Why Does God Sing?

A comment was posted this past weekend about prayer and singing (or “chanting”). This article represents some earlier thoughts I have written on the topic. Over the course of this next week I will be largely engaged in another writing task and will only be able to monitor the blog once or twice a day. I’ll also try to post some things of interest.

Why would God sing? The question may sound strange and yet it is said in Zephaniah (3:17), “He will rejoice over thee with singing.” I first noticed this verse when I was a very young Christian and have puzzled about it for nearly forty years. Equally puzzling to our modern way of thought is the question, “Why does anybody sing?” I have been to plenty of operas and have to admit that even the ones in English need subtitles – singing does not necessarily make something more easily understood. And yet we sing.

God sings. Angels sing. Man sings.

Other than some adaptations that have been made in a few places in the modern period, any Orthodox service of worship is sung (or chanted) from beginning to end (with the exception of the sermon). Like opera, this musical approach to the liturgy does not mean that it will be better understood. And yet, the Christian Tradition, until the Reformation, was largely universal in its use of singing as the mode of worship. In the Western Church there was a development of the “Low Mass” in which little chanting was used – though this never found a place in the East.

This is not solely a Christian phenomenon. As a teenager I had a close friend who was Jewish. As a young teenager he began training to become a Cantor (the main singer in a congregation – second only in importance to the Rabbi himself). I was curious about Hebrew so he began to instruct me privately. Hebrew is a great language – particularly as published in Hebrew Scriptures.

I mastered the alphabet and began to understand that most vowels were not letters at all, just dots and lines, strategically placed to indicate their sound. I felt somewhat proud the first time I read a line aloud without prompting. I recall that when I finished I pointed at yet another set of markings that my friend had yet to mention.

“What are these?” I asked.

“They’re for the Cantor,” he explained. He also had to explain what a Cantor was and, fortunately, was able to demonstrate when I asked him how the musical markings worked. The sound would have compared easily to Byzantine chant – perhaps with lines of kinship. This past autumn I became acutely aware of another singing religion: Islam. My wife and I made pilgrimage to the Holy Land in September [2008]. The first morning (it was the Islamic holy month of Ramadan) a canon went off at sunrise (that will wake you up in Jerusalem!) and suddenly a plaintive chant blared across the city as the Muezzin chanted the morning call to prayer.

Indeed, if you made a study of world religions, you’d be hard pressed to find any people who prayed or worshipped without singing (almost exclusively) other than forms of Christianity that have been influenced by the Protestant Reformation. In light of that fact it might be more appropriate to ask, “If God sings, and the angels sing, the Jews sing, the Muslims sing: why don’t Protestants chant their services?” What is it about modern man that changed his religious tune?

I’ll come back to that question in just a few moments. However, I would first like to take a tour through some experiences I’ve had with music and pastoral care. Wherever in our brain that the ability to sing and understand music resides – it is not the same place as pure speech. I have been making pastoral visits with patients for nearly thirty years. During that time I have frequently noticed stroke patients, who had lost one particular brain function (governed by the area effected by the stroke) be perfectly normal in another area not affected by the stroke. It’s as simple as being paralyzed on one side of your body but not on the other (a common result of strokes).

In the same way, I have seen any number of patients who could not speak or respond to speech, who, nevertheless, could sing and respond to music. The most extreme case I ever saw was in a patient suffering from multiple infarct dementia (thousands of tiny strokes). He was a paraplegic and virtually unresponsive. However, his devout Christian wife had discovered that he responded to both music and to prayer. He would say, “Amen,” at the end of a prayer and tried to join in when you sang a familiar hymn.

God sings. The angels sing. Jews sing. Muslims sing. George, with multiple infarct dementia sings. And so the mystery grows.

A surprising musical experience for me came in visiting St. Thekla’s Summer Camp (in South Carolina). We have youth in our Church, including some who attend the summer camp. My experience in Church is that, like most teens surrounded by adults, youth in Church remain quiet. However, at the summer camp, surrounded by their peers, they sang with all the gusto of their youth. It was completely natural. Kids sing.

God sings. The angels sing. Jews sing. Muslims sing. George, with multiple infarct dementia sings. Kids sing.

So what happened in the Protestant West that made them change their tune? To their credit they did not completely stop singing. Some of the finest hymns in Christian history were written during the Reformation. Hymns that sang doctrine and offered praise to God – all these were part of the hymnody of Protestant worship. And yet something different did take place. What was different was a shift in understanding how or if we know God and the place that worship plays in all that.

For many in the Reformation God could be known only as He made Himself known in Scripture. Knowing God as He had made Himself known in Christ was a description of knowing what Christ said and did in the New Testament. God was distanced from the sacraments in most cases. He was distanced from worship. We could offer worship to God in our assemblies, but not necessarily because He was present.

The distance that arose between man and God at the time of the Reformation had many causes. Among the most important were the politics of severing God, the individual and the Church (particularly the Roman Catholic Church). Such a severing created the secular sphere as we know it today and at last established the state as superior to the Church with, for the most part, the happy cooperation of the newly minted Churches. For most centuries the Reformation has been studied on the basis of its religious issues – indeed “religion” has unfairly borne the blame for years of hatred and wars. The role of politics has  been downplayed – indeed even seen as the force which intervened and spared Europe from further religious madness. The state, as secular state, was seen as the hero of the Reformation. However it is quite possible to understand the history of that period as the history of the rise of the secular state and the state’s manipulation of religion for the interests of the state (Eamon Duffy’s work on this topic is quite revealing).

The Reformation itself brought something of an ideological revolution, a redefinition of man as a religious being. The new thought saw man as an understanding, rational, choosing individual. Thus religious services began to have a growing center of the spoken word. God was reasoning with man through the medium of the spoken word. In most places of the new reforms, efforts were made to establish a radical break with the sacramental past. However God might be present with His people – it was not to be in the drama of the Liturgy. Vestments were exchanged for academic gowns, or no vestments at all. The minister was an expounder of the word, not a priest. The altar that had once clearly been an altar, a place where the bloodless sacrifice took place – a holy place where Christ Body and Blood were present – became a simple table – usually with the minister standing in a position that was meant to indicate that he was performing no priestly action.

The words surrounding the Liturgy were spoken and not sung. Singing at such moments were associated with acts of magic. Thus the “hoc est enim corpus meum” of the Roman Rite, was ridiculed as “hocus pocus,” ever to be associated with magic. Chanting was for witches, not for Christians.

Music did not disappear at the Reformation. As noted earlier, many great hymns were written as part of that movement – and have marked every major “revival” within Protestantism. People sing. But what do people sing?

There is no doubt that vast changes in much of Protestant Church music have taken place in the latter half of the 20th century. The same was true in parts of the 19th century. In efforts to remain “contemporary” much music has taken contemporary form. The influence of Pentecostal worship forms have also shaped contemporary “praise” music.

