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

Western Rites and the “Episcopalianizing” of Orthodoxy


Lambeth - Orthodox - AnglicanThe Marcionites would be happy with what the Western Rite enthusiasts have been trying to achieve. A church within a church, a confession within a confession. This pattern – this template – is the gnostic/masonic/revolutionary template from of old. It creates “unity in diversity” by creating within a religious body another religious body that cannot exist outside it but is in contradiction to that in which it inheres. This has been done to every major religious confession. It’s essentially the translation of universalism and the filioque into an ecclesiological expression.

Observe how it was done with the Episcopal Church. The 1979 prayer book gave us not just two different rites, as the 1928 continued to be used simultaneously in most churches (though, as in this case, proponents kept claiming it was all about rites and rites alone); what it did was elucidate, exacerbate, and continue producing two religious cultures, one within the other, but each in contradiction to the other (despite the harmony the enthusiasts would claim). Even the most optimistic glossers of those events now can scarcely deny that the chickens of contradiction have come home to roost. In the early morning hours, the high-church protestant wing, adhering to the ’28 books, would show up to say the spoken prayers. In the later hours, the quasi-catholic wing, to whom the ’79 book and its culture were now effectively glued, showed up with its charismatic converts to sing the new writ (the former would show up to vigils and such, too). And so the holders of the old way were forced into an ever more Protestant mold, while the holders of the catholic way were melded to the new movement. Effectively, this coopted, compromised, and weakened both.

And so tensions that were already there were exacerbated in the extreme, leading to the present troubles. The 28ers began to lose their catholicity for the sake of their Anglicanism, as they left in droves for Continuing groups. The 79ers, offering the heroic myth of a return to ancient practices, found their “catholicity” in indeed embracing all, but therefore putting them at odds with their own moral standards, and so further dividing them. You can’t embrace everything without becoming nothing. When you’re self-definition is open-ended, people will throw a lot of garbage into it. Defections from each ‘canonical’ group to the other became rampant, satisfying neither the leaving nor the receiving parties. The “Continuing” solution, of freezing the religious assets, as it were, simply created little museums dedicated to a myth of purity and the golden age. Now two great myths collided and fed on one another.

In effect, the complete fragmentation of Anglicanism we are currently witnessing is leading not to the end of Anglicanism, but the transformation of it into a faceless goo that is the raw material to be reformatted into something altogether new – something that prepares it for a more global apostasy. And none of its splinters, or splinters within splinters, whether they be in communion or contradistinction, admit fully what has happened.

It’s not a long leap to looking at the same template in relation to the Western Rite and so-called Byzantine Rite. The ’79 and ’28 prayer books overlay quite neatly. It’s “just about rites”, right? We even have the attendant claims of “returns to more ancient practices” and “embracing the culture that surrounds us” – same things the Episcopalians were saying and many now rue – when they’re dealing in reality at all. But one doesn’t even have to squint to see all the rhetoric about a shift in religious culture being trumpeted by Western Rite enthusiasts in one place while simultaneously denied with shrugs and protests in another. This template is that template. The necessary stages in the preparation of any amalgum include a distillation, a simplification, and extraction of the right isotope to define the necessary parts going into the new whole.

One needn’t even mention that this same alchemical process went to work on the great Protestant confessions, and didn’t have far to run to distill them into elements more akin to an ultra-fragmented fundamentalism in some cases, something like episcopalianism in others, and an ultra-refined generic mega-church (a kind of religious androgyny) in the rest.

If you want to see the future of “Orthodoxy” in the vision of those making the most enthusiastic noise about “Western Rites”, you have only to look around you at the crumbling pillars of Rome and her children. The very religiosity into which they wish to initiate us is being boiled down, and our participation will be courted as the ‘recovery’ of something lost (merely an earlier stage in the process) and the ‘purification’ of what was fundamentally fine (a different stew than our fathers ever knew). We are being asked to embrace a new Orthodoxy, a traditional Orthodoxy, and a continuing Orthodoxy, all within the same confession. We are being asked to become Episcopalians in culture and Orthodox in name.

So-called “Western Orthodoxy” is merely a symbol of this process and a symptom of the new order being formed, a different ecclesiology, a pseudo-ekklesia. In and of itself, it certainly has significant problems, many of which have been rather universally recognized [survey]. In terms of what its progress is telling us about the contemporary Orthodox movement (and the very fact that it is movement, and can no longer be considered static or a state – and so now has much in common with the Episcopalian experience) — in those terms, it points to much larger problems that are as yet, just as with the Episcopalians, not widely or fully acknowledged. This despite the countless warnings of monastic communities, ascetic saints, Orthodox prophets, and holy martyrs. Lord have mercy.

You’d think the Episcopalians would like what these folk are up to, but anyone that has suffered what many of them have, through this process, could only look at it with sadness, and perhaps a will to help us fight it. The ones chasing it like a grail are those ‘true believers’ who still think the key problems are gays and women priests, and miss the point entirely. For them, an Episcopalianized Orthodoxy, especially a Western Orthodoxy, is a mirage, and they’re greedily gulping down what many of us recognize as sand. The sad thing is that we are feeding it to them, in the name of disseminating the Faith. This can only happen when we have begun to lose our Faith the same way they did: Quite literally by losing The Faith.

The Marcionites, Masons, and Revolutionaries should be happy, but no one else will be. Not when, instead of coming home to roost, our dove departs for the last time.

June 9, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, -- What is Western? | , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Did you know you’re “Byzantine Orthodox”?


Western Orthodox - Byzantine OrthodoxNo, I don’t know what it means either. Nor am I aware that the various synods of the world have declared themselves to be any such thing as “Byzantine Orthodox”. But that’s what Western Rite enthusiasts are calling you. It’s because they want to reformulate Holy Orthodoxy into a religious system defined by the selection of a particular rite, the religious endorsement of a body of cultural baggage, and the importation of a whole set of heterodox pieties on the justification that they’re “Western” and “Orthodox” people are willing to use them. They call themselves by the misnonmer “Western Orthodox”, and the only way to keep it from looking like a schism, a fetish, or a ploy (like “Charismatic Orthodox” – no such thing), is to try to rename the rest of us after their heresy. Yes, heresy, for it is certainly heresy to create another “Orthodoxy” in competition with the Orthodoxy already here present, and wed it to anything but itself, and claim that it is the rightful religion of those who live in already-evangelized lands. If it is Orthodoxy, let it be simply that. If it is Orthodoxy-plus or Orthodoxy-light, it is a deception, as well as a heresy.

Those who claim the need to Americanize Orthodoxy, for instance, have reversed the entire order of Orthodox evangelism. Orthodoxy is planted by missionaries in a land, and grows organically from there, without campaigns of special interests trying to ethically cleanse and culturally sanitize and reformat the Faith. The Orthodoxy planted, grown, and still growing in the United States is Orthodoxy planted in a multicultural environment, and it is no wonder that it should be Russian, Greek, Arabic, etc. And there would be no wonder in it being Roman, were such a thing to exist, and were it to keep itself free of stain by abstaining from heterodoxy rather than, like Corinth, remixing its own religion. But it prefers to create a religious fiction – that of a “Western Orthodoxy”, typified across diverse lands and times by liturgical similarities.

It tries both in the US and in history to create homogenization where none exists or existed. It cannot bear diversity, not really. Observe that enthusiasts do not find it enough to be approved, they insist on quelling dissent and claiming they are the legacy and heritage of all future Orthodox here. Homogeneity is their goal, under the term “Western”. What we are witnessing is something that was never Western when the West was Orthodox, nor Orthodox when Orthodoxy was in the West. A presumed “religion of the West”, only in the Orthodox rather than Papal fold. In actuality, it is a vehicle for translating the cultural implications of US and Western European imperialism into religious attitudes. In fact, this is what we mean by ‘religion’ in the negative sense: the process of translating cultural imperatives into religious rubrics.

Just a point to keep in mind: there never was a “Western Patriarch”. There certainly was a Roman Patriarch and, if they want that, let them revive it; let them fill the vacant see. But if they mean to create what never was – a hybrid of Orthodox affiliation with the heterodox notion of a religion based not on the local episcopate, as the Church that Christ and our Fathers have given us once for all, but some quasi-jurisdiction – a popeless or pope-courting ‘Western Orthodoxy’, then let us remember the full and unexpurgated anathemas in our Synodikons, which have much to say to such an ecclesiological-liturgical homonculus.

