Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Guest Article: Sacred Body Parts

Rightly DividingThis article is a comment contribution by its author.

— Monk Aidan Keller (c) 2008 St. John Cassian Press

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a popular thing in the Roman Catholic Church of today. Frequently we see depictions of the Heart, and in Roman Catholic prayer books there are prayers to it, and consecrations of persons and places to the Heart. It is being called “God’s gift for our age.” What is this gift?

Devotion to the Heart first appeared in the 1600s under the auspices of the Jesuit order, which sought to emphasise the humanity of Christ. This was part of their campaign to make Christianity less demanding, less “other,” more approachable. To forge their new “minimum Christianity,” Jesuit theologians, for example, tried to prove that for a sinner to be absolved, he need only fear hell, or regret the consequences of his sins. The so-called Jansenists, on the other hand, with others who upheld Catholic practice, countered Jesuit teaching, saying it is the love of God which must motivate penitents to come to confession. Whereas Jesuit teachers debated how often it is necessary to love God, one Jesuit divine of the times concluding it is enough if a person love God one time before he die, Orthodox Christianity concerns the fullness of life in Christ and is scarcely interested in what the absolute minimum to achieve salvation would be. The form taken by the newly forged devotion to Jesus’ humanity as popularised by the Jesuits also strayed outside the bounds of Orthodox doctrine. We know that there have been seven Oecumenical Councils of the Church, from whose dogmatic teaching there can be no appeal. The Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431), responding to the teachings of Nestorius, the heretic Patriarch of Constantinople, taught that the Word, the second Person of the Trinity, was made man–that He took a human body and a human soul–that He appeared in the world under the name “Jesus,” and under the title “Christ.” Thus there is only one Person of Jesus Christ, and this Person is to be worshipped with a single worship, that of latria, the kind of worship rendered to God almighty. Nestorius, however, attempted to separate the honour paid to Christ’s humanity from that offered His Divinity. Thus Nestorius had said in a Christmas sermon at Constantinople that it was demeaning for him to worship a babe!

St. Athanasius of Alexandria pointed out the wrongness of worshipping Christ’s body in a separate way, in these words: “We do not worship a created thing, but the Master of created things, the Word of God made flesh. Although the flesh itself, considered separately, is a part of created things, yet it has become the body of God. We do not worship this body after having separated it from the Word. Likewise, we do not separate the Word from the body when we wish to worship Him. But knowing that “the Word was made flesh,” we recognise the Word existing in the flesh as God.” (Ep. ad Adelph., par. 3) Continue reading

March 24, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite Pieties | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Latinizations Revisited

LatinizationHistoric Western Orthodoxy vs. Heterodox Innovation

This article is a followup to Melkites Define Latinizations from March 1st, and is actually a comment appended to that article by Monk Aidan.

Let’s see how these practices compare to the liturgical practice of Orthodox Christians of the West before the Schism.

1. Unmarried priesthood

They had that, though many exceptions were made, and even advocated by Saints, and that even up to the very eve of the Schism of Rome.

2. Statues

They had statues, some of them wonder-working, though flat Byzantine-style iconography was also very common and even more prevalent.

3. Altar rails

They didn’t have those. Altar rails were invented during the Counter-Reformation. Continue reading

March 16, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Pieties | , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Golden Calf

Golden Calf of ApostasyIt is good to see Ben Johnson reading our blog so frequently. He’s just run a nice set of articles: 1, 2, editorializing on our work (not the first time, either; (unfortunately, the canards and straw men make a real discussion impossible. It’s always easier to defeat an argument if you mis-characterize it in advance).

In a desperate bid for authority, Eastern saints are cited as supposedly utilizing post-Schism Western tools (sacred heart, stations, rosary) – which isn’t entirely accurate, since the relationship between their pious prayers and the Latin devotion as such is often being assumed as the same thing when it usually isn’t (and that based on things so delightfully flimsy as what books could be found in their libraries!). It’s the fallacy of lumping dissimilar things together by blurring distinctions and dismissing the discrepancies as ‘minor’ or insignificant. Likewise, the devotions themselves are lumped together, so that praying something similar to a rosary is portrayed as somehow licensing a sacred heart. (!?) The pursuit of Latin piety has become the abyss of distinctions.