In many ways a revolution as profound as the Reformation itself has taken place within Protestant Christianity. Whereas the founders of the Reformation saw reason as the primary mode of communicating the gospel – contemporary Protestantism has become far more comfortable with emotion. An interesting player in this modern revolution has been the “science” of marketing which has made careful study of how it is that people actually make decisions and on what basis do they “choose” as consumers. From an Orthodox perspective, it is the science of the passions.

In this light it is important to say that people sing for many different reasons and that not all music in worship is the same. Orthodoxy has long held the maxim that music should be “neptic,” that is, should be guided by sobriety and not by the passions. Thus, there have been criticisms from time to time within the Russian Church that the great works of some modern Church composers are too “operatic” or too “emotional.” That conversation continues.

But why do we sing?

Here we finally come to the question that has no easy answer – just a suggestion based on human experience. We sing because God sings. We sing because the angels sing. We sing because all of creation sings. We are not always able to hear the song – usually because we do not sing enough. I will put forward that singing is the natural mode of worship (particularly if we follow the model of the angels) and that there is much that can enter the heart as we sing that is stopped dead in its tracks by the spoken word.

It is not for nothing that the one book of Old Testament Scripture that finds more usage in the Church (at least among the Orthodox) than the New Testament, is the book of Psalms, all of which are meant to be sung (and are sung within Orthodox worship). Years ago when I was a young Anglican priest – I introduced the sung mass at a mission Church where I was assigned. A teenager confided to me after the service that the chanting had made her feel “spooky.” She was clearly stuck in a Reformation “only witches chant” mode. She also had not learned to worship. In time, it grew on her and she grew with it.

The heart of worship is an exchange. It is an exchange where we offer to God all we are and all we have and receive in return Who He is and what He has. The exchange takes place as we sing to Him and He sings to us.

I have heard the singing of angels. I am not certain that I have heard God singing – though it is something of an open question to me. But without fail, I hear His voice singing in the person of the priest: “Take, eat. This is my Body which is broken for you, for the remission of sins.” And I have heard the choir sing, in the voice of the people: “I will take up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.”

God sings and so should everything else.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.





66 responses to “Why Does God Sing?”

  1. Seraphim Avatar

    Wonderful post again, Father!

    I was particularly struck by the fact that you pointed out that music disappeared with the Protestant Revolt (nothing was reformed by them, so why call it a reformation?), as they put a distance between God and man. I think that the contemporary “praise and worship” style music afflicting contemporary Protestant and less traditional Catholic services reflects this distance. Man still wants to sing – but instead of a song which leads the soul to contemplative, noetic prayer, he wants a party, so that he can enjoy himself and think that he is praying.

    In other words, I don’t think that there has been a revolution within Protestantism – especially since early Protestant pietists and Quakers could also get emotional, but in a much healthier, prayerful way – regarding emotions versus reason. Luther profoundly distrusted human reason. The revolution was within the realm of music; Gospel music sung by slaves on plantations was the first form of music outside the liturgical and classical traditions until ragtime and jazz came into being. The early Protestants just didn’t have the musical opportunities to turn into Pentecostals.

    And “praise and worship” music still leaves intact the anti-sacramental distance between God and man, completely consistent with Protestant subjectivism, individualism, and quasi-agnosticism. Why some Roman Catholics choose to jump on that bandwagon eludes me, however, since they still nominally believe in the Eucharist and often make it the center of their rock worship sessions; perhaps it is just the result of growing up cut off from tradition and unexposed to sacred chant.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Fabio Leite and Ζωντανό Ιστολόγιο, Veronica du Bruyn. Veronica du Bruyn said: Why Does God Sing? – A comment was posted this past weekend about prayer and singing (or "chanting"). This article … http://ow.ly/16wxC6 […]

  3. Michele Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    I grew up Roman Catholic and spent a few years among the Episcopalians before I became Orthodox a little more than six years ago. I’ve been a chanter/reader at an Antiochian parish, and now a choir member/reader in my OCA parish. My experience as in Orthodoxy has been so bound up with the music that I can’t separate the two. My experience of Orthodoxy has been so much richer because of the music.

    Even as a small child, I remember sitting in the pew and actually reading the hymnal in my family’s Catholic parish (this was how I at one time had all the verses of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” memorized).

    When one interacts with the liturgical texts as a choir member or reader, they get into your being like nothing else. There are certain things that I couldn’t just say the text of, but get me singing, and they come right out. During the week, I’ll often find a certain Cherubic Hymn surfaces in my mind and goes with me about my day, or I’ll sing “Lord, I call” in a certain tone (usually 8), and I’ll even sing Psalms I’ve memorized into a certain tone – such as Psalm 22/23 (“The Lord is my shepherd”), which goes particularly well with Obikhod Tone 8.

    Sorry – I could go on for days about Orthodox music. 🙂

  4. Yannis Avatar

    Good post F. Stephen.

    It is however useful to remember that the Church was actually invlolved in politics for many centuries prior to the reformation – in many ways the Reformation seems to have been as much about the marginalisation of religion by secularism, as much about the desire of the Church itself to have the influence and power of a secular institution, at least in the West.

    In the East, political power and the Church had somewhat merged, the one was held up by the other (and also the one paid its respects to the other), and while this approach did not remain without its misgivings, it emerged however as less damaging in my opinion to the spiritual life and the Church.

    There is also evidence that there were always those who maintained that God cannot be approached other than through reason, as seen by the Hesychast controversy, a controversy that affected Byzantine spiritual life for a time, ie there were people within Byzantium that thought along the same lines as Varlaam of Calabria apparently.

    At the end of the day, all religious sects played inevitably a political part, and the religious life actually blossomed when religious institutions held a certain amount of political power, freedom and independence within the state. Make that amount too little, and the Church is turned to a civil service (as for example Anglican priests ofen complain nowdays in the UK), make it too much, and soon enough signed and paid for salvation papers will start circulating.



  5. Henry Avatar

    I would add Buddhists, Voodoo priests, and even Pygmies all sing and chant. Ella Fitzgerald might add Birds do it, bees do it. Even educated fleas do it.

    It seems that love, sorrow, and religion (include patriotism in religion) are generally the subjects of all this singing. Some of it is done in part because it induces a trace state in the audience. Studies indicate that at least 20% of the participants in a church service are in a highly suggestible Alpha state at any given point in time. Most religions value trance states, viewing them as an opportunity to achieve enlightenment or discover divine revelations. Religious and political leaders use song and chant to manipulate their followers. Even the voice roll of the Protestant preacher has been shown to induce a hypnotic state. Think, The Bi-ble Says-sss. Hal—le—lu—jah’

    Truly, Reform Christianity is an outlier. Its obsession with applying propositional logic to the Scriptures, while denying the existence of the larger, perhaps more frightening, aspects of the human psyche is most unusual. I find it interesting that even this strain of Protestant Christianity celebrates outbreaks of singing and trance states in their history. It pleases them to call these events revivals. The leaders of Protestant Christianity celebrate these events as long as they take place in the past or at sometime in a mythical future. However, they find the appearance of something like the Wesley brothers, in the present to be rather disconcerting.

