Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Theosis as Evangelism

theosis - deification - divinizationSt. Seraphim of Sarov, who shone with unearthly light, turned away people, more and more as he moved into theosis. Eventually, he forbade women to come to his cell. Then he obtained permission to forbid all visitors, and God answered his prayers by tumbling giant trees across the entrances. He said, “Save thyself, and thousands around you shall be saved.” This is a firmly Orthodox method of evangelism and sense of mission work. To save yourself, which is the only true encouragement for others to save themselves. It is the same as if to say, let the Word take root in your heart, and become a shining icon of the Word, and others will find the Word because of it. How unlike burying a light under a bushel.

St. Seraphim sought theosis as his chief aim – sought to save himself – and others desired earnestly therefore to do what he was doing, and save themselves, and the Spirit gave them what they need, leading them into all things. Likewise with charity. What thing can the Orthodox do that is not to save himself, that is not for theosis. If there is any such thing, let us follow the fathers in utterly failing to do it.

The theosis of humans, their perfect union with God made possible by grace, will be realized completely in the future age after the resurrection of the dead. However, beginning in this life, this union which divinizes people can be made more and more real. Our corrupt and weakened nature ought to be transformed little by little and adapted to eternal life….Fasting, vigils, prayers, alms, and other good works which are done in the name of Christ are means which help us reach that goal which always remains the same: the reception of the Holy Spirit and the making it our own, i.e., theosis….In accordance with the Tradition and teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church, grace and human freedom are expressed concurrently and may not be understood one without the other. There are not two separate moments….Each human being realizes the work of salvation in his or her life with the help of divine grace, which must be freely received….Equally irreplaceable is our free will and the cooperation of each human being with divine grace in the whole task of theosis.— Archimandrite Christoforos Stravropoulos. Partakers of Divine Nature. [Source for image and quotation: JN1034 ]

The economy of the Incarnation of Our Lord teaches us that all things should be for our salvation – to pursue union with God in all things. That is its meaning, for God became man that man might become God. For this cause – union – we love the poor. Did not St. Paul say that he looked earnestly for his reward, namely union with God – to see God. When we see the poor, we see Christ, who said, “in as much…” and we desire union with him, and that is precisely why we reach out to the poor in whom we see Christ – for union. The union of man and god brings also the union of all men, and peace, and love, and compassion. This is the great truth of the Incarnation of Christ. That love is shed abroad in our hearts through union with the Lover.

We cannot love, say the fathers, but with Christ’s love. Only the mistakes are mine, the fathers teach us to say. Our Faith calls men to the height of deification of all creation, beginning with man, beginning with each of us personally. By Christ are all things divinized.

Glory to His Condescension!

February 20, 2008 Posted by | -- Evangelism, Western Rite Issues | , , , , | 1 Comment

Orthodox Evangelism

An old bishop used to teach to never discuss the faith with people who are merely curious; it does them a disservice and cheapens the faith, making it a matter of casual consideration. But rather if they show concerted interest b/c they are seeking the truth, then help them in that kind. The Holy Gospels are replete with examples of the Lord not giving exactly what is sought upon the first or even the second request. He did not always answer the question given, and sometimes would answer a completely different question. Go and preach to my brothers so they don’t come to this place, asked the rich man. They have the law and the prophets. Did St. Lazarus jump up and say, “an opportunity!” This is not our way.

Many have come to the Lord because one refused at first blush to answer. Either their question was impious, or merely curious, or was not an Orthodox question. Sometimes short answers or no answers are best then. But then, many come back and push farther, attempting to take the faith by force and by storm, and it is good to give them what they can bear, and stop when they become once again morbidly curious. Continue reading

February 19, 2008 Posted by | -- Evangelism, Western Rite Issues | , , , , | 2 Comments

Confession and Penance

Mystery of PenanceOne’s Confessor is sometimes a good example of the synergy of the mystery. An Orthodox Confessor first prays with us for forgiveness, asking forgiveness also for his own sins, and confessing to God the commission of sins “like unto these” and only then pronounces the absolution. The interaction is often a dialogue and a joint seeking of theosis:

A certain Confessor, when prescribing a penance (the way a doctor prescribes medicine) will sometimes ask, “Is what I’ve prescribed for you too burdensome?” or ‘Do you feel you can bear it?’ or “Have I placed something too heavy upon you?” This communicates both the humility of the man and the meaning of the Mystery (theosis). Not all Confessors will do this or do it all the time – whether you ever hear those words will depend on your need.

Likewise, if our Confessor says something to us in Confession that doesn’t sound like we need it, or that seems inapplicable, or says we have sinned in some way that we do not see, we are taught to listen to him, remember the words, try to see how we could be guilty or how this may apply, and trust that it is a Mystery, so that God, who can give us insight from a parable, can do so from words that do not immediately make sense to us.

February 18, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Issues | , , | 2 Comments

The Mystery of Ancestry

Mormon Geneology Books“There’s something very comforting by being able to worship in the same tradition as our ancestors. I can assure you that great cloud of witnesses, that communion of Orthodox Saints in the West, St. Patrick being one of them, have been praying for those of Irish, Scottish, English, French, and German heritage, to be able to pray, and chant, and worship as they did.” – Fr. Mark Wallace, St. Elijah Antiochian Church 1/17/08

Incongruously, the priest goes on to say there is neither East nor West (after having said that heritage is a source of heavenly intercession, and rites based on ancestry (“descent”) are the object of it). Will next we devote ourselves to following a person’s geneaology as spiritual DNA to determine which rite the Saints want them to use? One almost hears a quasi-Mormonism or crypto-Judaism.

February 17, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Lent: Lion and Lamb

Some years ago, in a discussion, an academic was exalting some acquired ‘knowledge’ and accusing an opponent of ignorance and various passions. The man’s response was to say “I have no knowledge of God, and I am guilty of all passions. Indeed, start from that.’ The answer came back “Thou thyself hath said it”. It was clear then that this person knew many academic facts, but almost nothing of how Orthodox people properly interact with one another. Evidently, in all the training, that was missed. They were speaking a different language.

Someone who has not lived in other worlds – other nations, cultures, etc. for extended periods of time, tends to find it hard to think outside the box. Take the ritualized humility of many of the great Asian cultures, wherein someone calls you on the phone and invites you eagerly to his house for a meal but apologizes repeatedly that there is not much food in the house. A western reaction might be to offer to stop and buy some groceries, or to bring a course or two. But of course, this is exactly the wrong reaction, and could be insulting if pressed. The person has plenty of food in the house, or he wouldn’t have invited you. The reason for his words is not readily apparent to Western ears, and it will seem silly, dishonest, or at least confusing. It has to be understood by living in it.

In the case of Orthodoxy, sadly, when it is not very noticeable even among our own people, how much harder it is to learn our way. And even if one does, it might alienate you further from even other Orthodox who aren’t used to it or misunderstand it. The result is that everything gets reduced to the level of the culture and its standard and norms, rather than elevated to life in the Kingdom.

As we go into Lent, and we cease to kill animals for food, preparing for the fullness of the kingdom, whereby lion will lie down with lamb, and little children will lead them. … as we prepare for the end of death, and our deepest remembrance of death, perhaps its more fitting to devour animals than to devour one another.

February 15, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tragic Passion of Suspicion

SuspicionSuspicion is a passion, and its results are comprehensive. Can their be any doubt that the passion of suspicion toward others is connected to the “hermeneutic of suspicion” that brings modernism and heresy and renovationism into the Church? Both are indeed a fall into the mind not of Christ but of culture, and they lose the ascetic link to our true Kingdom, favoring the kingdom of this world:

“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to that doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but sick about questions and strifes of words; from which arise envies, contentions, blasphemies, evil suspicions, Conflicts of men corrupted in mind, and who are destitute of the truth, supposing gain to be godliness. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world: and certainly we can carry nothing out.” – The Holy Apostle

“He who busies himself with the sins of others, or judges his brother on suspicion, has not yet even begun to repent or to examine himself so as to discover his own sins…” — St. Maximos the Confessor

“By accepting a suspicion against the neighbor, by saying, ‘What does it matter if I put in a word about my suspicion? What does it matter if I find out what my brother is saying or what a guest is doing?’ the mind begins to forget about its own sins and to talk idly about his neighbor, speaking evil against him, despising him, and from this he falls into the very thing he condemns. Because we become careless about our own faults and do not lament our own death, we lose the power to correct ourselves and we are always at work on our neighbor.” – From St. Dorotheos of Gaza

“And the fathers tell us many such things in different ways to secure us against the harm suspicions do us. Let us strive with all our power never to put our trust in our own conjectures. For nothing separates us so completely from God or prevents us from noticing our own wrong-doing or makes us busy about what does not concern us, as this. No good comes from it but only troubles without number and they leave us no time to acquire the fear of God. Should worthless suspicions germinate in our minds, let us turn them into charitable thoughts and they will not harm us. For entertaining suspicions is wrong and it never allows the mind to be at peace. This is all I have to say about falsehood in the mind.” – St. Dorotheos of Gaza. Continue reading

February 13, 2008 Posted by | -- 9th Commandment, Western Rite Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Orthodox Mind: The Rites vs. Renovationism

