Kevin Edgecomb reviews an article on Eastern Orthodoxy that is evidently an attempt to explain Orthodoxy to evangelical Protestants. Among several interesting things, he talks about the idea of the role of Scripture. It has long bemused me that though Protestants — especially the evangelicals of my heritage — claim to value Scripture above tradition and “organized” religion, you’ll often be hard-pressed to hear more than a couple of verses of Scripture in an evangelical service. Contrast the Orthodox liturgy:
The Gospel book, which itself is an ikon of Christ Himself, preceded and followed by candle-bearing acolytes, is held aloft by the priest in a solemn procession through the church, and in through the Royal Doors: Christ ascending His Throne. Later, at the reading of the Gospel, the choir sings an alleluia, and all the people stand as the priest proclaims the Gospel from the Royal Doors, an image of the dissemination of the Gospel from Heaven itself, again with an angelic honor guard of candle-bearing acolytes. This is the audible ikon of Christ, His image proclaimed in sound, not color. The actions of the priest and acolytes further glorify the Word, the eternal Logos, and are a lesson of God’s plan in themselves, when properly understood. The Orthodox honor shown to God’s Word can only be recognized as of an entirely higher order than something like, “Let us turn to Matthew 13…Matthew 13…verses ten…through…thirteen” to the rustle of pages, dropped notebooks, and clicking pens.
Further, it should be noted that of all churches, the Orthodox Church preserves the lengthiest pericopes in its lectionary. The readings of the the Epistle and Gospel likely comprise a lengthier reading from the New Testament than is common in any Protestant setting, and certainly do in the case of those Protestant churches using lectionaries. The setting of prayers and acclamations surrounding the Orthodox readings likewise outdistance in devotion any average introduction to the typical three-point sermon.