    As a personal note, let me add that most of the scriptures that I have memorized were those songs we sang in Greenville — So many years ago.

    Lots of reasons to sing.

  6. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by veronica_dB: Why Does God Sing? – A comment was posted this past weekend about prayer and singing (or “chanting”). This article … http://ow.ly/16wxC6

  7. Micah Avatar


    What you say is true. Singing, like speech can be past, present or future.

    This is not the tense, God (and the angels) sing in.

    The sound of the archangel’s horn (to give but one example) has a very important function to play in modernity– much like the voice of God as He sang creation into being, on day one.

  8. Laura Avatar

    All I know is this, when the proto-psalti at our Church started training me as a chanter she said, “the music will transform you.” She was right.

  9. tbubb Avatar

    I agree that contemporary Protestant worship music is severely lacking in some very important areas, but is not its emphasis on emotion a good thing?

    I can’t tell you where I would be in my Christian faith if not for the strengthening and encouragement brought about by those heartfelt songs that can’t be described as anything but praise. I wish they affirmed doctrine, I wish they honored the saints, I wish they did plenty of things that the Orthodox Liturgy does in its singing, but the fact that it humbles the heart and points it to Christ seems invaluable to me.

    I don’t think the singing in Orthodox services is unable to produce a similar effect–my problem is that I am a living in a post-modern society and there are certain things that are quicker to bring me to my knees before an all-powerful God than others. Granted, my experience with Orthodoxy is incredibly limited as I’ve only been to three services.

    Is it wrong to incorporate such music into worship?

  10. fatherstephen Avatar

    My own Scriptural memorization owes its largest debt to those Scripture songs. The amount of Scripture that suffuses Orthodox worship – and the fact of its singing – is quite helpful in the same manner. I have no real insight on Why God sings, or why we sing. Only, I am fascinated by it, wonder at it, and wonder at its absence in small segments of Protestant life and its devolution in Catholic life. It fascinates me that at a time when there seem to be few Church composers of great note – that Arvo Part (Orthodox Estonian) is producing truly great work. Even, Met. Hilarion Alfeyev, one of the highest ranking Churchmen in Russia, composes symphonies, masses, and settings for the Liturgy. One of our recently deceased hierarchs here in the U.S. was an excellent Church composer. Oddly, despite the strict traditions that surround Orthodox hymnody, we are in a very creative and productive time in Church music.

    I first thought about this when I was at Duke in the late 80’s. I read some, but most just thought. Since then I have continued to think and to listen. Sometimes, I think there is more music being sung in the Church than we humans are offering. Occasionally the harmony seems too rich (not bad, just augmented). I think we do not sing alone.

  11. fatherstephen Avatar

    Orthodox tradition tends to place some fence posts around emotion (not that it is not always present). But it is not placed in a supreme place (as is true in much of our culture). Emotions are part of the logismoi, the thought life that often plagues us. Sometimes it’s accurate, sometimes not. Sometimes helpful, sometimes not. Thus doctrine tends to drive most Orthodox music, as well as a traditional concern for “sobriety” though this is a hard thing to define. What I need (and most of us) is healing – of our thought life – of our emotional life- of the whole of our life – a healing that God alone can give. Thus the drive of all of our music is to unite ourselves to God. Not simply to be excited or emotional about God – but to unite to Him. This is different and takes some time, I think.

  12. tbubb Avatar

    Indeed it will. Thanks you.

  13. d.burns Avatar

    Fr. Bless,

    I’ve been learning to chant (byzantine) for about a year now (specifically at my priests very firm suggestion). I have found that participating in that way has changed my attitude toward the services. I always sung from the congregation, but being at the chanters stand has made it much more daunting. I often find it much harder to get lost in the worship and instead find myself always looking ahead, trying to figure out who’s turn is next, and if there is a tone change coming up. In other words… I don’t know if I’m worshiping so much as just singing.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love the music, and I have found my attendance at services (vespers, matins, liturgy, etc…) to be such that I don’t want to miss them. Though I’ll admit to wanting a few extra minutes to sleep and missing the beginning of matins more often than not. But I would love to just get lost in the worship again… to not have to think about what’s next and just sing. I might add I’d like to sing and not think about how the different tones go, but I’m hoping with more study that will happen like any other musical training.

    All this said to ask… is there ever a time when you break free from thinking about the various services and doing them correctly and just finding yourself immersed in them?

  14. amy truhe Avatar
    amy truhe

    It seems to me that it is in singing that the Holy Spirit gathers all together and creates the one-ness that we so crave as humanity. The flat singers, the sharp singers, the totally on-pitch singers come together in a manner that is apart from all politcs, all lusts, all worldly calls and converses with God apart from all worldly things. The words may not be Christian; the tunes may be syncopated and jazzy or totally Gregorian and monotone, but in the gathering of the voices, all are equal, all are lifted up, all worshipping in harmony that no other venue affords.

  15. fatherstephen Avatar

    Yes, absolutely. It gets more and more so. I do sometimes “miss a cue” because I am present to what I am doing but not present to what’s coming next. But I would rather that than being anxious about what’s coming. It gets better.

  16. fatherstephen Avatar

    Emotions are simply responses to the logismoi – and are largely parts of them. Thoughts are not inherently sinful – but they do not constitute the substance of our life (nor do emotions). Emotions do not proceed out of the nous (heart).

    Penthos is a state of the heart and the gift of tears is a product of that state and not of emotions. It is a gift of God and not something you and I can “work” ourselves up to.

    I recommend the little book Bread and Water, Wine and Oil, by Arch. Meletios Webber as a very accurate and good introduction to the logismoi, the heart, emotions, etc.

    I cannot go into this in depth this week.

  17. Scott Weatherhogge Avatar
    Scott Weatherhogge

    Fr. Stephen,

    This is a very meaningful post. Thank you.

    You wrote, “Sometimes, I think there is more music being sung in the Church than we humans are offering. Occasionally the harmony seems too rich (not bad, just augmented). I think we do not sing alone.” Are these the voices of angels that you referred to in your original post (“I have heard the singing of angels.”)? What does this mean you’ve heard the singing of angels?


  18. Anil Wang Avatar
    Anil Wang

    I think the key reason the modern man doesn’t sing is that the modern man is not a man at all. Thanks to people like BF Skinner and Sci-Fi dramas based on “Sentient Robots”, modern man is just a machine — and an imperfect one at that. We are just the products of heredity and our environment. Morality goes out the window, since you can’t help doing what you’re doing because its natural. Divine plans go out the window, since we’re just meat machines and machines have no divine purpose. And singing just gets in the way of efficiently conveying a message, which is what machines are supposed to do, right?

    Pre-modern man cannot see himself as a machine…an animal maybe…but not a machine. Man machines (i.e. zombies or golems) are the stuff of nightmares. But even when he sees himself as an animal, he knows there is a mystery afoot. Something magical may be around the next corner. Nature is full of music, and the magical mystery beyond nature makes that music glorious. So how can anything other than singing result?

