in SVTQ 41 (1997), pp.95-112)
is a liturgical tradition. The
Church is first of all a worshipping community.
Worship comes first, doctrine and discipline second."
With that historic declaration in the early 50s at an ecumenical level
Fr. George Florovsky perfectly described the way, which contemporary Orthodoxy
should follow in the years to come. He raised, however, at the same time - and
in my view unavoidably - the issue of authenticity for our contemporary Orthodox
liturgical practice. "The theological and liturgical tragedy of the
post-patristic age," Fr. Alexander Schmemann, another prominent theologian
of our time, pointed out, "is that the Church's cult was deprived of its
liturgical function reduced to cultic categories alone....
In the early Church, however, even the term 'leitourgia' was not a mere synonym of 'cult.'
It was applied indeed to all those ministries and offices within the
Church in which she manifested and fulfilled her nature and vocation; it had
primarily ecclesiological and not cultic connotations."
In other words, worship is not an end in itself but the means by which
the people of God witness and participate in the salvific work of Christ, i.e.
in the new life "in the Holy Spirit," in the kingdom of God in this
world, in anticipation of the world to come.
According to Schmemann, the loss of this cosmic and eschatological dimension of
the Church and her "leitourgia,"
which resulted in the transformation of her external expression into a system of
mere "cultic acts," was due to western influences and more particular
to the dogmatic declaration De ecclesia
of the Council of Trent. This declaration, "a mother and pattern of all
modern ecclesiology both (the present) Western and Eastern, is indeed the
downfall of patristic ecclesiology for by focusing attention almost exclusively
on the 'institutions' it obscures the cosmic and eschatological nature of the
Church. . . making her more and more 'irrelevant' for the world, less and less
'expressive' of the Kingdom of God."
first part of Schmemann's remark, i.e. the dramatic deviation of Orthodox
Christian worship from its essential mission, and its dangerous slip into
individualistic, pietistic and ritualistic tracks, is widely accepted by modern
Orthodox biblical scholarship. Prof.
Agouridis in his concise analysis of the message of the book of Revelation
characteristically notes that "the liturgy is not some solace but the right
interpretation of what really happens in our life.
It is strength, guidance and enlightenment in coping with the struggle of
life. If the liturgy is other than
that, then it is not a Christian liturgy. It
is a pagan cultic act with platonic influences; it is anything but the liturgy
as we know it from the book of Revelation and the New Testament in
the second part of Fr. Schmemann's remark, i.e. the reasons which led to the
increasing alienation of Orthodox Christian worship from historical reality and
resulted in its almost exclusive shift towards heavenly order beyond and above
this world, these should not be attributed merely to the influence of tridentine
ecclesiology. By saying this,
however, we do not by any means deny that the loss of contact between worship
and history did accelerate during the so-called post-patristic era.
After all, even Schmemann himself has acknowledged the complexity of the
issue in his Introduction to Liturgical Theology.
Besides, as other distinguished Orthodox theologians
have pointed out, by no means can western theology, whether Roman Catholic or
Evangelical, be fairly characterized as stressing the non-historical character
of the Church. On the contrary, as
it is often being said, Western theology rather tends to limit the Church within
a purely historical framework. In
this way, the Church is inevitably relativized, ending up in an almost
exclusively historical reality. In
other words, she ceases to be an expression and event of the eschata
thus becoming an image and institution of this world.
should, therefore, try to detect the reasons of the aforementioned phenomenon in
the theological tradition and liturgical practice of the East, where the almost
exclusive vision of future and heavenly things led to an unconscious withdrawal
from historical reality, degrading thus the
significance of the fundamental Christian doctrine of incarnation.
* * *
liturgics this problem is in a way related to the insertion, at some historical
point, of the Trisagion angelic hymn (the Sanctus,
in Greek literature and liturgical act most known as epinikios hymnos) into the eucharistic anaphora.
This insertion of the scene of the Sanctus, without any direct connection
to what precedes or to what follows, has basically separated the eucharistic
anaphora into two parts.
The entire problem of the weakening (from a sociological, of course, and
not from a theological point of view) of the prophetic witness of the Church and
of her withdrawal beyond the normal from historical process and dissociation
from the social realities, is to some extent related, among other things,
to this essential insertion. In fact
not so much to the insertion of the Sanctus
as such, as to the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the relation
between heavenly and earthly liturgy. The
issue of the development of the eucharistic anaphora and even more that of the
addition of the Sanctus has caught the
imagination and attracted the interest of scholars ever since the 17th century,
when a critical study of liturgy has begun, called by A.C.Couratin "a kind
of precious stone of liturgical theology".
to G. Dix
the Sanctus is a decorative ornamental addition, which was added in the
4th century AD to the eucharistic prayers without any connection to the its
rhythm and reasoning; and this took place throughout Christianity, though at
different points of the respective prayers of the various churches.
