Orientalium Ecclesiarum 22

This section and the next will wrap up OE’s look at liturgy.

Eastern clerics and Religious should celebrate in accordance with the prescriptions and traditions of their own established custom the Divine Office, which from ancient times has been held in high honor in all Eastern Churches.(Cfr. Syn. Laodicen., 347/381, can. 18; Syn. Mar Issaci Chaldaeorum, an. 410, can. 15; S. Nerses Glaien. Armenorum, an. 1166; Innocentius IV Ep. Sub catholicae, 6 mart. 1254, 8; Benedictus XIV, Const. Etsi pastoralis 26 maii 1742, 7, n. 5; Inst. Eo quamvis tempore, 4 maii 1745 42 ss.; et Synodi particulares recentiores:Armenorum (1911) Coptorum (1898), Maronitarurn (1736), Rumenorum (1872), Ruthenorum (1891), Syrorum (1888).) The faithful too should follow the example of their forebears and assist devoutly as occasion allows at the Divine Office.

I can’t really say I like the lack of emphasis here for lay involvement in praying the Office. Perhaps Bernard or another Eastern Christian or someone with experience could enlighten us as to the extent of lay participation in the Hours in the Eastern Rites or in the Orthodox tradition.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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One Response to Orientalium Ecclesiarum 22

  1. Thank you, Todd, for your question and your request. I will do what I can to help you with it.

    Basically, this section is meaningless without an understanding of the historical antecedents. Traditionally, the Eastern Churches are at root monaastic churches: the Divine Office has been both the nourisher of monastic and priestly vocations and the schoolmistress of Orthodox Theology. As I recall, Fr. Ephrem Lash, in his beautiful and labyrinthine website of Orthodox liturgical texts in English (www.anastasis.org.uk) has quoted an Orthodox saint to the effect that anyone who wishes to learn Orthodox Theology should read the texts of that Office (e.g., the Oktoekos, the Lenten Triodion, and the Pentakostarion).

    But while the Hours are chanted and said in their fullness in the monasteries, they are also said (actually, sung), to the fullest extent possible, in cathedral and parish churches, by both clergy and laity, and there has been a perennial (and these days, growing) tendency among the laity to chant the Hours, either in church or else privately. In fact, the Eastern Hours lend themselves far more than the Western towards priestless or “reader’s” services. This is perhaps the reason why, among the Russian Old Believers, there could be a priestless group which nonetheless remained strong for centuries.

    More particularly, among Eastern Catholics in the Carpatho-Rusyn churches, there was a very strong tendency in the 19th and 20th centuries towards both congregational participation in the Divine Liturgy and the Hours, and towards private devotion to the Hours. This tendency has remained strong in the United States among the Carpatho-Rusyn Eastern Catholics who have come to this country, and fortunately, they have recently come up with some quite beautiful English translations of their chant. Their main website can be found here: http://www.metropolitancantorinstitute.org. More particularly, they have a wealth of recordings online which may assist one in learning the chant here: http://www.metropolitancantorinstitute.org as well as a great wealth of sheet music of their chants on pdf, which may be found here: http://www.metropolitancantorinstitute.org/Publications

    In short, there is no lack of lay involvement in praying the Hours in the Eastern Churches. This is all the more evident when one understands that in the East, monasticism is considered as primarily a lay movement; most Eastern monastics are lay men and women.

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