    Interestingly enough, it shows up in language. The English (which has a modern heart) word “to hum” means to make music with your mouth closed. Spanish (which has a premodern heart) doesn’t have a word for “to hum”. The closest word that corresponds is tararear which would mean (in English) to hum with your mouth open. Curiously, I don’t think there is an English word for tararear as well. And it shows. Go to a Spanish city, and you’ll notice that people don’t hum with their mouths closed. Why would they? Music comes from the heart, so it should be shared. In an English or American city, we’re a bit more discrete with our music. It’ll probably bother someone else and interfere with whatever their doing, so best hum under your breath….even if no-one else is around.

  19. coffeezombie Avatar

    Anil Wang: Speaking of zombies, some time ago I heard a podcast on Ancient Faith Radio (here) that had two priests discussing zombies. They were even using Max Brooks’ “The Zombie Survival Guide” as probably the closest thing to a definitive text on the subject.

    That alone had my attention. I forget what all they said, but, as I recall, they discussed zombies as being a sort of “apophatic anthropology.” I need to go re-listen to that…

  20. fatherstephen Avatar

    I confess, I have nothing to say on the topic of zombies. Think I might be too old.

  21. Burning Hearts Avatar
    Burning Hearts

    Father et al.,

    The true or supernatural gift of tongues manifest at Pentecost (as per Acts, Chapter 2, verses 1-13) is far rarer than is commonly supposed. It is best described as the Holy Spirit uttering the unutterable.

    The ancient Liturgy of the Church is very much along the same lines:

    “O Lord our God, You are the eternal light that never grows dim. In you there is neither change nor hint of decline (p.73), Sovereign Lord incomprehensible in being and source of unattainable light (p.75), for to you belong all glory, honor and worship, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever, to the ages of ages. Amen (p.7).”

    (From the Stefano Parenti translation of the Barberini Codex)

  22. Burning Hearts Avatar
    Burning Hearts

    This of course, can be abbreviated to:

    “Christ is born! Glorify Him!”


  23. fatherstephen Avatar

    My comment viz. the modern manifestation of tongues, is not without a fair amount of exposure. I would have a more sanguine opinion if I saw fruit. I’ve seen a very large amount of delusion fruit associated with it (not therefore caused by it). The world is not hungry for bolder and bolder spiritual claims. In fact, bold spiritual claims are a dime a dozen and own several independent tv networks. Lives transformed into saints are as rare as hens’ teeth. We live in a very odd age.

  24. Burning Hearts Avatar
    Burning Hearts


    I fully understand your position (my comment was in no way meant to undermine your very healthy skepticism to what is often misconstrued as the holy gift of tongues)!


  25. fatherstephen Avatar

    I only meant to amplify my thoughts.

  26. Burning Hearts Avatar
    Burning Hearts

    Glad you did, thank you Father!

  27. Elizabeth Avatar

    Hmm, maybe this is a little off, but this conversation does bring to mind “The Birth of Tragedy.” Nietzsche was distraught over this devalorization of “primal” music in favor of a more crafted, intellectual kind- he saw it as a sort of killing of the soul of humanity. There does exist this interplay between the more “primal” and subconscious aspect of our existence that is “before thought” (Dionysian), with the intellectual and individuated part (Apollonian), that exists in everyone’s life.I feel that the Orthodox tradition addresses this better than other Christian traditions,(maybe it’s all the
    greek influence), for there’s both good and bad in this interplay.

    I don’t REALLY mean to compare liturgical chanting to pagan traditions, I just think it’s interesting that Nietzsche was lamenting this transition from a society that valued primal, sub-intellectual and communal response to one that placed increasing importance on the individual, rational man and the rational interplay between man and nature. I was surprised by how very, uh, religious I found it. It seems that his attitude towards Christianity was in part a response to the effects of the Reformation.

    If we can limit God purely to the confines of our understanding then we can create him, and who needs a God he can create?

    Clearly it’s a tricky balance. I’ve been around “holy laughter” and tongues before, and it gave me the creeps…It did indeed feel pagan.

  28. fatherstephen Avatar

    Nietzsche, like many 19th century German Romantics, tended to bifurcate almost everything. It reminds me of a statement of Stanley Hauerwas (Duke): “There are two kind of people in the world – those who think there are two kind of people in the world and those who don’t.”

    My own thought is that the “fullness” (in the common Orthodox parlance) is extremely rich and textured, without yin and yang, without this and that, without tension and thus the need for balance. It is like creation itself. What is there that balances a tree, or what would a tree need for balance? Human beings have become so unmoored to what is their own nature, that we live in various balancing acts because we are always on the verge of stumbling.

    Christ has no balance – no opposite. Darkness is not the opposite of light – light expels darkness because darkness isn’t anything at all. Oftentimes the things we “balance” in the distortions of our lives are just different degrees of darkness. Were it light, it would need no balance.

  29. Anil Wang Avatar
    Anil Wang

    Actually the zombie comment was just a side point.

    I see a strong connection between what Father Stephen has written and what I did. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Reformation, which lead to the modern perspective created by the Enlightenment lead to man seeing himself as “just a collection of atoms” and ultimately a machine. There is no music in that. Loss of song is a result…except to get everyone in a certain emotional state. It’s all about cause and effect. But that’s not real song.

    What brought C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterston back to the Anglician and Roman Catholic churches is precisely their discovery of the premodern, and ultimately joy. Song from the heart was the result. Liturgy and liturgical singing only makes sense (in the head and in the heart) if you have the premodern mind found in the Eastern Orthodox, traditional Catholic, traditional Anglicanism, Jewish, and Islamic mind.

  30. fatherstephen Avatar

    In truth, it’s a very rich metaphor, including the zombie observation. Met. Kallistos Ware has been particularly of note in the last number of years in his work in “Christian anthropology” – the doctrine of man. The Orthodox doctrine of man is found primarily in its doctrine of Christ. To say that Christ is fully man and fully God, you also have to say what it means to be fully man. Ware has done this extremely well in lectures and writings. Archbishop Dmitri (retired bishop of Dallas) frequently notes that almost all heterodoxy winds up as an attack on the dignity of man – that Orthodoxy alone truly defends it. He would also deeply appreciate the observation from Spanish-speaking culture (he’s quite fluent) – and loves to point such things out to Anglo priests like myself.

    Music, which is truly human, when it begins to disappear in any natural form from a culture, should be a major warning sign – like a canary in a mine. I would add art to that canary as well. By that token – there’s been a growing danger in the mine for quite some time.

  31. easton Avatar

    father, thank you for this. if our culture is in trouble when good music disappears, then we are truly in BIG trouble now:))

  32. Aaroneous Avatar

    But there is always “a remnant” that abides and in our modern times I would give Arvo Pärt a near singular place in that.

