8 Comments

  1. Ryan

    From what I’ve seen in a number of Russian-heritage parishes (OCA, ROCOR) the typical psalms are sung but severely truncated. E.g. three quarters of Psalm 102 are cut out. I even brought this up to some monks at an OCA monastery and they didn’t realize that this practice wasn’t universal. “You mean on Mount Athos they sing all that stuff about your youth being renewed like an eagle’s?” In my own parish (ACROD) we vary between the antiphons and the typika- but the typika psalms are truncated. So I’m not sure if substituting the typika for the usual antiphons will actually introduce more psalmic material unless you want people to actually quadruple the amount of time it takes to sing them, something not even the hardcore Slavic parishes do.

    1. Richard Barrett

      It depends on how you sing them, of course. Byzantine settings, like the ones linked to in the piece tend to be quick and syllabic. Done this way, you’re not talking about more than a few minutes’ difference.

  2. Fr. Silouan Justiniano

    Thanks Richard for such an informative article. I’m all for reintroducing liturgical practices that have fallen to the wayside. Especially when it comes to the Psalms.

    However, I find Fr. Ephrem Lash’s “cheeky statement” very problematic. It obviously presupposes a false dichotomy between the Psalms and the so called “‘important bits’ by some monks.” In other words, he’s disdaining the ‘important bits’ as what can be called Byzantine ‘frivolous accretions’, in an attempt to ‘uphold’ Scripture. Moreover, in doing so he’s disparaging of monasticism. All of this sounds a bit Protestant to me.

    However, let’s not forget that the hymnography of the monastic saints functions as commentary on Scripture — it is, in fact, a theology in full harmony with the Psalms. The hymnography of the saints reveals depths of meaning that for many of the laity tends to go unnoticed. As with the Psalms, the hymnography composed by saintly monks is also inspired by the Holy Spirit. Hence, we should be careful not to introduce ideas which imply that this hymnography is somehow not an integral part of the Tradition. If we are careful to keep this in mind then any attempt at reintroducing edifying liturgical practices will indeed unfold within a truly Orthodox ethos.

    Thanks again for your helpful insights.

    1. Ryan

      If we really want to respect the hymns of the fathers we should, for instance, bring back Saint Romanos’ full kontakia instead of embedding snippets of them in canons and forgetting the rest. And it’s really a disgrace that the great works of Saints Romanos, Ephrem, etc are ignored in favor of so many mediocre akathists.

      1. Ryan

        Also, I have to take exception to calling “protestant” the idea that we might want to delve more into the psalms that were the meat-and-potatoes of all the great hymnographers and saints of the church, especially since Fr Ephrem (a monk, by the way) is not proposing that the work of hymnographers be cut out.

  3. Matthew Cramer

    I am very glad this is becoming a discussion. I have wondered about the various practices for some time now.

  4. Frank Gay

    Fantastic article Richard. I will say that I agree with Fr. Silouan that the quote from Fr. Ephrem+ made me more than just a little uncomfortable. What monks was he talking about? Romanos? Kassiane? I am with you though– more Psalms. Why not during Communion? If one is doing more than just “Of Thy Mystical Supper”, then I believe the other hymns should be Psalms only. Anyway, thanks for a great article.

    1. Richard Barrett

      Thank you for your kind words, Frank! Regarding Fr. Ephrem – he put a great deal of effort translating the liturgical poetry of “some monks”, so I don’t think he meant to devalue the work of Ss. Romanos, Kassia, et al. in any way. However, to give but one example of what I think he meant, there are parishes in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston that omit the Six Psalms at Orthros, and I am given to understand that this is far more common than anybody will talk about (and we don’t hear about it because attendance for Orthros is always so slim). And yet, these same parishes would never omit the Katavasiae, even though the Katavasiae as we do them today are completely divorced from their liturgical and poetic function. Something seems not quite right there.

      And yes, Communion is a great place for more psalmody. Psalm 148’s first line is the the Sunday Communion verse, “Praise the Lord from the heavens”; the entire psalm can be chanted as a responsorial, much as presented on the Cappella Romana Divine Liturgy in English recording.

Comments are closed.