Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Two Paths to Two Western Rites


A lot of participants on this site are supporters of Western rites, various Western rite initiatives, or at least some hypothetical restoration of a Western Rite environment in Holy Orthodoxy. We agree with some of them in some respects at least some of the time, if not most of them most all the time. It might seem odd to visit WesternRiteCritic.com and read that statement, but only if you miss the distinctions we’re drawing. That understanding can be gleaned from a number of recent articles but, just to make it explicit, we offer the following chart:

WR Enthusiasts Lovers of Western Orthodoxy
  • The Church needs to be more American!
  • We need an Orthodoxy that’s less Russian!
  • We’ve got to appeal to the youth. I don’t want to be in a fringe group!
  • There’s no reason why Episcopalians shouldn’t become Orthodox. We’ve got to change our style!
  • Our numbers are too low. We’d be a lot more successful if we went Western Rite.
  • We need a place that’s more familiar to the heterodox, so we can evangelize easier.
  • Orthodoxy is strange to people here, and that’s just unacceptable.
  • We need more Western faces and styles in our Churches, not all this ethnic stuff!
  • My style is Western – I expect my Church to be Western.
  • I’m just not at home among the Eastern Rite people – they’ve go a lot of stuff that’s just alien to me – like Tabouli.
  • The Byzantine services are too long and too repetitive – I don’t believe in that.
  • All that fasting and bowing and standing; it’s just too backward and old-fashioned; it’s not my culture.
  • What matters is not whether a liturgy or piety was ever Orthodox in history – what matters is whether it’s compatible with Orthodoxy right now. If it’ll fit, we can use it.
  • There are a lot of disaffected Roman Catholics and Anglicans out there, and they’re looking for a home. The Western Rite could be that for them.
  • The only thing Western Christians really lack is canonical bishops and a few points of doctrine. Other than that, they’re basically Orthodox, and we can fast-track them in to a Western Rite church.
  • We’ve got episcopal sanction for Western Rites, so really no other arguments have any bearing [including the ones above?] – authority is authority. Besides, we’ve got big names on this ticket – St. Tikhon, St. John. Who are you?
  • Western Rite is our chance to start over, to build an Orthodoxy that’s really free of the problems we see all over the place, like multiple and overlapping jurisdictions. If we’re to get what we want, it has to be Western Rite; we can’t do it in the Eastern Rite, they’re too set in their ways.
  • I love the beauty of the Gregorian liturgy, just as I do the liturgy of St. John. I’d like to have the one without us losing the other.
  • I want us to have all of it: all of our tradition, Eastern and Western.
  • I don’t want the heterodox pieties created in a schismatic religion – I want to follow in the footsteps of St. Patrick and St. Aidan.
  • I’m not trying to hang on to my heterodox prayer book – I want the pure words prayed when the West and my people were Orthodox.
  • It pains me that a lot of Western saints aren’t on the calendar, and ikons are hard to find. I wish we’d revive wider veneration of these pious saints.
  • I can feel at home among the Orthodox anywhere – the Church is the Church, and they’re my brothers. But there’s a lot of stuff in my heterodox background that I still feel is good and right, and now I see it’s really part of the ancient Faith.
  • I think, if you keep the demands of the Western Rite, there’s just as much vigour and piety of the body. Of course, the rite as just a rite, minus everything else, would be no good.
  • A genuine Western Rite service is liable to be just as much an affront, if not more so, to visting heterodox as any Eastern Rite service – not that attendance is our chief means of evangelism.
  • There’s only one reason to do anything – it’s no popularity or acclaim or attracting others – it’s our own salvation – theosis. That’s the only legitimate reason for supporting a Western Rite.
  • A genuine Western Rite is neither more American nor more “Western” than an Eastern Rite. The West has deviated so much from her own Orthodox beginnings, that she can no longe really recogize what’s truly Western. The last authority we should consult is the surrounding culture and the religions that prevail in it.
  • It’s fair to say that if you can’ identify with the pieties of the Russians or the Greeks, you can’t be Orthodox – not really. The Orthodox mind recognizes itself in the depth of piety of the elder peoples among us.
  • I can acknowledge that there’s no such thing as a “rite of St. Tikhon” and that St. John Maximovitch never sanctioned everything being done in his name – in fact, I can go without namedropping altogether – and still see good reasons for a Western Rite.
  • I don’t have an agenda; I just want to pray. I’m glad to use the Eastern Rites if it’ll make me a better Orthodox Christian.

Now, to be fair, we’ve put words in the mouths of everyone concerned. And it’d be just as fair for you to say, “I don’t think anyone is saying that.” or “I don’t think that’s what they mean by what they’re saying.” It’s an interpretation, to be sure. What we’re saying is that we have seen all these things discussed in one way or another, in one place or many and, if nothing else, it’s helpful to illustrate what we think are indeed two disparate trends which, though you might choose different content, you’ll see if you look.

We encourage you to think about these distinctions, to think about where you are on a map of attitudes toward Western Rites. Indeed, to do it, you have to know what you mean by “Western Rite”. Is that just a matter of a certain text – a different prayer book? Is it an entirely cultual millieu? What does it involve and entail? Would what you really mean amount to the creation of denominations within Orthodoxy, or an artificially imposed (socially engineered) homogeneity? Would it really accomplish the things being claimed for it – is there any evidence to suggest that your version of “Western Rite” would solve the problems it is supposed to solve? Would it create a whole new set of problems? If you’re in one camp or the other, can anything meaningful come of your approach while a significant number of your fellow supporters remain in the other camp? And perhaps: what’s really going on in your own heart? Is it the Cross – that crossroads between public acclaim, the glamour of the world and all its kingdoms, the popularity of Barrabus, the respectability of the Pharisees, the success of the Emperors and Legionaires and, on the other hand, the hard road of quiet salvation, the personal road of stones, the road of rejection even by one’s own family, the road of ascetic feats of which Our Lord said, ‘I go first, you must come after me.’? From where are your ideas and attitudes coming?

