Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Psychological Negativism

Fr. Alexander (Schmemann) responding to an article of Dr. Andrew Sopko: But where, in my opinion, he is wrong is in ascribing the responsibility for the forthcoming failure of the Orthodox Western rite to the Orthodox of the Byzantine rite, to their multisecular “psychological negativism” towards the West in general and the Western liturgy in particular, negativism rooted in their “ignorance of the West and its ways.” It is this sweeping indictment that I wish to challenge here, not for any “apologetical” reasons, but because it obscures, I am sure, the real issues and places the entire debate on the Western rite in a wrong perspective. [ full commentary here ]


December 31, 2007 Posted by | -- Phyletism, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whose liturgy is it?

While it’s hard to agree with some things here, this writer makes the point that “ Unfortunately these western-rite Orthodox Liturgies are only practised by presbyters with no canonical western-rite Orthodox bishops. From an ecclesiological point of view this is an irregular position as the presbyter says the Liturgy of his bishop, the normative minister of the Eucharistic Liturgy.” [source]

December 31, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What are the Decisive Factors?

Fr. Alexander Schmemann: Let me begin by stating that I do not deny the existence among the Eastern rite Orthodox of the “negativism” denounced by Dr. Sopko and which indeed is very often emotional and irrational. Nor would I minimize their “ignorance of the West,” although Dr. Sopko’s somewhat condescending remark deploring the absence among Orthodox theologians and scholars of “authorities on the West”(?) seems to reveal another — this time his own — ignorance. My point is simply this: however real and regrettable, these “realities” are not the decisive factors in the failure, one after another, of the various experimentations within the Orthodox Church with the Western rite. [ full article ]

December 30, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eastern and Western Rites are Already Mutually Informed

Fr. Alexander Schmemann: And he does not understand this because for him the Eastern and the Western rites are two entirely different and self-contained “blocks” ruling out, as an impure “hybridization,” all contacts and mutual influences. This, however, is wrong, first of all — historically. He should know that in a sense the entire history of Christian worship can be termed a history of constant “hybridizations,” if only this word is deprived of its “negative” connotations. Before their separation, the East and the West liturgically influenced one another for centuries. And there is no exaggeration in saying that the anaphora of St. John Chrysostom’s liturgy is infinitely “closer” to the Roman anaphora of the same period than the service of Holy Communion in the Book of Common Prayer is to, for example, the Tridentine Mass. [full article]

December 29, 2007 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Framing the Debate

Fr. Alexander Schmemann: “I term these tensions inescapable because, in the last analysis, they are rooted in a simple and equally inescapable fact: that the question of rites is precisely not, has never been, and cannot be, a mere question of rites per se, but is and has always been a question of faith, of its wholeness and integrity. The liturgy embodies and expresses the faith, or better to say, the experience of the Church, and is that experience’s manifestation and communication. And, when rites, detached from this their nature and function, begin to be discussed in psychological terms of “acceptance” and “rejection,” or “likes and dislikes,” the debate concerning them becomes meaningless…” [ Full Article ]

December 29, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quick Fix to Correct the Rite?

Fr. Alexander Schmemann: Assuming the wrong idea of a fundamental Eastern versus Western liturgical dualism, Dr. Sopko is inescapably led to a wrong answer to the question, essential from the Orthodox point of view, of what makes a Western rite Orthodox? For him, as indeed for many proponents of the Western rite, all it takes is a few deletions and a few additions, e.g., “striking the filioque” and “strengthening of the epiclesis.” This answer implies, on the one hand, that there exists a unified and homogeneous reality identifiable as the Western rite, and, on the other hand, that, except for two or three “heretical” ingredients or omissions, this rite is ipso facto Orthodox. Both presuppositions are wrong.

