Segregation, Unity, and Music

OrthoAnalyika Shownotes: 08 November 2009

Note: be sure to subscribe to the podcast.

Homily/Lesson (22nd Sunday after Pentecost)

Preface: Division is killing us. Not just war. But the divisions within our hearts. Fort Hood: fruit of internal discord. Less visible with us, but still destroys those around us. Christ came to heal all divisions: both those among us, those within us, and those between us and Him. This is the essence of the Gospel.

Galatians 6: 11-18

See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand! As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

They had a problem with Judaizers in the Orthodox parish of Galatia. Some of the Christians there were so proud of their Jewishness that they only wanted to accept people who were like them into their community. But in so doing, they had shown their lack of commitment to Christ and Orthodoxy and turned their parish from a place of joyful worship of God and celebration of salvation through Him into a place of self-righteous worship of themselves [i.e. their heritage] that offered only the “salvation” of worldly adoration.

To their credit, they at least allowed outsiders to join their parish, but in order to do so, Gentiles had to become Jewish – even in the matter of circumcision (they wanted to “boast in the flesh” of converts)! Compare that to the terrible forms of segregation that stain our own history in America, and you realize that the method of biblical interpretation that I have often shared with you (i.e. “we are the Jews”) rings true: we have their sins in spades. But it’s much worse, because as Christians who have two thousand years of Christian Tradition to guide us we should know better.

Christians cannot boast in anything but the cross of Christ.

The cross destroys divisions. How? [many ways, but let’s focus on one] Sacrificial love. What does God have in common with us? He is utterly unlike us. [Yes,] We were made in His image, designed by Him to grow in His likeness; but He remains infinite and uncreated while we are limited and created. The first bond that we share is not one of kinship or ethnicity, but of love***. And this charity that He has for us is so real that He did not cling to His Glory, but became man, suffered, and died for us. Do you see the power of His love? He lowered Himself (emptied Himself) – through His Incarnation and Terrible Passion – for no other reason than that we might grow in His glory. This gift of His sacrificial love is the only thing worthy of our boasting – and our selfless emulation of it the only act worthy of praise.

This [embrace and emulation] is what St. Paul is referring to when he writes of his own crucifixion: through the Cross of Christ, he says that the world has been crucified to him, and him to the world. He went to the cross a Jew – and one of the most devout, proud, and divisive of the Jews – and through his crucifixion was transformed into a Christian. Of course, he remained in outer appearance as a Jew – this is a matter of birth – but it no longer bound him or limited his love for others. His Judaism became a blessing rather than a curse to himself and those around him. The world may have still recognized his ethnicity, but the artificial divisions and sinful bigotry of the world and of his own heart no longer divided him from others. Whereas before, he kept only to those like him in worldly terms (and even considered being with others to be a stain… a cause of uncleanness!); in becoming a Christian he recognized that all of us are the same in every way that matters. [Like Christ, he even deigned to eat and worship with those who were not like him.]

St. Paul goes on to proclaim a fundamental truth of Orthodoxy: “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.” Christ allows for an end to all divisions: remember how [before His passion] He prayed to the Father that “they may be one as We are One.” There is no real “other” in Orthodoxy; everyone is worthy of your concern and sacrifice. If you do not love even your worst enemies, then Christ tells us that He is not in you, and that your faith is a lie.

Christianity and the Cross are about a specific kind of love… a specific attitude towards every single person you meet, regardless of their merit, regardless of how much they like you, regardless of whether they have the same color skin as you, regardless of whether they speak the same language as you, and regardless of how far your ancestors lived from one another. What is this attitude you are to have to everyone you meet? Nothing other than the selfless, sacrificial love that Christ has for every single one of you. With Him and in Him, there are no strangers and there are no enemies. How could there possible be division and enmity when your attitudes and relationships are based on love?! Love and division are completely incompatible.

Of course you cannot help but notice all the divisions that surround us – how is this kind of selfless compassion and unity possible? It is possible because the Crucified and Risen Christ transforms and binds us. In Him there is No Jew or Greek, but (as St. Paul says today;) “a new creation”.

St. Paul was not upset that people wanted to hold onto their Jewishness (it is clear from all his letters that he understood the historical importance of the Jews): he was upset that they loved their Jewishness so much that they excluded others who were not Jewish from their local Christian community and from their love.

Let me reiterate this truth: in Christ there can be no divisions. As their pastor, St. Paul knew that the Galatian Judaizers were not only keeping out others in need of God’s grace; their heard-heartedness actually kept themselves from experiencing it themselves. He knew they had to change their hearts for both the health of their community and for the redemption of their souls.

