Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Qatl Qitl Qutl

Nice, moderate thoughts [here]. Excerpt:

“I do not believe that that the Orthodox Western Rite is intended to be a sort of attraction to facilitate evangelizing the West. There is no reason to become Western Rite if one is already practicing western liturgical forms. There are myriads of ‘purist’ or ‘traditionalist’ groups within Catholicism and Anglicanism to satisfy the person who desires a more ‘orthodox’ liturgical experience. Why, then, would such a person want to become Orthodox? I believe it is the same reason I became Orthodox, precisely because of the theology of the Church and what she claims to be, the Body of Christ”

February 29, 2008 Posted by | -- Evangelism, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

To the Priests

Priest“The Church is not an activity or an interest. It is a new life in Christ of which the priest is the elect vessel. And unworthy as he inevitably will be, he may not relax his effort or indulge his personal fancies or seek glory from it…
No throngs of eager converts await the magic of his words. No successful parishes have openings for him. No souls will be transformed automatically by the fact of his ordination…Tribulations of a different kind beset the American Orthodox missionary. They are subtler, prosaic, protracted. Often he must work in solitude for years with undeviating loyalty to his calling. Those who wire a building may not live to see the lights turned on. And in the new building which is America, those who feel called…can expect no glory, reward or fun. For they build for a future which they may not see.” – Bishop (later Fr.) Alexander Turner, SSB

February 28, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Quotes | , , | Leave a comment

He’s not Crucified Yet!

Stations of the CrossIf you’d done a google search three years ago on Orthodoxy and the stations of the cross, you’d have found more material explaining why this post-schism Roman Catholic devotion, as part of a general distortion of the gospel, frames it too much as an obsession with Christ’s “passion” (or suffering). These days, it’s not popular to put up articles like that. Instead, you’ll get information on Orthodox adopting the devotion at ecumenical gatherings or as part of a Western Rite, which in some quarters is showing off its new Roman Catholic getup and gear and fitting in nicely as the ‘Catholicism’ of the golden age (i.e. the 1950s). You know – Catholics w/o all that Vatican II stuff, or a history of pedophiles. Or, if you will, Anglicans w/o women priests and homosexuals.

“The second thing to remember is that this is an imaginative exercise. Its purpose is not a historical examination of “what really happened” on that day in history. It’s about something far more profound. This is an opportunity to use this long standing Christian prayer to let Jesus touch my heart deeply by showing me the depth of his love for me. The context is the historical fact that he was made to carry the instrument of his death, from the place where he was condemned to die, to Calvary where he died, and that he was taken down and laid in a tomb. The religious context is that today Jesus wants to use any means available to move my heart to know his love for me. These exercises can allow me to imaginatively visualize the “meaning” of his passion and death.” – Filipino Chaplaincy, St. Joseph’s Parish, Penrith
“The central reason for avoiding exercise of the imagination in prayer is theological. God is present everywhere. Christ is present by His Holy Spirit in the depth of the being of every Christian living the reality of Baptism into the death of Christ. If we live our Baptism, sealed with the Seal of the Spirit, then the Risen Christ lives in us, by His Holy Spirit, and we live the Risen life in the Spirit. We do not need to imagine Christ as present: He is present: we need to remind ourselves of His presence.” – Orthodox Church of Estonia, Icons, 2/27/08
“The Catholic Faith is caught rather than taught. In this regard, it is vitally important to emphasise such devotions as Benediction, the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross, devotions to Our Lady and the Sacred Heart of Jesus” – Western Rite Catholic Church
… in 1870 they unanimously agreed that the Pope of Rome is infallible whenever defining faith or morals for the Church… The Orthodox were aghast. Expecting some Catholics to seek refuge in Orthodoxy, the Russian Church approved a Western Rite Mass for them (their offer had few takers). – Pocket Church History for Orthodox Christians
Let us enter the Fast with joy, O faithful. Let us not be sad. Let us cleanse our faces with the waters of dispassion, blessing and exalting Christ forever. – First Friday Matins [The Lenten Spring]
Let us begin the Fast with joy. Let us give ourselves to spiritual efforts. Let us cleanse our souls. Let us cleanse our flesh. Let us fast from passions as we fast from foods, taking pleasure in the good works of the Spirit and accomplishing them in love, that we all may be made worthy to see the passion of Christ our God and His Holy Pascha, rejoicing with spiritual joy. – Forgiveness Sunday Vespers [The Lenten Spring]

