Quinisext Council, Canon 75.previous | next
We wish those who attend church for the purpose of chanting neither to employ disorderly cries and to force nature to cry out aloud, nor to foist in anything that is not becoming and proper to a church; but, on the contrary, to offer such psalmodies with much attentiveness and con-triteness to God, who sees directly into everything that is hidden from our sight. “For the sons of Israel shall be reverent” (Lev. 15:30), the sacred word has taught us.
The chanting, or psalmody, that is done in churches is in the nature of begging God to be appeased for our sins. Whoever begs and prayerfully supplicates must have a humble and contrite manner; but to cry out manifests a manner that is audacious and irreverent. On this account the present Canon commands that those who chant in the churches refrain from forcing their nature to yell, but also from saying anything else that is unsuitable for the church. But what are the things that are unsuitable for the church? The expositor Zonaras replies that they are womanish members and warblings (which is the same as saying trills, and an excessive variation or modulation in melodies which inclines towards the songs sung by harlots). The present Canon, therefore, commands that all these things be eliminated from the Church, and that those chant therein shall offer their psalmodies with great care to God, who looks into the hidden recesses of the heart, i.e., into the psalmody and prayer that are framed mentally in the heart rather than uttered in external cries. For the sacred word of Leviticus teaches us sons of Israel to be reverent to God.
David the prophet, too, says, “chant ye understandingly” (Ps. 47:7). In expounding this text St. Basil the Great (Epitomized Definitions, No. 279) says: “Understanding the words of the Holy Scripture is like the quality of meals which the mouth eats; since, according to Job (12:11), ‘The throat tastes foods, but the mind discerns words.’ So if anyone’s soul discerns the power of every word just as the sense of taste discerns the quality of every food, he is fulfilling that commandment of David’s.” St. Basil himself adds (Epitomized Definitions, No. 281) that whoever does not go to chant in church eagerly should either be corrected or be ousted. If there are enough psalts available — many, I mean — the same saint (Epitomized Def., No. 307) says that they should practice chanting in rotation, once a week, that is to say. Canon XV of Laodicea, on the other hand, commands that no one else must chant in church but canonical chanters, or psalts, and parchment-chanting chanters, or psalts, or, in other words, except those who chant with a membraneous or other paper chant. In addition, c. XXIII of the same Council says that psalts are not to wear an orarion when they are chanting. Between the chants there ought to be reading (or praying) too, according to c. XVII of the same Council. 
 That is why divine Chrysostom (Hom. on “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne,” p. 120, vol. v) strenuously prohibits theatrical singing, dances of gesticulators, and prolonged cries and yells, and disorderly intonations. For in interpreting that passage in the Psalms saying “Serve the Lord in fear” (Ps. 2:11), he severely censures those who mingle the secular gestures of theaters with spiritual songs, and who admix therewith theatrical postures and meaningless intonations (such as are nowadays the trills and quavers and other meaningless utterances); and he says that these things are natural, not to those engaged in doxologizing God, but to those playing, and mingling the sports of demons with angelic doxology. By means of many arguments he teaches that we ought to offer up doxologies to God with fear and a contrite heart, in order that they may be welcome, like fragrant incense. What Meletius Pegas, a very learned man, says in his third discourse concerning Christianity is in truth to be praised and deserving of all admiration: “Precisely, therefore, as modesty and symmetry of music is attractive, it is adapted to render hearts more robust, by drawing the soul up from the body. For harmony is most agreeable to the spirit, having as it does an intermediate nature partaking of the crassness of the body, combined with the immateriality of the spirit. Thus again excessive music, pursuing what is sweet beyond moderation fails to excite pleasure, but, on the contrary, tends to enervate . . . for it is on this account that only the human voice finds acceptance in the Church, on the ground that it is inherent in nature and unartificial, whereas the percussions and efflations produced by instruments are sent packing by the divine Fathers on the ground that they are too artificial.” Yet some of the musicians of today are striving to put these things back into the Church with their instrumental songs. The trills and quavers that are now being chanted do not appear to be old, but, on the contrary, modernistic, in view of the fact in the songs ascribed to John Damascene and other musicians of olden times such meaningless words and prolongations; they appear to have come into existence about the time of John Koukouzelos. But the prolongations which the psalts of today are chanting in the vigils, being double and often triple the standard length are in truth nauseating and become offensive to reverent listeners. Wherefore we beseech canonical psalts to chant their songs more quickly, in order that their songs may at the same time be more tuneful, and in order to leave time for reading to be done; accordingly, the canons may be chanted more slowly, in which is rooted all the soulful (or psychical) fruit of the vigil. Some say, however, that these meaningless trills were introduced into the Church with a view to attracting the simple laity by means of their pleasant effect on the ear.
 Just as is now usually done in connection with the vigils, and especially those held in the Holy Mountain, and just as used to be done, as St. Basil (in his letter to the clergy of the church in Neocaesarea) mentions in writing: “The customs now prevailing in all the churches of God are consonant and consistent. For among us the laity commences morning prayer in the nighttime . . . . lastly leaving off prayers they turn to psalmody, and, being now divided into two, they chant to one another alternately.” Afterwards again: “Having allowed one to commence the song, the rest of them maintaining the balance; and thus in variety of psalmody they divide up the night, praying betweenwhiles.” But note that psalmody differs from prayer, since psalmody is done with singing, whereas prayer is done without singing. And that among the ancients psalmody was done in connection with the psaltery of David. That is why there are to be found old psalters all provided with musical notes. But today the contrary is done, and our prayer is the psalter read aloud, not sung (except for the first three psalms and the Very Merciful), whereas our psalmody consists of the troparia alluding to the new grace. Our God-bearing Fathers, however, the so-called Neptics, call praying by mouth and spoken words psalmody, and praying done by means of the mind alone prayer.
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