The hymn comes from the Book of Isaiah and runs as follows:
". . . I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and
his train filled the temple. Above
him stood the Seraphim... And one called to another and said:
"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of
his glory." (Is
In Christian literature it was first used by the author of the
Apocalypse in his vision of the heavenly worship:
"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is to
scholars have argued that the Sanctus
in Rev. 4:8b constitutes the most ancient Christian liturgical text.
Nevertheless, in neither its Judaic nor its Christian use, is the Sanctus
connected in an obvious way to the eucharistic prayers; nor was it ever used
in combination with them, although at some point in the history of Judaism it
penetrated the worship of the Synagogue.
first evidence of the use of the Sanctus
in the context of the eucharistic prayers is found in Jerusalem and Egypt, and a
little later in Antioch. At that time the Synagogue was no longer a danger for
one of the most uncontested conclusions in liturgical scholarship is that the Sanctus
and its introduction had been used for the first time in Alexandria around the
mid-third century AD.
From there it might have spread to the other churches, since there is no
evidence of its earlier use in the liturgy.
We should be reminded that the Sanctus
is found neither in the fragmentary liturgical references of Justin nor in the
more extensive eucharistic anaphora of Hippolytus. Needless to say, the research on the evolution of the Divine
Liturgy constitutes an extremely interesting area, whose significance largely
transcends the narrow limits of conventional Liturgics
and touches the heart of the ecclesiological and overall theological problem; in
other words its importance is related to the self-consciousness of the Christian
community. This is even more the
case, since the theological identity is not exclusively defined through the
theological quests of an elite of intellectuals, but through the life and
actions of the entire community of the faithful, whose expression par
excellence the eucharistic gathering is.
clearly detect the connection between the evolution of the eucharistic anaphora
to the de-historization of Christian worship in P.Trempelas' concluding remarks
in his treatment of the subject. There,
in an apologetic manner, typical of his time, and after stressing that the Sanctus
is a primary element of the eastern anaphoras and that the description in
Rev. 4:8 - dating from the end of the 1st or at least the early beginnings of
the 2nd century - is to be counted among the sources, he maintains that since
"according to evidence from the anaphora of Hippolytus, the sacrifice
offered to the earthly sanctuary referred to the heavenly sanctuary . . . was
quite natural for the faithful on earth to be eager to be united to the angelic
realm in heavens."
arguments is an almost verbatim repetition of the arguments first put forward by
the leading western liturgist E.C.Ratcliff, who in his treatise on the same
advanced the hypothesis that the linking of the eucharistic prayer to the Sanctus
was a result of the reasoning that, since the servants of God in heavens are
who "have no rest day and night, saying holy, holy, holy, is Lord God
the Almighty. . . " (Rev 4:8), then during the Eucharist the Christian
community basically is lifted up in order to participate in the heavenly
In other words, the ultimate goal of the eucharistic worship, whatever
argument we take, was not meant to transform the Church into what she really is
- i.e. a people
of God, a body of Christ, a communion of the Holy Spirit to witness in this world "the
wonderful acts of God, who called them from the darkness into his own marvelous
light" (I Pe 2:9), or even a projection of the salvific work of the
Trinitarian God to the whole of creation - but, instead, her elevation beyond
historical reality and her unification with the supra mundane world of the
* * *
"Apocalypse and Liturgy," in other words, the issue of defining the
character of Christian worship from the perspective of the book of Revelation,
is of utmost importance. It is
more important for the Orthodox Church which, although it has preserved
more faithfully than any other church the traditional elements of the holistic
nature of salvation and the cosmic dimension of her mission, is still understood
in the context of platonic categories. In
any case, "Apocalypse" possibly comprises the most important text for
the understanding of the Liturgy, and no doubt a decisive point of reference for
the problem of the addition of the Sanctus
in the eucharistic anaphora.
brief: either one accepts Trempelas' view and take the book of Revelation to be
the generic cause for the addition of the Sanctus
or consents to the oldest theory, according to which the author of the
Apocalypse reproduces in his work the liturgical act of the early Church,
even without insisting that the addition itself originates in the first
century AD.; or, finally, if one endorses the more reliable theory that the
Apocalypse is a determining factor for later liturgical self-conscience of the
the bottom line in all these cases is that the
Apocalypse is, or at least should be, the key to discover the real meaning of
Christian liturgy and its relation to history.
the prevailing features of the Apocalypse, both in form and in essence, is
undoubtedly the liturgical.