It’s an odd thing to watch, this clamour to adopt devotions not out of devotion itself, certainly not out of the heart of Orthodox feeling, but out of a desire to fit a mold. We need to start doing this, add that, and we’ll be having this on Wednesday. By the way, have you bought a rosary yet? At the moment, they’re gearing up for the Passion of Christ. One remembers a hideous film by that name, and we’re not really that far off: When you’d walk into one of the Roman Catholic churches they’d like to emulate, you were greeted with scenes of judgment, Hell, suffering, torture, and gore. And that was before the service.

While the rest of us are with Christ in the desert, battling temptation with him, sharing his fast, as expressed in our presanctified liturgies, the neo-Western Rite crowd, for that’s what they are, will already be going through something the rest of us reserve for the balance and dignity of Holy Week (i.e. Passion Week). While we wait for the sepulchre, they are already calling for the crucifixion, without even a triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. And they will not do it once, but repeatedly. For them, this is an extended time of agony.

Implicit in this mistaken obsession with the Passion is the notion that the primary work of Christ’s Incarnation is pouring out his agony and suffering as propitiation for the wrath of God – the very quasi-Calvinist and eminently Latin juridical approach to the Atonement that the Orthodox have rejected all this time as a facet of hyper-Augustinism. If the filioque were translated into a soteriology, it would look like this. In the same way, Orthodoxy has rejected the neo-Nestorian worship of body parts (e.g. the Sacred Heart). In the same way, the Orthodox have warned against the use of imagination in prayer (e.g. the Rosary). All we need now is a weeping Romanesque madonna and a teenager with a fatima-like vision, and we can scrap all this stuff about not being just the Roman Catholics’ kissing cousins.

Indeed, some Western Rite proponents cite building the Western Rite as an ecumenist bridge as their actual motivation – desiring to Give Rome a Home when they ‘unite with us’ – they fail to realize that, when that happens, the Roman Catholics do not become Orthodox, but rather we become Roman Catholics. Rather than giving them a home, the Western Rite finds it’s home in Rome. Perhaps that’s why they don’t yet have Western Rite bishops; they’ll be getting a new one, to put it mildly.

Statue from St. Augustine's Church in Denver (WRV)Then too, instead of an icon painter, trained in the ancient patterns, perhaps, as is now done, a local artist of any sensibility can be commissioned to carve the Madonna. It will not be long then before we can turn to modern composers, likewise, to do musical settings for our liturgies, for there is no difference. Besides, organ music could use the revival. Make no mistake, adopting Latin pieties is also a matter of also adopting the dominant culture, whether of the Renaissance or the post-modern. Sure, we’ll start out being 50 years behind – not the Church of Antiquity but the Church of Antiques, yesterday’s Rome, a living time capsule for the disenchanted contemporary. A museum of devotion from the most recent bygone golden age.

Let us ask: if we’ve no problem with all these heterodox pieties, not only post-schism but, if you think about it, Post-Christian, then why have a problem with heterodox mystics like St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, yea even St. Ignatius of Loyola? Why not? If you’re going to do it, do it boldly. Don’t be surprised when those books come out in “Orthodox” editions, with accompanying studies of their ‘benefit’ and ‘virtue’ – though, by then, there won’t be any need to publish Orthodox editions anymore. And if these Franciscan devotions are to be the norm, why not equip the churches with statues of Francis? Think it couldn’t happen? Don’t be too sure. In fact, why don’t we just make a list of post-schism Roman Catholic devotions, visions, mystics, saints – basically everything but doctrines (we’re saving those for later – though even then, not always) – put them in a book, and call it a manual for the new Western Rite? Seriously: why not? What, exactly is wrong with it? This is the question we put to Western Rite adherents.

