Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

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

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

Totemism and the Monks of Aix-le-Chapelle

Easter Island Totem StatuesIt’s already been said that the American Orthodox Church is Eastern; She was founded by Eastern saints, sent by Eastern Churches, and the liturgies were translated into the local language, just as had done St. Cyril to the Slavs. But when there really was a Western Church, we were not East and West but One. Culture was not worshipped and exalted to a point that it became the source of division. We’ve been down this path already. The first time the Eastern and Western monks were really not at home with each others’ rites, was in Jerusalem, when monks who had visited the court of Charlemagne brought home the filioque innovation. And as the depth of the heresy came to be debated, culture meanwhile came to be exalted, and spun out on its own. It isn’t hard to contend that the WRV is, in pattern, form, and substance a template from that first tragic beginning of schism. No one has yet called it a Western Rite Schism, but give it time; the imported ideology that surrounds it, from traditions that have fragmentation as their sine qua non, is liable to see that day.

In fact, the very sign of schism not as a formality, but as a matter of general policy (i.e. Protestantism and its federations of groups all in informal schism with one another) is when God is totemized into a cultural expression of ourselves. Durkheim described the process of totemism, whereby we externalize our own cultural expressions, until gradually in the expressionism of whatever iconography we use (statues, totem poles, romanesque painting…) we get a God who is a collection of our own cultural values. Protestant minister and sociologist Tony Campolo uses the examples of a black church, in which they took down the Irish Sunday school teacher’s picture of Jesus and put up a new picture, in which Jesus was a black man. Not far away was a Chinese Catholic Church and in the stained glass windows, Jesus was Chinese! Campolo points out that what we had done to kick this off was thinking Jesus was a westerner like us, a white man. He contends that we too are guilty of the process of totemism elaborated in a more sophisticated way by social anthropologists like Durkheim. We reproduce God, says Campolo as the Apostle warns, in our own image, not content to fashion ourselves in His image. His conclusion? We must repent – we cannot know God as God is, unless we repent. One cannot miss the mocking similarity between much of what is being done in the name of WR ‘missionary work’ and the process of totemism, and it begs the original question that the eminent writers who have been quoted all over this site have been asking, along w. Campolo: What is it that we are really calling people to convert to?

January 25, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 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

Beautiful Western Pieties

A neat Western Orthodox piety: it is a pious custom to cleanse the palate with wine or water immediately after communion, and then to fast from all other food or drink for an hour, out of honor, because we have received the True Food that fulfills all food, and the true Drink that quenches all thirst.

Another pious custom: to remove watches when going to liturgy, because the liturgy is the cosmic liturgy in which the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ is made present, so that time in the liturgy is not the same kind of time as in the world. Heaven and Earth are joined and the Church is Heaven on Earth in which God walks around. Continue reading

January 19, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, Western Rite Pieties | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Timeline in the Future

tempus actum praegressus est

2038 The largest and fastest growing (for an estimated 25-30 years) group of Orthodox in the US has been using a Western Rite and refers to itself as Western Orthodox. It is essentially a revised Anglicanism with the filioque stripped out and a few technical changes. The Western Orthodox Church becomes normative for converts to Orthodoxy, and even for children of immigrants, as the older generation dies off. A process of dual-rite and then, in some-cases wholly Western rite services becomes the norm for many historic Orthodox Churches in America. This is never entirely the case, as in fact a new fascination for the perceived byzantine and ethnic content of the old rites is popular in some circles. A trend of condemning such “ethnic-fetishism” prevails.

2039 A US law is passed at the behest of powerful Church leaders, exempting from corporate audit discretionary funds of any amount which are in the direct or general control of a hierarch of any Church which can show existence pre-dating the US Constitution. Critics cry that religious groups are given special favor not available to corporations, and the Act is later modified somewhat, with interesting concessions granted to corporate entities that qualify for a new “super-corporate” status.

2040-2043 A pan-Orthodox American council is convened, out of which a single American Orthodox Church is declared. In 2042, the Metropolitain of the former Orthodox Church in America, who some say was placing too many conditions on union, is forcibly removed from office and placed in a mental institution. Critics are placed under a ban of silence, threatened with deprivation of the mysteries. A suit is filed in US Federal Court in 2043, but the Met. Mark of All America and Canada dies while under care, effectively silencing the argument. Some suggest the death was mysterious, but an official investigative commission is appointed, composed of federal and ecclesiastical representatives, and its official report finds that the Metropolitan’s deteriorating mental condition was due to a physical defect, and no foul play was found. The results of the 2043 sobor essentially eclipse concern about this and it is quickly, in most circles, forgotten.

Continue reading

January 19, 2008 Posted by | -- Eschatology, Western Rite -- Pan-Orthodoxy, Western Rite Weirdness | , , , , | 1 Comment

Christ is the True Leaven that Leavens the Whole Lump

Someone asked the questions of: 1. leavened vs. unleavened bread and 2. the date for Holy Pascha.

If the Western Rite Orthodox were using unleavened bread or keeping Pascha by the Western reckoning, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, since anyone doing that would immediately fall under the anathemas and depositions and excommunications of our Holy Canons and infallible Oecumenical Counsels. But no, leavened bread (though made to look like wafers of unleavened bread) is used, and the date of Pascha can never be changed.

On Leavened Bread: “The ancient question that continues to divide the Roman Catholic and Western Churches from the Orthodox Church regarding the use of leavened or unleavened bread in the Eucharist had to be resolved when the Western Rite parishes were received into the Orthodox Church. The host used in Western Rite liturgies resembles the unleavened wafer used by Roman Catholics and Episcopalians, but in fact it is leavened—although flattened—bread. The use of leavened bread in accordance with Orthodox theology, was required by Metropolitan Philip when he recieved these parishes into Orthodoxy.” – From the Diocesan News for Clergy and Laity, February 1995, Greek Orthodox Diocese of Denver (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople)

January 17, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Pieties | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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