Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Meditation during prayer

Orthodox MeditationWe recently read a discussion on meditation “prior” to prayer, which included this: “I suggested meditation on the mystery under consideration prior to prayer, precisely as a means to “warm up the heart” as recommended by, e.g., St. Theophan the Recluse.”

Since we don’t know exactly what is meant by this discussion, we offer some theses on the subject:

* Meditation is not prior to prayer but an act of prayer (with the understanding that much that we consider prayer is prior to ‘true prayer’).

* By preparation for prayer, what the Saint is describing is a process of movement from attention to the world to prayerful attention – in short, preparation for prayer is actually movement into true prayer, or beginning to pray, or becoming prayerful. The use of the vehicles of prayer, icons, candles, and even the words are part of these means of preparation.

* The notion that one should have a separate period of meditation on the sufferings of Christ, and afterwards begin praying, strikes us as a Latin approach to piety that is foreign to Orthodox piety, but we are willing to be corrected on this.

* We still have concern that a danger of the use of a heterodox format for meditation in prayer (much less in any way separated programmatically from prayer) is the use of imagination in prayer (the consensus patrum is against this) and its inevitable transformation into fantasy, and fantasy’s transformation into prelest against which, says St. Seraphim, the fathers armed themselves more fiercely than anything.

* “Warming up” is actually warming the heart by means of movement from the cold attention to the world and its cares to the warm attention to union with God. It is not a separate activity ‘prior’ to prayer in the sense that the cited article seems to be indicating. In fact, it would seem to us to be slightly dangerous to engage in any meditation on a subject separate (even if prior) to prayer, since this could only be, in our view, a flight of the imagination’s fancy.

* The kind of attention ‘prior to prayer’ that we are familiar with takes the form of standing in silence and removing from our hearts and minds the attentions to the world, but also removing from our minds and guarding against all false images. This is very important. The notion that these moments of readiness are to be filled with imagination or constructed images of Christ, makes us uncomfortable. It is one thing to be wounded with the fact of Christ’s suffering for us, with its meaning and implications, and it’s another to play in our minds a virtual movie of the Passion, the focus of which becomes rather inevitably a reconstruction of the details. We aren’t meaning to be sticklers, but we think we’re reading these texts slightly differently than some others.

* This puts forth the question not of whether meditation on the Passion is proper in fact (which is and has been acknowledged), but what exactly is meant when the fathers talk of ‘meditating’ on the sufferings of Christ: “the crown of thorns, the robe, the reed, the blows, the smiting on the cheek, the spittings, the irony” [source1] [source2]. Are we talking about running a mental movie, or else what the meaning of these things is for us? We think the latter, and we think that when the fathers speak of considering, meditating, fixing in mind the thorns, they mean not a mental movie but a kind of contemplation (with the aim of prayer, never dangerously separate from prayer) of Christ’s suffering for us. In other words, it proceeds in terms of meaning more than images.

* We take as our primary text Orthodox iconography, and it’s treatment of the Passion, which is not the realism of Latin painting, but the expressionism of Orthodox attitudes on the subject. To the extent that images provide us with impetus to prayer, the icons are the standard, and teach us what kind of images we mean, and indeed offer us an objectivity of images that does not require a subjective searching of mental and cultural movie references, or an illicit realism, which is not ‘real’ at all.

* It’s not as easy as posing various rabbinical authorities against one another in a as though we’re doing either Talmud or mediaeval scholasticism or messing around with Orthodox action figures with their various superpowers: Sts. Diadochos, Maximos, and Peter of Damascus on the one hand and Sts. Ephrem, Tikhon, and John Chrysostom on the other. It’s tantalizing to the Western mind to believe that there are different “schools” of thought on this within the one true faith, and all are equally ‘valid’, but this is to scholasticize Orthodoxy in a neo-Marcionist way; it begs the question by presuming a Western cultural hermeneutic and arriving, of course, at a Latin understanding of how we read the Fathers on these subjects. A better way than to hurl quotations at one another is to presume that there is one consensus of the Fathers, if read in an Orthodox manner, and to read them looking for this consensus and understanding of what they mean in the living context of how the Church has lived and prayed at all times and in every place. Then we will be truly catholic in mind as well as in name. That said, we offer the following texts, since they were first cited by the enthusiasts rather than ourselves, as key texts for consideration of this question: Continue reading

April 14, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Pieties, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Let us quit ourselves like men.