It might be tempting to think of the Judaizing problem St. Paul confronted in Galatia as a historical incident that was settled long ago (after all, I don’t think we can even find Galatia on the map – Galitisia? Yes; Galatia – not so much). If this is true, then I have just wasted your time. But there is nothing new under the sun and I have not wasted your time. Christians continue to be tempted to turn their communities and their churches away from Christ by excluding others from their love. I grew up in Georgia; a bastion of segregation. A place where restaurants, cities, bathrooms, water fountains, schools, and churches had been segregated based on skin color. Nowadays, no one doubts that this segregation was wicked. No one doubts the wisdom of Brown vs. Board of Education: separate is not equal. [Decisions like this one and those made directly to the US Constitution were only a start – necessary, but only the start. The real challenge is to end all the institutional, cultural, and psychological remnants that continue to perpetuate this great sin. Like I said, I grew up there: much has been done, but it will take generations to heal the wound. It is hard, but it must be done in order for our nation to grow. But changing the Constitution and its interpretation was a necessary part of that process].

If “separate” is “not equal” when it comes to schools and secular institutions, it is even more true of the Church; because in the Body of Christ, there can be no separation at all. If you try to divide the Body of Christ into parts, then the Body itself will endure – after all, it CANNOT REALLY BE DIVIDED (it is perfect and eternal) – but the part you have willfully cut off will become separate from it, and being separate will have become nothing more than putrifying meat.

This message was so important that St. Paul wrote it with his “own hand”. He loved the community at Galatia –many of whom probably disliked his message and considered him a race-traitor for diminishing the importance of their shared Jewish heritage – [but he loved them so much] that he pointed out the danger of their pride to them. Moreover, he loved them so much and so selflessly that (like Christ) he was willing to be martyred for them … and by them. They were wrong and he was right. Would that we were all traitors to the bigotry of this world in favor of the Cross of Christ!

And so let us end this lesson on St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians as he ended the letter itself; “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”

*** Note: God’s kenosis and Incarnation are a gift of love – this gift provides a more tangible salvific and sanctifying commonality. It is Christ as the God-man that makes our perfection possible. By saying that God’s first relationship with us is one of love, I am emphasizing how little we are like Him… and how He does not use this difference (or His infinite perfection) as a reason to exclude us from Him. Quite the opposite: He creates commonality so that we might become members of His Body!

Follow-up comments. Segregation is evil. On the other hand, totalitarian corporatism is also evil. Must always respect and work within the the reality of free will. Voluntary and kenotic union is the state of grace. We are not responsible for the sins of our ancestors, but if we perpetuate sinful institutions (like slavery and forced segregation), then we have not only reinforced the results of their mistakes, we ourselves have sinned. One day, we must answer for all of our sins – repent and change while there is still time. Be a martyr and prophet of everything good; oppose everything that is not. St. Paul was willing to do this: are you? It won’t be easy: people may hate you. It is difficult to change things that have been carved so deeply in our culture and in our hearts. You may be considered a traitor to “your people”, but Christ is clear in this matter: if you are not willing to forsake even your family for Him, then you are not worthy of Him. Yes, it will be hard, but it is the right thing to do. And doing the right thing is always rewarded (as if that matters). But don’t do it for the reward, or even to leave something better for our children: do it because you are completely committed to the Cross of Christ and because you glory in it and His resurrection.


  • How is the outreach in Kingston? How are you celebrating two Liturgies? (I’m not) How are you consuming two chalices? (I’m not) How are you fasting for so long? Doesn’t that hurt your blood sugar? (If a young, healthy priest can’t fast for a few hours – especially to share the Eucharist – he isn’t taking his service seriously enough). Don’t you need a core group to start a mission? (not a mission – and no, what you need is the calling to spread the Gospel… this is not only the mission of bishops, priests and deacons: everyone is called to this. Readers (tonsured or not) and Subdeacons should be able, willing, and motivated to spread the word in this and every possible manner).
  • Shout out to Seraphim in Virginia; also to Subdeacon Francis in New Jersey (Axios!) and Deacon Barnabas in Boston (Axios! Yeehaw!).


