Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Maybe the Rite isn’t the Core of the Problem Anyway?


Would it be fair to say that many of the problems plaguing Western Rite initiatives are endemic to their parent jurisdictions? Would something like the following chart be a fair way to compare these problems?

Eastern Rite Western Rite
Includes some WR people who were pressured to “Byzantinize” Includes many converts who were pressured to “go Western Rite”
Sometimes treating WR brethren as second class Often dismissing ER brethren as outmoded and irrelevant
Can exhibit East European Phyletism Frequently exhibits Anglo-American & West European Phyletism
Confusion about what is Orthodox Confusion about what is Western
Twin problems of Neopapism & Anticlericalism Twin problems of Neopapism and Congregationalism
Alien (im)pieties: general absolution, deprecation of all things seen among Russians Alien pieties: sacred heart, stations of the cross, rosary
Abbreviated Liturgics, and deprecation of the full range of services, vigils, etc. Serious liturgical problems: Tridentine, BCP, and so-called Tikhon’s Liturgy
Confusion about what is piety and what is culture Confusion about what is culture and what what is piety
Inadequate Catechesis & Dubious Converstion Inadequate Catechesis & Dubious Converstion
Ecumenistic courting of Rome Ecumenistic courting of Rome
Deprecation of monasticism Deprecation of monasticism
Dubious evangelistic methods Dubious evangelistic methods

May 15, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , | 38 Comments

When Proof Texts Go Wild


It’s always easy to justify one’s personal agenda for the Church and Orthodox religion by creative placement of texts. Recently, for instance, we read a passage from [this blog] which makes a case for emotionalism in Orthodox pieties (something rare and generally foreign to our experience). It does this by presenting a lengthy description of events in Constantinople in the 4th century as of Great Thursday. In fact, they are in the main a description of Great and Holy Friday, the most solemn and sorrowful day of Holy Week, and a day of total fast. Whereas the text to which the quotation links makes this clear, the article citing it does not, putting only a header concerning Thursday above the quotation. It then boldfaces the portion about the “emotion shown and the mourning” before the cross on Great Friday which, of course, one can only expect.

This example is just one of many, but it illustrates the problem of scouring history for proof texts in an effort to recreate and reconstruct an Orthodox experience presumably now lacking in the attitude of contemporary Orthodox. This dialectic, misused, can actually be quite harmful, and is solely a matter for conscientious converts and ambitious academics (meaning, in both cases, theoreticians) who wish to rescue the Church from its failings by restoring to it a history they barely comprehend, deprived in fact from its full context. This is history as a tool rather than hagiology as a means of theosis. We really aren’t meaning to pick on the blog owner above. He asks for and receives quite enough flack. But since his is perhaps the ‘loudest’ example of the evangelical hermeneutic at work in the “Western Rite” theatre, his posts are typically replete with helpful examples of the matters that concern a sober mind about what is getting called “Western Rite”.

Again, to try to create a blanket justification of concepts or experiences detached from their context (by proof texts in the wild, or by any other hermeneutic) is a dangerous process to set loose upon a Faith. Its harmful effects have already been experienced in the history of the Roman Catholic and Anglican religions, which have become bywords for this error, and we find it a dubious undertaking for clergy of any religion in the name of winning an argument or scoring support for a private agenda. Besides, if that agenda is indefensible otherwise, then it should be rejected as lacking the very historical continuity it presumes to demonstrate.

Not all critical examination of contemporary Orthodox community life or investigation of historical precedent is a bad idea. Indeed, we benefit from it frequently. But it must be done in a mature and circumspect manner, with some sense of how the Church uses history in the first place, how it ‘places’ its thought within history, and how it’s Faith differs from the manufacture or “rediscovery” of concepts, as in Protestantism and archaism. The Church is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Our essential ecclesiology, our fundamental hermeneutical tradition, and our basic mysteriology must guide our consciences in our treatment of the Church’s history, Her texts, and Her sacred experience.

April 28, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Questions, Western Rite Weirdness | , , , | 3 Comments

Enemies, Opponents, and Brothers in Christ


Wool over one's eyes.Recently a Christian speaker stood before an audience desiring to gain acceptance for a path that conflicted quite clearly with their tradition. The technique he used is tried and true. He began to describe how there’s a difference between crazy and not crazy. Always he drew associations with his theoretical opponents and craziness, always with his own views and sanity. In other words:

  • He presented a false dilemma: Your choices are: my novel views or else these extreme and unpleasant attitudes and motivations; those are your choices. He didn’t define craziness, of course. You could insert the word ‘extremist’ or ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘liberal’ or any other undesirable buzzword. The important thing is to leave it vague enough, and to indicate, without indicating why or how, it is undesirable: You don’t want to be thought of as “x”, do you? Well then, the only alternative is my views.
  • He poisoned the well: Those who would oppose me are, by opposing me, demonstrating that their motivations are irrational. Of course, he did not have any actual opponents on hand to prove him wrong – the goal was to prevent opposition, and stereotype it in advance.
  • He mischaracterized his opponents, theoretical or otherwise. By attributing to them irrational, he easily escapes contest with the many rational books and articles that have been written to refute his position. He likewise, escapes having to engage such things, since a scholar needn’t, after all, debate with the irrational. [1]

In short, this speaker silenced opposition, embarrassed concern, and slid a pre-packaged point of view into the minds of those least educated on the matter, least versed in the relevant body of thought, and most likely to desire an easy avenue to intellectual status – namely, the mass of new converts and under-educated members of churches that cater to every novelty while fostering ignorance of tradition. He pled to dilettants.

