Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

St. Tikhon never heard of it!


Just as attaching the name of St. Gregory to the WRV “Gregorian Rite” is dubious, so is attaching the name of St. Tikhon to any such rite. Fr. Michael also makes the point, as did Roman Catholic author Klaus Gamber, that Orthodoxy has never been about mere adequacy, merely not containing error; Orthodoxy is about the fullness of the fullness of the Faith, and never less.

Father Michael Johnson, pastor, St Nicholas Church, Tacoma, WA:

Second, the “Liturgy of St. Tikhon”: However inappropriate the “Liturgy of St. Gregory” may seem for Orthodox worship, it can’t hold a candle in this regard to the other “western rite” liturgy now in use, which has somehow gotten itself named after a 20th century Russian saint. St. Tikhon served as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America before being elected Patriarch of Moscow in 1917. During his tenure in America, he apparently received a petition for the use of a “western rite” from a group of American Anglo-Catholic Episcopalians. St. Tikhon then forwarded their request to the Holy Synod in Moscow, which examined this proposal carefully and granted the possibility of a “western rite”, provided far reaching changes in the Book of Commo n Prayer were made. The Holy Synod left the final decision to St. Tikhon, who – for whatever reason – never formally authorized the establishment of a “western rite” during his pastorate in America. It therefore seems farfetched in the extreme to name th is liturgy after St. Tikhon. He is not the “father” of this “western rite” in even remotely the same way that St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil the Great are the fathers of the Liturgies which bear their names. Furthermore, even if St. Tikhon had authoriz ed the use of a “western rite”, every administrative decision made by a saint should not be considered infallible.

What, then, is the “Liturgy of St. Tikhon”? First of all, it is not the Eucharistic rite of the Book of Common Prayer as ever approved by the Episcopal Church. Rather, it is based on a strange amalgam commonly known as the “Anglican Missal.” This missal was developed by Anglo-Catholics to make up for deficiencies they perceived in the Book of Common Prayer . The Anglican Missal contains the anaphora and other prayers from the BCP, folded together with parts of the anaphora and other prayers from the Tridentine Mass translated from Latin into King James English. As now used in the “western rite” of the Antio chian Archdiocese, it contains still further additions and corrections made by the Orthodox. A more confusing liturgical hodgepodge could hardly be imagined! The “Liturgy of St. Tikhon” is the Reformation rite of Thomas Cranmer, with additions from the C ounter Reformation rite of the Council of Trent, with still further superficial tinkering in order to make it “more Orthodox.

In defense of this rite, some Orthodox are saying that we should accept it because it contains “nothing heretical.” Unfortunately, that itself is an Anglican argument. An Orthodox rite must do far more than avoid heresy – it must clearly proclaim and tea ch the Orthodox faith. In Communist Russia as in Ottoman Greece, the Orthodox Liturgy alone maintained the faith through long years of persecution. Bearing in mind that Cranmer was probably a Zwinglian who designed his rite to express “the real absence” of Christ in the Eucharist, it is easy to see that the “Liturgy of St. Tikhon” could never meet the basic criterion of being an Orthodox Liturgy.”
The Priest. A Newsletter for the Clergy of the Diocese of San Francisco. Issue No. 5, May 1996

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January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Gregorian or merely Gregarious?


It’s a common advertising practice to put the name of a famous personage on a product where it can serve a straw man. One then spends a great deal of verbiage remembering that personage, and so lending a sense of nostalgia and reverence to the produce. All Orthodox venerate Pope St. Gregory the Great, the Dialogist. And a genuine Gregorian Rite is truly a rich and inspiring expression of the Orthodox faith. But is the Gregorian Rite that’s being offered really something St. Gregory had anything to do with?