February 27, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite Pieties | , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Orthodox Eschatology

The “end times” in the catechetical texts and commentaries of the Fathers, and the writings of the Orthodox:

Some contemporary books on the Eschatology of the Apocalypse by Hierarchs of the Orthodox Church:

 A Hierarchical Word on End-Times

Archbishop Averky: The Apocalypse: In the Teachings of Ancient Christianity

Bishop Gerasimos of Abydos: At the End of Time: The Eschatological Expectations of the Church

“For the Antichrist will come for the destruction of men, and to injure them, for what will he not then work? He will change and confound all things, both by his commandments and by the fear of him. He will be terrible in every way: by his power and by his unlawful commandments.’’ – St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians

Guard thyself then, O man; thou hast the signs of Antichrist; and remember them not only thyself, but impart them also freely to all. If thou hast a child according to the flesh, admonish him of this now; if thou hast begotten one through catechizing, put him also on his guard, test he receive the false one as the True. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work. I fear these wars of the nations; I fear the schisms of the Churches; I fear the mutual hatred of the brethren. But enough on this subject; only God forbid that it should be fulfilled in our days; nevertheless, let us be on our guard. And thus much concerning Antichrist. – St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture XV

All men ,led by the light of fallen nature alienated from guidance of God’s light ,will be enticed into submission to the seducer(antichrist). – St Ignaty Brianchaninov

In that time, infants will die on their mother’s lap, and the mothers will die over their children, fathers will die with their wives and children in the marketplace, and there will be nobody there who will bury them. – St. Ephriam the Syrian, Oration on the Coming of the Lord

“A false prophet will prophesy concerning the Antichrist saying he is Christ and he himself will try to convince everyone that he is Christ.” – St. Ambrose of Milan, Catechetical Lectures, Oration 15

“God will allow persecution from the Antichrist not because He cannot stop it, but because He desires, as usual, His strugglers to be crowned,” and for this reason, “the reverent ones among the living will be taken up into the clouds, receiving, as a reward of honor, that which is higher than any man.” – St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 15

“Having filled himself with pride, the Antichrist will begin to set himself up and glorify himself as God, belching forth slander against Christ.” He will do this so openly that he will command that all those who do not want to serve him as God be killed. – St. Hippolytus of Rome, On Christ and the Antichrist.

“He shall be known by his crimes of inhumanity and lawlessness, so as to out do all unrighteous and ungodly men who have gone before him; displaying against all men, but especially against us Christians, a spirit murderous and most cruel, merciless and crafty” – St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lecture 15, Ch. 12)

“Many people will be found pleasing God, for whom it will be possible, in the mountains and in dessert places, to save themselves by much prayer….for God, seeing their many tears and sincere faith, will have mercy on them, as a tender Father, and will keep them.” – St. Ephraim the Syrian, Oration on the Coming of the Lord

Continue reading

February 26, 2008 Posted by | -- Eschatology, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A word or two from Bishop Alexander

Fr. Alexander Turner, SSB“It was the West, however, which would suffer more from these unhappy inclinations, with the emergence of a professional clerical society aloof from the faithful, and a dichotomy between the performer on the one hand and the observer on the other. Mass was said by the priest, heard by the attendants. This movement reached its denouement in the magnificent theatrical productions of the Baroque period, staged with consummate artistry, and overwhelming in their grandeur. From a corporate act of the Christian family, Mass became a religious extravaganza on the one hand, or a mysterious incantation on the other. Small wonder that the layman left the holy sacrifice to professionals and occupied himself instead with devotions—self-centered, sentimental reveries such as the Rosary, or pious irrelevancies assigned to give mystical symbolism to parts of the liturgy. This provided little spiritual nourishment, but it did encourage an appetite for religious sensationalism and novelty, to be fed by a stream of fashionable saints and devotional fads.” – Bp. (later Fr.) Alexander Turner, SSB (first Vicar of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate)

February 26, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite Pieties, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Unity and The Apocalypse

The Church of the Seven CouncilsThere seems to be a general ecumenism among many Protestant groups that takes the form of a general wish for Christian unity, catholicity, and indeed Orthodoxy herself. In itself, this is precisely a desire for the things the True Faith gives us in fullness and without lack.

