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Sunday, 30 January 2011

Greek Orthodox vernacular row



Recently, Metropolitan Ignatios of Dimitriados was celebrating Vespers at Volos for the feast of Saint Anthony the Great. For part of the readings, he used the demotic (popular) form of modern Greek rather than the Greek of the Septuagint, the New Testament, and St John Chrysostom. There was something of a popular protest with people saying things like "Your Eminence, not in the demotic. Read the reading in the ancient language."

Last April, the Greek Orthodox Holy Synod condemned the practice of using the modern language in the Sacred Liturgy, citing the importance of the Church's unity. (See article on Mystagogy) Metropolitan Ignatios argues that it is the young people who want the vernacular, demotic liturgy. Things may be different in Greece, of course, but I think he may find in due course that just as in the West, the young people who actually attend the Divine Services will want the whole deal of traditional Orthodox liturgy, not a watered-down version.

Metropolitan Ignatios also justifies his practice by saying that the passages from the Old Testament have a didactic purpose rather than being prayers addressed to God. This is surprising from an Orthodox prelate since many in the West are beginning now to realise that the lections at Mass in the traditional form are chanted in such a way as to underline precisely that they are not simply didactic texts but are part of the worship of God. The strictly didactic dimension of the Sacred Liturgy is incidental - the sermon is where the didactic element finds its proper place.
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