Indeed, the recent initiatives seem to be an effort to create an ‘Orthodoxy of all the West’ rooted neither in the local Bishop nor even in synods of local Bishops according to some unrealistic plan for episcopal gerrymandering, but rooted in Americanism and the Roman Catholic atmosphere of the Godfather era, sans the Pope (though that can’t be far behind – they’ll eventually need him). Make no mistake, the notion of “Western Orthodoxy” and the fabrication of a “Byzantine Orthodoxy” is an attack on Orthodox ecclesiology in the first place, and a preparation for neopapism in the second.

While we wait for that ridiculous day, let us who are not “Western Orthodox” neither be called “Byzantine Orthodox”, nor any other neologisms, so we don’t cause our brothers to stumble by taking up their error. Those who were first called Christians should beware taking up new names that contradict the very things that make them Christians in the first place.

June 9, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western? | , | 4 Comments

What do Critics Really Think?


Many of the enthusiasts for current Western Rite initiatives have been saying for some time that the primary concerns of those questioning the wisdom of such initiatives were simple prejudice or unfamiliarity. In short, they have, in their rhetoric, reduced all criticism to self-refuting categories. They have not listened.

Poll results:

The results of our poll clearly show that the primary areas of concern are neither small minded nor nitpicking, but are areas of sociological substance and regarding the state of Orthodox spiritual psychology.

While we don’t pretend this is a sufficiently scientific poll, with requisite controls, sufficient sample size and demographics, etc, we do think it represents the most vocal who have concerns. The most significant concerns were Western/European Phyletism and an essentially Protestant mentality. There were also significant concerns, representing roughly 25% of respondents, about liturgics and devotional pieties not merely being “post-schism” but being in fact heterodox or “post-Orthodox”, as the discussion by respondents throughout this forum will show. None of the concerns, in fact, were merely trivial. Respondents who felt their concerns were not fully represented by the poll, cited expediency as the central concern (what one respondent termed “The Offer”). By expediency is meant the exchange of whole, vast, comprehensive areas of Orthopraxis and the Orthodox Phronema for an influx of conversions.

We therefore offer these results as indication that the vocal critics of much of what passes for “Western Rite” and Western Rite initiatives have substantive concerns that cannot be so easily dismissed, and have faithfully indicated poignant, reasonable, and pointed concern for the salvation of persons in both Western Rite and Eastern Rite, for the spiritual psychology of our religious bodies, and for the pan-Orthodox (read ecumenical) articulations of our Faith. To mischaracterize or dismiss these concerns as either pedestrian or irrelevant would be headstrong, prideful, and ill-advised. We offer this for your consideration.

May 19, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Groark on Devotional Abuses


“Novenas, rosaries, holy hours, statue crownings, (are) prepared and offered by various religious  orders, and offered to the people, while the offices of matins or vespers are never heard in parish  churches. Whether these and numerous other abuses will be corrected by the decrees of the  (Second Vatican) Council is a most important question . . .” E. T. Groark, Orthodoxy (Basilian Journal of the Western Rite) Volume X, Number 4, Autumn 1964, p. 120.

May 16, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maybe the Rite isn’t the Core of the Problem Anyway?


Would it be fair to say that many of the problems plaguing Western Rite initiatives are endemic to their parent jurisdictions? Would something like the following chart be a fair way to compare these problems?

Eastern Rite Western Rite
Includes some WR people who were pressured to “Byzantinize” Includes many converts who were pressured to “go Western Rite”
Sometimes treating WR brethren as second class Often dismissing ER brethren as outmoded and irrelevant
Can exhibit East European Phyletism Frequently exhibits Anglo-American & West European Phyletism
Confusion about what is Orthodox Confusion about what is Western
Twin problems of Neopapism & Anticlericalism Twin problems of Neopapism and Congregationalism
Alien (im)pieties: general absolution, deprecation of all things seen among Russians Alien pieties: sacred heart, stations of the cross, rosary
Abbreviated Liturgics, and deprecation of the full range of services, vigils, etc. Serious liturgical problems: Tridentine, BCP, and so-called Tikhon’s Liturgy
Confusion about what is piety and what is culture Confusion about what is culture and what what is piety
Inadequate Catechesis & Dubious Converstion Inadequate Catechesis & Dubious Converstion
Ecumenistic courting of Rome Ecumenistic courting of Rome
Deprecation of monasticism Deprecation of monasticism
Dubious evangelistic methods Dubious evangelistic methods

May 15, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , | 38 Comments

Disaffection and the Social Psychology of Conversion


Well phrased insight here: “…how does the next generation build on the sense of being “disaffected?” It seems the WR in its present form liturgically attempts to even amplify that sense…” – Publican123 from [these comments]

We’d be interested in your comments. If you haven’t yet cast your Western Rite poll vote, that’s still open, too.

May 15, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Participate in a Poll


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:

Also want to create a poll? Click here

May 2, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , , , | 25 Comments

When Proof Texts Go Wild


It’s always easy to justify one’s personal agenda for the Church and Orthodox religion by creative placement of texts. Recently, for instance, we read a passage from [this blog] which makes a case for emotionalism in Orthodox pieties (something rare and generally foreign to our experience). It does this by presenting a lengthy description of events in Constantinople in the 4th century as of Great Thursday. In fact, they are in the main a description of Great and Holy Friday, the most solemn and sorrowful day of Holy Week, and a day of total fast. Whereas the text to which the quotation links makes this clear, the article citing it does not, putting only a header concerning Thursday above the quotation. It then boldfaces the portion about the “emotion shown and the mourning” before the cross on Great Friday which, of course, one can only expect.

This example is just one of many, but it illustrates the problem of scouring history for proof texts in an effort to recreate and reconstruct an Orthodox experience presumably now lacking in the attitude of contemporary Orthodox. This dialectic, misused, can actually be quite harmful, and is solely a matter for conscientious converts and ambitious academics (meaning, in both cases, theoreticians) who wish to rescue the Church from its failings by restoring to it a history they barely comprehend, deprived in fact from its full context. This is history as a tool rather than hagiology as a means of theosis. We really aren’t meaning to pick on the blog owner above. He asks for and receives quite enough flack. But since his is perhaps the ‘loudest’ example of the evangelical hermeneutic at work in the “Western Rite” theatre, his posts are typically replete with helpful examples of the matters that concern a sober mind about what is getting called “Western Rite”.

Again, to try to create a blanket justification of concepts or experiences detached from their context (by proof texts in the wild, or by any other hermeneutic) is a dangerous process to set loose upon a Faith. Its harmful effects have already been experienced in the history of the Roman Catholic and Anglican religions, which have become bywords for this error, and we find it a dubious undertaking for clergy of any religion in the name of winning an argument or scoring support for a private agenda. Besides, if that agenda is indefensible otherwise, then it should be rejected as lacking the very historical continuity it presumes to demonstrate.

Not all critical examination of contemporary Orthodox community life or investigation of historical precedent is a bad idea. Indeed, we benefit from it frequently. But it must be done in a mature and circumspect manner, with some sense of how the Church uses history in the first place, how it ‘places’ its thought within history, and how it’s Faith differs from the manufacture or “rediscovery” of concepts, as in Protestantism and archaism. The Church is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Our essential ecclesiology, our fundamental hermeneutical tradition, and our basic mysteriology must guide our consciences in our treatment of the Church’s history, Her texts, and Her sacred experience.

April 28, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Questions, Western Rite Weirdness | , , , | 3 Comments

Give Evil No Place


It’s worth reminding ourselves, as we do periodically, that we must avoid the blindness that comes and delusion that precedes belittling and ridiculing our brother. For all such offenses, we ask forgiveness. And to any who are caught by the demon that inspires these things, we say “save yourselves, and pray for us, so we can be saved.” We may disagree, indeed must disagree at times, but we are not enemies.

Let us leave off all forms of saying to our brothers “raca”, which in modern parlance is translated: fool, idiot, moron, simpleton, bone-head, dolt, loser, human waste, excrement, or any number of other attributions. But let us give the demon speaking such words through our lips no place, and speak of the limitless value of our brother and only of our own failings. In this way is the Evil One defeated and cast out.

“For this reason it is very beneficial for a person to think of himself as smaller than all, so that he sees the brother as better, in order that he may, with the help of God, be delivered from this evil. ” – Elder Ephraim of Philotheou

In every personal failing we see in another, let us turn the finger around and point it at ourselves. Then people will listen when we speak of real concerns about the directions of our religious communities, and will not confuse this with personal insults. But, as it is, we accept as true all things that people say of our character – that we are silly, angry people, filled with passions. In this way, we will deprive the enemy, too, of power.

