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). Continue reading

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

What will You Be doing This Lent?


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

He’s not Crucified Yet!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Texts or Devotions?


“The actual text of the Eucharistic liturgy is usually one of the slowest changing and most “calcified” part of any Christian tradition. That is why it is easy to find certain elements and themes in even the earliest times (the Didache, the writings of Justin Martyr or St. Cyril of Jerusalem, etc.) that correspond to nearly all modern liturgies whether Coptic, Constantinopolitan, or Tridentine Roman. The really big changes and the parts that usually push heresies in any heretical body’s devotional life are the private, domestic devotions.

If you don’t believe me, try the following experiment: read just the plain text of the Mass or the Office from a traditionalist Roman Catholic site. Now read the interpretation/”guide to understanding the Mass” from one of those sites or read up on some of the private devotions, chaplets, or spiritual exercises practiced in counter-reformed Catholicism. Which one had ideas that were more bizarre and disturbing to you as an Orthodox Christian? In which one did you read more about “making reparations”, “offering up” one’s suffering for the “poor souls in purgatory”, and engaging in excessively sentimental and overly imaginative spiritual “exercises”? In short, where is the real *soul* of what makes counter-reformed Catholicism different from Orthodoxy?” – [source]

The author of this post goes on to appeal to authority, presenting the same fait accompli argument that so many have, not being familiar enough with our history and its meaning. The interesting aspect of the above comment is that this is PRECISELY the question at hand when we’re looking at Western Rite adherents doing the rosary, keeping the “sacred heart”, and doing stations of the cross. (What’s next? Statues?) In short, he’s right, but he misses the point that this debate is far from over in the larger Orthodox world, just like many others.

February 1, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Um… it’s bowels, not heart.


http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/monasteryicons.aspx“We do have the Feast of the Sacred Heart in the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate, and it’s based entirely upon the excellent liturgical texts from the Breviary and the Missal, not upon the excesses of the popular devotion (popular devotion can be crazy, whether its Orthodox or Catholic).” – Lux Occidentalis

‘From the time of the apostles there has always been in the Church something like devotion to the love of God, but there is nothing to indicate that, during the first ten centuries of Christianity, any worship was rendered to the wounded Heart of Jesus. It is in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that the first indications of devotion to the Sacred Heart are found. It was in the fervent atmosphere of the Benedictine or Cistercian monasteries, in the world of Anselmian or Bernardine thought, that the devotion arose, although it is impossible to say positively what were its first texts or who were its first devotees. From the 16th centuray the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was everywhere in evidence, largely due to the Franciscan devotion to the Five Wounds and to the habit formed by the Jesuits of placing the image on their title-page of their books and the walls of their churches. Nevertheless, the devotion remained an individual, or at least a private, devotion. Jean Eudes (1602-1680) made it public, gave it an Office, and established a feast for it. Père Eudes was the apostle of the Heart of Mary; but in his devotion to the Immaculate Heart there was a share for the Heart of Jesus. The most significant source for the devotion to the Sacred Heart in the form it is known today was Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), who claimed to have received visions of Jesus Christ. There is nothing to indicate that she had known the devotion prior to the revelations, or at least that she had paid any attention to it.’ [source] [discussion] [Monastery Icons]

It’s more gore, along with the stations of the cross. Better Al Gore than this gore. Besides, we touch our bowels when we cross ourselves, not the heart. But that could get even worse.

As for “Windows to Heaven”, instead of the declaration, “He who is”, the icon comes with lucky charms. To be fair, this icon hasn’t popped up in any WR environment that we know of, even if the other spooky icons are ubiquitous in Roman Catholic curio shops masquerading as Orthodox iconography – but it did come up in a discussion on the web, and so it works here to lend illustration to the point.

January 24, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

4 out of 5 Dentists say: “Tridentine”.


“This leads to a second point: the simple fact is that what is being done in WR parishes in the AOA is NOT pre-schism. It is Tridentine (16th century). Whether it is the Anglican or the Roman ordo missae, it is essentially the Tridientine rituale that is being followed. Certainly some of those practises, especially various rites surrounding Baptism and Holy Week can be traced back as far as the fourth century in terms of their origins, but that doesn’t mean that either the texts of the prayers or the ritual is the same. For example, the Stations of the Cross sprang from the same practise in Jerusalem as the Byzantine reading of the Twelve Passion Gospels during the Mattins of Holy Friday. In Rome, they kept the act of making a procession from one place (statio) to another. In Constantinople, they preserved the readings, which have varied relatively little over the centuries. (I wrote my M.Div. thesis on the Byzantine lectionary for Holy Thursday-Pascha.) There are other points in which the Roman practise reflects the ancient Jerusalem practise to which the pilgrim Egeria bore witness toward the end of the 4th century, and to which the Armenian lectionary bears some testimony at the beginning of the fifth century.

It is not possible, however, to jump from this to saying that the Tridentine ordo and rituale are ‘pre-schism.’ That is just too much of a stretch. If you want to learn about pre-schism ritual, read the Ordo Romanus Primus, which reflects the pontifical liturgy at Rome toward the end of the 7th century. Ironically, it is far more like the Byzantine Rite on the one hand, and the Novus Ordo Missae, which WR people, Anglican or Roman, are trying to escape because it is so mixed up with the theological deviations and other modernisms of the present-day Anglican and Roman communions.” – Mark Harrison 7/9/2006

That’s another interesting point: do we sanction the use of a clearly heterodox devotional practice like the stations of the cross, because it corresponds to a similar Eastern practice. Same argument could be made for the rosary. But is mere correspondence in superficial form sufficient when there is such non-correspondence in the implications of those pieties for the Faith?

