Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

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).

Articles like Ben Johnson’s recent post (essentially identical to the posts of orthomark on this blog) need recourse to artficially contrived conflicts among the Saints where in fact none exist (and of course must cite “scholarly” articles, for that is where such conflicts are made and found). Rather, there is a harmony among the way of Saints, and the conflict is between contemporary pop-Orthodoxy and the faith shared by the Saints; the conflict between the latter is in the minds of the former. There, and in the minds of those overly committed to “scholarship” where it differs (of its own accord) with tradition. The latest headlines from the Right!

It is so sad to see Orthodox people who despise so much of their own tradition, titillated by the “deep things” of other religions, the way a fundamentalist goes whoring (an ugly word, but fitting) after the occult or prophetic utterance. Just as fundies go to prophesy conferences, or seminars on Satanism, we dig around in the forbidden religion, partly out of the inclination (passion) to adultery – literally and figuratively desiring the strange, and partly because that’s really the only place to find justification for some of the things going on in the name of “Western Rite”.

Yes, a very few Saints touched such things (the exceptions who prove the rule – showing the rule in such stark relief, in other words, because there is recourse to so few). First, fulfill the law (as they did), then perhaps you can have a golden calf without sin. First, learn the way of their desert, then all you touch might be pure, as the Apostle says. Learn through experience the fullness of Orthodox piety, shunning nothing as merely “Byzantine”, and you might gain the discernment to speak of and judge rightly the other things, if there are any other useful things and if, after that, they’re even needed.

At least the nonsense “tracing” the “ancient” penumbra of these heterodox pieties (Stations of the Cross, Rosary, Sacred Heart) has cracked under the weakness of the argument and yielded the admission that these are indeed the pieties of the post-schism West. But even the citation of 1054 as the date of that Schism shows just which religious historiography is in use – for that is merely the date that the agent of the heresiarch “excommunicated” the Orthodox who had already ceased to venerate him in the dyptichs 40 years earlier. Elevating that as the date of Schism indicates precisely a conviction of papal supremacy. That might be overlooked as simply Western historiographical parlance, however erroneous, were it not for (in this case) the accompanying illicit love of Rome and her religion and the despising of those who have suffered for Holy Orthodoxy (slanderously and foolishly labelling them all somehow “Byzantine” – misrepresenting them to that effect, in fact).

Indeed, to have to try so hard to fabricate a “Western Orthodoxy” out of heterodox religion that developed after the Schism shows just how bankrupt the efforts of such persons in the WRV actually are. Just wow!

We are happy that Ben is reading St. Ephraim. That’s good. Perhaps he will find his Oration on the Coming of the Lord, and change his mind on the apocalypse. The Passion of Christ, of course, is something we all meditate on each Friday. What the Church warns against is “the stimulation of the imagination toward this external impression. And if the imagination (is) stimulated, then sensuality also had to be affected.” (M.V. Lodyzhensky).

Again, the attempt to justify heterodoxy by the appeal to straw men (conflating veneration of the Passion with imaginitive pursuit of it) is anti-rational, besides being dishonest.

It is popular for academics, of course, to appeal to “study of Western mysticism” as though everyone should be a ‘little academic’ rather than a little Christ, but it’s neither honest nor wise to place such quotations in the context of ordinary experience, least of all for new converts or those struggling with the sin of apostasy or spiritual adultery. That’s like recommending vodka to a teenager or an alcoholic.

Again, one may justify this with passages from Saints, just as one may prove nearly anything from scripture, deprived of the context of the consensus patrum (which Ben Johnson labels “Byzantine” – both presuming to divide the saints by ethnicity on the one hand, and not realizing he’s just admitted that the wealth of Orthodoxy is precisely in its Byzantine heritage on the other, since after all we are a historical people, not ahistorical heterodox theoreticians).

And let us realize, that this debate is precisely a historical one, because it is a religious one, and our opponents appeal to history where it suits, while dismissing it as “ethnic” and “culture” where it does not serve their ends. Theirs is the selective use of history that generates a new people, appealing to an old destiny, and a manifest one (to “restore” to us that which we never lost). We have seen this before in history, in countless climes, not only in the name of the “West” and being “Western”, and it has always been devastating and harmful.

But justifying a Western heterodox post-schism practice by appeal to the prayer of a Syrian saint on the one hand, a rejection of the advice and teaching of a Russian saint on the other (St. Ignatius), and then selective appeal to a minority (2) among Russian saints, while dismissing the concerns of others (the lion’s share) of the same Church as “Byzantinism” is so blatantly dishonest and ridiculous, that we have only to so summarize the form of that argument to show the reduction to the absurd. Ben has already reduced it for us; we simply repeat the format.

Finally, it is superficially lovely to wax pious about putting away disruptions during Lent, while engaged in a wholesale transformation of our religion – gutting the heart out of the Church and calling it sacred, attempting to make it Catholic without being One or Holy, but lamenting any repudiation of that as a violation of the Fast. Fast first from the attempt to mutilate the body of Christ, and we will gladly fast from calling it to account. Do not persecute Him, and we will not call attention to it. Then it will be a true fast, one of reconciliation of brothers; after all, we did not begin to alter the Faith, but have held it in hope of it being what is shared by all.

