romanian literary monthly

Dr.George Alexe: „The thracian origin of byzantine and romanian sacred music“

The cultural relationships between Eastern and Western Europe in the Middle Ages could also be demonstrated by the Byzantine and Romanian sacred music. In this sense, the descent of the Gregorian music from the Byzantine music makes self evident, by derivation, the connecting bridge between Eastern and Western Christianity, at least since the 6th century till our times. As a matter of fact, without anticipating, the Thracian origin of the Byzantine, Romanian and Gregorian sacred music symbolically express the same spiritual and cultural unity of the Eastern and Western Romanity, as it was in the past and, hopefully, as it might be in the future.

Unfortunately, the Great Schysra of 1054 has also created musical borders, between the Byzantine and Gregorian sacred music, so to say between the Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic Christianity. For the time being, theologically speaking, the Byzantine and Gregorian music are strongly validating the Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic Church identities. In other words, the sacred music identifies by itself the Church to which it belongs. Probably for that reason, the musical identity of the „Uniate Churches“ is totally invalidated by the Gregorian sacred music, but incontestably validated by the Byzantine sacred music, especially in Romania. Such undisputed musical reality proves that organically, historically and spiritually all these Uniate Churches are belonging to the Eastern Orthodox Churches where they were separated from by political means. Anyway, the musical territories are ethnically and religiously very hard to be conquered. It is almost impossible. They might be irenically harmonized but never destroyed.

The Byzantine sacred music is the traditional and official music of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

It was created during the Apostolical and Patristical ages of the Undivided Universal Church in the Roman Empire. The Byzantine sacred hymnography and music is an organic part of the Holy Tradition and also of the daily Divine Eastern Orthodox worship. The Octoechos of St. John of Damascus (+749) is the fundamental book of the Byzantine music. In his excellent Dictionary of Orthodox Theology, a summary of the beliefs, practices and history of the Eastern Orthodox Church (New York, Philosophical Library 1964, p. 137), George H. Demetrakopoulos of Kalamazoo, Michigan defining the Octoechos said that „it containes the eight odes of the St. John the Damascene. In it are included the services for every day, for eight weeks. These eight tones or odes are used throughout the year beginning with the first, one for every week. When they are all sung, they start all over again/This book is also called the Paraclitiki.“

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