  33. Burning Hearts Avatar
    Burning Hearts

    In the metaphor of the Second Temple, Eastern Orthodoxy does not simply understand how the Temple functions, but is an integral part of what is being brought forth in the New Creation, thanks to her prayers which rise like incense to the Holy Throne.

    Thus, Christ is in our midst! Christ is born! Glory Him! are not simply expressions of hope but declarations of what already is and will forever be. The Messiah, our God (and with Him all the Angels and Archangels) has already walked through the gate and has made it what it is, Beautiful.

    The whole world has “ears” for such a declaration. Even those occupying outlying positions on the hills, if they never venture into the beauty of the Temple – and this includes her Outer Courts, will be transformed, to a degree.

  34. Elizabeth Avatar


    Your comment made me realize how much I view the world/myself in this bifurcated manner. Even when I try to think of the world as a complex whole, I find that I’m already dividing that whole into parts: those that I like and those that I do not, what can stay and what can go, what I wish I liked but do not, what I like but wish I did not. I suppose much of this analysis would fall into the category of logismoi. It’s exhausting. Better to learn to live from the heart. I’m trying to figure out what that means….

  35. Damaris Avatar

    I would add Kenneth Tolle as a modern composer to be listened to. He often composes for his own choreography, but both are beautiful in their own right. He lives in the South these days — Birmingham, maybe? Does anybody know of him?

  36. Henry Avatar

    The charismatic renewal ran its strange course of a decade beginning in the late 60s and ending in the late 70s. Although fragments of that time survive until this day, they are no longer what they once were. As Eric Hoffer observed, “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

    All these humans who sing, including those who sing in tongues, are created with the same hard wiring and endowed with the same operating system. After the moment of birth, some of us receive one set of software applications; others receive a completely different package of applications. As those of us who have experienced Windows operating systems over the years understand, sometimes the entire system works as expected and sometimes it doesn’t. There are similarities between the trance states achieved by martial artists and practitioners of various religions. The electrical activities in their brains can and have been measured, mapped and compared. The intents and the results are very different, but the mechanism is similar. Slain in the Spirit, as practiced on television does not appear all that different from authoritative methods of hypnotic induction used on the stage in places like Las Vegas. Should I be surprised, that the brain God created can be used for good, bad, morally indifferent purposes?

    I saw and was part of the charismatic renewal. I watched it run its sometimes bizarre course and ultimately, because of the excesses I witnessed, I went on to a different path. But in spite of the aberrations of leaders who feel it necessary to produce more and more emotionally spectacular events at every meeting, I have never seriously questioned the core of what I experienced in those days. A lot of good seed was sown in that time. I have witnessed men and women grow up and become responsible Christian adults. I even believe I know a few who have gone on to become saints. True sanctity is rare and often hidden, but I have found it wherever the Holy Spirit is at work in his Church.

  37. Tim Avatar

    I guess I’m still a little confused. How is music disappearing in the post-modern, Evangelical Protestant world? I see the purpose and method has changed, and the services are not sung, as in Orthodox services, but music still plays a prominent role in the lives of these Christians. I haven’t seen anything like Creationfest (a 4 day music festival), nor Cornerstone (a week-long music festival) in the Orthodox world. I haven’t seen nearly as many Orthodox radio stations, or music artists popping up all over the place. Of course, some would say the emphasis is on the wrong thing or that they’re doing it wrong, but the fact remains that music is as central to Christian worship as it has ever been. It’s still music and it’s still present, and people are enjoying it in giant services, in their homes, in their cars and at festivals, etc.

    It’s not disappearing.

  38. Is anyone out there? Avatar
    Is anyone out there?


    The “music question” really is all about “what it means to be human”, (music in its universality is more useful than language in this regard but there are obvious limitations. For instance, drumming can sometimes be counterproductive).

    Father Stephen’s point (and the point of the early Church Fathers who gave us our Faith in full) is that we can only come to know ourselves in the context of the hypostases of Christ’s two natures. This is like saying that music and silence can co-exist. Well, they do!:

    “in (the) porphyry of His body … not as a garment or a fourth person but as a body united to God and abiding without change, as well as the divinity by which it has been anointed”. (The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, Vladimir Lossky, p. 146)

    Salvation is less a rational behavioral proposition, like for instance responding to an altar call. It is not so much a “yes” or “no” question but a “seeing” and “hearing” question. Like St. Peter, we have to wait for God to reveal His Son to us. If we “see”, we can say “yes Lord”!

    The veil covering our eyes, is thick indeed. I have found that patience is the best policy. In the words of Metropolitan St. Philaret of Moscow (writing in 1831):

    ” ‘You expect now that I should give judgment concerning the other half of present Christianity,’ the Metropolitan said in the concluding conversation, ‘but I just simply look upon them; in part I see how the Head and Lord of the Church heals the many deep wounds of the old serpent in all the parts and limbs of his Body, applying now gentle, now strong, remedies, even fire and iron, in order to soften hardness, to draw out poison, to clean wounds, to separate out malignant growths, to restore spirit and life in the numbed and half-dead members. In this way I attest my faith that, in the end, the power of God will triumph openly over human weakness, good over evil, unity over division, life over death’ ” (ibid. , p.135).

    (Quoted in Fr. Georges Florovsky’s Limits of the Church in the Church Quarterly Review, 1933)


    Henry, you’re making a lot of sense!

  39. fatherstephen Avatar

    No doubt that many good men and women came through that path – I would be one of the last to deny that. Though in coming through it, a lot of evaluation has had to be made – and some were lost on the way because of damage done (but damage can get done anywhere).

    It also means that now is not then and innocence gives way to more dangerous things (just as businesses become rackets). I don’t often say much on the topic (of the movement) but the contemporary scene is a very different place with (in many cases) much deeper dangers.

    I know of places of sanctity, rare and hidden, that bear witness to God’s freedom and the gracious kindness that exceeds our imagination. I agree.

  40. fatherstephen Avatar

    It is not disappearing – though music as a part of our own culture is changing such that we are a strangely non-musical culture. Examples of what I mean: we are a culture that like to be entertained by music, but not many of us know how to play an instrument. The traditional role that music has played in human cultures has been diminished. Much of the music of the contemporary Christian scene (including “worship music”) carries the emotional hallmark of much of our culture music. The critique is hard to explain – other than to say there is a subtle and crucial difference between music as “what makes me feel good” and music that is not driven by the passions (classically defined). It is a common practice in starting a new seeker-friendly church to choose the “market” and make the music match. Thus music is market driven, as much a product of the passions as any commodity, and not driven by the faith and worship tradition of the Church.

    I would compare dance. The role that dance has historically played in the lives of humans has been replaced in much of our culture with dance as romance. In fact, most people in many of American ethnic groups cannot dance and do not dance. Nor do people sing together in anything like what is historically common. That these things take place as commercial events and as entertainment events that make us feel a certain way is an evolution in culture in which people no longer do naturally the things that are natural. We have not lost the desire for them – but the desire has been distorted, commercialized, processed into something other than what it was and is naturally meant to be.