Not only the first (1:3) and the last (22:6) chapters evidently imply a
liturgical setting; it is also the fact that the experience of the seer/prophet
takes place "on the Lord's day" (1:1);it is the baptismal formula (1:5-6);
it is also the concluding prayer "Come
Lord Jesus" (22:20) and the blessing of the final verse (22:21); it is
the numerous hymns, especially from ch. 4 onwards (4:8f-11; 5:9-10, etc.); the
direct and indirect references to the eucharistic anaphoras (2:7; 2:24;
2:17, 3:20, 7:16ff; 11:11; 19:9; 21:6; 22:1-10ff; the climax being the scene of
the heavenly worship in ch. 4;(see also 5:9; 7:2-14; 12:11; 14:10ff; 16:6-19;
17:2); the doxologies (1:6; 5:13; 7:12 etc.), to mention just the most prominent
to T.F.Torrance the Apocalypse is at once the most liturgical and the most
eschatological book of the New Testament. Using
language and imagery borrowed from the Old Testament and enlightened by the
presence of the Holy Spirit, the seer/prophet circumscribes ontologically the
history of the Church and deontologically her leitourgia
in space and time (worship); while the Gospels describe the way "the
Word took flesh," the Apocalypse constitutes an extension of
christology in time and history. As
in the Old Testament, the liturgy revolves around the event of the Exodus, and
the eschatological salvation was anticipated as a new "Exodus" with
the help of the new redeemer and through a new testament, so the Apocalypse, in
exactly the same way, describes this same dynamic liturgy, this time revolving
around the slaughtered Lamb.
context in which the Sanctus is used
for the first time ever in Christian literature is Apoc ch. 4 and 5, where the
seer/prophet describes his vision of the heavenly liturgy.
According to J. Giblet, in this vision John presents the splendor of the throne
of God while offering a theological reflection on the theme of heavenly liturgy.
The symbols and images he uses reflect those used by the Old Testament
prophets, when they describe the grandeur and glory of God: the Theophany at
Sinai and the place " where God stood" (Ex 24:9ff); the description of those
surrounding God (Dan 7:14); the six-winged Seraphim in the vision of Isaiah
(6:2), and the living beings, a common feature of all the apocalyptic texts ever
since Ezekiel's time (1:4ff).
for granted that the 24 presbyters represent the Church,
the living beings the rest of the animated creation, the various elements
(precious stones, golden crowns, lightenings and thunders, torches, the sea) the
inanimate nature, and the Seraphim the angelic powers, in other words the whole
of creation, there should be no doubt about
the cosmic character of the heavenly liturgy in Apocalypse, and by extension
of Christian worship in general.
really wonders why such a theologically most advanced reflection, stemming from
the New Testament itself, has made so little impact - not to say it has been
completely neglected - during the formation of Christian worship. To answer this
question one has to briefly review the history
of the interpretation of the book of Revelation. Only then, can one understand the reason why
the most "liturgical" book
of the New Testament has been virtually excluded from the "Liturgy
of the Church". The main debate in the ancient Church evolved around whether
the Apocalypse should be interpreted literally or allegorically.
Although up to Origen's time the Church Fathers of the second century
were unanimously inclined towards the literary interpretation of the Apocalypse,
interpreting the famous passage of 20:1-6 as a prophecy concerning the earthly
kingdom of Christ, which would follow His Second Coming and would last for a
under the influence of this great Alexandrian thinker, historical interpretation
gave its place to the so-called spiritual or allegorical one.
Origen refuted the literary interpretation of the Apocalypse, and argued
that the prophecies about the End should be interpreted allegorically, because
an anticipation of an earthly kingdom is nothing but a surrender to human
desires and lusts!.
Thus, when Augustine
brought this problematic in the West, although he attempted some kind of an
eschatological synthesis (that is a compromise between millenarianism and the
the allegorical interpretation of the Apocalypse dominated the entire Christian
exegesis. Consequently, the hope
for a new world, and the anticipation of the eminent kingdom of Christ, remained
up until very recently with few exceptions both in the East and in the West.
Thus, the symbols and imagery of the Apocalypse were seen as metaphysical
and ethical categories of another, mostly undefined, reality.
The real historical and political dimension penetrating this unique piece
of literature, from the beginning to its very end, have
only recently been reaffirmed.
order, however, to grasp the profound meaning of the book it absolutely
necessary to give an answer to the question of the literary
genre as well as to the theological
character of the book, i.e. whether it is to be essentially considered as a
prophetic or apocalyptic piece of literature.
To this end it would be necessary to trace back the development of Jewish
literature from prophecy to apocalyptic, through a study of the historical
events of Israel - beginning with the renewal of the prophetic spirit during the
time of Jeremiah and the Deuteronomic reformation of Josiah (640-609 BC.), and
going through the emergence of theocracy in Ezekiel's time (a typical example of
a transition from a prophet to an apocalyptic [587-539]) to the almost complete
abolition of prophecy and its substitution by sophiology, and finally to the
composition of the book of Daniel and the other later Jewish apocalyptic
writings of the first century BC.