Father Michael Johnson, pastor, St Nicholas Church, Tacoma, WA:

First, the “Liturgy of St. Gregory”: this liturgy gets its name because it supposedly represents the Roman rite as practiced in the time of St. Gregory the Great, the bishop of Rome from 590 to 604 AD. There is no question that St. Gregory the Great left his mark on the history of worship – not only in the west, but also in the east. (Indeed, it may be argued that the Orthodox Church already has a Liturgy of St. Gregory – namely, the Presanctified Liturgy where this saint is always commemorated in the dis missal.) If the situation of having two Liturgies of St. Gregory isn’t confusing enough, the question remains whether or not the Liturgy of St. Gregory as currently practiced in the “western rite” parishes of the Antiochian Archdiocese deserves this title at all. In fact, what we are actually presented with is the Tridentine Latin Mass (i.e., the Missal of Pius the V, printed in 1570), translated from Latin into King James English, with – among other things – references to the “merits of the saints” left out and the epiklesis of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom stuck in. In this regard, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, the Tridentine Mass was the Liturgy of the Roman Church as revised at the Counter Reformation. Second, the Gregori an Sacramentary (which, so far as the MSS tradition is concerned, is primarily Frankish and not Roman in origin) had already been revised in the 11th century (near the time of the Western Schism). So the present “Liturgy of St. Gregory” as used in America n “western rite” parishes is at least two revisions away from the saint whose name it bears – and both revisions were made at times of severe crises of faith in the west.

The inadequacies of this rite become obvious on close examination. The anaphora, for example – far from being a single unified prayer as one would expect – seems more like a loosely joined collection of prayers. Stranger yet, the first of these prayers b egins with the word “Therefore” (referring to what? Apparently, some transition has gone missing!). As if the disjointed nature of this anaphora weren’t bad enough, tinkering with it by well meaning Orthodox has only made matters worse. According to the great Orthodox liturgical scholar and saint, Nicholas Cabasilas, the prayer in the Roman rite “Supplices te rogamus” (“Most humbly we implore Thee”) is an “ascending epiklesis.” Even so, the epiklesis from the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom has been adde d, thereby giving this rite both an ascending and descending epiklesis, in which the celebrant asks for the consecration of the gifts to be completed after it has already happened! Furthermore, such improbable features as the “last Gospel” are retained. (This was the reading of the prologue to the Gospel of John at the end of the service, a practice that had begun as a private devotion of the celebrating clergy sometime curing the 11th or 12th centuries and which, by the 16th century, had become a prescri bed appendage to the Mass.)

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

January 17, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bishop Anthony’s Concerns


The concerns of Bishop Anthony of San Francisco, expressed in an encyclical to his diocese, have been dismissed, attacked, and ignored, rather than listened to for their pastoral concern, their substantive evaluation (expressed and hinted at) of the implications of the Antiochian WRV, and so deserve quotation and explication here, with commentary, rebuttal, riposte, etc. Likewise, it should be presented, if for no other reason than that the mere expression of an “unfavorable” commentary on the Western Rite is so often treated as unacceptable in the midst of a fever of uncritical enthusiasm and this particular piece is not merely an opinion but an episcopal decision and so should give the more perceptive reader greater circumspection and hopefully, more pause.

October 4, 1995. Protocol no. 3.

To the Reverend Clergy of the Holy Diocese of San Francisco
Dearly Beloved,

The current existence of “western rite” parishes in California, Oregon and Washington within the Antiochian Archdiocese has recently been brought to my attention by a number of clergy seeking direction regarding our relationship as a Diocese to these communities.

These parishes use, as a basis for worship, modified versions of the old Anglican missal or the pre-Vatican II mass. This is, at best, liturgically unsound and pastorally unwise: liturgically unsound because these rites are not in direct continuity with t he worship of the early Church in the West, but are primarily the result of 16th century Reformation and Counter-Reformation debates; pastorally unwise because this adds still further to our fragmentation as a Church in the Americas and creates a tiny grou p of missions and parishes that are liturgically isolated from the rest of the Church.

We are thus placed in the awkward position of having to accept the “western rite” vicariate of the Antiochian Archdiocese as belonging to the canonical Orthodox Church while at the same time recognizing that this is a foreign element within the Body of Christ, analogous to the creation of the Unia by the Roman Catholic Church.