Feel free to sound off in the comments section if any of this means anything to you. In any case, while we might have some disagreements over any kind of restoration of Western Rites, and certainly what we’re talking about when we append the article “the” to “Western Rite”, it’s probably clear which path we see as plausible, and which we see as the children of Israel being seduced to bow to the golden calf: ”Come, be more popular, be more accepted, let the world embrace you.” You might not agree with any of this analysis, but that’s OK too. Our goal is to engage you with circumspect thought about what is a divisive topic (divisive is not a bad word, when it’s the calf or the law) – divisive not just for those who support or don’t support some kind of Western Rite environment – but between those who do support it, but don’t agree on what they mean or what they’re supporting.

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June 15, 2008 - Posted by | -- What is Western? | , , , , , , ,

22 Comments »

  1. “The way in which a question is framed is either Orthodox or heterodox, which is why the fathers spoke of impious questions. They were framed according to heretical presuppositions and assumptions and methodologies.”

    Ordo Theologiae

    Comment by photios | July 1, 2009 | Reply

  2. My name also is Aidan and I do love very much the historic Western rite of our Orthodox Church. May it grow and prosper, not only numerically but in its spiritual foundation, in its sober application.

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | March 18, 2009 | Reply

  3. Please forgive me as I am not a scholar or a priest but just an Orthodox laymen. I am a convert to Orthodoxy and fell in love with the Spirit of Orthodoxy. I love different cultures so at first the Nationalism and nationalistic traditions attached to the variety of parishes thrilled me. However after all the fireworks died, I started to feel that I MUST do it the Russian way, or learn Greek, now not just Georgian Tones, but Russian Tones not just Kiev but all different kinds. All the ethnic traditions started to be a stumbling block to reach that beautiful spirituality that I first came in contact.

    I started to wish that I was Russian born so that I wouldn’t feel so out of touch with the community. Perhaps it was just my weakness of looking at the surface, but I felt out of touch.

    I was already dealing with some deep struggles so this started to really effect me. Then I went to a Western Rite parish. While I tried to allow the nostalgic feeling take over, (as I converted from being a Traditional Roman Catholic using the Tridentine Mass) I felt connected in a way I couldn’t really explained. I being of Irish decent ( I am named after Aidan of Lindisfarne) I felt connected; I felt “Russian Born” with my own Western People. IN the same token I felt the same ORthodox Spirit I felt in my Eastern Rite home parish. Different traditions but one Orthodox Spirit. I know there may be some Theological bugs to work out and educating converts in Orthodox Faith, but let us not just toss the Western Rites and Practices as mere junk…..I believe it can really help. Just sharing an experience. Please forgive me as I am not the most educated….but my experience was real.

    Comment by aidanmcmurray | November 17, 2008 | Reply

  4. There are some recent events of note: I have been received into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, made a hieromonk, and been blessed to celebrate in the Western rite (Sarum). So has my erstwhile Milanese confrere Fr. Hieromonk David (Pierce). Archpriest John Shaw, the father of the modern Sarum rite movement in Eastern Orthodoxy, is shortly to be consecrated Bishop of Manhattan in the Church Abroad. All these developments bode well for moderate traditionalism in Western rite Orthodoxy, more particularly in the Russian Church, of course. But put this together with the motion towards traditionalism which has been gaining strength in the Antiochian Archdiocese, and one is left with the impression that there is much hope for the spiritual integrity of Orthodoxy’s modern Western rite. Not that there isn’t much work yet to be done…

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | October 7, 2008 | Reply

  5. The closest thing to heaven on this earth is to see that others are truly better than us.

    Comment by publican123 | June 28, 2008 | Reply

  6. The Fathers in their mercy made various warnings. St. Paul did not shirk the responsibility of warnings. Our Lord Jesus Chirst made warnings in His Infinite Mercy.

    We who are so sinful here on earth have no claim to “only the essentials” where even in heaven the essence of God is forever beyond us, inexhaustible.

    Comment by publican123 | June 26, 2008 | Reply

  7. Monk Aidan, I believe what you’re saying could be put, “It is not that the Lord is forgetful or deaf, it is that it is so easy for us to become forgetful and deaf, and for that reason we pray repeatedly.”

    Skob: if the place is grim and joyless, you needn’t stay. Go in peace, go with God. Godspeed. But sounding off with “may God’s light shine in this dark place” where your brethren are concerned sounds a bit much like “I thank God I am not like these sinners. May they learn what I’ve learned.” The fathers warn against this mentality. The Orthodox mentality if we think we see our brother sinning, is:

    * Him today, me tomorrow.
    * It is my fault.
    * Through my own sins, my brother has stumbled.
    * God knows his sheep, I am one of the goats.
    * Lord have mercy on him, and by his prayers save me, the sinner.
    * It is nothing compared to my own sins.
    * These are greater than I. I am less than these.

    etcetera. It is easy to let the mind play it off, by resorting the metaphor of “place”, but this is not a place at all in reality, as is obvious – it is people interacting. What is meant by ‘this dark place’ is ‘these benighted people’, and the metaphor is the result of the delusion to which the passions tempt us, so that we don’t see our own sins, and count our brethren more worthy.

