Liturgical Subjects

Liturgical Subjects: Christian Ritual, Biblical Narrative, and the Formation of the Self in Byzantium

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 320
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    Liturgical Subjects
    Book Description:

    Liturgical Subjectsexamines the history of the self in the Byzantine Empire, challenging narratives of Christian subjectivity that focus only on classical antiquity and the Western Middle Ages. As Derek Krueger demonstrates, Orthodox Christian interior life was profoundly shaped by patterns of worship introduced and disseminated by Byzantine clergy. Hymns, prayers, and sermons transmitted complex emotional responses to biblical stories, particularly during Lent. Religious services and religious art taught congregants who they were in relation to God and each other.

    Focusing on Christian practice in Constantinople from the sixth to eleventh centuries, Krueger charts the impact of the liturgical calendar, the eucharistic rite, hymns for vigils and festivals, and scenes from the life of Christ on the making of Christian selves. He explores the verse of great Byzantine liturgical poets, including Romanos the Melodist, Andrew of Crete, Theodore the Stoudite, and Symeon the New Theologian. Their compositions offered templates for Christian self-regard and self-criticism, defining the Christian "I." Cantors, choirs, and congregations sang in the first person singular expressing guilt and repentence, while prayers and sermons defined the collective identity of the Christian community as sinners in need of salvation. By examining the way models of selfhood were formed, performed, and transmitted in the Byzantine Empire,Liturgical Subjectsadds a vital dimension to the history of the self in Western culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9015-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Shaping Liturgical Selves
    (pp. 1-28)

    Some time after the emperor Justinian’s death in 565, Eutychios the patriarch of Constantinople added a new communion hymn for the celebration of the eucharistic liturgy on Holy Thursday, the annual commemoration of Christ’s Last Supper. After a priest had consecrated the bread and wine and the Holy Spirit transformed them into the body and blood of Christ, a choir chanted, “At your mystical supper, Son of God, receive me today as a partaker, for I will not betray the sacrament to your enemies, nor give you a kiss like Judas, but like the Thief I confess you: remember me...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Romanos the Melodist and the Christian Self
    (pp. 29-66)

    Within his hymns, the sixth-century liturgical poet Romanos the Melodist gave voice to a wide range of biblical characters.¹ He composed dialogues, imaginatively reconstructing the interactions of biblical personae. In his Christological hymns, his audience might witness Christ’s interaction with Mary, Peter, Thomas, or the Harlot who anointed Jesus while at supper.² In hymns on Old Testament themes, his listeners attended the narratives of Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, and Jonah. Keying his hymns to the events of the liturgical calendar, Romanos gave psychological depth to biblical heroes and villains, modeling a whole range of possible interactions both with the sacred...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Calendar and Community in the Sixth Century
    (pp. 67-105)

    While liturgy shaped interiority, it also formed collective identity. Some stories in the lectionary cycle prompted introspection, but others, particularly the key events in the life of Christ, encouraged Christians to gather as witnesses to their own salvation. In the sixth century, hymnography, preaching, and the visual arts converged to construct Christians within a single imaginary that presented the Gospel in cyclical time. As the liturgical year became biography, the Christian calendar placed the liturgical subject within the biblical drama. From Christmas to Pentecost, the self emerged in the communal experience of feasts and fasts.

    Over one hundred cast bronze...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Eucharistic Prayers: Compunction and the History of Salvation
    (pp. 106-129)

    The broad sweep of the annual liturgical cycle was hardly the only place where Christians found themselves read into the events of biblical history. Eucharistic prayers recited at the consecration of the host situated Christians in the long sweep of linear time, inviting the community’s self-recognition as the children of Israel and as a church of sinners. In contrast to the annual liturgical cycle that inserted the congregation into different moments in the life of Christ throughout the year, the liturgical prayers of offering over the bread and wine incorporated Christians into the Old Testament narrative of Creation, Fall, Law,...

  8. CHAPTER 5 The Penitential Bible and the Great Kanon of Andrew of Crete
    (pp. 130-163)

    Liturgy provides a great deal of information about the models for introspection available to Byzantine Christians. As we have seen in the previous chapters, in the prayers and hymns, clergy encouraged congregants to pattern their self-reflection, providing forms through which they might have access to themselves. Compositions for Lent, in particular, deployed liturgical experience in the production of a penitent self. As the works of Romanos and the prayers of the anaphora demonstrate, this self was not unique to any individual. Rather, through the liturgy the clergy sought to reproduce this self in each participant. Byzantine liturgy thus provides access...

  9. CHAPTER 6 The Voice of the Sinner in First-Person Hymns of the Lenten Triodion
    (pp. 164-196)

    Early in the ninth century, at the recently reestablished Monastery of Saint John the Forerunner at Stoudios (ἐν τοῖς Στουδίου) in Constantinople, the abbot Theodore the Stoudite (759–826) and his brother Joseph (762–832) assembled a new hymnal for the season of Lent.¹ Known as the Triodion, this service book assigned the propers, or variable components, to the Sundays and weekdays of the great penitential fast and the weeks of preparation that preceded it, most especially the hymns keyed to each day’s lections.² The manual’s conception and execution ranks among the greatest achievements of the Stoudite liturgical reforms and...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Liturgies of the Monastic Self in Symeon the New Theologian
    (pp. 197-214)

    Hymns and prayers provided models for the self, offering access to interior lives, focusing introspection, and patterning affect. Byzantine liturgy provided a venue for the merging of speech and subjectivity, where Christians might immerse themselves in scripted performances, becoming themselves through the making or doing (τὸ ποιεῖν) of the self. The songs of the sinners conveyed identities that could be produced and inhabited through repetition. Implicit in such practices of chanting, singing, or prayer lay theories of how subjects formed. The Stoudite hymns rendered the personas of the lectionary as roles to be played. The monastery became a sort of...

  11. CONCLUSION. A Communion of Savable Sinners
    (pp. 215-222)

    At the turn of the thirteenth century, Nikolaos Mesarites, an aristocratic sacristan of the churches of the Great Palace in Constantinople, composed a literary description, or ekphrasis, of the Church of the Holy Apostles, the burial place of Byzantine emperors since the time of Constantine.¹ He was struck in particular by the image of the Pantokrator, the Almighty, high above in the church’s central dome, part of an elaborate decorative program probably dating from the later ninth century, when the middle Byzantine cross-in-square church plan began to take hold.² In a fashion typical for the middle Byzantine period, the dome...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 223-262)
    (pp. 263-296)
    (pp. 297-300)
    (pp. 301-308)
    (pp. 309-311)