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.

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

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

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

So that’s the Difference!


“The clergymen said there are several differences in worship style between the Eastern and Western rites. … Some worship differences involve music, they said. In the Eastern Orthodox rite, only a cappella singing is allowed, while the Western rite allows the use of an organ.” [source 2/16/08]

February 17, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

East of Eden


“Everyone came out of EO – Christianity is Eastern, and even what we call Western is a continuation of that brought from Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and other Eastern places. The fact is that the Old Ritualists (Old Believer is a pejorative) have an ethos and praxis which is much more like the Western Rite (consider expected behavior in their Temple), or even the dress of their clergy. The Russian Old Rite, in fact, has *very* much in common with old Western liturgy. The Western liturgy itself has had use in the East (as Fr. John R. Shaw of ROCA has documented as regards the Roman Canon’s use by some Old Ritualists up until the 1960’s.) Orthodoxy is not a schism or splinter of Christianity – it is Christianity in the main. It is only consistent with those claims to see the restoration of not only the Russian Old Ritualists, but Western Old Ritualists (WRO) from schism – just as Donatists, Novationists, Monophysites and others returned from Schism. Sadly, the bulk of Western Christianity or most of the hierarchy has no real interest in doing what is necessary to heal their schism from Orthodoxy. But, we who do have a responsibility – just as JJ Overbeck wrote nearly a century and a half ago. Its another vision of Christian Unity than what has been proposed from the Western side – and that is what makes some uncomfortable (they would rather Orthodoxy be the Unia, or lose its strictness as regards dogma and practice.) So – Western Rite Orthodoxy is simply a different response to the claims of the Orthodox to be the Church – probably the only response that doesn’t include triumphalism on the part of either East or West.” [source]

It’s good to feature the best reasoning of one’s presumed opponents. For one thing, anything less is an appeal to straw men. For another, one might eventually want to concede. Choosing the best representatives against your case is a form of humility. In this case, though, concession is certainly not necessary. The arguer offers one of many solutions, but it is an interesting one. Again, most critics would have concerns about implementation, but the spirit in which the above quotation is written might allay those concerns.

February 3, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , | Leave a comment

Two households, both alike in dignity…


“In particular I want to look at liturgical life. In the extremely primitive condition of the early Church, it was logical that there should be a number of different local liturgical uses. It is likewise sensible to assume that this was not the ideal condition. The early Church is not the pure prototype we must always seek to emulate as so many Christians nowadays seem to think. Instead it was the seed from which the lofty tree of the fully developed Church would one day sprout. So I’m not an advocate of having 300 different liturgies just because the “early church” had them. Some Orthodox are so in love with liturgical archeology that they want a Mozarabic liturgy for Hispanics, a Syriac liturgy (or two) for middle-easterners, a “Celtic” liturgy for those Americans who are a quarter Irish, etc. This is unnecessary and more than a bit silly, I think. Once again, all the little local liturgies are pretty, but I don’t think they reflect the ideal condition of what the Church was meant to eventually develop into. Instead, we would be better off thinking of the Church’s liturgies developing into two distinct “families”. So even though I don’t believe in having a zillion local liturgies so that all the converts can feel proud of their ethnicity when they go play their medieval reenactment games in Church on Sunday, I would be foolish to deny the existence of two distinct liturgical mentalities that existed within the Church by the end of the first millennium.” [source]

Rejoinder: To the two families theorum: So, what does one tell the Irish? That they had a Celtic rite for hundreds of years, but that now they should accept a Norman one? How do you determine, in fact, that an Anglican rite is somehow more appropriate to Mexico than a Byzantine one? Perhaps the best response to this, taken out of context of course, is that of St. Sava of Serbia in the 13th century:

At first we were confused. The East thought that we were West while the West considered us to be East. Some of us misunderstood our place in the clash of currents so they cried that we belong to neither side and others that we belong exclusively to one side or the other. But I tell you Ireneus we are doomed by fate to be the East in the West and the West in the East to acknowledge only heavenly Jerusalem beyond us and here on earth–no one.”

This isn’t West Side Story or Romeo & Juliet. The world is bigger than a stage, and if you respond with the kind of localism that denies the Eastern heritage of the US, for instance, including all of her Saints and the rites they brought with them, and in fact separates from them liturgically for the sake of a false localism, then you can’t speak of families, or stop that process elsewhere.