    As I think Monk Aidan is suggesting, not to put words in his mouth, we are disagreeing about what is Orthodoxy and what is not, and we are even warning one another about deadly pitfalls ahead, and stones in our path, as the monks, our lights, do — about roaring lions that are seeking our brother, lions which so easily can be just ourselves, led about by passions, but we are not writing each other off as lost, or in the dark. How can we? Let’s disagree, adamantly if need be, decidedly if need be, about the Faith, but listen to the fathers about remembrance of one’s own sins.

    Comment by tuD | June 26, 2008 | Reply

  8. Does the owner of this blog have a blessing from a bishop or spiritual father to operate this blog?

    Comment by skobtsov | June 26, 2008 | Reply

  9. Father Aidan, bless …

    You wrote: ” … at least no one’s character is being assassinated here, no one’s person is being impugned, ”

    The words “Protestant,” “unrepentant,” “heresy/heretical,” “Gnostic,” “neo-Montanist,” etc., have been hurled in my general direction. Such descriptions have gone beyond characterisation of my views to extend to me, personally.

    “Why don’t you immerse yourself more fully in ~our~ ways and attitudes instead of trying to fix ~us~? You’ve evidently not grasped enough of the organic attitudes that come from living and breathing in our tradition before you’ve set out on a path of advocating renovation.”

    I am here being addressed as if I were not in fact one of ~us~, as if I were not an Orthodox Christian of many years’ standing, and as if I haven’t done the work of prayer and study that this, the most important commitment of our lives and selves, entails.

    “This is getting tedious, frankly. If it goes on like this, I’m going to invite you to stop.”

    Coming from the Bloggeur, this sounds like a threat.

    ” … you are flirting with prelest and committing the sin of tempting your own mind.”

    How dare this person address a brother in this manner? By what authority? Is he a bishop? Is he a teacher in the church? Has he some exemption from the Apostle Paul’s exhortations concerning the way we should bear ourselves in contention with our brethren?

    This is the kind of teacher from whom I am supposed to learn the Orthodox way?

    Comment by skobtsov | June 26, 2008 | Reply

  10. If this place gets grim and joyless at times, with sharp rejoinders, at least no one’s character is being assassinated here, no one’s person is being impugned, no one’s career is being destroyed. Yet these things have happened not infrequently in other fora, whenever pre-schism Western rite, which is not approved by Antioch, is discussed, explained, or published. Compared to these latter manifestations, “grim and joyless” looks pretty good!

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | June 26, 2008 | Reply

  11. in 5., skobtsov replied to this: “The Byzantine services are too long and too repetitive.” by saying this: “Sorry, but I see truth in this. The Lord is not forgetful; neither is He deaf. (Matthew 5:7-8).”

    But we do not, in our Western and our Eastern rites, have a certain length or make certain repetitions, because the Lord forgot what we said the first time. Nor do we do this, as guided and taught and encouraged by Western and Eastern Saints and Fathers of the Church, because the Lord is deaf. Were that the case, the Church would have acted, in East and West, on grounds which are incorrect and deplorable–not based on truth and the salvation of souls. But, no, we do this, as Metr. Vitaly of the ROCOR used to say, so that our own dull hearts, which do not always immediately respond to prayer, have a chance. Just one of those 40 Lord have mercys may actually sink into my sometimes-insensible heart. “Knock, and it shall be opened.” But knocking is, by definition, a repetition. The services of the Orthodox West are not really much shorter than those of the Orthodox East. For example, one cannot properly do Western rite Matins (from the West’s Orthodox period, as assembled by great Saints and Fathers) in under an hour and a half, and that is with a shortening and simplification of the chants appointed. But this is not bad; we really don’t have anything better to be doing…

    > … This is one area where the influence of court ceremonial on the church’s liturgical life is clearly evident.

    What about the Saints and Fathers who put these services together as they now are? I don’t think the court had much to do with it. Monastics had much to do with it, but they were far from the spirit of the court.

    > … * There are a lot of disaffected Roman Catholics and Anglicans out there, and they’re looking for a home. The Western Rite could be that for them.

    skobtsov replied: “Yes, it could, if it’s done right.”

    With that I am in agreement, with the caveat that Orthodoxy should not be a pressure-valve or safety-net for the disaffected. That is a foundation of sand. Western Christians should come to the Church because she is the unique pillar and ground of truth. In her is genuine prayer; in her is genuine sacramental life; in her is true teaching.

    > … As I’ve said elsewhere, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will keep getting what you’ve always gotten.

    Well, when it comes to prayer and services and the Mysteries, what we’ve always gotten is… Saints.

    skobtsov said that our salvation and theosis “may be the first and most important reason [to have a Western rite], but it’s not the only reason.”

    With that I must respectfully disagree.

    skobtsov said: “It is possible to restore genuine Orthodox liturgies of the West.” With this I entirely agree. The only remaining problem is that many of the materials are still in Latin. However, this un-translated body keeps shrinking year by year as everything is put into English.

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | June 26, 2008 | Reply

  12. May the Lord bless us all with wisdom and humility and guide our steps. And may He illuminate this grim and joyless place.

    Comment by skobtsov | June 26, 2008 | Reply

  13. “The notion that ‘liturgical archaelogy’ can ‘restore genuine Orthodox liturgies of the West’ ignores any notion of continuity … doxy by virtue of what? Carbon dating?”
    Indeed. I’m concerned about phrases like “the liturgical archaeology has already been done”. I want to give Skob the benefit of the doubt on the turn of phrase. But if that’s the basis of the ‘rollout’ of the new rite – i.e. that it’s been researched and created by scholar-expert-elites for use by the line-level lay-liturgists, I’m concerned that it will be like all planned communities – beset with problems of not being organic. Which I think is what you Pub are really trying to get at.

