Roles in the Liturgy

No Christian, by virtue of an office or liturgical role, has any claim to greatness before God;  all that we do in the liturgy is delegated by our Mother the Church.  But by the same token, not all who take part in the liturgy do so in the same way.

Unfortunately, the disappearance for many years of deacons in our churches, and the practice of the priest's reciting many prayers quietly while the people's singing was extended to "fill the gap", resulted in some basic misunderstandings of liturgical roles.  The priest was seen to be most active precisely at those moments when he took on the deacon's role, coming before the iconostas to lead the litanies, or calling for the people's attention.  Thus, the pattern by which the people, led by the deacon, prayed to God, and the priest summed these prayers up in a prayer of his own, sealed by the "Amen" of all present, was sometimes obscured, and the priest was sometimes seen as "turning his back on the people to talk to God" rather than facing in the same direction as the people, in order to present their prayers to Him.

In some eparchies, those priestly prayers which are made on behalf of the people are now taken aloud, allowing the people's "Amen" to be made with full recognition of what went before.  Similarly, the wider presence of deacons in the church has allowed for a restoration of the deacon's role as well.  This has sometimes resulted in controversial changes, such as shortening the singing of those hymns which became longer in order to "cover up" the priest's prayers.  To the extent that all is done in good order, however, these changes provide a prayer which respects both the letter and the spirit of our liturgical traditions.

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