Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

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What is the most significant problem of current Western Rite initiatives?
Click an answer below to vote:

1. Western/European Phyletism (attitudes of American or Western cultural/ethnic supremacy)

2. Problems of Liturgics & Liturgical License

3. Illicit Devotional Pieties (Sacred Heart, Rosary, Stations of the Cross)

4. Challenges of Catechesis & Conversion

5. Challenges of Ecclesiology & Ecumenism

6. Determining what’s really “Western”

7. Absence of ascetic/monastic anchor

8. Personalism, emotionalism, and creativity

9. An essentially Protestant mentality

10. Absence of Pan Orthodox Approach

11. For those who feel there are no inherent or internal problems with contemporary Western Rite initiatives, but only external problems (e.g. how WR is received), please feel free to make this point in the comments section. We want to hear from you, too.

12. Other: for those who identify inherent or internal problems with contemporary Western Rite initiatives that cannot fit any of the above categories, please feel free to make this point in the comments section.

Elaboration on any of the votes is welcome in the comments section.

Results so far:

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May 2, 2008 - Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , , ,

25 Comments »

  1. Yes. Fr. Seraphim talked of “the desert in your backyard.”

    Comment by tuD | May 19, 2008 | Reply

  2. Ah yes, “Expediency.” In the scheme of things, “Oikonomia” is replaced by “The Economy.”

    Does Orthodoxy need to compete with megachurch “Christianity?”

    Does the number of Bible Study groups and conferences and the frequency of their meetings mean more than families in their homes saying morning and evening prayers together before an icon or frequency of Confession?

    Comment by publican123 | May 17, 2008 | Reply

  3. I’d like to express my agreement with Fr. Aidan regarding “the Offer.”

    I tried to take the poll, but realized I couldn’t separate the issues from each other, or pick one that was the worst.

    They all come from the same source, which somebody “bullet-pointed” as “expediency.” To that notion of expediency, I would also add “mercenariness.” I.e., Orthodoxy is for sale. You want recognition, Orthodoxy provides it. We get more power, money and influence; you benefit from the power, money and influence we have.

    Augustine

    Comment by fatheraugustine | May 16, 2008 | Reply

  4. Incidentally, we omitted the racist rant of someone calling himself “white Christ”, who was using Western Rite initiatives to proffer an ideology that can have nothing to do with Holy Orthodoxy. Evidently, he and his ilk are unaware that phyletism is a heresy. We rarely censor posts here. The total blocked posts to-date stands at the writing of 3 individuals, which is a great record compared to the number of comment posts we’ve had. But this one was particularly long, would have wasted a lot of time, space, your attention, and collective bandwidth to rebut, and was sufficiently beyond the pale that we felt comfortable regarding it as spam.

    Comment by tuD | May 15, 2008 | Reply

  5. […] be interested in your comments. If you haven’t yet cast your Western Rite poll vote, that’s still open, […]

    Pingback by Disaffection and the Social Psychology of Conversion « Western Rite Critic | May 15, 2008 | Reply

  6. – That St. Tikhon ever got a chance to even read through or consider the protestant-origin Liturgy bearing his name today (he did not).

    Taking into account its 1928 BCP origins and the death of Saint Tikhon in Since Saint Tikhon died in 1925, that would be a stretch.

    Attribution of a document to someone of note is a very common practice. Take, for example, the Carolingian’s official service book: it was called the Gregorian and is the source of the common appellation, Gregorian Liturgy. St. Gregory’s one change was the shortening and and standardization of the prayer Hanc igitur. One might as well have called it the Liturgy of Pope St. Sergius I,because it includes his late 7th century edits.

    Comment by espmaelruain | May 9, 2008 | Reply

  7. I feel the need to disagree (respectfully!) with the statement that the very phrase “Liturgy of St. Tikhon” is a lie. The exact meaning of the phrase “Liturgy of” is somewhat open to question in our Orthodox Church. For example, the Liturgy of St. Gregory the Dialogist, of the Presanctified Gifts–does “Liturgy of” mean that he himself wrote the words? Or does it mean that he pointed out the general principles to be followed in such a type of liturgy, which the Eastern Romans then implemented with their own particulars? The jury is out.