February 2, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, -- What is Western?, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Neither East nor West


“So it is with Orthodox Christians. I have no idea why an Anglican or Roman Catholic would have me believe that when the Church became involved in the Palamite controversy, it was simply arguing “semantics” and describing things in an “Eastern way”. That’s a bunch of B.S. St. Gregory and the Fathers before him and after him are describing reality when they speak of what happens during prayer and during mystical experience. It is experiential and universal. That is why Slavic monks who are descendants of Vikings and live in a country with extensive Western European influence describe the same thing. That is why Romanian monks who speak a Romance language (like Spanish or Italian) and live in country bordering Hungary and looking like this also describe the Uncreated Light. The whole “Eastern” label is really old and lame. Buddhism is Eastern. Shinto is Eastern. Islam is Eastern. Greek is not Eastern. If you study Western philosophy, you read Plato. You don’t read Lao Tzu. The uncreated light is neither Eastern nor Western. It is a description of reality and it is human. If the most authentic, most pure, and least spiritually dangerous and deceptive form of ascetic practice and life of prayer was preserved in the Eastern Roman Empire because that is where the Holy Catholic Church survived… well is that so weird? And expecting this to be normative for all honest Orthodox Christians is not culturally biased or an attempt to Byzantinize anything. It is simply being consistent and honest.” [source]

Of course, this line of reasoning can be utilized quite differently than the author intended.

January 29, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , | 5 Comments

The Model for a real WR.


Saint Sava - icon of catholicityCan there be a Western rite? Of course. One of the things the enthusiasts do is polarize the debate (create factions instead of discussion) by labelling all their opponents anti-WR. Many of us can sing Gregorian with the best of them, have the books, and even use Western liturgical prayers in our private devotions, knowing them very well and how to say them properly. Many of us keep, discreetly, a number of Western pieties that are very old, from when there was one Church. Who said anything about being anti-WR? What we are against, in many cases, is the confusion of a rite with a religion, something the WR enthusiasts state frequently that they’re not doing, but evidence in so many other disturbing ways. What then, the question comes from the moderate mind, can we do? Perhaps the best answer for an Orthodox attitude about what the Church might look like, re-imagined, harmoniously neither Eastern nor Western comes from a place we recently “bombed back to the stone age” to quote the hawks.

‘At first we were confused. The East thought that we were West while the West considered us to be the East,’ Some of us misunderstood our place in this clash of currents, so they cried that we belong to neither side, and others that we belong exclusively to one side or the other. But I tell you, Irinej, we are doomed by fate to be the East in the West, and the West in the East, to acknowledge only heavenly Jerusalem beyond us and here on earth — no-one. – St Sava (Nemanjic, 1175-1235), the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church, writing in an epistle

A recent work of Balkan historiography is entitled, Elli Skopetea’s I Dysi tis Anatolis, which can be translated as “The West of the East” or “The East’s West.”

You see? We dream false dreams now. We dream of being Eastern Orthodox or Western Orthodox, and get so excited to go here or go there to find the Church. But this writer dreams of a Church that is neither Eastern nor Western in that way, but catholic. An East of the West, A West of the East. When it is that, it will have our full support. Not synthesis, but fullness. We present to you Saint Sava, icon of catholicity.

January 25, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The WR in 10-20 years.


Many of you liked the timeline. Think about this: It won’t be long now, maybe 10-20 years, that you’ll hear questions like: “You used to be Episcopalian, and you’re from Omaha, so why aren’t you Western Rite?” If you try to ask what your former religion and your ethnicity have to do with it, you’ll hear that this is the way Westerners are supposed to worship. In other words, we’ll be reaching a time when if you’re born in the West, you’ll be thought odd and morbidly fascinated with esoterica if you prefer the fullness of churches that sing the Eastern liturgies to the crypto-Anglicanism of the WRV.

Likewise: you’ll hear, as someone gasps at icons whose saints have vaguely “Eastern” names: “What are those Saints doing there? Isn’t this a Western Rite parish? Why can’t we have all Western saints?” Doubt it? It’s already being discussed on the web, in exactly those words. And it amounts to asking what to do about the “Eastern question” or the Eastern “problem”. It only takes one academic who needs an original term paper to use the word “problem”. Feels like the 1930s.

You’ll hear things like, “Well, we have St. Nicholas, and he’s Eastern, but I grew up with Christmas, and we do it in a Romanesque style, so it’s ok. But we limit that; we don’t want a bunch of Eastern icons everywhere.” Yes, Eastern will just about become a swear word. You’ll quote a saint, and someone will say, “Well, of course that’s an Eastern saint, whereas I’m Western Orthodox.”

What we’re making is not the fullness of an Orthodoxy re-imagining that glorious cross-fertilization of ancient times, when Eastern fathers like St. Photius venerated with great reverence the pious St. Augustine in the West, asking “Who dares speak against him?”, and yet those Eastern Fathers like St. Photius, St. Maximus, and St. Mark of Ephesus also saved the Church, when St. Augustine’s speculations would have made us all into worshippers of imaginary concepts, as indeed the West became when it went whoring after the imaginary god and into schism.

But in our heyday, East and West were not the Americanists we see finding justification now, in an ecceliastical parliament of xenophobes, busy ethnically-cleansing the Church of all that smacks of the East, rather than letting a gradual and actual conversion occur. Much of what is being done is not creating a home in Orthodoxy for WR converts, so much as creating a separate religious confession. Not so much Western Orthodox, but something actually neither Western nor Orthodox. Hegel gave us this. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The WR, in many ways, is the religion of synthesis, rather than the fullness of cross-fertilization of the whole Church.

It’s becoming a camp, not of converts but of concepts. It should be called the rite of St. Augustine, except it would be so irreverent to that saintly man, and Rite of Augustinists just isn’t catchy. Maybe the Rite of Pat Buchanan’s Immigration Policies. Didn’t he want to build a wall too? Yes, it won’t take long before you’ll hear the ultimate expression of liturgical correctness: “He’s not a real Western Orthodox. He’s Western on the outside, but Byzantine in the middle.” Americanism as a liturgical expression that becomes an ecclesiological politics. This is going to be just great.

January 25, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, -- What is Western?, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Second Norman Invasion


Book of Kells Celtic Orthodox Icon“The Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Archdiocese has determined that the appropriate form of iconography for Western Rite Churches is the Romanesque Art of the Medieval Western Church. Just as there are specific canons or required characteristics for Byzantine iconography, so there are set characteristics for the Western Rite iconography based on the Romanesque style. Thus, it can be seen that both Eastern Rite and Western Rite icons are never to be mere decoration, never just attractive pictures. They are always deliberately “surreal” reflecting the mystical world they represent. Some of the characteristics of Western iconography based on Romanesque models include a certain simplicity of line and color with bright colors predominating.” [St. Columba Orthodox Church]

‘Romanesque art refers to the art of Western Europe from approximately 1000 AD to the rise of the Gothic style, which rose in the 13th century or later, depending on region. “Byzantine influences,” by way of Italy, found echoes in Romanesque art from the late eleventh century onward. Romanesque architecture is the term that is used to describe the architecture of Europe which emerged in the late 10th century and evolved into the Gothic style during the 12th century. The Romanesque style in England is more traditionally referred to as Norman architecture.’ [wiki]

January 24, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Cultural Argument and Archaeology


“Many Westerners have joined our Church and adopted our Eastern modes of worship. Others have asked why they must become Eastern to become Orthodox. Their French and German and English ancestors were Orthodox before the Popes took them out of the Church in the eleventh century, but they were Western Orthodox. Our scholars and theologians have examined this claim, and found it just and reasonable.” – Excerpt from the Report of Metropolitan Anthony (Bashir) to the 1958 Archdiocesan Convention

Question: What is “Eastern” about our rites, just because they were born in the East and Easterns use them. We have generations of Orthodox all over the world who do, as well. Is Christ then Eastern? Are most of the Apostles? We are not far off to be concerned with the talk now of resurrecting gothic mediaeval “iconography”, which is heterodox in so many ways. Why is it, precisely, that converts perceive the rites themselves as Eastern, or is it rather that they prefer a more ethnically homogenous and merely liturgically familiar environment. That’s phyletism – just with a whitebread flavour. Is it really a just and reasonable argument that ones “ancestors” from the 9-centuries ago did something? That’s the same argument that every ethnic group uses in the US to claim entitlement, except this is nine centuries later. And why the rite, but not the whole thing? The Celts would put exile people to the wilderness for adultery; shall we recover their liturgics but leave their piety behind?

