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Coptic Orthodox Bishops of North America issue statement on standardizedEnglish liturgical responses

This is from here:

http://lacopts.org/story/proposed-standard-liturgical-english-responses/

I hope no one thinks I'm cynical in saying this, but I sometimes wonder, we have had a great revolution in our liturgical practices by translating our liturgy into English, and whoever toiled through the standardization did a great job, so God bless his service. But would standardization of the musicality of the English take priority over other issues happening in North America? Is that really the only reason they met? Or did they talk about other things not discussed in the LA diocese website?
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Comments

  • I'm sure they met to discuss a bunch of things, His Grace Bishop David said they discussed trying to open in the future at least one "non Egyptian cultural"(because nobody likes the word missionary) church/community in each state. LA just opened one according to their website a few weeks ago
  • edited July 2014
    Hi Everyone, what are your thoughts about a complete re-haul or reassessment of what we define as Coptic Hymnology? I might be getting in hot water by suggesting this on Tasbeha.org....but what if the following were considered:
    1. Not matching the Coptic note-for-note
    2. Encouraging beauty
    3. Adapt hymnology, musical arragement and hymnographic compositions from other Orthodox Churches


    For the first (matching the Coptic or Arabic note-for-note), it's akin to doing a literal word for word translation and doesn't factor in meaning or adapt a language's musical cadence. If I may borrow an example from our Byzantine brothers and sisters, the Paschal Canon in Greek and in English and in Arabic all sound the same but the words from each are not statically applied, nor are melisma forced on English or Arabic because the Greek recension has it structured that way. Sometimes it sounds like melisma or a word or a tonal inflection is placed in English translation of Coptic hymns because it exists in the same place in the Coptic (I've not done enough research or comparison on this so please understand it's an assumption).


    For the second consideration, the focus on beauty, one might say "well beauty is in the eye of the beholder" or "Coptic hymns are beautiful just try harder", but I wonder if we're being honest with how our hymnographic praxis actually sounds...I'm not just speaking from "I like this style vs. that style, etc" but what we hear is hymnography done very badly. Another factor is maybe our dependence on technology (microphones anyone? big churches that require microphones are whole other issue :P). What did the Church do when we didn't have Bose speakers or Samsung OLED screens or iPads?

    But back to beauty, we've all heard beautiful Coptic hymnology and I wonder if such beauty is due to the spaces they're prayed in...most often in small monastic spaces. Or perhaps it's the way that they're done, like in unison and with less dependence on microphone or a single cantor. A prayerful spirit is definitely central to good hymnology but so is good musical delivery. Just because "Abouna ____" or "Cantor _____" or "Monk ______" who is holy or became a saint or was my favorite liturgist, was also known for not having a beautiful voice, doesn't not mean that beautiful hymnography is not important. Neither bad hymnology or showy hymnography lead to beauty....

    Third consideration, the adoption of Orthodox hymns from other Orthodox Churches. Adopting hymnographic traditions has happened before and it's happening now (maybe nowadays we borrow more from non-Orthodox sources though).  Could we not draw on the best parts of Orthodox hymnography? Perhaps even the texts of those hymns which we could then "coptify" if that's our primary concern with hymnology? Is our concern with "Coptic" style more nationalistic than it is Orthodox?

    Lastly related to adopting aspects of other Orthodox Churches, I wonder what would happen if we embraced the role of cantors (not just call everyone who's a singer a "deacon") and also had mixed choirs with women singers, like how the Syrians, Indians, Armenians, Ethiopians, Russians, Antiochians, Georgians and all the American Orthodox Churches do? I wonder if by preventing our sisters from participating in Orthodox Hymnology, we've directed them to associate a closer affinity to contemporary christian worship music. Do we tell our sisters that singing in the liturgical choir is for the "deacons" only? Do we also demarcate our "liturgical" hymns against "spiritual songs" (think of the charismatic or emotional Arabic taraneems) and then only give our sisters the "non-liturgical" meetings as places where they can lead in song?  Are not Christian Worship Songs also the logical progression from "non-liturgical" taraneems for our youth in the lands of immigration?  Could not some of these issue be resolved with a mixed choir or with raising the bar musically?


  • edited July 2014
    Some random quotes :P:

    "...one of the tools is the Service (the Divine Liturgy) and the Music and the Rites, those are very affected by the Coptic tradition and culture.
    If you want to go to another culture, it should all change. To me, you don't have to say the melody of the Hymn (Lahk) of PekEnthronos in Brazil. No one understands. What's important is the Faith, the Belief, you put it in music, and music that suits them not us. You need to get the point of the hymn and remove the culture...the cultural influence in the service. The hymns are affected by the culture, by Egyptian culture, so when you go to another culture, you should remove it." 
    Mualim Albier Gamal Mikhail, 
    (there's sort of a suggestion that we need keep a "Coptic" style if we're Egyptian...but in the West doesn't that risk promoting spiritual nationalism?)