This approach will clearly show us that the last book of the New
Testament is a prophetic book—with
certain, of course, apocalyptic elements—and
not an apocalyptic one.
were to accept the prophetic character of the book of Revelation, it would help
us understand better its author's perception of the liturgy.
Amongst the various typical expressions and terms of the Old Testament
the author of the Apocalypse - following the rest of the New Testament writers,
mainly of Hebrews and I Peter - chooses the terminology of worship and prophecy.
Obviously his preferential
approach to sin in terms of repentance (ch. 2-3) and also of purification.
Beginning with the first verses, a doxology is addressed to Jesus Christ "who
us from our sins in
his blood" (1:5); the Church is called a "royal priesthood" (1:6);
(but also "and he made us a kingdom ,
priests to his God and Father" ; cf also 5:10); for the innumerable
crowd of the faithful, "who are robed
in white garments" (7:13), are said to
have "washed their garments
and whitened them in the lamb's blood" (7:14).
Without, therefore, dealing with worship in the critical manner the
the seer/prophet of the Apocalypse gives liturgy a new dimension, which reminds
us the political atmosphere of the prophetic literature.
In this way, he overcomes the purely cultic and ritualistic
preoccupations of the Old Testament priestly tradition.
In other words, in the Apocalypse the Levitical and mediatory priesthood
of the Old Testament
is not simply overpassed; it is even contrasted.
historical character, as well as the purely prophetic background of the
Apocalypse is accepted, the next step is to move to the structure of the book. In
his brilliant study, L. Thompson maintains that morphologically the Apocalypse
uses two types of visions: "dramatic narratives" and "heavenly
liturgies." The first are used
as literary forms through which the seer/prophet proleptically projects
eschatological realities before the description of the new world in the last two
chapters unfold in seven septets,
with bountiful skill. Typical in
almost all septets is the prolonging of the last narrative in order that all the
elements the author wished to incorporate in his book are included, without
mutating his literary septic scheme.
what is even more important though is the close connection - in terms of essence
and form alike - between "heavenly liturgies" and "dramatic
eschatological narratives," in other words, between liturgy and history.
The heavenly liturgy of the fourth chapter, in particular, in which the
Sanctus is to be found (4:8b), is for the seer/prophet of the Apocalypse, as S.
Agourides characteristically puts it, "the reality of the world beneath
what is manifest. It is the
predominance of God's truth and of the righteousness and love of the lamb. . .
So the purpose of the heavenly liturgy is to point to the insofar invisible yet
true and authentic meaning of history, as opposed to the falsification and lies
that seem to dominate its visible course. . . It is precisely with the
"eschaton," that the world and history outlive their real life and
orientation. The transition from
one period of the world to the other is presented as extremely painful."
tragic transition symbolizes the terrible events that follow the form of
successive septets (seals 6:1ff; trumpets 8:1ff; visions/signs 11:15ff;
bowls/plagues 15:5ff; plagues/heavenly voices 17:1ff), all of them apparently
bringing to the reader's mind the Seven plagues of Pharaoh before Exodus.
Henceforth, everything which is described in the preceding to the final
solution of the drama chapters , namely, the vision of the "new
heavens" and "new earth" (Rev 21:1ff) are neither signs of
revenge nor frustration nor terror and intimidation but, quite the opposite: a
message of victory, of hope, of salvation.
The right, therefore, understanding of the terrible eschatological narratives of
the Apocalypse is impossible without linking them to the liturgical pieces of
the book. At the same time, however
- and this is of utmost importance to our subject - the purpose of the heavenly
liturgy and in extension the real meaning of Christian worship, are
incomprehensible if not directly connected with history, since "for John
liturgy, prayer, God, heaven and all the unspeakable and terrifying things
happening down here on earth are not unrelated to each other; they rather form a
unity, they are one thing."
addition to the close relation between history and heavenly liturgy, the
historical and cosmic perspective of the liturgical element in the book of the
Apocalypse is certified by the terminology used in some
hymns of a quasi-eucharistic-anaphoral kind, forerunners of all Christian
prayers of the anaphora. The
thanksgiving offered by the 24 presbyters to God "for he created all" (4:11 see also the thanksgiving of
presbyters in 11:7ff) and to Christ "for
he redeemed them in God through his blood. . . and made them a kingdom and
priests" (5:9-10), constitute an indirect reference to the scheme later
on found in the anaphoral references of Justin and Hippolytus.
We should remind ourselves, at this point, that, the Gnostics generally
denied the value of history, namely that God the Father created the world and
the Son became perfect man and really died on the cross.
For that reason, their prayers do not resemble at all the terminology of
the Apocalypse, as well as of all the Christian anaphoras after Justin.