These techniques are cited here, because they’re not uncommon among Western Rite enthusiasts. Frequently, those who express concern, potent questions, and certainly challenges to things done in the name of “Western rites” are characterized as “hysterical” [2], “raving”, “railing”, “polemicists” [3] “bashing”, “attacking”, “hostile”, “attempting to demean the rite” [4], and so on.

In other words, a variety of irrational emotions (rage, hysteria), evil motives (hostility, hatred, the desire to demean), and extreme actions (railing, raving) are attributed to those who would express concern over some of the enthusiasm being expressed, question the wisdom of some of the initiatives undertaken, or oppose the novelties introduced. The technique is the same, and it’s effects are:

  • Present a false dilemma: you must choose the “balanced view” of the enthusiasts, or the extreme emotions, motives, and actions presumably characterizing their opponents. There is no third choice – namely that of happy approval of what is good, and firm, even adamant opposition to what is not, coupled with cautious consideration of what is questionable. There is only, in this presentation, “us” and “them”, and “them” aren’t really an option.
  • Poison the well: when you see opposition, you must read it with the remembrance that it cannot come from genuine and legitimate concern, a righteous desire for fidelity and purity, and a human struggle to balance the need to admonish and sometimes correct one’s brother for his own salvation, for ours, and for the sanctity of the Faith, with the need to seek dispassion, find humility, and pray for the best. No, opponents must be ‘read’ with a certain pre-packaged hermeneutic – with eyes provided to you by the enthusiasts.
  • Mischaracterize opponents: you are encouraged to read opponents with prejudice and feelings, all the while being admonished not to read the enthusiasts with prejudice and feelings, except of course where prejudice and feelings are deemed to favor the enthusiasts. The first step in persecuting anyone (as the enthusiasts so frequently claim to be persecuted) is to dehumanize them – to make them into caricatures of honest, honorable, reasonable people. This is how you become the enemy of another, and not merely the opponent. Once you have decided that your opponents are not honest, honorable, reasonable people with whom you can seek and indeed find the truth together, you may feel safety from them, but in fact you are no longer safe from yourselves. The truth is, we all need each other, to challenge one another, question one another, admonish one another, and indeed to listen to us. Once we willingly decide to end that, no position we hold is worth having.

Opponents need not be EnemiesThis capacity, to treat opposition as warfare, which always reduces opponents to something less than our fellows, lies in wait as a temptation for any of us, and we are most vulnerable when wounded by one another. As St. Nikolai said, “Men can do me no evil as long as I bear no wound.” And likewise, he offered an entirely different way of looking at enemies in [this wonderful prayer].

So we must encourage those who are enthusiasts, those who are critics, and those who aren’t sure, to use moderation in characterizing opponents. The very caution that we use in examining these matters for approval or disapproval, let us use in choosing how we portray our counterparts, for agreement or disagreement. Let charity teach us to use more strictness with ourselves and more leniency with others. We who are writing this have often failed in this regard. We have sometimes let prejudice, defensiveness, and the desire to finish the course easily determine our words. We are resolved to do better. At the same time, we must, for the sake of the things for which we are striving, point out misleading and harmful techniques, when they endanger our brothers among Western Rite enthusiasts, our fellows anywhere, and ourselves in the temptation to respond in kind. We only seem to be opponents, after all, but to the degree we seek salvation in this striving, we are not opponents – not really. And just as we must acknowledge behaviour sometimes unbecoming, we must seek forgiveness, too, for driving our opponents to behaviours unbecoming fellows in Christ.

Let us love one another, that with one mouth, one mind, one accord we may confess, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – the Trinity, One in Essence, and Undivided. Amen.



End Notes:
Continue reading

April 10, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Questions, Western Rite Seminal Material | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Neoconservatism is Satanism


An initial foray into this area of concern:

Neoconservatism is a blight upon the religious mind. Every fundamental tenet of neoconservatism is contrary to the Holy Gospel.

When justifying one’s advocacy of political policies: it is popular to quote Holy Scripture and the fathers selectively, and to pick and choose bits of our history while neglecting the whole. But when one reads the ascetics, the desert fathers, the great monastics that pursue union with God, the meaning of all Christian thought, the ruses all fall away.

It is easy to find justification for anger, for instance, for “righteous wrath”, until we read St. John Cassian, who says there is no such thing as righteous anger.

Neoconservatism is a form of political gnosticism, and its adherents are like freemasons and practitioners of the occult in our midst. They hold out, as it were, a body of heretical private devotion, an inner religion of entirely profane character, indeed a passion for the world and its loves and hates, such that these things are household idols tucked in the saddle bags of the Faithful.

There is no meeting of Christ and Belial. These things are gods of Egypt, are golden calves, are the Molech to which we feed Christ in the form of the oppressed and slaughtered peoples of the world.

Neoconservatism is the tool of Satan for the coopting of Christian charity. As we set out upon the Great Fast, let us fast also from every passion, and from all things which alienate us from Christ and the union of all men, for which likewise we pray in every litany.

“Repent.” We must heed this injunction of Christ’s carefully, and radically amend our inner life and our concept of the world and our attitude towards people and every phenomenon in the creature world — not slay our enemies, but win them over with love.

