Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Western Rite as Ecumenist Bridge

“With the reception of “western rite” parishes into Orthodoxy, there were some who felt that the Uniate ideal had now found its proper home. Comparison of Western Rite Orthodox to Eastern Rite Catholics is, of course, inevitable. And, we should keep in mind that historically, Rome has often held up its Eastern Rite Catholics as a bridge to union with the Orthodox.” – Father Michael Johnson, The Priest. A Newsletter for the Clergy of the Diocese of San Francisco. Issue No. 5, May 1996

And… will it work? The answer is a resounding maybe:

Continue reading


January 14, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | 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

Questions of Faith

The question of rites is precisely not, has never been and cannot be a mere question of rites per se , but is and has always been a question of faith, of its wholeness and integrity. The liturgy embodies and expresses the faith, or better to say, the experience of the Church, and is that experience’s manifestation and communication. And when rites, detached from their nature and function, begin to be discussed in terms of “acceptance” and “rejection” or “likes and dislikes”, the debate concerning them becomes meaningless. – Fr. Alexander Schmemann (SVTQ 24/4, 1980)

January 11, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Western Rite or an Eastern Rite informed by the West

The point has been made more than once that it is one thing to venerate Western Saints, and even to adopt Western prayers from the ancient tradition. It is quite another to establish a parallel rite in the same communities.

“For many people, the eastern and western rites are two entirely different and self-contained “blocks” ruling out, as an impure “hybridization”, all contacts and mutual influences. This, however, is wrong – first of all, historically. In a sense, the entire history of Christian worship can be termed a history of constant “hybridizations” – if only this word is deprived of its negative connotations. Before their separations, the east and the west influenced one another for centuries. And there is no exagg eration in saying that the anaphora of St. John Chrysostom’s Liturgy is infinitely ‘closer’ to the Roman anaphora of the same period than the service of Holy Communion in the Book of Common Prayer is to, for example, the Tridentine Mass.” – Father Alexander Schmemann (1920-1983) (SVTQ 24/4, 1980) The Priest. A Newsletter for the Clergy of the Diocese of San Francisco. Issue No. 5, May 1996

January 10, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Mechanical/Legal Approach to Liturgics & Conversion

The Protestant Notion of a “bare essentials” cannot become a methodology for the adoption of a rite, catechetical instruction, or reception of converts.

“What makes a western rite Orthodox? For many proponents of the western rite, all it takes is a few additions and a few deletions, e.g. “striking the filioque ” and “strengthening of the epiclesis.” This answer implies, on the one hand, that there exists a unified and homogenous reality identifiable as the western rite and, on the other hand, that except for two or three “heretical” ingredients or omissions, th is rite is ipso facto Orthodox. Both presuppositions are wrong.” – Father Alexander Schmemann (1920-1983) (SVTQ 24/4, 1980) The Priest. A Newsletter for the Clergy of the Diocese of San Francisco. Issue No. 5, May 1996

January 9, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Four Quotes

Justifying the rite can easily obscure the mentality of some of those who use the rite to create a homogenized ghetto of non-ethnics, in resistance to the supposed monolithicworld of ethnics out there. In reality, often enough, its just a ghetto of middle-class American values, and the other issues are symbolic.

This is not a reprint but an abbreviated excerpt of four quotations (addressed to WR Orthodox) from an article here (1/8/2007):
[we tried to link to it, but his links don’t work]

1. The reality is that most Western Orthodox Christians (that is, Orthodox Christians living in the West and possessing a Western culture) are Byzantine Rite and see no contradiction between their rite and their culture. Most of them have never heard of you.

2. When you use sarcastic phrases like the oh-so-mystical East, you give yourself away as being as much of an East-hater as you believe your brothers in the Byzantine parts of the Orthodox Church are West-haters. Many of you used to be Episcopalians besieged by utter heretics. It’s okay, though—you’re now among the Orthodox. You’re no longer besieged. You can take the battlements down and lower your weapons. Yes, there are folks in the Orthodox Church who do not understand you or even suspect the validity of your Orthodoxy. You won’t help them to accept you fully by sarcasm or a fortress mentality, however.

3. You were received into this Church and not into the pre-Schism Western Church. That means that you can’t pretend that people like St. Gregory Palamas aren’t relevant to you. For one thing, there is no East-West dividing line for what is needful in the Church, and for another, those to whom you rightly look for inspiration in the ancient West absolutely had zero problem with adopting the “Eastern” language and theology of their time (where, quite frankly, most of the serious doctrinal work was being done, due to heresy). They even adopted liturgical customs! It’s not a question of what’s appropriate to “the East” or “the West,” but what is Orthodox. Anything else is really a form of phyletism.

4. You do not have more in common with either the Roman Catholic or Anglican communions than you do with the Byzantine Rite Orthodox. Thinking or speaking as though you do is really just a schism waiting to happen.

January 8, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Western About it?