, the historical projections of the heavenly liturgy are verified by the use of
a series of terms
especially chosen for that purpose such as "the
Almighty" (pantokrator 1:8;
4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7-14; 19:6-15; 21:22) and "worthy"
12:4), the well-known "acclamation" at the enthronement of the Roman
emperors. These terms basically
denote and reveal through symbols the struggle between the worship of God and
the "lamb," on the one hand, and the beast on the other, the Church
and her head, Christ, the slaughtered lamb, and the Roman authority and emperor,
who during the kingship of Domitianus was worshipped as dominus
et deus. Consequently, the
meaning of worship in the Apocalypse is the declaration of the dominion of God
and not the Emperor or, in other words, of the kingdom of God, whereas the
worship of the beast is an opposition to that kingdom and thus its rejection.
Finally, typical is the reference at the final vision (21:1ff) not only to
"a new heaven" but, in accordance with the undoubtedly historical
prophecy of Isaiah (66:17), to a "new earth."
conclusion is to be drawn from the
above analysis this is an affirmation of the historical orientation of the
Christian liturgy. For if the addition of the Sanctus is to be related in any
way with the Apocalypse and if the meaning of the heavenly liturgy in the
Apocalypse has indeed a cosmic and historical and not supra mundane character,
then the deeper meaning of the really strange addition of the Sanctus would not
denote an alienation of the life of the Church
(i.e. her liturgical praxis) from history, but quite the contrary, the direct
relation of worship to the historical and social reality.
reintegration of the book of the Apocalypse into the entire liturgical cycle of
the Church, but above all of its prophetic spirit in her life and action -
certainly not for the reason of substantiating a liturgical practice and
theological attitude sealed for centuries, but in order to redefine
theologically the essence of her ecclesial/liturgical self-consciousness -
remains one of the most urgent "desiderata" of contemporary Orthodoxy.
G.Florovsky, "The Elements of Liturgy: An Orthodox View," Ecumenism
1, A Doctrinal Approach, vol. XIII in the Collected Works, p. 86.
A. Schmemann, "Theology and Liturgy," in Church,
World, Mission, 1979, pp. 129-146 and 137.
Ibid., p. 136.
S.Agouridis, The Apocalypse: A Historical and Synchronic Hermeneutical Attempt,
1978, (in Greek).
See especially chs. II and III.
See J.Zizioulas, Being as Communion,
1985; by the same, "The Mystery of the Church in the Orthodox
in Christ 24 (1988) 294-303. More
on this issue in my article
"Orthodox Theology Facing the 21st Century," ."
A.C.Couratin, "Liturgy," in The
Pelican Guide to Modern Theology, vol. 2, Historical
Theology, 1969, pp. 131-240, p. 193ff.
Another issue is the shifting of the center of gravity in the Divine Liturgy
from an act of "offering," "thanksgiving,"
"liturgy," "communion," etc. of the people of God, the
body of Christ, to an act of, primarily, "sacrifice" and even
"the most awesome of sacrifices." (frikodestate)
This new terminology enters the liturgical vocabulary since the time
of Cyril of Jerusalem. R.F.Taft, The Great
Entrance, 1975, p. 428, even suggests that the room for the Prothesis
should be moved to the entrance of the Church, in order not only to restore
the practical importance of the Great Entrance, but also to facilitate the
offering of the faithful -- although this distinguished liturgiologist and
interpreter of the liturgical tradition of the Eastern Church denies the
existence of the offertory of the faithful in the East (p. 14ff). Another important reason is the decisive influence of the
corpus areopagiticus. The list
could go on; however, the problem has not yet been discussed by modern
A.C.Couratin, "Liturgy," p. 155.
G.Dix, The Shape of Liturgy, 19822 p. 537ff.
See J.J.O'Rourke, "The Hymns of the Apocalypse," CBQ
30 (1968) pp. 399-409, who after subjecting the text of the Apocalypse to a
form-critical analysis came to the conclusion that sections 1:4-5:8b; 4:8b
(i.e. the Sanctus); 7:12, 15-17;
11;15, 17-18; and 19:5-8 constitute preexisting hymnic material, which the
author of the book reworked from his christological perspective.
L.Mowry, "Revelation IV-V and Early Christian Liturgical Usage," JBL
71 (1952) pp. 75-84. According
to J.J.O'Rourke, "The Hymns...," pp. 399-409, this view goes
beyond the existing evidence.
B.D.Spinks, "The Jewish Sources of the Sanctus,"
Heythrop Journal 21 (1980)
p. 168ff. According to
P.Trempelas, Origins and Character of
Christian Worship, 1962, (in Greek), its use in the Synagogue worship
before the second century AD. is uncertain
But see A.Schmemann, Introduction to
Liturgical Theology, ch. 2. Trempelas
also denies the Jewish influence (Origins,
p. 57, n. 120 "We accept that the Sanctus is a very old part of the
anaphora and thus do not think the Jewish influence possible, since John in
his description of the heavenly worship presented it as the model of
Christian worship and in this sense he included the Sanctus in his
Apocalypse." This view is
related, or even derives from the mistaken idea of this prominent Greek
theologian in modern history that "the Anaphora per
se is totally original and free from all influences of the ordo of the "chaburah", ibid.,
G.Kretschmar, Studien zum früchristlichen Trinitätstheologie, 1956. More
in B.D.Spinks, The Sanctus in the Eucharistic Prayer, 1992, pp. 5ff. Spinks
himself, however, in his detailed study on the use of the Sanctus in judaio-Christian liturgy, argues for the Syriac origin of
the insertion of the Sanctus in the Christian anaphora. R.Taft, “The
Interpolation of the Sanctus into the Anaphora: When and Where? A Review of
the Dossier: Part II,” OCP 58
(1992) rightly insists that there is “no reason to challenge” the
J.H.Strawley, The Early History of Liturgy, 19492,
p. 54; P. Rodopoulos, The Sacramentary
of Serapion, 1967, p. 78; G.Dix, The
Shape, p. 165 and passim.; idem, "Primitive Consecration
Prayers," Theology 37 (1938) 261ff,
where he claims that the route the insertion of the Sanctus followed was from Alexandria to Egypt and from there to the
rest of Christianity; see also the important study of W.E.Frere, The
Anaphora or Great Eucharistic Prayer, 1938; see also Ch.S.Tziogas,
"The Trisagion Hymn," Theological
Symposium in honor of Professor P. K. Chrestou, 1967, (in Greek), pp.
For this issue see the introduction to the book of A.Schmemann, Introduction
to Liturgical Theology, p. 19ff.
On this issue there is a quite
interesting discussion in D.W.Fagerberg, What
is Liturgical Theology? A Study in Methodology, Minnesota 1992
P.Trempelas, Archai, p. 180.
E.C.Ratcliff, "The Sanctus and the Pattern of the Early Anaphora,"
JEH 1 (1950) pp. 29ff and
In reality, they are the four living beings which may be identified with the
angelic powers on the basis of the description "each
one of them having six wings" (Rev. 4:8a) that clearly comes from
the description of the Seraphim in Is 6:2.
Taking Ratcliff's argument a step further A.C.Couratin, "The Sacrifice
of Praise," Theology
58 (1955) maintained that the
connection makes, sense since the eucharistic cup clearly symbolizes the
"new" testament (cf. "this
is my blood of the new testament"), while the "old"
testament, according to the Exodus narrative, makes also explicit reference
to the ascending of the
representatives of Israel to the mountain of God's presence and lawgiving,
where they "ate and
drunk" (Ex. 24:11). Therefore, the linking
the Sanctus to the
eucharistic prayer aimed at the lifting up of the Christian community and
its immediate presentation before God.
Ibid., p. 6,
n. 20, a suggestion, however that contradicts
the early eucharistic witness in Christian literature.
According to G.Dix, The Shape, pp.
28-29, on the basis of Rom 12:4-6, the primitive liturgy was a collective
action of thanksgiving to God the Father, by the Christ's living Body.
The order of the Eucharist is more or less known.
We have no direct witness to the date of its adoption; however, Dix
maintained that it was established long before the end of the first century
AD; not only because the liturgical praxis which follows is in agreement
about it, but mainly because its order is clearly reflected to the symbolism
of the heavenly "gathering" of the triumphant Church, the real
gathering of whom all earthly things are but symbols and types; the same
symbolism is found in the visions of the Apocalypse , most probably written
c. 93 AD. In this book
everything revolves around the heavenly altar, in front of which stood the
crowds of the faithful, whose number was "myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands" (5:11).
Serving angels appear everywhere.
The 24 presbyters have their thrones in the form of a semi-circle
around the sparkling throne of God and the Lamb, in the same way that
presbyters at earthly altars sat around the tablinum, the white throne of the bishop. "It is possible" Dix concludes, "that the
book's symbolism was influenced by the dominant, since the first century AD,
liturgical praxis of the Church and not vise versa, since this structure was
traditionally predominant in the churches (i.e. of Asia Minor) that
challenged the divine inspiration and canonicity of the book of Revelation
whose authority and authenticity was challenged even in the third century
AD." In addition, O.
Cullmann, Early Christian Worship,
1953, p. 7, maintains that "the writer of the Apocalypse views the
whole drama of the last days in the context of primitive Christian
worship". . . and that, "beginning with the original greeting in
v. 14 and up to the closing prayer "come Lord Jesus" in v. 22:20
and the blessing of the final verse, the book of Revelation is full of
implications on liturgical uses of the first community."
Even if we consider the suggestion as purely hypothetical, it is at
least sure that the writer of the book expresses a view about worship. See also G. Delling, "Zum Gottesdienstlichen Still der
3 (1959) pp. 107-137. Some
scholars (e.g. D.L.Barr, "The Apocalypse of John as Oral
Enactment," Interpretation 40
 243-256) have taken these views to the extreme arguing that the
Apocalypse functions within the context of early Christian worship, which
culminates in the Eucharist. K.
P. Joerns (Das hymnische Evangelium,
1971) rejects the hypothesis that there is an apparent liturgical structure
in the book of Revelation. See
also M. H. Shepherd, The Paschal
Liturgy and the Apocalypse, 1960; and (Metropolitan) N. Anagnostou, The Apocalypse, 1971 [in Greek]).
P. Bratsiotis, The Apocalypse of Apostle John, 1950, (in Greek) holds that it is
more probable that, "early Christian worship and the Apocalypse of John
mutually influenced each other" (p. 50).
T.F.Torrance, "Liturgie et Apocalypse," Verbum
Caro 11 (1957) pp. 28-40.
to P.T.Achtemeier, "Revelation 5:1-14,"
Interpretation 40 (1986)
pp. 383-388 the culmination of the drama in the Apocalypse is to be found in
this very scene. A second
culmination in the scene with the vision of the "new heaven" and
the "new earth" of the two last chapters of the book (21:1ff),
which in fact forms the solution of the drama, is nothing but the
fulfillment of what the prophet has announced in chs 4 and 5.
J. Giblet, "De visione Templi coelestis in Apoc. IV: I-II,"
CollMech 43 (1958) .
Whether we accept the view that the 24 presbyters represent the 24 Jewish
clans (see S.Agouridis, The Apocalypse,
pp. 13, 82); or that "they stand for the twelve tribes of Israel and
the twelve apostles; the Old Israel and the new Israel" (more on that
in my essay “EIKøN and EKK§H™IA in the Apocalypse", GOTR
On this issue see the study of A.Y.Collins, "Reading the Book of
Revelation in the Twentieth Century,"
Interpretation 40 (1968) 229-242.
See amongst others the views of Papias (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical
History, 3:39), Justin (Dial.
Tryph. 81), Irenaeus (Adv. Haer.
5:30ff), Tertullian (Ad Marc.
See S.Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 1964, p. 19ff.
Origen, De principii, 2:11-2:5.
De Civitatae Dei, 20:7-13.
See A.Y.Collins, "Reading the Book of Revelation," p. 229ff.
Its biblical eschatological perception was saved only by the ancient eastern
liturgical tradition, a fact that the late Fr. Alexander Schmemann made a
great effort to underline in his writings.
See the studies of A. Argyriou, Les
Exegeses greques de l'Apocalypse a l'epoque turque (1453-1821), 1982;
"Greek exegetical works on the Apocalypse during the
Tourkokratia," EE£™£ 24
(1979) (in Greek), pp. 357-380 and his recent presentation at the Sixth
Synaxis of Orthodox Biblical Theologians, whose topic was Apocalypse (Cyprus
1991); also the already mentioned study of Collins (n 30) on the East and
the West respectively.
See the important study by D.S.Russell, The
Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic, 1960.
See Carroll Stuhlmueller, "Post-exilic Period: Spirit,
Apocalyptic," Jerome I, pp. 337-343, with an excellent description of this
In order to understand the character of the Apocalypse a comparison is
needed not only with prophecy but also with classical apocalyptic; since the
second is considered to be an evolution of the first.
While, then, the prophets were men of action through their dynamic
preaching, the apocalyptics were men of the written word and transmitted
their message carefully and under cover.
Apocalypse retains both features but the action is prevalent since
its writer was exiled in Patmos (1:9).
While the prophets were personally involved in the politics of their
time, the apocalyptics devoted themselves to a kind of cosmic mission. The main feature of the Apocalypse is the confrontation
between the Church and Roman authorities.
The message of the prophets was critical of certain events, whereas
the apocalyptics, especially Daniel, developed a kind of religious
hermeneutics of universal history. Apocalypse,
no doubt, attempts the second task, without ceasing, though, to refer, even
if covered, to specific events of a definitely political character (see V.
Stogiannos, Apocalypse and Politics, 1985
(in Greek). The prophets played
a leading part in the domination of God over his elect people, Israel,
whereas the apocalyptics envisioned the universal domination of JHWH.
The Apocalypse describes the second process but for the elect people
of God, the Church, the New Israel. Essential
to the understanding of apocalyptic literature is the unshakable belief that
the world can be transformed only due to a direct intervention of God. The prophet of the Apocalypse, on the contrary, counts also
on the blood of the martyrs (more in our study “EIKøN
and EKK§H™IA in the Apocalypse," GOTR 38 (1993) pp.
103-117). Finally, the prophets
spoke boldly against the temple and religious authorities and their word was
scarcely misunderstood as opposite to the apocalyptics who spoke in visions
and symbolic terms and were usually misinterpreted.
