Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Western Rite as Phyletism


The following comments by Father Michael Johnson have very serious implications in an age of US “American” imperialism, escalated attention to immigration, and when the culture of the West is viewed as monolithic and a kind of super-ethnicity or over-culture, a universal cultural-ethnic ghetto:

“A knowledgeable Orthodox Christian, if asked about the Church’s greatest need in western Europe and the Americas today, would probably respond with a single word: unity. In this regard, the Byzantine liturgical tradition has been of inestimable value in h olding the Church together. On the other hand, ethnicity has probably been the greatest force for disunity. Ethnic heritage, of course, does not have to be a divisive factor. One can be proud of one’s heritage while celebrating the fact that one is part of a Church that is truly multiethnic (as opposed to “non-ethnic”, as the alternative is sometimes wrongly presented.)

How does the “western rite” fit into this need to bring the Church together as a truly multi-ethnic community, united by faith and worship? Unfortunately, the “western rite” can be viewed as a kind of “super-ethnicity” which is just the opposite of what t he Church needs today. Narrow as their ethnic view might have been, and as much as they may have insisted unwaveringly on the use of their own language, Orthodox Christians have always shown a willingness to use a common form of worship – until now. For all intents and purposes, the use of the “western rite” takes ethnicity one step further. Not only do these converts insist on using (an archaic) form of their own language, but they also insist on using an exclusive liturgical rite that is common to no one but themselves.”

The Priest. A Newsletter for the Clergy of the Diocese of San Francisco. Issue No. 5, May 1996

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January 12, 2008 - Posted by | -- Phyletism, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Western humanity is not homogeneous and the Western-rite, which has such a small number of adherents still manages to have a multiplicity of rites – Gregorian, so-called Sarum versions of the Anglican BCP offices and missal mass etc.

    If the WR is so potent, why are the majority of Western converts happily in the Eastern-rite? Why have even conservative bodies such as ROCOR so many priests and clergy from western converts using the “Byzantine-rite”?

    Continuing Anglicanism have many well intentioned and pious men, many of whom have suffered much and sacrificed much in their spiritual journey. That movement is however plagued by vaganates, would be bishops and some of them I suspect have made the journey to Orthodoxy, to be Orthodox in name and in episcopal blessing but Anglican in spirit, and for a few vagante in style.

    Surely we need to look to western priests who are now Archpriests, Protodeacons or monastic Archimandrites within the so-called Byzantine rite ( i.e. Orthodoxy ) for the guidance and direction that many years of labouring in Orthodoxy has achieved?

    With all ethnic Orthodox jurisdictions having English parishes, English in most services and western priests, what is the need for an ecclesial rite that is supposedly for western people?

    Comment by subdeacond | November 11, 2010 | Reply

  2. The greatest need for Orthodoxy in Western Europe and the Americas, is asceticism and piety. Unity can always come later.

    The author writes, “Not only do these converts insist on using (an archaic) form of their own language…”

    The same procedure is followed by the Russian, Greek, and nearly all the national Orthodox churches, including the Japanese Orthodox Church.

    “…but they also insist on using an exclusive liturgical rite that is common to no one but themselves.”

    This never seemed to cause disunity in the Early Church; why would it necessarily bring or imply disunity now? I know in my own jurisdiction, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, the Western rite is respected and by many it’s beloved, beloved even to those who are not Western rite themselves. Perhaps this is because we had the Old Rite communities (mainly Erie) to prepare the way. It all goes to show that this unity in diversity ideal is more than mere words. It can be achieved in fact.

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | May 25, 2010 | Reply

  3. Interesting, but would not one also take into consideration that the Western Rite in and of itself would potentially include many different nationalities? I was unaware that Western Europeans constituted a single homogenous ethnicity.

    It’s just that I find the statement: “…the culture of the West is viewed as monolithic and a kind of super-ethnicity or over-culture, a universal cultural-ethnic ghetto” as a bit of a straw man argument.

    But, thats just my opinion.

    Comment by monachuscyprianos | December 9, 2009 | Reply


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