Austerity in Oriental Churches

One of the things that marks the Latin Church, particularly its Liturgy, is its austerity. In contrast, the Byzantine Liturgy is extremely extravagant and full of pomp and circumstance.

Does austerity and simplicity (or the lack thereof) mark the Oriental Churches, either in the Liturgy or in the lives of the faithful?

I don’t think the OF Mass is austere in the least. In fact if all the options of the OF of the Mass are exercised it can become quite extravagant. The same is true of the EF. Have you been to Pontifical High Mass anytime lately?

I don’t understand the distinction. I think all Liturgies (Latin, Eastern or Oriental) are meant to signify the hope that lies in us. That is the reason for the beautiful architecture of Latin cathedrals; that is the reason for the beautiful accoutrements in Oriental and Eastern basilicas. I do think that there is more symbolism in the Oriental liturgical setting (there is symbolism EVERYWHERE) than in the Eastern liturgical setting. Then again, I am not an expert on Eastern liturgical settings, so that comparison probably means squat.

[quote=]Does austerity and simplicity (or the lack thereof) mark the Oriental Churches, either in the Liturgy or in the lives of the faithful?

As far as the lives of the faithful, I’ll speak for the Copts that our spiritual lives are meant to be penitential at all times. Does that translate to austerity and simplicity? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t think that has to be the case. And from my understanding of the Latin spirituality, that is not the case either.

As far as Liturgy, my answer would be the same as for the first part.


When compared to the Byzantine Liturgy – austere. Now think of a EF Low Mass – or even a High Mass not on a major Solemnity. Now place it in a Crypt Church, now take away electricity so only candles are a source of light. Now take away the organ and replace with acappella Gregorian or plain chant. (I’d better stop before I make myself too excited :D)

For the ultimate example of this, observe the Carthusians. They exhibit the greatest austerity and simplicity in all aspects of their existence. That is, it doesn’t get more austere or simple in the Latin Church than a Carthusian Charterhouse.

Yet on the contrary Latin liturgies celebrated in the EF can be full of pomp and splendor. Perhaps you have just never dropped by an Institute of Christ the King parish : p. Especially so in St. Louis, MO.

The Byzantine DL has been done (in the past at least) in a very austere manner, I was reading a book that contained the rule for a small skete in Ukraine in the 1600s and they barely sang any of the DL ! To be fair though, the DL of St. John Chrysostom as we know it today is based off of the monastic usage, during the time of the Empire it was far more extravagant in the large cathedrals, then even EF papal liturgies before the VII.

In reference to the Old Roman Rite (before introduction of Gallican elements that helped form what is known as the Tridentine Liturgy):

In any case the old Roman Rite is not exactly that now used. Our Roman Missal has received considerable additions from Gallican sources. The original rite was simpler, more austere, had practically no ritual beyond the most necessary actions (see Bishop, “The Genius of the Roman Rite” in “Essays on Ceremonial”, edited by Vernon Staley, London, 1904, pp. 283-307). It may be said that our presentRoman Liturgy contains all the old nucleus, has lost nothing, but has additional Gallican elements.

The additions to the Roman rite, some of which originated in Jerusalem and the East as well as from Gallican rites, or via Gallican rites, form its more elaborate, decorative, and symbolic parts. The pure Roman rite was exceedingly simple, austere, and plain; nothing was done except for some reason of practical utility. Its prayers were short and dignified, but almost too austere when compared with the exuberant rhetoric of the East. In our Missal we have from non-Roman sources much of the Holy Week ritual, and such decorative and symbolic processions and blessings as those of Candlemas and Palm Sunday.

Not really. A properly done OF can be just as ornate, just as flowery, as the Ruthenian or the Russian Orthodox DL’s…

The symbolism is different.

The OF does allow for incense, can be sung thoroughly, has plenty of options for added “formality”… and certain parishes are as ornate as byzantine ones. Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Wyandotte, Michigan, for example.

Ah, ok I thought you meant the Roman Missal as it is known today.

In the case of orientals, I have seen some youtube videos and it appears that they are quite extravagant but others I have seen seem simple in appearance, but I imagine that some toning down might be a result of the hostile environment they live in (middle east).

When you harass the eastern liturgies, you should see that all liturgies, byzantine, latin have evolved from Antiochean liturgy.

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