This is, probably, the only element the Apocalypse holds in common
with the rest of the works of the apocalyptic writers, even though some
scholars have recently maintained that the views of the writer on priesthood
were those of general priesthood exclusively (i.e. E. S. Fiorenza, Priester für Gott, 1971; and Apocalyptic and "Gnosis in
the Book of Revelation," JBL
92 (1973) pp. 565-581).
we read luvsanti, or louvsanti
in v. 1:5
the very enlightening treatment of the issue by E. G. Selwyn, The
First Epistle of St. Peter, 1946, p. 285ff.
also the eucharistic excerpts from the synoptic tradition "I want mercy
and not sacrifice" (Mat. 9:13; 12:7 from Os 6:6).
According to T. F. Torrance (Liturgie
et Apocalypse, p. 31ff) the meaning of liturgy in the Apocalypse is
defined by its alienation from the Old Testament worship.
Whereas the second is strongly marked by the coming of a new
destructive "aeon", in the Apocalypse, and in the New Testament in
general it is marked by the coincidence and identification of the present
with the future "aeon."
regard to the notion of the priesthood as to that of ecclesiology (see our
study Image and Church in Apocalypse, p. 420ff) the Apocalypse is the
culmination of the process which started with the early texts of the New
Testament and reached the post-apostolic Ignatian eucharistic-centered
writings on the role of the bishop, preceded by I Peter and Hebrews.
While I Peter stresses the "priesthood of the Church" and
Hebrews "the priesthood of Christ' (see E. G. Selwyn, The
First Epistle of St. Peter, p. 294), the Apocalypse shifts the stress on
"prophetic priesthood." Selwyn,
in his book already mentioned juxtaposes I Peter to the Apocalypse in a
J. W. Bowman, The Drama of the Book of
Revelation, 1955; also S. Agouridis, The
Apocalypse, p. 29ff.
Thompson, "Cult and Eschatology in the Apocalypse of John," JR 4 (1969) pp. 330-350. Thompson
rightly believes that the heavenly liturgy is in absolute harmony with the
earthly liturgy and the dramatic events of history unravel in terms of the
Agouridis, The Apocalypse, pp. 41-42. This
is the meaning of the last days in Orthodox liturgy.
More on the issue in A. Schmemann, Introduction,
R. H Charles (The Revelation of St. John, 1920, p. 1xiiff) put it, the writer of
the Apocalypse was thinking continuously in Hebrew categories of thought but
wrote in Greek, a language that he did not master with ease.
According to H. B. Swete (Apocalypse
of St. John, 19072, to the 404
verses of the book, 278 include obvious references from the Old Testament,
mostly freely adapted from the original Hebrew and not from the translation
of O'. See also A. Lancelotti,
"L'Antico Testamento nell' Apocalisse," in Rivista
Biblica 14 (1966) pp. 369-84.
Agouridis, The Apocalypse, p. 83. "The
heavenly liturgy is not detachment and withdrawal from earthly things but
the interpretation of the earthly things from the angle of God and their
redemption from powers hostile to God.
This constitutes the real meaning of Christian worship in
general" (p. 52).
A. Michell, Landmarks in Liturgy, 1961, pp. 68-69.
example is given by the eucharistic prayers of the Apocryphal Acts of John
(84-86 and 109-110) and Acts of Thomas (44-50 and 133); see M. R. James, The
Apocryphal New Testament, 1924, pp. 250, 268, 388, 422.
correctly S. Agourides (The Apocalypse,
p. 29) maintains that, "the writer of the Apocalypse talks to us about
the salvation offered by God not in another world but in our world
transformed; not outside history and individually, but in the context of
true communion with other people, which is the end and at once the
surpassing of history."
the Byzantine sources, and by the holy Chrysostom in particular, a smoother
flow of the eucharist is attempted through a scheme of antithesis:
"although you are being escorted by thousands of angels. . . ";
however, this phenomenon occurs only with time and especially following the
purpose and complex developments related to the ritual preceeding the
anaphora, during late Byzantine period.
R. Taft's contribution to the topic is classical (ref. 10); see also
H. J. Schulz, The Byzantine Liturgy
1986. Even the Cherubic Hymn
introducing the liturgy came to signify the setting aside of all earthly
cares: either the "now all earthly care" (pasan nun
viotiken) was transformed to "all the earthly care" (pasan
ten viotiken), (see J. Foundoulis, The
Divine Liturgies, 1985, (in Greek) p. 231, or the hymn, being the
evolution of "Now the powers" (Nun
ai Dunameis) clearly manifests the setting aside of earthly care in order
for the eucharistic gathering to receive in
this world, Christ "the king of all."
In contemporary Orthodox theology this idea is known as "the Liturgy
after the Liturgy"; (more in Ion Bria - P. Vassiliadis, Orthodox
Christian Witness, 1989, (in Greek) p. 65ff, also p. 35f) and it is
underlined by the cosmic dimension of liturgical theology.