    It WOULD be a lie, if an informed person were to state any of the following:

    – That Bishop Tikhon (Bellavin) ever approved an Anglican Western rite for Orthodox use. (that is patently untrue)

    – That the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church ever approved an Anglican Western rite for Orthodox use (that is untrue).

    – That St. Tikhon ever got a chance to even read through or consider the protestant-origin Liturgy bearing his name today (he did not).

    But the priest who invented the title of “Liturgy of St. Tikhon” in about the year 1980 said clearly that he came up with the title for “euphonic” reasons. That is a fairly clear statement. Of course it could also, on the same grounds, be called the Liturgy of St. Patrick or the Liturgy of St. Barsanuphius the Great.

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | May 7, 2008 | Reply

  8. Yes, a special thanks to yourself, tuD, and all on this website which is not just for Western Rite people.

    Early on, I learned what it feels like to be somewhat “rerouted” to an ER parish within the AOA even away from a so-called pan-Orthodox parish to more of a “mission” closer to my Slavic-American ethnic background. In the midst of waiting for my “referral” I had to suffer through an overview of the Latinization within the Russian Church, the other party knowing I had been received through the MP. And yes, the historical gratitude to the Russians was expressed along with an overview of the Greek church which included a rise in my orientator’s blood pressure.

    What also comes up is the manner of reception by even the big names within the AOA. I think, however, that the irregularities of reception, degree of going by the rubrics, was not the issue: that like the hierarchy of the AOA, these “converts” were “going to show those Orthodox.” In short, the hierarchy of the AOA and these converts had a lot in common.

    With respect to identifying apostasy from the pulpit or elsewhere… if arriving for Liturgy long after the Gospel is not easily placed on the table, how much more so something like belonging to the Freemasons, some of whom might be really big donors. The ethnic country club must go on along with the assessment, festivals, and SALARIES.

    This is why I feel very inspired by the writings of Father Andrew Phillips: the principal call is to prayer.

    Comment by publican123 | May 7, 2008 | Reply

  9. Publican123-
    I am actually glad that you feel the way you do. Sadly, as long as the clergy allow the laity to remain ignorant, many laity will have no idea that Freemasonry is apostasy or that anything else is a problem.
    I used to think that the Western Rite could be a tool for reunification on Orthodox terms. The tendency to leave the laity without any education merely means that Protestant and Roman ideas are allowed to proliferate in Eastern parishes. The only resistance is from people who are ethnocentric (it’s not us) and that is just creating more ethnocentrism. So the result is a mess on all counts.
    Frankly, I don’t consider most ER hierarchs suited to the task of sorting this out. I have seen the ethnic card played more often than the commonality of belief card and that is why I lost faith in ER administration. Don’t misunderstand me: I love the Byzantine Rite, but the followers of Meletios IV and those in communion with them just don’t fill me with inspiration. So we here wait and pray for a change.

    Comment by espmaelruain | May 7, 2008 | Reply

  10. It is hard to put into words but as a convert through the MP what I experienced in certain EP-affiliated and AOA visits in my travels is very much the vibe of Catholicism. I have not felt this in MP or ROCOR parishes.

    In the headquarters of the AOA in NJ there is a photo displayed conspiculously of the Metropolitan meeting Pope John Paul II. The photo of the now-deceased John Paul II kissing the Koran was not on display.

    To say that “this is what reunification looks like” is an understatement. Reunification with what? Oh, that’s right, EVERYTHING, heterodoxy plus secularism, and why not a few Freemasons in the parish.

    Let me lay my cards on the table: I am very much in agreement with Fr. Andrew Phillips in ROCOR that the future of World Orthodoxy is in the Russian Church, not out of Russian phyletism but because of the Universality in the Russian Church. If this offends, makes me narrow, I could ask for forgiveness but such a request might be a hypocrisy.

    To name a Liturgy after St. Tikhon is a LIE and something of a sacrilege.

    But yes, espmaeulruain, the green light comes from Eastern Rite authorities and ER praxis.

    Comment by publican123 | May 6, 2008 | Reply

  11. Actually it was Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, student of Saint Polycarp, who in turn was a student of Saint John the Theologian who stated that the criteria for being of the Church was adherence to the Faith and valid succession of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. If a church does not believe that, it is not Orthodox since it has diverged from the ecclesiology of the Faith of the Undivided Church.

    The non-Orthodox belief that mutual recognition and recognition by a specific authority is validation of Orthodoxy came into some churches through the heresiarch Melitios IV. He was installed in Cyprus, Constantinople and Alexandria by the British through bribery in the case of Constaninople. He was an Anglican agent, hence his Protestant “ecclesiology.” He left Constantinople just before the British pulled out rather than face being deposed.

    Moreover, that validation by recognition idea is the heresy of Montanism: claiming to speak for the Holy Ghost.

    Back on topic: I agree with many of the writers who have stated that the Western Rite of the mainstream is defective since it involves merely acceptance of a few alterations to heterodox services.
    St. Tikhon of Moscow never saw the Liturgy that is named after him. It was cobbled together in the 1960s to allow Episcopalian groups to join with minimum fuss or minimum conversion. It is still the same BCP (Protestant) service book.

    Little attempt is being made to recover the spirituality of the ancient Western Churches. There is form but little substance.

    The real cause however is that the same problem exists in the Eastern Rite. The congregation just stand around observing Liturgy without participation of any kind or comprehension of any kind. As long as it is the church of the old country or the church of Mom and Dad, it’s fine by them.

    That is why the Western Rite is a spiritual failure: it is participating in the same limited, airless, Spiritless mindset as the Eastern Rite. How can something that is drying up due to phyletism provide water?

    Ask most about the details of the Faith and one gets a blank stare. Ask about the Superbowl and you get lists of stats. So they are capable of paying attention to something on a Sunday!!!!

    Comment by espmaelruain | May 6, 2008 | Reply

  12. Thanks for what I should term the clarifications plural.

    It’s also interesting that in this “age of information” when the resources, texts of the Fathers are available even on-line, what people gravitate towards are green lights from “authorities” and in some cases “personalities.”

    On the popular, lay level, there are people who quote on quote “stay out of obedience” in ROCOR, for example, and then conduct their own assessment of how someone was received into Orthodoxy from the MP. They in fact disagree with ROCOR’s move, stay in ROCOR, and then have a mixed reaction when a ROCOR pastor after Confession gives permission for Communion to someone received into Orthodoxy through the MP. On an intellectual level, they might not say that such a reception/chrismation was without grace, but on an emotional level… there might be someone in their midst a cradle Orthodox who spent years later in the OCA who is much more of a revisionist, but no matter, that other, “more Orthodox” person had “grown up” there.

    BUT let’s not pick on ROCOR, the MP or the OCA…

    the question of where grace is is often crudely reduced to phyletistic “being Greek” so that even certain Greek pastors are “not Greek enough.” The irony in this case is the ecumenism of the EP…

    No surprises then when looking at the AA or the AWRV…

    With respect to Europeans that I meet… not only post-Christian but post-European, really, and the smarter, more enlightened they are in their own estimation(no longer just the cliche of world-weary) the less they know it. The EU distracts from the reality that Europe is becoming a museum. The something else Europe is opting for…”the new Florence.” The declining birth rates of Europeans in Europe underscores the suicidal nature of this course.

    Comment by publican123 | May 5, 2008 | Reply

  13. Well, listening to people say that grace is here not there, there not here.

    The uncreate energies of God are not limited to the confines of the Church. That doesn’t meant that we cannot say where the Church is not – but it does mean that the popular systems for doing so among the Orthodox are without Orthodox foundation.

    But even so, the claim that anyone who is not “recognized” (which would have included ROCOR for a long time, depending on who you asked, and despite what it might wish to say to the contrary), or anyone who is “not recognized by the recognized” ad infinitum, is w/o grace, or is not the Church, or isn’t Orthodox, is frankly not only a bit of a stretch given the source, but a bit incongruent, given who gets lumped together there.

    Despite a period of invective hurling about who has grace and who doesn’t in some ROCOR cirles, it’s generally understood now that the other Old Calendarists, at least large sectors of them like the Greek Old Calendarists, are not only Orthodox but have much to teach contemporary Orthodox communities. The same is true, though less widely acknowledged, of the Old Believers, whose prayer book is still a treasure of piety for Orthodox in general.

    In fairness, the most vocal from the ROCOR aren’t necessarily the majority of ROCOR, but the majority aren’t necessarily the ones who decide the course of events, either. Just look at the last 8 years, and that’s obvious.

    But the idea of knowing, deciding, and pronouncing upon where grace is and isn’t is, in my view, inherently Latin.

    Besides, I don’t think ROCOR has a leg to stand on since the clearly unjust and illicit ousting of Metropolitan Vitaly in order to secure union with the MP. This, as I said, is my opinion. But look at all the people that were once ROCOR and aren’t anymore in the wake of this. Suddenly graceless? Maybe grace went with them and didn’t stay with the Sergianists. Regardless of one’s opinions on these matters, it all gets a little absurd, given the circumstances. Some of us just stop listening after a while.

    The system they were using was bankrupt anyway. A system of mutual recognition, where one’s Orthodoxy is administratively defined instead of a matter of Orthodoxy itself, and the gall to simultaneously rant about Augustinism. The ecclesiology, pneumatology, and mysteriology at work – indeed the theology – were at times more Augustinist than the Augustinists.

    It’s a short skip to connect the dots and try to define Orthodoxy as being in communion with a Patriarch, and specifically Constantinople (read the neopapism that prevails in the AOA and PC).

    You see, if you want control of property, definitions of grace, legal jurisdiction, you can go the mutual recognition route (Protestantism) or the communion with a patriarch route (Neopapism). They’re the two traditional solutions when you’re stuck in the paper bag of Latin-Augustinist Ecclesiology and can’t get out. Start with the initial error, and you’ll soon work out the predictable, historical, traditional results which, in this case, is a kind of quasi-Orthodox denominationalism (forgive the pun).

    In short, contemporary Orthodox communities have lost the ability to determine what constitutes an Orthodox community, which is also why you’re seeing so many frankensteinian Western Rite intiatives. Things that should never be tolerated, but even the “traditionalist wing” (to use an Episcopalianism) of these communities, is powerless to foment a serious critique. The system they’ve depended upon for their own justification when they didn’t go with the new calendar is the very system that deprives them of an effective voice now.

    We’re all Roman Catholics together, in some respects. We’re all riding the ship that already sank, and we just keep stacking on more planking.

    With the WR, we’re simply watching the gutting of a once catholic faith down to the underwear of mere jurisdictional affiliation and episcopal sanction. Fill the font with whatever you want, get a blessing, and it’s holy water. Or something. One Roman Catholic blog recently defined the Western Rite as “protestants in communion with Constantinople” and it’s hard to argue they’re wrong. Perhaps that’s just the point, though. It’s been 65 years of trying to create a home for Protestantism within Orthodoxy, and this is the most promising avenue yet.

    In my opinion, Orthodoxy, in the end, will be the pervue of but a few, will be unrecognized, and will not be in communion with patriarchs. As it was at Florence, so it will be again. To be faithful, when the Great Apostasy reaches full maturity, one will need to be “without grace” by any of the current definitions. We will have to find the courage to be thought of as outside of the Faith of all faiths, as faithless, as heretics to all men, as outcasts of all religion, as indeed a categorical attack on humanity, as rejectors of the “spirit”. We will be the anti-human contingent that are readied for the stake, while those who burn us are made ready for the fire.

    Look at the laws being passed in Europe and the West against anti-mankind groups and individuals. When all faiths are one, the remaining Orthodox who don’t buy into the new Florence and the spiritual union of all religion, will be anti-spirit, anti-unity, anti-mankind. We’ll be the enemies of the state precisely because we will be declared the enemies of mankind. My advice is settle it for yourself in your mind, make ready for torture, brutal death, and to watch your loved ones be torn from you for the same. It is the integrity and resolution of martyrs we must have. The grace will be supplied as it is needed.

    Speedily, Lord.

    Comment by tuD | May 5, 2008 | Reply

  14. Does the “ultramonatism” apply to some elements that have persisted in ROCOR?

    Comment by publican123 | May 4, 2008 | Reply

  15. I would appreciate your explanation of a “Latin view of grace” and how this applies to “some of the views that have persisted in ROCOR.”

    This is not a challenge in any way nor is any offense taken, but simply something that I would find helpful, tuD.

    Thank you for your anticipated explanation.

    Comment by publican123 | May 4, 2008 | Reply

  16. “When an Orthodox clergyman from Reader to Patriarch separates himself from his Bishop or Synod he simply no longer has the Grace of the Priesthood.”

    That’s certainly an interesting, seemingly novel view of grace. So if a bishop leaves a synod, for whatever reason, he’s no longer a bishop? I’m not buying it. Where did our fathers teach us that?

    Furthermore, it’s the duty of every Orthodox Christian “to depart even from the Bishops if they fall into error” (to quote Lossky). So the idea that these things can be framed as absolutes in the first place is another point of concern.

    Not that it’s representative of the Orthodox West list at all, but statements like the one above seem to be offering a Latin view of grace and an ultramontanism or neopapism in regard to authority. It’s almost like a blend of some of the views that have persisted in ROCOR, in the former case, and those that seem to prevail in the AOA in the latter. Personally, I find it uses Orthodox terminology and concepts, but lacks something of the spirit or attitude of Orthodoxy.

    Incidentally, some of your recent arguments there (I’ve not been following the threads, but look in occasionally), strike me as calm, measured, and reasonable. I really prefer to see the OW list as a place of moderation. Some of the statements that pop up there, on occasion, go beyond the pale, but overall I hope it will remain relatively within it. Feel free, incidentally, to let them know about the poll.

    Comment by tuD | May 4, 2008 | Reply

  17. I don’t think anyone on OrthodoxWest entered into the question of where there is grace at all! In fact, that was a thread about the RC notion of “lineage” and “orders” in Orthodoxy, which has no place.

    Can you please cite your statement if I am missing something, as opposed to simply including a link?

    Comment by joesuaiden | May 4, 2008 | Reply

  18. Perhaps that bullet point could be termed “Expediency.”

    BUT let’s not deny a still deeper cause nor overlook its manifestations in the ER of the AA.

    Comment by publican123 | May 3, 2008 | Reply

  19. Monk Aidan, we certainly agree.

    I don’t know how to get that into the poll as a bullet point, other than “all of the above” which would surely then lead to us not getting enough data. The above poll isn’t a scientific sample, of course, but it’s helpful.

    The “offer” you mention struck me as immediately similar to the deal struck in the book Vatican by Malachi Martin, a thinly disguised history written in the form of a novel.

    I appreciate you capturing for us the crown issue in a way that recapitulates and concisely explains all the bullet items.

    I also appreciate that, while you have taken the powers to be and their minions to task for what they’ve done to what was once a catholic faith, you haven’t ventured into a daunting view of grace to account for it.

    Comment by tuD | May 3, 2008 | Reply

  20. I find it impossible to select a vote in the poll as arranged. The poll speaks to symptoms rather than causes. A variety of symptoms are listed, but what is important is underlying causation.

    The Offer
    “We offer you, the disaffected heterodox Western Christian, a way to keep your [older-style Protestant liturgy / all-male clergy / belief in key Christian dogmas / non-blatantly-homosexual clergy, etc.] while gaining solid “Three-Branch” recognition of your priest’s orders. Here’s how it works. You assent to the most basic Orthodox doctrines, a little chrism, and insert into your service as you now know it an epiclesis and the name of the current patriarch. In return, you get the prestige of affiliation, a network of intercommuning parishes, and (very importantly) recognition by both Canterbury and Rome of your priestly orders. And we get increased revenues and a larger network. Simple! Win-win! Apply today!”

