Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Roman Catholic points out WRO Weakness

A great critique of WRO thinking from [this source]

“I have written apologias on my own blog for Roman Catholicism, and to tell the truth, it just feels that your advocacy of a Western rite in Orthodoxy can go not much further than the level of abstraction. To have attachments to Western externals while denying the theological patrimony of the Western Church would make me say, “Thanks, but no thanks”. These externals were the result of a coherent world view that were expressions of “heretical” concepts in your eyes. Case in point: Marian devotion in Hispanic culture. Most of the Virgins that are venerated are Inmaculadas, that is, representations of the Immaculate Conception as the vision of the Woman in the Apocalypse. The most famous of these is the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City. (That is where you get the tradition of celebrating Mass in blue vestments: it is only permitted for the Mass of a Virgin who is also an Inmaculada.) The historical greeting in many circumstances in the Spanish speaking world has been, “Ave Maria Purisisma! Sin pecado concebida!” – Arturo Vasquez

So the question becomes obvious. Can one really adopt the 16th century Anglican prayer book, the 20th century Roman Catholic fasting rules, and a mishmash of vestments, calendar items and formats, postures, and gestures, prayers and species, hymns and pieties… a buffet menu of mostly post-schism Western history, and not adopt the attitudes and psychology (or preserve that psychology, for converts) of those periods and the whole of their history? Or if you repudiate that psychology, why keep the forms and claim they are your Western heritage.

In fact, we are faced with the very real question of whether the Western rite represents a genuine Western Orthodoxy at all, or rather a poor substitute, which is actually shortchanging a genuine Western Orthodox mind, while giving false support to one that remains essentially heterodox. At best, might it not currently represent the very piecemeal museum-collection that one so often finds in self-made groups like the CEC.


January 28, 2008 - Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Questions | , , , , ,


  1. I agree with the above post completely.

    Benjamin, while I can understand and sympathize, no need, however, to make your fiance’s reaction to Eastern worship a disproof of any kind about “the church” esp. when she simply finds the Liturgy not to her liking and tastes. The notion that her own reaction to Eastern Liturgy is somehow an implicit rejection of her seems a reverse overstatement. There are big emotions here which you mention, but I find some of them disproportionate. There seems to be more than simply Litugical concerns going on here and you both may benefit from talking with a priest. I realize that in the moment all of this is very sincere…and you are not being “harsh.”

    I do not think this can be “solved” simply through Orthodox discussion or historical research in the way we imagine.

    St. Benedict of Nursia, pray for us.

    Holy Orthodox Popes of Rome, pray for us.

    Comment by publican123 | March 24, 2009 | Reply

  2. The ancient Western rite is ancient. The modern Western rite is not ancient and does not reflect the original, undivided Christian Faith as completely. I think most of us who are posting messages here, support the Western heritage of the Orthodox Church. Western rite has been given a new “lease on life” in the Russian part of the Church with the election as First Hierarch of Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York. The Metropolitan is fully supportive of and encouraging of Western rite in the Church. I wonder if there is a Western rite Orthodox church near you. Peace to you.

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | March 18, 2009 | Reply

  3. Ok,
    I agree with what you are saying on this blog in relation to the fact that Western Rite is anything but ancient. But, on a practical level, I have a problem with the solution which you propose. It seems that your attitude towards it all is, “if they can’t come into the Byzantine style Eastern Church, they cannot be true Orthodox.” (Forgive me if that is conjecture and not true.)

    I have a practical problem with that all. My fiance was raised Catholic, but her parents left for the Methodist church when she was 10. She recently visited a Catholic Monastery in town here and had an experience in the worship where she realized that she could not go back to Protestantism and its emptiness. The problem was, she cannot accept the added doctrines of Catholicism, but she cannot worship in an Eastern setting without simply being “distracted.” When she first came with me to a divine liturgy, she wept on the way home saying that it’s too bad she’s “going to hell because she can’t worship in God’s one true church.”

    My fiance is as Orthodox in belief as you can be, but simply has a very hard time with the Eastern worship style.

