Thursday, April 16, 2015

Christianity Without Repercussions: Faith pt 2

In my last post on faith, I touched on the differences between the typical Protestant worship service, and the typical Orthodox worship service. Technically, every Orthodox service is a worship service, but I really only covered the Divine Liturgy, with a brief glimpse at Matins (I haven't even touched on Vespers, Royal Hours, Lenten services, Paschal services, Memorial services, etc). In this post, I am going to continue to compare and contrast services.

This past week was Holy Week for us Orthodox Christians. You may remember that I have mentioned how we calculate Pascha (Easter) differently than the Western churches. Well, this week really showcases how we live our faith through our worship services.

Take a look at these pictures in the slideshow from our Holy Friday service. This series of photos shows our priest and two subdeacons taking Christ off of the cross, wrapping Him in a sheet, wrapping the cross, and then laying Christ in the tomb (decorated bier).

The previous evening, Holy Thursday, the priest processed around the church carrying Christ and nailed Him on to the cross. I didn't get any pictures of that since it's hard to get pictures while prostrated on the ground, and having a toddler climb on you.

On the evening of Holy Friday (which is technically the Matins for Holy Saturday), we have what is called the Lamentation Service. In this service, we are literally lamenting Christ's death and burial. Check this link, and this one for more information.

I want to pause right here and say that we know that Jesus is not still dead. We know that He is not dying again. We know that He is living. I want to clarify this, because I have heard this accusation leveled against Orthodox and Catholics before. We do these things to remember what Christ went through for us; we do these things as a memorial service, almost, so we can see what Christ did for us.

It doesn't compare to just look at a few shoddy pictures. To really get the full effect of these services you have to be there; these services are something that have to be experienced before the beauty can be fully appreciated.

Even if your church does some kind of Easter play, or has services a majority of the week, it doesn't really have the same lasting effect as these services do. The hymns we sing during this time all pertain to what happened on each day of Holy Week. Even after Pascha is over, we still sing hymns to remind us throughout the year.

After everything is said and done, we celebrate Pascha on Saturday night/Sunday morning. We shout and proclaim, "Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!" We sing, "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death. And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!" We do both of these things ad infinitum. We go outside and proceed around the church a few times, and we gather outside the doors while the priest knocks loudly three times to symbolize Christ's power over death. 

When the priest says "Lift up your gates" ("Άρατε Πύλας") each of the three times, he is supposed to knock on the shut doors with either the Cross or the Gospel book. When he says "The Lord of the Powers" at the end, he is supposed to kick the now slightly opened yet still shut door with his feet and open them (or force it open with his hands). He then proceeds inside chanting the final verse above. 
This old tradition is supposed to represent a dialogue between Christ and Hades (Death or Satan), and Christ trampling the gates of Hades, just as it is depicted in the icon of Christ's Descent Into Hades. (Mystagogy)

For biblical support of the Harrowing of Hades look at 1 Peter 3:18-22, and 4:5-6 or this link. Early Christian witnesses for this teaching can be seen from St. Melito of Sardis (d. about 180), St. Irenaeus (d. about 202), and Tertullian (d. about 240); I point out the dates of their deaths to show how early this belief was. St. John the Apostle died circa AD 100, so not even 80 years after his death do we see this belief being taught (this was also before the New Testament took its current form). So whether you agree with the sources as valid or not, you still have to acknowledge that the teaching was being passed around from an incredibly ancient time; from a time before any Protestant denomination.

Check out this video for a brief overview of what a typical Orthodox Pascha service looks like, no I don't expect you to watch all 42:18 of the video.

It is a very joyous service for us Orthodox Christians.

To be fair, I tried to find a decent Protestant Easter service that was how I remembered Easter services to be. I didn't want to put a video up that had lasers and lights flashing, and a rock band. I didn't necessarily want a praise and worship team, and A/V presentations. I wanted to find a video that showed a typical Evangelical Easter service. After searching for 2 hours this is the only video that I could find that wasn't as flashy and showy as the others.

Why didn't I want lasers, lights, smoke machines, rock groups, A/V presentations, etc? Because I felt that those kinds of things were not indicative of what your average Evangelical service looked like. YouTube proved me wrong. The video above - which could have been taken from the church I grew up in as similar as they are - is the exception, not the norm any more.

Instead, this video, and this video are very similar to most of my search results. Now, it could be skewed because places like Nakina Baptist Church may not have very many people who are tech savvy and know how to upload videos, but something tells me that this isn't the case.

So what, right? It doesn't really matter does it? Except, if you remember in my previous post, I mention how the liturgical style of worship is what we see in the Bible. The liturgical style of worship is what we see in the Early Church.

When you are so assured of your salvation, and when everybody is left to their own interpretations of Scripture (both of which are anti-biblical) then you end up going against God. Your repercussion free religion does not follow the correct form of worship. Your repercussion free religion is not orthodox. Your repercussion free religion is going to have some major repercussions!

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