“Whenever we enter the church and draw near to the heavenly mysteries, we ought to approach with all humility and fear, both because of the presence of the angelic powers and out of the reverence due to the sacred oblation; for as the Angels are said to have stood by the Lord’s body when it lay in the tomb, so we must believe that they are present in the celebration of the Mysteries of His most sacred Body at the time of consecration.” — St. Bede the Venerable
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
By the time you receive our Bulletin and this message, my family and I will (God willing) be in New England, taking a few days of vacation before the 2018 Clergy/Laity Congress convenes in Boston. Please pray for the wisdom, discernment, discipline and fidelity that is required of our holy Archdiocese to continue its sacred mission of our National Church. Myself, together with Pat Daskalas are the delegates who will represent our parish. Pres. Andrea will also be present to take part in the meetings of the National Sisterhood of Presbyteres. We would all appreciate your prayers.
While I’m away, Fr. Elias will be celebrating the Divine Liturgy this Sunday. I am asking for you all to consider (actually, re-consider) something for me, and we’ll discuss it in church upon my return.
In the above quote by the Venerable St. Bede, he speaks of the interaction between us and the holy angels during the worship of the Church. During the Divine Liturgy, we are aware that the heavenly, bodiless Powers are also filling the church with their presence. They, together with us, honor Him in hymns and songs. They fly about, giving Him honor and glory. Their voices, blended with ours, lift up the sacred hymns of the Church before the Altar of God. What a great witness before Him: The angels and the faithful, singing joyfully together!
Our choir has continued to practice, prepare and work at their sacred task of singing the responses and hymns of the Divine Liturgy. Their chanting of the Liturgy has matured, as they continue to weave in more harmonies and an increase the level of sophistication of their singing.
But this, my Beloved in the Lord, is my point.
While I am so incredibly thankful to see a near-full sanctuary every Sunday during the summer, I, and the choir, have noticed that we, as a congregation, are not singing out as we’ve done in the past. Why is that?
One of the foundational goals of our parish was to include the worshiping faithful in the singing of the Divine Liturgy. A couple of years ago, we put in the time and effort to identify the best, possible materials to facilitate this goal. The hymnals and choir books were selected, not for the best, possible English translations and flow of music, but for their adaptability in the environment of congregational singing.
So, the congregation needs to start singing…again.
I truly miss hearing the sounds off all voices participating and singing out. This is who we are. This is who we wanted to be. This is how I’ve shaped, molded and prepared our musical traditions – based on what we originally wanted to do in our worship.
So, this Sunday, as Fr. Elias celebrates the Divine Liturgy, please, let’s surprise him with a resurgence in your chanting. The following week, I would also love to hear you all chanting. With the blessing of our continued summer attendance, it should sound loud, glorious and Spirit-filled.
Remember, the posture at St. Anna’s during the Divine Liturgy is that most people remain standing for the entire service. This is not usually the case in Greek Orthodox Churches, with pews or chairs in the nave.
Why do we do this? How did this come to be?
So we can sing.
With Much Love in Christ,
Fr. Anthony Savas