Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Enemies, Opponents, and Brothers in Christ


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

WR: The New Hybrid


Les Enfants TerribleAbstract: Enfants Terribles: The Challenge of Sectarian Converts to Ethnic Orthodox Churches in the United States
by Phillip Charles Lucas

[This article] considers two case studies of collective conversions to Eastern Orthodoxy to illustrate the most pressing challenges faced by ethnic Orthodox congregations who attempt to assimilate sectarian groups into their midst. I argue that these challenges include: 1) the different understandings of ecclesiology held by former Protestant sectarians and by “cradle” Orthodox believers; 2) the pan-Orthodox aspirations of sectarian converts versus the factionalism found in ethnically-based American Orthodox jurisdictions; 3) the differing pastoral styles of former sectarian ministers and Orthodox priests; 4) the tendency of sectarian converts to embrace a very strict reading of Orthodoxy and to adopt a critical and reformist attitude in relations with cradle Orthodox communities; and 5) the covert and overt racism that sometimes exists in ethnic Orthodox parishes. I suggest that the increasing numbers of non-ethnic converts to ethnic Orthodox parishes may result in increased pressure to break down ethnic barriers between Orthodox communities and to form a unified American Orthodox Church. These conversions may also lead to the growth of hybrid Orthodox churches such as the Charismatic Episcopal Church.

This is prescient. However, it seems the new hybrid is actually the Western Rite itself!

January 26, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, -- Phyletism, Western Rite -- Pan-Orthodoxy, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

St. Tikhon never heard of it!


Just as attaching the name of St. Gregory to the WRV “Gregorian Rite” is dubious, so is attaching the name of St. Tikhon to any such rite. Fr. Michael also makes the point, as did Roman Catholic author Klaus Gamber, that Orthodoxy has never been about mere adequacy, merely not containing error; Orthodoxy is about the fullness of the fullness of the Faith, and never less.

Father Michael Johnson, pastor, St Nicholas Church, Tacoma, WA:

Second, the “Liturgy of St. Tikhon”: However inappropriate the “Liturgy of St. Gregory” may seem for Orthodox worship, it can’t hold a candle in this regard to the other “western rite” liturgy now in use, which has somehow gotten itself named after a 20th century Russian saint. St. Tikhon served as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America before being elected Patriarch of Moscow in 1917. During his tenure in America, he apparently received a petition for the use of a “western rite” from a group of American Anglo-Catholic Episcopalians. St. Tikhon then forwarded their request to the Holy Synod in Moscow, which examined this proposal carefully and granted the possibility of a “western rite”, provided far reaching changes in the Book of Commo n Prayer were made. The Holy Synod left the final decision to St. Tikhon, who – for whatever reason – never formally authorized the establishment of a “western rite” during his pastorate in America. It therefore seems farfetched in the extreme to name th is liturgy after St. Tikhon. He is not the “father” of this “western rite” in even remotely the same way that St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil the Great are the fathers of the Liturgies which bear their names. Furthermore, even if St. Tikhon had authoriz ed the use of a “western rite”, every administrative decision made by a saint should not be considered infallible.

What, then, is the “Liturgy of St. Tikhon”? First of all, it is not the Eucharistic rite of the Book of Common Prayer as ever approved by the Episcopal Church. Rather, it is based on a strange amalgam commonly known as the “Anglican Missal.” This missal was developed by Anglo-Catholics to make up for deficiencies they perceived in the Book of Common Prayer . The Anglican Missal contains the anaphora and other prayers from the BCP, folded together with parts of the anaphora and other prayers from the Tridentine Mass translated from Latin into King James English. As now used in the “western rite” of the Antio chian Archdiocese, it contains still further additions and corrections made by the Orthodox. A more confusing liturgical hodgepodge could hardly be imagined! The “Liturgy of St. Tikhon” is the Reformation rite of Thomas Cranmer, with additions from the C ounter Reformation rite of the Council of Trent, with still further superficial tinkering in order to make it “more Orthodox.

In defense of this rite, some Orthodox are saying that we should accept it because it contains “nothing heretical.” Unfortunately, that itself is an Anglican argument. An Orthodox rite must do far more than avoid heresy – it must clearly proclaim and tea ch the Orthodox faith. In Communist Russia as in Ottoman Greece, the Orthodox Liturgy alone maintained the faith through long years of persecution. Bearing in mind that Cranmer was probably a Zwinglian who designed his rite to express “the real absence” of Christ in the Eucharist, it is easy to see that the “Liturgy of St. Tikhon” could never meet the basic criterion of being an Orthodox Liturgy.”
The Priest. A Newsletter for the Clergy of the Diocese of San Francisco. Issue No. 5, May 1996

January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Gregorian or merely Gregarious?


It’s a common advertising practice to put the name of a famous personage on a product where it can serve a straw man. One then spends a great deal of verbiage remembering that personage, and so lending a sense of nostalgia and reverence to the produce. All Orthodox venerate Pope St. Gregory the Great, the Dialogist. And a genuine Gregorian Rite is truly a rich and inspiring expression of the Orthodox faith. But is the Gregorian Rite that’s being offered really something St. Gregory had anything to do with?

