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

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


  1. The article is great!

    One might also want to recall the name of Henry VIII. He himself preferred traditional post-schimatic liturgics.

    From a numbers game perspective, one could also recall that the Anglican Communion is third in worldwide membership after Roman Catholicicsm and Orthodoxy. Zwinglan, Shminglan… that’s a lot of people who would presumably feel “familiar” and “comfortable.” And why we’re at it, let’s emphasize “feel” to further emphasize the sense of illusion (litugical prelest).

    Whatever happened to the Biblical notion of being called “to leave one’s father’s house” to go to a place one has never been to?

    Paradoxically, this effort to provide the “familiar” would only obviate the sense of being “disaffected” in one’s own backyard.

    Comment by publican123 | May 24, 2008 | Reply

  2. This article is just one of the favorites, in terms of people reading it, commenting on it. Maybe it’s the fact that the title is also a catchphrase.

    Remember, folks: Saint Tikhon never heard of it. Pass it on.

    Comment by tuD | March 15, 2008 | Reply

  3. Perhaps what the WRV should do is not look at the BCP at all. In fact, don’t even look at the Tridentine Rite at all, but go further back and find the Pre-Tridentine Rite that the Western Church used before the schism. Perhaps the WRV should look at the Mass of St. Gregory as it was originally written if they are going to put his name on a Divine Liturgy. If you are looking to recreate a Western Rite Orthodoxy, look back to when the Western Rite was Orthodox, and not to Reformation Era Anglicans. If you are going to have a Western Rite, make it Western. If you have to, create an Anglican Rite to go along with it, but make sure you choose an Anglican Rite that was present when the Anglicans were actually Orthodox. The Sarum Mass is a good starting point, but I’m sure there are even older forms of worship used in the English church of the 9th century and before.

    The point is, if you are looking to make a Wester Rite in Orthodoxy, it needs to be based on the Western Rite, and not on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, because any rite based on the BCP would, by necessity, have to be called an Anglican (or Church of England) Rite.

    Comment by heraldthemarksman | March 14, 2008 | Reply

  4. Hey, Fr. Michael is a friend of mine. He still feels that way, by the way. As i understand it, his claim is that the Western Rite is what happens when western people become Orthodox and do the Orthodox liturgy (that means the one everyone does)in the west. Occidental Orthodox, if you want. He was a Nashotah House seminarian for a year, then became am Orthodox layman. This about 1960. So he had a life in western christendom first.

    Comment by nlayman | February 11, 2008 | Reply

  5. 🙂 Agreement here, too. 🙂

    Comment by tuD | February 3, 2008 | Reply

  6. I know that when Romanian and Russian Orthodox people attended some pre-schism-style services, they were surprised at how comfortable and at home they felt. I also know that when some Greek Orthodox attended the BCP (“Tikhonite”) services, they were so horrified that they actually left the Church right away. Now, I will say in their defence that I’ve spent a lot of time around both Russians and Greeks and (to speak in broad and unfair stereotypes), the Greeks have always been quicker to reject something different. I think it has something to do with how proud they are of their Greek heritage… which is to a considerable degree… and the abysmally low level of understanding or theological sophistication amongst many American Greeks. They or their parents/grandparents came over here from a persecution, and there was no real education in the faith for most of them.

    However, the Orthodox heart certainly shines through in the Greeks I’ve met, and that’s what matters most.

    I agree that the question is not simply one of the “right text in the right Church.” I firmly believe that real Orthodoxy is about Orthodoxy of the heart, the Orthodox phronema. In fact, I’d say that people with a profound Orthodox phronema could celebrate some of these Western Rite services better than the converts who know them so well, but have not yet had a chance to imbibe the fount of Orthodox spirituality.

    I don’t think we should go too far, however, and say that Orthodox people will always be “comfortable” wherever the Orthodox faith in all of its fulness is. To a certain degree, this is very true. I will be grateful until my dying day to be in an Orthodox Church, even if they were ancient Syriac liturgies conducted in Japanese! Any person who is actually Orthodox will manage to get along (and that with gratitude) in any Orthodox Church.