Indeed, one does not have to be an “authority on the West” in order to know that the liturgical development in the West was shaped to a degree unknown in the East, by the various theologies, the succession of which, as well as the clashes of which with one another, constitute the Western religious history. Scholasticism, Reformation, Counter-Reformation, etc., all have resulted in sometimes radical liturgical metamorphoses, all have had a decisive impact on worship. Therefore one should speak today not of the Western rite, but of Western rites, deeply, if not radically differing from one another, yet all reflecting, in one way or another, the Western theological tragedy and fragmentation. This does not mean that all these rites are “heretical” and are simply to be condemned. It only means that from an Orthodox point of view, their evaluation in terms merely of “deletions” and “additions” is, to say the least, inadequate and cannot resolve the tensions mentioned above. And even if in the past this method had a semblance of justification, the acute liturgical crisis that encompasses today virtually all Western confessions, makes it obsolete and irrelevant. For the irony of our present situation is that while some Western Christians come to Orthodoxy in order to salvage the rite they cherish (Book of Common Prayer, Tridentine Mass, etc.) from liturgical reforms they abhor, some of these reforms, at least in abstracto, are closer to the structures and the spirit of the early Western Rite and thus to the Orthodox liturgical tradition, than the later rites — those precisely that the Orthodox Church is supposed to “sanction” and to “adopt.”

All this will probably appear as another example of Eastern “arrogance” and emotional anti-Westernism. I count on Dr. Sopko to help me dispel this unfortunate impression. In having honored me by attending my lectures, he certainly knows how critical I am of our own liturgical situation, how many defects and deviations I wish to see corrected in our liturgical life. It is true, however, that this criticism itself is rooted primarily in my deep conviction that the Eastern liturgical tradition is alone today in having preserved, in spite of all historical “deficiencies,” the fullness of the Church’s lex orandi and constitutes therefore the criterion for all liturgical “evaluations.” Yet the true cleavage today is not between the “East” and the “West.” It is between those who seek in the liturgy the essential food of their Christian life and those for whom it is a matter of “attachment” or “allergy.” The Orthodox Church is full of people “allergic” to this or to that. Some are allergic to English and some to Church Slavonic. In some, liturgy is identified with Hellenism and for some others with Russia. And all these tensions which probably are also inevitable cannot and will not be solved except by an ever deepened interest — not in “liturgies” per se, not in “rites,” but in the Orthodox faith these rites reveal and communicate. Whatever the future of the Western rite, it depends, I am sure, on the thirst and hunger for the fullness of the Orthodox faith and on nothing else. Dogmatically, ecclesiologically — and I said this some twenty years ago on these very pages — Orthodoxy has no objection to the Western Rite as such. To have such an objection would mean the loss by the Orthodox Church of her claims to universality. The question therefore is not whether a rite is Eastern or Western. Neither Easternism or Westernism are important in themselves. The only question is whether a rite adequately embodies, manifests and communicates the eternal and unchanging Truth, — is Orthodox in the deepest sense of this word. – [ full article ] (St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly Vol. 24, No. 4/1980, pp. 266-269)

December 28, 2007 Posted by | -- Anglican, -- Phyletism, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best argument for the Western Rite so far

Best argument for the Western Rite so far: “My greatest awareness of being an Orthodox Christian did not come when I first started coming to Church as a zealous convert with all the answers. It came when I saw those pious old Ukrainian and Slovak people who instinctively made the Sign of the Cross when they heard an ambulance siren or a bit of bad news. It is more real for them than it is for me because they don’t have to remind themselves to do it. For them it is life. And like it or not, the Western European and Northern European descendents of most Americans received Trinitarian, “little ‘c’” catholicism centuries ago. This cultural memory stays with them even if they are un-churched. Little girls in America dream of growing up, meeting a nice boy, and saying their vows at the altar. Read it again. They do not dream of and will never dream of exchanging their crowns at the wedding table. We may have a bunch of converts in N. America running around with a fetish for 19th century Russia, but we are deluded if we feel like we are going to uproot a cultural memory which stretches back, in some cases, to the point where the East and West were still in communion. After the recent convert has finished convincing himself that he is in the right Church, there comes a point where all those troparians, metanias, and sleepy Sunday mornings at Orthros seem, well, just a little forced. The West knows what Church is. In the West, Church has “Sunday Service” or “Mass”, not Orthros and Liturgy. It has steeples and stone bell towers, not onion domes. It has pews, kneelers, and hymnals or missals. It has King James English, not Slavonic or Greek. They both may be almost as hard to understand for the uneducated masses fed on MTV, but even they recognize that only ONE of those is our liturgical language. If our Orthodox Churches put Pope St. Gregory the Great on the calendar and commemorate him after Presanctified Liturgy, then they shouldn’t have a problem with Orthodox Christians praying the way that he prayed. If we say that praying the way that he prayed is not allowed, then I say we are hypocrites.” -[source]

He’s sadly wrong on these things, but it is a compelling emotional argument.

