Praying through Our Hymns
Part IV: How Do We Sing (continued)
In the context of how we ought to sing, I would like to address the notion of orderliness in liturgical singing by presenting several quotes:
- St. Paul says to the Corinthians: “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
- In Chapter 28 of the Typicon: “The disorderly shriek of those who sing in church is not to be accepted as church singing. Whosoever admits it as church singing shall not be accepted: let them be deposed from their rank, and let them not sing again in church. For it is fitting to sing in good order, and to send glory in harmony to the Lord and Master of All, as if with one mouth, from our heart. Those who disobey this are subject to eternal torment, for they do not submit themselves to the tradition and rules of the Holy Fathers.” (The Typikon – Greek: τυπικόν/typikon , pl. τυπικά/typika , lit. “following the order” – is a book of directives and rubrics that establishes in the Orthodox Christian Church the order of divine services for each day of the year. There are a number of major typikon traditions – St. Savas, the Studite Typikon, Typikon of the Great Church, and there are also many local variations, often codified into an official typikon).
- St. John Chrysostom: “Only one voice should be heard in the Church at all times because She is one body… Therefore, a reader reads alone; … a singer sings alone; and when everyone sings a praise, the voices come out as if from one mouth”; and
- “Nothing rouses or inspires the spirit, nothing releases it from the earth and bodily ties, nothing fills the spirit more with love for wisdom and indifference towards earthly cares than harmonious and orderly singing.”
- Blessed Augustine: Sing “with a clear voice and concordant movements of the melody.”
- St. Niceta of Remesiana: “One must sing with a manner and melody befitting holiness; it must not proclaim theatrical distress but rather exhibit Christian simplicity in its very musical movement; it must not remind one of anything theatrical, but rather create compunction in the listeners. Further, our voice ought not to be dissonant but consonant. One ought not to drag out the singing while another cuts it short, and one ought not to sing too low while another raises his voice. Rather each should strive to integrate his voice within the sound of the harmonious chorus and not project it outwardly as to make an immodest display… And for him who is not able to blend and fit himself in with others, it is better to sing in a subdued voice than to make a great noise, for thus he performs both his liturgical action and avoids disturbing the singing brotherhood.”
So, lest “we are subject to eternal torment,” let us pay heed to the teachings of the Church and the Holy Fathers and aspire to order on the kleros and in the choir loft!