    Historically, the Western Rite developed differently, and was equally as valid for over a millennium. It holds a style which is just as sacramental and holy in nature (through its liturgy) but also distinct in its quiet piety and contemplative prayerful attitude. It is this that she finds attractive.

    I simply want to know from you. Is there no hope for people such as my fiance, who I can attest to being one of the most pure of heart people I have ever met? Since they cannot worship in an Eastern setting for a variety of reasons, can they not be a part of and in communion with the Holy Orthodox Apastolic Catholic Church? This simply seems hard for me to understand and quite frankly, if the church who claims to be “the church” cannot accept people as pure in heart as my fiance, I don’t see where exactly I should look.

    Again, I am sorry if I seem harsh in nature, but this is a very touchy subject for me and I really wish a compromise could be made instead of taking up arms against the Western Rite.

    Comment by Benjamin | October 3, 2008 | Reply

  4. For those interested in the level of “this is what reunion would look like” mindset in the WRO… the same blog.

    To be fair, there is an expressed gratitude for the witness of cradle Orthodox as well as a critique of Charismatic worship. There is a reference to objections to WRO as “hooey.”

    The Part 3 at the top…

    Comment by publican123 | April 5, 2008 | Reply

  5. Another BTW…

    For those interested in the level of evangelical Christian mindset that has entered WRO, refer to the source at the top of this blog.

    Comment by publican123 | April 5, 2008 | Reply

  6. How could I forget? The REAL litmus test(s) of ecumenism in the Catholic Church is NOT with Orthodoxy but with Protestantism, Pentacostalism, and native religions.

    Comment by publican123 | April 5, 2008 | Reply

  7. It’s probably a good thing that you haven’t been interested in following it too closely. Believe me, no offense taken.

    As an aside, some view Martin Luther as having suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder, given his inability to “feel forgiven” after multiple confessions. Scrupulosity is a term that is familiar I’m sure. The point being: on a limited scale we can look back at the mental states of historical figures. The other point is that diagnosis even in a hospital setting is a touchy thing. But the main point is that one should not see such descriptions as statements about the status of an individual’s soul, obviously.

    But this is way off the main point of the Catholic priest’s assertions and my own, which included, in my post, references to even a non-Christian religion.

    While thanking Fr. Vasquez, however, I think some of his own assertions are those on “the level of abstraction” when one looks at contemporary Hispanic culture. To be fair, we have only a brief citation. What is not being said is more important. Frankly, the “historical greeting” he refers to seems primarily Mexican, and contemporary? Really?

    It would be also valid to see Hispanic culture as shaping not only Marian devotion but primarily the celebration of the Catholic Mass including music, manner of behavior and dress when in church. Moreover, the prevalence of charismatic prayer and the impact of groups such as Cursillo and the Neo-Catechumens… my point is that the Catholic Church in recent times has been more than “culturally sensitive” but includes Papal Masses with “native women” in Africa who receive communion with naked breasts (one of whom was educated in America) and the same Pope who kisses the Koran. Suburban preachers for years have looked for “relevant” messages in the farflung offerings of Hollywood. In the United States, Hispanics are seen in many Dioceses as “the future of the Church.” I have met priests who regard Phillipinos as the last bastion…

    Fr. Vasquez’s reference to a “historical greeting” should not lead to the conclusion that Western Catolicism is simply a different, coherent “orthodoxy.”

    The real issue is the chasm that has historically existed in Catholicism between public and private worship.

    For hundreds of years, Catholic spirituality sees “something very different to do” after the Mass, especially what for lack of a better word could be termed supplimental…

    And so, after the Mass follows the Charismatic prayer group where worship “really” happens.

    Frankly, I prefer the organic sense in the Orthodox Church of going downstairs for fellowship and coffee.

    Comment by publican123 | April 5, 2008 | Reply

  8. ahh – slight correction – this post isn’t referring to the post I wrote, I was thinking of another… That as the case may be, the idea is the same – the discussion starts to show up in my dashboard for having made a comment in this combox before…

    Comment by asimplesinner | April 5, 2008 | Reply

  9. “The words “so much straw” are themselves part of Catholic hagiography. Factually, from reports of the Dominican Order itself where did he end up? Were his words simply those of humility?”