If we have to criticize, and we do, and that is what this site is for, it is a criticism of those things which deprive us of salvation, and is not meant to undermine anyone’s view of another person, though we are sure we fail to communicate this at times, and to show sufficient love to our detractors. Pray for us; we cannot walk this delicate path without your prayers.

April 15, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Enemies, Opponents, and Brothers in Christ


Wool over one's eyes.Recently a Christian speaker stood before an audience desiring to gain acceptance for a path that conflicted quite clearly with their tradition. The technique he used is tried and true. He began to describe how there’s a difference between crazy and not crazy. Always he drew associations with his theoretical opponents and craziness, always with his own views and sanity. In other words:

  • He presented a false dilemma: Your choices are: my novel views or else these extreme and unpleasant attitudes and motivations; those are your choices. He didn’t define craziness, of course. You could insert the word ‘extremist’ or ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘liberal’ or any other undesirable buzzword. The important thing is to leave it vague enough, and to indicate, without indicating why or how, it is undesirable: You don’t want to be thought of as “x”, do you? Well then, the only alternative is my views.
  • He poisoned the well: Those who would oppose me are, by opposing me, demonstrating that their motivations are irrational. Of course, he did not have any actual opponents on hand to prove him wrong – the goal was to prevent opposition, and stereotype it in advance.
  • He mischaracterized his opponents, theoretical or otherwise. By attributing to them irrational, he easily escapes contest with the many rational books and articles that have been written to refute his position. He likewise, escapes having to engage such things, since a scholar needn’t, after all, debate with the irrational. [1]

In short, this speaker silenced opposition, embarrassed concern, and slid a pre-packaged point of view into the minds of those least educated on the matter, least versed in the relevant body of thought, and most likely to desire an easy avenue to intellectual status – namely, the mass of new converts and under-educated members of churches that cater to every novelty while fostering ignorance of tradition. He pled to dilettants.

These techniques are cited here, because they’re not uncommon among Western Rite enthusiasts. Frequently, those who express concern, potent questions, and certainly challenges to things done in the name of “Western rites” are characterized as “hysterical” [2], “raving”, “railing”, “polemicists” [3] “bashing”, “attacking”, “hostile”, “attempting to demean the rite” [4], and so on.

In other words, a variety of irrational emotions (rage, hysteria), evil motives (hostility, hatred, the desire to demean), and extreme actions (railing, raving) are attributed to those who would express concern over some of the enthusiasm being expressed, question the wisdom of some of the initiatives undertaken, or oppose the novelties introduced. The technique is the same, and it’s effects are:

  • Present a false dilemma: you must choose the “balanced view” of the enthusiasts, or the extreme emotions, motives, and actions presumably characterizing their opponents. There is no third choice – namely that of happy approval of what is good, and firm, even adamant opposition to what is not, coupled with cautious consideration of what is questionable. There is only, in this presentation, “us” and “them”, and “them” aren’t really an option.
  • Poison the well: when you see opposition, you must read it with the remembrance that it cannot come from genuine and legitimate concern, a righteous desire for fidelity and purity, and a human struggle to balance the need to admonish and sometimes correct one’s brother for his own salvation, for ours, and for the sanctity of the Faith, with the need to seek dispassion, find humility, and pray for the best. No, opponents must be ‘read’ with a certain pre-packaged hermeneutic – with eyes provided to you by the enthusiasts.
  • Mischaracterize opponents: you are encouraged to read opponents with prejudice and feelings, all the while being admonished not to read the enthusiasts with prejudice and feelings, except of course where prejudice and feelings are deemed to favor the enthusiasts. The first step in persecuting anyone (as the enthusiasts so frequently claim to be persecuted) is to dehumanize them – to make them into caricatures of honest, honorable, reasonable people. This is how you become the enemy of another, and not merely the opponent. Once you have decided that your opponents are not honest, honorable, reasonable people with whom you can seek and indeed find the truth together, you may feel safety from them, but in fact you are no longer safe from yourselves. The truth is, we all need each other, to challenge one another, question one another, admonish one another, and indeed to listen to us. Once we willingly decide to end that, no position we hold is worth having.

Opponents need not be EnemiesThis capacity, to treat opposition as warfare, which always reduces opponents to something less than our fellows, lies in wait as a temptation for any of us, and we are most vulnerable when wounded by one another. As St. Nikolai said, “Men can do me no evil as long as I bear no wound.” And likewise, he offered an entirely different way of looking at enemies in [this wonderful prayer].

