that I learned to sing at St. Andrew’s carries things even further. To an untrained ear it sounds artificial in the extreme, and so it is. But artifice is a very noble thing. God Himself appointed artificers and craftsmen to make cunning things for His own Tabernacle. Real craftsmanship, far from doing violence to them, works the materials so that their own properties are released. 

Gregorian chant, in its subtle austerity, performs this service for biblical texts. Whereas we commonly hear them read aloud by an individual who invests the words and phrases with his own rhetorical interpretation high-blown or understated, allegretto or largo, Gregorian chant lifts the texts away from this private milieu and arrays them, simply, out there, where we may encounter them the way we see the stars glittering on a clear night or hear the music of Bach so utterly satisfying to our deepest imaginings. Chant belongs to the public, not the private, order of things. Very few Christians will want to chant their private prayers, and this is as it should be.

excerpts from Thomas Howard, Evangelical is Not Enough: Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament, Ignatius, 1984

Antiphony in Christian Liturgy: Echoes of the Very Rhythms of Heaven

The Concert of Angels, 1534-36 Ferrari, Gaudenzio Singing Book
In the liturgical space, everything becomes meaningful.

The phrase worship experience missed the point. Worship, in the ancient tradition, was not thought of as an experience at all; it was an act. Or, if there was an experience, that part of it was a mere corollary to the main point. At St. Andrew’s the people had come together to make the act of worship. They had come to do something, not to get something. They had not come to a meeting. 

Several things testified to this. For a start, no one spoke of the church “auditorium,” as though it were a place one went to hear something. It was not an auditorium. Meetings did not occur here; an act occurred here. Furthermore, the vicar hardly ever addressed the congregation directly during the act of worship. 

Most of the time he could be seen kneeling at a small prie-dieu to one side of the chancel (the section of the church at the front, narrower than the nave and up some steps, that lies between the nave and the altar), facing across the front of the church, sideways to the congregation. He did not greet us, and he did not smile at us. No attempt was made to create a feeling of familiarity or welcome. And yet it was a vastly warm and friendly church. There was nothing cold or stiff there at all. These people were evangelicals.

Clearly, whatever it was that was happening did not depend in the smallest degree on atmosphere nor on the minister’s establishing any sort of contact with the congregation. The notion of group dynamics would have seemed grotesque, irrelevant, and embarrassing. We in the congregation were not auditors, nor spectators, nor recipients. 

We had come to this place to offer something to God, namely, the sacrifice of praise. I came to realize that there was more than a mere difference in phraseology between this and what I had always thought of as worship. There was a difference in vision. 

The vicar would begin with a scriptural bidding, directing our attention to the Most High. So far all was smooth sailing for me. I was familiar with this approach. But then he would say, “The Lord be with you,” and we would respond, “And with thy spirit.” 

What was this rote formula? I wondered. It was an exchange that occurred again and again during the service. It seemed quaint at best and possibly gratuitous; the Lord is already with both of our spirits. Why this vocal wish for the obvious? 

What I did not know was that this was a formula that reaches back certainly to the beginnings of Christian worship and possibly further. It builds into the very structure of the act of worship itself the glorious antiphons of charity that ring back and forth in heaven and all across the cosmos, among all the creatures of God. 

It is charity, greeting the other and wishing that other one well. In its antiphonal (“responsive”) character it echoes the very rhythms of heaven. Deep calls to deep. Day answers to night. Mountain calls to valley. One angel calls to another. Love greets love. The place of God’s dwelling rings with these joyful antiphons of charity. Hell hates this. It can only hiss, Out of my way, fool. But heaven says, The Lord be with you. This is what was said to us in the Incarnation. This is what the Divine Love always says. 

In the act of worship we on earth begin to learn the script of heaven. The phraseology has very little to do with how we may be feeling at the moment. It does not spring from us spontaneously. We must learn to say it. It is unnatural for us, the way learning a polite greeting is unnatural for a child. But to the objection that we should leave the child to express himself in his own way we would all point out the obvious, that that sort of naturalness and spontaneity is a poor, poor thing and that the discipline of learning something else is both an enrichment and a liberation. 

Antiphony deepens the shallow pool of our personal resources and sets us free from the prison of our own meager capacity to respond adequately in a given situation. Rather than mumbling fitfully, we learn to say the formula, “How do you do?” or “The Lord be with you,” and having learned it, we have stepped from solipsism into community. We have begun to take our appointed places among other selves.

excerpts from Thomas Howard, Evangelical is Not Enough: Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament, Ignatius, 1984 by Thomas Howard. (*Mr. Thomas is a brother of Elizabeth Elliot.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Let My Prayer Arise : Praying and Singing Psalm 141:1-4 [Psalms in Christian Liturgy]

Psalm 141:1-4 (LXX 140:1-4)

1 Lord, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee.
2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
3 Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.
4 Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.

in English

in Church Slavonic

in English (Psalm 141-142, Psalm 130, Psalm 117)

Brightness of the Father's Glory!--A Morning Hymn by St. Ambrose of Milan (340-397)

ladislav záborský obrazy - Google ê²ì

Brightness of the Father's glory,
    Spread the splendor of Thy light;
Radiant Fountain, Dayspring dawning,
    Banish now the shades of night!

O true Sun, arise within us,
    Shining with Thy steady beam;
O plant deep within our senses
    God the Holy Spirit's flame!

God the Father, too, we worship,
    Father of all-powerful grace;
Glorious Father everlasting,
    From our hearts all treason chase!

Breathe Thy mighty strength within us,
    Break the pride of Satan's power;
Turn our hardships into triumphs;
    Grant us wisdom every hour.

Guide our minds, uphold our thinking,
    Keep our limbs for service fit;
Feed our faith with love's pure burning,
    Purged from malice and deceit.

Christ our Lord, be bread for eating;
    Faith, our wine for drinking be:
May we taste the joyous Spirit,
    Drunk with His sobriety!

May this new day pass in gladness,
    Modest like the dawn's fresh bloom,
Faith like midday shining brightly,
    Thoughts untouched by evening gloom.

Now the dawn with splendor rises;
    Jesus is our only Dawn:
Son unveiled by heavenly Father,
    Father in the Logos known.

St. Ambrose of Milan


Te Deum

The Te Deum (also known as Ambrosian Hymn or A Song of the Church) is an early Christian hymn of praise. The title is taken from its opening Latin words, Te Deum laudamus, rendered as "Thee, O God, we praise". Authorship is traditionally ascribed to Saints Ambrose and Augustine, on the occasion of the latter's baptism by the former in AD 387.

The hymn follows the outline of the Apostles' Creed, mixing a poetic vision of the heavenly liturgy with its declaration of faith. Calling on the name of God immediately, the hymn proceeds to name all those who praise and venerate God, from the hierarchy of heavenly creatures to those Christian faithful already in heaven to the Church spread throughout the world. The hymn then returns to its credal formula, naming Christ and recalling his birth, suffering and death, his resurrection and glorification. At this point the hymn turns to the subjects declaiming the praise, both the universal Church and the singer in particular, asking for mercy on past sins, protection from future sin, and the hoped-for reunification with the elect. (reference)

Credo Chanting in the Liturgical Sphere [Nicene Creed]

in English

in Latin

in Church slavonic

in Armenian [3:09-]

in Arabic