“Let us, let us set out with joy upon the season of the Fast, and prepare ourselves for spiritual combat. Let us purify our souls and cleanse our flesh; And as we fast from food, let us abstain also from every passion. Rejoicing in the virtues of the Spirit, may we persevere with love, and so be counted worthy to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness, to behold His Holy Pascha.” – The Sticheron of the First Monday of Great Lent

March 10, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , | 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

Approaching the Rail

Pain BenitSt. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church (WRV): “However, you are invited and encouraged to come to the altar rail for a blessing from the priest and to receive a piece of the non-sacramental Pain Benit (Antidoron). This is a bread of fellowship which is not the Holy Sacrament, but a sign of our wish to include visitors in a sense of fellowship and hospitality in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

March 3, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Melkites Define Latinizations

Of the Blue BlanketWe’re not suggesting this has anything to do with Orthodox Western Rite adherents, but this is certainly an interesting list. It’s from a Melkite site, defining what they see as Latin accretions. Among the Latinizations, they list:

1. Unmarried priesthood
2. Statues
3. Altar rails
4. Confessional boxes
5. Stations of the Cross hanging on walls
6. 3-D Crucifixes on walls
7. Western-style paintings
8. Suppression of liturgical hours
9. Suppression of Presanctified in favour of Divine Liturgy
10. Use of Western style Mass instead of the Liturgies of St. John Crystsostom or St. Basil
11. Introduction of Western prayers: the Rosary, etc.
12. Introduction of Western music and songs
13. Use of musical instruments
14. Emphasizing the words of Institution and silencing the Epiklesis prayers
15. Truncation of prayers, esp. psalms in liturgies
16. Reduction of prostrations and reverences
17. Use of Genuflections, Kneeling
18. Combining Divine Liturgy with other services: marriage, funeral
19. Not distributing the antidoron
20. Elimination of using hot water during Consecration
21. Not having a curtain behind the Royal Doors
23. First Communion and Chrismation separated from Baptism

March 1, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Pieties, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Qatl Qitl Qutl

Nice, moderate thoughts [here]. Excerpt:

“I do not believe that that the Orthodox Western Rite is intended to be a sort of attraction to facilitate evangelizing the West. There is no reason to become Western Rite if one is already practicing western liturgical forms. There are myriads of ‘purist’ or ‘traditionalist’ groups within Catholicism and Anglicanism to satisfy the person who desires a more ‘orthodox’ liturgical experience. Why, then, would such a person want to become Orthodox? I believe it is the same reason I became Orthodox, precisely because of the theology of the Church and what she claims to be, the Body of Christ”

February 29, 2008 Posted by | -- Evangelism, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

To the Priests

Priest“The Church is not an activity or an interest. It is a new life in Christ of which the priest is the elect vessel. And unworthy as he inevitably will be, he may not relax his effort or indulge his personal fancies or seek glory from it…
No throngs of eager converts await the magic of his words. No successful parishes have openings for him. No souls will be transformed automatically by the fact of his ordination…Tribulations of a different kind beset the American Orthodox missionary. They are subtler, prosaic, protracted. Often he must work in solitude for years with undeviating loyalty to his calling. Those who wire a building may not live to see the lights turned on. And in the new building which is America, those who feel called…can expect no glory, reward or fun. For they build for a future which they may not see.” – Bishop (later Fr.) Alexander Turner, SSB

February 28, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Quotes | , , | Leave a comment

Orthodox Eschatology

The “end times” in the catechetical texts and commentaries of the Fathers, and the writings of the Orthodox:

Some contemporary books on the Eschatology of the Apocalypse by Hierarchs of the Orthodox Church:

 A Hierarchical Word on End-Times

Archbishop Averky: The Apocalypse: In the Teachings of Ancient Christianity

Bishop Gerasimos of Abydos: At the End of Time: The Eschatological Expectations of the Church

“For the Antichrist will come for the destruction of men, and to injure them, for what will he not then work? He will change and confound all things, both by his commandments and by the fear of him. He will be terrible in every way: by his power and by his unlawful commandments.’’ – St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on 2 Thessalonians

Guard thyself then, O man; thou hast the signs of Antichrist; and remember them not only thyself, but impart them also freely to all. If thou hast a child according to the flesh, admonish him of this now; if thou hast begotten one through catechizing, put him also on his guard, test he receive the false one as the True. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work. I fear these wars of the nations; I fear the schisms of the Churches; I fear the mutual hatred of the brethren. But enough on this subject; only God forbid that it should be fulfilled in our days; nevertheless, let us be on our guard. And thus much concerning Antichrist. – St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture XV

All men ,led by the light of fallen nature alienated from guidance of God’s light ,will be enticed into submission to the seducer(antichrist). – St Ignaty Brianchaninov

In that time, infants will die on their mother’s lap, and the mothers will die over their children, fathers will die with their wives and children in the marketplace, and there will be nobody there who will bury them. – St. Ephriam the Syrian, Oration on the Coming of the Lord

“A false prophet will prophesy concerning the Antichrist saying he is Christ and he himself will try to convince everyone that he is Christ.” – St. Ambrose of Milan, Catechetical Lectures, Oration 15

“God will allow persecution from the Antichrist not because He cannot stop it, but because He desires, as usual, His strugglers to be crowned,” and for this reason, “the reverent ones among the living will be taken up into the clouds, receiving, as a reward of honor, that which is higher than any man.” – St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 15

“Having filled himself with pride, the Antichrist will begin to set himself up and glorify himself as God, belching forth slander against Christ.” He will do this so openly that he will command that all those who do not want to serve him as God be killed. – St. Hippolytus of Rome, On Christ and the Antichrist.

“He shall be known by his crimes of inhumanity and lawlessness, so as to out do all unrighteous and ungodly men who have gone before him; displaying against all men, but especially against us Christians, a spirit murderous and most cruel, merciless and crafty” – St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lecture 15, Ch. 12)

“Many people will be found pleasing God, for whom it will be possible, in the mountains and in dessert places, to save themselves by much prayer….for God, seeing their many tears and sincere faith, will have mercy on them, as a tender Father, and will keep them.” – St. Ephraim the Syrian, Oration on the Coming of the Lord

Continue reading

February 26, 2008 Posted by | -- Eschatology, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A word or two from Bishop Alexander

Fr. Alexander Turner, SSB“It was the West, however, which would suffer more from these unhappy inclinations, with the emergence of a professional clerical society aloof from the faithful, and a dichotomy between the performer on the one hand and the observer on the other. Mass was said by the priest, heard by the attendants. This movement reached its denouement in the magnificent theatrical productions of the Baroque period, staged with consummate artistry, and overwhelming in their grandeur. From a corporate act of the Christian family, Mass became a religious extravaganza on the one hand, or a mysterious incantation on the other. Small wonder that the layman left the holy sacrifice to professionals and occupied himself instead with devotions—self-centered, sentimental reveries such as the Rosary, or pious irrelevancies assigned to give mystical symbolism to parts of the liturgy. This provided little spiritual nourishment, but it did encourage an appetite for religious sensationalism and novelty, to be fed by a stream of fashionable saints and devotional fads.” – Bp. (later Fr.) Alexander Turner, SSB (first Vicar of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate)

February 26, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite Pieties, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , | Leave a comment

How We Cross Ourselves

Three fingers joined, for the Holy Trinity. Two aside, for the two natures of Christ.“We cross with our right hands from right to left… We hold our hands in a prescribed way: thumb and first two fingertips pressed together, last two fingers pressed down to the palm. Here as elsewhere, the Orthodox impulse is to make everything we do reinforce the Faith.” [antiochian.org]

This is presented as a reminder. Some Orthodox seem to have taken to crossing themselves in another fashion (we’re not wishing to embarrass them by pointing them out). Three fingers joined, for the Holy Trinity. Two aside, for the two natures of Christ. This is the proper way.

February 17, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Pieties, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | 20 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

Imagination in Prayer

“I’d like to point out, that I don’t believe the Rosary, the Sacred Heart or “Transsubstantiation” are things that inherently develop from anything in the Pre-Schism West.

The problem with the Rosary is not the prayers being said or even the events being contemplated. The objection is to a clear Patristic teaching that the imagination should not be used in contemplative prayer. That this is a clear part of the Western Patristic and even pietistic traditions, can be demonstrated by a reading of St. John of the Cross or the Cloud of Unknowing.

The Sacred Heart has absolutely nothing to do with the pre-schism West. Sure, the West saw a mystical significance to Christ’s five wounds – but early on, considered this only as a mystery to be pondered – there was no devotion specifically to the wounds apart from Christ as an Whole. Anybody who reads the history of the Sacred Heart devotion and Margaret-Mary Alacoque’s visions, would clearly see that this is a disturbing, unorthodox devotion.

“Using the imagination in prayer can lead to error of the gravest kind, when our own imaginative creations replace the reality, and we can even end up praying to our own mental fantasies.” – [source]

From the Philokalic Fathers:

“In the time of contemplation we must keep our intellect free of all fantasy and image…” – St. Diadochos of Photiki

“The effect of observing the commandments is to free from passion our conceptual images of things. The effect of spiritual reading and contemplation is to detach the intellect from form and matter. It is this which gives rise to undistracted prayer.” – St. Maximos the Confessor

“The fifth form of discipline consists in spiritual prayer, prayer that is offered by the intellect and free from all thoughts. During such prayer the intellect is concentrated within the words spoken and, inexpressibly contrite, it abases itself before God, asking only that His will may be done in all its pursuits and conceptions. It does not pay attention to any thought, shape, colour, light, fire, or anything at all of this kind; but, conscious that it is watched by God and communing with Him alone, it is free from form, colour, and shape.” – St. Peter of Damaskos

Trans-substantiation is more a development of post-schism, Aristotelian fancies being applied to an Apostolic doctrine of East and West.

But, to be fair: yes, it is inevitable that some Eastern Orthodox – perhaps even very spiritually mature belivers – will reject certain Western devotions and practices because they are Western, not because they are unorthodox.

But that means, that those of us who want to see the Western Rite succeed, can offer an important olive branch. In the first place, we must admit that we are not formed in the Orthodox mind, if we have simply been received as Episcopalians or Roman-Catholics turned Orthodox, while making only minimal changes to our spiritual life. Therefore, while it is theoretically possible that our practices are Orthodox, we would hopefully have the humility to admit that we may be poor judges of the matter.

Secondly, we would hopefully admit that the Eastern Rite faithful have an intuitive grasp of Orthdooxy, that we don’t. So, some degree of defference to them is appropriate.

So, the olive branch we can offer: by standing upon the firm foundations of pre-schism, Western Orthodox piety and practice, we cleanly avoid the accusation that our spirituality is influenced by Roman Catholic and Protestant strains of thought. We can then, without having to dissemble or take anything for granted, be quite clear that our practices are different only insofar as they are Western, no insofar as they were developed outside of Orthodoxy.

And when it comes to those few pre-schism practices that scandalize Eastern Rite faithful (and really are not normative even for the pre-schism West – I speak primarily of unleavened hosts, mandatory clerical celibacy and things like bishop-only confirmation), we really should have the humility and wisdom to submit to the more Catholic practices, preserved to this day by the East.

In short, I agree that some Western things may be rejected because of Eastern prejudice, and not because of any true lack of Orthodox piety. However, I also feel that WR converts need to pay more heed to the more refined, Orthodox sensibilities of lifelong Orthodox Christians – and admit that unless we return to pre-schism practices, we are always going to be suspected of “Papist” or Protestant tendencies. The only way to avoid this, is to go back to the Orthopraxy of the West, before Papism and Protestantism existed.”

From [this comment].

February 16, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite Pieties, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , | 13 Comments

Orthodox Mind: The Rites vs. Renovationism

Traditional “Renovationist”
The Church’s system of liturgical services (i.e., the Typicon) is the divinely inspired mature growth of the Apostolic embryo. The full flower of God’s revelation to His people—as embodied in the Divine services—organically emanated from the seed of the early Church. The Typicon as we know it today has become somewhat unintelligible and tremendously cumbersome; for it is encrusted with layers of extraneous and repetitive material that reflect a significant shift away from, and degeneration of, the worship forms of the early Church.
We should have faith in Divine Providence and that the same Spirit who “guides us into all truth” also ordains the Church’s order of worship (see quote by Fr. Michael Pomazansky, below). The liturgical services mainly represent the product of a “naked chain of events,” or historical cause and effect. The Holy Spirit does not ensure that our rites are kept pristine.
The fourth century (in the wake of the “Peace of Constantine”) saw a Spirit-guided organic development in the Divine services, as confirmed by the witness of the Church’s consciousness in the following centuries up through our present day. The fourth century saw a “break,” or “abrupt shift” in the system of services resulting in “deviations” from the purity of the Apostolic era due to the overlaying of Hellenistic “strata” and the synthesis of new and conflicting “liturgical pieties.”
Our Task: to understand and grasp this revelation of God to His people as contained in the Divine services. This requires humility and ascetic struggle with a view towards purifying our hearts. Our Task: to figure out what has gone wrong with our liturgical services and “fix the many problems” with them. This requires a spirit of doubt and suspicion, as well as heavy reliance upon Western scholarship.