“Pull us away from the hand of the adversary, and forgive our sins and deaden in us fleshy imagination.” – the Ninth Hour


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


  1. Well, I certainly don’t believe these theological topics are a matter of private interpretation. If I’ve given the impression that the Church “embraces all views,” I’m very sorry. I would think it was clear from my speech, that the Church’s theology is very precise – very subtle and sometimes complex, but precise.

    My statements on the Filioque were designed to follow the “first track” of apologetics that you mention you prefer: i.e., clarity of articulation. I’m not trying to prove that the Orthodox are right as opposed to the heterodox, I’m trying to indicate that the Orthodox theology on the Spirit’s procession is very clear, but that it is commonly misrepresented (especially nowadays) for a variety of reasons.

    Regarding Marriage as a Mystery, let me reiterate that I was not saying it was an arguable topic. Either the Church teaches it is a Mystery, or not. Since, however, the “Seven Sacrament” idea is a product of later, Roman Catholic theology – and since Marriage is the only one of these seven Mysteries that the Orthodox have separated from the Eucharist (and, even when the Eucharist was taken at a marriage, the Eastern Church used pre-sanctified Gifts rather than celebrate a Liturgy), I am not sure if we have the same view of marriage as Roman Catholicism. We would certainly say marriage is sacramental, since everything the Church does is sacramental in a sense. I don’t know if we elevate marriage to “Seven Sacrament” status, since that’s not really an Orthodox concept. The Fathers don’t speak in such terms.

    But, I confessed my ignorance on the topic. As a monk, I obviously haven’t much experience with our Church’s teaching on the matter. If I’m wrong, I fully submit to our doctrine on the matter. I certainly wouldn’t hold to my private understanding if it was at variance with the Church’s.

    I understand your point about not discussing certain things at great length here. If that’s how you feel, I think that’s fine. But if certain topics (like politics and the Church’s involvement in it, and attacking the Western Rite on their perceived errours in that regard) are going to lead us into such theological quagmires, perhaps it is better to stick to practical, ground-level matters regarding the Western Rite. Either the forum is for deep discussion of the relevant issues (no matter how long it takes), or it is for light and passing thoughts on topical matters. Only one of these operational methods will meet the stated goal, ultimately, of provoking deep thought about the Western Rite.

    Comment by fatheraugustine | April 7, 2008 | Reply

  2. In the meantime, let me say again, I think it can be harmful to have lengthy discussions in this forum about certain topics. I’ve refused to discuss Ben Lomond in any detail here. I think your comments about theology and war present a significant problem, because while I’m loathe to inhibit your free expression, I am not free. There’s a point where you stop feeding the lion, because it just grows and, in this case, the conversation becomes more voluminous. While I would let a pro-abortion person express their claims that this is somehow Orthodox here, I would refuse to debate them at length here. Not because I can’t; unfettered, I am more formidable in debate; but because doing so encourages their lengthy dissertations on topics that are likely to mislead those who think it’s actually a question of equally acceptable alternatives, a matter for private opinion, that somehow the Church embraces all views, and we should feel free to develop our personal ‘takes’ on such things. That message is perhaps the most harmful of all, and is the bane of so many blogs, whether they realize it or not. I venture to say the WR enthusiast blogs suffer this routinely, without realizing what they’ve done to their faith.

    There are two tracks to apologetics. One simply clarifies what the Church believes, has said, has always believed and said. The goal is simply clarity of articulation. I tend to favor that camp, though I am sometimes lured to the other. The other is trying to prove that the Orthodox are correct. We see both tendencies in Orthodox history, but I’d argue the former swallows up the latter with time. There’s a point where St. Paul turns from the Jews to the Gentiles. There’s a point where the early apologists have already reasoned w. the pagans, and when we determine that they’re not trying to mutually come to the truth with us, to really reconsider one’s thinking, but are simply trying to justify one’s position, to win, then we stop doing the one type of apologia and move to the other – reiteration and finally silence, when reiteration has been sufficient. The responses of the Eastern Patriarchs to the Non-Jurors evince this sort of movement.

    The person I am consulting (I didn’t say ‘friend’, tho) is intimately familiar with St. Maximus’ works in the original language; I will see what he thinks. But ultimately, I still won’t really debate the issue. Same with Holy Matrimony being a Mystery. These are not topics for the development of a myriad of personal views. There is what the Church teaches, and then there is the movement toward constructing one’s own Faith out of modules of personal belief. The latter impulse is ultimately Protestant, and is part and parcel of the problems you rightly identify plaguing modern Orthodoxy of any rite, finding poignant expression in “Western Rite” initiatives, and ultimately afflicting our discussion.

    Comment by tuD | April 4, 2008 | Reply

  3. “I’m an ecumenist who thinks Rome is ‘A-O.K.!'”

    In deleting a large chunk of my post that I thought would merely be wordy and obtuse, I see that I accidentally deleted the first half of this phrase:

    “That doesn’t mean I’m an ecumenist…”



    Comment by fatheraugustine | April 3, 2008 | Reply

  4. Well, finally we agree! Yes, I understand your concern about the “Western Rite” as a sociological issue broader than the mere use of rite. That’s precisely why I like this forum: it points out the obvious (but seemingly overlooked fact) that Western culture as it now stands is not merely a “different piety” that can be Orthodox as long as it confesses the “right dogmata.” There is a real problem with bringing Western churches in en masse, that is difficult to avoid.