    “The fathers, the fathers, we continually invoke the fathers … yet nobody here seems to have any faith or confidence in the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Western fathers, the saints who formed and developed the Western liturgies … ”

    Well, the Orthodox Church relies just as much on Western fathers like St. Athanasius as it does on Eastern fathers like St. Basil. So this statement is patently false. What you’re attempting to do is attach a particular liturgical instrument to the teaching of the Western fathers, and I think that’s again a rather continual and unrepentant blurring of distinctions designed to sell a product.

    You’re also putting words, thoughts, ideas, teachings, etc. into the minds of Western Fathers – using them as leverage on behalf of your program/agenda. That’s just the catholic way of doing what Protestants do when they put ideas into the mind of “God”. “God wants you to do this. God think that.” Etc. For all you know the Western Fathers place very little emphasis on which liturgical instrument prevails in a certain locale – they don’t draw a line down the center of the world and say “these people should be Eastern, and these Western” – they don’t view, arguably, Americans to be languishing in an “Eastern Orthodox” liturgical captivity from which they must be freed, but perhaps they look upon Americans as decadent speculators who want to have everything convenient, easy, customized to their personal whims and ideas, and are too culturally intolerant to let the spirit of Orthodoxy sink in past their phyletism. But that’s just speculation – like claiming the Western Fathers are supporters of a program of switching from one liturgical instrument to another in order to fix things or overhaul a religious culture, which is clearly what you’re advocating.

    “or the possibility that there may be special grace embedded there to awaken the recognition of Orthodoxy …”

    The notion that “special grace” is embedded in anything – that it was not fully, completely, and in its fullness and wholeness delivered to the Church at Pentecost and maintained in the Church wherever the Church is at all, is heresy. It is a heterodox and Gnostic notion and not Orthodox at all. We are not Pentecostals. There is no “special grace” available in a particular liturgical instrument, and once again, one cannot help but see more than simply love of a rite, but a particular error of doctrinal attitude and agenda of renovation in the way you’re framing your arguments.

    TUD: “This is the liturgy of our fathers, of Saints, and frankly this seems to indicate not merely a desire to foster a fully elaborated Western Rite, but actually a critical stance against the Eastern Rite.”

    SKOB: “The liturgy, then, is set in stone? Or the service books fell out of the sky one day, the ink still wet? It seems to me that you are treating the liturgy the way some Protestants treat the Bible … the fathers and the saints aren’t a mortmain assembly, they represent a living tradition that includes even us, unworthy as we are, even now, untimely as it is … ”

    As one can see, you’re preferring to twist what I said, and not to actually deal with it. Your argument was that the liturgy is too long and repetitive and too ethnic. My response is that it is the inheritance of our fathers which, anyone who keeps the pieties of our Faith will realize, is significant. It is good and right to continue in the ways of those who led us, even where they are not “essential” – we don’t boil things down to a distillation of essential and non-essential – we’re Orthodox. We learn little pieties and micro-traditions from our fathers, and we learn larger ones from our Fathers, and we continue in them out of piety. You can’t explain that to someone who doesn’t get it. It’s what we are. Family. You’re taking the aerial view of the renovationist who bases things on archaeology, while talking about “living tradition” – in fact, you only use that phrase to mean “endless revision” – or revision according to your sense of what things ought to be. That’s Protestant personalism and not Orthodoxy. Case in point:

    “and it is our responsibility to keep it new … “

    No, it isn’t. We’re not a marketing department. This is a Protestant attitude, and not an Orthodox one. Why don’t you immerse yourself more fully in our ways and attitudes instead of trying to fix us? You’ve evidently not grasped enough of the organic attitudes that come from living and breathing in our tradition before you’ve set out on a path of advocating renovation. This is getting tedious, frankly. If it goes on like this, I’m going to invite you to stop.

    “somebody’s “pet theory” could be the Holy Spirit talking …”

    Again, a heterodox, Protestant, and heretical attitude. The Holy Spirit speaks within the Church and her life. It is just as easy to say, “perhaps the Holy Spirit decided to let the Western Rite deprecate into the dustbin of history”. Beware of using logic you don’t intend to let follow its full course. We Orthodox not only don’t speak for the Holy Spirit’s thoughts, ideas, opinions, attitudes, will or whatever – we don’t speak in terms of maybe’s about it – it’s irreverent and inappropriate to an Orthodox mind – it leads to a delusion the fathers have always warned us about. When you conjure up in your mind hypotheticals (which the fathers say don’t exist) – hypotheticals about the mind of God, you are flirting with prelest and committing the sin of tempting your own mind. Don’t do it. You really need to work this kind of stuff out in private with your father confessor and not in these open venues where, once you put something in writing, it’s there to tempt you.

    “What amazes me in some of the things I read here is the simply sublime self-assurance that one’s views represent the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth … “

    Yes, it’s called Western Rite Enthusiasm. What you read here in response to it is criticism, skepticism, and an active discussion that allows challenging renovationist agendas and mentalities that are “free, open, free-spirited, desirous of what is new, refreshing, novel, novelty, (“living” in the sense of revisionist), etc.” which in fact are jus the spirit of Protestantism and Gnosticism. It’s always the complaint of revisionist that we’re closeminded, set in stone, and not open to just whatever things you’d like to tinker with. That’s Episcopalianism. We’re not playing at religion. This is the faith of our fathers. Your attitude, frankly, is inappropriate to our tradition. You’ve imported a heterodox notion of spirituality and “the Holy Spirit” – a neo-Montanist attitude, in my opinion, which is also why it’s vaguely Gnostic.

    “Well, there it is. We may as well all depart to the nearest mountaintop and there await the Parousia. There is nothing good about, nothing possible in, the Western world as we know it … “

    When you don’t have an actual argument, your response is to reframe the proposition with a different core assertion – you’re switching out elements of the syllogism, in short, and then addressing the resulting straw man. It’s called intellectual dishonesty. This is at least the 2nd time in one reply that you’ve done it. You won’t get a riposte to this – we don’t accept the ground of your response.

    “Guilty as charged …”

    Now that we’ve got that out of the way. 

    Re: repetition: Indeed, we are asked to trust certain fathers who made no mention of the WR enthusiast agenda, and to trust in someone’s liturgical archaeology, but then they openly criticize the prayers and liturgical history of other fathers. This makes their entire line of reasoning in this area inconsistent, and faulty.

    “The “reflection” par excellence of Orthodoxy is Lord have mercy. If we knew the true state of our souls we would never stop saying it.”

    Exactly. And we don’t stop saying it. Don’t we pray the Jesus Prayer all day long? In the car? In restaurants? This complaint is common among Protestant converts – which may not include you. That our litanies are too long and repetitive. Those of us who have been doing it a while understand that these ingrain in us an automatic response “Lord have mercy” to life’s daily problems. When ambulances go by. When we see a dog in the road. When someone is yelling at their spouse. When someone mistreats us and we feel tempted. When we are asked to do the unthinkable. Etc. etc. etc. Kyrie, kyrie, kyrie. Anyone who has trained in a traditional martial art knows how this works – in their liturgies (katas), you repeat the same motions again and again. To the unschooled, outside the dojo, they think in a pinch you can “use” your karate. But that’s not true at all. It’s reflexive. You don’t “use” it – it’s ingrained as an automatic response to a complex calculus of movements, situations, ground surface, incline, light direction, etc. It’s like Michael Jordan on the court – he knows without looking where the ball is at any given moment, and is already leaping into the appropriate turn w/o having to stop and think and “use” his learned behavior. The fathers were very wise about this. Perhaps what Western Orthodox need in this age is not less repetition but more. To listen to people who do not stand and pray the hours in their icon corners, who barely make it to vigils, complain about repetition is to listen to new additions to a martial arts class wonder aloud why we have to keep doing these katas. And furthermore, the liturgy ingrains in us a constant attitude of the content of the litanies. In other words, a constant remembrance of family, travelers, the sick, leaders, the poor, monastics, clergy, etc – so that we pray for them all the time.

    That very statement then, that if we knew or understood or had the right attitude, we would pray all the time, like the angels, is exactly the point and the justification for continuing to have repetitions in liturgies. It’s exactly the reason we do it – because our goal is to be transformed, transfigured, to be like the angels, theosis, to be deified and divinize, to become an “instrument” (to borrow for a moment from Francis of Assisi) of the Peace of God – of his divine uncreated energies.

    All we typically hear from the agenda-bearers about that is, “we’re not all supposed to be monks”. They don’t get it at all. As angels are the light of monks, monks are the light of laymen. Indeed, they are the lights on the path that tell us how to be transformed. The heterodox/Western understanding is that there’s a dialectic involved – that one has to be a monk to follow the monks. That’s specious. It’s not Orthodox thinking at all. But it’s very difficult to explain to Orthodox who still think like heterodox that they haven’t converted far enough yet – that there’s an Orthodox way of thinking about things, not just Orthodox thoughts – Orthodox opinions. It’s not just content, it’s methodology. The way in which a question is framed is either Orthodox or heterodox, which is why the fathers spoke of impious questions. They were framed according to heretical presuppositions and assumptions and methodologies. Not believing in that is a lack of understanding and embrace of the Orthodox phronema.

    Comment by tuD | June 26, 2008 | Reply

  14. When people make statements that are self-contradictory, sometimes there is no getting through.

    With respect to the Liturgy, in particular Eastern Rite, I am referring to the level of repetition (also previously objected to)and of course the hours, preparatory prayers, indeed preparation for prayer, receiving the gift of prayer.

    The “reflection” par excellence of Orthodoxy is Lord have mercy. If we knew the true state of our souls we would never stop saying it.

    Reading on the site, looking around at the Orthodox world, I grow more convinced that the future of Orthodoxy is in the Russian Church.

    Comment by publican123 | June 25, 2008 | Reply

  15. @6, tuD:

    “First, we’re not Protestants that we need to be tinkering with our tradition in this way based on personal ‘bible’ readings and someone’s interpretation/application of what/who God is or isn’t. That’s not our Faith at all.”

    You might consider telling me something I don’t already know.

    “This is the liturgy of our fathers, of Saints, and frankly this seems to indicate not merely a desire to foster a fully elaborated Western Rite, but actually a critical stance against the Eastern Rite.”

    The liturgy, then, is set in stone? Or the service books fell out of the sky one day, the ink still wet? It seems to me that you are treating the liturgy the way some Protestants treat the Bible … the fathers and the saints aren’t a mortmain assembly, they represent a living tradition that includes even us, unworthy as we are, even now, untimely as it is … and it is our responsibility to keep it new …

    “Everyone’s got a pet theory on how a WR could be done “right” or ‘correctly’.”