    "If our culture is ever to wake up from its enthrallment to Mammon and enter seriously into the life God has prepared for us – I can see no vehicle other than Orthodoxy that is prepared to teach such an awakening in an embodied form. I have no idea what the future holds for our culture or for world culture. God alone knows that. But I do know that whatever the future holds, knowing God deeply and learning the practices proper to the Christian life will be more essential rather than less. “Dumbing down” our schools is not working for education – spiritually “dumbing down” Christianity cannot be good for us either. We do not need less – we need more – we need the fullness."
    Fr Stephen Freeman, Mission and Worship – America and the Orthodox http://glory2godforallthings.com/2007/11/26/mission-and-worship-america-and-the-orthodox/


    "However, inculturation is only possible when the evangelist knows the Orthodox tradition and can therefore discern what is and what is not compatible with it. Inculturation is the planting of the gospel, the seed, the presence of Christ, in the unique soil of new culture, and allowing it, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to mature at its own pace, to produce ultimately a new, indigenous church." 


    Our exposure to other Orthodox traditions is not a threat, it’s a blessing and helps us understand ourselves better.


    "Each church suffers from self-infatuation and does not want to understand that its own advantage is not to be compared to the fate of the world. Every church's concern with its own welfare while neglecting the fate of the rest of the world thus carries with it a commitment to the bitterness of schism. This means that the cup of communion in the church lacks the spirit of communal sharing, and also that the presence of Christ in the Church does not include the world saved and redeemed by God."
    Fr Matta el-Meskeen, True Unity will be an Inspiration to the World
  • +

    @minasoliman - the Bishops have a local synod and they met to discuss a bunch of things, not just the hymns. :)

    @EsmoEpChois -- there are actually 4 in the LA diocese now!

    pray for me,
    ap
  • The Liturgy is the most important service in the Church. We partake of God to be with HIm and He with us daily. In the coptic rite, we emphasize that prayers are always chanted and we do have a great heritage for hymns.

    When a someone goes to another church to pray liturgy and tries to chant the simplest response. If he is not hearing everyone else matching with what he is saying, he will stop and not be able to pray. Sometimes people because soo into the liturgy that they don't even look at the words....they just close their eyes (or even leave them open) and they just chant and truly pray. if he is not matching with everyone else, he'll be a distraction and be embarrassed. it would exactly be like me responding in arabic and the deacon next to me responding that same response in coptic and another language.

    It's a serious issue to not unite in the SIMPLEST form of praying in our Church. 
  • @cyril

    I actually could not agree more!

    Apart from a few points ;)
    1) the difference between the Coptic church and the other churches you mentioned (someone correct me if I'm wrong) is that we Copts in fact ordain cantors whereas to become a cantor in the other churches you mentioned, all you need to do is join that church's choir. Basically, these other Orthodox churches do not ordain women, something we would need to do if we wanted to make them proper Coptic cantors, and which has (as you are all well aware) profound theological consequences. So the first step would actually be to reform the whole rank of cantor to match the set up of our sister churches, only then could women become proper members of this rank.

    2) I totally agree that having women cantors would strongly reduce the influence of CCM within the Coptic church, but I have to object to your statement that CCM is the logical extension of non-liturgical taraneem. Taraneem are written within the Orthodox Church (although they may well not be fully Orthodox in their ethos), whilst CCM originates from heterodox sources. Nonetheless, I do take your point.
  • @qawe...cantors were NOT being ordained just as cantors with their own rank but as deacons of the rank of arch-epsaltos simply because, while being blind, they are unable to be reads.

    despite the above, and with the spread of hymns on the internet, we have very few cantors and many many great and knowledgeable deacons. in fact, i don't think anyone is ordained an arch-epsaltos anymore.

  • I think the popularity of Cantors stemmed from the fact that less people from the congregation really became less involved with the hymns of the Church.  This should not be so.  Perhaps female cantors can help increase involvement, but I would say that generally, it is not considered that Cantors are part of the Holy Orders.

    With that said, I'm on the fence on readers, subdeacons, and deacons, because every sister Orthodox Church has a different perspective or history on these roles, and so I can't really say for sure or have any sufficient knowledge to judge what is "tonsured" or what is "ordained".
  • I think it is mind-bottling, that we focus so much on the tunes/accuracy of our hymns. Obviously this is not with regard to these blessed bishops who are truly perserving orthodoxy. We  as servants need re-evaluate what is going on in church these days.

    See clip:  (skip to 15:15 - 17:00 minutes)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oem6ohFse6o 

  • I hope I am not getting the drift of this conversation, but are people suggesting that there should be choirs with lady or girl singers? I hope I am wrong.
    Oujai
  • Hi Everyone, what are your thoughts about a complete re-haul or reassessment of what we define as Coptic Hymnology? 