    Perhaps in fact there were. It might be the unknown quantity that makes certitude something that is either difficult or even someone presumptive.

    That as the case may be, you shouldn’t really find my raised eye-browe to be all that telling. I wrote the article to which this post refers and – as a result of commenting in the combox as new comments appear it show back up on the radar of by wordpress.com dashboard under “my comments.” Meaning no disrespect or harshness, I have otherwise been disinterested in following it too closely as I have been working on developping a new blog and that takes time enough. FWIW, equating that statement with depression just seemed to be a tad more than I could resist commenting on.

    You shouldn’t find it all that telling as I don’t really otherwise have a dog in this fight and have not been otherwise involved in how the discussion has played out. Honestly, I have already been in the thick of pretty much this discussion before, I am content with the experience and wasn’t looking to jump back in. The novum to me was the idea of Saint Thomas’ comment being indicative of depression when most all the hagiography I have read – as you have pointed out, it is included – otherwise comes to a decidedly different conclusion.

    Carry on.

    Comment by asimplesinner | April 5, 2008 | Reply

  10. If it suits everyone, strike the word “depression.”

    With regards to the emotional state of individuals from the past,yes, caution should be practiced when reading accounts. In the case of Saint Thomas Aquinas, feel free to read various sources. The words “so much straw” are themselves part of Catholic hagiography. Factually, from reports of the Dominican Order itself where did he end up? Were his words simply those of humility?

    The fact that this out of all I had written emerges as an issue, an anti-statement, is telling.

    Comment by publican123 | April 4, 2008 | Reply

  11. Also, a factual correction: Never, at any time, did the Sarum use of the Roman rite appoint blue vestments for feasts of the Mother of God. It’s an urban myth, proving that if you repeat something often enough, people will believe it’s true.

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | April 4, 2008 | Reply

  12. I don’t see the “anti” nature of the statement, since I don’t view depression, in and of itself, as a sin. It is part of the human condition. But I caution against identifying the states of mind of people who lived many centuries ago. Can we really know that? Certainly there are symptoms one can find in the DSM-IV, and one can apply them to people one has never met. But a professional psychiatrist, for example, would have to be crazy to diagnose a patient he never met or who lived hundreds of years previously. Also, to the worldy-minded, depression (a not specifically righteous and sometimes a sinful state) and repentant introspection (a good thing) are easily confused. The worldly can easily confuse silence with aloofness, or overstimulation with zeal, or strictness about matters of faith with pride or lack of love. And so it goes… Thomas Aquinas definitely taught heresy as regards the procession of the Holy Spirit. He also taught things which Orthodoxy upholds but which Rome has abandoned. So much so did he uphold baptism by triple immersion, that he even stated that to baptise by other than triple immersion would be to commit a mortal sin.

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | April 4, 2008 | Reply

  13. “even Thomas Aquinas seems to reject in a state of depression at the end of his life as ‘so much straw’ “

    That is taking anti-STA sentiment to a new level.

    Comment by asimplesinner | April 4, 2008 | Reply

  14. Again, and not to inject heresy/apostasy into this discussion, but my own previous studies in Eastern religions and the trends of Western converts to Buddhism shed light on what may very well be a similar occurence in Western Rite Orthodoxy. Specifically, there is a tendency among Western converts to Buddhism towards combining meditational practices which are doctrinally incompatible. The reality that such icompatibities exist seems irrelevant to many Western converts to Buddhism.

    Within Western Christianity, particularly Catholicism, this is also evident even in spokesperson reprsentatives of monasticism such as Basil Pennington who after a stay at Mt. Athos seems unable to relinguish practices within Trappist monasteries or among Catholic “contemplatives” who are laypeople which include yoga and essentailly Zen Buddhism.