    However, I don’t think that means the person will be totally “comfortable,” in the sense that he won’t miss his own heritage. No Greek will ever be totally at home hearing a polyphonic “Dostoino Yest” for the rest of his life. Likewise, no Finnish Orthodox Christian would want to sing “Idomen to fos to alithinon” for the rest of his life, if he could help it. I think we can admit that Orthodox Christians will always be happy and content to have a real Orthodox Church with real mysteries – but we can allow for the fact that people have a certain good and God-pleasing attachment to the things that make them a people and define their cultural experience. We don’t have to feel that “real” Orthodox Christians are totally oblivious to their cultural circumstances in some sort of divine disdain for the “merely earthly.” Our cultural heritage – especially that part, which is shaped by the Orthodox faith – is a gift from God. The mere packaging should never be more important to us than the faith… but an healthy love for it is a good thing.

    I have deep disagreements of my own with Tikhonite and (AWRV) Gregorian style liturgies. However, it’s been pointed out in several places on this site that a mere appeal to authority is not a real defense of a point. There is a lot of truth to that (in Orthodoxy, we do have some authorities to appeal to, however). However, we do have to admit that presently, the AWRV celebrates WR services with the blessings of the bishops – and while the mere fact that these services are blessed by the bishops doesn’t mean that the bishops made the best choice (but, bishops do have a special charisma that we don’t, and perhaps we should be somewhat reticent to find fault with them), it does mean that the AWRV parishes are real Orthodox Churches with valid sacraments.

    So, all Orthodox Christians would, I hope, choose even a Tikhonite parish over a Byzantine Catholic parish – or worse, nothing at all…

    Comment by fatheraugustine | February 3, 2008 | Reply

  7. Don’t Confuse the Cradles!!!!

    http://www.allmercifulsavior.com/Liturgy/Objection.html is and excellent article on some concerns Bishop Kalistos Ware Has about the Western Rite.

    Comment by orthodoxmichael | January 19, 2008 | Reply

  8. An Orthodox person should feel at home wherever it is Orthodox. The truth is, they might not, if only because they haven’t had the experience. People use the example of someone coming from Bulgaria or Ukraine, and not understanding. When we go to a seafood restaurant or bath house in Japan for the first time, we might feel out of place too. That’s natural.

    But your questions bring up a couple of interesting points. First, are we in fact Eastern Rite people? This is like the question of whether we belong to a particular jurisdiction, and I wonder if it’s gotten our thinking screwed up. Laymen, of course, don’t belong to any jurisdiction, and can go anywhere, so long as its Orthodox. There are still laymen who have never been to a monastery though, or anywhere outside their priest’s jurisdiction. We’re Orthodox people, not Eastern or Western rite people in any inherent way. That’s precisely one of the concerns with converts coming in and saying they can’t feel comfortable with the Eastern Rite, then using the opposite argument “it’s just a rite, it’s not the Faith” to justify the WR. Short answer: Not all Orthodox people will feel comfortable everywhere, but Orthodox people with an Orthodox mindset will feel comfortable wherever they find the fullness of Orthodoxy expressed, practiced, and kept by the clergy and faithful.

    On the other question: “what would a proper one look like?” That’s just it, we’ve reduced the debate to a premise of “If we get the right text, and do it in the right communion, it’s good, right, and Orthodox.” This is part of Fr. Alexander (Schmemann)’s critique. It reduces the issue to mere mechanics and liturgics. The Eastern rite, conducted with the whole congregation sitting, the choir doing most of the singing/praying, and the faithful barely participating except by being there isn’t the full expression of Orthodox liturgics, even if they aren’t abbreviating the service. The question cannot be reduced to merely one of the text, but must, in Orthodox thinking, address itself to the fullness of what is called Orthodox worship, the mindset and attitude involved. And frankly, when the rite becomes the reason, rather than the Faith and genuine conversion to it, it is then also neither Eastern nor Western, but heterodox and without any recognizable religious culture. It is an anti-rite.

    Comment by DUCK | January 18, 2008 | Reply

  9. What should a legitimate Western Rite look,sound,and feel like. I have been to a couple of services in the WR it was familiar to me but I was in the RC for many years. It didn’t feel Orthodox, but I have divorced myself from most things in the west. Should a Eastern Rite person feel at home in one of these services if it is done properly?

    Comment by orthodoxmichael | January 18, 2008 | Reply

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