Of course, even if these tricks were conceded, it presumes that contemporary Orthodox who utilize heterodox pieties have the level of maturity, piety, and discernment to correctly pursue such matters the way the Saints presumably did. Setting a precedent!In short, what to one or two Saints may be useful, may easily be an idol to ordinary folk, and should not be prescribed for general use: to the pure, all things are pure.

We don’t however see WR people calling their own to fast as these Saints fasted, or to pursue the other rigours that are so squarely universal in the same Saints’ lives – instead, we see ‘mining’ them for justifications of what they already intend to do. Indeed the approach is fundamentalist and semi-kabbalistic – it is presumed that all we need do is dig up one Saint who did x, and x is thereby given ‘authority’.

More often, however, the desire for these pursuits arises precisely out of the void created from neglect of the pieties that are squarely within our own tradition – something one does not find in the saints they cite as justification. Hunger for the calf comes from watering down the law.

The fashion of trying to glean the hidden treasures of Western mysticism, in the current context, shows not only a certain depravity of Orthodox experience (most notably among new converts), but likewise an adulterous affection for another religion among their more seasoned counterparts (most notable among ecumenists). Continue reading

March 15, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite Pieties | , , , , , | 13 Comments

Taboo Topics: The Material Fast?

If you refuse... you might offend them!A priest recently began Lent with a sermon on keeping the fast. It seems like people are afraid to talk about that, as though the prohibitions against fasting before men, or against judging the brother who eats, somehow forbid discussion of it, or stating what the Church requires. It is popular to read the sermons of Saints about the importance of keeping the fullness of the fast (forgiveness, fasting from the passions, alms for the poor (which come from the money saved by fasting), but quite unpopular to read saints who point out that one who does not fast does not really believe in God.

Of course in places in the world where most Orthodox are baptized as infants, at least until the Bolsheviks ruined it for them, everyone knew that everyone else was fasting, and there wasn’t this pretense that we’re protecting one another’s secrecy. Contributing to the problem in convert countries is the conviction that fasting is a personal impulse rather than a corporate activity. One supposedly decides for himself when to fast, from what to fast, and how to fast. How this cripples our ability to encourage one another to stand strong, to help those who would ask advice but feel silenced by this pseudo-secrecy. We all know what we’re supposed to be doing. We know, of course, that for some reasons of ailment or definitive weakness, a fasting rule may be modified by economia, under the care of a father confessor, but we know the general rules: no animal products, no olive oil, no alcohol.

It’s a serious failure of Orthodox mind and culture that whole sectors of Orthodox aren’t even bothering to go through the motions. When the Fast is mentioned, it’s a bit like mentioning chastity and the prohibition on premarital sex among a group of young, single lovers and romancers. It’s a quaint, old custom from the past, but not how we really live anymore. This is a culture swimming in a sea of passionate foods and sensuality. To envisage 40 days without animal products, for most people, is like proposing a month without television or video. It sounds absurd. You actually hear people ask, “what would we eat?” showing not only no planning or preparation, but a complete failure of education on the part of their hierarchs. Continue reading

March 14, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Pieties | , , , , | Leave a comment

Neoconservatism is Satanism

An initial foray into this area of concern:

Neoconservatism is a blight upon the religious mind. Every fundamental tenet of neoconservatism is contrary to the Holy Gospel.

When justifying one’s advocacy of political policies: it is popular to quote Holy Scripture and the fathers selectively, and to pick and choose bits of our history while neglecting the whole. But when one reads the ascetics, the desert fathers, the great monastics that pursue union with God, the meaning of all Christian thought, the ruses all fall away.

It is easy to find justification for anger, for instance, for “righteous wrath”, until we read St. John Cassian, who says there is no such thing as righteous anger.

Neoconservatism is a form of political gnosticism, and its adherents are like freemasons and practitioners of the occult in our midst. They hold out, as it were, a body of heretical private devotion, an inner religion of entirely profane character, indeed a passion for the world and its loves and hates, such that these things are household idols tucked in the saddle bags of the Faithful.

There is no meeting of Christ and Belial. These things are gods of Egypt, are golden calves, are the Molech to which we feed Christ in the form of the oppressed and slaughtered peoples of the world.

Neoconservatism is the tool of Satan for the coopting of Christian charity. As we set out upon the Great Fast, let us fast also from every passion, and from all things which alienate us from Christ and the union of all men, for which likewise we pray in every litany.

“Repent.” We must heed this injunction of Christ’s carefully, and radically amend our inner life and our concept of the world and our attitude towards people and every phenomenon in the creature world — not slay our enemies, but win them over with love.