Traditional “Renovationist”
The Church’s system of liturgical services (i.e., the Typicon) is the divinely inspired mature growth of the Apostolic embryo. The full flower of God’s revelation to His people—as embodied in the Divine services—organically emanated from the seed of the early Church. The Typicon as we know it today has become somewhat unintelligible and tremendously cumbersome; for it is encrusted with layers of extraneous and repetitive material that reflect a significant shift away from, and degeneration of, the worship forms of the early Church.
We should have faith in Divine Providence and that the same Spirit who “guides us into all truth” also ordains the Church’s order of worship (see quote by Fr. Michael Pomazansky, below). The liturgical services mainly represent the product of a “naked chain of events,” or historical cause and effect. The Holy Spirit does not ensure that our rites are kept pristine.
The fourth century (in the wake of the “Peace of Constantine”) saw a Spirit-guided organic development in the Divine services, as confirmed by the witness of the Church’s consciousness in the following centuries up through our present day. The fourth century saw a “break,” or “abrupt shift” in the system of services resulting in “deviations” from the purity of the Apostolic era due to the overlaying of Hellenistic “strata” and the synthesis of new and conflicting “liturgical pieties.”
Our Task: to understand and grasp this revelation of God to His people as contained in the Divine services. This requires humility and ascetic struggle with a view towards purifying our hearts. Our Task: to figure out what has gone wrong with our liturgical services and “fix the many problems” with them. This requires a spirit of doubt and suspicion, as well as heavy reliance upon Western scholarship.


February 11, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , | 6 Comments

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

Para-Church Charismata, Rite, Ecclesiology, Mysteriology

First, it is a happy thing when anyone finds the Faith. Whatever they used to be, wherever they came from, we consider ourselves less worthy. However, this is a different question from whether conversion to Orthodoxy means right-affiliation or a right-mind.

One concerns is reports of para-church “bible studies” and “prayer meetings” forming alongside the liturgy, in which the so-called “charismatic gifts” are practiced (speaking in “tongues”, praying “in the Spirit”, getting a “word” of prophesy or letting Jesus “speak to your heart”). This is a grave thing indeed, for it means not only the establishment of a parallel rite, a parallel spirituality (mysteriology), indeed a parallel charism (another Spirit) which is incompatible with that of Christ as revealed in fullness in the Orthodox Church, but also indeed a rejection of the fullness of any rite, Eastern or Western, which is precisely the concern that many of us have consistently voiced.

When the Charismatic Episcopal Church says, “We believe that the CEC has an appointment with destiny to bring back these three streams, to make the Church charismatic, evangelical, and sacramental, all at the same time.” it must not, can never, will never refer to the Orthodox Church. The Church is One, it is Undivided, it is the Spotless Lamb and Without Blemish. it is complete, whole, and the fullness of the Faith. Any notion of coming in to “make the Church” this or “make it that”, to “bring” in fulless, is, friends, an utter repudiation of Orthodox ecclesiology.

“I’m not bringing what I want to Orthodoxy, it’s bringing it back to me.” – Kevin Barry, catechumen (True Convergence: Orthodox Podcast #4)

January 18, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Debacle of Orthodox Radio

There are a lot of good and useful things out there in Orthodox media. But there are also some rather disturbing things, anyone with a little discernment would admit.

When you listen to Orthodox radio, and you hear an Episcopalian priest who’s being ordained use the word “resonate” 5-times in under 2-minutes: “Orthodoxy resonates”, “this resonates with me”, it tells you that the attitude of the convert and of the group he’s converting to is potentially delusional – as though Orthodoxy appears to fit into an existing “spirituality”, and as though the Faith has external criterion by which it can be judged. It is clear that the internal voice as criterion of truth, faith, and confession, is still at work in this man, and it’s a heterodox notion that has no place in Orthodoxy. People will say we’ve said, “There’s no place in Orthodoxy for you.” No, there’s no place in Orthodoxy for an Orthodoxy without conversion.

When you hear, in the same media, a Charismatic priest who’s being ordained say, “I’m glad to find that there’s a place for me as a born-again, spirit-filled Christian, in Orthodoxy.”, it tells you the exact same thing. One doesn’t want to be harsh by saying, “No, there is no such place.” There’s always a place for any individual willing to really convert, but there is no room for the delusion that “we’re ok, you’re ok, and we’re coming in for a slight tune-up”. Again, this notion of a para-spirituality which denies the Orthodox anthropology, eschatology, and soteriology, and the delusion that it is somehow acceptable, indicates that a real conversion is dubious.

There are good reasons why the Church has rules on new converts speaking in public about these things. The fact that they’re being ignored reflects precisely the kind of attitude that can entertain these delusions. Why the rush to ordain these people when clearly they’ve received inadequate catechesis, and why would they allow themselves to be ordained, when clearly they still have grave differences with the Faith we hold to be apostolic and retain attitudes that so many of us insist are doctrinally and spiritually incompatible?

January 18, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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

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.

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

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

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