Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

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

Western Rite as Phyletism


The following comments by Father Michael Johnson have very serious implications in an age of US “American” imperialism, escalated attention to immigration, and when the culture of the West is viewed as monolithic and a kind of super-ethnicity or over-culture, a universal cultural-ethnic ghetto:

“A knowledgeable Orthodox Christian, if asked about the Church’s greatest need in western Europe and the Americas today, would probably respond with a single word: unity. In this regard, the Byzantine liturgical tradition has been of inestimable value in h olding the Church together. On the other hand, ethnicity has probably been the greatest force for disunity. Ethnic heritage, of course, does not have to be a divisive factor. One can be proud of one’s heritage while celebrating the fact that one is part of a Church that is truly multiethnic (as opposed to “non-ethnic”, as the alternative is sometimes wrongly presented.)

How does the “western rite” fit into this need to bring the Church together as a truly multi-ethnic community, united by faith and worship? Unfortunately, the “western rite” can be viewed as a kind of “super-ethnicity” which is just the opposite of what t he Church needs today. Narrow as their ethnic view might have been, and as much as they may have insisted unwaveringly on the use of their own language, Orthodox Christians have always shown a willingness to use a common form of worship – until now. For all intents and purposes, the use of the “western rite” takes ethnicity one step further. Not only do these converts insist on using (an archaic) form of their own language, but they also insist on using an exclusive liturgical rite that is common to no one but themselves.”

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

January 12, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Is a Menu approach to liturgics wise?


Father Michael Johnson: There are some, of course, who will point out that there was considerable liturgical diversity in the early Church – and therefore, why is such diversity not possible and even desirable today? There was indeed considerable liturgical variation from one pl ace to another in ancient times. The reason for this was the simple fact that the average person never got more than 25 miles from his place of birth and communications from one place to another were slow and difficult. Under such circumstances, liturgic al diversity was a natural development and hardly a problem. Today, by contrast, we live in what has been called a “global village” where communications are instant and American families often move several times, from one state to another, while their chi ldren are growing up. Everything in our environment argues for greater uniformity in liturgical practice.

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

January 11, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Liturgics, 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

Unpacking the Buzzword of Culture


This really is an [excellent discussion], though I think the final comment misses the point viz a viz eschatological vs. evangelical, but at it’s core it’s the cultural argument unpacked. The discussion unpacks the buzzword “culture” into things like aesthetics, and then asks whether aesthetics is a sound basis for critique of a rite an establishment of an alternative, likewise observing that a) anything new is foreign to start with and b) past cultures have only very gradually (e.g. over 1000 years) evolved what they received aesthetically – it was not a program to be started yesterday, with hastily cobbled texts, and hastily converted choirs.

December 26, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , | 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.
Continue reading

December 20, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Old Necessarily Good?


Another way to put it is: Just because Orthodox used it (even Saints), and it’s old, does that make it good?

“My second reason is that to say that Western Christians should be expected to follow a Western liturgy is to pre-judge the issue of the fitness of Western liturgy as suitable for Orthodox practise. On the one hand, we cannot say that it is unsuitable simply because it is not Byzantine, but we also cannot say that it inherently suitable simply because the existence of Western Rite is an historical reality. The present reality and the historical reality may or may not correspond. That is an issue that needs to be determined, not prejudged in either direction.” – Mark Harrison 7/9/2006

“I am NOT saying that WR is necessarily flawed, but I do believe that both the history of the Western liturgy and the very way in which Western worship communicates the faith, are areas that need examination. I deliberately included here evidence that would favour the use of the Anglican canon, as well as evidence that points to problems which far greater and more authoritative people than I have observed. I did so with the hope of demonstrating how complex the matter is. This is why I have always said that WR can neither be justified simply on the basis of the historical use of Western liturgy in the Orthodox Church, nor condemned on the simple basis of it not being Byzantine” – Ibid

December 20, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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