But taken out of that venue and given an Orthodox one, this clamour for unity, if it does not evolve, does not stake stock of the teaching of Christ and the apostles and the fathers after them, can actually become heretical and dangerous. It can take the form not of an ecclesiology that has found the fullness of the Faith, the One undivided Church that can never be broken, the genuine ark carrying us into the Heaven of union with God – but instead an ecclesiology of an even more pronounced branch theory and a spiritual psychology of needing to “fix” the Christian world for Orthodoxy – an inordinate, even foolish, push for a union that can not be.

Augmented by new-convert fervor, with pronouncements and immoderate statements and zeal, and supported by Orthodox who differ from our Fathers, hoping privately for precisely the thing that would cost these new Christians their newfound Faith, for a different use for this energy altogether, we see the trend toward ecumenism receiving a rush of inappropriate and unwise support.

Indeed, this is exactly and precisely the reason why new converts are to keep silent, and not speak on behalf of the Faith, or teach others, or make pronouncements of this sort. That is our tradition and, like so many others, it is there for wise reasons and was established and preserved by wiser men who knew the pitfalls that come from abandoning it. But even in silence, without sound teaching about what the Church really is, and without true conversion to the Faith shared in the consensus of the Fathers, the desire on the one hand to “just love one another” or “get rid of our differences and hug”, or on the other to join with something else based on mere doctrinal agreement or juridical ‘authority’, can mean that the more the Church is seen to be the Church, the more the convert ceases to have converted – ceases to be a part of it.

Let us state categorically: The Church is not broken, nor divided, nor in any way un-whole. The Church is not flawed or incomplete or in any way wayward or improper. The Church is the Lamb without blemish and the spotless Bride. The Church is One and cannot be otherwise. He who speaks against the Church, to imply that she is fractured, scattered, or incomplete, or lacks anything necessary to life and salvation, denounces Christ and his most pure Mother and has renounced Christianity, denied Orthodoxy, and repudiated the True Faith. So beware. Be absolutely sure, if you say such things, you want them repeated back to you on the day of Judgment. Dangerous is that way. Filled with devils and lost men, it is.

If you are a convert and you hear contrary pronouncements, opinions, and agreed statements, you are encouraged to test these things against the consensus patrum, and to listen to the consensus of the holy Athonite monks, who have written quite clear statements of these things as well. On ecclesiology, may we suggest the following articles:

Lastly, let no one deceive you. Our Lord, the Holy Apostles, and our Prophets before them, taught that Christ’s coming was the beginning of the last days, and that these days would end, to quote St. Paul, with a great “falling away” – an unparalleled apostasy – that our own brethren would betray us, believing they do God a service. The Apocalypse provides the image of a single world religion, a unified ‘Christian’ experience that dwarfs the attempt at Babel. Repeatedly, too, in the parables of Christ, we are warned that an apostasy means something that occurs among Christians – occurs from within, rather than from without, even while it is a departure from the Faith of our fathers.

It may be popular these days to dismiss all this as the Protestant, millenarian “end times” thinking of the 1970s-1990s. Indeed, when those fundamentalists waiting for something to happen at the Millenium didn’t see it, the mood shifted (not that we don’t remember very disturbing things happening at that time, but they certainly weren’t part of popular fundamentalist conception). And so now is a time of saying, ‘it will not come’, ‘things will go on as they have done’, and we are focused now on finding a way to join what cannot be joined, and the emphasis is on authority and juridical actions, because that is what’s needed for such a thing, and indeed that is how the heterodox think in the first place. But the end will come, deny it all we wish. The end will come, and all the words of Christ will be found true, though all the rest of us be made liars.

It’s cute to hurl at someone “he’s got an emphasis on the apocalypse” or “they’re up in arms over ecumenism”. So was Christ, so were the apostles, and so have the fathers been after them. Indeed, we will all see, at an hour we do not expect.

“The Antichrist can come only as a result of universal Apostasy, that is, the abjuration of the people from God and His paths, when God’s grace withdraws from the people. – Archpriest Boris Molchanoff

February 25, 2008 Posted by | -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, -- Eschatology, Western Rite Issues | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When You Receive no Answers

silenceNot giving an answer is actually something that Christ does all the time. In the Gospel, the woman came after him pleading – my daughter has a demon and we are miserable – Son of David – Messiah – Christ – heal her and save us. What did Christ do? He did not answer her.