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January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, Western Rite -- Pan-Orthodoxy, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What caused the Roman Catholic Liturgical Debacle?


The sixties weren’t the beginning of liturgical falling away: “. . . What are the root causes of this liturgical debacle? Any reasonable person understands that these causes cannot be traced to the Second Vatican Council alone.” – Monsignor Klaus Gamber, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background

Prior to this statement: “We are now witnessing a dismantling of the traditional values and piety on which our [Roman Catholic] faith rests. Added to this state of affairs is the shocking assimilation of Protestant ideas brought into the Church under the guise of the misunderstood term ecumenism with a resulting growing estrangement from the ancient [Orthodox] Churches of the East; that is, a turning away from the common tradition that had been shared by the East and the West.” – ibid.

The author goes on to cite several things:

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January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christ is the True Leaven that Leavens the Whole Lump


Someone asked the questions of: 1. leavened vs. unleavened bread and 2. the date for Holy Pascha.

If the Western Rite Orthodox were using unleavened bread or keeping Pascha by the Western reckoning, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, since anyone doing that would immediately fall under the anathemas and depositions and excommunications of our Holy Canons and infallible Oecumenical Counsels. But no, leavened bread (though made to look like wafers of unleavened bread) is used, and the date of Pascha can never be changed.

On Leavened Bread: “The ancient question that continues to divide the Roman Catholic and Western Churches from the Orthodox Church regarding the use of leavened or unleavened bread in the Eucharist had to be resolved when the Western Rite parishes were received into the Orthodox Church. The host used in Western Rite liturgies resembles the unleavened wafer used by Roman Catholics and Episcopalians, but in fact it is leavened—although flattened—bread. The use of leavened bread in accordance with Orthodox theology, was required by Metropolitan Philip when he recieved these parishes into Orthodoxy.” – From the Diocesan News for Clergy and Laity, February 1995, Greek Orthodox Diocese of Denver (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople)

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Traditional Theology vs. Orthodox Theology


“As Western Christians become increasingly concerned by the drift of their denominations away from traditional Christian theology and liturgical practice, many have returned to Orthodoxy.” – From the Diocesan News for Clergy and Laity, February 1995, Greek Orthodox Diocese of Denver (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople)

Response: This one sentence is so common, in so many different forms, that it seems representative of the theorum supporting the ballooning of WR in the US. It’s in two parts: 1. The flight of disaffected Anglicans, Protestants, and some Roman Catholics based on what a critic might call mysogyny, homophobia, and an unwillingness to stay and fight for the beliefs they claim to hold so dear. Implicit in the lingo, though is an intentional ambiguity: “traditional Christian theology and liturgical practice” – an argument that there is somehow a theology (or here we take the meaning to be doctrine), and liturgical practice, that was present in those confessions prior to recent changes, whether 1979, 1962, or whatever. 2. This ambiguity is then equated with Orthodox theology, doctrine, and liturgy by calling it a “return” to Orthodoxy. In other words, the argument is being offered, demonstrably untrue, that these people are in their hearts and souls, and their pre-1979 Anglican Prayer Books, and pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism, essentially Orthodox. This is a questionable argument indeed, if not specious, but it may explain why, instead of the ancient liturgics, a revised BCP is used, and instead of the ancient fasting rules, why the 1950 Roman Catholic ones are in vogue. What’s interesting, too, is the departure of the Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions, of their own accord, from “traditional” theology, doctrine, and liturgics. To whom will we flee, with our abbreviated liturgies, our Roman Catholic sacerdotal and mysteriological attitudes, and our own relaxed attitudes about morality? What the above argument seems to present is a general, non-specific religiosity that really does call into question whether converts to the Western Rite are truly converting to Orthodoxy, and likewise whether we ourselves are in fact converting to something else. To quote Vladimir Lossky: “a God in general, who could be the God of Descartes, or the God of Leibnitz, or to some extent the God of oltaire and the de-Christianized Deists of the eighteenth century.”

