A lot of participants on this site are supporters of Western rites, various Western rite initiatives, or at least some hypothetical restoration of a Western Rite environment in Holy Orthodoxy. We agree with some of them in some respects at least some of the time, if not most of them most all the time. It might seem odd to visit WesternRiteCritic.com and read that statement, but only if you miss the distinctions we’re drawing. That understanding can be gleaned from a number of recent articles but, just to make it explicit, we offer the following chart:
|WR Enthusiasts||Lovers of Western Orthodoxy|
Now, to be fair, we’ve put words in the mouths of everyone concerned. And it’d be just as fair for you to say, “I don’t think anyone is saying that.” or “I don’t think that’s what they mean by what they’re saying.” It’s an interpretation, to be sure. What we’re saying is that we have seen all these things discussed in one way or another, in one place or many and, if nothing else, it’s helpful to illustrate what we think are indeed two disparate trends which, though you might choose different content, you’ll see if you look.
We encourage you to think about these distinctions, to think about where you are on a map of attitudes toward Western Rites. Indeed, to do it, you have to know what you mean by “Western Rite”. Is that just a matter of a certain text – a different prayer book? Is it an entirely cultual millieu? What does it involve and entail? Would what you really mean amount to the creation of denominations within Orthodoxy, or an artificially imposed (socially engineered) homogeneity? Would it really accomplish the things being claimed for it – is there any evidence to suggest that your version of “Western Rite” would solve the problems it is supposed to solve? Would it create a whole new set of problems? If you’re in one camp or the other, can anything meaningful come of your approach while a significant number of your fellow supporters remain in the other camp? And perhaps: what’s really going on in your own heart? Is it the Cross – that crossroads between public acclaim, the glamour of the world and all its kingdoms, the popularity of Barrabus, the respectability of the Pharisees, the success of the Emperors and Legionaires and, on the other hand, the hard road of quiet salvation, the personal road of stones, the road of rejection even by one’s own family, the road of ascetic feats of which Our Lord said, ‘I go first, you must come after me.’? From where are your ideas and attitudes coming?
Feel free to sound off in the comments section if any of this means anything to you. In any case, while we might have some disagreements over any kind of restoration of Western Rites, and certainly what we’re talking about when we append the article “the” to “Western Rite”, it’s probably clear which path we see as plausible, and which we see as the children of Israel being seduced to bow to the golden calf: ”Come, be more popular, be more accepted, let the world embrace you.” You might not agree with any of this analysis, but that’s OK too. Our goal is to engage you with circumspect thought about what is a divisive topic (divisive is not a bad word, when it’s the calf or the law) – divisive not just for those who support or don’t support some kind of Western Rite environment – but between those who do support it, but don’t agree on what they mean or what they’re supporting.
The Marcionites would be happy with what the Western Rite enthusiasts have been trying to achieve. A church within a church, a confession within a confession. This pattern – this template – is the gnostic/masonic/revolutionary template from of old. It creates “unity in diversity” by creating within a religious body another religious body that cannot exist outside it but is in contradiction to that in which it inheres. This has been done to every major religious confession. It’s essentially the translation of universalism and the filioque into an ecclesiological expression.
Observe how it was done with the Episcopal Church. The 1979 prayer book gave us not just two different rites, as the 1928 continued to be used simultaneously in most churches (though, as in this case, proponents kept claiming it was all about rites and rites alone); what it did was elucidate, exacerbate, and continue producing two religious cultures, one within the other, but each in contradiction to the other (despite the harmony the enthusiasts would claim). Even the most optimistic glossers of those events now can scarcely deny that the chickens of contradiction have come home to roost. In the early morning hours, the high-church protestant wing, adhering to the ’28 books, would show up to say the spoken prayers. In the later hours, the quasi-catholic wing, to whom the ’79 book and its culture were now effectively glued, showed up with its charismatic converts to sing the new writ (the former would show up to vigils and such, too). And so the holders of the old way were forced into an ever more Protestant mold, while the holders of the catholic way were melded to the new movement. Effectively, this coopted, compromised, and weakened both.
And so tensions that were already there were exacerbated in the extreme, leading to the present troubles. The 28ers began to lose their catholicity for the sake of their Anglicanism, as they left in droves for Continuing groups. The 79ers, offering the heroic myth of a return to ancient practices, found their “catholicity” in indeed embracing all, but therefore putting them at odds with their own moral standards, and so further dividing them. You can’t embrace everything without becoming nothing. When you’re self-definition is open-ended, people will throw a lot of garbage into it. Defections from each ‘canonical’ group to the other became rampant, satisfying neither the leaving nor the receiving parties. The “Continuing” solution, of freezing the religious assets, as it were, simply created little museums dedicated to a myth of purity and the golden age. Now two great myths collided and fed on one another.
In effect, the complete fragmentation of Anglicanism we are currently witnessing is leading not to the end of Anglicanism, but the transformation of it into a faceless goo that is the raw material to be reformatted into something altogether new – something that prepares it for a more global apostasy. And none of its splinters, or splinters within splinters, whether they be in communion or contradistinction, admit fully what has happened.
It’s not a long leap to looking at the same template in relation to the Western Rite and so-called Byzantine Rite. The ’79 and ’28 prayer books overlay quite neatly. It’s “just about rites”, right? We even have the attendant claims of “returns to more ancient practices” and “embracing the culture that surrounds us” – same things the Episcopalians were saying and many now rue – when they’re dealing in reality at all. But one doesn’t even have to squint to see all the rhetoric about a shift in religious culture being trumpeted by Western Rite enthusiasts in one place while simultaneously denied with shrugs and protests in another. This template is that template. The necessary stages in the preparation of any amalgum include a distillation, a simplification, and extraction of the right isotope to define the necessary parts going into the new whole.
One needn’t even mention that this same alchemical process went to work on the great Protestant confessions, and didn’t have far to run to distill them into elements more akin to an ultra-fragmented fundamentalism in some cases, something like episcopalianism in others, and an ultra-refined generic mega-church (a kind of religious androgyny) in the rest.
If you want to see the future of “Orthodoxy” in the vision of those making the most enthusiastic noise about “Western Rites”, you have only to look around you at the crumbling pillars of Rome and her children. The very religiosity into which they wish to initiate us is being boiled down, and our participation will be courted as the ‘recovery’ of something lost (merely an earlier stage in the process) and the ‘purification’ of what was fundamentally fine (a different stew than our fathers ever knew). We are being asked to embrace a new Orthodoxy, a traditional Orthodoxy, and a continuing Orthodoxy, all within the same confession. We are being asked to become Episcopalians in culture and Orthodox in name.