What did you we do when someone doesn’t answer us?

The woman asked the Saints: Apostles of the Son of David, entreat him for me. Pray to Christ for me. What did the Saints do? They entreated Christ for her, as they always always will. “Lord, send her away.” which is to say not ‘throw her out’ but rather “Grant her request, and so make her go away, because she is crying after us incessantly.” Read it yourself. That’s what it says. And what did Christ do? He said no. “It is not proper to take away the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Would any of us do that, if your dogs were whining around the dinner table? Would we grab our children’s plates and give them to the animals? Continue reading

February 24, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, -- Phyletism, Western Rite Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

Theology and Economy

TheologyTheology is who God is in and of himself apart from any created thing. Economy, in contrast, is God’s activity toward all that is not God – that is, toward all creation (and what is not God is created). Economy is God’s salvation from everlasting. The Energies (the Grace) of God, by which we speak of His activity, are likewise uncreate, are God, and in fact are the means of creation and redemption. The Orthodox alone hold this Faith from the Apostles. By contrast, the Roman Catholic Church considers grace (the energies) to be created: created grace – which is a different and incompatible theology (doctrine of God), leading to a different an incompatible mysteriology, eschatology, and other doctrines.

Economy: The Economy (another word for it is Condescension) is really the Incarnation of Christ. When we speak of the Economy or the use of economia, we speak specifically of the Incarnation, for in that reality all God’s activity is recapitulated, from creation to redemption. God became man, and all history looks either forward to or back from that prime event. In this is our teleology (belief concerning the meaning of history) and likewise the mystery of our eschatology (doctrine of the future).

The God who created man, became created man, to save him, and to make possible the union of God and man, theosis (deification). God condescended to man, because man could not reach God. God overcame the barriers between us and salvation, closing the uncloseable distance of union. God is unknowable and so unobtainable, but God became what we are, that he might remain God, unknowable in essence, but that we might obtain union, through his uncreated Energies.

All activity of God toward man is of the Incarnation, is Economy, and has its character and attitude. All God’s activity toward man is for man’s salvation – for theosis. Nothing else. Even theology is merely a means to an end – this union with God. Theology is nothing in itself – and union is all. And so our genuine theology is the far reaches of the path of union, rather than any academic study, which is more a discussion of a path rather than a pursuit of it. As the fathers say, theology is prayer, and the true theologian is the one on the path of true prayer. Continue reading

February 23, 2008 Posted by | -- Theology, Western Rite Issues | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.

The fathers explain several ways in which the 9th commandment may be violated.

One is outright lying about someone. There are hosts of people who say in their minds that God will vindicate them, because they did it in the name of their cause, and their cause, presumably, is just. But we Orthodox have no such Inquisition; better the heavens fall and our Faith with it, than we presume to need injustice to preserve it. We do not accept that the ends justify the means, nor can any Christian.

Another is slander, which includes telling the truth about someone in a way that will damage his reputation. Most often this means reading off a litany of failings of the other person, such as “he’s divorced”, “his kids don’t speak to him much”, “he used to be a member of ___”, “he’s been associated with ___” (guilt by association is its own category of dishonesty that is beneath the honesty and integrity of any Christian). This includes campaigns of character assassination against dissidents and opponents. Summing up a person in light of his failings always gives a false impression – always false witness. And it further deceives, by tempting the hearer to a sense of superiority.

Then there’s casting suspicion on the other person. In other words, one brings false witness not only if they know the charges are untrue, but if they do not know for certain that the charges are true. This includes blaming someone for things on suspicion alone, claiming that event X has happened, and person Y is probably its cause, or using vague ambiguous and non-specific charges in a Kafkaesque manner.