January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Cultural Argument and Archaeology


“Many Westerners have joined our Church and adopted our Eastern modes of worship. Others have asked why they must become Eastern to become Orthodox. Their French and German and English ancestors were Orthodox before the Popes took them out of the Church in the eleventh century, but they were Western Orthodox. Our scholars and theologians have examined this claim, and found it just and reasonable.” – Excerpt from the Report of Metropolitan Anthony (Bashir) to the 1958 Archdiocesan Convention

Question: What is “Eastern” about our rites, just because they were born in the East and Easterns use them. We have generations of Orthodox all over the world who do, as well. Is Christ then Eastern? Are most of the Apostles? We are not far off to be concerned with the talk now of resurrecting gothic mediaeval “iconography”, which is heterodox in so many ways. Why is it, precisely, that converts perceive the rites themselves as Eastern, or is it rather that they prefer a more ethnically homogenous and merely liturgically familiar environment. That’s phyletism – just with a whitebread flavour. Is it really a just and reasonable argument that ones “ancestors” from the 9-centuries ago did something? That’s the same argument that every ethnic group uses in the US to claim entitlement, except this is nine centuries later. And why the rite, but not the whole thing? The Celts would put exile people to the wilderness for adultery; shall we recover their liturgics but leave their piety behind?

January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, -- What is Western?, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is it Saints or Rites?


Fr. David Abramstov wrote: “Those who live in the West and in the Western stream of tradition must, before God and the Angels and Saints, respect all that is good in her traditions. What is to be done with the ten centuries of Western liturgical life before the Schism? Reject them or ignore them or simply forget them? But St. Leo, St. Clement, St. Irenaeus, St. Gregory, St. Colomban, St. Chad and a thousand more lived by and were nourished upon the Orthodox Western Liturgy and Tradition. Is it by a condescending permission that some desire to celebrate after their example? St. Basil the Great and St. John Chrysostom would give different answers.” – On the Western Rite Edict of Metropolitan Anthony (Bashir)

Response: This issue-substitution (straw man) is quite common. There’s a difference between reconstructing or resurrecting a rite, on the one hand, and venerating Western Saints on the other. If the issue is Western Saints, they can easily be added to our calendars. We can even do this with our own calendars in our homes, as a private devotion, if we don’t want to wait, provided the saints are really Orthodox saints. But this does not require resurrecting every liturgical rite they used. It is certainly reasonable to suggest that only in recovering what is lost in Western liturgical expression, can the full historic expression of Orthodoxy be likewise recovered. Fulness upon fulness. But the question remains whether the justifications being offered for doing it the way it’s being done reflect the fulness of those liturgical expressions, let alone existing liturgical life!

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The East/West argument vs. Cyril & Methodius


Fr. David Abramstov wrote: “Unless a truly indigenous African Liturgy can be foreseen, a truly indigenous Indian and Chinese Liturgy, composed according to the one unique structure of the Liturgy (a structure imposed interiorly, having its source in dogmatic and mystical theology—in the true sense of those words—and not exteriorly by stifling the life of other Liturgies, as was the case historically speaking, where St. John Chrysostom’s Liturgy is concerned), the truly Orthodox vision of the world has not yet been seen. Uniformity, imposition, external authority are the death of Orthodoxy, for she is a precious box encrusted with a thousand different (but equally lovely) jewels, each of which reflects the light of truth in a manner particular and unique.” – On the Western Rite Edict of Metropolitan Anthony (Bashir)

Response: It sounds good, especially the appeal to these other cultures. But liturgical development has always been organic. It was in the West and the East. It was never something merely invented or reconstructed whole cloth. The liturgy in foreign lands was always the rite of the Orthodox missionaries who planted Churches there. St. Cyril and Methodius gave us the Orthodox model – we translate the liturgical books into the native language, and lead people to Christ. Never has there been a policy of questioning the rite being used, or which rite was appropriate, or suggesting that this or that rite is more appropriate to this or that culture. If Western missionaries founded missions, they used their rite; if Eastern missionaries founded missions, likewise the Eastern rite was used. That is living, breathing liturgy brought by living, breathing Orthodox. What we’re discussion now is liturgical reconstruction for setting up parallel Churches on different calendars, different fasting rules, different readings, and doing this with the argument that it’s somehow indigenous.