  • Unity Conference at Antiochian Village. Recordings available. OCL (not SCOBA). Still interesting to know what they are thinking: they are the lay agitators for unity. Overall, great presentations (moving towards the same kind of balance regarding Canons and organization that Matthew Namee et al are bringing to the history of Orthodoxy in America). Random comment: neat that Archbishop Nathaniel mentioned the UOC-USA in the context of increased unity (he had just sat in on some of our clergy retreat – and I look forward to serving with him this Saturday).
  • Distressing dialogue: who are the ancient five patriarchates? did anyone replace Rome? should they? are we tied to geography? should we be tied to power? (Old article, but I didn’t catch it until someone sent it to me).
  • Ukrainian Orthodox Response to H1N1 (also here): Special traditional moleban “Sung in Time of Devastating Epidemic and Deathbearing Pestilence” (page 90 of book 4 of the “Great Book of Needs”); also pray (esp. to the Holy Unmercenary Saint Pantalemon, the Holy Apostle Luke, & Agapite of Kyiv Caves), use holy water, incense, listen to bells, and (most especially) faith. Example of Holy Hierarch Philaret (Humilevskyy). Of course doctors are needed, too: everything available should be used for our health (& don’t politicize the situation!). Synergetic response. If danger in Church (e.g. Communion and kissing icons, etc,) the priest would die first. No one will force you to take Communion if you are afraid, but neither will the Church tell you to avoid Communion. Use this situation as a chance to turn to God, go before your icons, and pray. Wear your cross, and seek healing of both soul and body. This could make Ukraine more Christian.

Andy Rooney/Volya Segment

These are the notes from the talk I gave at the Reader and Subdeacon Conference. I did not include the prokimen practicum here, although it made up the entire second part of the presentation. I’m not sure how much they got out of this (I suspect it was not concrete enough for some and certainly not as organized as I had hoped), but I certainly enjoyed preparing and presenting it.


We need to re-evangelize our parishes. How? Commitment to authority/order (both hierarchy and ordo); Commitment to beauty; Commitment to Truth.

Order: learn your role and fill it well. Memorize prayers/services. Know the services inside out. Support others to do the same. Always build up the Church. Be a support to your priest and continuity in his absence.

Beauty: serve with grace. chant well. sing with humble conviction. know the tones cold. Adapt to those around you. Listen and support. Build beauty in others.

Truth: dedicate yourself completely to Christ and His Church. Pray. Love. Spread joy. Be an insurgent in Christ’s army. Keep the Holy Spirit strong in your heart. Lead from the front (in all strength and humility). Not just in chanting, but in everything.

Teaching about the Prokimen.

Convergence of two things: the Word made flesh. The Prokimena as a sort of Musical Incarnation: the joining of Truth and Beauty.


Confounder of atheists and joy of philosophers.

Musical Theory. Pythagoras. Plato.

Musical Application (Tones – which ones are useful?).

Musical Patristics. Tendency to focus on theory (like Gnosticism); but the Incarnation does not allow for that. We actually love both the theory and the mundane movement of vibrations through matter. St. Clement of Alexander: Make good music because it ennobles us and because we are thankful.

What we learn about God, the Church, and Time from music. God: David Hart. Church: harmony. Humility. Active listening and sympathy (an integral of same). Beauty. Time: fulfillment. How we can relive something. How we can for-experience something. (Thanks to Professor Begbie)

The Psalms.

How do we use Psalms? Not just prophecy – prophecy fulfilled is a hymn of praise! A proclamation of God’s Incarnation, Glory, and mercy. It is at the center of so much of our worship! Chanting Psalms is a constant recommendation from the monastic fathers. In our study of old Ukrainian monasticism, we learned that some monasteries (especially those without priests) made simple Psalmody the core of their daily worship.

So we take this Word and incarnate it into music. Musical Psalmody combines incarnates the pre-eternal Word (Psalms as proclamation of Christ) within His Creation (music and us). Resurrection Prokimen as a subset.

The Prokimen Psalms.

“Those who are more exact about prayer are in the habit of adding to their prayers an “Alleluia” and psalms of such a character that those who are present may respond with the final phrases… [T]his prayer that we should bring to the altar of God with a display of good works amid the singing of psalms and hymns and it will obtain for us from God all that we ask” (in Calvin Stapert’s A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church). Note: Tertullian is not a saint of the Church (Montanist), but he is describing a method of Psalmody current in the second century.

Hugh Wybrew:
“In the seventh century the Byzantine rite still had three readings, from the Old and New Testaments and the Gospels. By Germanos’ time the Old Testament reading has disappeared. It left behind the psalm which had been sung between the first two readings. It came to be called the prokeimenon, a term which in the usage of Constantinople referred to a psalm verse sung before a psalm itself, whose final clause only was repeated after each verse of the psalm as a refrain. For centuries all or a large part of the psalm was also sung; it was only much later that the psalmody here, as in other places, suffered drastic reduction.

(The Orthodox Liturgy, p.113)

St. Germanos of Constantinople (+733):
“The Prokeimenon again indicates the revelation and prophecy of the prophets about the coming of Christ. Like soldiers they run ahead and shout: ‘You who sit upon the Cherubim, appear and come to save us’ [and ‘God sits upon His holy throne’]”
(On the Divine Liturgy)