So we must encourage those who are enthusiasts, those who are critics, and those who aren’t sure, to use moderation in characterizing opponents. The very caution that we use in examining these matters for approval or disapproval, let us use in choosing how we portray our counterparts, for agreement or disagreement. Let charity teach us to use more strictness with ourselves and more leniency with others. We who are writing this have often failed in this regard. We have sometimes let prejudice, defensiveness, and the desire to finish the course easily determine our words. We are resolved to do better. At the same time, we must, for the sake of the things for which we are striving, point out misleading and harmful techniques, when they endanger our brothers among Western Rite enthusiasts, our fellows anywhere, and ourselves in the temptation to respond in kind. We only seem to be opponents, after all, but to the degree we seek salvation in this striving, we are not opponents – not really. And just as we must acknowledge behaviour sometimes unbecoming, we must seek forgiveness, too, for driving our opponents to behaviours unbecoming fellows in Christ.

Let us love one another, that with one mouth, one mind, one accord we may confess, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – the Trinity, One in Essence, and Undivided. Amen.



End Notes:
Continue reading

April 10, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Questions, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The First Denomination within Orthodoxy


First Orthodox Denomination?The Protestant impulse may be loosely defined as that tendency toward fragmentation over the desires, interests, beliefs, persuasions, passions, etc. etc. of religious adherents. There is substantial agreement on “the Faith” itself, but the very process being performed upon the Faith reduces it to a system of ‘essentials’ which are contrasted with non-essentials. In other words, those who disagree on essentials are of a different Faith. Those who disagree on non-essentials are of a different denomination.

Traditionally, of course, Orthodox Churches grew organically. They were planted by apostles and they were missionized among ‘barbarians’ by those “equal to the apostles”. The notion of programmatically ‘setting up’ a Church was more or less appropriate to the papal or Protestant ecclesiologies.

But what if it were otherwise? What if the Orthodox shared an essentially Protestant/Papal ecclesiology: Church by administration – church by fiat? At least two things would result, but two things, certainly:

1. The impulse and moral justification for creating a church would be “cultural” differences within the fold. This is the Protestant element.
2. The legitimization of this impulse would be juridical – something a hierarchy would sign off on but closely control. This is the Papal element.

And if these two things were to coincide, the result would be an organization within an organization, organism within organism, organ within organ: in short, a church within a church. Anyone else, of course, looking in, would term that a denomination. The basis for departure are the non-essentials, while the basis for administrative authority and control (simultaneously) would be the essentials.

And if this were all there was, these things in theory, we might yet be hesitant to refer to the Western Rite as a denomination within Orthodoxy. But then one reads Western Rite literature, and hears the call to go to one Church if you’re ‘ethnic’ and another if you’re white, to go to one church or another depending on which side of the Bosphorus your ancestry falls, which bank of the Mediterranean, which bloodline, which inclination, how you were raised, where you converted from, etc. This is the language of denominationalism.

Again, though, one might be hesitant to call it that, until one also reads Western Rite apologetics. The sometimes indiscriminate pilfering of the treasure houses of history, finding justifications, references, bloodlines, geneologies, and whatever bases one can for distinction, all the while demanding, often shrilly, recognition of union. This too, holding in constant tension the quest for objective authority in references and the demand for subjective authority in the recognition of others, is the Protestant impulse. And the method of handling texts is akin to arguing your point, and then finding the footnotes to back it up later. Substitute the ‘bible’, and you’ve got the fundamental Protestant hermeneutic, whether you’re doing ‘Orthodox’ hagiography or what have you.

If we took out the words “Western Rite” and inserted the words “Missouri Synod”, one might easily survey a number of “Western Rite” sites and be surprised if someone suggested the Westerrn Rite were anything *but* a denomination of Orthodoxy (aside from the absence of Western Rite bishops that could actually make up their own synod). We mean these observations not to belittle Western Rite endeavours, but rather to call adherents to awareness (no, not of how they look, but) of the religious sociology being introduced into Orthodoxy by the attitudes, mindsets, and resultant activities done in the name of “Western Rite”. A different rite, after all, needn’t be a different denomination, but when a rite is confused with a host of other things, and touted in a tribalist, multiculturalist way, a denomination is what you get, and denominationalism as an impulse – indeed a host of other things that are needed to prop up such an impulse, and which are actually foreign to Orthodoxy of any rite.