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Questions on the Edict


In 1958, Met. Antony issued his Edict of August, setting forth the general and provisional basis for establishing Western rite parishes within the Antiochian Archdiocese. Among the Edict’s stipulations are the following (with commentary):

1. All converts to the Church must accept the full Orthodox doctrine of Faith.

This is probably the most serious areas of concern. It is easy to say that one accepts the doctrine of the Faith in toto, but can one accept it truly with insufficient understanding of and education in it? Does this mean just the creed? The speed at which many converts are being funneled into the WR, and the inadequacy of the catechetical instruction and requirements, is a reasonable point of concern. Is it really acceptance of the *full* Orthodox doctrine of Faith, if that faith is not adequately understood.

2. Parishes and larger units received into the Archdiocese retain the use of all Western rites, devotions, and customs which are not contrary to the Orthodox Faith and are logically derived from a Western usage antedating the Schism of 1054.

This is probably the second most serious area of concern. One the one hand, how can churches that barely observe the pieties and pious customs of the East ensure that Western Rite missions they’re setting up are observing the genuine and full expressions of Orthodox piety. In parishes where there is barely any keeping of the fasts, where liturgy and the liturgical prayers are spectator behaviors, where the non-Sunday services are barely attended, Confession barely a regular practice, and nearly all semblance of the asceticism that shapes *all* Orthodox worship is missing, from where is this surety to come? And in the absence of such things, will we not see the filling of the void with precisely such heterodox devotions as the Roman Catholic rosary and the Stations of the Cross. There is a very real dearth, in theatre-like Orthodox Churches, of anything approaching a full expression of Orthodox worship, devotions, and customs.

3. All individual converts must be integrated into parochial life; there can be no individual converts to the Western rite unless to an established parish.

Again, another area of concern. In parishes that are “planting” Western Rite Missions, converts are easily run through a quick catechesis and given a choice of “going East” or “going West”, and then it’s a rush to get the storefront built out, and the clergy chrismated and ordained, and everyone into their building. Just as children are stunted if they do not spend adequate time building relationships with adults, one worries about creating parallel communities that aren’t truly integrated with each other, and so have a false basis for integration in their separate communities.

7. Western rite parishes and clergy are subject to the canons of the Orthodox Church and the laws of the Archdiocese.

To what degree are they or their parent churches really familiar with the canons to treat them with due reverance and observe them faithfully? It is of some interest whether the canons are truly being respected in general, but what about their observance in the conduct of a Western Rite in the first place? Will the canons be observed with regard to fasting? Are they known? etc.

The goal in asking these things is to convey substantial and justifiable concerns with what is and is not being done in the name of setting up Western Rite missions and parishes, aside from the cheerleading in various media.

January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is this Converting Them or Us?


If the WR liturgics are properly Orthodox, why the need to accompany them with claims like this one: “Professor John Romanides and others have successfully argued that the schism of the 11th century was less about theological differences between the East and the West than about the political and military ambitions of the Franks.” – by Fr. Nicholas Alford, St. Gregory the Great Orthodox Church, LIGHT FROM THE EAST – JOY IN THE WEST: The Restoration of Western Rite Orthodoxy

Question: For one thing, that is not the only way to read Fr. John’s excellent work at all. But have we not read St. Photius’ Mystagogy, listened to St. Mark of Ephesus? Why the need now to revise history and claim there are not deep-seated theological differences since at least the 9th century that have worked themselves out into a system of Western religion and “spirituality” that is incompatible with Orthodoxy? After all, if this is just about liturgics, a matter of this or that rite, and not utilized either as, on the one hand, a means of bringing in heterodox thinking with partial conversions and, on the other, preparing a bridge for a false union of Orthodoxy with Rome and Canterbury, what’s this stuff got to do with it? But then that begs the whole question of why, if the rite is perfectly Orthodox, we need a shift of rite to begin with. Overall, it’s cause for concern that what has widely been analyzes as a theological divergence that had deep effects in every other area of Western Christian thought, innovation, and practice, is now seemly treated as a mere anomaly in an otherwise Orthodox development. This seems like revisionism at best.