It is difficult, quite honestly, to discuss significant and real differences about our topics without falling into mockery and belittling anyone. These things indeed would seem to be violations of the 9th commandment. The fathers warn us against even blaming anyone. We must indeed be able to discuss matters of import to the Faith, its future, and the salvation of the faithful. But in doing so, it is imperative that we not lose the Faith we are trying to protect, or lose our own salvation and lead the faithful into the pit with us. Therefore, this is a call to enthusiasts and critics alike to take the high road of discussing issues with some degree of charity, while refusing to target personalities for persecution, something both dishonorable and immoral. Continue reading

February 22, 2008 Posted by | -- 9th Commandment, Western Rite Issues | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Monks are the Front Line

MonksAn ancient Orthodox saying: Angels are the lights of monks, and monks are the lights of men. We refer to them as our earthly angels, for they guide us, help us, keep our path, and fight things we cannot handle. They are our superheroes. As for us, our prayers are monastic prayer – just look at them. Our fasts are the monastic fasts. “The Orthodox rules for lenten fasting are the monastic rules.” from this The ascetic life of the church and of each individual Christian is that of monks, taught to us by monks, exampled by monks, explained by the behavior of monks.

The first great ascetic, is of course Our Lord. He engaged in prolongued fasts. He stood during prayer. He kept the feasts. He battled the world and the enemy. He kept at bay the passions. He prayed lengthy prayers (“could you not pray with me one hour?”). He is the ultimate example of the ordinary ascetic life of all we ordinary ascetics who are not monks, but follow the path they have hollowed through the world and hallowed through the piety. All the activities of our life have but the one ascetical purpose: theosis. The very union with God that all monastics seek, and all laypeople must, if they would be saved. Everything that is not an ascetical means, so to speak, a means of theosis, is a weight.

For instance, take the contemporary attitudes toward theology, even among many Orthoox. This approach to theology as something learned through academics is relatively recent and has never been our tradition. Theology, in the teaching of the fathers, is a gift, like repentance is a gift, and theology is given only at the farthest levels of theosis, almost exclusively to monastics. We might discuss theology, but we cannot do theology, except as union with God. Ours is not a belief system but an ascetical journey. Continue reading

February 21, 2008 Posted by | -- Asceticism & Monasticism, Western Rite Issues | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Theosis as Evangelism

theosis - deification - divinizationSt. Seraphim of Sarov, who shone with unearthly light, turned away people, more and more as he moved into theosis. Eventually, he forbade women to come to his cell. Then he obtained permission to forbid all visitors, and God answered his prayers by tumbling giant trees across the entrances. He said, “Save thyself, and thousands around you shall be saved.” This is a firmly Orthodox method of evangelism and sense of mission work. To save yourself, which is the only true encouragement for others to save themselves. It is the same as if to say, let the Word take root in your heart, and become a shining icon of the Word, and others will find the Word because of it. How unlike burying a light under a bushel.

St. Seraphim sought theosis as his chief aim – sought to save himself – and others desired earnestly therefore to do what he was doing, and save themselves, and the Spirit gave them what they need, leading them into all things. Likewise with charity. What thing can the Orthodox do that is not to save himself, that is not for theosis. If there is any such thing, let us follow the fathers in utterly failing to do it.

The theosis of humans, their perfect union with God made possible by grace, will be realized completely in the future age after the resurrection of the dead. However, beginning in this life, this union which divinizes people can be made more and more real. Our corrupt and weakened nature ought to be transformed little by little and adapted to eternal life….Fasting, vigils, prayers, alms, and other good works which are done in the name of Christ are means which help us reach that goal which always remains the same: the reception of the Holy Spirit and the making it our own, i.e., theosis….In accordance with the Tradition and teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church, grace and human freedom are expressed concurrently and may not be understood one without the other. There are not two separate moments….Each human being realizes the work of salvation in his or her life with the help of divine grace, which must be freely received….Equally irreplaceable is our free will and the cooperation of each human being with divine grace in the whole task of theosis.— Archimandrite Christoforos Stravropoulos. Partakers of Divine Nature. [Source for image and quotation: JN1034 ]

The economy of the Incarnation of Our Lord teaches us that all things should be for our salvation – to pursue union with God in all things. That is its meaning, for God became man that man might become God. For this cause – union – we love the poor. Did not St. Paul say that he looked earnestly for his reward, namely union with God – to see God. When we see the poor, we see Christ, who said, “in as much…” and we desire union with him, and that is precisely why we reach out to the poor in whom we see Christ – for union. The union of man and god brings also the union of all men, and peace, and love, and compassion. This is the great truth of the Incarnation of Christ. That love is shed abroad in our hearts through union with the Lover.