So-called “Western Orthodoxy” is merely a symbol of this process and a symptom of the new order being formed, a different ecclesiology, a pseudo-ekklesia. In and of itself, it certainly has significant problems, many of which have been rather universally recognized [survey]. In terms of what its progress is telling us about the contemporary Orthodox movement (and the very fact that it is movement, and can no longer be considered static or a state – and so now has much in common with the Episcopalian experience) — in those terms, it points to much larger problems that are as yet, just as with the Episcopalians, not widely or fully acknowledged. This despite the countless warnings of monastic communities, ascetic saints, Orthodox prophets, and holy martyrs. Lord have mercy.
You’d think the Episcopalians would like what these folk are up to, but anyone that has suffered what many of them have, through this process, could only look at it with sadness, and perhaps a will to help us fight it. The ones chasing it like a grail are those ‘true believers’ who still think the key problems are gays and women priests, and miss the point entirely. For them, an Episcopalianized Orthodoxy, especially a Western Orthodoxy, is a mirage, and they’re greedily gulping down what many of us recognize as sand. The sad thing is that we are feeding it to them, in the name of disseminating the Faith. This can only happen when we have begun to lose our Faith the same way they did: Quite literally by losing The Faith.
The Marcionites, Masons, and Revolutionaries should be happy, but no one else will be. Not when, instead of coming home to roost, our dove departs for the last time.
No, I don’t know what it means either. Nor am I aware that the various synods of the world have declared themselves to be any such thing as “Byzantine Orthodox”. But that’s what Western Rite enthusiasts are calling you. It’s because they want to reformulate Holy Orthodoxy into a religious system defined by the selection of a particular rite, the religious endorsement of a body of cultural baggage, and the importation of a whole set of heterodox pieties on the justification that they’re “Western” and “Orthodox” people are willing to use them. They call themselves by the misnonmer “Western Orthodox”, and the only way to keep it from looking like a schism, a fetish, or a ploy (like “Charismatic Orthodox” – no such thing), is to try to rename the rest of us after their heresy. Yes, heresy, for it is certainly heresy to create another “Orthodoxy” in competition with the Orthodoxy already here present, and wed it to anything but itself, and claim that it is the rightful religion of those who live in already-evangelized lands. If it is Orthodoxy, let it be simply that. If it is Orthodoxy-plus or Orthodoxy-light, it is a deception, as well as a heresy.
Those who claim the need to Americanize Orthodoxy, for instance, have reversed the entire order of Orthodox evangelism. Orthodoxy is planted by missionaries in a land, and grows organically from there, without campaigns of special interests trying to ethically cleanse and culturally sanitize and reformat the Faith. The Orthodoxy planted, grown, and still growing in the United States is Orthodoxy planted in a multicultural environment, and it is no wonder that it should be Russian, Greek, Arabic, etc. And there would be no wonder in it being Roman, were such a thing to exist, and were it to keep itself free of stain by abstaining from heterodoxy rather than, like Corinth, remixing its own religion. But it prefers to create a religious fiction – that of a “Western Orthodoxy”, typified across diverse lands and times by liturgical similarities.
It tries both in the US and in history to create homogenization where none exists or existed. It cannot bear diversity, not really. Observe that enthusiasts do not find it enough to be approved, they insist on quelling dissent and claiming they are the legacy and heritage of all future Orthodox here. Homogeneity is their goal, under the term “Western”. What we are witnessing is something that was never Western when the West was Orthodox, nor Orthodox when Orthodoxy was in the West. A presumed “religion of the West”, only in the Orthodox rather than Papal fold. In actuality, it is a vehicle for translating the cultural implications of US and Western European imperialism into religious attitudes. In fact, this is what we mean by ‘religion’ in the negative sense: the process of translating cultural imperatives into religious rubrics.
Just a point to keep in mind: there never was a “Western Patriarch”. There certainly was a Roman Patriarch and, if they want that, let them revive it; let them fill the vacant see. But if they mean to create what never was – a hybrid of Orthodox affiliation with the heterodox notion of a religion based not on the local episcopate, as the Church that Christ and our Fathers have given us once for all, but some quasi-jurisdiction – a popeless or pope-courting ‘Western Orthodoxy’, then let us remember the full and unexpurgated anathemas in our Synodikons, which have much to say to such an ecclesiological-liturgical homonculus.
Indeed, the recent initiatives seem to be an effort to create an ‘Orthodoxy of all the West’ rooted neither in the local Bishop nor even in synods of local Bishops according to some unrealistic plan for episcopal gerrymandering, but rooted in Americanism and the Roman Catholic atmosphere of the Godfather era, sans the Pope (though that can’t be far behind – they’ll eventually need him). Make no mistake, the notion of “Western Orthodoxy” and the fabrication of a “Byzantine Orthodoxy” is an attack on Orthodox ecclesiology in the first place, and a preparation for neopapism in the second.
While we wait for that ridiculous day, let us who are not “Western Orthodox” neither be called “Byzantine Orthodox”, nor any other neologisms, so we don’t cause our brothers to stumble by taking up their error. Those who were first called Christians should beware taking up new names that contradict the very things that make them Christians in the first place.
Many of the enthusiasts for current Western Rite initiatives have been saying for some time that the primary concerns of those questioning the wisdom of such initiatives were simple prejudice or unfamiliarity. In short, they have, in their rhetoric, reduced all criticism to self-refuting categories. They have not listened.
The results of our poll clearly show that the primary areas of concern are neither small minded nor nitpicking, but are areas of sociological substance and regarding the state of Orthodox spiritual psychology.
While we don’t pretend this is a sufficiently scientific poll, with requisite controls, sufficient sample size and demographics, etc, we do think it represents the most vocal who have concerns. The most significant concerns were Western/European Phyletism and an essentially Protestant mentality. There were also significant concerns, representing roughly 25% of respondents, about liturgics and devotional pieties not merely being “post-schism” but being in fact heterodox or “post-Orthodox”, as the discussion by respondents throughout this forum will show. None of the concerns, in fact, were merely trivial. Respondents who felt their concerns were not fully represented by the poll, cited expediency as the central concern (what one respondent termed “The Offer”). By expediency is meant the exchange of whole, vast, comprehensive areas of Orthopraxis and the Orthodox Phronema for an influx of conversions.
We therefore offer these results as indication that the vocal critics of much of what passes for “Western Rite” and Western Rite initiatives have substantive concerns that cannot be so easily dismissed, and have faithfully indicated poignant, reasonable, and pointed concern for the salvation of persons in both Western Rite and Eastern Rite, for the spiritual psychology of our religious bodies, and for the pan-Orthodox (read ecumenical) articulations of our Faith. To mischaracterize or dismiss these concerns as either pedestrian or irrelevant would be headstrong, prideful, and ill-advised. We offer this for your consideration.