We must remember that there is no absolute evil. Only unorignate Goodness is Absolute. And this Goodness commanded us, “Love your enemies…do good to them that hate you…Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”. Being slain for the sake of one’s brethren is the best possible weapon for delivering them from servitude to the traducer, the devil, and preparing their souls to accept God, Who desires the salvation of all. There is one in whom there is no light whatever, because God “lighteth every man that cometh into the world”. The commandment “Resist not evil” is the most fully effective form of struggle against evil.

When we resort to the same means adopted by those who do wrong, the dynamics of world-evil increase. Slaughter of the innocent in an invisible fashion often transfers the moral powers of mankind to the side of the good for which the innocent died.

It is not so when both sides evince the same bad tendency to dominate. Victory obtained by physical strength does not last forever. God being light, holy, and pure, with draws from evildoers, and they fall away from the one and only source of life and die. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord”…”Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

– Archimandrite Sophrony

March 10, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Let us quit ourselves like men.

“Let us, let us set out with joy upon the season of the Fast, and prepare ourselves for spiritual combat. Let us purify our souls and cleanse our flesh; And as we fast from food, let us abstain also from every passion. Rejoicing in the virtues of the Spirit, may we persevere with love, and so be counted worthy to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness, to behold His Holy Pascha.” – The Sticheron of the First Monday of Great Lent

March 10, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Western Rite Fasting Rules

Fish & Chips w. Beer“Fasting, as distinguished from abstinence… Fasting is absolutely forbidden on all Sundays, Solemnities, and Greater Feasts. Additionally, since both canonical rules and the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict prohibit fasting on Saturdays, only abstinence may be observed on Saturdays in fasting seasons.” [source]

The article is muddled and verbose, but it still amounts to no steak dinner on Sunday afternoons. 🙂

“Water does not break the fast.” [Ibid.]

Actually, the tradition is to fast even from water on Saturday nights until holy communion, is it not? [answers in the comments section]

“On days of abstinence, fish and dairy products are always permitted. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited, but wine and beer, where customary, are allowed. “ [Ibid.]

What? Regular boned fish? So one can go for fish, chips, and a beer in Lent? [answers in the comments section]

March 8, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Pieties | , , , | 15 Comments

I want to be Left Behind!

Taken Behind - Don't be taken. It really sucks.“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. – Matthew 24:37-41 (NASB)

“And as it was in the time of Noah, so will it also be in the time of the Son of Man. Men were eating and drinking, taking wives and giving wives, up to the very day on which Noah entered the Ark, and the Deluge came and destroyed them all. The same was true in the time of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building; but on the day that Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from the sky and destroyed them all. Exactly so will it be on the day that the veil is lifted from the Son of Man. On that day, if a man is on the roof and his property indoors, let him not go down to fetch it; and, in the same way, he who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Any man who makes it his object to keep his own life safe, will lose it; but whoever loses his life will preserve it. On that night, I tell you, there will be two men in one bed: one will be taken away and the other left behind. There will be two women turning the mill together: one will be taken away and the other left behind.” “Where, Master?” they inquired. “Where the dead body is,” He replied, “there also will the vultures flock together.” – Luke 17:26-37 (Weymouth)

St. John Chrysostom: “Then again He sets another sign, by all which things He makes it evident, that He is not ignorant of the day. And what is the sign? “Then shall two be in the field; one shall be taken, and one left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill, one shall be taken, and one left. Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. And all these things are both proofs that He knew, and calculated to turn them from their inquiry. So for this cause He spake also of the days of Noe, for this cause He said too, “Two shall be on the bed,” signifying this, that He should come upon them thus unexpectedly, when they were thus without thought, and “two women grinding at the mill,” which also of itself is not the employment of them that are taking thought.”

March 5, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Weirdness | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Phase 3 is Operational

In Phase One of the site, we built up our article database – the focus was on becoming the central resource for criticism of much that flies under the “Western Rite” aegis. Also in this phase, we encouraged discussion, solidified a protocol of discussion free from ad hominem, appeals to authority, etc. This phase has been successful.

In Phase Two, we began including a wider range of material on Orthodoxy. After all, the cure for problems within Orthodox communities is Orthodoxy itself. Of course this attracted far less discussion and interest (sometimes Orthodoxy isn’t very popular among the Orthodox), but it was worth it. It also enabled us to better relate concerns related to Western Rite initiatives to the Faith itself.