    Since you asked...It is the worst thing that could possibly happen to any hymnological tradition, much less to the Coptic hymnological tradition. The idea behind a re-haul or a reassessment of Coptic tradition is solely based on the idea that the Coptic tradition is lacking or insufficient. The assumption that our tradition is so lacking that it needs a re-haul is a testament to the misunderstanding of music theory in general and the misunderstanding of sacred music. Additionally, I can emphatically say without any hesitation, that the Coptic musical tradition is so unique that it would be a crime to undermine the wide-spread, multi-generational attempt to preserve a musical tradition not found anywhere else, all in the name of modernity. Modernity does not trump identity. If it does, your identity becomes ever-changing, which is the antithesis of Christian Orthodox Faith identity.

    For the first (matching the Coptic or Arabic note-for-note), it's akin to doing a literal word for word translation and doesn't factor in meaning or adapt a language's musical cadence. If I may borrow an example from our Byzantine brothers and sisters, the Paschal Canon in Greek and in English and in Arabic all sound the same but the words from each are not statically applied, nor are melisma forced on English or Arabic because the Greek recension has it structured that way. Sometimes it sounds like melisma or a word or a tonal inflection is placed in English translation of Coptic hymns because it exists in the same place in the Coptic (I've not done enough research or comparison on this so please understand it's an assumption).
    I will use your example comparing musical adaptation to textual translation. There are two factors every translator is faced with when translating a text: (1) Portraying the original author's context honestly and (2) factoring linguistic barriers and influences. Regarding the first factor, I have seen too many attempts to translate a Coptic text completely ignoring the author's intended use of Greek bilingualism or the author's meaning. You'll find an example in the Psalies. Ⲧⲉⲧⲣⲁ ⲙ̀ⲡⲓⲕⲣⲓⲧⲏⲥ (Copto-Greek meaning "four judges) is translated in Arabic as تيترا القاضي. On the flip side, I have seen attempts where translators have tried so hard to keep to the author's intentions, that the resulting translation is nothing like the original or over-editorialized. You see this in modern biblical translations. 

    For the second factor, I have seen translations that complete ignore the idiosyncratic linguistic nuances of another language. Take for example, the reconciliation prayer. "O God, the Great, the Eternal, who made man in incorruption..." The underlined section completely ignores the fact that the verb in Coptic is not "made" or "created" but "built". And it ignores the fact that the preposition in Coptic implies "built on". Unlike English, Coptic is allowed to generate a syntactic meaning with less morphological elements. So in Coptic, one would understand "who built man on the foundation of incorruption" just by the use of the verb and prepositions. While in English, a translation that adds "foundation" is free-styling or editorializing a meaning. The net result is people will argue till they're blue in the face "Where do you see foundation in Coptic? The word is not there." Then the arguments inevitably lead to "I'm right and you're wrong. I know better than you." 

    For some reason, people fail to see this process working in music. First, in sacred music, the author's intended context, is NOT a methodical expression of syntax only. In other words, three "ooo"s is not simply syntactically translated as "God". Put another way, the common musical section of omonogenees' second line expresses sadness. So when we find this musical section in Ontos and Midnight Hoos, it must mean sadness. It doesn't work this way. If we think that a certain melisma in Coptic must always fall on the penultimate syllable in Coptic, but it can't in English, and we must change the "translation" (or musical composition) for English and put the melisma on a different syllable, we will end up with something that doesn't sound anywhere near the author's intended context. My point is that translating the author's intended musical text is not as simple as translating written text into another language. 

    Secondly, we fail to see the musicological barriers and influence on the original musical composition. Every Apostolic and Orthodox Church, except the Coptic and Ethiopian Church, use the octoechos system. Our system is not compatible with the octoechos, even though Ibn Kabar claimed our music does follows the octoechos. This illustrates that octoechos can be considered a type of music barrier (border is probably a better word) that cannot simply be overlooked. Another music border is the actual melismata and use of vowel intonations. These things have very opposite meanings in different musical traditions that can't be overlooked but are often (intentionally?) missed. By missing the importance of these framework borders, it becomes very easy to claim Coptic music is musically unesthetic or inferior. It is not the Coptic music that is the problem, it is the lack of understanding musical theory and jumping to the other side of the fence (which we think the grass is greener but fail to realize it is just pretty weeds).

  • This last point leads to what we consider beauty or "bad" hymnography. The only way a musical composition (and the whole musical tradition or hymnography) can be claimed as bad is if it is seen through a foreign paradigm. When Villateaux, under the Napoleon expedition studied Egyptian music, his analysis lead to an 80+ year disgust of Coptic music. He called Coptic music "poison to the senses", mostly because he was forced to stand for hours (His own words). He thought this because even though he was an "esteemed" hand-picked musicologist describing indigenous music, his analysis was done through Western musical theory and practice. In reality, like all the 18th and 19th century "scientists" studying in non-European countries, he was ethnocentrically racist. This was no different from Ernest Newlandsmith, whom Ragheb Moftah brought to transcribe Coptic music. When looking for a cantor to transcribe, Moftah and Newlandsmith chose Mikhail Girguis al-Batanoony because "he was clear of the filthy ornamentation of Arabic music". In all these cases, one judges a different musical culture as bad, only if they see or compare it to their own bubble.

