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Patristic TheologyOn Ecclesiastical Music

Let’s say a few words about the music that is appropriate for Church use. The aim of Church music is to evoke compunction or praise, but not romantic sentimentality. But in Western tradition under the Franks of the Middle Ages, it became the norm to blur the distinction between love songs and religious songs. If you listen to Protestants or Roman Catholics chanting in church, you will immediately realize that they are in fact singing in church. They are not chanting at all. Their hymns are sung with an erotic undertone.

When Roman Catholics sing hymns to the Virgin Mary, the text is not alone in being erotic; even the music is erotic. It is as if they were flirting with the Virgin Mary. It is as if they were flirting with Christ. The melody that one hears is sentimental and so is the music. The)’ try to evoke sentimental religiosity in their members by playing with their emotions.

The only criterion that we can use for terminology about God is the criterion of reverence.— Fr. Romanides

Given the sentimental nature of their tradition, sober-minded individuals in America and Europe are not churchgoers, because they do not find such sentimentality convincing. Those serious-minded people who do go to Church do so because they are sentimental and inconsistent in their investigation into all fields of inquiry. Under such conditions, a consistent European or American is naturally an atheist and will not become Roman Catholic or Protestant. These are hard words, but that is how matters stand. After all, a sober-minded scholar can never accept the foundations of Roman Catholic or Protestant theology. This difficulty, together with sentimentality in their worship, completely alienates some very serious-minded circles from the Roman Catholic and Protestant world. This is why their churches are empty.

I am afraid that the Orthodox Church will suffer the same fate, if She allows pietism, sentimentality, and rationalism to take over Orthodox theology, because I believe that the crisis that the Church is going through today(It was 1983) will be her last. Afterwards, there will not be anything left standing to be shaken or to undergo a crisis.

—Protopresbyter John S. Romanides, Patristic Theology (pages 216-217)


Also see:

Epilogue By Photios Kontoglou