The issue of anti-Jewish texts within the Byzantine rite is longstanding and complex. The Orthodox Theological Society in America is establishing a working group of liturgical scholars and specialists in Jewish-Christian theological dialogue to study and make recommendations for liturgical renewal within the Orthodox Church.
To launch this endeavor, and in advance of this year’s Holy Week, a time when many of these anti-Jewish hymns are most prominent, we held an online seminar on Sunday 2 April in which our panelists introduced some of the main issues involved and suggested some practical advice that can be implemented in local parish usage.
Over 60 participants took part in the seminar chaired by Fr Geoffrey Ready, who in his preliminary remarks outlined the various theological and pastoral considerations of what is a long-overdue conversation. Dr George Demacopoulos then reprised his 2023 OTSA Conference talk, “Anti-Jewish Rhetoric in the Good Friday Hymns,” demonstrating that the core set of anti-Jewish Byzantine liturgical hymns arose in a particular historical context and did not reflect the theology of the earlier liturgical tradition. Fr Dcn Michael Azar followed up with a careful consideration of the central theological and prophetic elements of the Holy Week hymnography. Svetlana Panich offered the perspective of a Jewish Christian, focusing on the narrative division between “us” and “them” introduced by the problematic texts. A hearty discussion among the panelists and participants followed the presentations. The seminar culminated with some practical suggestions that might be undertaken at a local parish level.
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