    The above paradigm is what underlies liturgical problems, catechetical problems, devotions problems, ecclesiological problems, lack-of-monastic-influence problems, Protestant holdovers of all stripes, and the lack of pan-Orthodox acceptance of WR Orthodoxy on many levels. The way I phrased “The Offer” is oversimplified, but not unapt.

    Now, identifying problems without offering a solution is grade-B fault-finding. There ARE a number of ways in which the wounds caused by the paradigm of The Offer can be healed: increased education in orthopraxis (albeit purely Western orthopraxis); increased permission to use Orthodox Western texts (most of which are currently forbidden); increased exposure to Orthodox monastic life, in settings where both liturgics and piety are strongly rooted in historic, authentic monastic piety (this is available more in an Eastern rite context for now, but don’t ER and WR have much to learn from one another?); increased openness to the sensibilities of Eastern Orthodox people in general, instead of a phyletistic “What do THEY know? They’re Eastern rite, after all!” mentality; and so forth. And there is the power of prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ. There is something that each one of us can do, whether ER or WR, whether clergy or lay. There is much hope in this whole matter. And there are signs of improvement and progress already–REASONS to hold out hope for the WR.

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | May 3, 2008 | Reply

  21. For the most part the Orthodox Western Rite is being strangled by Eastern triumphalism, Western scholasticism, Protestant lack of mysticism/phyletism. The ancient Western church had much to say because it was of the undivided Church: the Western Rite provides an opportunity to retrieve a spirituality that is not altogether lost in the East, but is relegated to only the monastics while the Laity are left with very little of it.

    Comment by espmaelruain2 | May 3, 2008 | Reply

  22. Particularly within there AWRV there seems to be a brick wall around ANY form of discussion concerning what is authentically Orthodox & Western. The mantra seems to be “This is approved because this is what is approved.”
    While the bishops of our jurisdiction are on the fringes of Orthodoxy (read by most as non-canonical) the teachings, spirit and praxis of the clergy and people genuine. While on vacation, one of my friends (and fellow parishioner) attended an AWRV church and was scandalized as he said that he felt like he was back in a traditional Anglican church in that the decor, liturgy and sermon were all “typical continuing Anglican.”

    Comment by occidentaltourist | May 3, 2008 | Reply

  23. My vote of “an essentially Protestant mentality” may sound bad but here’s why, at least for me, it works as an umbrella term.

    First, one could start with the detail of the reference to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Second, open to heterodox, post-schism devotions… the post-schism Catholic Church is as the saying goes the “first Protestant Church.” Third, like it or not, much of Western/American culture is Protestant in the sense of individualism. Fourth, the at times latent iconoclasm and relationship to Bible Study outside the Liturgical Tradition. Fifth, view of “Russian pieties” etc.

    Sorry for oversimplifying… maybe, maybe not.

    Comment by publican123 | May 3, 2008 | Reply

  24. Yes, we’ll create one final choice of “other”, for ‘other internal or inherent problems’. Those votes would go here in the comments section.

    Our formal limit with the tool we chose was 10, (for technical reasons), but votes 11 & 12 really beg discussion anyway, so the comments area is ideal for those.

    Elaboration on any of the votes is also welcome.

    Comment by tuD | May 2, 2008 | Reply

  25. Could you create an “Other” option?

    As an outsider looking in, the most significant difficulty I see is a lack of a mechanism in place where, stepping outside the confines of Greco-Slavonic traditions and spiritualities, such innovations can be ratified as legitimate.

    Appeal can be made to saints who were pro-Western rite… but then the validity or weight given to THOSE appeals have to then be considered about the appeals made by some otherwise very pro-Catholic and pro-Western saints in whose writings we can find enthusiasm for Thomism, inter-communion, Latin marian devotions, Latin meditation styles… That just gets us in a room full of opened worm cans.

    So for my part, not feeling capable of judging what elements are problematic in and of themselves for lack of a solid criteria that can be agreed upon… I say that the biggest problem is the lack of solid, clearly discernable criteria to even judge it.

    Comment by asimplesinner | May 2, 2008 | Reply


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