    This is an objection, not an argument … somebody’s “pet theory” could be the Holy Spirit talking … What amazes me in some of the things I read here is the simply sublime self-assurance that one’s views represent the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth …

    “I think you’re missing what Orthodox communities in the West are under the yoke of. American Imperialism. A policy and culture of perpetual warfare, resource absorption, and economic mercantilism combine with a libertine moral anti-culture. I think much can be understood from how the Church dealt with various yokes in various climes. The idea that we’re really any part of a pluralistic society is a bit like thinking that the entrepreneur really has “colleagues” in a corporate environment. Only as a canard.”

    Well, there it is. We may as well all depart to the nearest mountaintop and there await the Parousia. There is nothing good about, nothing possible in, the Western world as we know it …

    “Overall, I think we could add the tendency toward renovation to the enthusiast side. The WR as a fix for something. As a cure. That’s enthusiasm.”

    Guilty as charged …

    Comment by skobtsov | June 25, 2008 | Reply

  16. @5, publican123

    “Failing to see the influence of monasticism and even noetic prayer in Liturgy is also somewhat telling.”

    Huh? Once gain I’m getting this impression that a para-church mentality is at work here, a church within the church, evidently purer and more “noetic” than the church of those ordinary folks we encounter every Sunday. The liturgy is the work of the people, the entirety of God’s people. Nobody is denying “the influence of monasticism,” although what that has to do with my point eludes me. Monastic liturgies and practices do indeed set the standard — for monastics. As for “noetic prayer,” again, huh? This is a strange point to raise in discussing a liturgy that provides for no period(s) of silence for reflection, for instance …

    “The notion that ‘liturgical archaelogy’ can ‘restore genuine Orthodox liturgies of the West’ ignores any notion of continuity and evades the question of why they were lost in the first place by a ‘West’ now suddenly able to recognize Orthodoxy by virtue of what? Carbon dating?”

    We know perfectly well why these liturgies were lost. And what was good and true then is good and true now.

    The fathers, the fathers, we continually invoke the fathers … yet nobody here seems to have any faith or confidence in the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Western fathers, the saints who formed and developed the Western liturgies … or the possibility that there may be special grace embedded there to awaken the recognition of Orthodoxy …

    Comment by skobtsov | June 25, 2008 | Reply

  17. Well, yes, in fact, we do. Or less Greek, or less (fill in the blank). What we need is a church culture that’s more catholic…

    I don’t want a church culture that’s less of anything. I think it’s catholic, in part, because it is Russian, Greek, etc.

    “The Byzantine services are too long and too repetitive.” Sorry, but I see truth in this. The Lord is not forgetful; neither is He deaf.

    I find this offensive. First, we’re not Protestants that we need to be tinkering with our tradition in this way based on personal ‘bible’ readings and someone’s interpretation/application of what/who God is or isn’t. That’s not our Faith at all. This is the liturgy of our fathers, of Saints, and frankly this seems to indicate not merely a desire to foster a fully elaborated Western Rite, but actually a critical stance against the Eastern Rite. And that, frankly, is the very problem being elucidated in the Two Paths post.

    “There are a lot of disaffected Roman Catholics and Anglicans out there, and they’re looking for a home. The Western Rite could be that for them.” Yes, it could, if it’s done right.

    That’s the thing: everyone’s got a pet theory on how a WR could be done “right” or ‘correctly’. That’s one of the inherent problems with its implementation discussed in the Two Paths article. It lends itself almost immediately to personal and interest group agendas. Not just “does”, but in fact (historically) – always has. That’s been one of the besetting issues stalking Western Rite initiatives in general. There’s also a double standard. When an enthusiast says it must be done right, that’s one thing; when a critic says it, he’s pegged as being “against WR, because it’s not done his way”. Take Monk Aidan, for example, who has had that charge hurled at him.

    “Western Rite is our chance to start over, to build an Orthodoxy that’s really free of the problems we see all over the place…”, The state church model is anachronistic and irrelevant to the planting and growing of Orthodoxy in the West. So is the church under the yoke of (fill in the blank) model.

    I think you’re missing what Orthodox communities in the West are under the yoke of. American Imperialism. A policy and culture of perpetual warfare, resource absorption, and economic mercantilism combine with a libertine moral anti-culture. I think much can be understood from how the Church dealt with various yokes in various climes. The idea that we’re really any part of a pluralistic society is a bit like thinking that the entrepreneur really has “colleagues” in a corporate environment. Only as a canard.

    “There’s only one reason to do anything … theosis.” It may be the first and most important reason, but it’s not the only reason.

    I think it is the “only” reason in the sense that all things are either for our theosis or against it. One should get married only for theosis. One should accept holy orders only for theosis. One should live as a monastic only for theosis. One should relocate to a different city only for theosis. Etc. Certainly it is so of where and how one worships. Not “only” in the sense of not being able to make distinctions, but “only” certainly in the sense that any reason must be for that reason. It’s the same issue with giving and lending to the poor. We can say we do it to serve God, or out of love. These are true. They are not excluded by the statement that the only reason we do them is theosis. Theosis is the point of all God’s interactions with all that is not God. It is the point of the Incarnation, the Economy, by which we know anything of God and Christian life at all. Theosis is the summary and summation of all our proper activity. Our choice of jobs. Our decisions to have families. Whatever. Anything less is a Protestant approach that separates life into neoplatonic categories and reduces God to a philosophical principle.

    This is a ridiculous statement. The liturgical archaeology has already been done. It is possible to restore genuine Orthodox liturgies of the West.

    I think you’ve missed the point, but I see no need to argue this one.