December 28, 2007 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Key Questions

Although the “western rite” of the Antiochian Archdiocese continued for years as a mere handful of parishes, it has recently received a “shot in the arm” with the reception into Orthodoxy of a number of disaffected Episcopalians – sometimes including entire parishes. It is argued that the existence of a “western rite” within Orthodoxy offers these Anglo-Catholics a virtually perfect solution, since they can enter the Church without substantially changing their way of worship.

After all, why should “unnecessary barriers” be placed in their way? Furthermore – so we are told – these “western rite” communities represent a return to the Orthodox Church of the authentic, pre-schismatic Orthodox worship of the ancient Christian west and therefore enhances her catholicity and appeal to all people.

Compelling as these arguments may seem, the presence of a “western rite” within Orthodoxy represents a change from the way things have been since the Western Schism of the 11th century (or at least since the Fourth Crusade). As such, this innovation needs to be examined very carefully. For the sake of brevity, we will confine ourselves here to “western rite” Orthodoxy as practiced in America and examine it with regards to four fundamental questions:
1.) Does the reconstituted “western rite” actually represent an authentic return to the pre-schismatic Orthodox worship of the ancient Christian west?
2.) If there were a mass return of western Christians to Orthodoxy (say, union with Rome or Canterbury), would this “western rite” provide a workable precedent?
3.) Does the Orthodox Church need a “western rite” in order to evangelize Americans?
4.) Does the “western rite” serve the internal needs of the Orthodox Church in this country today?
Does the reconstituted “western rite” actually represent an authentic return to the pre-schismatic Orthodox worship of the ancient Christian west?

December 28, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Evangelical or Eschatological

“I don’t think a lot of the criticisms of the Western Rite (which ought to be distinguished in some important ways from the liturgical practices of the West prior to 1054) have to do with its lack of beauty, but with its artificiality. I don’t believe one can be principally opposed to historical-critical “restorations” of the Liturgy and also for the active, artificial construction of a liturgical form by way of the same methods (though, perhaps, with less precision and a lot more synthesizing). It’s also difficult to take the Western Rite “movement” at face-value because a lot of the justifications for it are so flimsy. The absolute worst thing I can think of for the liturgical life of the Church is to “Protestantize” it by endorsing—on any level—the view that worship ought to be evangelical rather than eschatological.” – from a blog comment

The writer above is responding to a blog post about beauty of Gregorian chant and plainsong and the complexity of Russian music. In fact, the original post quite unfairly compares chant with the choral music of composers. But this is useful, in that it illustrates the point: when someone makes an aesthetic judgement about these things in the first place, what ensures them that their attitude is fundamentally an orthodox aesthetic – it seems to be an assumption.

December 27, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hybrid Kilt-wearing Liturgy

This is an apologist for Scottish Liturgy, but his conclusions are interesting.

“The Gallican Liturgy. Exception has been taken to the Scottish liturgy on the ground that, being originally a Western rite, its development should have proceeded on Eastern and not on Western lines, and that in its present form it is something of a hybrid. Critics of this type, to whom the Roman liturgy is the one norm for the West, forget that the Roman liturgy itself is ultimately Eastern in its origin, and that at one time it possessed even the distinctive Eastern feature of an express invocation. It has been already shown that the Roman rite has developed on lines which have left its canon illogical and confused. While the Roman liturgy lost by its departure from Eastern forms, the Scottish liturgy gained both in orderliness and beauty, by a return to the ancient forms of the East.