January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, -- What is Western?, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Myth of Cultural Need


The clamour for culture: And then the last question: is it quite correct to define our rite as “Eastern” and therefore “foreign to all the Western Christians have known” to quote the Edict [of Met. Anthony]? I would like to suggest a rather sharp distinction between “Eastern” and “oriental”. No doubt there are many oriental features, oriental ingredients in our liturgical life. No doubt also, that for many Orthodox this “orientalism” seems to be the essential element. But we know that it is not essential and we know that progressively all these “orientalisms” are being eliminated in a very natural and spontaneous process of adjustment of our cult to the American life. But then what remains and what can be described as “Eastern” is nothing else but the Biblical and the Patristic “content” of our liturgy. It is essentially and structurally Biblical and Patristic, and therefore, it is “eastern” in exactly the same measure in which the Bible and the Fathers, or rather, the whole Christianity can be termed “Eastern”. But have we not proclaimed time and again in all our encounters with our Western brothers that it is this “East” precisely that constitutes the common and the catholic heritage of the Church and can supply us with a common language which has been lost or distorted? The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or the Easter Canon of St. John of Damascus, are, I believe, much closer to that common and Catholic language of the Church than anything else in any Christian tradition. And I cannot think of any word or phrase in these services that would be “foreign” to a Western Christian and would not be capable of expressing his faith and his experience, if the latter would be genuinely Orthodox . . . – Protopresbyter Alexander (Schmemann), St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 2 – New Series, No. 4, Fall, 1958, pp. 37-38.

And then this:

Continue reading

January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Western Rite does not equal Western Orthodox


“Orthodoxy doesn’t have to have a “western rite” to have a western memory. With this in mind, let us suppose Overbeck’s experience of the Church had been quite different. Suppose he had attended the celebration of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom on the feast of the venerable Bede and there in the narthex was a beautiful icon of this saint for veneration by the faithful. Suppose, too that the Liturgy had been conducted entirely in English. What could he find missing to celebrate the fe ast of this great saint of the early Christian west? True, the Liturgy would not be served in exactly the same way as Bede himself would have done. (But then, neither – by a long shot – would the “western rite” liturgies of St. Tikhon or St. Gregory be t he same as done by the venerable Bede.) What matters most is that the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and the ancient, pre-schismatic liturgical life of the west were the same in all essentials.” – Father Michael Johnson
Eastern Rite as Universal:

“Without question, Byzantine worship has demonstrated its suitability for all people. It became the dominant liturgical expression for the Russians as truly as it had been for the Greeks. It also rooted itself deeply in the culture of those Orthodox “Latins”, the Romanians. And in Alaska it expressed the religious aspirations of native cultures – Aleuts, Tlingets and others. The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is now being celebrated in Japanese, Korean and a half dozen tribal languages in Africa. Recently, it provided the scriptural worship sought after by the Evangelical Orthodox Church, who were, until recently, the Antiochian Evangelical Orthodox Mission. The use of the Byzantine liturgical tradition by the AEOM is one of the strongest arguments, against the need of a “western rite” for purposes of evangelization in America.” – Ibid

The Priest. A Newsletter for the Clergy of the Diocese of San Francisco. Issue No. 5, May 1996

January 13, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Argument About Antique Furniture


This is a good example quotation from someone who talks of the need not to be Byzantinized (whatever that means), and yet is engaged in all manner of archaeology to get things that no one he’s related to has seen or used in recent memory.

WR people don’t feel the need to be Byzantinized. Icons are just as Western (especially in the English tradition – ref “The Church of Our Fathers” Vol. 1-4 1849-1854 by Dr. Daniel Rock.) They are part of the universal deposit of the faith. The Ordo for the AWRV prescribes ‘Romanesque’ style, which is really Byzantine art in the West. Western liturgy uses fans as well – though those are probably a gift – very hard to find Western style liturgical fans, or good processional crosses anymore (anytime since the 1950s really.) Paleo-Christian style Byzantine processional crosses and fans are close enough except in detail to some of the oldest English examples still in use. – “Aristibule” (from this thread)

Romanesque? So where are all the iconographers trained in that going to come from? When you have to dig up antiques (which I have nothing specifically against), you have no claim to trying to avoid cultural accretions and ethnic differences, however much that confuses culture with rite. It’s like you and I arguing over French Provincal or Elizabethan furniture. How dare you burden me with French Provincal! My heritage is Elizabethan. Now, I’m going to go look that up, and see if I can still get it somewhere. Damned French!

