Fr. Peter Galadza, whose thoughts on Byzantine liturgy I have discussed before, delivered an interesting talk at last year’s Sheptytsky Institute conference, The Vatican II Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches, entitled “Full, Conscious, and Active Participation: The Influence of Vatican II’s Liturgy Constitution on an Eastern Catholic Worship Aid.” The “worship aid” in question is The Divine Liturgy: An Anthology of Worship which has become the normative liturgical text for English-speaking Ukrainian Greek Catholics. Throughout the presentation, Galadza draws attention to the anthology’s attempt to promote greater lay participation in the services through congregational singing while also highlighting the book’s focus on proper spiritual preparation for the Divine Liturgy (prayer, repentance, and fasting). He also notes places where the book presents abbreviated forms of lengthy Byzantine services such as the Vesperal liturgies for Nativity and Holy Saturday in an attempt to entice more parishes of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) to begin serving them. Despite expressing general satisfaction with The Divine Liturgy, Galadza offers some sobering remarks about the considerable distance the UGCC still has to go (at least in North America) before it truly recaptures its authentic liturgical heritage.
As an opening critical remark, let me be clear that I do not use The Divine Liturgy myself, nor do I have any plans to. While I applaud the book’s editors for giving UGCC parishes a “one stop shop” liturgical text as opposed to expecting them to possess all two-dozen liturgical books necessary for a complete run of the Byzantine office, many of the renderings are foreign to my ears and some are—by my “conservative lights”—rather unimpressive. But no translation is perfect. There are certainly many constructions in my English-language Eastern Orthodox books that are off balance and confusing; I’ve just grown accustomed to them. My larger concern about a text such as The Divine Liturgy is that will become the “final volume” for the UGCC in North America, thus normalizing its contentious abbreviations of certain landmark Byzantine services which many Orthodox parishes in the United States continue to serve despite mixed attendance.
On the other hand, Greek Catholics face a steeper uphill battle than the Orthodox when it comes to reinvigorating their liturgical culture. Eastern Catholics living in the West have long had to “compete” liturgically with their Latin brethren, resulting in significant pressure to eliminate “extra” services and shorten the Divine Liturgy. What is “better”: To serve a truncated form of Matins every Sunday or no Matins at all? Is shaving 45 minutes from the Vesperal Liturgy for Holy Saturday “worth” giving to the faithful a service rich in Old Testament readings and classical hymnography? Admittedly, in a “perfect world,” such questions wouldn’t be asked. We are a long way from that state, however. To his credit, Galadza recognizes this and is trying to do the best that he can under suboptimal conditions.
These are all minor quibbles, really. Where I really part company with Galadza is with respect to his apparent interest in developing new musical settings and choral pieces for UGCC worship in North America. Although he does not go into great detail on these points, I believe it would be highly imprudent for the UGCC—or any Eastern Catholic church—to begin “toying” with its liturgical tradition when the process of recovery and restoration is far from over. As Orthodox jurisdictions like the Orthodox Church in America and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia have already demonstrated, it is possible to adopt traditional musical settings for English-speaking parishes and, just as critically, to integrate the entire congregation into chanting them (at least the ordinary). Perhaps a time will come when Eastern Christianity will grow deep enough roots in North America that it begins to organically generate its own authentic elements and style, but that’s a question for another century or so.