    Perhaps it’s not disappearing. But it’s morphing into something else. Sorry to seem quarrelsome.

  41. Yannis Avatar

    F. Stephen wrote:
    “My own thought is that the “fullness” (in the common Orthodox parlance) is extremely rich and textured, without yin and yang, without this and that, without tension and thus the need for balance. It is like creation itself. What is there that balances a tree, or what would a tree need for balance? Human beings have become so unmoored to what is their own nature, that we live in various balancing acts because we are always on the verge of stumbling.”

    And yet the rule is antithesis and contradiction in nature, in all all of us including Christ:
    “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”
    “Blessed are the pacemakers” and “Love your enemies”

    The Saints and Christ himself transcended the contradictions and even expressed themselves through the contradictions and paradoxes by passing through their own garden of Gesthemane – the antithesis and contradictions of the world and of the human nature didn’t just just simply stooped existing for them.

    Where is then that nature that defies antithesis, contradiction and dynamic balance exactly F. Stephen? And i mean in some other place than someone;s thoughts or expectations or speculations. Because in nature and in men’s hearts, there is nowhere as far as i can tell.

    If there is no such thing as balance then, why you value so highly stability? To what end?

    And by the way trees, use the soil for balance, out of which they cantilever, and in order to do so succesfully against wind forces they pretension their long, wire-like molecules introducing additional tension on their side aiming to counteract compression-due-to-bending that wind loads result in. This is because wood is considerably weaker in compression thatn in tension and it breaks in compression first. The tree then “adds” additional capacity were it is weakest by pretensioning its own matter.

    Its a marvel of engineering, and in fact in old times tree trunks were used wholesome for ship masts because that extra load capacity of whole trunks versus composed masts was well known.

    I strongly disagree with you in this.



  42. Micah Avatar


    If I may. Some thoughts for your consideration.

    The sword Christ speaks of does not bring imbalance, but deep healing. It is no metaphor but this has not stopped it from being terribly misunderstood by our predecessors (see Genesis 3:24 for it’s juxtaposition to the Tree of Life).

    Many Blessings.

  43. Yannis Avatar

    Thank you Mica, but the “deep healing” must then be found in making one a foe of his own family, i guess:

    “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
    For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
    And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”

    I am well aware that Christ talks about the Absolute taking precedence over the relative, ie the need to love God over all other relative needs, including those of social and familial character. Yet, this is one more contradiction not one less.

    As for your argument or interpretation, pardon me, but i perosnally believe its no more than wishful thinking. Taking the path of holiness is indeed taking up the sword; It has more to do with killing than with healing, even if that kiling is of oneself. In the end though you may be right and maybe killing becomes finally healing: another contradiction.



  44. Steve Avatar

    Father Stephen,

    I finally received my long awaited Orthodox Study Bible today from Amazon, having ordered it sometime last year.

    I started reading, very appropriately, the third letter of John. The notes are splendid, quite something, there’s something about this particular version of the Bible that I can’t quite put my finger on.

    The wonders never cease!

  45. fatherstephen Avatar

    “Balance” is not a word found in the Tradition, thus I have no particular concern for it. Contradiction and Paradox, which have a rich place in the Tradition are not about balance. God is not a balance for He has no opposition within Himself. The goal of the Christian life is salvation, theosis, which is divinization, to be like God, not to be balanced.

    A week or so ago I had a long conversation with a brother priest who objected to the word “balance” and very much appreciated his thought – thus I’m probably being more pig-headed about this than usual. But no one else knew of the conversation. 🙂 “Balance” has a very prominent place within modernity and various modernist schemes, many of which argue against very important things within the Tradition. Though moderation is a good thing, it is often used (like balance) to simply avoid the extremes of obedience and the radical demands of the gospel. We are often so moderate and balanced that we’ve simply become “luke-warm” (which is a “balance of hot and cold”). Interesting that one of the few Scriptural images of “balance” is “vomited” from the mouth of Christ in disgust.

    It is extremely important in Christian theology (unlike many other religious systems) that there is no opposite to God. There is no “yin and yang.” Evil is not an opposite to anything – it is simply a will gone awry. Thus, salvation is not a balance (this is not Star Wars). Union with God is not moving towards a balance – it is movement towards that which has no opposite. It is moving towards Him Who is the Light, in Whom there is no darkness at all. Thus we do not balance darkness and light. There is only light.

    Stability is not a balance. Stability is “staying put” (this is the meaning of the monastic vow).

    Paradox, contradiction, all move us towards a greater degree of understanding and purity of heart. Secular man seeks balance. The spiritual man seeks God.

    I understand your disagreement (I think). Perhaps this comment explains my meaning better (or not).

  46. Steve Avatar

    Thank you Father.


  47. tiffaniv Avatar


    Never accuse Roman Catholics of “nominally believing the Eucharist”, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. Everything else you say is truth, but your declaration that The Catholic Church nominally believes that Christ’s very Body and Blood are Truly Present in the Eucharist is completely false. Don’t spread this rumor. It’s untrue.



  48. fatherstephen Avatar

    I missed that comment. You are correct. The Catholic Church’s teaching in the matter is quite clear.

  49. tiffaniv Avatar

    It is His Flesh. It is His Blood. The Catholic belief in the Eucharist.


  50. tiffaniv Avatar


    Your piece was wonderful. I look forward to reading your blog every day.


    (Forgot to add that with my first post:)

  51. fatherstephen Avatar


    Indeed and Amen. What I meant was that had I noticed the comment I would have said something myself to correct it earlier.

  52. tiffaniv Avatar


    Thank you so much! So very much! You have no idea how much your last statement means to me. Really. A truly huge thank you – not so that I might get Seraphim “in trouble”. Not at all. I just want the world to know, that even if we Catholics can confuse with our flaky multitude, our belief in the Eucharist is tight. Very tight in Rome.



  53. Yannis Avatar

    F. Stephen wrote:
    “Secular man seeks balance. The spiritual man seeks God.”

    Then you maintain (os so it seems) that people can go into the spiritual journey without balance. In my view and experience, this is outright impossible, as it is going after any other goal – be that a career, a degree, a job, a relationship or going to shop candy. In fact stability (which is explicitly as well as implicitly connected to balance, and no matter how you wish to play with words on this it does not change in my opinion), leads to balance and balance itself is a major part of the spiritual journey.

    I hope that you know how practically one can look for God without balance (for yourself and for others that look on you for advice, and not for demonstrating it to me), because otherwise it may be just a theological point of argument, and an attachment to what you and other priests may understand by “Tradition” ie a semi-static, semi-dynamic system of beliefs, values and practices that cannot be lived other than through itself, and not through the people that choose to take it up.

    In that sense, it is of little surprise, how come Orthodoxy (as well as other spiritual traditions, Abrahamic or not), became a conservative force, that was so afraid of shaking up “Tradition”, that it forbade teaching Newton and Galileo during the 18th century for example, when mechanics and gravity were established (in Greece, they were both forbidden as “of the Devil” at the time).