As for the mingling of Eastern and Western elements in the same liturgy, that is no novelty; for, in the Hispano-Gallican or Mozarabic rites there are to be found, side by side, Western elements, such as collects, variable prayers, prefaces, etc., and an Eastern form of consecration. This group of liturgies was current in Gaul till the eighth century, when the rite was suppressed by Roman authority save in Toledo and Salamanca, where it is still used, though in a highly Romanized form. Cranmer, certainly, was acquainted with this rite, of which there are clear traces in the short prayers preceding the blessing of the water at Baptism in the Book of Common Prayer; and it is possible that his knowledge of that type of liturgy encouraged him to introduce the Invocation into the Consecration Prayer of 1549. It cannot, however, be proved that the Gallican rite directly influenced either the Scottish or the English liturgies. But it is of special interest to Scottish people, as an example of a marked fusion of Western and Eastern elements. The following is a translation of a Gallican Invocation: “We humbly pray that Thou wouldest deign to receive and bless and sanctify this Sacrifice, that it may become to us a true Eucharist in Thy Name and in the Name of Thy Son and Holy Spirit, changed into the Body and Blood of our Lord God, Jesus Christ.” – Rev. W. Perry, B.D., 1922

December 26, 2007 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unpacking the Buzzword of Culture

This really is an [excellent discussion], though I think the final comment misses the point viz a viz eschatological vs. evangelical, but at it’s core it’s the cultural argument unpacked. The discussion unpacks the buzzword “culture” into things like aesthetics, and then asks whether aesthetics is a sound basis for critique of a rite an establishment of an alternative, likewise observing that a) anything new is foreign to start with and b) past cultures have only very gradually (e.g. over 1000 years) evolved what they received aesthetically – it was not a program to be started yesterday, with hastily cobbled texts, and hastily converted choirs.

December 26, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Scarecrow

This is just a random example (one can find them all day long) of the Straw Man Fallacy so widely prevalent among enthusiasts for Western Rite. The writer is, in the space of a sentence, supposedly summing up Bishop Anthony’s encyclical on the one hand, and Fr. Alexander’s (Schmemann) articles on the other:

“To wall oneself off from canonically ordained fellow-priests is a serious affront to the unity of the Church, and to discourage or speak poorly of the WR because some would be uncomfortable makes it seem as though it were some insurmountable obstacle for Orthodox to overcome.” – 1/26/2005

The writings alluded to are present on this site and even a cursory read would indicate that Bishop Anthony has not “Walled himself off” (he set limits for concelebration, which any bishop may do), and Fr. Alexander has not based his reasoning on whether some would be uncomfortable. But this is useful, because it illustrates one purpose of this site, to provide an area of constructive criticism without subjecting it to straw man misrepresentation.

December 23, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Trail Out of Canterbury

This is probably fairly described as a mainstream, middle-of-the-road [conversion account] from an Episcopalian who reposed in the Lord among the presybtery. It’s offered here as simply a point of reference.

December 22, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Quotes | , , , | Leave a comment

Anglican/RC converts feel at Home in the ER?

This writer makes a point. What about all the ones that have and quite happily are?

“At one time, people were saying that it is not reasonable to expect Anglicans or Roman Catholics to adopt the Byzantine Liturgy. I cannot agree with that for two reasons: The main reason is that my own experience, and the experience of all of my own ex-Anglican, now Orthdoox friends, has been adoption of the Byzantine Rite, with the sole exception of the priest to whom I referred previously. Even his daughter, however, who is a friend from our seminary days, has always been in a Byzantine Rite parish. It is far from impossible or inconceivable for Western Christians to adopt the Byzantine Rite.” – Mark Harrison 7/9/2006

One gets the feeling sometime that to be a true Westerner, a true former Anglican, you have to be at least somewhat unsettled in the Eastern Rite. If you’re perfectly happy with it, you’re Rite on the outside and Byzantine in the middle. Or something like that.

December 21, 2007 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lacks Occidentalis

A response to Lux Occidentalis quoted in extenso, because it’s one of the only ones of substance we’ve seen:

If the article is what I believe it was intended to be, an apologetic for the western rite, I must say that it feel well short. If it set out to be a brief historical overview of the western-rite services, then it was at least partially successful. The author’s addressing of His Eminence, of Blessed Memory, was respectful, if only marginally so. But a few other things unrelated to the argument stood out and concerned me. First, his claim that St. John Chrysostom was an ‘Arab Christian,’ perhaps I am in error, but I fear this was the first time I have heard such a claim, does someone have some reference to suggest that St. John Chrysostom was indeed an Arab, or is this just poor scholarship? Secondly, I am quite disturbed by the profound disrespect this ‘Priest’ showed towards Patriarch Theodore VI of Antioch, the Great Canonist Balsamon.
Continue reading

December 20, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Old Necessarily Good?