In seeking to accurately, adequately, and appropriately pursue a rite, one must not allow a quasi-Protestant, pseudo-Orthodox culture to be constructed that undermines these very efforts. This will prove worse than no effort at all, and what adherents will find themselves clutching in the end is not Orthodoxy but just another religion, whose claim to be the True Faith depends on cognitive dissonance – on saying one thing, and acting as though another were true.

That said, the Orthodox of the rite of St. John (called Eastern, by some), should cease all such denomination-inspiring rhetoric, whether this is making fun of the Russians (as is now popular where Orthodoxy has become an arrogant quasi-Episcopalian dilettantism), or else drawing illicit contrasts between ethnic and non-ethnic, cradle and non-cradle, parochial and monastic, this ethnic group or that one. All such work is the work of Protestantism, even when they call themseles Orthodox, and even when they are clergy or ‘famous’ Orthodox personalities. Many Protestants, in fact, are more Orthodox, when they cast off the very impulse that has so fragmented their Faith and which we now see at work wherever Orthodox has courted acceptance in the cultures in which the heterodox impulse is embedded.

We feel as much at home with those who pray the Western Rite as those who pray the Eastern, when either of them act like Orthodox Christians. But we are concerned that the very things ruining Orthodoxy by Anglicanizing it in so-called “Eastern-rite” churches, is actually generating the programmatic Anglicizing of Orthodoxy in so-called “Western-rite” churches. It’s not our only concern, but a thing seemingly yielding the fruit of Protestantism, and coming from its orchards, bears consideration in that light.

April 9, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Neoconservatism is Satanism


An initial foray into this area of concern:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Archimandrite Sophrony

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

Phase 3 is Operational


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

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

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

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

Questions and Answers: AWRV


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unity and The Apocalypse


The Church of the Seven CouncilsThere seems to be a general ecumenism among many Protestant groups that takes the form of a general wish for Christian unity, catholicity, and indeed Orthodoxy herself. In itself, this is precisely a desire for the things the True Faith gives us in fullness and without lack.

But taken out of that venue and given an Orthodox one, this clamour for unity, if it does not evolve, does not stake stock of the teaching of Christ and the apostles and the fathers after them, can actually become heretical and dangerous. It can take the form not of an ecclesiology that has found the fullness of the Faith, the One undivided Church that can never be broken, the genuine ark carrying us into the Heaven of union with God – but instead an ecclesiology of an even more pronounced branch theory and a spiritual psychology of needing to “fix” the Christian world for Orthodoxy – an inordinate, even foolish, push for a union that can not be.

Augmented by new-convert fervor, with pronouncements and immoderate statements and zeal, and supported by Orthodox who differ from our Fathers, hoping privately for precisely the thing that would cost these new Christians their newfound Faith, for a different use for this energy altogether, we see the trend toward ecumenism receiving a rush of inappropriate and unwise support.

Indeed, this is exactly and precisely the reason why new converts are to keep silent, and not speak on behalf of the Faith, or teach others, or make pronouncements of this sort. That is our tradition and, like so many others, it is there for wise reasons and was established and preserved by wiser men who knew the pitfalls that come from abandoning it. But even in silence, without sound teaching about what the Church really is, and without true conversion to the Faith shared in the consensus of the Fathers, the desire on the one hand to “just love one another” or “get rid of our differences and hug”, or on the other to join with something else based on mere doctrinal agreement or juridical ‘authority’, can mean that the more the Church is seen to be the Church, the more the convert ceases to have converted – ceases to be a part of it.

Let us state categorically: The Church is not broken, nor divided, nor in any way un-whole. The Church is not flawed or incomplete or in any way wayward or improper. The Church is the Lamb without blemish and the spotless Bride. The Church is One and cannot be otherwise. He who speaks against the Church, to imply that she is fractured, scattered, or incomplete, or lacks anything necessary to life and salvation, denounces Christ and his most pure Mother and has renounced Christianity, denied Orthodoxy, and repudiated the True Faith. So beware. Be absolutely sure, if you say such things, you want them repeated back to you on the day of Judgment. Dangerous is that way. Filled with devils and lost men, it is.

