Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm


Excerpts from the WR Dept page of the AA web site 1-17-2007, with questions and/or comments.


“There are about twenty Western Rite congregations around the country who worship God in the forms which speak to their hearts, rejoicing to be part of the Universal Church .”

“In the forms which speak to their hearts?”

“When the Latin Church in the west separated itself from the unity of the Orthodox Church, the venerable and ancient Western liturgy was lost to the Church.”

Just want to draw attention to that word “lost”, which is not to say unrecoverable, but it is significant.

“The Holy Synod of Moscow responded by approving the restored form of the Western Liturgy, the ancient Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great. This is the oldest Orthodox liturgy of the undivided Church still in use.”

This claim is addressed elsewhere on this site, but will be shortly contradicted in this self-same statement.
“According to the Western Rite Directory promulgated by Metropolitan ANTONY Bashir in 1962, the purpose of the Western Rite is 1.) to provide a home in the Orthodox Church for western people of non-Byzantine cultural and religious backgrounds and 2.) to witness the Catholicity of the Orthodox church to her Byzantine Rite people, priests and theologians.”

Point 1 is the cultural argument. The claim that the Eastern Rite equates to Byzantine culture. The question of religious background is a curious one, since it begs whether a heterodox background (rather than an Orthodox one) is a reasonable basis for the formation of an Orthodox rite. Point 2 falls limp if point 1 fails.

“Western Rite Orthodoxy has proven itself to be an excellent missionary out-reach to those who seek the assurance of the Orthodox Catholic Faith and who find themselves better rooted in their own western spiritual ethos than the Byzantine character of the eastern rites.”

“Better rooted in their own western spiritual ethos?!?” All right, so here we are clearly not merely talking about culture or ethnicity but these are code words for something else. After all the comparison is a false one “Western spiritual ethos” vs. “Byzantine character”. The false comparison indicates an (intentional?) conflation – in other words, the use of an appeal to not burdening one with ethnicity/culture, in order to justify the import of a particular “spiritual ethos”.

“Orthodox people of both Rites worship together. The clergy are interchangeable, they share the same hierarchy and the spiritual unity of the faith.”

This does not seem, in fact, to be true. Is it not true that a) they are on different calendars, b) they cannot step in an concelebrate without a change of vestments? And if they could, would it be reasonable? Again, we have an apparent conflation (intentional?), in that it is stated they “worship together” and the “clergy are interchangeable”. Is it possible then, to attend one parish where a given day has already passed, and then another parish where it has not yet happened; one would think it is like flying around the world. And if it is a feast in one and a fast in the other, what then?

“More precisely, the Western Rite, as approved by the Antiochian Archdiocese is a theologically corrected form of worship used by the Latin Church (Roman) or the Anglican Communion. In some Western Rite congregations, the Liturgy may be a Latin or English form of pre-Vatican-II Roman Catholic worship. (In France , all native French Orthodox Christians, who number in the thousands, use this form of worship). Other Western Rite parishes use a liturgy based on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.”

So then, the earlier statement that it is the Gregorian Rite, most ancient of the rights, is not entirely true. Rather, it is a much-modified rite that Pope St. Gregory didn’t actually use as such. This is rather like saying that the film Black Hawk Down is based on reality, but at times claiming that’s how it really happened.

“Modifications, while important, would not be terrible noticeable to even the most regular worshippers. Two of these alterations include the deletion of the filioque (“and the Son”) in the Nicene Creed and the addition of a stronger epiclesis in the eucharistic prayer said by the priest at the consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.”

So the corrections to the Anglican and Tridentine services are minor albeit hugely significant. Again a) not really the Gregorian Rite and b) the focus seems mostly on mechanics and legality to bring heterodox rites into compliance, less on restoring the sense of the fullness of liturgics.

“In addition to these two changes, the Western Rite includes other indiscernible changes that Latin Roman Catholics and most Anglo-Catholics (High Church Episcopalians) would find to be either familiar or certainly acceptable.”

“Indiscernable changes”? And is the goal, actually, to make them “acceptable” to “Latin Roman Catholics” and “High Church Episcopalians”?

“As some Latin Rite Roman Catholic parishes as well as Protestant Churches continue their decline by denial of basic Catholic faith, doctrine and worship by turning to inclusive language liturgies, which refer to God as mother (to name but one example) and promulgate woman “priests,” many traditional Catholic Christians of both the Roman and Anglican backgrounds are turning to the Orthodox Catholic Church.”

This does seem to be a statement of the refugee approach in the wake of the post-1979 Episcopalian culture and the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic culture. Missionary work is certainly an honorable undertaking, but this does raise interesting questions as to how this approach is shaped by the desire to attract this demographic. For instance, is much of the haste or ordinations and catechesis, the inadequacy (yet “acceptability” to “Latin Roman Catholics” and “High Church Episcopalians”) of the liturgics, and the various aspects of control actually intentional?

“By doing so, these Christians have retained familiar forms of worship and at the same time insured themselves of remaining within an ecclesiastical communion, and under godly, Orthodox bishops who teach and practice the ancient Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

This statement could be read many ways, as could all of these. However, taken together, there certainly does seem, on the face of it, to be a distinctive attitude that raises challenging questions.


January 16, 2008 - Posted by | -- Anglican, -- Catechesis & Conversion, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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