“Indeed, one does not have to be an “authority on the West” in order to know that liturgical development in the West was shaped to a degree unknown in the East by various theologies, the succession of which – and the clashes of one with another – constitute western religious history. Scholasticism, Reformation, Counter-Reformation, etc., have all resulted in sometimes radical liturgical metamorphoses and 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 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. 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 abstacto , are closer to the structures and spirit of the early western rite – and thus to the Orthodox liturgical tradition – than the later rite, those precisely that the Orthodox Church is supposed to “sanction” and to “adopt.” – Father Alexander Schmemann (1920-1983) (SVTQ 24/4, 1980) The Priest. A Newsletter for the Clergy of the Diocese of San Francisco. Issue No. 5, May 1996

January 8, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reservations: Bishop Kallistos (Ware)

“I understand that there are “western rite” groups in the USA which are using what is basically an Anglican rite, with a Byzantine epiclesis inserted into it. I have some reservations here.

The Anglican service is in large part the work of Cranmer, who was Zwinglian in his theology (i.e., he did not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist): do we make his rite “Orthodox” simply by inserting a Byzantine epiclesis? Indeed, is it right to take the Byzantine epiclesis and insert it into a western liturgical text where it does not properly belong? It is said that St. Tikhon of Moscow, while Archbishop of North America at the start of this century, blessed a rite of this sort. But how carefully was he able to examine the question? And if he were living today, would he recommend the same course? If we Orthodox are indeed to use a western rite, then there needs to be a full discussion on a pan-Orthodox level to clarify what western rite we should employ.” – Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, The Priest. A Newsletter for the Clergy of the Diocese of San Francisco. Issue No. 5, May 1996

January 6, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite -- Pan-Orthodoxy, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unity vs. Diversity

“I will speak only of the situation in Britain, for I am not qualified to express an opinion about America. Here in Britain we Orthodox, few though we are in numbers, are fragmented into a multiplicity of “jurisdictions”; but at least we are united in the use of the same rite – the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. If a “western rite” is introduced here, it will add still further to our fragmentation. Is this desirable? . . . Is this pastorally helpful? – Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, The Priest. A Newsletter for the Clergy of the Diocese of San Francisco. Issue No. 5, May 1996

January 5, 2008 Posted by | -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, Western Rite -- Pan-Orthodoxy, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nothing Ethnic About Eastern Rite

Excellent Response to the Ethnicity Argument and the Cultural Argument:

“If we wish to help western persons joining Orthodoxy, the best way is to offer them the possibility of attending the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in the English language. There is nothing “oriental” or “ethnic” about this Liturgy. True, it was written in Greek and not in Latin; but then Plato and Sophocles wrote in Greek, yet we recognize them as part of our shared European culture. The same is true of St. John Chrysostom. We English can feel thoroughly at home in his Liturgy – as I know from my own experience.” – Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, The Priest. A Newsletter for the Clergy of the Diocese of San Francisco. Issue No. 5, May 1996 [emphasis added]

January 4, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Comment from a RC forum

“As I can’t imagine it being accepted that a local hierarch, or a single hiearchichal structure of a jurisdiction would be accepted to be authorized to radically change the Divine Liturgy unilaterally, I simply cannot see how it is accepted that they may introduce these innovations (of a western rite mass for Orthodox), pronounce them orthodox motu proprio , and have it be accepted that world Orthodoxy stands behind them. Looking back on the decisions to adopt the Gregorian Calendar or Nikonian rites, (Not half the leap of faith!) I am left scratching my head how it can be asserted that the introduction of these various rites, can be seen as Orthodox …

So aside from not being under the pope and having married priests, how are you thinking this would be a better match for them then Rome?” 7/29/07 ASimpleSinner

January 3, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Pan-Orthodoxy, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

France. Treasury of Good Things?

“Well! Behold a great event! It is a marvellous thing for us to learn of the revival of Orthodoxy in the West. But I am not surprised that this movement comes from France, this France which has already given us so many beautiful and sweet things.” – Pat. Athenagoras (of unhappy memory)

January 2, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Weirdness | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It is reasonable to ask…

“We are now witnessing a dismantling of the traditional values and piety on which our [Roman Catholic] faith rests. Added to this state of affairs is the shocking assimilation of Protestant ideas brought into the Church under the guise of the misunderstood term ecumenism with a resulting growing estrangement from the ancient [Orthodox] Churches of the East; that is, a turning away from the common tradition that had been shared by the East and the West.”

It is reasonable to ask whether, in creating a rite specifically for those fleeing the dismantling of their confessions, we risk dismantling our own confession in the process, which has never been something shared with the heterodox over “bare essentials” of doctrine (itself a Protestant notion) which merely need a bit of help. Make no mistake, good, old-fashioned Anglican, Protestant, and Roman Catholic thinking, piety, and worship are more alien to us, than their latest innovations are to the refugees. They still have far more in common with each other, than either their ecumenist or continuing jurisdictions have with Holy Orthodoxy, and a hasty, inadequate catechesis, quick ordinations, and relatively instant mission creation without sufficient time to live the Orthodox Faith (assuming their host churches can really teach them that at all), is unfair to them, offensive to the confessions they’ve fled, and dangerous to the salvation of all involved, ourselves included.

As one current Anglican said, “If they’re going to convert to Orthodoxy, they should convert to Orthodoxy, and not just treat it as a door to remaining Anglican but without the responsibility to live in a Anglican community.”

January 1, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, -- Evangelism, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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