|Christ the Great High Priest|
Another novelty introduced by the Liturgy of Saint James concerns the originality of the vestments. The innovators have often sought for the abolition of the cassock and the change of the sacred vestments. What they essentially want to achieve, as much as possible, is the outer resemblance with Catholic vestments so that the steps towards union will be even less. What is sought for with this Liturgy, therefore, is coming closer since, according to them, many liturgists and even hierarchs take care to wear different vestments during its performance. For example, the Archbishop of Athens often performs this Liturgy not with the standard hierarchical sakkos, but with the phelonion and omophorion of a priest, like we see in iconography, on the basis that these were the vestments of the time. What they who use this argument forget is that the priests of the time also did not drive to Liturgy in expensive cars. It seems we want to imitate the times of the saints only in clothing and not imitate their life and works.
However, the introduction of this arbitrariness suits the innovators who can easily imitate in order to ultimately impose the uniformity they want with Catholics. Fr. Demetrios Tzerpos says about the vestments used during this Liturgy: "Wear simple vestments, and do teleliturgical movements with natural expressiveness, free from the burden of later complex symbolism".35 This is how the innovators feel when they Liturgize or when they participate in the Divine Liturgy? Loaded with symbolism? How can they at the same time, while they are burdened with their vestments, experience the miracle of the Divine Liturgy and speak of the peace from above? Truly it is worthy of astonishment!
What do the Holy Fathers say about the "burden of later complex symbolism"? All have said in their interpretations of the Divine Liturgy that these holy symbols exist to help man see with their physical eyes the much higher concepts and meanings, and whatever is perceived by the physical senses leads to the memory of God, as the Neptic Fathers of the Church teach. Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki does not only give us the meaning of these symbols, but he also adds that "such things mean even greater things than it is possible to even understand about the Divine."36 Reading the description of the hierarchical vestments, fashioned with the guidance of God in Old Testement times, we find that Byzantine splendor, which so annoys the innovators, resembles like a rag before the grandeur God seeks.
Lastly, the view of the innovators that the vestments must all be white, even the sticharion, is in contrast with the colorful vestments of the Old Testament priests and certainly with those of our modern saints, who wore colorful sticharia and liturgized in magnificent vestments.
Old Testament Readings
The last innovation introduced into the liturgical life by the Liturgy of Saint James concerns the readings of the Old Testament read during the ceremony of the Liturgy, and this is a constant demand of the innovators to include them within other Liturgies as well. "There is wide talk of restoring the Old Testament readings into the Divine Liturgy", says Fr. Demetrios Tzerpos, who at the same time informs us that the matter has been included for discussion at the future Pan-Orthodox Synod.37
Is it not hypocrisy to discuss this when we are cutting readings from the Festal Great Vespers in order for the preacher to talk even more so that he flatters the bishop while playing with the nerves of the listeners, when we are cutting the readings from the Old Testament for Great Feasts and only read three of the prescribed ten or more, when we have abolished the readings from the Psalms, when we have abolished the verses of the biblical odes in the Canons of Matins, as well as the verses of praise in Vespers, when we don't chant the Canons that give numerous Old Testament references, when we have abolished the Typika from the Divine Liturgy and the Old Testament Communion Hymn which has been replaced with the waltz-like song "Virgin Pure" (Aγνή Παρθένε), and although it was written by Saint Nektarios it still is not appropriate for a Communion Hymn. So let us bring back ALL the Old Testament elements of our worship and then let's talk about the others.
In conclusion, the Divine Liturgy of Saint James contains everything required by the innovators hidden behind the Trojan Horse of the word "archaic" or "ancient" or "early". But no one has the right to touch the way we worship and remove eternal limits that the Fathers established. Finally, we should respond to those who argue that only doctrines do not change while everything else is up for alteration, with the words of Basil the Great: "For if we should undertake to discard the unwritten traditions of customs, on the score that they have no great power, we will unwittingly damage the Gospel in vital parts, and will rather be left with preaching confined to the mere name."38 And Saint John Chrysostom says of these unwritten traditions: "It is a tradition, seek no farther."39
35. Periodical Ekklesia, May 2000, No. 5, p. 429.
36. Complete Works of Symeon the Archbishop of Thessaloniki, Regopoulos edition 1985, p. 107.
37. Periodical Ekklesia, May 2000, No. 5, p. 428 and 431.
38. Pedalion, p. 643.
39. P.G. 32, p. 188.
Translated by John Sanidopoulos.