As we enter Phase Three of the site, we begin loosely structuring the concerns into areas of interest, discussion, and research. You may have noticed the new category structure on the right. These are now overlapping categories, where before there was only one category per article. This lets the user focus on a particular area of interest, discussion, etc. This may mean less frequent articles, but a more useful overall resource.

March 4, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Questions and Answers: AWRV

Q&AThis is a selection of questions and answers from “The Protomartyr” published in The Spotlight, a newsletter of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate in New Zealand:

QUESTION: Must the sermon follow the recessional hymn on normal Sundays?
ANSWER: . Not at all. The sermon is to be delivered after the Gospel, if the “Turner Missal” is used (old Tridentine style), or after the Creed if the Anglican style Liturgy is used. There is no provision for it being delivered at the end of The Liturgy.

QUESTION: Is the use of a confessional permitted for the sacrament of Penance?
ANSWER: If you like. Some of us prefer to hear confessions at the altar rail, or in front of an icon of Christ as is done in most Orthodox churches. We feel that it is important that our people make their confessions in our parish in the same way they would if they were attending any Orthodox church. In Orthodoxy, confessions do not follow the same legalistic pattern as is followed by Roman Catholics or Anglicans.

QUESTION: would our stautues have to be replaced with icons? Would we have to use icons at all?
ANSWER; No, You may keep your statues if you like, as long as they are not of post-schism “saints” or of events depicting things not accepted by Orthodoxy. (The “Immaculate Conception, for instance.)

QUESTION: Must blessed bread be distributed following Mass in a western-rite parish?
ANSWER: No! if you don’t want to. It is a very symbolic and useful custom, however, and something which may be distributed to all present, even if thcy are not orthodox. Sacraments, including Holy Communion, may not be administered to non-orthodox. (This, of course, does not include the initiatory sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation which bring one into the Orthodox Church.)

QUESTION: How would the architectural setting of the church be affected?
ANSWER: If your church is a traditional western catholic church, it would not be affected at all. The Mass may not be said facing the people, however, so if that is your practice and your church is set up for it, you might have to make an architectural change.

QUESTION: Why did you choose the Antiochian Archdiocese rather than one of the other jurisdictlons?
ANSWER: Because it is the best jurisdiction! In addition, it is the only cannonical Orthodox jurisdiction which has a western rite and actively supports and encourages it. There are many other reasons, including the fact that Orthodox churches from the Middle East are less influenced spiritually and pietistically by national or ethnic customs since they were never the “Established Religion” in the country of their original background. Many practices which non-Orthodox believe to be of the essence in Orthodoxy, and which they find somewhat hard to take, are actually nothing more than Russian ethnic
customs which have become important to those of Russian background and appear to those outside as “part of the Faith”. Such things are not as obvious or paramount in the Orthodox from the Middle East.

QUESTION: Is it permissable for women to serve on the vestry or board of trustees in an Orthodox parish?
ANSWER: But of course! We have four women on our vestry, and there are at least two women on the Archdiocesan Board of Trustees. We hear that some jurisdictions won’t allow women to serve in that capacity, but we like women! Women cou1d never even be considered for the priesthood or other ministerial offices anywhere in Orthodoxy, however, for that would be impossible for theological reasons.

QUESTION: Are western-rite parishes expected to “easternize” later on?
ANSWER: Positively not! As a matter of fact, they are not allowed to do so. Thc western-rite parishes operate under the Western-Rite Vicariate of our Archdiocese, and as such constitute a most important missionary outreach for Orthodoxy. We would certainly not have many W-R congregations if they were expected to “easternize”.

March 4, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Approaching the Rail

Pain BenitSt. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church (WRV): “However, you are invited and encouraged to come to the altar rail for a blessing from the priest and to receive a piece of the non-sacramental Pain Benit (Antidoron). This is a bread of fellowship which is not the Holy Sacrament, but a sign of our wish to include visitors in a sense of fellowship and hospitality in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

March 3, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

What will You Be doing This Lent?

