Reply To: Week 2 Discussion Topic: Do You Think We Need a New Typikon?

Trisagion School Forums Typikon 101 – Term 1 (Winter) 2024 Week 2 Discussion Topic: Do You Think We Need a New Typikon? Reply To: Week 2 Discussion Topic: Do You Think We Need a New Typikon?

Alexandra Zampino

    In reflecting on the question of whether we need a new Typikon, I have been edified greatly by both of your responses, Zornitsa and Sarah Helena. Both of you bring up very important points that must be considered if we are to weigh whether our worshippers today would benefit from a new Typikon.

    In order to sift through the many considerations here and reach the essence of what is most beneficial for the Church today, I believe that we need to start with identifying what our phronema, or frame of mind, would be if we are to advocate for a new Typikon.

    Should the goal of a new Typikon be to simplify (or shorten) the services to better suit our modern lifestyles and / or needs? Historically, this was a consideration when Konstantinos wrote his Typikon, in order to adapt the rigors of monastic worship to better suit lay worshippers.

    However, I think it would be an oversimplification to state that Konstantinos aimed to promote a shortening of the services, and to say so, I believe, doesn’t do justice to the work that Konstantinos was aiming to accomplish. Konstantinos only wishes, it seems to me, to justify the need for more simplified services so that laypeople may participate more fully in the cycles of daily worship – the key here being that there is a clear distinction between the time that a layperson is able to dedicate in worship and the time that a monastic is able to dedicate in worship, purely by the nature of what is blessed for the vocation of each. I’ve heard monastics tell parents, for instance, “Your children are your prayer ropes”; in other words, the monastic and the layperson (with or without a family) each have their own blessed way of ascesis. However, the ascesis of a layperson (typically) does not include the time spent in services equal to that of the monastic.

    I decided it would be worthwhile to go into detail about the above point because it is important for us to acknowledge exactly why certain Typika (namely Violakis) have attempted to justify more simplified services. It is not because these changes were more convenient for the layperson; it is because these changes were essentially necessary for the layperson in order to participate fully. It is not a “dumbing down”, or even a necessarily “easier” version of the services, but rather a way for the layperson to be able to live the full cycle of services without residing in a monastery. These changes, I will argue, are not an attempt to lessen the “ascesis,” or rigor, or the depth, for lack of better words, of these services.

    So, I return to the question, “Should the goal of a new Typikon be to shorten (or simplify) the services?” My answer is that no, there is not a justifiable need to do so in our present day (as opposed to in Violakis’ day). Yes, we modern folk have all sorts of commitments that cloud our consciences and tell us that we need to be out of Liturgy at a certain time that morning. Yes, our legs and voices may at times lack the enthusiasm for services as lengthy as our predecessors. Yes, we are often told by others, “I like the Orthodox services, but they’re simply too long.”

    Are such challenges to modern worship a detriment to the “accessibility” of the services? I’d say, hardly. In a world in which many are “selling out” and trying to do what is popular, the Orthodox Church is a bastion, a haven, for those seeking Truth. We should not change (or, in the sense of descriptive Typika, we should not describe or advocate for) our worship in a simplified way in order simply to please others or to make it more “accessible”.

    Rather, we need to change our hearts and minds to conform to the mind of Christ, who desires us to dine with Him at His heavenly banquet and to give us His Body and His Blood, to have us present with the Synaxis of the angels and saints who are mystically present with us. We need to leave our pressing sense of time and urgency at the door of the Church and remind ourselves that we are not of this world, although we are in it.

    And being in the world, if we have this “phonema” or mindset of not changing our worship simply because it is “easier,” this love of the services will show in our lives without us needing to say a word to others. The grace that Christ gives to us in the services is real, and it is irresistible to those outside the Church who are seeking Her. I’ve known many people personally who were drawn to the Church initially because they were amazed that we actually want to be in Church for “this long.” They reasoned, if Orthodox faithful desire to be in Church this much, Orthodox worship must be more than a social gathering or a “feel good” session. It must be life-giving, it must be Truth. And those people found Truth in Orthodoxy and converted. Our persistence in worship evangelizes in a very real way.

    You might be thinking at this point that I am advocating against a new Typikon. Quite the contrary. I simply don’t agree with the advent of a new Typikon simply to make services “more accessible.”

    I do feel as though a new Typikon would be helpful for parishes, especially in the United States, where, as Zornitsa put it, the multitude of jurisdictional traditions can be “dizzying.” As a descriptive (not prescriptive) endeavor, a new Typika should aim to have the mindset of preserving the purity of worship in an age where it is threatened more than ever, both by temptations inside and outside of the Church.

    As you said, Peter, the services in some parishes are being condensed beyond recognition. I do feel that, in many areas of the US, parishes are under-served, meaning that they may not have enough skilled chanters, or perhaps the faithful, priests, or chanters do not live locally (our society is hardly the “village” society as it was during the time that many of these Typika were written). So, I am sympathetic toward parishes who feel that they are not able to hold to the standard that Violakis’ typika sets forth. I do not make a value judgment on those parishes who condense services, although I think doing so should be only out of true necessity, and not purely for convenience’s sake.

    However, since the condensing of services has already been set in motion for what I assume to be at least a couple of decades here in the US, this means that parishes are largely not following Violakis’ Typikon, as written. As such, a new Typikon should be written in order to identify the most common departures that parishes have made from the Violakis Typikon and to reconcile these departures in a way that is blessed, so that parishes as a whole can hold to a Typikon. Even though the individual traditions between parishes of differing jurisdictions will still vary, at least the framework of the services could be clearly defined, with room for “choices,” taking a cue from Fr. Konstantinos Papagiannis’ Typikon.

    Furthermore, I would advocate for this Typikon to be printed in English as its primary language (with translations in other languages, too, of course) and to address the needs specifically of parishes in the United States.

    As Zornitsa and Sarah Helena each voiced, in their own way, careful consideration would have to be made in creating a new Typikon in order to not create a sense of separation between various jurisdictions, and also to not give the impression of allowing modifications to shorten services simply because doing so is “easier”. However, I believe that each of these two issues are secondary in nature. Divisions and temptations will always exist, but if we take care to provide our Churches with the tools and information in a new Typika in order to preserve the worship handed down to us over the ages, the Body of Christ here on Earth will be more able to navigate such challenges.