Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Active Participation

A charming passage from Basil's homilies on the Hexaemeron (the six days of creation), which shows us a little glimpse of what it was like in the church at Caesarea in Basil's day:

Perhaps many of you ask why there is such a long silence in the middle of the rapid rush of my discourse. The more studious among my auditors will not be ignorant of the reason why words fail me. What! Have I not seen them look at each other, and make signs to make me look at them, and to remind me of what I have passed over? I have forgotten a part of the creation, and that one of the most considerable, and my discourse was almost finished without touching upon it. Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that has life and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament, of heaven. I spoke of fish as long as eventide allowed: today we have passed to the examination of terrestrial animals; between the two, birds have escaped us. We are forgetful like travellers who unmindful of some important object, are obliged, although they be far on their road, to retrace their steps, punished for their negligence by the weariness of the journey. So we have to turn back.

Basil, Hexaemeron 8.2. It reminds me a bit of a passage somewhere in Augustine's homilies in which he happens to mention that whenever his congregation strike their breasts during the Confiteor they make the church thunder (or something along those lines). Someone should really collect these kinds of passages together.

(Of course, both of these are good things. I also remember Chrysostom, somewhere, complaining about all the people leaving the church right after communion instead of waiting until the the Divine Liturgy was actually finished. Some things never change.)

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