    Purely for the sake of accuracy, we should explicitly state that insofar as we are concerned with this matter, it is not a problem restricted to the “Western Rite,” so our mission is not “personal” in that sense. Many Protestant parishes are received even into the Eastern Rite in such a way – the Evangelical Orthodox being a famous example. There is just as much danger here, and indeed I have run into startingly Protestant mentalities within former EO Churches. I was told by one EO turned Orthodox, that this was because they were truly “American” Orthodox, free from the ethnic trappings of the other Churches. They were Orthodox in a way that “Americans can accept and relate to [sic].” Pacing up and down the aisle, preaching like a baptist minister, with a microphone – that’s “true American Orthodoxy?” Hmmm…

    If you can believe it, the ROCOR parish I approached was ready to receive me and six of my friends (which amounted to about a quarter of the total population of the parish) with only two weeks’ worth of instruction. This is a widespread and serious problem.

    Please do ask your friend about St. Maximus – but know that many Eastern Orthodox have avoided dealing with this complex issue not out of laziness or narrowness, but out of a real failure to appreciate all the fine points. Just for reference, here are some of St. Maximus’ thoughts on the Latin Filioque and its relation to the Essence:

    “For the procession they (the Romans) brought the witness of the Latin Fathers, as well, of course, as that of St. Cyril of Alexandria in his sacred study on the Gospel of St. John. On this basis they showed that they themselves do not make the Son cause (aitia) of the Spirit. They know, indeed, that the Father is the sole cause of the Son and of the Spirit, of one by generation and of the other by procession – but they explained that the latter comes (proienai) through the Son, and they showed in this way the unity and the immutability of the essence” Letter to Marin of Cyprus

    And the very clearest text, illustrating that Maximus is speaking of the eternal origins of the Spirit:

    “By nature the Holy Spirit, according to Essence (kat’ousian), takes Essentially (ousiodos) His procession (ekporevomenon) from the Father through the Begotten Son.”

    Obviously, the “Essential origin of His Procession according to the Essence” is not the “Temporal Procession.” So, I’m not a crazy heretic, I swear! St. Basil speaks of the Spirit’s eternal origins as involving the Son, as well.

    “Through the Son (dia tou Uiou), who is one, He (the Spirit) is joined to the Father, who is one, and by Himself completes the blessed Trinity” – Treatise on the Holy Spirit, XVIII

    And hence St. Augustine says (in a metaphor which must be understood, as the fathers say, “in a God-befitting manner”) that the Spirit is a type of “bond of charity” between the Father and the Son, manifesting the unity of the Essence by His Essential origins in the Father and Son, albeit His Hypostasis proceeds from the Father alone, thus preserving the Father’s monarchy while nevertheless also manifesting the unity of the simple Essence of the Blessed Trinity. The Hypostasis (Person) manifesting the Essence is almost always treated as of prime importance in Orthodox theology (even when speaking of human beings) – though the importance between the two cannot be very sharply distinguished, depending as they do each upon the other. Hence the “principal” (essence-manifesting Hypostasis) and “secondary” (essential) procession in St. Augustine’s theology.

    The problem lied in the fact that the Greek word for procession is a very specific word, and St. Photios (along with the vast majority of Greek theologians and faithful) understood the Creed’s statement on the Spirit’s procession to refer to the Origin of the Spirit’s essence-manifesting Hypostasis (since this is of prime importance), just as the Creed’s statements on Christ’s birth refer to the origin of His hypostasis. It was understandable and correct, then, for St. Photios to oppose such a doctrine.

    The Latin Church, however, understood the phrase more broadly, as referring to the origin of the Spirit in general, not making much distinction between the “essential” procession and the “enhypostatic” procession that manifests the essence.

    St. Maximus sums up with a very good point: “[Latins] cannot reproduce their idea in a language and in words that are foreign to them as they can in their mother-tongue, just as [Greeks] too cannot do.” (also from his letter to Marin).

    The problem has a lot to do with the misunderstanding between Latins and Greeks (using different languages and frameworks for understanding the formulae regarding the Spirit’s procession). I studied the matter long and hard, when I realized that the “Filioque” – even outside time – was a unanimous teaching of all the Latin Fathers. Either the whole Latin Church was just plum wrong from the beginning – which, considering the tremendous respect shown to the Pope and his See as a bulwark of Orthodoxy, seemed unlikely – or there had been a breakdown in understanding between the two Churches regarding what was meant by each other’s theology.

    I’m an ecumenist who thinks Rome is “A-O.K.!” There is no defending their innovations like the Infallability and the Immaculate Deception. But on this one issue, the matter is more complicated than most Eastern Orthodox (or Roman Catholics) understand. Still, Fathers like Photios were correct to react as they did – considering what they thought the Latins meant, it would have been mortal sin to stand idly by.