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Historical Revisionism, Liturgics, and the BCP


“The vision of the Western Rite as an essential part of the Orthodox Mission in America belonged to Archbishop Tikhon of the American Archdiocese under the Moscow Patriarchate. About ninety years ago he examined the existing Anglican Book of Common Prayer and sent it to the Holy Synod of Moscow. That Liturgy, derived from the ancient use of the Orthodox West, and first expressed in English in the edition of 1549 by authority of King Edward the Sixth of England, was corrected and approved by the Holy Synod for Orthodox Church use.” – WesternOrthodox.com (1/16/2008)

Question: Why all this quoting of pedigree, pre-schism pedigree, post-schism pedigree, when it’s basically a revised Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer? Even the Anglicans, with their notions of doctrinal development collaborating with liturgical development, didn’t bother so much as to claim this flawless a pedigree for their innovations. Is this rewriting history?

January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

K is for Calendar?


K is for CalendarIf a goal of the WRV is really to to help people express the Faith in Western forms, does this mean we really need to revert to a substitution of K’s for C’s as in Kalendar? [see westernorthodox.com/kalendar] Should it then be Katholic? Antiokian? Kristianity? Kommunion? Why just the calendar, in this case? Is this like putting the Russian k in ikon, or is it just getting hokey?

January 17, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Weirdness | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Are Pre-Schism Liturgics Really Pristine?


According to Westernorthodox.com (1-16-2008): “Before the year 1054 there would have been no difficulty in declaring that the Western Rite of the Undivided Church was simply the use of Latin speaking Churches. The Rite used by Christians in Scotland, Ireland and England, was as Orthodox as that used in Constantinople.”

Questions: Could it be that the Schism happened so suddenly that we can date the exact point of departure? If the fundamental doctrinal shifts (identifying God with a philosophical construct (e.g. the filioque), papal supremacy, and the concept of doctrinal development) that began in the 6th-9th centuries and led up to the Schism altered the theology, ecclesiology, mysteriology, soteriology, and sacerdotal doctrines, to mention a few, how did the liturgical development escape the same process? And if it did not, isn’t that a significant problem? Likewise, if the West also grew to *understand* their liturgics differently, as they did in each of these other fields, is it not of significant concern that so many Western converts are being hastily funneled into a WR, without sufficient liturgical education and study of meaning in the Eastern rite?

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The Myth of Cultural Need


The clamour for culture: And then the last question: is it quite correct to define our rite as “Eastern” and therefore “foreign to all the Western Christians have known” to quote the Edict [of Met. Anthony]? I would like to suggest a rather sharp distinction between “Eastern” and “oriental”. No doubt there are many oriental features, oriental ingredients in our liturgical life. No doubt also, that for many Orthodox this “orientalism” seems to be the essential element. But we know that it is not essential and we know that progressively all these “orientalisms” are being eliminated in a very natural and spontaneous process of adjustment of our cult to the American life. But then what remains and what can be described as “Eastern” is nothing else but the Biblical and the Patristic “content” of our liturgy. It is essentially and structurally Biblical and Patristic, and therefore, it is “eastern” in exactly the same measure in which the Bible and the Fathers, or rather, the whole Christianity can be termed “Eastern”. But have we not proclaimed time and again in all our encounters with our Western brothers that it is this “East” precisely that constitutes the common and the catholic heritage of the Church and can supply us with a common language which has been lost or distorted? The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or the Easter Canon of St. John of Damascus, are, I believe, much closer to that common and Catholic language of the Church than anything else in any Christian tradition. And I cannot think of any word or phrase in these services that would be “foreign” to a Western Christian and would not be capable of expressing his faith and his experience, if the latter would be genuinely Orthodox . . . – Protopresbyter Alexander (Schmemann), St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 2 – New Series, No. 4, Fall, 1958, pp. 37-38.

And then this:

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Is Conversion a Mere Legal & Liturgical Formality?


Fr. Alexander’s Primary Concern

The question of real conversion: For me, the only important question is: What exactly do we mean by conversion to Orthodoxy? The following definition will, I presume, be acceptable to everybody: it is the individual or the corporate acceptance of the Orthodox faith and the integration in the life of the Church, in the full communion of faith and love. If this definition is correct, we must ask: can the “conversion” of a group or a parish, for which its spiritual leaders have signed a formal doctrinal statement and which hasretained its Western rite, however purified or amended, can such a “conversion” – in our present situation, i.e., in the whole context of the Orthodox Church as she exists in America today – be considered as a true conversion? Personally, I doubt it very much. And I consider this growing interpretation of conversion in terms of a mere jurisdictional belonging to some Orthodox Diocese, of a “mimimum” of doctrinal and liturgical requirements and of an almost mechanical understanding of the “Apostolic Succession” as a very real danger to Orthodoxy. This means the replacement of Orthodoxy of “content” by Orthodoxy of “form”, which certainly is not an Orthodox idea. For we believe that Orthodoxy is, above all, faith that one must live, in which one grows, a communion, a “way of life” into which one is more and more deeply integrated. And now, whether we want it or not, this living faith, this organic spirit and vision of Orthodoxy is being preserved and conveyed to us mainly if not uniquely, by the Orthodox worship. In our state of national divisions, of theological weakness, in the lack of living spiritual and monastic centers, of unpreparedness of our clergy and laity for more articulate doctrinal and spiritual teaching, of absence of a real canonical and pastoral care on the part of the various jurisdictional centers, what holds the Orthodox Church together, assures its real continuity with tradition and gives the hope of a revival is precisely the liturgical tradition. It is a unique synthesis of the doctrinal, ethical and canonical teachings of Orthodoxy and I do not see how a real integration into the Orthodox Church, a genuine communion of faith and life may be achieved without an integration in the Orthodox worship. – Protopresbyter Alexander (Schmemann), St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 2 – New Series, No. 4, Fall, 1958, pp. 37-38.

Preceding this quotations are the comments:

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January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

General Absolution


Someone sent in a comment indicating that large numbers of cradle Orthodox in a particular parish have the notion that there is supposed to be a General Absolution on the way to the chalice, so that they don’t have to go to Holy Confession. Apparently, this used to be a practice in their large parish, and they resent now having to change their habits by going to receive the Mystery of Penance, which they are advised they should pursue 3-times per year, and of occasionally being asked not to approach the chalice, since some of them are unwilling to do this. For the sake of avoiding scandalizing anyone, the parish will not be mentioned.

Brethren, there is no such mystery of General Absolution in Orthodoxy, let alone a “drive by” format that occurs on the way to the chalice. The old habit is heterodox and the new one Orthodox, though three times a year will be viewed as not a little bit scant by those of us who consider “a recent confession” to be far more frequent, not to mention attendance at Holy Vespers in the first place, where possible, and a keeping of the fasts of the Church. The reason for concern in this case is that the parish is also generating a Western Rite, and our desire is that no such heterodox notions follow the newly Chrismated involved.

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Western Pieties & The Idea of Fulness


The Fullness of the Fullness of Orthodox Piety in the Western Rite

“We who would be Orthodox Christians in the western liturgical tradition, however, have an especially difficult path to follow, and it is here, brethren, that we need to comprehend the fullness of the Mystery of Christ as fully as possible, that our efforts to restore the fullness of Orthodoxy within the West may be fruitful. Western Rite Orthodoxy is not an excuse to continue the bad habits, devotional forms, thought processes, or liturgical practice of the West after the schism of Rome, for these too, spring from reductions of the Mystery of the fullness of Christ. It is rather an opportunity not only to recreate in Western forms that fullness of rich dogmatic and liturgical expression so characteristic of the Eastern liturgical tradition, but it is likewise an opportunity to restore those liturgical forms that have, either through spiritual indolence or innocent ignorance, fallen into desuetude in the West, specifically the wonderful and richly spiritual texts of the full cycle of services for Holy Week: the Tenebrae offices, the Maundy, the Solemn Reproaches and Entombment services of Good Friday, the blessing of the Font and the Kindling of the Paschal Fire and the magnificent hymn, the Exultet of the Holy Sabbath and Holy Pascha. We have a measure of our successes or failures if we ask ourselves this one simple question: how many of us have seen, much less celebrated, these services? If you have not, beloved brethren, then you have work to do.” – Dr. Joseph P. Farrell, Pastoral Nativity Letter, 1997

