Last year (or was it the year before?!), I gave a series of classes at my parish entitled “Liturgical Dynamics,” in which I discussed the various cycles and layers of commemorations that govern Eastern Orthodox worship. The reason I used the term “dynamics” is that in the English-speaking world, “dynamics” has come to refer to things in flux, the changing relationship of various areas and items (in business, education, etc.) Those of you who are musicians, of course, know that “dynamics” refers to issues of volume (the relative loudness and softness in music). This is, in my opinion, an unfortunate term because it is limited in its reference, whereas the idea of dynamism is broader in scope and application.
Orthodox readers who have attended the Divine Liturgy of the Greeks (and Arabs) will recognize that, toward the end of the singing of the Trisagion, the Celebrant intones, “Dynamis!”, the Cantor responds, “Dynamis!” and proceeds to sing the hymn in a louder voice with a more florid melody. (I wish that we Slavic-style churches had this practice.) This is often translated, “With strength!” One might think, “With potency!” Or simply, “LOUDER!”
My class wasn’t about the volume of sound, however. It was about interplay, changes, fluxes within the liturgical life of the Church. Of course, I could only give it a cursory treatment; it was designed for the average church-goer whose interest in such things may be real but limited. They require only short answers to slake their thirst. And there’s nothing wrong in that.
Periodically, I’ll be writing a post having to do with Liturgical Dynamics. These will interplay with those on Orthodox hymnography (of which I’ve already posted two), which seeks to explore the Scriptural and patristic sources at work within.
Today I want to share a quote I did not have for the class. This comes from Fr. Meletios Webber’s book, Bread & Water, Wine & Oil, which I think should be the standard text for catechumens. (But no one asked me.) Fr. Meletios briefly, but succinctly and powerfully, explains the basic ethos of Orthodox spiritual life as it is expressed in prayer, liturgy and the disciplines. A good read which I recommend.
In his chapter on time, he explains the role of Pascha and its cycle of observances thus:
The last cycle is that of Pascha. This great day, this Feast of Feasts, like a huge comet traveling through the solar system, bends and distorts time like nothing else. Its presence in the year, weaving in and out of ordinary time based on factors which include not only the movement of the moon, but also the religious observance of the kinsmen of our Lord, attracts a number of other important days to its wake. Dominating the year, yet in many ways independent of it, Pascha stands as a fanfare of God’s majestic entrance into the realm of humanity, sealing and enlivening the Incarnation of Christ in order to transform and transfigure the lives of men and women with the intensity of His love.
What more could I possibly add to that?