Thursday, April 29, 2021

Questions and Answers 179 - 184

Question 179: Every Easter my parish reads the Resurrection Gospel at midnight outside in the courtyard of our church. What is the reasoning behind this?

Answer: The Matins Eothinon Resurrection Gospel, which you are referring to, is the only Matins Eothinon Gospel reading done outside the sanctuary in the entire ecclesiastical year. Every Sunday throughout the year during Matins there are eleven Resurrection Gospels that are read from inside the sanctuary in a cycle that renews every eleven weeks. Every Pascha the cycle is renewed with the reading of the first Eothinon Resurrection Gospel during Matins, and it is supposed to be read outside the sanctuary, preferably in the courtyard or in the narthex. The reason for this is because the procession outside is symbolic of a joyous action, and represents the Apostles being notified about the Resurrection in the Upper Room, and not at the tomb like the Myrrhbearers. It can also be seen as the Apostles bringing the Good News of salvation out into the world.

Question 180: Why are there twelve Gospel readings read on the evening of Holy Thursday? I've been told it is symbolic of the Twelve Apostles who preached the Gospel by allotment throughout the world.

Answer: You can certainly apply that symbolism to the reading of the Twelve Gospels, but the fact is that the Matins Service for Great Friday, which is the one in which the twelve Gospels of the Passion are read Holy Thursday night, originally was meant to have eleven Gospels, and the twelfth was added later. The twelfth Gospel is meant to be read by the Deacon at the ambon and not by the Priest at the beautiful gate, like the other eleven. Originally this twelfth Gospel was read at Matins on Holy Saturday, but at some unknown point was transferred and added to the eleven Gospels of the Passion. The eleven original Gospels of the Passion were meant to correlate with the eleven Eothinon Resurrection Gospels read every Sunday during Matins. It appears the twelfth was added because somewhere at some point this correlation was not understood, so they added another Gospel reading to make it a more sacred number, which is related as you pointed out to the Twelve Apostles.

Question 181: Why do we have morning services in the evening and evening services in the morning during Holy Week? How did this change come about? I can't seem to find an accurate answer.

Answer: There have been various explanations for this. The most common explanation today is that this is done out of "anticipation", or that it is because the most beautiful service of the day was transferred to a time more convenient for people to attend. Both of these explanations have some truth to them, but the actual explanation is that this was done in parishes and many monasteries during the Turkish occupation for pastoral reasons, probably beginning around the 18th century. It's not known exactly what these reasons are, but it may have something to do with Christians unable to attend church during the morning or evening due to work obligations during Holy Week, or it may even have something to do with the fasting obligations of not eating before Holy Communion for the Presanctified Liturgies. The first service that probably was transferred was the Presanctified Liturgies from evening to morning. Then you also have the fact that the Gospel readings were assigned to Matins during Holy Week, and the emphasis of the Bridegroom coming in the middle of the night, which may have been a way to promote the evening services and make them stand more on their own. There is also the issue of the procession of the Epitaphios, which even today is still done in the early morning hours of Holy Saturday in the Ionian Islands, like it should be, but in many places was transferred to the night before. You also have the issue of the celebration of a Vesperal Liturgy on Holy Saturday morning which is the first announcement of the Resurrection, which if done in the evening would mean that two liturgies would be celebrated the same liturgical day since at midnight there is Matins and this is followed by a Divine Liturgy. Basically, this is an issue that needs to be studied more, but I believe it has something to do with either the changes with the Presanctified Liturgies or the complications of Holy Saturday. Though I can also bring up the issue of receiving Holy Communion on Holy Thursday, which if done correctly would be done Holy Wednesday night, but because of the transfer of Presanctified's to the morning, we can actually receive Holy Communion on Holy Thursday morning, which seems more appropriate. What we do know, is that this was done during the Turkish occupation for pastoral reasons, which could mean many things. The Kollyvades Fathers, such as Saint Nikodemos, spoke negatively of this change, but Theophilos of Kampania (18th cent.) wrote about the change of times, saying: "This does not do damage, because the grace of the All-Holy Spirit is not limited or contained by time."

Question 182: Why exactly do we celebrate the Resurrection at midnight on Easter Sunday?

Answer: It follows the timetable of the Gospels, which indicate that Christ rose from the dead on Sunday morning while it was still dark, and the Myrrhbearrs came and found an empty tomb as the sun was rising. However, I should point out that the more accurate practice is still done in some Greek villages today, and was more widespread even in the early twentieth century, when Matins began at 3:00am, the Divine Liturgy at 4:00am, and by the time its over you came out of church just as the sun was rising. In these villages, everyone attends, and when church is over they all partake of a feast together, and then the Vespers of Love is not done until 5:00pm that evening, which again everyone attends.

Question 183: What do you think of Joe Biden calling Patriarch Bartholomew one of only two men he ever met most like Christ?
Answer: This may be true for him, I don't know. I think the most interesting thing about that comment is that while he, as a Roman Catholic, says Patriarch Bartholomew and Nelson Mandela are the most like Christ, he did not include Pope Francis, the person he has spent the most time with. Perhaps he's telling the truth, perhaps he is pandering, I don't know, but to me the most interesting thing is that he does not refer to Pope Francis at all. I mean, he could have said the three people most like Christ, but he didn't. Nelson Mandela he always talks about as being the most fascinating person he has ever met, even though he tells a lie about their meeting, as I've written elsewhere. It is my guess that Biden is just pandering to Patriarch Bartholomew, who is well-known for his efforts with the environment, otherwise Catholics should call him out why he did not mention his own primary Bishop, the successor of Peter himself. But Biden tends to get away with such things, and he is a master deflector.

Question 184: An atheist made a comment to me once: "The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism." What is an Orthodox response to this quote?

Answer: The quote comes from Sir William Osler, a Canadian physician, one of the four founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the Father of Modern Medicine. Dogmatism by definition, according to Webster, is "the expression of an opinion or belief as if it were a fact: positiveness in assertion of opinion especially when unwarranted or arrogant." What this means is that the quote by Osler is itself a dogmatic statement. If someone ever said that quote to me, I would ask: "How much do you believe that statement?" If they say they very much believe the statement to be true, then I would say: "Your dogmatism is great, so what does that say about your ignorance?" If they say they don't really believe in the statement all that much, then I would ask: "Then what is the problem?" What people don't realize, is that whenever people speak out against dogma, or dogmatism, they usually make dogmatic statements to do so, and therefore they are all self-defeating. By going after dogma in general, they are avoiding addressing the real issues and all of its nuances. It is basically intellectual laziness, as many pithy quotes are.

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