Sr. Vassa Larin is a Russian-Orthodox “ryassofor” nun and teaches Liturgical Studies in the Catholic Theological Faculty of the University of Vienna in Austria. Her presentation on the Byzantine understanding of active participation can be found here.
Sr. Larin’s presentation on active participation from a Byzantine perspective is fascinating. She begins by posing two questions: First, from a Roman Catholic perspective – “Does the Byzantine Rite traditionally foster the fully conscious and active participation of the laity in liturgical celebrations?,” followed by “a very Orthodox question in that context and that is: ‘Why should we [the Orthodox] care?’”
Sr. Larin’s presentation calls to my mind the Liturgical Movement’s struggle to move the Roman Catholic Church toward a greater concern for the active participation of the laity before the Second Vatican Council. Her presentation outlines the historical and modern day role of the laity in the Byzantine Rite, while providing stories from her own childhood. She ends by discussing the state of crisis the Byzantine Rite is in today.
In many ways, the struggles of the Roman Catholic Church are similar to those of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. It seems from my perspective that the Eastern Orthodox Churches today must grapple with the role of the laity in liturgical celebrations just as the Roman Catholic Church did in the mid-20th century (and continues to do today). Obviously the way in which the Eastern Orthodox Churches do this will be different from the way in which the Roman Catholic Church from the time of the Second Vatican Council to today has chosen to address this topic.
Our churches problems are not all that different, and perhaps through greater ecumenical dialogue we would discover that each tradition has yet unknown solutions to the other’s problems. This is why it is so important that the Church breathe with both lungs. Unity in diversity and diversity in unity are the key to maintaining a healthy Church which looks back, within, and around itself in order to move forward.
It seems that the answer to Sr. Larin’s first question is that the Byzantine Rite could do more to foster the fully conscious and active participation of the laity in liturgical celebrations in a way which is in keeping with the spirit of its own tradition. And the answer to the second question, “Why should we [the Orthodox] care?,” I think is obvious: because we your sister church in Rome care, and in the spirit of ecumenism that should be reason enough.
As an aside, I would like to plug Sr. Vassa Larin’s channel on YouTube entitled “Coffee with Sister Vassa.” Every week Sr. Larin does a brief video on the liturgical calendar for that week. To find out more, click here.