We must remember that there is no absolute evil. Only unorignate Goodness is Absolute. And this Goodness commanded us, “Love your enemies…do good to them that hate you…Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”. Being slain for the sake of one’s brethren is the best possible weapon for delivering them from servitude to the traducer, the devil, and preparing their souls to accept God, Who desires the salvation of all. There is one in whom there is no light whatever, because God “lighteth every man that cometh into the world”. The commandment “Resist not evil” is the most fully effective form of struggle against evil.

When we resort to the same means adopted by those who do wrong, the dynamics of world-evil increase. Slaughter of the innocent in an invisible fashion often transfers the moral powers of mankind to the side of the good for which the innocent died.

It is not so when both sides evince the same bad tendency to dominate. Victory obtained by physical strength does not last forever. God being light, holy, and pure, with draws from evildoers, and they fall away from the one and only source of life and die. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord”…”Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

– Archimandrite Sophrony

March 10, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Western Rite Fasting Rules


Fish & Chips w. Beer“Fasting, as distinguished from abstinence… Fasting is absolutely forbidden on all Sundays, Solemnities, and Greater Feasts. Additionally, since both canonical rules and the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict prohibit fasting on Saturdays, only abstinence may be observed on Saturdays in fasting seasons.” [source]

The article is muddled and verbose, but it still amounts to no steak dinner on Sunday afternoons. 🙂

“Water does not break the fast.” [Ibid.]

Actually, the tradition is to fast even from water on Saturday nights until holy communion, is it not? [answers in the comments section]

“On days of abstinence, fish and dairy products are always permitted. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited, but wine and beer, where customary, are allowed. “ [Ibid.]

What? Regular boned fish? So one can go for fish, chips, and a beer in Lent? [answers in the comments section]

March 8, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Pieties | , , , | 15 Comments

I want to be Left Behind!


Taken Behind - Don't be taken. It really sucks.“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. – Matthew 24:37-41 (NASB)

“And as it was in the time of Noah, so will it also be in the time of the Son of Man. Men were eating and drinking, taking wives and giving wives, up to the very day on which Noah entered the Ark, and the Deluge came and destroyed them all. The same was true in the time of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building; but on the day that Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from the sky and destroyed them all. Exactly so will it be on the day that the veil is lifted from the Son of Man. On that day, if a man is on the roof and his property indoors, let him not go down to fetch it; and, in the same way, he who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Any man who makes it his object to keep his own life safe, will lose it; but whoever loses his life will preserve it. On that night, I tell you, there will be two men in one bed: one will be taken away and the other left behind. There will be two women turning the mill together: one will be taken away and the other left behind.” “Where, Master?” they inquired. “Where the dead body is,” He replied, “there also will the vultures flock together.” – Luke 17:26-37 (Weymouth)

St. John Chrysostom: “Then again He sets another sign, by all which things He makes it evident, that He is not ignorant of the day. And what is the sign? “Then shall two be in the field; one shall be taken, and one left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill, one shall be taken, and one left. Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. And all these things are both proofs that He knew, and calculated to turn them from their inquiry. So for this cause He spake also of the days of Noe, for this cause He said too, “Two shall be on the bed,” signifying this, that He should come upon them thus unexpectedly, when they were thus without thought, and “two women grinding at the mill,” which also of itself is not the employment of them that are taking thought.”

March 5, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Weirdness | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Questions and Answers: AWRV


Q&AThis is a selection of questions and answers from “The Protomartyr” published in The Spotlight, a newsletter of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate in New Zealand:

QUESTION: Must the sermon follow the recessional hymn on normal Sundays?
ANSWER: . Not at all. The sermon is to be delivered after the Gospel, if the “Turner Missal” is used (old Tridentine style), or after the Creed if the Anglican style Liturgy is used. There is no provision for it being delivered at the end of The Liturgy.

QUESTION: Is the use of a confessional permitted for the sacrament of Penance?
ANSWER: If you like. Some of us prefer to hear confessions at the altar rail, or in front of an icon of Christ as is done in most Orthodox churches. We feel that it is important that our people make their confessions in our parish in the same way they would if they were attending any Orthodox church. In Orthodoxy, confessions do not follow the same legalistic pattern as is followed by Roman Catholics or Anglicans.

QUESTION: would our stautues have to be replaced with icons? Would we have to use icons at all?
ANSWER; No, You may keep your statues if you like, as long as they are not of post-schism “saints” or of events depicting things not accepted by Orthodoxy. (The “Immaculate Conception, for instance.)

QUESTION: Must blessed bread be distributed following Mass in a western-rite parish?
ANSWER: No! if you don’t want to. It is a very symbolic and useful custom, however, and something which may be distributed to all present, even if thcy are not orthodox. Sacraments, including Holy Communion, may not be administered to non-orthodox. (This, of course, does not include the initiatory sacraments of Baptism and Chrismation which bring one into the Orthodox Church.)

QUESTION: How would the architectural setting of the church be affected?
ANSWER: If your church is a traditional western catholic church, it would not be affected at all. The Mass may not be said facing the people, however, so if that is your practice and your church is set up for it, you might have to make an architectural change.

