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From Greek Orthodoxy: Priest Facing the People across the Altar

Aug 11 '14
Posted by Anthony Ruff, OSB
http://www.praytellblog.com/index.p...iest-facing-the-people-across-the-altar/

The site Mystagogy reports on the celebration, with the approval of the local Greek bishop, of the Divine Liturgy of Sarapion (4th century Egyptian bishop) in a revival of a historical rite: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2013/06/the-divine-liturgy-of-serapion.html

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The first surprise, of course, is that the priest is facing the people, using an altar set up in front of the iconostasis. Here are some other photos of the liturgy:

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I’m told that there is a tendency in Greece to resurrect ancient liturgies such as those of Jame, Sarapion, Mark, or Gregory the Theologian, along with some liturgical experimentation. This can mean the priest faces the people, or Communion is given separately rather than by intinction.

No doubt these experimental events are efforts to bring people closer to the liturgy. There is a populist streak to all this, for such events are popular and attract crowds. So versus populum isn’t just a post-Vatican II Roman thing.

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As long as it's the exception.

Some Roman Rite priests before Vatican II did this too. Not just when an ancient church faced west while the altar faced east. Some did it to be educational: to teach people about the Mass as is, to show them what the priest does. Some had a false historicism, Protestant-like, believing the early church must have done it that way; either this has been discredited or those who question it are starting to be taken seriously. Maybe a few were crypto-Protestants or Modernists. Pope Pius XII condemned this tendency in Mediator Dei in 1947.

Right after the council, Fr. Felock at St. Nick's Greek Catholic Church in Lorain, OH, celebrated facing the people for a while because that's what he thought he was supposed to do.

Reminds me of the five or six times a year I go to the new Mass. Thanks to Pope Benedict's text reform, it's like going to church around 1968, not like the '70s or '80s.

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Quote
I’m told that there is a tendency in Greece to resurrect ancient liturgies such as those of Jame, Sarapion, Mark, or Gregory the Theologian, along with some liturgical experimentation. This can mean the priest faces the people, or Communion is given separately rather than by intinction.


This is true! Around five years ago, I was in Greece, and that particular Sunday was not able to make it to DL. However, most of the television stations there broadcast the DL live from the Metropolis of whatever city is closest on Sunday mornings. I was watching the Liturgy from the Metropolis Cathedral in Athens where a visiting Bishop was presiding.

I couldn't believe my eyes that he had the altar table outside the iconostasis, just like in the photos. I also couldn't believe my ears when, before Holy Communion, he said that they would be communing in an ancient ritual where the people should sip from the chalice first and then dip the bread into the chalice.

I remember seeing how the three or four priests around him just looked at each other with some confusion at all this strangeness the visiting Bishop was bringing to them, but after all, he was a bishop-- so they had to go along!

I told my husband about it because for some reason he had missed watching the liturgy with me. I honestly did not think that he believed me! LOL. With this article, I have been vindicated! smile

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Whoo boy. I've long thought and hoped that if somebody tried to Novus Ordo-fy the Byzantine Rite, Catholic or Orthodox, there'd be fistfights in the streets resisting it, like when the Soviets tried it with the Living Church in the '20s.

As the Novus Ordo was unthinkable 55 years ago, maybe the unthinkable is possible here in Orthodoxy. Bob Taft and maybe St. Vlad's would be happy; no one else would be.

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Isn't this a bit of mixing liturgical traditions? The Copts wear distinctly difference vestments, for one thing. They also have a much more complicated way of handing the liturgical vessels, linens, and the bread and wine used in the DL.

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No use of incense either?

I wonder if Metropolitan Seraphim - the same who blasted Pope Francis as a heretic schismatic - is aware that his approval will lead of comparisons of the Ordinary Roman Form and it's antiquity.

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I believe the first picture shows censing the gifts covered on the altar.

Bob

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Originally Posted by Tomassus

The site Mystagogy reports on the celebration, with the approval of the local Greek bishop, of the Divine Liturgy of Sarapion (4th century Egyptian bishop) in a revival of a historical rite:


I was blessed, in both my former ministries (UMC and Lutheran) to have had sufficient liturgical freedom so as to utilize ancient liturgies on special occasions.

The Serapaion Anaphora is lovely, particularly for its provision for commemorating "those who have fallen asleep", asking God to "hallow these souls, for you know them all."

I used the Serapaion Anaphora for my first celebration following Ordination...versus populi. A couple of years later I used it at the final liturgy I served in that parish; and by then the list of names commemorated had doubled. That time was ad orientum.

Two decades passed before I returned to Serapion; this time at my 25th anniversary of Ordination, over two decades in the same parish, and I was told that the reading of the names took ten minutes. That time, and the time which followed was ad orientum.

My most recent use was when I left that parish; for that Eucharist I shortened the Commemorations by reading only the first names, and it was celerated versus populi.

There are strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages with either positioning. Irrespective of orientation, the Serapion Anaphora is a treasure which deserves occasional use.

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While rather a traditionalist and prefer the altar and the priest facing East and behind the Iconostasis , I wouldn't mind the other way too. As lang as all is done in devotion and reverence.


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