    I hope my recent posts have demonstrated I’m not as opposed to you as you might have thought. I see now what the “heart” of your message against war was, and I think we are finally agreed. And hopefully, this discussion of the Holy Spirit has dispelled concerns about me being an heretic! The Church has certainly anathematized an enhypostatic Filioque – and I subscribe to this wholeheartedly. But, speaking of the Essential transmission manifested by the Hypostasis, the Church has never come down with an heavy hand one way or another (partly because the matter is such a subtle mystery). Nevertheless, the opinion I have set forth is certainly found in many Fathers, and is never gainsayed by any of them. That makes it at the very least, an extremely dependable theologoumenon – if not a positive teaching of the Tradition – to be held in the fear of God and extreme humility.

    You thanked me for putting up with you. I do not view it that way at all. I’m a guest here, and these kinds of discussions are good for all involved, as it forces us to think about things very clearly. Often, it also gives us the opportunity to be humble, as we see how often we can all behave like fools. Rather than thanking me for “enduring” you, I thank you for not kicking me out!


    Comment by fatheraugustine | April 3, 2008 | Reply

  5. And let’s not forget the allure of “private revelations.” Is this a good way of upping the numbers?

    Comment by publican123 | April 3, 2008 | Reply

  6. I will consult a theologian who has more expertise than I do on St. Maximus and the filioque, and see if I can get some feedback.

    In the meantime, thank you for staying, and putting up with my unworthiness.

    I do mean the title “Neoconservatism is Satanism” to be provocative, but it’s not aimed at the Western Rite. I think it belongs here because the concerns with this particular movement as it appears in and impacts Holy Orthodoxy overlap some concerns with what is often called Western Rite. In other words, if some of what goes on under the moniker of “Western Rite” actually represents the hegemony of the dominant culture over the Faith, and the transformation of Faith into religion (or what some call religiosity – which is actually a transposition of culture and true religion), well certainly some of that kind of thing is present with the wedding of neoconservatism and Orthodoxy or dispensationalism and Orthodoxy.

    I’ve told people before, the concern over “western rite” is not a problem with things being western or a different rite, but is specifically a sociological issue and challenge. I love the rite of St. Gregory. But part of the problem is when we talk of “western rite” we aren’t usually really talking about a piece of paper – we’re talking about a whole culture and baggage and set of assumptions and ideas – and those are where the debate lies.

    Comment by tuD | April 2, 2008 | Reply

  7. Well, no, I don’t want a victory where you simply concede to me because you think I’m trying to “win.” That would greatly sadden me.

    I also ask forgiveness for my failings – I probably shouldn’t be so bold in asking you to think and respond differently to people’s posts. I’m merely trying to point out, that I often feel like you are so concerned with logically deconstructing arguments, that you don’t really listen to what the person is saying (and often, you read your own assumptions about the kind of poor logic people usually use into statements where it is not actually present). It just puts me off, sometimes, and makes me feel like you’re not interested in understanding what I have to say, but in approaching me as an adversary or as a person to be “debated” rather than a person with whom to have a conversation. Debate can be conversation, but you catch my drift.

    In regards to the Filioque, I freely confess that I do not understand the mystery, and that I submit to the judgment of the Church on the matter. I only pointed out that many Fathers, East and West, use formulae and language which speaks of a procession of the Spirit from the Son in a way that cannot be dealing with the Economical procession in time. St.Maximus calls this procession “according to the Essence,” and I think if you read his statements on the matter, you will understand that he was not somehow advocating a layering of the Divine Essence, which we know is Simple – and which St. Maximus knew better than both of us. I think it is more likely that whatever this “ekporeusis kat’ousian” is, we are mistaken if we begin to speak of it as though it altered the simplicity of the Divine Essence. Neither of us have noetic knowledge on this procession, and I don’t think either of us understands the matter well enough to speak for or against it. All we can say is that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone according to His Hypostasis, and that He is sent into the world by the Father and the Son. Past that, even the Fathers have said there is a mystery too difficult to put into words.

    Also, I think it is important to distinguish between heresy and error. Either of us may say something wrong, but hopefully we are not heretics. So long as we confess our ignorance and remain loyal to the Church’s authority, we are merely wrong.

    My point in speaking of the Filioque was not to begin a debate on Trinitarian theology (which none of us are qualified to perform), but to indicate that in matters of such great mystery, we should be slow to think that we understand the matter completely and can “peg” the Orthodox West with a heresy in that regard – let alone fall into that trap, whereby hip and “with-it” Orthodox modernists boil every problem of the Western Church down to the Filioque. This reveals much more about their own theological fixations than anything else. It certainly is rash to say that St. Augustine’s De Trinitate is rife with heresy. The Church never condemned him, and I can think of five other fathers (three of them Greek) that we are condemning alongside him. We should be cautious.

    And, I have engaged you on the “big topics” of theology, because Orthodoxy is an aggregate whole. If you want to attack the Western Rite via the maligning of Neo-Conservatism (which hardly seems relevant to the Western Rite proper, even if some people in the WR would ally themselves with that movement – I know ER people who do, as well) – well, if you want to discuss those issues on that forum, and want to say things like “Neo-Conservatism is Satanism” (an incredibly incendiary and provocative title), I don’t know how you were expecting to avoid large questions about the Church, politics, and the inevitable complexity of sinfulness in worldly life.