    The fact is that the “secular” world and its empirical approach , no matter how much you and other theologically minded people may not like it, it has in certain things the guts to follow the evidence wherever it may lead. “Holy Tradition” on the other hand, understood under a certain light, can be, for certain parts of the priesthood and believers or even the Church collectivelly, no less than a holy cow, and as such stuck to in the wrong way even when it most obviously contradicts experiential reality. This in most cases had little to do with spiritual matters. It had to do with politics and also preconceptions that people within the Church were not prepared to give up, because they had a clear concept of how things were or should be.

    The secularisation you often (rightly) lament, came as a result of this trend as well, people were, and are, disssapointed from institutionalised religion, particularly that of the Judeo_Christian tradition, because it often seems to stuck to its doctrines and theology as facts rather than as spiritual/faith maps.

    In the end you may be as responsible for the loss and abandonment of the spiritual, as those you (rightly) protest against regarding the matter.



    PS I note that in your reply you have not touched at all anymore the lack for a need of balance in nature/creation.

  54. Yannis Avatar

    Apologies for the double post, please feel free to delete it, if it messes up comments.

    The word not being mentioned in Tradition and being mentioned in modernist “schemes”, and in other “religious systems” then only makes it your idealogical adversary it seems, but that alone cannot be a reason to contemptuously downplay its importance or even deny its existence.

    Please allow me to remark without malice that you often seem to get very lovingly attached to the terminology of the Tradition, the letter over the spirit of the Law.

    It is no wonder that you love, live by and believe in the Tradition with you being an honest priest, but i would be careful of the trend in me if i were you, especially if it contradicted for the sake of theological argument one of the most fundamentals of reality – both inner and outer – as word, concept and actual fact.

    Also disheartening is when you speak in apparent contempt of how fragile people are (and from what you say of yourself you must be one of them), because they are cut off from their “true” nature, that will restore them in a state that does not simply transfigure reality but defies it altogether.

    And yet we all know that we will struggle with outer and inner nature as they are to the end, trying to maintain our physical and mental balance along the way lest we fall, that Christ struggled with inner and outer nature, that the Saints struggled with it. And so that this other “true nature”, that defies balance and ultimately reality, may exist only in theological texts written by theological minds in this world.



  55. Steve Avatar


    You are right when you say that Roman Catholic belief in the Eucharist in not nominal. Having been born into a Roman Catholic family (my mother was and still is observant, as is my sister and her husband and two girls all deeply committed and wonderful Catholics) my experience of the Eucharist was always nuanced to a degree, by a nominal (and unnatural, if I might be so bold) allegiance to Rome (in much the same way that some Anglicans might have a particular allegiance to Canterbury or the Monarchy). Note that I write in love, having the deepest respect for the Petrine ministry and indeed for the Anglican communion and the monarchy.

    All this however, is rather besides the point. Nothing exists for it’s own sake, neither man nor the eucharist. Indeed, existence is characterized by the extent to which it is visibly in union with God.

    To my mind the lessons of the Eucharistic Miracle of Amsterdam in 1345 (in the Netherlands) as related in Moments Divine by Fr. Frederick A. Reuter, K.C.B.S. need to be revisited by all.

    Man stands either at the edge of an abyss or on the cusp of an unimaginable opportunity to join himself to God. These two states cannot be reconciled. In the words of St. Stephen, darkness is not the opposite of light, rather it is it’s absence.

    Today incidentally, is the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul’s visit to Malta (which is where I am currently living) and a most appropriate time to celebrate all that Orthodoxy is!

  56. fatherstephen Avatar

    Forgive me, my brother. I’ve obviously “mashed a button” as they say – far more casually than intended. Serge Verhovskoy, late Professor of Dogmatics at St. Vladimir’s in NY, used to say, “Orthodoxy is the absence of one-sidedness,” clearly a reference to a “balance” of sort. Obviously no one would travel far if they were “imbalanced.”

    I do not in the least think that we should be imbalanced in our spiritual life. My comment viz. the word not being part of the Tradition, is not to say it has no value, only that I do not wish to create my own version of Tradition or the spiritual life, but to live and present it as it has been given – as others have walked before. How else would a man find his way?

    I think some of the concerns you describe under the heading of “balance” are contained within the concept of “fullness” and even “balance” is probably useful, if defined correctly.

    There is a long strain within Western thought – mostly from German Romanticism – of balance in a Hegelian sense – a dialectic. I think there are many errors within this Romanticism and my own background makes me somewhat careful about this. There is, also, constant manufacturing of “spiritual” ways here in America, with people taking bits and pieces from one thing and another, cobbling it together into some account of the spiritual life, but producing no fruit, and certainly no lasting fruit.

    Thus, as a Christian, I do not want to just be cobbling together yet one more ersatz American “spirituality.” The Tradition is not about an institutionalism (it’s really quite the opposite). The Tradition is the life of Christ embodied in the lives of men and women in the fullness of its authentic existence, i.e. saints.

    But I never meant to make “balance” the subject of the post (I’ve never written on the topic) but simply made an observation on a comment.

    It’s unfortunate to view the Church as a fossilized institution, battling Galileo, etc. What may have happened in the Church under the Turkokratia should not be used as a “whipping boy.” It was a sad and very unfortunate time, and we’re blessed that the time is drawing to an end.

    I have a number of physicists in my congregation. My parish is located in a city that is the home of one of America’s leading National Laboratories. The sciences in our schools are second to none. My opposition to secularism has nothing to do with an opposition to science or modern conveniences, etc. Rather it is an opposition to something that is ultimately anti-human, a distortion of man. Science is not an enemy. Neither is science the product of secularism, though they have often lived side-by-side. I had opportunity to meet a Nobel Laureate (Physics) who was an alumnus of my university (he invented the laser beam). He was also a very fine, believing Christian.

    “Balance” in the last sense you have used the word (you have used it with a variety of meanings) – “balance” as “mental and physical balance” is obviously important. Although the language of “balance” in that case comes from the medieval medical notion of the “balance of the bodily humours,” and not from a theological or even psychological origin. It is today simply an expression.

    The reality that is sought (it would seem) is the “fullness of the stature of Christ.” Whatever wholeness is in Christ, we seek that. Doubtless it would be an “absence of one-sidedness,” in Prof. Verhovskoy’s language.

    But it is obviously an important word for you that carries a lot of weight. I don’t mean to disparage that (although, as noted, you use it in a variety of meanings). I suspect that what you mean by balance is indeed quite important (for me as well). May God give us words that work for one another.


  57. Alesia Avatar

    Alot of talk of emotion, and the change of worship, to more modern forms….Evangelicals, sing and dance, David danced before the Lord, danced with all his might….what did God think of David? Worship the Lord in spirit and truth. God knows each individuals heart, and if you are praising and worshiping the Lord, however it may be, if you are truely worshiping Him, He is pleased. I dont believe we have to “chant” to get it right, He looks on the heart, and the intermost parts

  58. Yannis Avatar

    Thank you very much for your reply F. Stephen. Most likely i pressed (unknowingly) all the wrong buttons for you from my part.

