Monday, September 17, 2007

Holy Cross, East and West: One Example

One of this blog's interests is noting the similarities between Eastern and Western Rite Orthodoxy. Rather than give an exhaustive treatment of the Feast of the Holy Cross, I wanted to zero in on one area: the Byzantine troparion of the feast has numerous counterparts in our WRO Mass propers.

I'm tempted to recycle the old saw about florid Eastern liturgical language vs. Western reserve by citing one example and closing this article:

Western RiteByzantine Rite
Communion of the Feast:

By the sign of the Cross deliver us from our enemies, O our God.
Troparion of the Feast:

O Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance. Grant victory to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries. And by virtue of Thy Cross, preserve Thy habitation.

There it is, someone will say - case closed. The same message in East and West, but the West summed it up in a single line. However, the comparison would be misleading, as is the stereotype. (Western worship can be given to poetic beauty. Note my blog from last year on a Western Rite hymn for Holy Cross.) The Western liturgical tradition has a great deal more variable material than its Byzantine counterpart, and the tropari message is found in several of the Mass propers:

Western RiteByzantine Rite
Offertory:

Protect, O Lord, Thy people by the sign of the Holy Cross, from all snares of every enemy: that we may render Thee acceptable service, and that our sacrifice may be well pleasing unto Thee, alleluia.

Communion Verse:

By the sign of the Cross deliver us from our enemies, O our God.

Postcommunion:

Assist us mercifully, O Lord our God: that we whom Thou dost suffer to rejoice in honoring the Holy Cross may be defended by the perpetual succour of the same. Through....
Troparion of the Feast:

O Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance. Grant victory to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries. And by virtue of Thy Cross, preserve Thy habitation.

At the risk of getting off-track, I note the Introit of the Mass would be familiar to Byzantines, as well. The verse that is not repeated is: "God be merciful unto us and bless us: and shew us the light of His countenance, and have mercy on us." Comparing the Office propers and hymnography of the feast in both rites would underscore the common focus even more.

Again, the existing similarities between Eastern and Western Rite Orthodoxy should be a rejoinder, both to those say there is no common ground between Eastern and Western Rites at all (and therefore WR is not truly Orthodox) and to those who seize upon every Byzantine-sounding expression they can find in any local missal, no matter how idiosyncratic, and present it as "our lost Western heritage" (to synthesize as Byzantized a "Western" usage as is humanly possible). The Church knew what She was doing when She approved and compiled our existing Western Rite. Let us join together in proclaiming Christ and Him crucified, before Whom every knee shall bow.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Journey To Orthodoxy said...

Fantastic and revealing argument.

9:12 PM  
Blogger The Ochlophobist said...

This is fascinating. Thank you.

5:07 AM  

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