QUESTION: Why did you choose the Antiochian Archdiocese rather than one of the other jurisdictlons?
ANSWER: Because it is the best jurisdiction! In addition, it is the only cannonical Orthodox jurisdiction which has a western rite and actively supports and encourages it. There are many other reasons, including the fact that Orthodox churches from the Middle East are less influenced spiritually and pietistically by national or ethnic customs since they were never the “Established Religion” in the country of their original background. Many practices which non-Orthodox believe to be of the essence in Orthodoxy, and which they find somewhat hard to take, are actually nothing more than Russian ethnic
customs which have become important to those of Russian background and appear to those outside as “part of the Faith”. Such things are not as obvious or paramount in the Orthodox from the Middle East.

QUESTION: Is it permissable for women to serve on the vestry or board of trustees in an Orthodox parish?
ANSWER: But of course! We have four women on our vestry, and there are at least two women on the Archdiocesan Board of Trustees. We hear that some jurisdictions won’t allow women to serve in that capacity, but we like women! Women cou1d never even be considered for the priesthood or other ministerial offices anywhere in Orthodoxy, however, for that would be impossible for theological reasons.

QUESTION: Are western-rite parishes expected to “easternize” later on?
ANSWER: Positively not! As a matter of fact, they are not allowed to do so. Thc western-rite parishes operate under the Western-Rite Vicariate of our Archdiocese, and as such constitute a most important missionary outreach for Orthodoxy. We would certainly not have many W-R congregations if they were expected to “easternize”.

March 4, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | 16 Comments

The Idol Under the Bed


Tongues in the CEC“And the best of intentions may have damaging results if misapplied to the wrong ends, as exchanging the spiritual state for a state of psychotic hysteria is essentially an act of dissipation merely disguised by a religious false front.” – ALEXANDER Turner, first vicar of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate

Fr. Thomas Hopko recently answered a question on the Illumined Heart podcast about “the Charismatic sign gifts” like “speaking in tongues”, by which is meant glossalia, “words of prophesy” (divination), etc. Fr. Thomas, in the course of this conversation, referred to a conversation in mid-May with a recent convert from the Charismatic Episcopal Church, who is now the priest and pastor of a new Antiochian Western Rite mission. In the conversation, he asked the new priest “point blank” if he “prays in tongues”. The priest indicated that “I have and I still do, privately for my own edification, but I never do it publicly anymore.”

Folks, the retention of these practices, even in private devotions, is a problem with mass conversions and ordination of new converts not steeped in the Orthodox mind – indeed still steeped in their own practices (even if they’ve simply gone underground). This creates a parachurch culture of the “enlightened” or “spirit filled” who share with each other “words of prophesy” (presuming to give a message from God) and pray in tongues (presumably the speech of God), and even go so far as to attribute these occult practices (for that’s what they are) to Orthodox Fathers, who clearly are not referring to the same things at all.

All of the fathers teach that the kind of clairvoyance attributed to some startzi comes from a long life of Holy Orthodoxy, lived in continual holiness, through the way of the desert and the monastics. There are two kinds of illumination:

1. The kind that comes through the arduous, difficult path of theosis and is given as a gift (charismata) to the most advanced among the saints. This may be called Illumination.

2. The prelest that tempts the immature believer, deluding him, and enticing him into the passions and the arms of the Enemy. Indeed the enemy needn’t steer anyone to brothels who only had decided he is worthy of visions, who surrenders his senses to involuntary utterance and abuse of the tongue, and who presumes to speak prophesy of his own accord. This properly is called Illuminism, which is but the deadly counterfeit.

Retention of these heterodox practices is indication of a sickness at the heart of the catechetical and conversion process. It’s indicative of the belief that one’s own idol has a place under the bed in Israel. Indeed, this is like a wife married from among the Canaanites, who brought with her the family idols and hid them under the tent, and the Lord judged Israel because they were concealed there.

It is not a matter of ‘giving up’ practices long held, but a question of whether or not conversion, and indeed ordination, involves an understanding and attitude that does not allow them to continue – most especially not in private where, concealed, they are not within the scope of the Church’s ability to say Amen, interpret, understand, or reject. As such, it cannot be tested, and both the convert and his Faith are in danger.

The answer that it is merely switched to private devotion misses the point that: when a leader or a group of people indicate to others that they practice such a thing, it lends it legitimacy. When this is not merely the saying of the Western offices, but is a practice actually forbidden in scripture but interpreted by heterodox according to their own private interpretation as being prescribed, this is more serious, and indicates the need to turn from the practices rightly cast away to those of the Orthodox, as converts have from time immemorial. The Witches burned their books. The Jews laid down their persecution. The Charismatics, likewise, to be within the mind of the Church, must not attempt to augment it with their practices which are quite clearly antagonistic to Orthodox piety and a threat to their own salvation. Rather, they must become Orthodox – not Orthodox “charismatics”. Continue reading

March 1, 2008 Posted by | -- Charismaticism, Western Rite Pieties | , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Qatl Qitl Qutl


Nice, moderate thoughts [here]. Excerpt:

“I do not believe that that the Orthodox Western Rite is intended to be a sort of attraction to facilitate evangelizing the West. There is no reason to become Western Rite if one is already practicing western liturgical forms. There are myriads of ‘purist’ or ‘traditionalist’ groups within Catholicism and Anglicanism to satisfy the person who desires a more ‘orthodox’ liturgical experience. Why, then, would such a person want to become Orthodox? I believe it is the same reason I became Orthodox, precisely because of the theology of the Church and what she claims to be, the Body of Christ”

February 29, 2008 Posted by | -- Evangelism, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

To the Priests


Priest“The Church is not an activity or an interest. It is a new life in Christ of which the priest is the elect vessel. And unworthy as he inevitably will be, he may not relax his effort or indulge his personal fancies or seek glory from it…
No throngs of eager converts await the magic of his words. No successful parishes have openings for him. No souls will be transformed automatically by the fact of his ordination…Tribulations of a different kind beset the American Orthodox missionary. They are subtler, prosaic, protracted. Often he must work in solitude for years with undeviating loyalty to his calling. Those who wire a building may not live to see the lights turned on. And in the new building which is America, those who feel called…can expect no glory, reward or fun. For they build for a future which they may not see.” – Bishop (later Fr.) Alexander Turner, SSB

February 28, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Quotes | , , | Leave a comment

He’s not Crucified Yet!