February 11, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , | 6 Comments

Refugee vs. Runaway

runaways.jpg“The problem here is that some people do not convert to a belief so much as they convert away from another. There is a certain sort of Catholic who, by becoming Orthodox, has joined the church that did not go through what is often called “the chaos” following Vatican II. They are sometimes disappointed when they meet bishops who are not as authoritarian as they think bishops should be, and they are especially upset at any notion that Orthodox liturgy might undergo any change of any sort in any way. There is a certain sort of Episcopalian who in joining Orthodoxy joins the church that does not ordain women, and the idea that the subject might be discussed leaves them furious, as if the thought alone meant a betrayal of Orthodoxy.” – A Typology of Converts – Fr. John Garvey

“My approach to this has been to tell any potential convert to take some time, to hang around the church for a year or so, seeing what it is like to be Orthodox, and finally to make sure it is Orthodoxy they are coming to, and not something else they are fleeing from. Baron von Hugel told an Anglican niece who wanted to become Catholic that she should learn the strengths of Anglicanism, and not become Catholic until it would be clearly a sin for her to remain in her own tradition, until it was completely necessary for her to convert. This seems about right. People who move from one tradition to another for negative reasons bring all those negative reasons with them.” – Ibid.

February 8, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daydream Believers

no-waiting.jpg“Should the Church be “less ethnic?” In some places, yes. But how do you solve that? Do you simply go in and say, “I’m a convert and Irish. Your dependence on Russian (or Greek or Arabic, etc.) offends me and inhibits the faith. Stop it!” Our Church has come so far in the past forty years. It is light years ahead of the Church in 1957. But someone who has been Orthodox since 1994 cannot appreciate that or have the patience to grow at a slower pace. They have seen what Orthodoxy can be, and wonder why others don’t. The fact is that this is the Church and these are the people we have been given. God has asked us to work to save all of them, not just the ones who have “seen” the fulness of the Faith and been converted. To fall into that type of thinking is as bad as all those who want to save the Church for “our people,” whatever flavor of people that may be. Please remember that “American” is just as ethnic as “Russian!”

It would be infinitely more difficult for these converts to flood the existing churches and begin the transformation process patiently from within. It is much easier to establish a “mission” a couple of miles from existing parishes and composed of the “right” kind of believer, which will leech parishioners away and ultimately cripple the existing parishes. But which is actually more “missionary,” to simply start a new parish where one already exists or to work for the repentance and growth of existing parishes?

The last problem with it is that we forget that it is God who established the Church, God who strengthens the Church, God who guides the Church, God who saves the Church. A true convert is one who repents of his sins and returns to God. To that length, the whole Church is to be composed of “converts.”

– [Cradle Born Thoughts], Fr. John Dresko

February 6, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, -- Phyletism, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , | 8 Comments

The Commie Award!

commie.jpgCommie is short for comment. No, not that other kind of commie. We have those too, and you know who you are. But here, we award particularly helpful comments. Comments that contribute special clarity, facilitate rational discussion, or express thoughts that others might find difficult to adequately articulate. So get ready, cue the music, and here comes the card:

And the Commie goes to . . . Fr. Augustine for his helpful post:

“I was directed to this site, recently, and I have to say I thank God for it.

I am a believer that the Western Rite is viable and possible; I also believe that we are going about it rather poorly! I have long wanted people within the Western Rite to question themselves, their presuppositions, and to look critically at what they are doing….”

You can read the rest of this interesting and constructive (and now award-winning) comment [here].

February 4, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Texts or Devotions?

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

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

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

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

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