    If I have played “Devil’s Advocate,” it is because I appreciate this forum and its goals – that of getting WR people to think about the Western Rite, proper. I would be loathe to see the only site attempting to offer constructive criticism become ineffective through presenting of only one viewpoing. You yourself expressed interest in being challenged and having real discussions with a goal of coming to the truth. As you pointed out in another post, the Iconoclast controversy strengthened the Eastern Church’s theology of icons. I challenge some assertions made, for the same reason you challenge the Western Rite: to get at the facts, to be balanced, to see the Truth prevail. And if I am sometimes concerned with the audience of the blog rather than just with you and me, well, that’s why.

    Really, the purpose of a blog offering public criticism on a topic, is to draw an audience interested in reading and possibly participating in such cricism. Since these aren’t private e-mails, we aren’t the only two people involved. I think that makes a concern for the audience valid.


    Comment by fatheraugustine | April 2, 2008 | Reply

  8. Father,

    I have read the first 2/3 of your above post. Frankly, I fear I can no longer debate this with you, because I will not argue with a monk who talks of the Holy Spirit’s essence proceeding in eternity (even and especially if you claim it does so in a way you can’t understand) – I fear stepping into a discussion with you about theology in which I must oppose you utterly, renounce your words as more than merely disturbing. But also because frankly, you seem to be intent on making what I consider the most provocative kinds of statements in regard to a subject even more sensitive than that of war, murder, killing. If you want to do so about the Western Rite, I’ll discuss that with you; but about theology (specifically the doctrine of who God is apart from creation), I will not be able to say much, without feeling I’m responding to provocation.

    For the record, and with sadness, because I feel forced to do so, I will say this: I do not believe in your filioque, Orthodox or otherwise, or any god it describes. Whatever it is, I do not worship it or know it, and cannot go there with you, and refuse to speculate where theology is concerned. I reject, deny, and turn away from the notion that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son in eternity, either as hypostasis or certainly as essence, for He is one simple essence of the Father.

    I’m sorry, but I cannot proceed in a theological discussion; I can only reject the filioque, and say that the day it becomes “Orthodox” doctrine, I cease to be Orthodox on that day.

    On your many other comments having to do with the failings of my character and challenges to my logic, I would sooner concede them all (of the character failings I have no doubt), than step one iota beyond the Holy Councils in regard to theology.

    You are certainly right that I had thought the purpose of your post was different than it was: I had thought we are trying to come to the truth together, and that any discussion was for our benefit and not for our public. So naturally, when you disagree, I’ve thought it was for your sake, or my sake, and not to save everyone else – to either persuade me or be persuaded yourself – about the *facts*. Now I see you’re still wanting to change the *method* of my thinking and I feel a little like someone who has been invited to dinner to talk and discovered I’m supposed to convert to something. But I haven’t asked for that kind of help, have I? I don’t remember: I thought you were helping by making our articles more precise, but now it seems you’ve taken up a ministry of playing devil’s advocate and are trying to bring about a modification that goes beyond helping our work remain merely adequately accurate.

    I would like to start over with you. I am obviously at fault in this and have caused a deep misunderstanding and miscommunication between us. I value your contributions, though I have valued them less of late, when they seemed to have changed in their goals, and I think it’s because I have failed – I’ve communicated something I didn’t mean to, miscommunicated my own goals and interests, trod on something that set off this particular type of dialogue, and I’m not quite sure where I went wrong with it. But I ask that we start over.

    I plan to keep syllogistic logic as a component part of my epistemology, and I’m not looking to be cured. While I can defend its use, I don’t think this is the forum for it; and anything less than the kind of challenge requiring a grand defense would be fruitless; I have lived this long by its aid.

    I think perhaps it’s best you and I don’t debate certain topics – at least not here – the ones that are total in character – like the identity of God or the significance of a life. When it concerns theology, I don’t think your opinion matters – or mine. Or anyone else’s here. I think our speculations can only kill God, so to speak, but cannot unite man and God. I think there is only harm in it. I’ll debate dates for the Schism with you, if you like, but when it seems to become a discussion of novelties of thought or esoterica in regard to theology, your concern for the wellbeing of our audience seems threatened, and it’s certainly not doing me any good. I would liken it to discussing improvised munitions. It’s just not a good idea in a public forum, and it might make some people uncomfortable even in private, especially if they were pacifists. In any case, I won’t act to prevent you from commenting on them; I’m just offering the courtesy of letting you know I may not be able to respond on certain topics.

    The discussion of war under the other topic is similar, if less significant, in that we’re talking about totalities. With theology, we can, effectively, anhilate God with our opinions. In the discussion on war, just war, murder, killing, the effect of our words on a young girl burned by napalm, orphaned and running from an obliterated village, is not the same as talking about whether stations of the cross ought to be used or it’s ok to recycle Anglican prayer books. We’re dealing with totalities, and sometimes if we can’t agree, it’s better not to debate those. I’d rather be wrong than keep provoking you to write lengthy clarifications on when it’s ok to kill people.

    You win. I can’t yield the ground, my logic, or the points you made, but if declaring you the winner of the debate will suffice and saying that I’m an insufferable contrarian who doesn’t think in an Orthodox manner or argue fairly, I’ll yield that. Just, let’s leave off this discussing the life and death of God and our brethren. It’s like being boiled in salt. I will try not to be provocative to you in those areas. We still plan to roast the neoconservative movement, for instance, but we can try to work around the notions that are troubling you in that discussion. And in this area, it was never my intent to let theology become an exploratory topic at all, and I can certainly guard against that. Look at it as my unworthiness: I am not qualified to think very much about theology: true theology is an ascetic feat given to the aged among the wise among the ascetics. I am not one of them, so I can’t possibly be of any help or good there. Consider me simple: I hold to theology that I’ve received, and I run away from anything new in theology. And for me, phrases like Orthodox filioque are like Orthodox porn; they just don’t have any positive effect on my simple thinking.

    Father, also I beg your forgiveness. For these and all wrongs on my part, and for my coarseness. I have tried to revise the above paragraphs a bit, but I’m at the end of a very long day, and worn out, and know that the way I’ve communicated is rough. I don’t know if I can get any time soon that won’t be somewhat exhausted. Ordinarily, I would have waited, but I feel like we’re debating abortion. I don’t know how to do that in a detached way. When I look to the screen on my right, there’s a photo of two children in another country, and I think of the suffering my people have inflicted on them, and I cannot accept it. Nothing could persuade me, because there’s no higher value possible to man than man. I don’t care what their parents have done. Those two girls did nothing to us. They are the argument. I don’t know how to communicate the fact that I’m no good, when it comes to things of this kind, at detaching my logic from the rest of me and arguing in a clinical way. I would fight to defend these girls, so yes, I can see the need to fight. I would consider myself, afterward, to have sinned and done nothing right, but to have done what was needed, only. But you want me to argue these things kindly, and you’re right, and I don’t blame you, but I don’t want to argue them at all; because the assertions I’m defending against feel like the man breaking down the door to get at them.

    Comment by tuD | April 2, 2008 | Reply

  9. This is what I mean about the desire to logically deconstruct arguments, rather than take the time to understand them. The mentality is evocative of the worst characteristics of “Western” attitudes, and we should strive to move past it. Your reply to my comment seems very flavored with the “Western” attitude of syllogistic reasoning, rather than a willingness to understand what I’m saying as an aggregate whole. And often, you see logical flaws in other peoples’ comments, because you yourself are reading things into their message that are not there.

    For instance: I didn’t cite two “authorities” as dogmatic sources of theology. Neither did I then dispute them. You are placing my comments into a black/white context and making all sorts of assumptions about my assumptions.

    I cited two saintly men with the intention, not of “proving” my point with “authorities,” but of encouraging humility in our own opinions and dates, being as other men better fit than us to judge held other opinions. Is that an incontrovertible proof that we are wrong? No. But it should give us pause. I did not mean “they are always, infallibly right, so fall in line with them.” I meant, “be cautious.” The Orthodox generally cite the Fathers not as “proof texts” but as illustrating part of an aggregate picture. It would make sense, therefore, that when an Orthodox monk cites two saintly opinions, you would not leap to the conclusion that he is citing “authorities” as a ploy to clinch his argument. To make such a leap, reveals much about your own, rigid categorizations.

    Then, I did not “dispute” them – rather, I indicated that there were yet other views that were borne out by historical facts – like the inter-communion of the Churches for centuries past the 1054 schism. My point was “these facts seem to indicate that – if anything – perhaps even the opinions of these saintly men were on the cautious side.”

    The aggregate point of my initial two paragraphs, therefore, were not “I have authorities and my opinion conflicts with them so I have nothing to say” – though it was charitable of you to assume as much!

    My point was, that if we are tempted to put the “real” schism at an earlier date than commonly accepted, we should be cautioned by such things to ponder our decision carefully, and not to articulate our own opinion as definitive. That is certainly the Orthodox approach to such matters.

    Now, you seem to have truly appealed to authority in merely mentioning the names of St. Photius and St. Mark (without any discussion of their teaching), and stating that you stand with them. It seems unfair to accuse me of “appealing to authority,” when I mentioned the opinions of two saints (and discussed what they were), and then went on to explicitly state that perhaps their opinions, if anything, were playing it a bit close. You have merely mentioned two saints, and have totally allied yourself with them as “your texts in saintly flesh.” This is a much stronger appeal to authority than I have made, and seems to definitely rest upon their opinions as the final word.

    In response thereto, I would mitigate your appeal to authority by contextualizing it within the teaching of other Fathers. For all my love of St. Photius and St. Mark, we must understand and admit that relations between East and West were already quite strained, and a great deal of alienation existed. It is possible that some of the strife and theological contention was at least influenced by the political tensions and cultural animosity each bore the other. The great Byzantine Theologian, St. Maximus the Confessor – who, unlike Photios and Mark of Ephesus, was in regular contact with the Roman Church and the West in general – took a more moderate view towards the Filioque and defended it in writing. The Fathers Hilary, Augustine and Ambrose taught an Orthodox Filioque. I hope you see that I’m not appealing to authority in the sense of “here are my authorities: trump them if you can!” I’m providing a context, wherein the whole matter of an Orthodox Filioque makes sense. It would be unorthodox to pit these Fathers against each other in a battle royale for the title of “uber-patristic champion of the universe.”

