quod pro nobis traditum est

Thursday, December 04, 2008

worship in proper measure

St. John of Damascus (c. 676 – December 4, 749)

Liturgically, this commemoration was moved from March 27 (a Memorial during Lent from 1890-1969) in the Catholic Church to today, the anniversary of the date of his death and which also coincides with his day on the Byzantine Rite calendar.

On worship:
"Worship is the symbol of veneration and of honour. Let us understand that there are different degrees of worship. First of all the worship of latreia, which we show to God, who alone by nature is worthy of worship. When, for the sake of God who is worshipful by nature, we honour His saints and servants, as Josue and Daniel worshipped an angel, and David His holy places, when be says, "Let us go to the place where His feet have stood." (Ps. 132.7) Again, in His tabernacles, as when all the people of Israel adored in the tent, and standing round the temple in Jerusalem, fixing their gaze upon it from all sides, and worshipping from that day to this, or in the rulers established by Him, as Jacob rendered homage to Esau, his elder brother, (Gen. 33.3) and to Pharaoh, the [14] divinely established ruler. (Gen. 47.7) Joseph was worshipped by his brothers. (Gen. 50.18) I am aware that worship was based on honour, as in the case of Abraham and the sons of Emmor. (Gen. 23.7) Either, then, do away with worship, or receive it altogether according to its proper measure."

(Source: from Part I of his Apologia against those who decry holy images;


Anonymous said...

Fr Timothy,
I was able to attend (Orthodox)Vespers yesterday evening and noticed something interesting. In the hymns commemorating St John, he seems to be remembered as much (if not more) for his hymnography as for his defense of the use of Holy Icons. Note the Troparion and Kontakion below:

Thou wast a holy instrument/ and a tuneful harp of godliness./ Thy teachings shone forth to the ends of the world; O righteous John./ We pray thee to entreat Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.

Let us praise the illustrious hymnographer John,/ teacher of the Church and champion against her enemies./ For armed with the weapon of the Lord's Cross,/ he has banished the errors of heresy./ He fervently intercedes with God Who grants forgiveness to all.

Just thought you might find that interesting as well. I know Lutherans greatly appreciate a good hymnographer.


Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

That St. John is known regarding the issue of Holy Icons is conceded. My interest in this particular quote is his discussion of "degrees of worship," an emphasis not readily appreciated. We also see him addressing here holiness and holy places. Lutherans appreciate the hymn-writing of St. John (see today's post by Fr. Weedon). There are other theological issues of interest that come to attention with him but for now this excerpt on worship caught my attention. We also met for Vespers last night and since Vespers is not all too common I appreciate the Magnificat.

Anonymous said...

Fr Timothy,
I went off on a little tangent there, sorry. It's just that I'd been thinking about how much I heard about St John's hymnography last night, and your post just gave me the opening to comment on that. :-)

I agree, that the distinction between latreia and doulia is not that well appreciated. This is a topic I struggled with myself for a long time.

I have to ask about your comment that Vepsers is not all too common. Did you mean that the Vespers service isn't observed often in Lutheran circles? I have to say, when I was a Lutheran my congregation used Vespers regularly during the Lenten and Advent seasons. I'm sorry to hear if others don't use it as much. We even prayed Compline at least a few times a year. I always loved (and still do) Compline.

Sorry for rambling,

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...


Your reaction to the post and comments are appreciated. It is simply that whatever quote I post by someone I realize cannot reflect the whole of that person's contribution or significance so while I may want to emphasize many contributions of a particular theologian or church father I simply choose one aspect at a time for reasons of space and time. This is also a learning experience for me as I skim those writings of the saints whose feast or commemoration takes place on a particular day.

Undoubtedly, within Lutheranism, the practice of the daily offices varies from place to place. In terms of cultural influences church attendance is primarily on Sundays and weekday evening services are less of a priority even for the most devoted. Advent and Lent are probably most responsible for the opportunity to learn and appreciate the daily offices, although Advent seems to receive less attention (for many reasons). Compline is always a wonderful office.

PS Thank you for the Troparion and Kontakion. I have no experience with Orthodox worship except the bits and pieces I read online.

Past Elder said...

Do you know why 27 March was chosen originally when he was put in the Roman general calendar in 1890?

I don't, can't find anything that says why, and there are no obvious clues as is usually the case when the date of death is not the feast day.

The change to 4 December is quite in line with the normal procedures for establishing feast days -- one of the few changes in the novus ordo with any merit whatsoever -- and the East of course had long had it there for the same reasons.

Poor Peter Chrysologus got bumped, though, and, as his date of death was already taken by Ignatius of Loyola, he got assigned the day before his date of death, which was open and at least becomes one of those cases where it's obvious why the date of death was not chosen.

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

I haven't looked into the what and why of the dating of March 27 but agree that Dec. 4 is more consistent. Only later did I notice that Peter Chrysologus was moved but his new date makes sense too.

Past Elder said...

There must have been a reason.

For example, the Brave New Church moved St Monica from 4 May to 27 August (so have we in our Vatican II For Lutherans calendar). Which at first blush makes sense -- 4 May related to nothing in her life and 27 August is the day before the feast of her son whose conversion is related to her.

But dig a little and you find why 4 May. It was because that's the day before 5 May, which is the feast of the Conversion of St Augustine in the Augustinian Order so his mother so much a part of that was celebrated the day before. The Conversion feast never made it into the General Calendar, but when St Monica did, quite late, it was kept where the Augustinians had always celebrated it -- until the spiritual sack of Rome by the spiritual Huns in the 1960s. (As we said then, The Rhine has polluted the Tiber!)

I'm thinking there has to be some such story behind 27 March date for St John as opposed to the East's consistent use of 4 Decemeber.

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

The only extra information I can find after a quick online search is that Dec. 4 for John Damascene is an "Optional Memorial." (as was March 27 since there are no obligatory Memorials during Lent) John was declared a "Doctor of the Church" in 1883 and his name was inserted on the General Roman Calendar in 1890.

Could it be related somehow to the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary being on March 25?

As you say, there must be a reason. I do not have an answer.

Past Elder said...

25 March for the Annunciation is an easy one -- it's nine months, the human gestation period, before 25 December, Christmas.

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

But my question with regard to the Annunciation is if that feast had anything to do with the choice of March 27 as the original choice for St. John of Damascus. In other words, getting back to the original question, why March 27? Also, it is interesting to see that the choice of March 27 is a relatively late development (19th c.).

Past Elder said...

I can't find a thing either! None of the biographical info has anything else dated 27 March in his life. As his defence of icons is his claim to faim -- and maybe the reason for his relatively late admission into the Roman calendar -- I don't see anything to suggest a connexion to the Assumption either.

Which is not to say it isn't there. I just can't find it or find anything on which to posit something. Maybe it's no more than this -- they needed an open date and there it was at a time suitable for the type of feast being instituted, and had the West gotten on board with him as the East did, then Peter Chrysologus could have had his day before Igantius of Loyola, who would have had to be given the day before!