We cannot love, say the fathers, but with Christ’s love. Only the mistakes are mine, the fathers teach us to say. Our Faith calls men to the height of deification of all creation, beginning with man, beginning with each of us personally. By Christ are all things divinized.

Glory to His Condescension!

February 20, 2008 Posted by | -- Evangelism, Western Rite Issues | , , , , | 1 Comment

Orthodox Evangelism

An old bishop used to teach to never discuss the faith with people who are merely curious; it does them a disservice and cheapens the faith, making it a matter of casual consideration. But rather if they show concerted interest b/c they are seeking the truth, then help them in that kind. The Holy Gospels are replete with examples of the Lord not giving exactly what is sought upon the first or even the second request. He did not always answer the question given, and sometimes would answer a completely different question. Go and preach to my brothers so they don’t come to this place, asked the rich man. They have the law and the prophets. Did St. Lazarus jump up and say, “an opportunity!” This is not our way.

Many have come to the Lord because one refused at first blush to answer. Either their question was impious, or merely curious, or was not an Orthodox question. Sometimes short answers or no answers are best then. But then, many come back and push farther, attempting to take the faith by force and by storm, and it is good to give them what they can bear, and stop when they become once again morbidly curious. Continue reading

February 19, 2008 Posted by | -- Evangelism, Western Rite Issues | , , , , | 2 Comments

We told you this would happen.

Well, we’ve warned before that if they keep messing with the cork in the dike, they’re liable to unleash the flood. Here it comes. A new site of criticism of some of what passes for Western Rite has been born at westernritefraud.freehostia.com

The Horde of the Uncanonical? Or just superheroes on a day's work?Apparently, in the witch hunt to expose all opponents, critics, or persistent questioners, that site’s new founder had been repeatedly accused of running this site and slandered accordingly, and decided finally to start one of his own.

Hey! Credit where credit is due, eh? This site is run by little green men. Or the government. We don’t know which government, but hey – it’s probably the one with an agency so secret that it doesn’t even know it’s an agency. It probably thinks its a postal service or something. Or it could be run by a cadre of conspirators out to destroy everything good and lovely (or at least duplicitous and easy). Or maybe every “uncanonical” and “vagante” group, bishop, and jurisdiction have teamed up in a kind of League of Justice to expose the darkness that is this city. It’s the Night of the Vagante.

Do you want it? It's a flood.Well, there’s no actual proof that the accused isn’t everywhere. He might be behind you right now, dear reader. He might be Santa Claus and have access to a really really fast sleigh and be responsible for all the presents in the world. Or….

Maybe the enthusiasts just equated suspicion with reality one too many times, and yup… there are actually more than a handful of people in the world that think a lot of the activities styled as “Western rite” are a bad idea, and we’re finding each other, and finding a voice. And now – they’ve gone and goaded us into making more web sites. If we could shake our collective heads over the internet, we would. You’ll just have to try and imagine it.

Hey… do you hear that? What’s that sound? It sounds like… rushing water….

February 19, 2008 Posted by | -- 9th Commandment, Western Rite Weirdness | , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Confession and Penance

Mystery of PenanceOne’s Confessor is sometimes a good example of the synergy of the mystery. An Orthodox Confessor first prays with us for forgiveness, asking forgiveness also for his own sins, and confessing to God the commission of sins “like unto these” and only then pronounces the absolution. The interaction is often a dialogue and a joint seeking of theosis:

A certain Confessor, when prescribing a penance (the way a doctor prescribes medicine) will sometimes ask, “Is what I’ve prescribed for you too burdensome?” or ‘Do you feel you can bear it?’ or “Have I placed something too heavy upon you?” This communicates both the humility of the man and the meaning of the Mystery (theosis). Not all Confessors will do this or do it all the time – whether you ever hear those words will depend on your need.

Likewise, if our Confessor says something to us in Confession that doesn’t sound like we need it, or that seems inapplicable, or says we have sinned in some way that we do not see, we are taught to listen to him, remember the words, try to see how we could be guilty or how this may apply, and trust that it is a Mystery, so that God, who can give us insight from a parable, can do so from words that do not immediately make sense to us.