This writer also had this to say, “The arguments against the Western Rite are still based upon a straw-man of what WRO is imagined to be, rather than what it is. We Western Orthodox can’t be anything else but Orthodox – not Roman Catholics, not Anglican Protestants, etc. We don’t have to be ‘Greek’ either. Our rite isn’t up for debate or negotiation either – no more than the continued existence of Greeks, Russians, Serbs, etc.” – Ibid. [emphasis mine – to illustrate the technique of prohibition of questions]

January 11, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nothing Ethnic About Eastern Rite


Excellent Response to the Ethnicity Argument and the Cultural Argument:

“If we wish to help western persons joining Orthodoxy, the best way is to offer them the possibility of attending the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in the English language. There is nothing “oriental” or “ethnic” about this Liturgy. True, it was written in Greek and not in Latin; but then Plato and Sophocles wrote in Greek, yet we recognize them as part of our shared European culture. The same is true of St. John Chrysostom. We English can feel thoroughly at home in his Liturgy – as I know from my own experience.” – Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, The Priest. A Newsletter for the Clergy of the Diocese of San Francisco. Issue No. 5, May 1996 [emphasis added]

January 4, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eastern and Western Rites are Already Mutually Informed


Fr. Alexander Schmemann: And he does not understand this because for him the Eastern and the Western rites are two entirely different and self-contained “blocks” ruling out, as an impure “hybridization,” all contacts and mutual influences. This, however, is wrong, first of all — historically. He should know that in a sense the entire history of Christian worship can be termed a history of constant “hybridizations,” if only this word is deprived of its “negative” connotations. Before their separation, the East and the West liturgically influenced one another for centuries. And there is no exaggeration in saying that the anaphora of St. John Chrysostom’s liturgy is infinitely “closer” to the Roman anaphora of the same period than the service of Holy Communion in the Book of Common Prayer is to, for example, the Tridentine Mass. [full article]

December 29, 2007 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best argument for the Western Rite so far


Best argument for the Western Rite so far: “My greatest awareness of being an Orthodox Christian did not come when I first started coming to Church as a zealous convert with all the answers. It came when I saw those pious old Ukrainian and Slovak people who instinctively made the Sign of the Cross when they heard an ambulance siren or a bit of bad news. It is more real for them than it is for me because they don’t have to remind themselves to do it. For them it is life. And like it or not, the Western European and Northern European descendents of most Americans received Trinitarian, “little ‘c’” catholicism centuries ago. This cultural memory stays with them even if they are un-churched. Little girls in America dream of growing up, meeting a nice boy, and saying their vows at the altar. Read it again. They do not dream of and will never dream of exchanging their crowns at the wedding table. We may have a bunch of converts in N. America running around with a fetish for 19th century Russia, but we are deluded if we feel like we are going to uproot a cultural memory which stretches back, in some cases, to the point where the East and West were still in communion. After the recent convert has finished convincing himself that he is in the right Church, there comes a point where all those troparians, metanias, and sleepy Sunday mornings at Orthros seem, well, just a little forced. The West knows what Church is. In the West, Church has “Sunday Service” or “Mass”, not Orthros and Liturgy. It has steeples and stone bell towers, not onion domes. It has pews, kneelers, and hymnals or missals. It has King James English, not Slavonic or Greek. They both may be almost as hard to understand for the uneducated masses fed on MTV, but even they recognize that only ONE of those is our liturgical language. If our Orthodox Churches put Pope St. Gregory the Great on the calendar and commemorate him after Presanctified Liturgy, then they shouldn’t have a problem with Orthodox Christians praying the way that he prayed. If we say that praying the way that he prayed is not allowed, then I say we are hypocrites.” -[source]

He’s sadly wrong on these things, but it is a compelling emotional argument.

December 28, 2007 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

East Currently Keeps Western Tradition


“Indeed, if the Orthodox Church claims to be the witness and custodian of the true Christian faith, in its original and undivided catholicity, it should not be limited ethnically and culturally.It should not project the image of being only an “Eastern” church. And actually, it recognizes and cherishes the traditions of the Christian West from before the schism. It venerates St. Hilary of Poitiers, SS. Leo, Gregory and Martin of Rome, St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Patrick of Ireland, and hundreds of others, as saints.” – Fr. John Meyendorff 1980 SVTQ

December 12, 2007 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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