On Praying with the Orthodox (1929)

On Praying with the Orthodox (1929)
By the Rev. George Clark

IN MANY parishes these days we have some kind of contact with one or more groups of foreign-born Americans who are not in communion with the see of Rome. These people come to us or send for us and we must minister to them as well as we may or answer at the Last Assize as to our failures. But where contact with any such group is steady and sustained, two problems at once arise; the problem of getting the foreigner to understand us well enough to feel at home in our churches, and the far greater problem of first understanding the new American and then leading one’s flock to do the like. This takes time. And related to both is the third problem, how to keep the American-born and English-speaking children at home in the Episcopal Church yet loyal to and proud of the Church of their parents. This last, of course, we can only do when the parents belong to an Eastern Orthodox Church. Lapsed Romans are quite another problem and need separate treatment. Of them this paper says nothing at all.

There are a few Serbs in our parish, but beyond sick calls and funerals they ask nothing of us and we cannot give them more than they ask. But there are Greeks enough so that it is worth giving up a service once in a while to allow them the use of the church for their liturgy. And this means that some of us must work.

Our early Eucharist is said at half past seven. When it is over the altar must be stripped bare and washed lightly with warm water. And this washing must be done by the priest—the Anglican, I mean, not the Greek. Then fresh altar linen must be spread. Technically the Greek priest now has an altar which has not been used that day. Next a square table is put within the altar rails and placed against a side wall. This is for the service of the Prothesis. On it goes a lunch cloth, a cross, and two candlesticks with fresh candles in them. Near the front door is placed a table. On this the Orthodox priest will put his icons and a box of rock salt or sand for the placing of lighted tapers. And it seems to hurt no one’s feelings if a large piece of wrapping paper is placed on the carpet in front of this table. Incense and charcoal are placed conveniently in evidence in the sacristy, and a square of asbestos with an alcohol burner upon it and a small sauce pan beside it completes the preparation of the church. Knowing what we have to do, three of us can get our church ready for an Orthodox liturgy in twenty minutes, for a funeral in ten.

It takes longer to prepare the congregation than it does the church. It must be seen to that everybody is notified that on such and such a day the service will be Greek. Otherwise all those dear, good people who give the Episcopal Church as the one they stay home from will be out in force. Nor is notifying the flock all there is to it. For two or three Sundays beforehand it is time well spent to tell an average American congregation what is going to happen and why it is the same service as our own office for the Holy Communion. Rightly prepared for, an occasional Orthodox liturgy will vastly widen the average parishioner’s idea of the Holy Catholic Church he so glibly professes his faith in and will help him nobly over a lot of unworthy superstitions about liturgical accessories, incense for example.

It seems to be good form, at the least for the American priest, to be present at just as much of the divine liturgy as he can manage. It seems also to help considerably if the parishioners will drop in and drop out quietly as the drama of the Holy Sacrifice goes on. And there will be a few who will want to understand what it is all about. But it is just here that, if seems to me, most of us who are priests are too weak to help those of us who are lay. With the Division of Foreign-born Americans to help us as far as it is able, we are still a pretty helpless lot. Yet we need not be.

To begin with, we have The Service Book of the Greco-Russian Eastern Orthodox Church by Isabel Hapgood (Association Press). This is a rather ponderous book, well worth its price ($3.50), and well-nigh indispensable to the priest who has Orthodox Christians in his fold. But it is too bulky for the average layman, and for the priest it would be greatly improved if it had about a dozen pictures scattered through the text and about a hundred more rubrics. It can be had from the Division of Foreign-born Americans, 281 Fourth avenue, New York. For the layman who wants to follow the liturgy through intelligently but doesn’t want to pack a library with him, there are several smaller books. Father Papastefanou of the Hellenic Orthodox church in Fond du Lac, Wis., has a pretty well arranged edition, in Greek and English of the Anaphora of the Liturgy of Saint Chrysostom which is of great use already, though barely oft the press. His English is at times no English at all, but some of this at least is due to his censor and not to his own lack of skill. It is’a good book for Americans who have no Greek and for the English-speaking children of Greek parents. It is toJ these I have sold or recommended the book. It is the first book to come to my notice which shows a priest of the Greek Church trying to meet American, problems. For this reason I welcome the book. It is called Liturgical Egolpion, costs one dollar, and may be got from Father Papastefanou direct.

In the same class with the Liturgical Egolpion is The Divine Liturgy of Our Father Among the Saints, John Chrysostom, edited by Dom Placid de Meester and done into English by the Benedictines of the Stanbrook Community. It is the work of Roman Catholic scholars, but personally I cannot see that that is anything against it. It contains the Prothesis as well as the Anaphora, the notes are fuller and more numerous than in Fr. Papastefanou’s book, and in places the English is much better. In other places it is not. It will not slip so easily into a coat pocket, as it is both wider and taller than the Liturgical Egolpion. It is published in London by Burnes, Oates, and Washbourne, and costs in paper about $1.00 and in cloth $1.40. The American agents are Benziger Brothers.

For the American who would follow the Orthodox liturgy, whether in his own parish church or in an Orthodox church, the two books just mentioned have one very serious lack. They have no pictures of Orthodox worship. And pictures are almost as necessary as translations of the service. For this reason the Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church, translated into English by the Rev. H. H. Maughan, is helpful. There is no Greek text, but there are eleven illustrations. From the preface I judge they are pictures of Orthodox churches in England. It is an easy book with which to follow a service, but it is even less adapted for American pockets than is Dom Placid’s book. For compactness Fr. Papastefanou has the field—which is not at all the same as saying Fr. Maughan’s book is not a good book to own. It is. It is a Faith Press publication and can be got from Morehouse for $1.40, at which price, it seems to me, he might at least pay postage. Maybe I think so because I’m not selling books but only buying them.

But to go back to pictures. The Faith Press has two portfolios which are useful. They are Russian Worship and The Sacraments in Russia. They do as well for Greeks or Serbs or Rumanians as for Russians. Owned and loaned, they are worth a great deal.

And, while I’m at it, I’d like to add a good word for The Eastern Church in the Western World (Morehouse, $1.25), the joint effort of the three secretaries for the Division of the Foreign-born. It is a good book to own, to read, and to pass, on. And another good book—if you’re fortunate enough to own it— is Greeks in America, which Dr. Burgess wrote back in 1913 when he was a parish priest and there was no Division of the Foreign-born. It is out of print and its statistics are out of date, but it ought to be revised and re-issued. It simply “knocks off the map” J. P. Xenides’ Greeks in America, a study prepared by the patrons of the ill-fated Interchurch World Movement.

There are 500 parishes where the Episcopal Church has contacts with the Greeks. That means 500 parishes where we may help to answer our own Lord’s prayer that we may all be one. And that calls, on our part, for sympathy, for patience, and for prayer. But chiefly prayer. And that we may pray with them with the spirit and with the understanding also is the purpose of this paper.

The Living Church, February 2, 1929, pp. 473-474.

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