February 18, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Issues | , , | 2 Comments

The Church is Indivisible

CommunionThe Church, is the One, Undivided, Spotless Lamb without Blemish, not a bone of which can be broken, nor anything lost, clad in a seamless garment, or else we are all damned, and there is no Faith and no God. All of our Fathers are in agreement on this and share in this Faith, without which none of us can be saved, and unless a man think as this, is anathema. For there is “One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”

We must be willing to die for this Confession. Continue reading

February 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite Issues | , , , , , , | 16 Comments

How We Cross Ourselves

Three fingers joined, for the Holy Trinity. Two aside, for the two natures of Christ.“We cross with our right hands from right to left… We hold our hands in a prescribed way: thumb and first two fingertips pressed together, last two fingers pressed down to the palm. Here as elsewhere, the Orthodox impulse is to make everything we do reinforce the Faith.” [antiochian.org]

This is presented as a reminder. Some Orthodox seem to have taken to crossing themselves in another fashion (we’re not wishing to embarrass them by pointing them out). Three fingers joined, for the Holy Trinity. Two aside, for the two natures of Christ. This is the proper way.

February 17, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Pieties, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

The Mystery of Ancestry

Mormon Geneology Books“There’s something very comforting by being able to worship in the same tradition as our ancestors. I can assure you that great cloud of witnesses, that communion of Orthodox Saints in the West, St. Patrick being one of them, have been praying for those of Irish, Scottish, English, French, and German heritage, to be able to pray, and chant, and worship as they did.” – Fr. Mark Wallace, St. Elijah Antiochian Church 1/17/08

Incongruously, the priest goes on to say there is neither East nor West (after having said that heritage is a source of heavenly intercession, and rites based on ancestry (“descent”) are the object of it). Will next we devote ourselves to following a person’s geneaology as spiritual DNA to determine which rite the Saints want them to use? One almost hears a quasi-Mormonism or crypto-Judaism.

February 17, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

WR Ecclesiology?

Branch Theory“We are called to help recover the Orthodoxy of the ancient West so that East and West can once again be united.” – Susan Wallace, Again Magazine, Winter 2007

One has to ask: Which is it? An ecclesiology that claims the Church is not already united, or one that looks to ecumenism to join what cannot be joined? In the ambiguity of such statments, either or both may be surmised.

February 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, Western Rite Questions | , , , | Leave a comment

So that’s the Difference!

“The clergymen said there are several differences in worship style between the Eastern and Western rites. … Some worship differences involve music, they said. In the Eastern Orthodox rite, only a cappella singing is allowed, while the Western rite allows the use of an organ.” [source 2/16/08]

February 17, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What to do when falsely accused.

accusationOne can either let the external judgment go, and let Christ correct the other as far as the judgment of one’s inner life. Or else, one can declare it a false accusation, in violation of the 9th commandment to accuse w/o cause. Remember: not only that accusation is false that knows the accused is innocent, but also that accusation is false that is not certain of his guilt.

But there is really no need to defend oneself when accused. Being accused, even wrongly, is good:

* Every accusation is an opportunity to dig into one’s own heart and life and accuse oneself as much as possible, and so judging oneself escape Judgment. Use it as a blessing. Say that you are guilty of all things, including any sins mentioned, except for heresy.
* It’s an opportunity for any others that defend you, when they feel the need, to their own credit and honor, and for the reward God will give them, if they do right.
* To someone convinced of your guilt, there may be little that will dissuade them since, if you are not guilty, the issue is not the fact of the matter, but the spirituality (prelest) of trusting in one’s own intuition and perception as the source of truth and of judgment. Had it not come out by falsely accusing you, it would have come out in another way, possibly more harmful to your accusoraccusor. This allows you to pray that their epistmeological operations (the activity of the soul by which it determines what is real) be converted as well, so your accusor not be not be harmed in a far greater way than by falsely accusing you. And so this priviledge is likewise a blessing.

You see how, as St. Nikolai Velimirovich says for us all, “Men can do me no evil as long as I bear no wound.” And that those who speak against us, drive us into the arms of Christ, more than friends do: from Prayers by the Lake. In all these things, accusors, even false accusors, do us a service and we thank them, bless them, and say ‘by your prayers save me.’

February 16, 2008 Posted by | -- 9th Commandment, Western Rite Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

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