Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

The WR in 10-20 years.


Many of you liked the timeline. Think about this: It won’t be long now, maybe 10-20 years, that you’ll hear questions like: “You used to be Episcopalian, and you’re from Omaha, so why aren’t you Western Rite?” If you try to ask what your former religion and your ethnicity have to do with it, you’ll hear that this is the way Westerners are supposed to worship. In other words, we’ll be reaching a time when if you’re born in the West, you’ll be thought odd and morbidly fascinated with esoterica if you prefer the fullness of churches that sing the Eastern liturgies to the crypto-Anglicanism of the WRV.

Likewise: you’ll hear, as someone gasps at icons whose saints have vaguely “Eastern” names: “What are those Saints doing there? Isn’t this a Western Rite parish? Why can’t we have all Western saints?” Doubt it? It’s already being discussed on the web, in exactly those words. And it amounts to asking what to do about the “Eastern question” or the Eastern “problem”. It only takes one academic who needs an original term paper to use the word “problem”. Feels like the 1930s.

You’ll hear things like, “Well, we have St. Nicholas, and he’s Eastern, but I grew up with Christmas, and we do it in a Romanesque style, so it’s ok. But we limit that; we don’t want a bunch of Eastern icons everywhere.” Yes, Eastern will just about become a swear word. You’ll quote a saint, and someone will say, “Well, of course that’s an Eastern saint, whereas I’m Western Orthodox.”

What we’re making is not the fullness of an Orthodoxy re-imagining that glorious cross-fertilization of ancient times, when Eastern fathers like St. Photius venerated with great reverence the pious St. Augustine in the West, asking “Who dares speak against him?”, and yet those Eastern Fathers like St. Photius, St. Maximus, and St. Mark of Ephesus also saved the Church, when St. Augustine’s speculations would have made us all into worshippers of imaginary concepts, as indeed the West became when it went whoring after the imaginary god and into schism.

But in our heyday, East and West were not the Americanists we see finding justification now, in an ecceliastical parliament of xenophobes, busy ethnically-cleansing the Church of all that smacks of the East, rather than letting a gradual and actual conversion occur. Much of what is being done is not creating a home in Orthodoxy for WR converts, so much as creating a separate religious confession. Not so much Western Orthodox, but something actually neither Western nor Orthodox. Hegel gave us this. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The WR, in many ways, is the religion of synthesis, rather than the fullness of cross-fertilization of the whole Church.

It’s becoming a camp, not of converts but of concepts. It should be called the rite of St. Augustine, except it would be so irreverent to that saintly man, and Rite of Augustinists just isn’t catchy. Maybe the Rite of Pat Buchanan’s Immigration Policies. Didn’t he want to build a wall too? Yes, it won’t take long before you’ll hear the ultimate expression of liturgical correctness: “He’s not a real Western Orthodox. He’s Western on the outside, but Byzantine in the middle.” Americanism as a liturgical expression that becomes an ecclesiological politics. This is going to be just great.

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January 25, 2008 - Posted by | -- Phyletism, -- What is Western?, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. I answered this under These comments, since you raised the question there too. Go to that link and scroll down to where I’ve got “point 3” in bold. 🙂

    Comment by tuD | January 25, 2008 | Reply

  2. You presume there will be a western rite in 20 years…

    And that it will be significant enough to warrant such discussion and concern above and beyond some hobbiest com-box (or whatever they will have then) warriors.

    Speaking as a Byzantine Catholic (oh the irony, I know!) Eastern Christianity in the US is largely on the decline accross the board, Catholics, Orthodox, Oriental Orth, except where there is immigration. That is helping to offset the lower birth rates and the integration of second and third generation into western churches or non-church going.

    By the numbers, there are more Roman Catholics out there with an Orthodox[/Greek Catholic] great grandparent than Orthodox[/Greek Catholic]. Of my Greek Catholic grandma’s 16 offspring (children, grand children, great grands) I am the sole Eastern Christian today. (I went to school with 4 guys with Greek last names who were RC – dad married the cute Italian girl down the street, Saint Patriacks had a school and services were in English…) My family Thanksgiving alone has more “grandkids of Greek Catholics” than her old parish which is now down to 35/40 active members.

    But in the Orthodox churches in the US, the Easterners are still definately the dominant party, where they go and grow, so too the WRO crowd.

    The one thing that can possibly make this not such a big issue is the possible trend where all clergy below the rank of bishop are volunteers who work full time, and whose missions are self sufficient… So long as Sayedna does not have to pay a living wage to Father Bede of Saint Augustine of Canterbury WRO mission (total communicants an average sunday, 18) having them “play too” is reasonable. If their priest opts to stick with it, and enough people show up to warrant printing books for them (which they will pay for themselves) they can stick around.

    How long as the WRO been around? How many faithful are actually members?

    Comment by asimplesinner | January 25, 2008 | Reply


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