If you are a convert and you hear contrary pronouncements, opinions, and agreed statements, you are encouraged to test these things against the consensus patrum, and to listen to the consensus of the holy Athonite monks, who have written quite clear statements of these things as well. On ecclesiology, may we suggest the following articles:

Lastly, let no one deceive you. Our Lord, the Holy Apostles, and our Prophets before them, taught that Christ’s coming was the beginning of the last days, and that these days would end, to quote St. Paul, with a great “falling away” – an unparalleled apostasy – that our own brethren would betray us, believing they do God a service. The Apocalypse provides the image of a single world religion, a unified ‘Christian’ experience that dwarfs the attempt at Babel. Repeatedly, too, in the parables of Christ, we are warned that an apostasy means something that occurs among Christians – occurs from within, rather than from without, even while it is a departure from the Faith of our fathers.

It may be popular these days to dismiss all this as the Protestant, millenarian “end times” thinking of the 1970s-1990s. Indeed, when those fundamentalists waiting for something to happen at the Millenium didn’t see it, the mood shifted (not that we don’t remember very disturbing things happening at that time, but they certainly weren’t part of popular fundamentalist conception). And so now is a time of saying, ‘it will not come’, ‘things will go on as they have done’, and we are focused now on finding a way to join what cannot be joined, and the emphasis is on authority and juridical actions, because that is what’s needed for such a thing, and indeed that is how the heterodox think in the first place. But the end will come, deny it all we wish. The end will come, and all the words of Christ will be found true, though all the rest of us be made liars.

It’s cute to hurl at someone “he’s got an emphasis on the apocalypse” or “they’re up in arms over ecumenism”. So was Christ, so were the apostles, and so have the fathers been after them. Indeed, we will all see, at an hour we do not expect.

“The Antichrist can come only as a result of universal Apostasy, that is, the abjuration of the people from God and His paths, when God’s grace withdraws from the people. – Archpriest Boris Molchanoff

February 25, 2008 Posted by | -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, -- Eschatology, Western Rite Issues | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When You Receive no Answers


silenceNot giving an answer is actually something that Christ does all the time. In the Gospel, the woman came after him pleading – my daughter has a demon and we are miserable – Son of David – Messiah – Christ – heal her and save us. What did Christ do? He did not answer her.

What did you we do when someone doesn’t answer us?

The woman asked the Saints: Apostles of the Son of David, entreat him for me. Pray to Christ for me. What did the Saints do? They entreated Christ for her, as they always always will. “Lord, send her away.” which is to say not ‘throw her out’ but rather “Grant her request, and so make her go away, because she is crying after us incessantly.” Read it yourself. That’s what it says. And what did Christ do? He said no. “It is not proper to take away the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Would any of us do that, if your dogs were whining around the dinner table? Would we grab our children’s plates and give them to the animals? Continue reading

February 24, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, -- Phyletism, Western Rite Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Church is Indivisible


CommunionThe Church, is the One, Undivided, Spotless Lamb without Blemish, not a bone of which can be broken, nor anything lost, clad in a seamless garment, or else we are all damned, and there is no Faith and no God. All of our Fathers are in agreement on this and share in this Faith, without which none of us can be saved, and unless a man think as this, is anathema. For there is “One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”

We must be willing to die for this Confession. Continue reading

February 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite Issues | , , , , , , | 16 Comments

The Mystery of Ancestry


Mormon Geneology Books“There’s something very comforting by being able to worship in the same tradition as our ancestors. I can assure you that great cloud of witnesses, that communion of Orthodox Saints in the West, St. Patrick being one of them, have been praying for those of Irish, Scottish, English, French, and German heritage, to be able to pray, and chant, and worship as they did.” – Fr. Mark Wallace, St. Elijah Antiochian Church 1/17/08

Incongruously, the priest goes on to say there is neither East nor West (after having said that heritage is a source of heavenly intercession, and rites based on ancestry (“descent”) are the object of it). Will next we devote ourselves to following a person’s geneaology as spiritual DNA to determine which rite the Saints want them to use? One almost hears a quasi-Mormonism or crypto-Judaism.

February 17, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

WR Ecclesiology?


Branch Theory“We are called to help recover the Orthodoxy of the ancient West so that East and West can once again be united.” – Susan Wallace, Again Magazine, Winter 2007

One has to ask: Which is it? An ecclesiology that claims the Church is not already united, or one that looks to ecumenism to join what cannot be joined? In the ambiguity of such statments, either or both may be surmised.

February 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, Western Rite Questions | , , , | Leave a comment

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