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Vassiliadis Petros, Lex Orandi

Vassiliadis Petros, Lex Orandi. Liturgical Theology and Liturgical Renewal, Idiomela series, Indiktos Publ., Athens, 2005, pp. 306.

It is explained in the book that Lex Orandi means “canon of prayer”, and, as mentioned in the introduction, the canon of prayer, that is Christian worship, determines the canon of faith, the Christian dogma and the belief of the Christian Church. In the same perspective, cultural anthropology highlights worship as a dynamic expression of human communities and important cultural expression. Common worship always determines the identity of a community and in the Christian Church this function is performed by the Eucharistic gathering.

            Since “Christianity is a liturgical religion” and “the Church is primarily a worshiping communion” according to the outstanding Orthodox Theologian of the 20th century Fr. Georges Florovsky, Vassiliadis stresses that the basic prerequisite of “liturgical theology” is to place the “experience” ahead of the “word”, of the “theology” in its classical sense, viz to commit into words, to notions, the ecclesiastical worshiping experience. Therefore, liturgical theology which deals with worship in the Church, is an important, not a lesser branch of theologising.

            However, it is pointed out that because of Biblicist influences on the liturgical practice of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the ecclesiological criteria are befogged and the Church gradually transforms into a “religion”, while its worshiping experience gets confused with magical ceremonies.

            Due to the above, there is a need of a “liturgical renewal”, which according to the author “does not seek to modernise traditional liturgical ceremonies, but to return the ecclesiastical community to its ontological hypostasis, and only secondarily seek authentic and ecclesiologically correct liturgical practice. The aim of the liturgical renaissance is for common worship, and mainly the Holy Eucharist, to express authentically the “being” of the Church”.

            The Church is the sum of the believers that have been called upon by Christ to become “the people of God” (“liturgy=people+work), and not a new religion. The place and the way this occurs is Holy Eucharist, which is not a ceremony as a foretype of ancient mystery ceremonies, but an eschatological “gathering” of faithful, which reveals to the world and history the loving sociability of the Holy Trinity.

            However, parallel to this “Eucharistic spirituality”, Vassiliadis finds the development of a “therapeutic spirituality” of an individualistic character, fraudulently pious and without regard to history, which favours the sacramentalistic-magical notion of liturgy. The evolution of therapeutic spirituality is characterised by a “judicial outlook to worship”, in which worship functions as a medium for dealing with specific religious needs: the needs for the leadership of the Church to exercise control and power over its members, and the needs of individual persons for personal sanctification.

            In contrast, the validation of worship which rises from the Eucharistic and eschatological approach is “communal”. Here, worship leads to the realisation of communion relationships between the members of the ecclesiastical body, discouraging hierarchical distinctions and even individualistic fraudulent piety. The Church cannot be institutionalised as a worshiping organisation, but is revealed as a charismatic communion and way of life.

            The author stresses the need for participation of the whole of the people of God in Church activity. The variety of charismata and ministries of men and women, the ecclesiastical body, must be energised. Then, from this “renewed” function of the Church derives the Christian mission and martyrdom, the opening of the Church to the world, the “Liturgy after the Liturgy”. Secular society must not be viewed with hostility according to such an approach to mission, or to allow bigoted, anti-foreign and fanatical behaviours on the part of the body of the Church. The above demand the employment of common everyday language by the Church, in worship as well as in its preaching. 


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