    Furthermore, your characterization of my argument about the Orthodox Filioque was a false analogy. You characterized my position by saying “x is a misunderstanding because there is an Orthodox x.” You then set up the false analogy: “buddhist worship of energies is a misunderstanding because there is an Orthodox worship of energies.”

    The difference being, that Buddhism is not Orthodoxy, and never was. The radically different context makes the analogy unsuitable.

    My point, was that the Orthodox Fathers of the West taught the Filioque – in later ages, less competent theologians came to all sorts of conclusions about this teaching, finally defining the doctrine, dogmatically, in terminology which seems hard to defend from the Orthodox point of view, at the council of Florence. However, the Orthodox Fathers of the West certainly taught it in an Orthodox manner, and even as late as Aquinas Roman Catholic theologians were eager to express their unity of belief with the Greeks in stating that the Filioque was understood in the same sense as the Greek “from the Father through the Son.” Certainly, shabby theologians in the Carolingian age and thereafter were unable to discuss the matter competently. My only point was that at the time of the Schism, the Photian attack on the Filioque was not entirely justified from a theological point of view – though, the unilateral insertion of the term into the Creed certainly merited condemnation.

    And I wasn’t talking about the procession in the Economy – if I were, I would have stated that. Rather, there is some manner of Filioque outside of time. Something that St. Maximus says is a procession “kat’ousian.” The language of other Greek Fathers in describing the procession of the Spirit from the Father and “through the Son” or “resting in the Son” indicates a procession involving the Son which is not the economical procession. The heresy is the belief that the Son in any way participates in the generation of the Holy Spirit’s Hypostasis, which is produced by the Father alone. But there is a mystery far beyond my understanding where, outside of time, the Son has something to do with the Spirit’s essential (not enhypostatic) procession/spiration from the Father through the Son/resting in the Son.

    Of course, sometimes the Latin Fathers did use “Filioque” to refer to the temporal procession (as does St. Augustine, in his commentaries on the Gospel of John).

    This is what I mean – sometimes I feel that you are so concerned to find fault with a statement, that you do not attempt to listen to the other person. You have made many assumptions about my assumptions.

    You stated that I was appealing to authority, then contradicting my authorities, then you misrepresent my position by a faulty analogy and appeal to your own authorities in a more absolute manner, finally accusing me of double-speaking about the economical mission of the Spirit from the Son, when I wasn’t speaking about that at all.

    I hope you won’t be too offended when I point these things out – I really am doing this in a spirit of love and genuine affection for you. The Orthodox approach would be to, first and foremost, make sure that we are being accurate and fair – and most of all, charitable – in our replies.

    For example, if you would stop and ask yourself, “Does every citation of a saint’s or father’s opinion amount to an ‘appeal to authority?’ Is that what this person is doing?”, it would put you in a position where, rather than assuming rigid categorizations and reading them into other peoples’ comments, you take the time to listen to their message as an whole, and then reply to that. I think it was fairly clear, by the way I then qualified even my “authorities,” that I was not appealing to them in some kind of absolutist manner. Indeed, my post was full of all the Byzantine “imprecision” – that vagueness and endless qualification which are often hallmarks of apophaticism and Orthodox theology in general. It was hardly a cut-and-dry, absolute appeal to authority.

    And before you use analogies to illustrate the faults in my reasonings, ask yourself if you’ve really understood what I’m saying, and if the analogy really applies. I don’t think it is a stretch, to think that there’s a radical difference between Orthodox Latin Fathers teaching a doctrine in an Orthodox Christian context (which then came to be misunderstood), and similar-sounding (yet totally irrelevant) terms in Buddhist theology.

    Lastly, before you accuse someone of double-speak (and of a gnosticized complicity in heresy – an EXTREMELY serious charge to make) – it would be best to be sure you understand what they mean. And, for God’s sake, give them the benefit of the doubt – initially. Even with Nestorius, Cyril wrote first, asking him to clarify what he meant, before he sounded the alarm and went on the attack.

    Again, I honestly do this out of real love for you and this forum. We will give an account for our speech. I think you will find that the tone sometimes used, can do a tremendous amount of damage to people less thick-skinned than I am. If a person is turned away from the Truth because we brow-beat them or make them constantly feel attacked and misunderstood – well, that’s something we don’t want to answer for. More than anything, accusing someone of gnositicizing their language and helping other people into heresy is a charge of the most profound nature. I can’t stress that enough. Please be careful about such things. I just urge a little more reflection, self-doubt and charitableness in reading and replying to others.

    A great enough sinner myself (yet still I complain),

    Comment by fatheraugustine | April 2, 2008 | Reply

  10. Let me repeat what I stated in a posr on the Sacred Heart. The disease of Western conversions tp Orthodoxy or even non-Christian Eastern religions is eclecticism. One may object to my reference to non-Christian faith but I believe such a consideration is useful. Moreover, what is all too common even within Western and in particular Catholic piety is devotional overload.

    The other “schism” worth remembering is more of the chasm that exists for individuals especially in the West between public worship amd private prayer.

    With all that stated I think the Fathers’ warnings regarding the imagination stand. The notion that the implimentation of Western devotions is simply the integration of other “pieties” is erroneous. These “pieties” aside from their spiritual and psychic implications are also most often alternate theologies. The argument that Orthodoxy already “has enough” is also not so subtlely relativistic or ultinmately convincing.

