Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Monks are the Front Line


MonksAn ancient Orthodox saying: Angels are the lights of monks, and monks are the lights of men. We refer to them as our earthly angels, for they guide us, help us, keep our path, and fight things we cannot handle. They are our superheroes. As for us, our prayers are monastic prayer – just look at them. Our fasts are the monastic fasts. “The Orthodox rules for lenten fasting are the monastic rules.” from this The ascetic life of the church and of each individual Christian is that of monks, taught to us by monks, exampled by monks, explained by the behavior of monks.

The first great ascetic, is of course Our Lord. He engaged in prolongued fasts. He stood during prayer. He kept the feasts. He battled the world and the enemy. He kept at bay the passions. He prayed lengthy prayers (“could you not pray with me one hour?”). He is the ultimate example of the ordinary ascetic life of all we ordinary ascetics who are not monks, but follow the path they have hollowed through the world and hallowed through the piety. All the activities of our life have but the one ascetical purpose: theosis. The very union with God that all monastics seek, and all laypeople must, if they would be saved. Everything that is not an ascetical means, so to speak, a means of theosis, is a weight.

For instance, take the contemporary attitudes toward theology, even among many Orthoox. This approach to theology as something learned through academics is relatively recent and has never been our tradition. Theology, in the teaching of the fathers, is a gift, like repentance is a gift, and theology is given only at the farthest levels of theosis, almost exclusively to monastics. We might discuss theology, but we cannot do theology, except as union with God. Ours is not a belief system but an ascetical journey. Continue reading

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February 21, 2008 Posted by | -- Asceticism & Monasticism, Western Rite Issues | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Church is Indivisible


CommunionThe Church, is the One, Undivided, Spotless Lamb without Blemish, not a bone of which can be broken, nor anything lost, clad in a seamless garment, or else we are all damned, and there is no Faith and no God. All of our Fathers are in agreement on this and share in this Faith, without which none of us can be saved, and unless a man think as this, is anathema. For there is “One body and one Spirit; as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”

We must be willing to die for this Confession. Continue reading

February 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite Issues | , , , , , , | 16 Comments

WR Ecclesiology?


Branch Theory“We are called to help recover the Orthodoxy of the ancient West so that East and West can once again be united.” – Susan Wallace, Again Magazine, Winter 2007

One has to ask: Which is it? An ecclesiology that claims the Church is not already united, or one that looks to ecumenism to join what cannot be joined? In the ambiguity of such statments, either or both may be surmised.

February 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, Western Rite Questions | , , , | Leave a comment

A Cause for Bigotry


“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” — St. Paul

The institutionalization of divisions between us comes not so much from acts of the Church as from Orthodox publishing and media. The term “cradles” in contrast with “converts” is one example, fitting well in the glossary with “ethnics” and “non-ethnics” (by which everyone means ‘Americans’, the cultural hegemony of the age and exporters of Walmart, even if they can’t bring themselves to say it). And we don’t hear Christ anymore who, consistently, showed us that we all need to convert. The apostles were cradle-Orthodox, lest we forget. Everyone converts. Everyone is born anew into Christ. Some just do it earlier than others. And as for ethnics/non-ethnics (or Jew vs. Greek – same thing), it’s just another example, on the one hand, of the equation of ‘American’ with a political-cultural-religious concept that is clearly demonic. And on the other hand, it shows we don’t believe our own gospel. We don’t; you know it, and any independent observer can see it.

The enthusiasts for much that’s being done in the name of “Western Rite”, will claim that any criticism, any questions that don’t roll over for straw men, appeals to authority, and sometimes outright lies, are also creating a division. It’s like blaming the central park jogger, really, for being dressed in too short a skirt. What the WR gang has done, though, is initiate a fundamental assault on Orthodox ecclesiology, and then claim that if we don’t evolve with it, we’re divisive. The factious man is the one who attacks the holy doctrines of our faith in the first place. Continue reading

January 22, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, -- Phyletism, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Quick Fix to Correct the Rite?


Fr. Alexander Schmemann: Assuming the wrong idea of a fundamental Eastern versus Western liturgical dualism, Dr. Sopko is inescapably led to a wrong answer to the question, essential from the Orthodox point of view, of what makes a Western rite Orthodox? For him, as indeed for many proponents of the Western rite, all it takes is a few deletions and a few additions, e.g., “striking the filioque” and “strengthening of the epiclesis.” This answer implies, on the one hand, that there exists a unified and homogeneous reality identifiable as the Western rite, and, on the other hand, that, except for two or three “heretical” ingredients or omissions, this rite is ipso facto Orthodox. Both presuppositions are wrong.

Indeed, one does not have to be an “authority on the West” in order to know that the liturgical development in the West was shaped to a degree unknown in the East, by the various theologies, the succession of which, as well as the clashes of which with one another, constitute the Western religious history. Scholasticism, Reformation, Counter-Reformation, etc., all have resulted in sometimes radical liturgical metamorphoses, all have had a decisive impact on worship. Therefore one should speak today not of the Western rite, but of Western rites, deeply, if not radically differing from one another, yet all reflecting, in one way or another, the Western theological tragedy and fragmentation. This does not mean that all these rites are “heretical” and are simply to be condemned. It only means that from an Orthodox point of view, their evaluation in terms merely of “deletions” and “additions” is, to say the least, inadequate and cannot resolve the tensions mentioned above. And even if in the past this method had a semblance of justification, the acute liturgical crisis that encompasses today virtually all Western confessions, makes it obsolete and irrelevant. For the irony of our present situation is that while some Western Christians come to Orthodoxy in order to salvage the rite they cherish (Book of Common Prayer, Tridentine Mass, etc.) from liturgical reforms they abhor, some of these reforms, at least in abstracto, are closer to the structures and the spirit of the early Western Rite and thus to the Orthodox liturgical tradition, than the later rites — those precisely that the Orthodox Church is supposed to “sanction” and to “adopt.”

All this will probably appear as another example of Eastern “arrogance” and emotional anti-Westernism. I count on Dr. Sopko to help me dispel this unfortunate impression. In having honored me by attending my lectures, he certainly knows how critical I am of our own liturgical situation, how many defects and deviations I wish to see corrected in our liturgical life. It is true, however, that this criticism itself is rooted primarily in my deep conviction that the Eastern liturgical tradition is alone today in having preserved, in spite of all historical “deficiencies,” the fullness of the Church’s lex orandi and constitutes therefore the criterion for all liturgical “evaluations.” Yet the true cleavage today is not between the “East” and the “West.” It is between those who seek in the liturgy the essential food of their Christian life and those for whom it is a matter of “attachment” or “allergy.” The Orthodox Church is full of people “allergic” to this or to that. Some are allergic to English and some to Church Slavonic. In some, liturgy is identified with Hellenism and for some others with Russia. And all these tensions which probably are also inevitable cannot and will not be solved except by an ever deepened interest — not in “liturgies” per se, not in “rites,” but in the Orthodox faith these rites reveal and communicate. Whatever the future of the Western rite, it depends, I am sure, on the thirst and hunger for the fullness of the Orthodox faith and on nothing else. Dogmatically, ecclesiologically — and I said this some twenty years ago on these very pages — Orthodoxy has no objection to the Western Rite as such. To have such an objection would mean the loss by the Orthodox Church of her claims to universality. The question therefore is not whether a rite is Eastern or Western. Neither Easternism or Westernism are important in themselves. The only question is whether a rite adequately embodies, manifests and communicates the eternal and unchanging Truth, — is Orthodox in the deepest sense of this word. – [ full article ] (St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly Vol. 24, No. 4/1980, pp. 266-269)

December 28, 2007 Posted by | -- Anglican, -- Phyletism, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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