Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Obligation to Pray

In 1890, the Synod of Lviv unsuccessfully attempted to obligate clerics - and only clerics - to pray the Divine Praises. Thus obliging some of the people of God (clergy), while not others, would violate the spirit of public liturgical prayer. As Fr. Robert Taft writes, “The burden of common prayer is incumbent on all.”[1] Liturgical prayer is communal by its very nature. The faithful – both lay and ordained – ought to live as vibrant and full a liturgical life as their lives reasonably allow. Daily celebration of the Divine Praises ought to be an act of, by, and for the whole community. The whole community is, in some sense,  "obliged." The Apostolic Constitutions instruct the bishop to “command and exhort” both clergy and laity to communal morning and evening prayer in the church every day: 
When you instruct the people, O bishop, command and exhort them to come constantly to church morning and evening every day, and by no means to forsake it on any account, but to assemble together continually.... For it is not only spoken concerning the priests, but let every one of the laity hearken to it as concerning himself. [2] 
Clericalizing the Divine Praises by obliging clerics and only clerics to pray them is imbalanced and contrary to the true spirit of liturgical prayer. Clergy are not properly thought of as those who pray in the place of or instead of the laity. This mentality weakens the communal and public celebration of the Divine Praises. Rather, the clergy are to lead the laity in prayer. 

An example of the clergy celebrating Vespers together with the laity 

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