    The practice of Faith cannot be reduced to simply a total number of calories.

    Comment by publican123 | March 27, 2008 | Reply

  11. 1054: I also believe the world is round (it’s not), and that the sun rises (it doesn’t), and I can find Saints who say both those things, though they aren’t true. In other words, there’s a difference between observational language and scientific language, and one can speak in various historical modes, as well. 1054 is the common dating, just as 2000 is the common (but incorrect) dating of the “millenium”. But again, you illustrate my point: you cite two authorities as such, then dispute them, then fall back on reference to your opinions about it based on a political analysis. Take the authorities out of the equation, since you cancelled their comments and made it a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, and we’re left simpy with “I think”. Which is fine. But I think you’re incorrect. If given a multiple choice test, where 1054 was the only 11th century choice, I’d choose it, but with no illusions that it’s the correct answer. What matters, if we choose any date, is when we stopped seeing them as Orthodox, not the other way around.

    Filioque: You state that it’s a misunderstanding. A popular view, but any cursory familiarity with the available historiography on the matter shows it’s by no means the only one. I don’t accept the outright statement as settling the matter. I consider the misunderstanding to be among those who dismiss the depth of heresy in the filioque, and take St. Photius, St. Mark, and others for my text in saintly flesh. I’d rather stand with them on it.

    “Patristic Filioque”: With reverence, Father, frankly, I’m appalled that you would structure an argument this way: x is a misunderstanding, because there’s an Orthodox x. I have to assume it’s not on purpose. Here’s another example: The neoBuddhists who worship energy are just misunderstood, after all, there’s an Orthodox worship of energies. This seems to be a semantic trick, using gnosticized word-pairs like “Orthodox filioque” that create an altered consciousness in the hearer which blurs distinctions and makes the mind more receptive to heresy. This techniqeue causes acceptance of a concept by means of a straw man combined with a false pairing. How about “Orthodox cannibalism”? – I could make the argument. But it would just mean I’m playing games.

    Say what you mean explicitly instead of incautiously using this technique: Say that because the fathers articulated a procession of the Holy Spirit in the economy, that that’s what the Latin Church was doing with the filioque and therefore, we should either admit it in the creed, or repudiate the councils and fathers who rejected it (because they misunderstood), and accept and make use of the Latin language in our pieties because it’s good.

    I’d rather you claim there were patristic adultery or christian thievery. At least those don’t substitute one entirely distinct doctrinal context for another, and so destroy two foundations at once.

    Comment by tuD | March 21, 2008 | Reply

  12. Yes, St. John Maximovitch writes simply that after 1054 the grace of the Holy Spirit left the Western Church and it ceased to be part of the Church which till then it was. And I agree with most of what’s written above in Fr. Augustine’s post.

    I would only connect a few more dots as regard the influence modern Roman Catholic devotions may have on the future and firmness of WR Orthodoxy. While they may help draw in or retain some Western Christians who would otherwise flock to an Old Catholic, Episcopalian, or similar church, they will not, over time, be a help to WR Orthodoxy. Having heard of the problems these heterodox-originating devotions entail, some of the WR Orthodox will simply go over to a Byzantine rite church with fewer such problems and a richer liturgy to boot. There is so much in the older Western liturgical churchlife which is of great, direct, immediate appeal to people. Focusing on these vivid and engaging treasures of Orthodoxy, instead of remaining frozen in 1950s Catholicism or Episcopalianism (I speak of expressions of churchlife, not formal dogma), would give WR Orthodox not only a reason to stay Orthodox, but stronger motive to remain Western rite.

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | March 21, 2008 | Reply

  13. I have from my spiritual father, that both St. John the Wonderworker and Seraphim Rose of Saintly memory placed the schism at 1054. That is certainly free from a belief in Roman supremacy.

    In fact, the Churches communed for years afterwards, and only the Crusades put an end to it. Crusaders received communion in Orthodox Churches, etc. And, I have to agree that the 1054 Schism really was a primarily political event, and that the Western Church did not develop dogmatically false teachings until they insisted upon “created grace” and Papal Infallability.

    Even things like the Filioque and Purgatorial Fire are matters of cultural misunderstandings between East and West. Certainly, the later belief in Purgatory as a separate place for only the unrighteous, Christian dead (where “temporal guilt” for “venial sins” is burned away) is wrong. There is a Patristic Filioque of the Latin fathers, which is Orthodox when properly understand. Even Maximus the Confessor defended it.

    I agree with you that heterdox devotions should be set aside – even if only out of a recognition that they are superfluous and unecessary. We know the West practiced the Jesus Prayer, and had many auxiliary devotions like the Akathist, the Salutations of the Cross and the little Hours. There’s simply no need for things like the Rosary when there are perfectly good devotions already available that are Orthodox. I don’t understand the appeal.

    But we should be careful about “knowing better” when the Schism occured, or presuming to anathematize and judge entire local Churches before the Orthodox of the time broke communion with them. They were there, and they knew better, because they were guided in the circumstances of their day by the Holy Spirit. For us to second guess, centuries later, is to become victims of an academic, “Western” approach to Orthodoxy oursevles.


    Comment by fatheraugustine | March 19, 2008 | Reply

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