Another way to put it is: Just because Orthodox used it (even Saints), and it’s old, does that make it good?

“My second reason is that to say that Western Christians should be expected to follow a Western liturgy is to pre-judge the issue of the fitness of Western liturgy as suitable for Orthodox practise. On the one hand, we cannot say that it is unsuitable simply because it is not Byzantine, but we also cannot say that it inherently suitable simply because the existence of Western Rite is an historical reality. The present reality and the historical reality may or may not correspond. That is an issue that needs to be determined, not prejudged in either direction.” – Mark Harrison 7/9/2006

“I am NOT saying that WR is necessarily flawed, but I do believe that both the history of the Western liturgy and the very way in which Western worship communicates the faith, are areas that need examination. I deliberately included here evidence that would favour the use of the Anglican canon, as well as evidence that points to problems which far greater and more authoritative people than I have observed. I did so with the hope of demonstrating how complex the matter is. This is why I have always said that WR can neither be justified simply on the basis of the historical use of Western liturgy in the Orthodox Church, nor condemned on the simple basis of it not being Byzantine” – Ibid

December 20, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Refugee Liturgical Criticism

“The desire to escape the abuses is noble, of course. It is also true that the Novus Ordo was hijacked. But it is of critical importance that a genuine study and consideration of WR in the Orthodox Church separate the issues of what is happening in Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism from the historical study of the Ordines Romani in their own right. By separating those issues, we can come to a much better understanding, a far more balanced perspective how the present-day WR practises fit into the life of the Orthodox Church.” – Mark Harrison 7/9/2006

December 19, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liturgy is an Entire Worldview

“It should also be noted that liturgy is more than a dry statement of dogma. It is not sufficient that the doctrines stated in the texts of the prayers not contain theological error. Liturgy involves our entire being and our entire worldview. There is an ancient liturgical axiom that says: lex orandi, lex est credendi (‘the rule of prayer is the rule of faith’); there is a natural correspondence between how we worship and what we believe. Even if the doctrinal statements are in any given prayer are orthodox, how we worship will colour how we receive and process those doctrines and live them out. There is a phrase in the Anglican Canon that reads: ‘Who made there by His one oblation of Himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.’ As the commision requested by St Tikhon observed, these words need to be considered in their historical context. They were intended to be a refutation of the theology of the Eucharist as sacrifice. On the other hand, young people who grow up in WR parishes, in which there will be a proper context for understanding this phrase, will receive it in an Orthodox manner, understanding that Golgotha cannot be historically repeated. Christ’s Sacrifice of Himself on the Cross was a one-time deal; but we, through our offering of bread and wine, ‘do celebrate and make here before thy Divine Majesty, with these thy holy gifts which now offer unto thee, the memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make; having in remembrance his blessed Passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; rendering unto Thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto by the same.’ This can be easily compared to the Byzantine corresponding Byzantine text and seen to be substantially identical. But then, the following paragraph in the Book of Common Prayer, the Invocation, was seen as categorically needing to be augmented to express a clear invocation of the Holy Spirit to make the Holy Gifts the Body and Blood of Christ.” – Mark Harrison 7-9-2006

One might add that, in Orthodox thinking, heaven and earth are joined, time isn’t the same (which is why an orthodox piety is to not carry watches into the eternity of the mystery), and the sacrifice is present at each communion – Christ is not re-sacrificed (that would be heresy), but he as the sacrifice is re-present with us in fullness, apart from the concerns of time.

To his point, the flippancy with which the rites can be viewed in much discussion of “going East” or “going West” seems to detract from the reverence proper to either.

December 18, 2007 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Do we really think that and will give us ?

Hold down the alt-key and press liturgy.

December 17, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Weirdness | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leaving in Droves

“Self-described post-charismatics are open to the working of the Holy Spirit, but due to excesses and abuses that they have seen or experienced, they are skeptical and even wary of ministries that are charismatic.” – Rob McAlpine

In short, just as many Anglicans and Protestants are fleeing, for arguably good and bad reasons, their confessions, so are a lot of Pentecostals. Arguably, of course, these are not historic confessions in the same sense, but something that emerged from: the anabaptist movement, brush arbor revivalism, and pentecostalism.

December 16, 2007 Posted by | -- Charismaticism, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: