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.

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February 3, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , | Leave a comment

Two households, both alike in dignity…


“In particular I want to look at liturgical life. In the extremely primitive condition of the early Church, it was logical that there should be a number of different local liturgical uses. It is likewise sensible to assume that this was not the ideal condition. The early Church is not the pure prototype we must always seek to emulate as so many Christians nowadays seem to think. Instead it was the seed from which the lofty tree of the fully developed Church would one day sprout. So I’m not an advocate of having 300 different liturgies just because the “early church” had them. Some Orthodox are so in love with liturgical archeology that they want a Mozarabic liturgy for Hispanics, a Syriac liturgy (or two) for middle-easterners, a “Celtic” liturgy for those Americans who are a quarter Irish, etc. This is unnecessary and more than a bit silly, I think. Once again, all the little local liturgies are pretty, but I don’t think they reflect the ideal condition of what the Church was meant to eventually develop into. Instead, we would be better off thinking of the Church’s liturgies developing into two distinct “families”. So even though I don’t believe in having a zillion local liturgies so that all the converts can feel proud of their ethnicity when they go play their medieval reenactment games in Church on Sunday, I would be foolish to deny the existence of two distinct liturgical mentalities that existed within the Church by the end of the first millennium.” [source]

Rejoinder: To the two families theorum: So, what does one tell the Irish? That they had a Celtic rite for hundreds of years, but that now they should accept a Norman one? How do you determine, in fact, that an Anglican rite is somehow more appropriate to Mexico than a Byzantine one? Perhaps the best response to this, taken out of context of course, is that of St. Sava of Serbia in the 13th century:

At first we were confused. The East thought that we were West while the West considered us to be East. Some of us misunderstood our place in the 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 Ireneus 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.”

This isn’t West Side Story or Romeo & Juliet. The world is bigger than a stage, and if you respond with the kind of localism that denies the Eastern heritage of the US, for instance, including all of her Saints and the rites they brought with them, and in fact separates from them liturgically for the sake of a false localism, then you can’t speak of families, or stop that process elsewhere.

February 2, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, -- What is Western?, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Texts or Devotions?


“The actual text of the Eucharistic liturgy is usually one of the slowest changing and most “calcified” part of any Christian tradition. That is why it is easy to find certain elements and themes in even the earliest times (the Didache, the writings of Justin Martyr or St. Cyril of Jerusalem, etc.) that correspond to nearly all modern liturgies whether Coptic, Constantinopolitan, or Tridentine Roman. The really big changes and the parts that usually push heresies in any heretical body’s devotional life are the private, domestic devotions.

If you don’t believe me, try the following experiment: read just the plain text of the Mass or the Office from a traditionalist Roman Catholic site. Now read the interpretation/”guide to understanding the Mass” from one of those sites or read up on some of the private devotions, chaplets, or spiritual exercises practiced in counter-reformed Catholicism. Which one had ideas that were more bizarre and disturbing to you as an Orthodox Christian? In which one did you read more about “making reparations”, “offering up” one’s suffering for the “poor souls in purgatory”, and engaging in excessively sentimental and overly imaginative spiritual “exercises”? In short, where is the real *soul* of what makes counter-reformed Catholicism different from Orthodoxy?” – [source]

The author of this post goes on to appeal to authority, presenting the same fait accompli argument that so many have, not being familiar enough with our history and its meaning. The interesting aspect of the above comment is that this is PRECISELY the question at hand when we’re looking at Western Rite adherents doing the rosary, keeping the “sacred heart”, and doing stations of the cross. (What’s next? Statues?) In short, he’s right, but he misses the point that this debate is far from over in the larger Orthodox world, just like many others.

February 1, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | 1 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

Three Unholy Forms of Authority


  • In pentecostalism, one gives up sovereignty of will, and intellect to the glossolalia of the emotions. A “word of prophesy” with no sound basis, can suddenly command the thinking and actions of followers. A leader too, may be accorded a “mantle” of apostleship, so that nothing can be reasonably challenged. After all, “touch not God’s annointed”.
  • In the evangelical “discipleship and submission movement” (also called “shepherding”), one gives up sovereignty of will and intellect to a strong leader. Think of it as evangelico-fascism. The talk is ever of “obedience”, and the most useful in these movements are the helper and the true believer. They justify and enable the subjugation of everyone else.
  • It’s no accident that it sounds like a Protestant version of Jesuitical thinking. The same notion that the word of a hierarch “makes something so” is very much in keeping with the priest, in the mass, causing by his words the transmutation and, in confession, absolving sins on his own “authority” and that of the Church. Continue reading

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

A Brief History of Rites


Diet Rite: For those prefer an abbreviated rite without all those lengthy prayers and repetitions like the Russians do. Alternately, this refers to an attitude about any rite that sees it purely as a matter for glue and scissors.

Stride Rite: For those who prefer pews and kneelers to the tradition that the Church pray standing, but who still say they’re going back to their Western heritage (i.e. just not that far back). Besides, it makes the comfortable Orthodox look bad.

Rite Aid: The practice of putting Eastern liturgical snippets in Anglican prayerbooks, whether as Sunday inserts or with some tape or glue. Beware Anglicans, groups of disgruntled Episcopalians may be going to work on your BCP’s this Saturday night. You could wake up and find yourself (just like the books) . . . Suddenly Orthodox!

Continue reading

January 19, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, -- Phyletism, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Weirdness | , , , , , , , | 1 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

Traditional Theology vs. Orthodox Theology


“As Western Christians become increasingly concerned by the drift of their denominations away from traditional Christian theology and liturgical practice, many have returned to Orthodoxy.” – From the Diocesan News for Clergy and Laity, February 1995, Greek Orthodox Diocese of Denver (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople)

Response: This one sentence is so common, in so many different forms, that it seems representative of the theorum supporting the ballooning of WR in the US. It’s in two parts: 1. The flight of disaffected Anglicans, Protestants, and some Roman Catholics based on what a critic might call mysogyny, homophobia, and an unwillingness to stay and fight for the beliefs they claim to hold so dear. Implicit in the lingo, though is an intentional ambiguity: “traditional Christian theology and liturgical practice” – an argument that there is somehow a theology (or here we take the meaning to be doctrine), and liturgical practice, that was present in those confessions prior to recent changes, whether 1979, 1962, or whatever. 2. This ambiguity is then equated with Orthodox theology, doctrine, and liturgy by calling it a “return” to Orthodoxy. In other words, the argument is being offered, demonstrably untrue, that these people are in their hearts and souls, and their pre-1979 Anglican Prayer Books, and pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism, essentially Orthodox. This is a questionable argument indeed, if not specious, but it may explain why, instead of the ancient liturgics, a revised BCP is used, and instead of the ancient fasting rules, why the 1950 Roman Catholic ones are in vogue. What’s interesting, too, is the departure of the Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions, of their own accord, from “traditional” theology, doctrine, and liturgics. To whom will we flee, with our abbreviated liturgies, our Roman Catholic sacerdotal and mysteriological attitudes, and our own relaxed attitudes about morality? What the above argument seems to present is a general, non-specific religiosity that really does call into question whether converts to the Western Rite are truly converting to Orthodoxy, and likewise whether we ourselves are in fact converting to something else. To quote Vladimir Lossky: “a God in general, who could be the God of Descartes, or the God of Leibnitz, or to some extent the God of oltaire and the de-Christianized Deists of the eighteenth century.”

January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Is it Saints or Rites?


Fr. David Abramstov wrote: “Those who live in the West and in the Western stream of tradition must, before God and the Angels and Saints, respect all that is good in her traditions. What is to be done with the ten centuries of Western liturgical life before the Schism? Reject them or ignore them or simply forget them? But St. Leo, St. Clement, St. Irenaeus, St. Gregory, St. Colomban, St. Chad and a thousand more lived by and were nourished upon the Orthodox Western Liturgy and Tradition. Is it by a condescending permission that some desire to celebrate after their example? St. Basil the Great and St. John Chrysostom would give different answers.” – On the Western Rite Edict of Metropolitan Anthony (Bashir)

Response: This issue-substitution (straw man) is quite common. There’s a difference between reconstructing or resurrecting a rite, on the one hand, and venerating Western Saints on the other. If the issue is Western Saints, they can easily be added to our calendars. We can even do this with our own calendars in our homes, as a private devotion, if we don’t want to wait, provided the saints are really Orthodox saints. But this does not require resurrecting every liturgical rite they used. It is certainly reasonable to suggest that only in recovering what is lost in Western liturgical expression, can the full historic expression of Orthodoxy be likewise recovered. Fulness upon fulness. But the question remains whether the justifications being offered for doing it the way it’s being done reflect the fulness of those liturgical expressions, let alone existing liturgical life!

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

Is this Converting Them or Us?


If the WR liturgics are properly Orthodox, why the need to accompany them with claims like this one: “Professor John Romanides and others have successfully argued that the schism of the 11th century was less about theological differences between the East and the West than about the political and military ambitions of the Franks.” – by Fr. Nicholas Alford, St. Gregory the Great Orthodox Church, LIGHT FROM THE EAST – JOY IN THE WEST: The Restoration of Western Rite Orthodoxy

Question: For one thing, that is not the only way to read Fr. John’s excellent work at all. But have we not read St. Photius’ Mystagogy, listened to St. Mark of Ephesus? Why the need now to revise history and claim there are not deep-seated theological differences since at least the 9th century that have worked themselves out into a system of Western religion and “spirituality” that is incompatible with Orthodoxy? After all, if this is just about liturgics, a matter of this or that rite, and not utilized either as, on the one hand, a means of bringing in heterodox thinking with partial conversions and, on the other, preparing a bridge for a false union of Orthodoxy with Rome and Canterbury, what’s this stuff got to do with it? But then that begs the whole question of why, if the rite is perfectly Orthodox, we need a shift of rite to begin with. Overall, it’s cause for concern that what has widely been analyzes as a theological divergence that had deep effects in every other area of Western Christian thought, innovation, and practice, is now seemly treated as a mere anomaly in an otherwise Orthodox development. This seems like revisionism at best.

Continue reading

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

Historical Revisionism, Liturgics, and the BCP


“The vision of the Western Rite as an essential part of the Orthodox Mission in America belonged to Archbishop Tikhon of the American Archdiocese under the Moscow Patriarchate. About ninety years ago he examined the existing Anglican Book of Common Prayer and sent it to the Holy Synod of Moscow. That Liturgy, derived from the ancient use of the Orthodox West, and first expressed in English in the edition of 1549 by authority of King Edward the Sixth of England, was corrected and approved by the Holy Synod for Orthodox Church use.” – WesternOrthodox.com (1/16/2008)

Question: Why all this quoting of pedigree, pre-schism pedigree, post-schism pedigree, when it’s basically a revised Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer? Even the Anglicans, with their notions of doctrinal development collaborating with liturgical development, didn’t bother so much as to claim this flawless a pedigree for their innovations. Is this rewriting history?

January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

K is for Calendar?


K is for CalendarIf a goal of the WRV is really to to help people express the Faith in Western forms, does this mean we really need to revert to a substitution of K’s for C’s as in Kalendar? [see westernorthodox.com/kalendar] Should it then be Katholic? Antiokian? Kristianity? Kommunion? Why just the calendar, in this case? Is this like putting the Russian k in ikon, or is it just getting hokey?

January 17, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Weirdness | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Are Pre-Schism Liturgics Really Pristine?


According to Westernorthodox.com (1-16-2008): “Before the year 1054 there would have been no difficulty in declaring that the Western Rite of the Undivided Church was simply the use of Latin speaking Churches. The Rite used by Christians in Scotland, Ireland and England, was as Orthodox as that used in Constantinople.”

Questions: Could it be that the Schism happened so suddenly that we can date the exact point of departure? If the fundamental doctrinal shifts (identifying God with a philosophical construct (e.g. the filioque), papal supremacy, and the concept of doctrinal development) that began in the 6th-9th centuries and led up to the Schism altered the theology, ecclesiology, mysteriology, soteriology, and sacerdotal doctrines, to mention a few, how did the liturgical development escape the same process? And if it did not, isn’t that a significant problem? Likewise, if the West also grew to *understand* their liturgics differently, as they did in each of these other fields, is it not of significant concern that so many Western converts are being hastily funneled into a WR, without sufficient liturgical education and study of meaning in the Eastern rite?

