May 19, 2011

The Liturgical Arts and Man's Cure

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

There is a trend nowadays to chant in a Byzantine way, to make icons in a Byzantine manner, to build churches according to Byzantine architecture, etc. This is good. Yet, it must be done in parallel with the effort to find and use the therapeutic treatment of the Church. For, liturgical arts as well as the entire teaching of the Church are the expression of this inner life. In other words, liturgical art was developed by sanctified people who had personal experience of the stages of spiritual perfection. In their attempt to create art they infused into their art all the experiences they had. The iconographer passed down in the Byzantine icon the therapeutic method and the way in which man reaches to theosis; he even imparted the state of theosis itself. When he paints the Saint in glory, he also renders the transfiguration of the human body. The same thing applies to the sacred hymns, the church building, the chanting. The healed person, he who has acquired the experience of noetic worship, knows how the intellectual worship must be expressed, so that it is attuned, as much as possible, with the inner state of the soul. I think that the revival of the liturgical arts which do not express and do not lead to purification, illumination and theosis is not Orthodox despite its external conformity. It is just a culture of the tradition and of art. The Apostle Paul, for example, lived the whole rabbinical tradition of his age, however he fought Christ. He had zeal for God but his zeal was not according to knowledge. The same thing may happen with us. Also, it is possible that a contemporary deified person may express tradition differently, concerning the liturgical arts, without naturally being estranged from the basic structure of the Byzantine tradition. This occurs because the Saint obtains the tradition, he is a bearer of tradition and, therefore, he creates tradition.