Orthodoxy

 

Divine Liturgy: participate, or attend?

The sin of our time

 

Fr. Panteleimon Manousakis, professor of Philosophy of the Theological School of the Holy Cross of Boston, expresses his concerns on this specific matter:

The pandemic confirms the hegemony of an infinitesimal virus, while simultaneously highlighting a dramatic tone of ecclesiastic life. Instead of turning the crisis into a blessing, the Church has trapped Herself within the structures of society, of the world, of technology, and showing Her weakness to take initiatives for re-catechizing a thing that now constitutes the big bet.

The sin of our time tends to be rooted in human consciences that refuse any participation in pain, in common prayer, in the communitys longing within the Church. The pandemic facilitated human freedom and in turn, by bending to the distress caused by this ordeal, the Church is now enjoying unbridled psycho-support from any which source.  Of course, all the above have precluded the unconditional physical presence, the touch, the material, the body.  Couldnt the haemorrhaging woman in the Bible have been healed without touching the hem of Christs garment, by simply remaining indoors at home to demand salvation from Christ?  What about Thomas?  Why did he subject himself to the temptation of physically testing Christs wounds, when he could have discussed the truth about Christs Person from a distance?  Wasnt that also a matter of faith?  And one more thing: why did God have to be incarnated on Earth?  Wasnt He able to save us long-distance?

Of course, the Divine Liturgy did not lose anything because of such things.  Man lost the experience - the empirically certified fact of the sacramental touch.  Man lost the touch his physical participation in the realm of mystery. 

Instead of leading the Church to a philosophizing attitude (to re-evaluate the situation and re-catechize), the pandemic managed to sink human existence into uncharted waters: the faithful can no longer participate in the Divine Liturgy, in the space where the Divine Eucharist is performed, offering their freedom with the conceding act of revealed physical presence; they now have the ability to worship God from their homes. The home has become a place of worship; man prays from home... I dont know if man is also hoping for home delivery of the Divine Eucharist for those who are otherwise able-bodied....

 

Technology offers its services.  The Divine Liturgy as a unique event now enters televised on screens, into a space where each viewer can capture the miracle, without his presence in the events natural space (the Temple) being a necessity.  It is an inconsolable phenomenon that nowadays, the faithful have sealed the need for faith through television, and have even become accustomed to this perception.  Another - similar and not by chance - phenomenon is the habit of certain Christians to confess over the phone, and without receiving the blessing of forgiveness by the confessor-priest, proceed to arbitrarily partake of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Technology has not been utilized as a fishing tool as Gregory the Theologian would have said -nor were its positive elements selected for the acquisition of virtue, as Saint Basil would have advocated.  Technology instead came and overwhelmingly inspired the withdrawal of ones participation as an event of a physical presence, as an event of communing, as a Synaxis (of gathering together) for the same purpose, which is the Eucharist.  The Body and Blood can now be viewed - in the most unashamed manner, (the Sacrament as an idea!) - on a TV screen, instead of being offered live - to psychosomatic beings. It is certainly NOT a Eucharistic Synaxis, and the Eucharist is being regarded in some kind of magical sense. There is no longer any mystagogy whatsoever in such a case.   Do we finally need a philosophized God, or a savoured God?

Regarding the broadcasting  of the Divine Liturgy, the Metropolitan of Pergamon, Elder Ioannis Zizioulas, notes the following in a book of his:

'And let it not be said that it is done to serve the sick or the otherwise obstructed!  For what is being offered to the people of these categories, is not at all the reality of the Liturgy (which presupposes the physical presence and communing of the Church body), but instead a visual image, that is, a virtual reality, a caricature of the Divine Liturgy.  Hence, it is only offering a psychological satisfaction to people; except that with it, the Church is altering the ontological reality of Her identity, given that the Liturgy is a Synaxis for the same purpose and the Church is a community...

The Divine Eucharist is a gathering for common thanksgiving. The Divine Liturgy is not supposed to be watched; it has no need to be watched by anyone - it is not a drama, a comedy, an opus that is in need of watchers.  The faithful do not watch the priest and the cantors as if they are the protagonists of an opus that has survived for thousands of years.  The faithful participate.  The recited words that describe their place and their relationship to the space and to the rites being performed are words indicative of participatory action. The faithful participate in the unfolding of the plan of the Divine Oikonomia, by regarding the other faithful as persons of a community - of a whole which includes partaking, participation, coexistence, communing, experience...

After all, the (Greek) term liturgy means function-operation implying the work of a whole.  The faithful participate with the other faithful in the par excellence Mystery and they become one with them, when receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.  This event has no need of intermediaries, as it is the very thing that presupposes the physical presence of bodies, of souls, of everything that is human.

Fr. Panteleimon Manousakis, further comments:

"It remains even more paradoxical, therefore, how easily and quickly the institutions, the Church and Academia, had hastened to embrace, implement and promote the same tele-technological media and their voyeuristic principles -albeit formerly judgmentally in the echoes of the current pandemic.  They have replaced the hitherto required physical presence of the faithful in the pews; the students are now in a classroom watching webcam lessons, while the masses of the living can now relish the safety and comfort of one's bedroom.  Being there (Dasein) and being present is no longer necessary whether it be for faith or for knowledge.  One thing is certain: that no-one abandons a necessary thing that quickly. This swift transition from the physical to the virtual cannot but be the herald of ophthalmic hegemony. The command "DO NOT TOUCH" is easily applicable, when there is nothing that one can actually touch."

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Translation:  A.N.

Article published in English on: 21-4-2022.

Last update: 21-4-2022.

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