Rorate Caeli

Something interesting from Greece...

It is common for the Eastern Orthodox to claim that they uphold the use of the vernacular in liturgical offices. However, the reality is more complex. Greek Divine Liturgies, for instance, continue to be sung in  the  now-archaic Greek of the Septuagint and the New Testament -- which, it is often said, is hardly understood by younger Greeks -- rather than in the modern Greek vernacular ("Dimotiki" or Demotic Greek). In Slavic countries, the great majority of "canonical" Eastern Orthodox (and some Greek Catholic) Divine Liturgies continue to be sung in Church Slavonic rather than in the different vernaculars of those countries. Not that this is a problem for tradition-minded Roman Catholics!

However, in the past hundred years or so, and especially in more recent decades, there has been a growing push in the Orthodox Churches to initiate liturgical reforms, specifically the translation of the Divine Liturgy into modern or colloquial vernacular languages. In the last few years, the Holy Synod of the State Church of Greece has repeatedly condemned attempts to celebrate part or all of the Divine Liturgy and other liturgical services in modern vernacular Greek.(See this for a condemnation issued in 2010, and this for a condemnation made in 2002.) Nevertheless, these statements have not succeeded in putting an end to calls for the introduction of vernacular Greek into the Greek Orthodox liturgy.

At any rate, on January 16, 2011 a Greek Orthodox bishop decided on his initiative to read from the Old Testament in modern Greek rather than in the original Greek of the Septuagint, and so...

On January 16, 2011 an intense clash resulted in Volos during the Great Vespers service for the feast of Saint Anthony the Great where Metropolitan Ignatios of Dimitriados was serving.

During the Old Testament readings of the Great Vespers, the Metropolitan decided to read the portion from the Wisdom of Solomon in the demotic vernacular language rather than the Septuagint original. Immediately people began to shout: "Your Eminence, not in the demotic. Read the reading in the ancient language." This was followed by yelling and tension within the church during the service. The Metropolitan in vain tried to resume the reading.

"You must know that some are videotaping at this time in order to create trouble. They want to show there is a reaction", said the Metropolitan over the microphone.

He continued: "I must tell you that the texts of the Old Testament are didactic and are not prayers of the Church. I, at this time, have yet to read prayers in the demotic, even though I could have done so as have done other bishops." (That the singing of Biblical pericopes or readings in the liturgy is a prayer first and foremost, and only secondarily didactic, is also upheld by many Traditionalist Roman Catholics. CAP)

The voices of the protesters would not cease however. The Metropolitan then shouted over the microphone: "Please do not be agitated, do not be agitated."

A priest also standing at the Beautiful Gate then asked the people to isolate these matters and take them outside for the others to worship in peace.
The Metropolitan then said that he would read the text in both demotic and ancient Greek, but only during the reading of the demotic did there arise new tensions.

There is a video of the incident in the lower part of the original post.