March 2, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite Weirdness | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Melkites Define Latinizations

Of the Blue BlanketWe’re not suggesting this has anything to do with Orthodox Western Rite adherents, but this is certainly an interesting list. It’s from a Melkite site, defining what they see as Latin accretions. Among the Latinizations, they list:

1. Unmarried priesthood
2. Statues
3. Altar rails
4. Confessional boxes
5. Stations of the Cross hanging on walls
6. 3-D Crucifixes on walls
7. Western-style paintings
8. Suppression of liturgical hours
9. Suppression of Presanctified in favour of Divine Liturgy
10. Use of Western style Mass instead of the Liturgies of St. John Crystsostom or St. Basil
11. Introduction of Western prayers: the Rosary, etc.
12. Introduction of Western music and songs
13. Use of musical instruments
14. Emphasizing the words of Institution and silencing the Epiklesis prayers
15. Truncation of prayers, esp. psalms in liturgies
16. Reduction of prostrations and reverences
17. Use of Genuflections, Kneeling
18. Combining Divine Liturgy with other services: marriage, funeral
19. Not distributing the antidoron
20. Elimination of using hot water during Consecration
21. Not having a curtain behind the Royal Doors
23. First Communion and Chrismation separated from Baptism

March 1, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Pieties, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Idol Under the Bed

Tongues in the CEC“And the best of intentions may have damaging results if misapplied to the wrong ends, as exchanging the spiritual state for a state of psychotic hysteria is essentially an act of dissipation merely disguised by a religious false front.” – ALEXANDER Turner, first vicar of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate

Fr. Thomas Hopko recently answered a question on the Illumined Heart podcast about “the Charismatic sign gifts” like “speaking in tongues”, by which is meant glossalia, “words of prophesy” (divination), etc. Fr. Thomas, in the course of this conversation, referred to a conversation in mid-May with a recent convert from the Charismatic Episcopal Church, who is now the priest and pastor of a new Antiochian Western Rite mission. In the conversation, he asked the new priest “point blank” if he “prays in tongues”. The priest indicated that “I have and I still do, privately for my own edification, but I never do it publicly anymore.”

Folks, the retention of these practices, even in private devotions, is a problem with mass conversions and ordination of new converts not steeped in the Orthodox mind – indeed still steeped in their own practices (even if they’ve simply gone underground). This creates a parachurch culture of the “enlightened” or “spirit filled” who share with each other “words of prophesy” (presuming to give a message from God) and pray in tongues (presumably the speech of God), and even go so far as to attribute these occult practices (for that’s what they are) to Orthodox Fathers, who clearly are not referring to the same things at all.

All of the fathers teach that the kind of clairvoyance attributed to some startzi comes from a long life of Holy Orthodoxy, lived in continual holiness, through the way of the desert and the monastics. There are two kinds of illumination:

1. The kind that comes through the arduous, difficult path of theosis and is given as a gift (charismata) to the most advanced among the saints. This may be called Illumination.

2. The prelest that tempts the immature believer, deluding him, and enticing him into the passions and the arms of the Enemy. Indeed the enemy needn’t steer anyone to brothels who only had decided he is worthy of visions, who surrenders his senses to involuntary utterance and abuse of the tongue, and who presumes to speak prophesy of his own accord. This properly is called Illuminism, which is but the deadly counterfeit.

Retention of these heterodox practices is indication of a sickness at the heart of the catechetical and conversion process. It’s indicative of the belief that one’s own idol has a place under the bed in Israel. Indeed, this is like a wife married from among the Canaanites, who brought with her the family idols and hid them under the tent, and the Lord judged Israel because they were concealed there.

It is not a matter of ‘giving up’ practices long held, but a question of whether or not conversion, and indeed ordination, involves an understanding and attitude that does not allow them to continue – most especially not in private where, concealed, they are not within the scope of the Church’s ability to say Amen, interpret, understand, or reject. As such, it cannot be tested, and both the convert and his Faith are in danger.

The answer that it is merely switched to private devotion misses the point that: when a leader or a group of people indicate to others that they practice such a thing, it lends it legitimacy. When this is not merely the saying of the Western offices, but is a practice actually forbidden in scripture but interpreted by heterodox according to their own private interpretation as being prescribed, this is more serious, and indicates the need to turn from the practices rightly cast away to those of the Orthodox, as converts have from time immemorial. The Witches burned their books. The Jews laid down their persecution. The Charismatics, likewise, to be within the mind of the Church, must not attempt to augment it with their practices which are quite clearly antagonistic to Orthodox piety and a threat to their own salvation. Rather, they must become Orthodox – not Orthodox “charismatics”. Continue reading

March 1, 2008 Posted by | -- Charismaticism, Western Rite Pieties | , , , , , , , | 11 Comments


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