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

The Myth of Cultural Need


The clamour for culture: And then the last question: is it quite correct to define our rite as “Eastern” and therefore “foreign to all the Western Christians have known” to quote the Edict [of Met. Anthony]? I would like to suggest a rather sharp distinction between “Eastern” and “oriental”. No doubt there are many oriental features, oriental ingredients in our liturgical life. No doubt also, that for many Orthodox this “orientalism” seems to be the essential element. But we know that it is not essential and we know that progressively all these “orientalisms” are being eliminated in a very natural and spontaneous process of adjustment of our cult to the American life. But then what remains and what can be described as “Eastern” is nothing else but the Biblical and the Patristic “content” of our liturgy. It is essentially and structurally Biblical and Patristic, and therefore, it is “eastern” in exactly the same measure in which the Bible and the Fathers, or rather, the whole Christianity can be termed “Eastern”. But have we not proclaimed time and again in all our encounters with our Western brothers that it is this “East” precisely that constitutes the common and the catholic heritage of the Church and can supply us with a common language which has been lost or distorted? The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or the Easter Canon of St. John of Damascus, are, I believe, much closer to that common and Catholic language of the Church than anything else in any Christian tradition. And I cannot think of any word or phrase in these services that would be “foreign” to a Western Christian and would not be capable of expressing his faith and his experience, if the latter would be genuinely Orthodox . . . – Protopresbyter Alexander (Schmemann), St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 2 – New Series, No. 4, Fall, 1958, pp. 37-38.

And then this:

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January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Conversion a Mere Legal & Liturgical Formality?


Fr. Alexander’s Primary Concern

The question of real conversion: For me, the only important question is: What exactly do we mean by conversion to Orthodoxy? The following definition will, I presume, be acceptable to everybody: it is the individual or the corporate acceptance of the Orthodox faith and the integration in the life of the Church, in the full communion of faith and love. If this definition is correct, we must ask: can the “conversion” of a group or a parish, for which its spiritual leaders have signed a formal doctrinal statement and which hasretained its Western rite, however purified or amended, can such a “conversion” – in our present situation, i.e., in the whole context of the Orthodox Church as she exists in America today – be considered as a true conversion? Personally, I doubt it very much. And I consider this growing interpretation of conversion in terms of a mere jurisdictional belonging to some Orthodox Diocese, of a “mimimum” of doctrinal and liturgical requirements and of an almost mechanical understanding of the “Apostolic Succession” as a very real danger to Orthodoxy. This means the replacement of Orthodoxy of “content” by Orthodoxy of “form”, which certainly is not an Orthodox idea. For we believe that Orthodoxy is, above all, faith that one must live, in which one grows, a communion, a “way of life” into which one is more and more deeply integrated. And now, whether we want it or not, this living faith, this organic spirit and vision of Orthodoxy is being preserved and conveyed to us mainly if not uniquely, by the Orthodox worship. In our state of national divisions, of theological weakness, in the lack of living spiritual and monastic centers, of unpreparedness of our clergy and laity for more articulate doctrinal and spiritual teaching, of absence of a real canonical and pastoral care on the part of the various jurisdictional centers, what holds the Orthodox Church together, assures its real continuity with tradition and gives the hope of a revival is precisely the liturgical tradition. It is a unique synthesis of the doctrinal, ethical and canonical teachings of Orthodoxy and I do not see how a real integration into the Orthodox Church, a genuine communion of faith and life may be achieved without an integration in the Orthodox worship. – Protopresbyter Alexander (Schmemann), St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 2 – New Series, No. 4, Fall, 1958, pp. 37-38.

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January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

General Absolution


Someone sent in a comment indicating that large numbers of cradle Orthodox in a particular parish have the notion that there is supposed to be a General Absolution on the way to the chalice, so that they don’t have to go to Holy Confession. Apparently, this used to be a practice in their large parish, and they resent now having to change their habits by going to receive the Mystery of Penance, which they are advised they should pursue 3-times per year, and of occasionally being asked not to approach the chalice, since some of them are unwilling to do this. For the sake of avoiding scandalizing anyone, the parish will not be mentioned.

Brethren, there is no such mystery of General Absolution in Orthodoxy, let alone a “drive by” format that occurs on the way to the chalice. The old habit is heterodox and the new one Orthodox, though three times a year will be viewed as not a little bit scant by those of us who consider “a recent confession” to be far more frequent, not to mention attendance at Holy Vespers in the first place, where possible, and a keeping of the fasts of the Church. The reason for concern in this case is that the parish is also generating a Western Rite, and our desire is that no such heterodox notions follow the newly Chrismated involved.

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

Anglican + Roman Catholic + Some Modifications = AA WR


WESTERN RITE ORTHODOXY is the use of the traditional Roman Catholic or Episcopalian Services and Devotionals, as they were done before the changes of the last fifty years. The Antiochian Archdiocese has made some modifications, which reflect proper Orthodox theology. The primary service is the Gregorian Rite Roman Mass, or its Anglican derivative, the 1928 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) Holy Communion Service. – St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church 1/16/2008

January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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