Stations of the CrossIf you’d done a google search three years ago on Orthodoxy and the stations of the cross, you’d have found more material explaining why this post-schism Roman Catholic devotion, as part of a general distortion of the gospel, frames it too much as an obsession with Christ’s “passion” (or suffering). These days, it’s not popular to put up articles like that. Instead, you’ll get information on Orthodox adopting the devotion at ecumenical gatherings or as part of a Western Rite, which in some quarters is showing off its new Roman Catholic getup and gear and fitting in nicely as the ‘Catholicism’ of the golden age (i.e. the 1950s). You know – Catholics w/o all that Vatican II stuff, or a history of pedophiles. Or, if you will, Anglicans w/o women priests and homosexuals.

“The second thing to remember is that this is an imaginative exercise. Its purpose is not a historical examination of “what really happened” on that day in history. It’s about something far more profound. This is an opportunity to use this long standing Christian prayer to let Jesus touch my heart deeply by showing me the depth of his love for me. The context is the historical fact that he was made to carry the instrument of his death, from the place where he was condemned to die, to Calvary where he died, and that he was taken down and laid in a tomb. The religious context is that today Jesus wants to use any means available to move my heart to know his love for me. These exercises can allow me to imaginatively visualize the “meaning” of his passion and death.” – Filipino Chaplaincy, St. Joseph’s Parish, Penrith
“The central reason for avoiding exercise of the imagination in prayer is theological. God is present everywhere. Christ is present by His Holy Spirit in the depth of the being of every Christian living the reality of Baptism into the death of Christ. If we live our Baptism, sealed with the Seal of the Spirit, then the Risen Christ lives in us, by His Holy Spirit, and we live the Risen life in the Spirit. We do not need to imagine Christ as present: He is present: we need to remind ourselves of His presence.” – Orthodox Church of Estonia, Icons, 2/27/08
“The Catholic Faith is caught rather than taught. In this regard, it is vitally important to emphasise such devotions as Benediction, the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross, devotions to Our Lady and the Sacred Heart of Jesus” – Western Rite Catholic Church
… in 1870 they unanimously agreed that the Pope of Rome is infallible whenever defining faith or morals for the Church… The Orthodox were aghast. Expecting some Catholics to seek refuge in Orthodoxy, the Russian Church approved a Western Rite Mass for them (their offer had few takers). – Pocket Church History for Orthodox Christians
Let us enter the Fast with joy, O faithful. Let us not be sad. Let us cleanse our faces with the waters of dispassion, blessing and exalting Christ forever. – First Friday Matins [The Lenten Spring]
Let us begin the Fast with joy. Let us give ourselves to spiritual efforts. Let us cleanse our souls. Let us cleanse our flesh. Let us fast from passions as we fast from foods, taking pleasure in the good works of the Spirit and accomplishing them in love, that we all may be made worthy to see the passion of Christ our God and His Holy Pascha, rejoicing with spiritual joy. – Forgiveness Sunday Vespers [The Lenten Spring]

It’s an odd thing to watch, this clamour to adopt devotions not out of devotion itself, certainly not out of the heart of Orthodox feeling, but out of a desire to fit a mold. We need to start doing this, add that, and we’ll be having this on Wednesday. By the way, have you bought a rosary yet? At the moment, they’re gearing up for the Passion of Christ. One remembers a hideous film by that name, and we’re not really that far off: When you’d walk into one of the Roman Catholic churches they’d like to emulate, you were greeted with scenes of judgment, Hell, suffering, torture, and gore. And that was before the service.

While the rest of us are with Christ in the desert, battling temptation with him, sharing his fast, as expressed in our presanctified liturgies, the neo-Western Rite crowd, for that’s what they are, will already be going through something the rest of us reserve for the balance and dignity of Holy Week (i.e. Passion Week). While we wait for the sepulchre, they are already calling for the crucifixion, without even a triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. And they will not do it once, but repeatedly. For them, this is an extended time of agony.

Implicit in this mistaken obsession with the Passion is the notion that the primary work of Christ’s Incarnation is pouring out his agony and suffering as propitiation for the wrath of God – the very quasi-Calvinist and eminently Latin juridical approach to the Atonement that the Orthodox have rejected all this time as a facet of hyper-Augustinism. If the filioque were translated into a soteriology, it would look like this. In the same way, Orthodoxy has rejected the neo-Nestorian worship of body parts (e.g. the Sacred Heart). In the same way, the Orthodox have warned against the use of imagination in prayer (e.g. the Rosary). All we need now is a weeping Romanesque madonna and a teenager with a fatima-like vision, and we can scrap all this stuff about not being just the Roman Catholics’ kissing cousins.