    The alleged baptism of Aristotle which even Thomas Aquinas seems to reject in a state of depression at the end of his life as “so much straw” along with the more recent attemts to make Karl Marx a true Christian emphasizes the divergence of the Eastern Christian and Western view.

    What ecmenism often amounts to is honestly stated by the Catholic priest cited Frequently those of the “other faith” from whom one hopes to borrow or more accurately, to whom one attributes all these similarities suddenly says, “Wait a minute.”

    Let us not forget that along with the militaristic “prosyletizing” methods of Islam were references to the Christian faith to make Islam “more acceptable” to converts.

    Proportionately, the Rosary and Stations of the Cross are not the same, but saying them, with a “different interpretation” starts to sound somewhat nonsensical.
    This is the basis for santeria in Latin America.

    Perhaps it comes down to loving and praying for the heterodox, but not loving their heterodoxy or trying to prove anything by adopting their practices.

    From a practical standpoint and at the risk of sounding irreverent, doesn’t Orthodoxy give people enough to do?

    Comment by publican123 | April 4, 2008 | Reply

  15. Interesting if so. 🙂 It’s an attractive and tantalizing hypothesis (er.. conjecture). 🙂

    Comment by tuD | February 3, 2008 | Reply

  16. As a Melkite in communion with Rome for political reasons who believes that the Orthodox Church is more right I agree with the above post whole heartedly.

    “Can one really adopt the 16th century Anglican prayer book, the 20th century Roman Catholic fasting rules, and a mishmash of vestments, calendar items and formats, postures, and gestures, prayers and species, hymns and pieties… (and still be orthodox)” the answer is no.

    My own journal has been started for the intention of promoting the authentic western church traditions which existed as Fr Augustinus stated above “for the first 1200 years or so”.

    Only when the emphasis becomes on pure pre-schism liturgia will the Western Rite Vicariate of the Orthodox Church be anything other than wishful immature but still very holy thinking.

    Comment by ordoromanusprimus | February 3, 2008 | Reply

  17. Excellent! Excellent! Excellent!

    Yes, this is very cear thinking. If we want to be Orthodox, we must understand that the panorama of Post-Schism thinking in the West reflects an entire fabric of heterodox ideas, speculations and conclusions. We can’t reject our heterodoxy while embracing this tapestry of heterodox pieties – even if, superficially, they don’t “seem” heterodox in and of themselves.

    They only inaccuracy: blue vestments for the Virgin go back a very long way into the past – certainly before the Immaculate Conception was an accepted doctrine, and certainly not related to that false teaching. At a later date, blue came to be *restricted* to the feast of the Immaculate Conception in some locales, hence the idea that blue is the “Immaculate” color. This is just conjecture, but I imagine the blue vestments go all the way back to Mary’s traditional blue garment in Christian iconography (which was not just “Byzantine” for the first 1200 years or so). In such icons, the blue represents the humanity of the Virgin; Christ’s garments of blue overlaid on red represent the humanity received from His mother put onto the red of His divinity.

    Comment by fatheraugustine | February 2, 2008 | Reply

  18. I was not aware of the dispensation or tradition concerning blue. Thanks!

    Comment by occidentaltourist | January 31, 2008 | Reply

  19. Blue in fact IS an approved liturgical color by dispensation or tradition in some ares of the RC world. That photograph was taken on a pastoral trip to Bavaria, where such an indult exists.

    Then again, who does the Pope need to get a dispensation from to wear a blue vestment? (I know, I know… that sounds like horrifying proof to some that the Pope “can do whatever he wants”… sigh.)

    Comment by asimplesinner | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  20. Well written!

    I believe that a more appropriate action would be to restore ancient (pre-schism) Western Rite texts where appropriate.

    BTW– concerning “blue vestments” in the modern Roman Rite: In spite of pictures of even the pope wearing “marian blue” it is not an approved liturgical color. However, in the ancient Salisbury aka Sarum Use (and I believe Mozarabic as well) blue was used for Feasts of the Mother of God.

    Comment by occidentaltourist | January 29, 2008 | Reply

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