    I love Christ, and the Orthodox Church of which leader He is. When the Church fails as an institution and a political organisation (as in some relatively recent events in Greece that gave liberals amunition for a lifetime really against it) and when i feel it tries to limit what by itself declares unlimited in its essence and manifestations i really, really, feel bad, because i came to know that the spiritual essence and approach of Orthodoxy are no less than very deep and beautiful.

    I used the word balance indeed with a variety of meanings, because i’ve felt that it encompasses significantly all of them and that you rejected it in many of them.

    The actual meaning i gave it though, is the one you suspected 🙂

    You have my wholehearted forgiveness and i in turn ask humbly for yours.

    God bless you.


  59. fatherstephen Avatar

    Forgive me if I’ve painted with a very large brush some things that may indeed be small. I will say, however, that it is incorrect to assume that King David’s dance, and the dance which takes place in contemporary churches is the same thing. David, for one, was naked. Something different was taking place (and not likely to be repeated).

    “Truly worshipping” is indeed the question and one worth considering carefully in our hearts. I have only meant to suggest some lines of thought about what that might mean. I believe that it is apparent that much “worship” engaged in today is not “worship” in the Biblical sense. But this same question was raised by Protestants long before (and in answer to the question they radically changed what was done in Church). Thus, I am only turning the question around and wondering why parts of the Reformed movements forbade certain things which had existed from the beginning, and why today they substitute modern forms instead. Not all singing is the same thing. If the Protestant reformers were allowed to ask such questions and destroy long-standing traditions with their answers – perhaps it’s ok to suggest that they were wrong.

  60. tiffaniv Avatar


    Very nice comment:) I know some see our dedication to Il Papa as unnatural, and all our welcomed to do so. If I could be picky though – don’t confuse us with the Anglicans – also a result of the Reformation. Catholics are not Protestants, even if we sometimes look alike.

    That being said, Orthodoxy challenges me greatly. I am immensely in love with it, and I worship within the Eastern half of Catholicism, because of Orthodox family members and Orthodox pals. I do have a deep love for Rome that cannot be swayed – even as irritating as Cardinals and Bishops can sometimes be to me with their genuine “unCatholicness”.

    The world needs Orthodoxy – the Right Way. We need the Orthodox liturgy, Orthodox prayers, we need the example of what we ought to be. Orthodoxy should speak loudly and clearly to us. Very loudly, very clearly.

    I am grateful for Fr. Stephen’s blog, for other Orthodox media – of which I am a huge adherent. Pray for us, Orthodoxy, that we Romans might live up to our own belief in the Eucharist some day soon. The problem is not that Rome does not believe. The problem is that the average Catholic no longer does.

    Posts of Father’s like this one, about the Liturgy being sung, this is something I have passed along to all my Catholic friends, interested or not. Our religious education is not coming anymore from many of our own priests, so I learn from Fr. Stephen. We are obliged to the same standard that we, for the most part, cannot even remember anymore. Forgive my Catholic opinions on things.

    Blessings to all. I will stop my commenting on this subject now, as it takes away from the original meaning of the post:) But I am immensely grateful for Father’s comment to me, and to the many Orthodox on this blog who have spoken as true brothers and sisters to me. As Bishop Ware says, we Orthodox and Catholics have more in common that we do not. The Eucharist is clearly one of those things. To change the world, we need only get them rightfully receiving the Body and Blood of Christ – in which we Catholics and Orthodox have full and complete belief.


  61. Steve Avatar


    Thank you.

    I completely agree with you on the need to pursue Christian unity — Christ Himself is that unity, we need only walk in His footsteps… through the gate!


  62. Lina Avatar

    I read the book Bread and Water, Wine and Oil by Archimandrite Webber and loved it. Here is a man who loves God and loves His Church and shares with the reader how to do the same.

  63. Kenn Tolle Avatar


    Thank you for your kind words Damaris… and Father thank you for facilitating this wonderful blog.

    Today (believe it or not) we’re even getting pounded with snow here in Birmingham Alabama which makes it the perfect day for pondering this article.

    Job 37:5-7  “God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. 6 He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’7 So that all men he has made may know his work, he stops every man from his labor.”

    I’m a new reader (as of yesterday… my priest emailed me about my being mention in the blog) I’m an Orthodox Christian, and artistic director of Hosanna Sacred Arts in Birmingham, AL. Hosanna Sacred Arts is a professional dance company committed to; “Revealing the glory of God through excellence in the Arts.” The music and dance works offered by the ministry/company are primarily concert works for the marketplace… so my musical compositions are not “liturgical” per se… but as a choreographer and composer I draw from the deep, deep well of the orthodox faith. (though my bucket seems to be quite riddled with holes) Presently I’m working on a two hour oratorio entitled “Pascha!” for orchestra, choir, and staged for classical ballet.

    But getting back to the original article… Zephaniah (3:17), “He will rejoice over thee with singing.” I’m overjoyed with the thought of our Lord rejoicing… which for those in biblical times would be seen as an outward enthusiastic expression of intense inward feelings. (dance!) An expression found with victory in battle and celebration in marriage! I can’t even begin to fully imagine or fathom such a thing… the voice of our Lord in song (the voice Job says thunders in marvelous ways) and His dancing… my soul is warmed and stirred just in pondering such an awesome thing.

    I love the Lord… and I love the beauty of His holiness found in His Bride the Church. And it is my deepest desire to be like Him… to first and foremost, (sinful creature that I am): “Rejoice over Him with singing” and then share as salt and light (as best I can by the Lord’s mercy and grace) His Love in a desperate and dying world. Father you are so right… a song offered in purity and love does bi-pass the corruption and biases caused by sin in this world. It speaks directly into the core of ones heart and through Him offers healing and wholeness.

    “Bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name!”

    Blessing to you ~ Kenn Tolle

  64. Damaris Avatar

    Kenn —

    It’s good to hear from you. I’m a friend of Kristin Morris’, and she has passed some of her recordings on to me. May God continue to bless your work.

  65. Sean Avatar


    sometimes I think about liturgical music (being a student of byzantine music myself) and I always conclude that a service without its music would not feel like a service at all!

    Please let me share with you all a video I posted on YT of the famous kontakion of the Akathist. I don’t think I have posted something from my channel before but it’s already this time of year once more and, having read this wonderful article again, I felt like sharing:

    By the way that’s my music instructor’s choir chanting.

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  1. As a total aside: Henry Adams practically invented Social History with his efforts almost 200 years ago. A magnificent book…

  2. Sorry for typos. Meant to say nothing pollutes more than warfare, etc , and don’t want to tread over the…

  3. Regarding “green” policies and the discussion here, I want to add that nothing polltes more han warfare, weapons, and to…

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