Indeed, some Western Rite proponents cite building the Western Rite as an ecumenist bridge as their actual motivation – desiring to Give Rome a Home when they ‘unite with us’ – they fail to realize that, when that happens, the Roman Catholics do not become Orthodox, but rather we become Roman Catholics. Rather than giving them a home, the Western Rite finds it’s home in Rome. Perhaps that’s why they don’t yet have Western Rite bishops; they’ll be getting a new one, to put it mildly.

Statue from St. Augustine's Church in Denver (WRV)Then too, instead of an icon painter, trained in the ancient patterns, perhaps, as is now done, a local artist of any sensibility can be commissioned to carve the Madonna. It will not be long then before we can turn to modern composers, likewise, to do musical settings for our liturgies, for there is no difference. Besides, organ music could use the revival. Make no mistake, adopting Latin pieties is also a matter of also adopting the dominant culture, whether of the Renaissance or the post-modern. Sure, we’ll start out being 50 years behind – not the Church of Antiquity but the Church of Antiques, yesterday’s Rome, a living time capsule for the disenchanted contemporary. A museum of devotion from the most recent bygone golden age.

Let us ask: if we’ve no problem with all these heterodox pieties, not only post-schism but, if you think about it, Post-Christian, then why have a problem with heterodox mystics like St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, yea even St. Ignatius of Loyola? Why not? If you’re going to do it, do it boldly. Don’t be surprised when those books come out in “Orthodox” editions, with accompanying studies of their ‘benefit’ and ‘virtue’ – though, by then, there won’t be any need to publish Orthodox editions anymore. And if these Franciscan devotions are to be the norm, why not equip the churches with statues of Francis? Think it couldn’t happen? Don’t be too sure. In fact, why don’t we just make a list of post-schism Roman Catholic devotions, visions, mystics, saints – basically everything but doctrines (we’re saving those for later – though even then, not always) – put them in a book, and call it a manual for the new Western Rite? Seriously: why not? What, exactly is wrong with it? This is the question we put to Western Rite adherents.


February 27, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite Pieties | , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

When You Receive no Answers


silenceNot giving an answer is actually something that Christ does all the time. In the Gospel, the woman came after him pleading – my daughter has a demon and we are miserable – Son of David – Messiah – Christ – heal her and save us. What did Christ do? He did not answer her.

What did you we do when someone doesn’t answer us?

The woman asked the Saints: Apostles of the Son of David, entreat him for me. Pray to Christ for me. What did the Saints do? They entreated Christ for her, as they always always will. “Lord, send her away.” which is to say not ‘throw her out’ but rather “Grant her request, and so make her go away, because she is crying after us incessantly.” Read it yourself. That’s what it says. And what did Christ do? He said no. “It is not proper to take away the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Would any of us do that, if your dogs were whining around the dinner table? Would we grab our children’s plates and give them to the animals? Continue reading

February 24, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, -- Phyletism, Western Rite Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

Theology and Economy


TheologyTheology is who God is in and of himself apart from any created thing. Economy, in contrast, is God’s activity toward all that is not God – that is, toward all creation (and what is not God is created). Economy is God’s salvation from everlasting. The Energies (the Grace) of God, by which we speak of His activity, are likewise uncreate, are God, and in fact are the means of creation and redemption. The Orthodox alone hold this Faith from the Apostles. By contrast, the Roman Catholic Church considers grace (the energies) to be created: created grace – which is a different and incompatible theology (doctrine of God), leading to a different an incompatible mysteriology, eschatology, and other doctrines.

Economy: The Economy (another word for it is Condescension) is really the Incarnation of Christ. When we speak of the Economy or the use of economia, we speak specifically of the Incarnation, for in that reality all God’s activity is recapitulated, from creation to redemption. God became man, and all history looks either forward to or back from that prime event. In this is our teleology (belief concerning the meaning of history) and likewise the mystery of our eschatology (doctrine of the future).

The God who created man, became created man, to save him, and to make possible the union of God and man, theosis (deification). God condescended to man, because man could not reach God. God overcame the barriers between us and salvation, closing the uncloseable distance of union. God is unknowable and so unobtainable, but God became what we are, that he might remain God, unknowable in essence, but that we might obtain union, through his uncreated Energies.

All activity of God toward man is of the Incarnation, is Economy, and has its character and attitude. All God’s activity toward man is for man’s salvation – for theosis. Nothing else. Even theology is merely a means to an end – this union with God. Theology is nothing in itself – and union is all. And so our genuine theology is the far reaches of the path of union, rather than any academic study, which is more a discussion of a path rather than a pursuit of it. As the fathers say, theology is prayer, and the true theologian is the one on the path of true prayer. Continue reading

February 23, 2008 Posted by | -- Theology, Western Rite Issues | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.


The fathers explain several ways in which the 9th commandment may be violated.

One is outright lying about someone. There are hosts of people who say in their minds that God will vindicate them, because they did it in the name of their cause, and their cause, presumably, is just. But we Orthodox have no such Inquisition; better the heavens fall and our Faith with it, than we presume to need injustice to preserve it. We do not accept that the ends justify the means, nor can any Christian.

Another is slander, which includes telling the truth about someone in a way that will damage his reputation. Most often this means reading off a litany of failings of the other person, such as “he’s divorced”, “his kids don’t speak to him much”, “he used to be a member of ___”, “he’s been associated with ___” (guilt by association is its own category of dishonesty that is beneath the honesty and integrity of any Christian). This includes campaigns of character assassination against dissidents and opponents. Summing up a person in light of his failings always gives a false impression – always false witness. And it further deceives, by tempting the hearer to a sense of superiority.

Then there’s casting suspicion on the other person. In other words, one brings false witness not only if they know the charges are untrue, but if they do not know for certain that the charges are true. This includes blaming someone for things on suspicion alone, claiming that event X has happened, and person Y is probably its cause, or using vague ambiguous and non-specific charges in a Kafkaesque manner.

It is difficult, quite honestly, to discuss significant and real differences about our topics without falling into mockery and belittling anyone. These things indeed would seem to be violations of the 9th commandment. The fathers warn us against even blaming anyone. We must indeed be able to discuss matters of import to the Faith, its future, and the salvation of the faithful. But in doing so, it is imperative that we not lose the Faith we are trying to protect, or lose our own salvation and lead the faithful into the pit with us. Therefore, this is a call to enthusiasts and critics alike to take the high road of discussing issues with some degree of charity, while refusing to target personalities for persecution, something both dishonorable and immoral. Continue reading

February 22, 2008 Posted by | -- 9th Commandment, Western Rite Issues | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

We told you this would happen.


Well, we’ve warned before that if they keep messing with the cork in the dike, they’re liable to unleash the flood. Here it comes. A new site of criticism of some of what passes for Western Rite has been born at westernritefraud.freehostia.com

The Horde of the Uncanonical? Or just superheroes on a day's work?Apparently, in the witch hunt to expose all opponents, critics, or persistent questioners, that site’s new founder had been repeatedly accused of running this site and slandered accordingly, and decided finally to start one of his own.

Hey! Credit where credit is due, eh? This site is run by little green men. Or the government. We don’t know which government, but hey – it’s probably the one with an agency so secret that it doesn’t even know it’s an agency. It probably thinks its a postal service or something. Or it could be run by a cadre of conspirators out to destroy everything good and lovely (or at least duplicitous and easy). Or maybe every “uncanonical” and “vagante” group, bishop, and jurisdiction have teamed up in a kind of League of Justice to expose the darkness that is this city. It’s the Night of the Vagante.

Do you want it? It's a flood.Well, there’s no actual proof that the accused isn’t everywhere. He might be behind you right now, dear reader. He might be Santa Claus and have access to a really really fast sleigh and be responsible for all the presents in the world. Or….

Maybe the enthusiasts just equated suspicion with reality one too many times, and yup… there are actually more than a handful of people in the world that think a lot of the activities styled as “Western rite” are a bad idea, and we’re finding each other, and finding a voice. And now – they’ve gone and goaded us into making more web sites. If we could shake our collective heads over the internet, we would. You’ll just have to try and imagine it.

Hey… do you hear that? What’s that sound? It sounds like… rushing water….

February 19, 2008 Posted by | -- 9th Commandment, Western Rite Weirdness | , , , , , , | 11 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

Several Topics


These from a recent conversation

BurmanThe Good Fight

Who of us in anything contends just because we love fighting? We do it from a sense of duty, honour, and mission. A young man was once asked by a group of Greeks to fight with them, because their faith had been scorned. He did not want to fight with them but, from love, he agreed and fought well. He did it without regret, but it did cost time, energy, and attention, three things which Orthodoxy declares are immensely sacred. It is not a flippant or casual choice. If a brother interrupts your prayers to ask for bread, what do you do? You see. Love compels us. But we long to return to the one thing that really matters. Likewise, do we see a Christian praying, but around him his brethren are being carried off to gulags, to torture, with no one to speak for them. Let him place the marker in the book, run out of the church without bowing to the altar, and be the voice of the voiceless. Let him too go to the Gulag, so they won’t be alone, or let him defend them. But let him long to return to prayer, and do so when he can. Love compels. If we are not moving between the two loves, that of GOD and that of our Brother, then we are lovers of the world, and God save us, for we are becoming kindling and fire is coming.

Blooming Where You’re Planted

ArmeniansTake, for example, the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Turks. There’s a concerted campaign to cover it up, bury it, revise it, and eliminate it. But there is enough of a response to that, that can be found, if someone has the integrity to look farther. Those who just believe what they’re told – well, it is hard to find hope for those minds – but the dead, crying from the ground, have a voice, and it can be found and can be heard. But if that were not so, if there was nothing but the mythology, then one might want to be collaborating and working with a web site about the Armenian genocide, to pursue that mission.

Take Kenya: indeed we all pray for “every city and country”, but when there is threat of war, and lives are being lost, and the poor are under attack – thousands of livelihoods burned to the ground in the bazar and their families huddled in the city square – where this is occurring, we ARE involved, always, either by indolence and coldness or by activity. We are accountable to what we know, even if that is little. The great Protestants Niemoller and Bonhoeffer are more Orthodox on this point than this writer when they act and my heart is cold and inactive, or when my emotions are moved but my activity does not follow, or when I think of it but do not make the thought a prayer.

The Poor

It is the tradition of the Orthodox to eat poor foods during Great Lent, abstaining from meat, costly oil, and unnecessary or decadent foods like alcohol. It is the tradition further to eat fewer meals, and to eat less at each meal, and to remain unfilled, to be a bit empty. It is the tradition to eat simple ingredients prepared simply, and to take what money we can save from all these things (cheaper, fewer, less, simple) and to relieve the poor.

The poor – those anywhere who suffer grievous want, who have no defense, no help, no voice. The poor are our mission on earth. Christ warns especially at this time, ‘But to you who I have made to stand on my left, I was poor and you did not come to me: Go now, poured with Hell into the Lake of Fire, which was created for the Enemy, for you are kindling.’

Activity vs. Theory

Leaving the altar to carry bread to the poor does not always mean we want to stop and have a discussion about poverty. An old priest, after Divine Liturgy, used to take money on foot, down stinking alleyways to the poorest shacks – places decent people would never even have occasion to see. He took with him whoever would go, including a young man who wanted to ask questions, who was foolish in his youth. The young man didn’t realize that he had the wrong questions, and that the right questions, the important ones, were all being answered, if he would just keep up. And so he had a choice, keep up with the priest, that lean, fast-weakened, prayer-strengthened man, his feet scrambling down this alley, then down that one, and watch him put the envelopes in their hands, or he could try to ask his questions, and find that he’d gone on. He WAS answering the questions. It was the young man’s ears that were stopped up. And now there is remebrance, because he did the important thing, and did not always stop to answer the youth. But in Confession, he would remind the youth to love the poor, and so he began to know what he meant, by experience. He gave the all sufficient food, when the young man was looking to choose items from a menu.

Setting Out

“Let us, let us set out with joy upon the season of the Fast, and prepare ourselves for spiritual combat. Let us purify our souls and cleanse our flesh; And as we fast from food, let us abstain also from every passion. Rejoicing in the virtues of the Spirit, may we persevere with love, and so be counted worthy to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness, to behold His Holy Pascha.” – The Sticheron of the First Monday of Great Lent

On Questions:

Please be advised: Even if you ask the host of the site something, he may likely have to go ask someone else. And not everyone is standing by with a walkie talkie. We have full lives. We pray, we go to liturgy, we teach, we gather, we eat, we discuss, we work, we have families. It is not always possible to answer every question w/o threatening those things, and so it is sometimes better for him to say “I cannot answer you.”

February 14, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Transition vs. Overnight Institutionalization


roberto-ferruzzi-madonna-1897-venice.jpgWestern Rite churches, to be fair to all – those with concerns, enthusiasts, and simple seekers – are in a state of transition.

In some places, the need to “get something up and running” overnight will tend to result in inadequate conversion, insufficient catechesis, and the hasty institutionalization of heterodox pieties because they ‘look and smell’ Western “Orthodox” (statues, stations, sacred hearts) . In other places, the approach will be with more reverence and taste.

There just seems to be a different attitude at work between “We’re in transition.” and “We’re here, we’re near, and you’d better get used to it!” Looking at this, albeit poorly if not irreverently filmed, video of a Spanish Orthodox Church, you get the impression that the merely religious paintings (like this lovely Ferruzzi madonna, 1879, Venice – an admittedly beautiful piece in itself) are what they had, and will be replaced by real icons, and ultimately aren’t attempts at 1950s Latin/Anglican cultural archaeology. Says one comment at youtube: “One monk put together the church, a replica of the colonial style common when the Spaniards came here. Where old style icons existed, he put them up: where icons did not but the saint was important, the priest put the best he could.”

It’s hard to quantify a distinction in attitude, and we aren’t going to try. It is enough to point it out. Here’s the video, for the curious:

February 10, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

The Gospel as Liturgical Book


Gospel Reading“All things are worship in the Orthodox Church (Lex orandi est lex credendi: ‘the law of prayer is the law of belief’), so, the Liturgy and the Divine Services of the Orthodox Church are the place to see and understand the value She accords the Holy Scriptures.
First, the physical layout of the Church gives pride of place – the altar – to the Gospel book.

As Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash) notes, “All the other books which make up the Holy Scripture lead to or flow from the Holy Gospel.” The Gospel is also never intoned by a layman, always by a bishop, priest or deacon.” – Solum Corpus Christi – The Authority of Scripture in the Orthodox Church, for Lutherans – by Reader Christopher Orr

February 9, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Issues | , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Refugee vs. Runaway


runaways.jpg“The problem here is that some people do not convert to a belief so much as they convert away from another. There is a certain sort of Catholic who, by becoming Orthodox, has joined the church that did not go through what is often called “the chaos” following Vatican II. They are sometimes disappointed when they meet bishops who are not as authoritarian as they think bishops should be, and they are especially upset at any notion that Orthodox liturgy might undergo any change of any sort in any way. There is a certain sort of Episcopalian who in joining Orthodoxy joins the church that does not ordain women, and the idea that the subject might be discussed leaves them furious, as if the thought alone meant a betrayal of Orthodoxy.” – A Typology of Converts – Fr. John Garvey

“My approach to this has been to tell any potential convert to take some time, to hang around the church for a year or so, seeing what it is like to be Orthodox, and finally to make sure it is Orthodoxy they are coming to, and not something else they are fleeing from. Baron von Hugel told an Anglican niece who wanted to become Catholic that she should learn the strengths of Anglicanism, and not become Catholic until it would be clearly a sin for her to remain in her own tradition, until it was completely necessary for her to convert. This seems about right. People who move from one tradition to another for negative reasons bring all those negative reasons with them.” – Ibid.

February 8, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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