An Introduction to Orthodox Liturgical Praxis

Explanatory note: this is the text of an address which I gave in early October of last year at a Roman Catholic conference on Liturgy which took place at Colorado Springs, Colorado. I hope that it might be of help to someone.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:

O heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who Art everywhere present and fillest all things, treasury of blessings and giver of life: come and abide in us, cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One. Amen.

Your Grace, venerable Fathers, honored Doctors and religious, ladies and gentlemen.

I have found that every lecture that has moved or informed me has begun with a story or a joke. I hope that you will therefore indulge me in telling you this one:

The abbot of a small monastery was once unpleasantly surprised to find a letter from his Bishop, informing the abbot that the Bishop would be visiting his monastery in a week’s time. The surprise was an unpleasant one because this Bishop had the bad habit of closing churches, abbacies and monasteries, selling their lands, and pocketing the profits for himself.

After much prayer and thought, however, the abbot resolved upon a plan, which he hoped would help him and his monastery. So, when the Bishop arrived in the morning, a week later, the abbot knew what to do. The abbot received his Grace with all grace, brought his Grace gifts of wheat, wine, salt, and oil, and led the Bishop into the monastery’s small chapel, where the monks sang Matins, Lauds, Prime and Terce. This led directly to a full missa cantata, which ended by one o’clock that afternoon.

At the end of the Mass, the monastery, with the Bishop in tow, quickly entered the refectory, where they ate a quick, meager and late breakfast of gruel and cabbage soup. Perhaps twenty minutes later, though, monks, abbot and Bishop had returned to the chapel, where they sang Sext, Nones, and First Vespers, which last ended at sunset.

While the abbot had quietly promised the Bishop another brief meal of beet soup before they were all to return to complete the day with Second Vespers, Compline and the ominiously titled Midnight Office, the Bishop abruptly informed the abbot that he had forgotten another duty, and that he would need to leave immediately. After assuring the Bishop that there was an inn with good food an hour’s ride hence, the Bishop scurried away, boarded his carriage, and rode off, long before the monks could give the Bishop a proper send off in prayer.

But as his little flock of monks was gathering around the abbot, and waving their goodbyes to the departing Bishop, the abbot quietly remarked to them, “Truly, it is as our Lord has said: “This sort can only be driven out by prayer and fasting.” Read the rest of this entry »

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