January 17, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Pieties | , , , | Leave a comment

AA WR & Roman Catholic pieties (e.g. Rosary)


Initiation into the Piety of the RosaryFor those concerned about the replacement of genuinely Orthodox pieties with Roman Catholic mariology and pieties, take for example the [Instructions for Praying The Rosary] at St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church, complete with “history” and “how to”.

Likewise an article from The Walsingham Way (Vol II, Num. 1, Fall 99) instructs one that the Rosary is an Orthodox devotion. It makes reference, however, to perfectly normal venerations of the Theotokos, as presumably examples of praying the Rosary. This is the fallacy of equivocation. If one, for instance, compares the 15 prayers of the Elder Zosima to the 15 prayers of the Rosary, the Roman Catholic obesession with the suffering and passion of Christ (and the suggested hetereodox Soteriology if not Christology) becomes as evident as it is in contemporary Roman Catholic “iconography” and in the stations of the cross. Where the Roman Catholic Rosary concentrates on the agony and gore, the Orthodox devotion concentrates on the miraculous triumph of Christ, and on the Theotokos as such. Compare them, using the above two links, if you will.

The Rosary is not Orthodox Soteriology or Piety or DevotionFr. Seraphim Rose: Again drawing from the Holy Fathers, Fr. Seraphim counseled his spiritual children not to trust in or get carried away by their imagination, especially in prayer. Fr. Alexey Young recalls how, when he was still a Roman Catholic preparing to become Orthodox, he was given an important lesson by Fr. Seraphim: “I asked Fr. Seraphim about meditation, which my wife and I, still under the influence of our Roman Catholic background, had made part of our regular routine of morning prayer. We did not yet realize that the Orthodox understanding of meditation is quite different from the Western Christian view. In conversation, Fr. Seraphim explained that the use of imagination in Western spiritual systems of meditation—viz., while saying the Rosary, reciting the Stations of the Cross, or doing the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, etc.—was not compatible with Orthodox spirituality and was forbidden because imagination came into use only after the fall of Adam and Eve; it is one of the lowest functions of the soul and the favorite playground of the devil, who can and does use human imagination in order to deceive and mislead even well-meaning people.” – Fr. Alexey Young, Letters from Fr. Seraphim, pp. 12–13.

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January 17, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite Pieties | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

AA WR Sources of Liturgical Instructions


In the case of St. Augustine’s Church, where the Gregorian Rite (the oldest Liturgy of the Orthodox Church) is utilised, the authoritive source for our ceremonial is the exhaustive work of eminent ceremonialists Adrian & Fortecue and the Revd J.B. O’Connell, S.J. in their monumental work, The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described ninth and previous editions). Those parishes which use the rite of St. Tikhon receive ceremonial direction from Ritual Notes (eleventh and previous editions) which is and resource based almost entirely on the seminal work of Fortescue and O’Connell. In some cases, more recent editions of each book may also prove to be useful, but the older editions are always better sources for specific ceremonial directions.

The clergy are required and morally bound to follow these authorities in their parishes ceremonial. The are not authorised to “make it up as they go along.” Pastors may be forced to adapt and modify the directions of ceremonial authorities, because of local circumstances and church design, but the authoritative guides are always followed as closely as possible. Certainly no modification of ceremonial in a modern and contemporary direction is ever to undertaken. Orthodox Christians are “maximalists” not “minimalists” (as the modernists are called). — St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church 1/16/2006

January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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