Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

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.

Now onto the content. It would seem as though the goal of the majority of the essay is to demonstrate that the western rite really was the historical liturgy of the west, in response to His Eminence’s claim that it was not. This very approach was something of a strawman argument, because nearly the entire essay was devoted to this issue, which wasn’t even the primary objection of His Eminence. But with that said, the essay failed to prove its point. What is needed to prove this point is not a narrative on the history of the rite (quietly ignoring any post schism evolution or development of the liturgy), but rather a side by side comparison of the text of the liturgy as it is used today and the a critical text of the liturgy as it was pre-schism. The author would then need to examanine and explain the variations (if any, though I presume there are many, liturgies dont remain static). Towards the end of this section of the essay the author did compare similarities, but frankly I can (and have in papers at Holy Cross) find more similarities than were mentioned between the Tridentine Mass and the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, that hardly means the two are interchangeable. Though I am not a liturgist and cannot speak with certainty about the ancient liturgies, what is telling is that the author found it necessary to compare similarities rather than differences between the liturgy now used and the ancient liturgy.

Clearly there has been substantial evolution in the liturgies over the last 1000 years, evolution that took place completely outside the Orthodox Church. And while, in reference to the Anglican liturgies used, the author went to great lengths to demonstrate that the liturgy was not protestantized, he did little to demonstrate that it was not influenced my medieval Latin theology, some of which must have occured for the liturgy to even be compared to protestant theology (which was done in the essay itself).

Furthermore, the author clearly admited evolutions and developments to the Roman rite during the time of Charlemagne and at the direction of the same. While the schism may not yet have formally occured by this time in history, clear cultural and theological division were starting to form, not the least of which was the iconoclastic tendency of Charlemagne and the Germanic peoples at this time. Therefore this Carolingian influence should also be looked upon with concern, with the theological and cultural developments of this era being considered in the context of the Council of Frankfort and related social influences. None of these difficulities or concerns are even suggested in the very incomplete essay presented.

The final page of the essay, which finally purports to address one of the substantial issues in the discussion, is perhaps the most disturbing element of the paper. On top of the poor scholarship and disrespectiful style, the argument is a non-sequitur. He gives a few examples of various liturgies that developed locally and organically in different geographical regions, tells us how evil we are for advancing liturgical unity (as though this ‘Priest’ has an appreciation of 13th Century imperial politics that even approaches that of Balsamon), and then insists that because of this we should embrace a museum piece as an organic Orthodox Liturgy (well, not exactly a museum piece, an organic western liturgy that developed for a thousand years completely outside of the Orthodox Church and any sphere of influence she might have had in the context of cultural and theological discussions and developments that are completely foreign to the Orthodox Church; though the author would have us believe that it is simply a museum piece).

The response appears in [this thread]. 12/20/2006

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

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