    It is no different today. We want to see Coptic music through Western polyphony and music theory and fail to recognize that we are comparing apples and oranges. We fail to see that the beauty of Coptic music lies in its identity and its adherence to a faith, not in its conformity to contemporary musical esthetics or musical transcription or emotional musical responses. It is this idea that we have to conform musically that is leading people to "charismatic" praise worship. And with this need to conform musically, we inevitably find a need to conform theologically. There is the real poison to our senses.

    What did the Church do when we didn't have Bose speakers or Samsung OLED screens or iPads?
    The same thing we are doing now. Praying in the spirit as an icon of heavenly praise. It is not the performance of praise that is important, it is the spirituality or theology of praise. It starts with a faith that God reveals praise through the scripture and oral tradition. It then modifies certain minor aspects as long as it occurs within that spirituality or theology of praise; that musical and theological border. Adding speakers, screens and technology does not violate the theology or faith of praise. Using musical instruments and songs that are designed for Protestant worship falls outside theology because it takes what God has revealed in communal and angelic worship, throws it out the window in an attempt to propagate a theology of individuality, adogmatism and esthetics. 

  • Third consideration, the adoption of Orthodox hymns from other Orthodox Churches. Adopting hymnographic traditions has happened before and it's happening now (maybe nowadays we borrow more from non-Orthodox sources though).  Could we not draw on the best parts of Orthodox hymnography? Perhaps even the texts of those hymns which we could then "coptify" if that's our primary concern with hymnology? Is our concern with "Coptic" style more nationalistic than it is Orthodox?
    As AntoniosNicholas once said, "we are not musically (and theologically) bankrupt that we need to go after other musical traditions". Your questions all work on the foundation that we need something from outside, make it Coptic and live happily ever after. Sure we can borrow from other Orthodox Churches. But our hymnology right now is SOOO Orthodox, it begs the question why should we bother? If we are only talking about musical tradition, it assumes our musical tradition is not Orthodox and Byzantine or Syriac is. This changes the argument. It becomes something akin to Coptic hymnography is not ecumenical, not musical, or not theological. The first (ie, Coptic hymnography is not ecumenical) was addressed in the first question. It's not supposed to be. The second, (ie, Coptic hymnography is not musical or esthetically beautiful) is a function of wrong musical philosophy and theory. This leaves us with the third (ie, Coptic hymnography is not theological). And I refuse to even entertain the notion that Coptifying other Orthodox (or non-Orthodox) hymns is not really an attempt to undermine the theology of Coptic hymnography. Our Church has adopted Ancient Egyptian pagan music for Coptic texts, not the other way around. It was done to undermine pagan theology and preach Coptic Christianity. We have never borrowed Jewish, Pagan, Byzantine, Oriental, Roman, Gregorian, or Syriac music to retrofit into Coptic theology or Coptic texts. Why should we borrow Byzantine, Syriac texts and retrofit Coptic music? The only reason to do this (and the only reason it was done) was to serve foreign converts or serve a multicultural Orthodox society. It was never done to update one culture over another. It has nothing to do with nationalism. 

  • Lastly related to adopting aspects of other Orthodox Churches, I wonder what would happen if we embraced the role of cantors (not just call everyone who's a singer a "deacon") and also had mixed choirs with women singers, like how the Syrians, Indians, Armenians, Ethiopians, Russians, Antiochians, Georgians and all the American Orthodox Churches do? I wonder if by preventing our sisters from participating in Orthodox Hymnology, we've directed them to associate a closer affinity to contemporary christian worship music. Do we tell our sisters that singing in the liturgical choir is for the "deacons" only? Do we also demarcate our "liturgical" hymns against "spiritual songs" (think of the charismatic or emotional Arabic taraneems) and then only give our sisters the "non-liturgical" meetings as places where they can lead in song?  Are not Christian Worship Songs also the logical progression from "non-liturgical" taraneems for our youth in the lands of immigration?  Could not some of these issue be resolved with a mixed choir or with raising the bar musically?
    Here you are mixing theology with culture. Our Coptic culture sees all deacons (ie, minor order deacons) as cantors. Our Coptic theology sees liturgical, communal worship as a function of the priesthood exclusive to men. Yes we tell our sisters that liturgical choir is for deacons only. This is not culture. This is theology. (Now a bishop may allow economy and have female choirs in liturgical meetings for whatever reason.) Having said this, setting up liturgical hymns as a dichotomy against spiritual songs only corroborates what I am saying. If spiritual songs are "charismatic or emotional taraneems", then they have no place in liturgical worship, whether sung by men or women, monkeys or prophets. Christian Worship Songs are the logical progression of an attempt to undermine one theology for another, not one culture for another. Using mixed choirs will not solve any problems because it does not address the lack of theological understanding. 

    I can use the example of types of coenobitic monasteries: heremetic, mixed monasteries and double monasteries. Heremetic monasteries refer to monasteries where monks (male or female respectively but never together) live alone under a loose monastic rule. An example is St Antony's monastery in the early 3rd and 4th century. Another example is a monk who lives in a cell independently of other monks. A mixed monastery is a monastery where male ascetics cohabitate with female virgins. The Apophthegmata Patrum (Sayings of the Desert Fathers) have many stories where this occurred. Obviously it became a problem since Nicaea I Canon 3 and Synod of Ancyra Canon 19 forbade this practice since the early 4th century. Double monasteries describes a monastic community where males and females were segregated into separate buildings under one monastic leader. This is the monastic rule of St Pachomius and St Shenoute. Double monasteries were championed by St Basil's Rule or Great Asceticon. This form of monastic community also reached controversy and it was specifically forbidden in Nicaea II Canon 20 (787AD). Theologically, monasteries of men and women were seen as one unit, just like male cantors and female cantors/singers are theologically one unit, even if one sings and leads out loud and the other submits and sings silently. Theological problems arise when certain cultural traditions are not checked against the fullness of Orthodox praxis. Just like mixed monasteries and double monasteries challenged acceptable Orthodox norms and perverted theology (ie, the ascetic theology of monasticism), mixed choirs challenge traditional acceptable norms and pervert hymnological theology (ie, the gender specific organization of the priesthood among other things). 

    This is not to say mixed choirs are sinful or women are forced to look for Orthodox praise in "non-liturgical meetings" because they are not important.  It simply means trying to fix a perceived cultural inadequacy often results in theological confusion. 
     
    And I repeat, we don't need to raise any musical bar. It can't get higher than Coptic hymnography. And this is not a comment reflecting cultural or personal bias, exclusivity or nationalism. It is a comment reflecting theological spirituality. 

    Sorry for the long post. 
  • edited November 2014
     
  • @ophadece yes you are correct. Other Orthodox churches do it and ultimately it would strengthen the Coptic liturgy against heterodox influences, as usually it is the women who feel disconnected from the liturgy (rightly or wrongly) and demand to sing Hillsong, etc. This demand will drop if women are more involved.
  • the notion that coptic tunes should be changed when transferring the tune to english is absurd 
    there is not real reason to do so they should not be changed or altered to fit into english it may be hard but it isnt impossible the recordings above are proof sure they need more work but it can be done 
  • edited July 2014
    Hi Remnkemi, wow thank you for taking the time to respond :) I'm not sure I'll be able to sufficiently respond :P

    I think you're correct in bringing up the issue of identity. What can be alarming is attributing our identity to nationalism or cultural triumphalism or ethnocentrism. Just as alarming is the isolationism and jurisdictionalism that this can foster....especially in the lands of immigration. I'm not sure we can make the claim that the Coptic Orthodox Church was never influenced by a synthesis or adaptations from other Orthodox Churches. Whatever was good or true or beautiful we adopted.

    Could I also suggest that idea of an unchanging "pure" cultural identity or a fixed hymnographic recension attributed to style (whether Coptic or not) is wholly "modern" project? Could rigorist adherence to an Identity be related to a romanticized idea of the Egyptian Nation? Has there been theologizing of the musical theory of our hymns in order to affirm a unique national character?

    If we're speaking about affirming Orthodox Theology, what is the issue with adopting from other Orthodox or sharing with them? Does claiming that Coptic Hymns have to sound "Coptic" to keep its theology Orthodox not sound more of a cultural claim than a theological one? Does appealing to a pure or fundamental past not contradict Living Tradition? Where are the Coptic Orthodox hymnographers a la St Sarkis, St Gregory Narek, St Ephraim or St Romanos the Melodist? 

    I do agree that theological awareness and good theology needs to be raised in the Church...but again hymnology done beautifully will only help with this. What often happens is:
    1) hymnology is done bad...ie. think Coptic hymns sung out of functionality or without attention to musical quality
    2) coptic hymns also equated to perfect flowering of Orthodox Theology and Orthodox Lived Theology (ie. Liturgical Life)
    3) cultural myopia, ethnic hubris, resistance to non-Coptic recensions, or just indifference to the modern world
    4) refusal to be critical of our Tradition (because we might think to be critical makes us poor or weak or less triumphalist?)

    And when this occurs in the lands of Immigration this perpetuates the post-reformation myth that Orthodoxy is old, rigorist or a museum, when the Church is fully alive, dynamic, free and life giving. It's bad theology, bad hymnology, bad religion which drives people to rigorism, secularism, protestantism, reductionism and atheism. I think that many of the problematic trends we're seeing in the Church are a direct result of the modernist project of nationalism and of the legacy of ethnocentric identities. 

    Sentimentality (Touchy-Feely Anything Goes Faith) and Rigorism (Fundamentalism, Moralism and Legalism) are both extremes to avoid. I hope that I'm not suggesting either in my comments :P
  • Hi Coptic_Deacon, perhaps the Church is both Cataphatic and Apophatic? One leads to the other, neither stands in isolation. Cataphatic modes should not be used to claim that all can be know about God. Apophatic modes should not be used to say no work or intellectual ascesis is fruitful. Antinomy is funny like that :P

    On the emphasis of certain notes, I think what has happened is a bit of over spiritualizing concerning the way the hymns sound (maybe because the texts in our hymns tend to be more brief or literal). This theologizing of the notation has also been used as a way to say we can't change the compositions. The kind of theologizing that gets applied to our hymns is also a bit problematic...it's ironically very 'cataphatic' and becomes a listing of facts (it's also this kind of 'theology' which makes people think 'theology' is for specialists or that theology is history, abstractions, etc...it's the kind of theologizing which I think can be helped by seeing how other Orthodox and even how some RC liturgists theologize). (ps. Remnkemi, when I mentioned the need for drawing on other Orthodox traditions earlier, I also meant a textual adoption...bring in the hymns and liturgical poetry of the other Traditions...ie. the theological insights and content of those hymns...sadly for such to be accepted the hierarchs might suggest that they be copticized...but stylistic copticization is a reconstruction...think of our attempts to make new Coptic melodies in the Coptic style for those lost hymns that don't have a 'tune') (Speaking of Coptic Style....maybe there's an ethnomusicologist somewhere who's exploring the Islamic influences on Coptic Hymns or of Coptic Hymns influence on Islam, or of changes to the Coptic Hymns before they were archived by Dr Moftah).

    I agree that the effect of music can also complement theology and can influence the feelings and emotions, but I once spoke to a choir director at a Byzantine Parish and discussed polyphony. He was of the opinion that the most complex or even the most beautiful sounding hymn is useless if it is not understood or heard. He was bringing up the delivery and reception of theology instead of focus only on style. In typical Orthodox fashion he then did a 180 and also affirmed that beauty and good hymnographic "performance" are important too. 

    If a Russian recension of an Orthodox hymn was reproduced perfectly but no one in the congregation could understand what was being said, he would recommend that it just be read out loud or chanted without song. If it were to be sung badly with no care for beauty, again he would recommend it be read out loud or chanted without song. 


  • edited July 2014
    A few more quotes :P

    On the fine line between prayerfulness and "performance":
    "So the real God, the Living One, will never conform to our expectations, whether good or bad. God has promised to be there, in these sacramental liturgical realities, but it is He who comes, not our fabrication of Him. So it's very interesting, I have a personal note here...my work as a liturgist will only amount to something if I can get my students to be in Church no matter how bad, how uninspiring, and how dull the service is. In other words if Chirst has promised to be there, who am I to play hard to get? Continuing with the lover kind of dynamic. Now if you take that linear logic to its linearly logical conclusion, you're going to end up with folks who say "no matter how we do it God's here." You know the "ex opere operato" approach which is the bane of all liturgizing. 

    So again it's a matter of balancing the two, in other words, we have to be convinced that something is happening there and it's my duty, my obligation, my salvation to be there whether it's very exciting or it's nice or not, and at the same time, those of us especially who are in the ministry who are doing the liturgical ministry have to serve, have to sing, have to act as if it were just the opposite. In other words as if it really did depend on me articulating every word, me producing the most beautiful sounds a member of the choir, me caring for the appointments in Church being as aesthetically marvelous as they can be, but at the end of the day, it is about Christ having promised to be there. And so us saying "it's not going to be too good today" but I'm there anyway. Why? because this is not just an emanation of my consciousness."
    Fr. Peter Galadza


    And this humbling one (which speaks of a piety which I think I'm often guilty of embracing :S):
    "Last evening I lectured about “Church and Church Piety.” In connection with the lecture, I thought about the fate of Orthodoxy. At this time, there is a triumph of monasticism both in theology and in piety. In Serbia, every revival is connected with a monastic experience, trend or teaching. I’m worried about this trend becoming identified with Orthodoxy. In America, we often see the reduction of Orthodoxy to icons, to ancient singing, to Mt. Athos books about spiritual life. Byzantium is triumphing without a cosmic dimension. I can’t avoid thinking that it is all a sort of romanticism—a love for that image of Orthodoxy, love because that image is radically different from the images of the contemporary world. Escape, departure, reduction of Orthodoxy.

    What is very significant for me is that wherever this trend is triumphant, the Eucharist, Communion, the meaning and the experience of the Church are lost. This meaning and experience are needed now more than ever. The Eucharistic Church identifies itself as “in this world, but not of this world.” 

    The monastic trend of the Church is that the parish, community, etc., give this world only an opposition, while departure from this world is shown as the Orthodox answer and the true Orthodox way. The monastic trend, as strange as it may seem, considers the Church as part of the world, so that one must leave not only the world but the Church.

    My professor at the Institute in Paris once wrote, “...where is Christ, where are the Apostles, where is the Church? Everything is darkened by the enormous shadow of the Staretz (the Elder, the Counsellor)...” Quite logically, this trend is easily and naturally connected with a romantic, nationalistic Holy Russia, i.e., with the past, its image, its style.

    Once, Father John M[eyendorff] told me in a moment of candor that he can not understand why people are obsessed with the Fathers. So many people propagate this fashion, which prevents them from understanding anything in the real world, and at the same time are convinced that they serve the Church and Orthodoxy. I’m afraid that people are attracted not by the thoughts of the Fathers, not by the content of their writings, but by their style. It is quite close to the Orthodox understanding of liturgical services: love them without understanding; and inasmuch as they are not understood, come to no conclusion. We sit in our shell, charmed by a melody, and do not notice that the Church is suffering, and for a long time already has left the battlefield."
    Father Alexander Schmemann, Thursday, October 2, 1980, Journals


  • You are filled with quotes aren't you...lol
  • someone is using their summertime productively :-)
  • I can't even remember things I said let alone what others said hahaha
  • @Remenkimi,
    I agree with most if not all of what you said, apart from two comments. 
    Firstly, talking about Mr. Moftah and Mr. Newlandsmith, now you can see for yourself the unassuming effects of choosing a cantor who doesn't speak like the majority others, because of the presumed hypothesis that other speak Coptic impurified by Arabic!!!! Wrong. 
    Secondly, iPad, big TV screens, computers, etc take away what the Church has taught us long time ago. The Church should remind us of heaven, and take us away from the world and its contents (ALL OF THEM). So how do people feel, not only the younger generations, but also, when they come to church leaving their TV's to find TV's - leaving their iPads to find iPads INSIDE the altar! No more commenting on this.
    Please give me more examples. These are nice things to learn really. However, is it aradantondi the original hymn, and dighalelea and others are fitted onto? Or the reverse? I actually presume it is, but just asking.
    You need to understand what is Orthodox I guess. I am not saying you don't, but you need to go much deeper. God came in the form of a man, not a hermaphrodite. He chose apostles all of the manly gender, not women. Let's not take His example; let's just reason with Him for the sake of pulling some more into the church. Would He ever be unhappy to see women involved? Or being more and more pulled in and attracted to the services?
    Oujai
  • There are some serious issues facing the church, thankfully there are bishops like HG Bishop Anba Youssef. We all know that nobody listens in the Coptic church unless you are a bishop.






  • Cyril, thanks for the comments and references.

    I think you're correct in bringing up the issue of identity. What can be alarming is attributing our identity to nationalism or cultural triumphalism or ethnocentrism.

    We already have evidence that this is what happened to Coptic music from Europeans. Yes there was nationalism, as seen from the writings and motives of Ragheb Moftah. But let's keep things really clear. Anyone who claims nationalism or cultural triumphalism is superficial in their understanding of Coptic hymnography. The opposite is true too. Anyone who claims we need ecumenical universalism in hymnography has no appreciation for our hymnographic past, our current theology and our future praise in heaven.

    Just as alarming is the isolationism and jurisdictionalism that this can foster....especially in the lands of immigration. 

    Isolationism and jurisdictionalism are necessary in certain scenerios. It was isolation that kept us away from some of the nonsense councils of EO and RC and Protestant Reformation. Jurisdictionalism is necessary for order. Without it, we become a nation like Israel in the book of Judges, each person doing whatever he wants without any respect for their role in the Church. 

    I'm not sure we can make the claim that the Coptic Orthodox Church was never influenced by a synthesis or adaptations from other Orthodox Churches. Whatever was good or true or beautiful we adopted.

    Of course was influence by social and multicultural contact that brought in certain musical influences from other Orthodox Churches. But it was not whatever was beautiful or nice. It was a fairly rare phenomenon to adopt texts from other Churches. In fact, there is evidence of a resistance to adopt hymns from other Churches. Why are we so liberal to adopt from somewhere else. The grass is not greener.

    Could I also suggest that idea of an unchanging "pure" cultural identity or a fixed hymnographic recension attributed to style (whether Coptic or not) is wholly "modern" project? You can suggest whatever you want. You need evidence to support it. Go ask the EO and Syriac Churches to dump their octoechos system and that adherence to their current system is a modern project. See what they will say. 

    Could rigorist adherence to an Identity be related to a romanticized idea of the Egyptian Nation? Could it be related? Yes. Is it related? Not for me. These are two separate issues. You want people to believe that the only reason to adhere to an identity is politics, even after I pointed to a theological basis. 

    Has there been theologizing of the musical theory of our hymns in order to affirm a unique national character? Not that I know of. The absence of a political basis unique to our Coptic musical theory is evidence to me that one can't argue politics. There is no evidence.

    If we're speaking about affirming Orthodox Theology, what is the issue with adopting from other Orthodox or sharing with them? There is a difference between sharing Orthodox hymns out of brotherly love, and borrowing and incorporating hymns to "improve our dying tradition". It assumes we are lacking in theological hymns now.  There is nothing wrong with our tradition as it is. An instance to change a hymnographic tradition that is not broken reveals more about one's faulty attitude than the music tradition itself. 

    Does claiming that Coptic Hymns have to sound "Coptic" to keep its theology Orthodox not sound more of a cultural claim than a theological one? I am pretty sure I said nothing about "souring Coptic". The use of Coptic melismata and the theology of melismatic praise is completely foreign to those who are not Coptic. Copying their non-melismatic theology is nothing more than undermining our established melismatic theology. Again it has nothing to do with culture. I don't know how else to say it.

    Does appealing to a pure or fundamental past not contradict Living Tradition?  No. Our living tradition is manifested in that pure past. Why are you creating a dichotomy that is not supported by evidence? 

    Where are the Coptic Orthodox hymnographers a la St Sarkis, St Gregory Narek, St Ephraim or St Romanos the Melodist? With the exception of Sarkis, none of these hymnographers are Coptic. This just goes to show how we are so hung up on going to and praising everything non-Coptic. Coptic hymnographers are anonymous. And what does it matter if we have Coptic hymnographers today or not? What we do have is more than adequate. 

    Most of the rest of your post was already discussed. So I don't want to repeat myself.

    And when this occurs in the lands of Immigration this perpetuates the post-reformation myth that Orthodoxy is old, rigorist or a museum, when the Church is fully alive, dynamic, free and life giving. It's bad theology, bad hymnology, bad religion which drives people to rigorism, secularism, protestantism, reductionism and atheism. I think that many of the problematic trends we're seeing in the Church are a direct result of the modernist project of nationalism and of the legacy of ethnocentric identities. 

    Even if I were to allow that our Coptic hymnograph is old, rigorist and archaic, filled with bad hymnology, bad religion, why would anyone go from bad to worse? It is illogical that bad Coptic anything is the cause that drives people to atheism. This is mere stupidity. Blaming Coptic music and Coptic tradition is the epitome of stupidity that deserves no response. It is not Coptic music that is the problem. It is people's stupidity. Going to liberal praise, secularism, charismatic praise, reductionist praise and atheism is not going to solve stupidity. Expecting us to change Coptic tradition to prevent stupidity is stupidity itself. And you still have not given any evidence that adherence to Coptic tradition is a modernist project of nationalism. Repeating an unsubstantiated claim does not validate it. 

    I have yet to hear any legitimate reason to abandon traditional Coptic hymnography. 








  • @ophadece

    Firstly, talking about Mr. Moftah and Mr. Newlandsmith, now you can see for yourself the unassuming effects of choosing a cantor who doesn't speak like the majority others, because of the presumed hypothesis that other speak Coptic impurified by Arabic!!!! Wrong. 

    I have no idea what you are disagreeing with me about. Please clarify.

    Secondly, iPad, big TV screens, computers, etc take away what the Church has taught us long time ago. The Church should remind us of heaven, and take us away from the world and its contents (ALL OF THEM). So how do people feel, not only the younger generations, but also, when they come to church leaving their TV's to find TV's - leaving their iPads to find iPads INSIDE the altar! No more commenting on this.

    I appreciate that you have a theological reason for abandoning technology during liturgical services. But by that standard, we should avoid air conditioning, electricity, lights, chairs to sit, agape fellowship meals, even liturgical books themselves. There was once a time when no one had a liturgical book. They learned and followed the liturgy by memorization. I do agree that we have completely abused the use of technology within the liturgy but technology in itself is not a violation of Coptic theology.

  • @Remenkimi,
    Firstly Greco-Bohairic.
    Secondly, in a more widened view I would also not want microphones, certain books, certain lights, but definitely not air conditioning. I'm sure you don't need my elaboration and I wouldn't mind if anyone calls me a salafist or any related term
    Oujai
  • edited July 2014
    Hi Remnkemi, 

    Thank you for responding :) 

    Jurisdictionalism seems to be a canonical aberration here in the lands of immigration and it appeals to a nationalist and denominationalist agenda whether we vocalize it or not. Professor Vigen Guroian speaking on Youth, Unity and Orthodoxy in America says:

    "If one is in a permanent state of Diaspora, there can be no compelling reason to have unity, since one's real home is somewhere else....Denominations, like the transplanted national churches from which they originate, he said, “are separated and kept distinct [more] by differences of language and of habitual modes of thought” than by “physical traits, and the former are only incidentally rooted in the latter.”..Nationalism in the churches when they are transported to America is the seed from which sprouts the denomination."

    also:

    "The American denomination is frequently the “religious” residue of the disappearing ethnic church."



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