Father Michael Johnson, pastor, St Nicholas Church, Tacoma, WA:

First, the “Liturgy of St. Gregory”: this liturgy gets its name because it supposedly represents the Roman rite as practiced in the time of St. Gregory the Great, the bishop of Rome from 590 to 604 AD. There is no question that St. Gregory the Great left his mark on the history of worship – not only in the west, but also in the east. (Indeed, it may be argued that the Orthodox Church already has a Liturgy of St. Gregory – namely, the Presanctified Liturgy where this saint is always commemorated in the dis missal.) If the situation of having two Liturgies of St. Gregory isn’t confusing enough, the question remains whether or not the Liturgy of St. Gregory as currently practiced in the “western rite” parishes of the Antiochian Archdiocese deserves this title at all. In fact, what we are actually presented with is the Tridentine Latin Mass (i.e., the Missal of Pius the V, printed in 1570), translated from Latin into King James English, with – among other things – references to the “merits of the saints” left out and the epiklesis of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom stuck in. In this regard, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, the Tridentine Mass was the Liturgy of the Roman Church as revised at the Counter Reformation. Second, the Gregori an Sacramentary (which, so far as the MSS tradition is concerned, is primarily Frankish and not Roman in origin) had already been revised in the 11th century (near the time of the Western Schism). So the present “Liturgy of St. Gregory” as used in America n “western rite” parishes is at least two revisions away from the saint whose name it bears – and both revisions were made at times of severe crises of faith in the west.

The inadequacies of this rite become obvious on close examination. The anaphora, for example – far from being a single unified prayer as one would expect – seems more like a loosely joined collection of prayers. Stranger yet, the first of these prayers b egins with the word “Therefore” (referring to what? Apparently, some transition has gone missing!). As if the disjointed nature of this anaphora weren’t bad enough, tinkering with it by well meaning Orthodox has only made matters worse. According to the great Orthodox liturgical scholar and saint, Nicholas Cabasilas, the prayer in the Roman rite “Supplices te rogamus” (“Most humbly we implore Thee”) is an “ascending epiklesis.” Even so, the epiklesis from the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom has been adde d, thereby giving this rite both an ascending and descending epiklesis, in which the celebrant asks for the consecration of the gifts to be completed after it has already happened! Furthermore, such improbable features as the “last Gospel” are retained. (This was the reading of the prologue to the Gospel of John at the end of the service, a practice that had begun as a private devotion of the celebrating clergy sometime curing the 11th or 12th centuries and which, by the 16th century, had become a prescri bed appendage to the Mass.)

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

January 17, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bishop Anthony’s Concerns


The concerns of Bishop Anthony of San Francisco, expressed in an encyclical to his diocese, have been dismissed, attacked, and ignored, rather than listened to for their pastoral concern, their substantive evaluation (expressed and hinted at) of the implications of the Antiochian WRV, and so deserve quotation and explication here, with commentary, rebuttal, riposte, etc. Likewise, it should be presented, if for no other reason than that the mere expression of an “unfavorable” commentary on the Western Rite is so often treated as unacceptable in the midst of a fever of uncritical enthusiasm and this particular piece is not merely an opinion but an episcopal decision and so should give the more perceptive reader greater circumspection and hopefully, more pause.

October 4, 1995. Protocol no. 3.

To the Reverend Clergy of the Holy Diocese of San Francisco
Dearly Beloved,

The current existence of “western rite” parishes in California, Oregon and Washington within the Antiochian Archdiocese has recently been brought to my attention by a number of clergy seeking direction regarding our relationship as a Diocese to these communities.

These parishes use, as a basis for worship, modified versions of the old Anglican missal or the pre-Vatican II mass. This is, at best, liturgically unsound and pastorally unwise: liturgically unsound because these rites are not in direct continuity with t he worship of the early Church in the West, but are primarily the result of 16th century Reformation and Counter-Reformation debates; pastorally unwise because this adds still further to our fragmentation as a Church in the Americas and creates a tiny grou p of missions and parishes that are liturgically isolated from the rest of the Church.

We are thus placed in the awkward position of having to accept the “western rite” vicariate of the Antiochian Archdiocese as belonging to the canonical Orthodox Church while at the same time recognizing that this is a foreign element within the Body of Christ, analogous to the creation of the Unia by the Roman Catholic Church.

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January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, Western Rite -- Pan-Orthodoxy, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WRV


Excerpts from the WR Dept page of the AA web site 1-17-2007, with questions and/or comments.

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January 16, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, -- Catechesis & Conversion, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lacks Occidentalis


A response to Lux Occidentalis quoted in extenso, because it’s one of the only ones of substance we’ve seen:

If the article is what I believe it was intended to be, an apologetic for the western rite, I must say that it feel well short. If it set out to be a brief historical overview of the western-rite services, then it was at least partially successful. The author’s addressing of His Eminence, of Blessed Memory, was respectful, if only marginally so. But a few other things unrelated to the argument stood out and concerned me. First, his claim that St. John Chrysostom was an ‘Arab Christian,’ perhaps I am in error, but I fear this was the first time I have heard such a claim, does someone have some reference to suggest that St. John Chrysostom was indeed an Arab, or is this just poor scholarship? Secondly, I am quite disturbed by the profound disrespect this ‘Priest’ showed towards Patriarch Theodore VI of Antioch, the Great Canonist Balsamon.
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December 20, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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