    Overall, I think we could add the tendency toward renovation to the enthusiast side. The WR as a fix for something. As a cure. That’s enthusiasm.

    Comment by tuD | June 25, 2008 | Reply

  18. Based on the statement that we need an Orthodoxy that is “less (fill in the blank” I can imagine that skobstov is a fan of “health food” especially the acultural variety, cold, rational, functional.

    Failing to see the influence of monasticism and even noetic prayer in Liturgy is also somewhat telling.

    The notion that “liturgical archaelogy” can “restore genuine Orthodox liturgies of the West” ignores any notion of continuity and evades the question of why they were lost in the first place by a “West” now suddenly able to recognize Orthodoxy by virtue of what? Carbon dating?

    This approach is similar to Anselm’s ontological argument: such a rite need exist…

    Comment by publican123 | June 25, 2008 | Reply

  19. Enthusiasts:

    * We need an Orthodoxy that’s less Russian!

    Well, yes, in fact, we do. Or less Greek, or less (fill in the blank). What we need is a church culture that’s more catholic, that reflects the entire Orthodox tradition, east and west, north and south. One way to start is to add many more Western Orthodox saints to the calendar and make a point of telling their stories.

    * The Byzantine services are too long and too repetitive.

    Sorry, but I see truth in this. The Lord is not forgetful; neither is He deaf. (Matthew 5: 7-8). This is one area where the influence of court ceremonial on the church’s liturgical life is clearly evident.

    * There are a lot of disaffected Roman Catholics and Anglicans out there, and they’re looking for a home. The Western Rite could be that for them.

    Yes, it could, if it’s done right.

    * Western Rite is our chance to start over, to build an Orthodoxy that’s really free of the problems we see all over the place, like multiple and overlapping jurisdictions. If we’re to get what we want, it has to be
    Western Rite; we can’t do it in the Eastern Rite, they’re too set in their ways.

    I basically agree with this, although I don’t know that “it has to be Western Rite.” But I do believe that the solution of many of the problems of Orthodoxy in the diaspora offers opportunities for the renewal of the church everywhere. As I’ve said elsewhere, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will keep getting what you’ve always gotten. The state church model is anachronistic and irrelevant to the planting and growing of Orthodoxy in the West. So is the church under the yoke of (fill in the blank) model.

    Lovers:

    * I can feel at home among the Orthodox anywhere – the Church is the Church, and they’re my brothers. But there’s a lot of stuff in my heterodox background that I still feel is good and right, and now I see it’s really part of the ancient Faith.

    Yes!

    * There’s only one reason to do anything — it’s no popularity or acclaim or attracting others — it’s our own salvation – – theosis. That’s the only legitimate reason for supporting a Western Rite.

    It may be the first and most important reason, but it’s not the only reason.

    * A genuine Western Rite is neither more American nor more “Western” than an Eastern Rite. The West has deviated so much from her own Orthodox beginnings, that she can no longer really recognize what’s truly Western.

    This is a ridiculous statement. The liturgical archaeology has already been done. It is possible to restore genuine Orthodox liturgies of the West.

    * I can acknowledge that there’s no such thing as a “rite of St. Tikhon” and that St. John Maximovitch never sanctioned everything being done in his name — in fact, I can go without namedropping altogether — and still see good reasons for a Western Rite.

    Yes!

    Please note: Anything in “Two Paths” not commented upon, above, is accepted by me as it stands.

    Comment by skobtsov | June 25, 2008 | Reply

  20. While I wish I could concur with the optimism, I’d like to explain the reason for the column headers:

    Enthusiasm is a sociological and religious term that actually means a fervor that the enthusiast attributes to divine inspiration or some special source of revelation, authority, or insight. It can be an attitude, akin to “deeper spirituality” or “a more advanced relationship” with one’s surroundings, all living things, or “God”. It’s a kind of prelest: Pentecostalism is an inherently enthusiastic religious trend – one has strong ideas, attitudes, and behaviors that one believes are coming from the Holy Spirit. The hallmark of such enthusiasm is immunity from criticism, because it’s the “will of God” or comes from special insight or has the sanction of an authority immune from criticism because he/she/it has special insight or the sanction of yet another authority. In that sense, enthusiasm is simply a form of gnostic experience, and is the primary trait of gnosticism. Some definitions:

    Enthusiasm (Greek: enthousiasmos) originally meant inspiration or possession by a divine afflatus or by the presence of a God.”

    Johnson’s Dictionary defines enthusiasm as “a vain belief of private revelation; a vain confidence of divine favour or communication.”

    Religious Enthusiasm refers to “a belief in religious inspiration, or to intense religious fervour or emotion. Thus a Syrian sect of the 4th century was known as the Enthusiasts. ”

    The reason we have always referred to our opponents, with some sadness, as WR Enthusiasts, is that they:
    1. Tend to dismiss all criticism as ignorance, bigotry, or moral failing. They funnel criticism into easily dismissable categories which a superior grasp of faith, culture, history, or logic will easily see through. This is the reason we posted the survey results to the contrary.
    2. Claim the special sanction of heritage, various saints in heaven (however spurious the claim of simple 1:1 support for their agendas), a special teleology (one can’t argue with fate and the force of history – Hegel knew that), current clergy – which they use in a classic “appeal to authority” or neopapal pattern, and a general superiority of understanding, vision, and spiritual insight about the need of America, the West, and Orthodoxy – which, if only the rest of us had, we’d agree with their goals.

