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I was hoping some of you good people out there in cyberByzantium could help me with an issue regarding "praise music."

I have a relative who is an organist in a mainline Protestant denomination that has incorporated many different forms of music expressions into its services. He also subs at a couple of Roman churches in his area.

As an organist, the fact we don't use instruments in our worship just about floors him. He asked me why my church doesn't have a "music program" or how can we possibly expect to keep young people (and others) interested in the service if it's the same old music every Sunday. Although he is not a huge fan of praise music... he's says it's too "me" oriented for his taste, he is for introducing and exposing the congregation to different music modalities.

I don't want to get into an argument with him. I just want to try to explain why we do (or don't do) what we do. The problem I'm having is that he is approaching the discussion from a completely western viewpoint, having no exposure to the Eastern Christian mindset. I need to be able to explain, as best I can, our theology but put it in western terms.

I've also run across this issue with coworkers who proudly say they have praise music in their church. I say, "So do we! We just don't use instruments or a sound board or the words projected on a wall." They just get this real puzzled look on their faces.

TIA

Slava Isusa Christe!

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Dear TIA,

This is not a "theological" explanation, but I simply feel that our Eastern liturgical services are nothing BUT "praise music". Just look at how many times we say "Glory to ... the Father, Son & HS, ... Glory to You, O Lord ... etc." throughout our liturgy and other services. If the word "glory" is not praise, I don't know what is!

Regarding musical instruments, the simple argument is that we only use the most sacred musical instrument possible, the human voice, created by God himself, for thanks and praise to Him. We don't need anything else, and in many situations, people learn our services so well, through repetition, that we don't need signs and posters and projected words -- many people have the most used texts simply memorized.

Finally, we do not necessarily use the same music from week to week -- that's what our 8 tones and other special melodies are for, variety. Our liturgy is a balance of repetition and changeable parts, but the changeable parts have a rythm, a system that follows the liturgical cycle and seasons, including Scripture based texts. A parish with good musical leaders (cantors or choir) can have LOTS of variety, but mixed with familiar parts that are repetitive and allow us to fully participate from our hearts in our worship and praise of God.

In the old days in the "homeland", most people could not read nor afford printed books, and so they learned everything by heart from repetition and spiritual immersion in the services. They grew up with this spirit-filled approach to worship and it forms the very basis of how we celebrate our faith. At least it does for me.

Hope these comments help,

Jack

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Jack,

Excellent remarks.

Joe

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I love having all distractions removed and simply the human voice crying out to God. It is a perfect emotional state simply because it is sincere and powerful without being manipulative or overdramatic. It is not overdone, it brings the words and theology to life moreso than anything else and keeps all the focus entirely on the liturgy itself and on God. It also is really helpful in keeping me from worry, and really brings to life the idea that we are simply joining in the heavenly worship. Sometimes I really realize that we are simpply participating in the choirs of angels and saints. What a privilege, who would want to get in their way? Plus it simply keeps you praying and worshipping and praying and hearing and seeing beauty.

The only thing that bothers me about it is that in the old testament there are so many references to how pleasing it is to sing or dance or play intruments for the Lord. Sometimes I worry that we went this direction because at the time we were persecuted or did not have the resources and it became permanent. There is afterall a lot of beautiful savred music in the Western rite, but see what a problem and distraction it can become when done poorly or inaccurately. But the bible does seem to make you think God is very pleased by joyous and even loud music being used for worship. not necessarily rock music, but passionate. So that is the question I have trouble with. If the Bible is so for instruments in the assembly and temple worship why would He have stopped liking this expression or possibility?

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As a Byzantine who is also an organist in a RC church, I obviously have no problem with organs - in RC churches. I think some of the differences between instrument and non-instrument churches is cultural. I have a great love for the organ, but have never had a desire to introduce it into eastern churches where it doesn't belong. As for praise music, it is self-centered and all about "me." Unfortunately, we are still feeling the effects of "if it feels good..." It is nearly impossible to get across to the now elderly flower children that liturgy is about worshiping God, not how they feel or what they like. There have been times in the history of music when numerous great talents were alive and producing superb musical works. There have also been times that produced nothing memorable. I think we are living in the latter.

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Well, the context of praise music itself is quite 'me' as most lyrics are 'me' and not 'we', as it should be. Praise music is good as it does, in some way, have a certain devotional quality but it has its place, and it certainly is NOT the liturgy. Small gatherings, functions etc are fine. Even some traditionalists value praise music but OUTSIDE the liturgy.

I don't know if there's any flawed with praise music (apart from the overrated use of folksy music :p), but I do know that it has a value of its own in our devotional life. Besides, when Luther said "why should the Devil have all the good tunes", he made a point. But I guess some of us may have taken that point a little too far. I don't know what context he was speaking in, but hey, it can be anywhere.

I'm a musician, I play the guitar and I know that my guitar skills are from the Lord. However, when I come to worship, God does not want my guitar skills but ME. At liturgy, He wants me to worship God through me, and not through my guitar. Apart from liturgy being a 'kairos' to worship God, it is also a 'kairos' to come to God just as we are, and just as God made us. Why hide behind guitar skills and a fancy music setup when all God wants to hear is us? There is merit in singing without musical accompaniment, and for me, its not just about the value of the human voice in worship, but its simply the time to make a bold statement that we are made in God's image and that we are beautiful!

A friend of mine who brought his whole parish into Orthodoxy was told the same thing by the bishop. He was told that the guitar, praise music, and speaking of tongues is allowed but it should be outside the liturgy. The simple point is: Praise music is good, but it must be outside the liturgy.

My 2 cents worth.

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Oh and yes, the Divine Liturgy is nothing but praise and worship in itself. A more radical observation - it is CHARISMATIC!!!


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