“Novenas, rosaries, holy hours, statue crownings, (are) prepared and offered by various religious orders, and offered to the people, while the offices of matins or vespers are never heard in parish churches. Whether these and numerous other abuses will be corrected by the decrees of the (Second Vatican) Council is a most important question . . .” E. T. Groark, Orthodoxy (Basilian Journal of the Western Rite) Volume X, Number 4, Autumn 1964, p. 120.
Would it be fair to say that many of the problems plaguing Western Rite initiatives are endemic to their parent jurisdictions? Would something like the following chart be a fair way to compare these problems?
|Eastern Rite||Western Rite|
|Includes some WR people who were pressured to “Byzantinize”||Includes many converts who were pressured to “go Western Rite”|
|Sometimes treating WR brethren as second class||Often dismissing ER brethren as outmoded and irrelevant|
|Can exhibit East European Phyletism||Frequently exhibits Anglo-American & West European Phyletism|
|Confusion about what is Orthodox||Confusion about what is Western|
|Twin problems of Neopapism & Anticlericalism||Twin problems of Neopapism and Congregationalism|
|Alien (im)pieties: general absolution, deprecation of all things seen among Russians||Alien pieties: sacred heart, stations of the cross, rosary|
|Abbreviated Liturgics, and deprecation of the full range of services, vigils, etc.||Serious liturgical problems: Tridentine, BCP, and so-called Tikhon’s Liturgy|
|Confusion about what is piety and what is culture||Confusion about what is culture and what what is piety|
|Inadequate Catechesis & Dubious Converstion||Inadequate Catechesis & Dubious Converstion|
|Ecumenistic courting of Rome||Ecumenistic courting of Rome|
|Deprecation of monasticism||Deprecation of monasticism|
|Dubious evangelistic methods||Dubious evangelistic methods|
Well phrased insight here: “…how does the next generation build on the sense of being “disaffected?” It seems the WR in its present form liturgically attempts to even amplify that sense…” – Publican123 from [these comments]
We’d be interested in your comments. If you haven’t yet cast your Western Rite poll vote, that’s still open, too.
Pastoral Letter of Bishop Raphael
To My Beloved Clergy and Laity of the Syrian Greek-Orthodox
Catholic Church in North America:
Greetings in Christ Jesus, Our Incarnate Lord and God.
My Beloved Brethren:
Two years ago, while I was Vice-President and member of the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union, being moved with compassion for my children in the Holy Orthodox Faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3), scattered throughout the whole of North America and deprived of the ministrations of the Church; and especially in places far removed from Orthodox centers; and being equally moved with a feeling that the Episcopalian (Anglican) Church possessed largely the Orthodox Faith, as many of the prominent clergy professed the same to me before I studied deeply their doctrinal authorities and their liturgy—the Book of Common Prayer—I wrote a letter as Bishop and Head of the Syrian-Orthodox Mission in North America, giving permission, in which I said that in extreme cases, where no Orthodox priest could be called upon at short notice, the ministrations of the Episcopal (Anglican) clergy might be kindly requested. However, I was most explicit in defining when and how the ministrations should be accepted, and also what exceptions should be made. In writing that letter I hoped, on the one hand, to help my people spiritually, and, on the other hand, to open the way toward bringing the Anglicans into the communion of the Holy Orthodox Faith.
On hearing and in reading that my letter, perhaps unintentionally, was misconstrued by some of the Episcopalian (Anglican) clergy, I wrote a second letter in which I pointed out that my instructions and exceptions had been either overlooked or ignored by many, to wit:
a) They (the Episcopalians) informed the Orthodox people that I recognized the Anglican Communion (Episcopal Church) as being united with the Holy Orthodox Church and their ministry, that is holy orders, as valid.
b) The Episcopal (Anglican) clergy offered their ministrations even when my Orthodox clergy were residing in the same towns and parishes, as pastors.
c) Episcopal clergy said that there was no need of the Orthodox people seeking the ministrations of their own Orthodox priests, for their (the Anglican) ministrations were all that were necessary.
I, therefore, felt bound by all the circumstances to make a thorough study of the Anglican Church’s faith and orders, as well as of her discipline and ritual. After serious consideration I realized that it was my honest duty, as a member of the College of the Holy Orthodox Greek Apostolic Church, and head of the Syrian Mission in North America, to resign from the vice-presidency of and membership in the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union. At the same time, I set forth, in my letter of resignation, my reason for so doing.
I am convinced that the doctrinal teaching and practices, as well as the discipline, of the whole Anglican Church are unacceptable to the Holy Orthodox Church. I make this apology for the Anglicans whom as Christian gentlemen I greatly revere, that the loose teaching of a great many of the prominent Anglican theologians are so hazy in their definitions of truths, and so inclined toward pet heresies that it is hard to tell what they believe. The Anglican Church as a whole has not spoken authoritatively on her doctrine. Her Catholic-minded members can call out her doctrines from many views, but so nebulous is her pathway in the doctrinal world that those who would extend a hand of both Christian and ecclesiastical fellowship dare not, without distrust, grasp the hand of her theologians, for while many are orthodox on some points, they are quite heterodox on others. I speak, of course, from the Holy Orthodox Eastern Catholic point of view. The Holy Orthodox Church has never perceptibly changed from Apostolic times, and, therefore, no one can go astray in finding out what She teaches. Like Her Lord and Master, though at times surrounded with human malaria—which He in His mercy pardons—She is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb. 13:8) the mother and safe deposit of the truth as it is in Jesus (cf. Eph. 4:21).
The Orthodox Church differs absolutely with the Anglican Communion in reference to the number of Sacraments and in reference to the doctrinal explanation of the same. The Anglicans say in their Catechism concerning the Sacraments that there are “two only as generally necessary to salvation, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.” I am well aware that, in their two books of homilies (which are not of a binding authority, for the books were prepared only in the reign of Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth for priests who were not permitted to preach their own sermons in England during times both politically and ecclesiastically perilous), it says that there are “five others commonly called Sacraments” (see homily in each book on the Sacraments), but long since they have repudiated in different portions of their Communion this very teaching and absolutely disavow such definitions in their “Articles of Religion” which are bound up in their Book of Common Prayer or Liturgy as one of their authorities.
The Orthodox Church has ever taught that there are seven Sacraments. She plainly points out the fact that each of the seven has an outward and visible sign and an inward and spiritual Grace, and that they are of gospel and apostolic origin.
Again, the Orthodox Church has certain rites and practices associated and necessary in the administration of the Sacraments which neither time nor circumstances must set aside where churches are organized. Yet the Anglicans entirely neglect these, though they once taught and practiced the same in more catholic days.
In the case of the administration of Holy Baptism it is the absolute rule of the Orthodox Church that the candidate must be immersed three times (once in the name of each Person of the Holy Trinity). Immersion is only permissory in the Anglican Communion, and pouring or sprinkling is the general custom. The Anglicans do not use holy oil in the administration, etc., and even in doctrinal teaching in reference to this Sacrament they differ.
As to the doctrine concerning Holy Communion the Anglican Communion has no settled view. The Orthodox Church teaches the doctrine of transubstantiation without going into any scientific or Roman Catholic explanation. The technical word which She uses for the sublime act of the priest by Christ’s authority to consecrate is “transmuting” (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom). She, as I have said, offers no explanation, but She believes and confesses that Christ, the Son of the living God Who came into the world to save sinners, is of a truth in His “all-pure Body” and “precious Blood” (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom) objectively present, and to be worshiped in that Sacrament as He was on earth and is now in risen and glorified majesty in Heaven; and that “the precious and holy and life-giving Body and Blood of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ are imparted” (to each soul that comes to that blessed Sacrament) “Unto the remission of sins, and unto life everlasting” (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom).
Confirmation or the laying on of hands, which the Orthodox Church calls a Sacrament—”Chrismation”—in the Anglican Church is merely the laying on of hands of the Bishop accompanied by a set form of prayers, without the use of Holy Chrism, which has come down from Apostolic days as necessary.
Holy Matrimony is regarded by the Anglican Communion as only a sacred rite which, even if performed by a Justice of the Peace, is regarded as sufficient in the sight of God and man.
Penance is practiced but rarely in the Anglican Communion, and Confession before the reception of Holy Communion is not compulsory. They have altogether set aside the Sacrament of Holy Unction, that is anointing the sick as commanded by Saint James (see James 5:14). In their priesthood they do not teach the true doctrine of the Grace of the Holy Orders. Indeed they have two forms of words for ordination, namely, one which gives the power of absolution to the priest, and the alternative form without the words of Our Lord, whosoever sins ye remit, etc. (John 20: 23). Thus they leave every bishop to choose intention or non-intention in the act of ordination as to the power and Grace of their priesthood (“Ordination of Priests,” Book of Common Prayer).
But, besides all of this, the Anglican Communion ignores the Orthodox Church’s dogmas and teachings, such as the invocation of saints, prayers for the dead, special honor to the blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of God, and reverence for sacred relics, holy pictures and icons. They say of such teaching that it is “a foul thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the word of God” (Article of Religion, XXII).
There is a striking variance between their wording of the Nicene Creed and that of the Holy Orthodox Church; but sadder still, it contains the heresy of the “filioque.”
I do not deem it necessary to mention all the striking differences between the Holy Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion in reference to the authority of holy tradition, the number of Ecumenical Councils, etc. Enough has already been said and pointed out to show that the Anglican Communion differs but little from all other Protestant bodies, and therefore, there cannot be any intercommunion until they return to the ancient Holy Orthodox Faith and practices, and reject Protestant omissions and commissions.
Therefore, as the official head of the Syrian Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church in North America and as one who must give account (Heb. 13:17) before the judgment seat of the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls (I Pet. 2:25), that I have fed the flock of God (I Pet. 5:2), as I have been commissioned by the Holy Orthodox Church, and inasmuch as the Anglican Communion (Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA) does not differ in things vital to the well-being of the Holy Orthodox
Church from some of the most errant Protestant sects, I direct all Orthodox people residing in any community not to seek or to accept the ministrations of the Sacraments and rites from any clergy excepting those of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church, for the Apostolic command that the Orthodox should not commune in ecclesiastical matters with those who are not of the same household of faith (Gal. 6:10), is clear: “Any bishop, or presbyter or deacon who will pray with heretics, let him be anathematized; and if he allows them as clergymen to perform any service, let him be deposed.” (Apostolic Canon 45) “Any bishop, or presbyter who accepts Baptism or the Holy Sacrifice from heretics, we order such to be deposed, for what concord hath Christ with Belial, or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” (Apostolic Canon 46)
As to members of the Holy Orthodox Church living in areas beyond the reach of Orthodox clergy, I direct that the ancient custom of our Holy Church be observed, namely, in cases of extreme necessity, that is, danger of death, children may be baptized by some pious Orthodox layman, or even by the parent of the child, by immersion three times in the names of the (Persons of the) Holy Trinity, and in case of death such baptism is valid; but, if the child should live, he must be brought to an Orthodox priest for the Sacrament of Chrismation.
In the case of the death of an Orthodox person where no priest of the Holy Orthodox Church can be had, a pious layman may read over the corpse, for the comfort of the relatives and the instruction of the persons present, Psalm 90 and Psalm 118, and add thereto the Trisagion (“Holy God, Holy Mighty,” etc.). But let it be noted that as soon as possible the relative must notify some Orthodox bishop or priest and request him to serve the Liturgy and Funeral for the repose of the soul of the departed in his cathedral or parish Church.
As to Holy Matrimony, if there be any parties united in wedlock outside the pale of the holy Orthodox Church because of the remoteness of Orthodox centers from their home, I direct that as soon as possible they either invite an Orthodox priest or go to where he resides and receive from his hands the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony; otherwise they will be considered excommunicated until they submit to the Orthodox Church’s rule.
I further direct that Orthodox Christians should not make it a practice to attend the services of other religious bodies, so that there be no confusion concerning the teaching or doctrines. Instead, I order that the head of each household, or a member, may read the special prayers which can be found in the Hours in the Holy Orthodox Service Book, and such other devotional books as have been set forth by the authority of the Holy Orthodox Church.
Commending our clergy and laity unto the safekeeping of Jesus Christ, and praying that the Holy Spirit may keep us all in the truth and extend the borders of the Holy Orthodox Faith, I remain.
Your affectionate Servant in Christ
Bishop of Brooklyn,
Head of the Syrian Greek Orthodox Catholic Mission in North America
Accuracy of translation and fact of the above prescriptive direction and pastoral instruction being still in force and authority, unabated and unmodified, now and for all future time in this jurisdiction, certified April 27, 1927, by:
Archbishop of Brooklyn,
First Vicar of the Russian American Jurisdiction,
Head of the Syrian Greek Orthodox Catholic Mission in North America
What is the most significant problem of current Western Rite initiatives?
Click an answer below to vote:
1. Western/European Phyletism (attitudes of American or Western cultural/ethnic supremacy)
3. Illicit Devotional Pieties (Sacred Heart, Rosary, Stations of the Cross)
11. For those who feel there are no inherent or internal problems with contemporary Western Rite initiatives, but only external problems (e.g. how WR is received), please feel free to make this point in the comments section. We want to hear from you, too.
12. Other: for those who identify inherent or internal problems with contemporary Western Rite initiatives that cannot fit any of the above categories, please feel free to make this point in the comments section.
Elaboration on any of the votes is welcome in the comments section.
|Results so far:
Also want to create a poll? Click here
It’s always easy to justify one’s personal agenda for the Church and Orthodox religion by creative placement of texts. Recently, for instance, we read a passage from [this blog] which makes a case for emotionalism in Orthodox pieties (something rare and generally foreign to our experience). It does this by presenting a lengthy description of events in Constantinople in the 4th century as of Great Thursday. In fact, they are in the main a description of Great and Holy Friday, the most solemn and sorrowful day of Holy Week, and a day of total fast. Whereas the text to which the quotation links makes this clear, the article citing it does not, putting only a header concerning Thursday above the quotation. It then boldfaces the portion about the “emotion shown and the mourning” before the cross on Great Friday which, of course, one can only expect.
This example is just one of many, but it illustrates the problem of scouring history for proof texts in an effort to recreate and reconstruct an Orthodox experience presumably now lacking in the attitude of contemporary Orthodox. This dialectic, misused, can actually be quite harmful, and is solely a matter for conscientious converts and ambitious academics (meaning, in both cases, theoreticians) who wish to rescue the Church from its failings by restoring to it a history they barely comprehend, deprived in fact from its full context. This is history as a tool rather than hagiology as a means of theosis. We really aren’t meaning to pick on the blog owner above. He asks for and receives quite enough flack. But since his is perhaps the ‘loudest’ example of the evangelical hermeneutic at work in the “Western Rite” theatre, his posts are typically replete with helpful examples of the matters that concern a sober mind about what is getting called “Western Rite”.
Again, to try to create a blanket justification of concepts or experiences detached from their context (by proof texts in the wild, or by any other hermeneutic) is a dangerous process to set loose upon a Faith. Its harmful effects have already been experienced in the history of the Roman Catholic and Anglican religions, which have become bywords for this error, and we find it a dubious undertaking for clergy of any religion in the name of winning an argument or scoring support for a private agenda. Besides, if that agenda is indefensible otherwise, then it should be rejected as lacking the very historical continuity it presumes to demonstrate.
Not all critical examination of contemporary Orthodox community life or investigation of historical precedent is a bad idea. Indeed, we benefit from it frequently. But it must be done in a mature and circumspect manner, with some sense of how the Church uses history in the first place, how it ‘places’ its thought within history, and how it’s Faith differs from the manufacture or “rediscovery” of concepts, as in Protestantism and archaism. The Church is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Our essential ecclesiology, our fundamental hermeneutical tradition, and our basic mysteriology must guide our consciences in our treatment of the Church’s history, Her texts, and Her sacred experience.
It’s worth reminding ourselves, as we do periodically, that we must avoid the blindness that comes and delusion that precedes belittling and ridiculing our brother. For all such offenses, we ask forgiveness. And to any who are caught by the demon that inspires these things, we say “save yourselves, and pray for us, so we can be saved.” We may disagree, indeed must disagree at times, but we are not enemies.
Let us leave off all forms of saying to our brothers “raca”, which in modern parlance is translated: fool, idiot, moron, simpleton, bone-head, dolt, loser, human waste, excrement, or any number of other attributions. But let us give the demon speaking such words through our lips no place, and speak of the limitless value of our brother and only of our own failings. In this way is the Evil One defeated and cast out.
“For this reason it is very beneficial for a person to think of himself as smaller than all, so that he sees the brother as better, in order that he may, with the help of God, be delivered from this evil. ” – Elder Ephraim of Philotheou
In every personal failing we see in another, let us turn the finger around and point it at ourselves. Then people will listen when we speak of real concerns about the directions of our religious communities, and will not confuse this with personal insults. But, as it is, we accept as true all things that people say of our character – that we are silly, angry people, filled with passions. In this way, we will deprive the enemy, too, of power.
If we have to criticize, and we do, and that is what this site is for, it is a criticism of those things which deprive us of salvation, and is not meant to undermine anyone’s view of another person, though we are sure we fail to communicate this at times, and to show sufficient love to our detractors. Pray for us; we cannot walk this delicate path without your prayers.
We recently read a discussion on meditation “prior” to prayer, which included this: “I suggested meditation on the mystery under consideration prior to prayer, precisely as a means to “warm up the heart” as recommended by, e.g., St. Theophan the Recluse.”
Since we don’t know exactly what is meant by this discussion, we offer some theses on the subject:
* Meditation is not prior to prayer but an act of prayer (with the understanding that much that we consider prayer is prior to ‘true prayer’).
* By preparation for prayer, what the Saint is describing is a process of movement from attention to the world to prayerful attention – in short, preparation for prayer is actually movement into true prayer, or beginning to pray, or becoming prayerful. The use of the vehicles of prayer, icons, candles, and even the words are part of these means of preparation.
* The notion that one should have a separate period of meditation on the sufferings of Christ, and afterwards begin praying, strikes us as a Latin approach to piety that is foreign to Orthodox piety, but we are willing to be corrected on this.
* We still have concern that a danger of the use of a heterodox format for meditation in prayer (much less in any way separated programmatically from prayer) is the use of imagination in prayer (the consensus patrum is against this) and its inevitable transformation into fantasy, and fantasy’s transformation into prelest against which, says St. Seraphim, the fathers armed themselves more fiercely than anything.
* “Warming up” is actually warming the heart by means of movement from the cold attention to the world and its cares to the warm attention to union with God. It is not a separate activity ‘prior’ to prayer in the sense that the cited article seems to be indicating. In fact, it would seem to us to be slightly dangerous to engage in any meditation on a subject separate (even if prior) to prayer, since this could only be, in our view, a flight of the imagination’s fancy.
* The kind of attention ‘prior to prayer’ that we are familiar with takes the form of standing in silence and removing from our hearts and minds the attentions to the world, but also removing from our minds and guarding against all false images. This is very important. The notion that these moments of readiness are to be filled with imagination or constructed images of Christ, makes us uncomfortable. It is one thing to be wounded with the fact of Christ’s suffering for us, with its meaning and implications, and it’s another to play in our minds a virtual movie of the Passion, the focus of which becomes rather inevitably a reconstruction of the details. We aren’t meaning to be sticklers, but we think we’re reading these texts slightly differently than some others.
* This puts forth the question not of whether meditation on the Passion is proper in fact (which is and has been acknowledged), but what exactly is meant when the fathers talk of ‘meditating’ on the sufferings of Christ: “the crown of thorns, the robe, the reed, the blows, the smiting on the cheek, the spittings, the irony” [source1] [source2]. Are we talking about running a mental movie, or else what the meaning of these things is for us? We think the latter, and we think that when the fathers speak of considering, meditating, fixing in mind the thorns, they mean not a mental movie but a kind of contemplation (with the aim of prayer, never dangerously separate from prayer) of Christ’s suffering for us. In other words, it proceeds in terms of meaning more than images.
* We take as our primary text Orthodox iconography, and it’s treatment of the Passion, which is not the realism of Latin painting, but the expressionism of Orthodox attitudes on the subject. To the extent that images provide us with impetus to prayer, the icons are the standard, and teach us what kind of images we mean, and indeed offer us an objectivity of images that does not require a subjective searching of mental and cultural movie references, or an illicit realism, which is not ‘real’ at all.
* It’s not as easy as posing various rabbinical authorities against one another in a as though we’re doing either Talmud or mediaeval scholasticism or messing around with Orthodox action figures with their various superpowers: Sts. Diadochos, Maximos, and Peter of Damascus on the one hand and Sts. Ephrem, Tikhon, and John Chrysostom on the other. It’s tantalizing to the Western mind to believe that there are different “schools” of thought on this within the one true faith, and all are equally ‘valid’, but this is to scholasticize Orthodoxy in a neo-Marcionist way; it begs the question by presuming a Western cultural hermeneutic and arriving, of course, at a Latin understanding of how we read the Fathers on these subjects. A better way than to hurl quotations at one another is to presume that there is one consensus of the Fathers, if read in an Orthodox manner, and to read them looking for this consensus and understanding of what they mean in the living context of how the Church has lived and prayed at all times and in every place. Then we will be truly catholic in mind as well as in name. That said, we offer the following texts, since they were first cited by the enthusiasts rather than ourselves, as key texts for consideration of this question: Continue reading
Recently a Christian speaker stood before an audience desiring to gain acceptance for a path that conflicted quite clearly with their tradition. The technique he used is tried and true. He began to describe how there’s a difference between crazy and not crazy. Always he drew associations with his theoretical opponents and craziness, always with his own views and sanity. In other words:
- He presented a false dilemma: Your choices are: my novel views or else these extreme and unpleasant attitudes and motivations; those are your choices. He didn’t define craziness, of course. You could insert the word ‘extremist’ or ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘liberal’ or any other undesirable buzzword. The important thing is to leave it vague enough, and to indicate, without indicating why or how, it is undesirable: You don’t want to be thought of as “x”, do you? Well then, the only alternative is my views.
- He poisoned the well: Those who would oppose me are, by opposing me, demonstrating that their motivations are irrational. Of course, he did not have any actual opponents on hand to prove him wrong – the goal was to prevent opposition, and stereotype it in advance.
- He mischaracterized his opponents, theoretical or otherwise. By attributing to them irrational, he easily escapes contest with the many rational books and articles that have been written to refute his position. He likewise, escapes having to engage such things, since a scholar needn’t, after all, debate with the irrational. 
In short, this speaker silenced opposition, embarrassed concern, and slid a pre-packaged point of view into the minds of those least educated on the matter, least versed in the relevant body of thought, and most likely to desire an easy avenue to intellectual status – namely, the mass of new converts and under-educated members of churches that cater to every novelty while fostering ignorance of tradition. He pled to dilettants.
These techniques are cited here, because they’re not uncommon among Western Rite enthusiasts. Frequently, those who express concern, potent questions, and certainly challenges to things done in the name of “Western rites” are characterized as “hysterical” , “raving”, “railing”, “polemicists”  “bashing”, “attacking”, “hostile”, “attempting to demean the rite” , and so on.
In other words, a variety of irrational emotions (rage, hysteria), evil motives (hostility, hatred, the desire to demean), and extreme actions (railing, raving) are attributed to those who would express concern over some of the enthusiasm being expressed, question the wisdom of some of the initiatives undertaken, or oppose the novelties introduced. The technique is the same, and it’s effects are:
- Present a false dilemma: you must choose the “balanced view” of the enthusiasts, or the extreme emotions, motives, and actions presumably characterizing their opponents. There is no third choice – namely that of happy approval of what is good, and firm, even adamant opposition to what is not, coupled with cautious consideration of what is questionable. There is only, in this presentation, “us” and “them”, and “them” aren’t really an option.
- Poison the well: when you see opposition, you must read it with the remembrance that it cannot come from genuine and legitimate concern, a righteous desire for fidelity and purity, and a human struggle to balance the need to admonish and sometimes correct one’s brother for his own salvation, for ours, and for the sanctity of the Faith, with the need to seek dispassion, find humility, and pray for the best. No, opponents must be ‘read’ with a certain pre-packaged hermeneutic – with eyes provided to you by the enthusiasts.
- Mischaracterize opponents: you are encouraged to read opponents with prejudice and feelings, all the while being admonished not to read the enthusiasts with prejudice and feelings, except of course where prejudice and feelings are deemed to favor the enthusiasts. The first step in persecuting anyone (as the enthusiasts so frequently claim to be persecuted) is to dehumanize them – to make them into caricatures of honest, honorable, reasonable people. This is how you become the enemy of another, and not merely the opponent. Once you have decided that your opponents are not honest, honorable, reasonable people with whom you can seek and indeed find the truth together, you may feel safety from them, but in fact you are no longer safe from yourselves. The truth is, we all need each other, to challenge one another, question one another, admonish one another, and indeed to listen to us. Once we willingly decide to end that, no position we hold is worth having.
This capacity, to treat opposition as warfare, which always reduces opponents to something less than our fellows, lies in wait as a temptation for any of us, and we are most vulnerable when wounded by one another. As St. Nikolai said, “Men can do me no evil as long as I bear no wound.” And likewise, he offered an entirely different way of looking at enemies in [this wonderful prayer].
So we must encourage those who are enthusiasts, those who are critics, and those who aren’t sure, to use moderation in characterizing opponents. The very caution that we use in examining these matters for approval or disapproval, let us use in choosing how we portray our counterparts, for agreement or disagreement. Let charity teach us to use more strictness with ourselves and more leniency with others. We who are writing this have often failed in this regard. We have sometimes let prejudice, defensiveness, and the desire to finish the course easily determine our words. We are resolved to do better. At the same time, we must, for the sake of the things for which we are striving, point out misleading and harmful techniques, when they endanger our brothers among Western Rite enthusiasts, our fellows anywhere, and ourselves in the temptation to respond in kind. We only seem to be opponents, after all, but to the degree we seek salvation in this striving, we are not opponents – not really. And just as we must acknowledge behaviour sometimes unbecoming, we must seek forgiveness, too, for driving our opponents to behaviours unbecoming fellows in Christ.
Let us love one another, that with one mouth, one mind, one accord we may confess, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – the Trinity, One in Essence, and Undivided. Amen.
End Notes: Continue reading
The Protestant impulse may be loosely defined as that tendency toward fragmentation over the desires, interests, beliefs, persuasions, passions, etc. etc. of religious adherents. There is substantial agreement on “the Faith” itself, but the very process being performed upon the Faith reduces it to a system of ‘essentials’ which are contrasted with non-essentials. In other words, those who disagree on essentials are of a different Faith. Those who disagree on non-essentials are of a different denomination.
Traditionally, of course, Orthodox Churches grew organically. They were planted by apostles and they were missionized among ‘barbarians’ by those “equal to the apostles”. The notion of programmatically ‘setting up’ a Church was more or less appropriate to the papal or Protestant ecclesiologies.
But what if it were otherwise? What if the Orthodox shared an essentially Protestant/Papal ecclesiology: Church by administration – church by fiat? At least two things would result, but two things, certainly:
1. The impulse and moral justification for creating a church would be “cultural” differences within the fold. This is the Protestant element.
2. The legitimization of this impulse would be juridical – something a hierarchy would sign off on but closely control. This is the Papal element.
And if these two things were to coincide, the result would be an organization within an organization, organism within organism, organ within organ: in short, a church within a church. Anyone else, of course, looking in, would term that a denomination. The basis for departure are the non-essentials, while the basis for administrative authority and control (simultaneously) would be the essentials.
And if this were all there was, these things in theory, we might yet be hesitant to refer to the Western Rite as a denomination within Orthodoxy. But then one reads Western Rite literature, and hears the call to go to one Church if you’re ‘ethnic’ and another if you’re white, to go to one church or another depending on which side of the Bosphorus your ancestry falls, which bank of the Mediterranean, which bloodline, which inclination, how you were raised, where you converted from, etc. This is the language of denominationalism.
Again, though, one might be hesitant to call it that, until one also reads Western Rite apologetics. The sometimes indiscriminate pilfering of the treasure houses of history, finding justifications, references, bloodlines, geneologies, and whatever bases one can for distinction, all the while demanding, often shrilly, recognition of union. This too, holding in constant tension the quest for objective authority in references and the demand for subjective authority in the recognition of others, is the Protestant impulse. And the method of handling texts is akin to arguing your point, and then finding the footnotes to back it up later. Substitute the ‘bible’, and you’ve got the fundamental Protestant hermeneutic, whether you’re doing ‘Orthodox’ hagiography or what have you.
If we took out the words “Western Rite” and inserted the words “Missouri Synod”, one might easily survey a number of “Western Rite” sites and be surprised if someone suggested the Westerrn Rite were anything *but* a denomination of Orthodoxy (aside from the absence of Western Rite bishops that could actually make up their own synod). We mean these observations not to belittle Western Rite endeavours, but rather to call adherents to awareness (no, not of how they look, but) of the religious sociology being introduced into Orthodoxy by the attitudes, mindsets, and resultant activities done in the name of “Western Rite”. A different rite, after all, needn’t be a different denomination, but when a rite is confused with a host of other things, and touted in a tribalist, multiculturalist way, a denomination is what you get, and denominationalism as an impulse – indeed a host of other things that are needed to prop up such an impulse, and which are actually foreign to Orthodoxy of any rite.
In seeking to accurately, adequately, and appropriately pursue a rite, one must not allow a quasi-Protestant, pseudo-Orthodox culture to be constructed that undermines these very efforts. This will prove worse than no effort at all, and what adherents will find themselves clutching in the end is not Orthodoxy but just another religion, whose claim to be the True Faith depends on cognitive dissonance – on saying one thing, and acting as though another were true.
That said, the Orthodox of the rite of St. John (called Eastern, by some), should cease all such denomination-inspiring rhetoric, whether this is making fun of the Russians (as is now popular where Orthodoxy has become an arrogant quasi-Episcopalian dilettantism), or else drawing illicit contrasts between ethnic and non-ethnic, cradle and non-cradle, parochial and monastic, this ethnic group or that one. All such work is the work of Protestantism, even when they call themseles Orthodox, and even when they are clergy or ‘famous’ Orthodox personalities. Many Protestants, in fact, are more Orthodox, when they cast off the very impulse that has so fragmented their Faith and which we now see at work wherever Orthodox has courted acceptance in the cultures in which the heterodox impulse is embedded.
We feel as much at home with those who pray the Western Rite as those who pray the Eastern, when either of them act like Orthodox Christians. But we are concerned that the very things ruining Orthodoxy by Anglicanizing it in so-called “Eastern-rite” churches, is actually generating the programmatic Anglicizing of Orthodoxy in so-called “Western-rite” churches. It’s not our only concern, but a thing seemingly yielding the fruit of Protestantism, and coming from its orchards, bears consideration in that light.
This article is a comment contribution by its author.
THE ERROR OF THE SACRED HEART DEVOTION
— Monk Aidan Keller (c) 2008 St. John Cassian Press
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a popular thing in the Roman Catholic Church of today. Frequently we see depictions of the Heart, and in Roman Catholic prayer books there are prayers to it, and consecrations of persons and places to the Heart. It is being called “God’s gift for our age.” What is this gift?
Devotion to the Heart first appeared in the 1600s under the auspices of the Jesuit order, which sought to emphasise the humanity of Christ. This was part of their campaign to make Christianity less demanding, less “other,” more approachable. To forge their new “minimum Christianity,” Jesuit theologians, for example, tried to prove that for a sinner to be absolved, he need only fear hell, or regret the consequences of his sins. The so-called Jansenists, on the other hand, with others who upheld Catholic practice, countered Jesuit teaching, saying it is the love of God which must motivate penitents to come to confession. Whereas Jesuit teachers debated how often it is necessary to love God, one Jesuit divine of the times concluding it is enough if a person love God one time before he die, Orthodox Christianity concerns the fullness of life in Christ and is scarcely interested in what the absolute minimum to achieve salvation would be. The form taken by the newly forged devotion to Jesus’ humanity as popularised by the Jesuits also strayed outside the bounds of Orthodox doctrine. We know that there have been seven Oecumenical Councils of the Church, from whose dogmatic teaching there can be no appeal. The Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431), responding to the teachings of Nestorius, the heretic Patriarch of Constantinople, taught that the Word, the second Person of the Trinity, was made man–that He took a human body and a human soul–that He appeared in the world under the name “Jesus,” and under the title “Christ.” Thus there is only one Person of Jesus Christ, and this Person is to be worshipped with a single worship, that of latria, the kind of worship rendered to God almighty. Nestorius, however, attempted to separate the honour paid to Christ’s humanity from that offered His Divinity. Thus Nestorius had said in a Christmas sermon at Constantinople that it was demeaning for him to worship a babe!
St. Athanasius of Alexandria pointed out the wrongness of worshipping Christ’s body in a separate way, in these words: “We do not worship a created thing, but the Master of created things, the Word of God made flesh. Although the flesh itself, considered separately, is a part of created things, yet it has become the body of God. We do not worship this body after having separated it from the Word. Likewise, we do not separate the Word from the body when we wish to worship Him. But knowing that “the Word was made flesh,” we recognise the Word existing in the flesh as God.” (Ep. ad Adelph., par. 3) Continue reading
Historic Western Orthodoxy vs. Heterodox Innovation
This article is a followup to Melkites Define Latinizations from March 1st, and is actually a comment appended to that article by Monk Aidan.
Let’s see how these practices compare to the liturgical practice of Orthodox Christians of the West before the Schism.
1. Unmarried priesthood
They had that, though many exceptions were made, and even advocated by Saints, and that even up to the very eve of the Schism of Rome.
They had statues, some of them wonder-working, though flat Byzantine-style iconography was also very common and even more prevalent.
3. Altar rails
They didn’t have those. Altar rails were invented during the Counter-Reformation. Continue reading
It is good to see Ben Johnson reading our blog so frequently. He’s just run a nice set of articles: 1, 2, editorializing on our work (not the first time, either; (unfortunately, the canards and straw men make a real discussion impossible. It’s always easier to defeat an argument if you mis-characterize it in advance).
In a desperate bid for authority, Eastern saints are cited as supposedly utilizing post-Schism Western tools (sacred heart, stations, rosary) – which isn’t entirely accurate, since the relationship between their pious prayers and the Latin devotion as such is often being assumed as the same thing when it usually isn’t (and that based on things so delightfully flimsy as what books could be found in their libraries!). It’s the fallacy of lumping dissimilar things together by blurring distinctions and dismissing the discrepancies as ‘minor’ or insignificant. Likewise, the devotions themselves are lumped together, so that praying something similar to a rosary is portrayed as somehow licensing a sacred heart. (!?) The pursuit of Latin piety has become the abyss of distinctions.
Of course, even if these tricks were conceded, it presumes that contemporary Orthodox who utilize heterodox pieties have the level of maturity, piety, and discernment to correctly pursue such matters the way the Saints presumably did. In short, what to one or two Saints may be useful, may easily be an idol to ordinary folk, and should not be prescribed for general use: to the pure, all things are pure.
We don’t however see WR people calling their own to fast as these Saints fasted, or to pursue the other rigours that are so squarely universal in the same Saints’ lives – instead, we see ‘mining’ them for justifications of what they already intend to do. Indeed the approach is fundamentalist and semi-kabbalistic – it is presumed that all we need do is dig up one Saint who did x, and x is thereby given ‘authority’.
More often, however, the desire for these pursuits arises precisely out of the void created from neglect of the pieties that are squarely within our own tradition – something one does not find in the saints they cite as justification. Hunger for the calf comes from watering down the law.
The fashion of trying to glean the hidden treasures of Western mysticism, in the current context, shows not only a certain depravity of Orthodox experience (most notably among new converts), but likewise an adulterous affection for another religion among their more seasoned counterparts (most notable among ecumenists). Continue reading
A priest recently began Lent with a sermon on keeping the fast. It seems like people are afraid to talk about that, as though the prohibitions against fasting before men, or against judging the brother who eats, somehow forbid discussion of it, or stating what the Church requires. It is popular to read the sermons of Saints about the importance of keeping the fullness of the fast (forgiveness, fasting from the passions, alms for the poor (which come from the money saved by fasting), but quite unpopular to read saints who point out that one who does not fast does not really believe in God.
Of course in places in the world where most Orthodox are baptized as infants, at least until the Bolsheviks ruined it for them, everyone knew that everyone else was fasting, and there wasn’t this pretense that we’re protecting one another’s secrecy. Contributing to the problem in convert countries is the conviction that fasting is a personal impulse rather than a corporate activity. One supposedly decides for himself when to fast, from what to fast, and how to fast. How this cripples our ability to encourage one another to stand strong, to help those who would ask advice but feel silenced by this pseudo-secrecy. We all know what we’re supposed to be doing. We know, of course, that for some reasons of ailment or definitive weakness, a fasting rule may be modified by economia, under the care of a father confessor, but we know the general rules: no animal products, no olive oil, no alcohol.
It’s a serious failure of Orthodox mind and culture that whole sectors of Orthodox aren’t even bothering to go through the motions. When the Fast is mentioned, it’s a bit like mentioning chastity and the prohibition on premarital sex among a group of young, single lovers and romancers. It’s a quaint, old custom from the past, but not how we really live anymore. This is a culture swimming in a sea of passionate foods and sensuality. To envisage 40 days without animal products, for most people, is like proposing a month without television or video. It sounds absurd. You actually hear people ask, “what would we eat?” showing not only no planning or preparation, but a complete failure of education on the part of their hierarchs. Continue reading
An initial foray into this area of concern:
Neoconservatism is a blight upon the religious mind. Every fundamental tenet of neoconservatism is contrary to the Holy Gospel.
When justifying one’s advocacy of political policies: it is popular to quote Holy Scripture and the fathers selectively, and to pick and choose bits of our history while neglecting the whole. But when one reads the ascetics, the desert fathers, the great monastics that pursue union with God, the meaning of all Christian thought, the ruses all fall away.
It is easy to find justification for anger, for instance, for “righteous wrath”, until we read St. John Cassian, who says there is no such thing as righteous anger.
Neoconservatism is a form of political gnosticism, and its adherents are like freemasons and practitioners of the occult in our midst. They hold out, as it were, a body of heretical private devotion, an inner religion of entirely profane character, indeed a passion for the world and its loves and hates, such that these things are household idols tucked in the saddle bags of the Faithful.
There is no meeting of Christ and Belial. These things are gods of Egypt, are golden calves, are the Molech to which we feed Christ in the form of the oppressed and slaughtered peoples of the world.
Neoconservatism is the tool of Satan for the coopting of Christian charity. As we set out upon the Great Fast, let us fast also from every passion, and from all things which alienate us from Christ and the union of all men, for which likewise we pray in every litany.
“Repent.” We must heed this injunction of Christ’s carefully, and radically amend our inner life and our concept of the world and our attitude towards people and every phenomenon in the creature world — not slay our enemies, but win them over with love.
We must remember that there is no absolute evil. Only unorignate Goodness is Absolute. And this Goodness commanded us, “Love your enemies…do good to them that hate you…Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”. Being slain for the sake of one’s brethren is the best possible weapon for delivering them from servitude to the traducer, the devil, and preparing their souls to accept God, Who desires the salvation of all. There is one in whom there is no light whatever, because God “lighteth every man that cometh into the world”. The commandment “Resist not evil” is the most fully effective form of struggle against evil.
When we resort to the same means adopted by those who do wrong, the dynamics of world-evil increase. Slaughter of the innocent in an invisible fashion often transfers the moral powers of mankind to the side of the good for which the innocent died.
It is not so when both sides evince the same bad tendency to dominate. Victory obtained by physical strength does not last forever. God being light, holy, and pure, with draws from evildoers, and they fall away from the one and only source of life and die. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord”…”Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
– Archimandrite Sophrony