    These combined are the very definition of religious enthusiasm which, incidentally, is inherently heretical regardless of the content – regardless of the thing they’re being enthusiastic about or for. The gnostics were heretical not because their particular doctrines were incorrect, but despite that, because of their conviction that they had access to divine inspiration that was not given once for all to the Apostles.

    In essence, what begins as simply the conviction that one has superior wisdom, progresses to prelest, and unfolds as gnosticism at work among the Faithful.

    We consider this the key problem with a lot of Western Rite initiatives, groups, culture, mentality, etc. – namely, religious enthusiasm, and so this site was founded. WesternRiteCritic.com to defend the place of criticism in Orthodox communities determining their courses of actions, and providing a platform of argument against enthusiasm where people interested in Western Rites have fallen prey to it.

    It’s a dirty, thankless job, but a moral duty. We don’t ask for recognition, but these are nevertheless the reasons.

    Our primary argument is not with Western Orthodoxy; it is with Western Rite Enthusiasts. Once there is room for real discussion, real consideration of what we mean by “Western Rite” – not just a glossing over – and there’s free and open discussion of what really is a Western Rite liturgically (i.e. the texts), what is Western Rite piety (i.e. devotions), and what is the place of Western Rites in Orthodox communities in the West — all of this, instead of just blanket insistence on one set of conclusions, the exclusion of all constructive discussion and indeed criticism, a “love it or leave it” attitude or “you just don’t get it” rhetoric that denigrates those with concerns or who don’t believe it’s the right choice – coupled with painting all those who don’t support the new thing as bigots, ignoramuses, or spiritual troglodytes — then we’ve done our part. The heedless, headstrong, anti-ecumenical (in contrast to a pan-orthodox) rush to get something instituted, up and running, regardless of how poorly it is put together, where its material comes from, or what is permitted in its name – and the correspondingly shrill demand that it be accepted by everyone – is a definite sign of religious enthusiasm – which is always not only a danger to the Faithful, but a sign that something illicit is somewhere afoot among us.

    There are good, faithful people executing a well-thought-out and pious Western Rite with integrity, piety, and a lack of triumphalism and superiority. And we feel akin to them, and are quite willing to pray with them freely. But we’d be remiss to pretend that that’s all there is out there, or even that that’s the norm.

    We also reject the notion that the US is a tabula resa, with no existing Orthodox tradition to speak of, and is ripe for a new design, that social planners can feel free to paint upon the canvas with whatever agenda they may have, be it Western Rite or some other thing. The same logic that enthusiasts use to suggest that it’s “God’s will that the Western Rite take hold” would make a stronger case for a “God’s will” being a diversity of ethnic churches and for us to continue in the pious customs of our fathers who brought us the Faith, namely their rites, their pieties, and their traditions. Look around during the liturgy at all the icons of North American saints – almost all Russian and Aleut, are they not? They are our direct parents in the faith.* If we can’t consider that – if the only acceptable answer is to eventually change our minds and prefer the arguments of Western Rite enthusiasts, then we’re not having a free and open exchange of ideas at all – it’s only acceptable for us to “die off”, eventually “come around”, or “deal with it” when it happens anyway. And that’s enthusiasm, as much as it is a progressivist-style agenda of social modification.

    ———–
    * Incidentally, we are well aware of what Vladyka John had to say on the matter, but we do not regard that as definitive. We’re willing to have that discussion, but really, so far, the people coming to sit down at the table for a fair, free, and honest discussion of these issues are not the enthusiasts – they’re people interested in Western Orthodoxy, just as we are. One hand clapping, you might say – “preaching to the choir”. The enthusiasts aren’t listening, because that’s not part of being an enthusiast. We’re OK with that. Our service is to the larger world of Orthodox communities in general. To those swept up in enthusiasm, what could we say, except prayers?

    Comment by tuD | June 17, 2008 | Reply

  21. This was an excellent article. I refuse to be reduced to a rite. I think that if you are the inheritor of the Western Orthodox heritage (faith + rite) you are simply a Western Orthodox Christian. All Orthodox Christians being part of the Orthodox Church, wherever there are true Bishops, are simply Orthodox Christian. To Fr Aidan: I agree with you in concept but not in terminology. “Western rite” is, at best, a term for books, defining what rituals are in them. I am not a rite within my jurisdiction, but a Christian. The fact that the AWRV folk are trying to create a vicariate based on “rite” means they are thinking along Roman lines, which they have not fully abandoned. I cannot see any Christian in the time of St Martin of Tours going to Greece and referring to himself as “Western rite”. He would have just been a Christian with questions of the local practices. To me, that’s just enough.

    Comment by joesuaiden | June 17, 2008 | Reply

  22. The Two Paths article contains much that is excellent and insightful. I call for assigning different headings to the Paths. After all, the fault lines between the Two Paths don’t so much centre on enthusiasm or its lack, nor “love” or its lack (“love” being particularly fuzzy as an identifier). It’s a matter of having Western Rite within Orthodox Paradigm vs. Western Rite within Episcopalian Paradigm. It is the matter of an ascetic vs. non-ascetic world-view, the choice between an ascetic Orthodoxy which was the common inheritance of our peoples (East and West) vs. a Neutered, Minimalist Orthodoxy driven by principles of compromise and convenience, springing in spirit from the Elizabethan Settlement, and which utilises intentional vagueness to make advances and to solidify them once made. I predict the Episcopalian Paradigm may flourish for some years, but eventually cannot stand and will give way to the historic Orthodox Paradigm–perhaps even in the hearts of the selfsame persons. The first can have only short-term success and will fall. The second is strong and eternal. History will bear this out.

    Comment by hieromonachusaidanus | June 17, 2008 | Reply


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