January 18, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Questions on the Edict


In 1958, Met. Antony issued his Edict of August, setting forth the general and provisional basis for establishing Western rite parishes within the Antiochian Archdiocese. Among the Edict’s stipulations are the following (with commentary):

1. All converts to the Church must accept the full Orthodox doctrine of Faith.

This is probably the most serious areas of concern. It is easy to say that one accepts the doctrine of the Faith in toto, but can one accept it truly with insufficient understanding of and education in it? Does this mean just the creed? The speed at which many converts are being funneled into the WR, and the inadequacy of the catechetical instruction and requirements, is a reasonable point of concern. Is it really acceptance of the *full* Orthodox doctrine of Faith, if that faith is not adequately understood.

2. Parishes and larger units received into the Archdiocese retain the use of all Western rites, devotions, and customs which are not contrary to the Orthodox Faith and are logically derived from a Western usage antedating the Schism of 1054.

This is probably the second most serious area of concern. One the one hand, how can churches that barely observe the pieties and pious customs of the East ensure that Western Rite missions they’re setting up are observing the genuine and full expressions of Orthodox piety. In parishes where there is barely any keeping of the fasts, where liturgy and the liturgical prayers are spectator behaviors, where the non-Sunday services are barely attended, Confession barely a regular practice, and nearly all semblance of the asceticism that shapes *all* Orthodox worship is missing, from where is this surety to come? And in the absence of such things, will we not see the filling of the void with precisely such heterodox devotions as the Roman Catholic rosary and the Stations of the Cross. There is a very real dearth, in theatre-like Orthodox Churches, of anything approaching a full expression of Orthodox worship, devotions, and customs.

3. All individual converts must be integrated into parochial life; there can be no individual converts to the Western rite unless to an established parish.

Again, another area of concern. In parishes that are “planting” Western Rite Missions, converts are easily run through a quick catechesis and given a choice of “going East” or “going West”, and then it’s a rush to get the storefront built out, and the clergy chrismated and ordained, and everyone into their building. Just as children are stunted if they do not spend adequate time building relationships with adults, one worries about creating parallel communities that aren’t truly integrated with each other, and so have a false basis for integration in their separate communities.

7. Western rite parishes and clergy are subject to the canons of the Orthodox Church and the laws of the Archdiocese.

To what degree are they or their parent churches really familiar with the canons to treat them with due reverance and observe them faithfully? It is of some interest whether the canons are truly being respected in general, but what about their observance in the conduct of a Western Rite in the first place? Will the canons be observed with regard to fasting? Are they known? etc.

The goal in asking these things is to convey substantial and justifiable concerns with what is and is not being done in the name of setting up Western Rite missions and parishes, aside from the cheerleading in various media.

January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AA WR & Roman Catholic pieties (e.g. Rosary)


Initiation into the Piety of the RosaryFor those concerned about the replacement of genuinely Orthodox pieties with Roman Catholic mariology and pieties, take for example the [Instructions for Praying The Rosary] at St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church, complete with “history” and “how to”.

Likewise an article from The Walsingham Way (Vol II, Num. 1, Fall 99) instructs one that the Rosary is an Orthodox devotion. It makes reference, however, to perfectly normal venerations of the Theotokos, as presumably examples of praying the Rosary. This is the fallacy of equivocation. If one, for instance, compares the 15 prayers of the Elder Zosima to the 15 prayers of the Rosary, the Roman Catholic obesession with the suffering and passion of Christ (and the suggested hetereodox Soteriology if not Christology) becomes as evident as it is in contemporary Roman Catholic “iconography” and in the stations of the cross. Where the Roman Catholic Rosary concentrates on the agony and gore, the Orthodox devotion concentrates on the miraculous triumph of Christ, and on the Theotokos as such. Compare them, using the above two links, if you will.

The Rosary is not Orthodox Soteriology or Piety or DevotionFr. Seraphim Rose: Again drawing from the Holy Fathers, Fr. Seraphim counseled his spiritual children not to trust in or get carried away by their imagination, especially in prayer. Fr. Alexey Young recalls how, when he was still a Roman Catholic preparing to become Orthodox, he was given an important lesson by Fr. Seraphim: “I asked Fr. Seraphim about meditation, which my wife and I, still under the influence of our Roman Catholic background, had made part of our regular routine of morning prayer. We did not yet realize that the Orthodox understanding of meditation is quite different from the Western Christian view. In conversation, Fr. Seraphim explained that the use of imagination in Western spiritual systems of meditation—viz., while saying the Rosary, reciting the Stations of the Cross, or doing the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, etc.—was not compatible with Orthodox spirituality and was forbidden because imagination came into use only after the fall of Adam and Eve; it is one of the lowest functions of the soul and the favorite playground of the devil, who can and does use human imagination in order to deceive and mislead even well-meaning people.” – Fr. Alexey Young, Letters from Fr. Seraphim, pp. 12–13.

Continue reading

January 17, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite Pieties | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

%d bloggers like this: