Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Two Paths to Two Western Rites


A lot of participants on this site are supporters of Western rites, various Western rite initiatives, or at least some hypothetical restoration of a Western Rite environment in Holy Orthodoxy. We agree with some of them in some respects at least some of the time, if not most of them most all the time. It might seem odd to visit WesternRiteCritic.com and read that statement, but only if you miss the distinctions we’re drawing. That understanding can be gleaned from a number of recent articles but, just to make it explicit, we offer the following chart:

WR Enthusiasts Lovers of Western Orthodoxy
  • The Church needs to be more American!
  • We need an Orthodoxy that’s less Russian!
  • We’ve got to appeal to the youth. I don’t want to be in a fringe group!
  • There’s no reason why Episcopalians shouldn’t become Orthodox. We’ve got to change our style!
  • Our numbers are too low. We’d be a lot more successful if we went Western Rite.
  • We need a place that’s more familiar to the heterodox, so we can evangelize easier.
  • Orthodoxy is strange to people here, and that’s just unacceptable.
  • We need more Western faces and styles in our Churches, not all this ethnic stuff!
  • My style is Western – I expect my Church to be Western.
  • I’m just not at home among the Eastern Rite people – they’ve go a lot of stuff that’s just alien to me – like Tabouli.
  • The Byzantine services are too long and too repetitive – I don’t believe in that.
  • All that fasting and bowing and standing; it’s just too backward and old-fashioned; it’s not my culture.
  • What matters is not whether a liturgy or piety was ever Orthodox in history – what matters is whether it’s compatible with Orthodoxy right now. If it’ll fit, we can use it.
  • There are a lot of disaffected Roman Catholics and Anglicans out there, and they’re looking for a home. The Western Rite could be that for them.
  • The only thing Western Christians really lack is canonical bishops and a few points of doctrine. Other than that, they’re basically Orthodox, and we can fast-track them in to a Western Rite church.
  • We’ve got episcopal sanction for Western Rites, so really no other arguments have any bearing [including the ones above?] – authority is authority. Besides, we’ve got big names on this ticket – St. Tikhon, St. John. Who are you?
  • Western Rite is our chance to start over, to build an Orthodoxy that’s really free of the problems we see all over the place, like multiple and overlapping jurisdictions. If we’re to get what we want, it has to be Western Rite; we can’t do it in the Eastern Rite, they’re too set in their ways.
  • I love the beauty of the Gregorian liturgy, just as I do the liturgy of St. John. I’d like to have the one without us losing the other.
  • I want us to have all of it: all of our tradition, Eastern and Western.
  • I don’t want the heterodox pieties created in a schismatic religion – I want to follow in the footsteps of St. Patrick and St. Aidan.
  • I’m not trying to hang on to my heterodox prayer book – I want the pure words prayed when the West and my people were Orthodox.
  • It pains me that a lot of Western saints aren’t on the calendar, and ikons are hard to find. I wish we’d revive wider veneration of these pious saints.
  • I can feel at home among the Orthodox anywhere – the Church is the Church, and they’re my brothers. But there’s a lot of stuff in my heterodox background that I still feel is good and right, and now I see it’s really part of the ancient Faith.
  • I think, if you keep the demands of the Western Rite, there’s just as much vigour and piety of the body. Of course, the rite as just a rite, minus everything else, would be no good.
  • A genuine Western Rite service is liable to be just as much an affront, if not more so, to visting heterodox as any Eastern Rite service – not that attendance is our chief means of evangelism.
  • There’s only one reason to do anything – it’s no popularity or acclaim or attracting others – it’s our own salvation – theosis. That’s the only legitimate reason for supporting a Western Rite.
  • A genuine Western Rite is neither more American nor more “Western” than an Eastern Rite. The West has deviated so much from her own Orthodox beginnings, that she can no longe really recogize what’s truly Western. The last authority we should consult is the surrounding culture and the religions that prevail in it.
  • It’s fair to say that if you can’ identify with the pieties of the Russians or the Greeks, you can’t be Orthodox – not really. The Orthodox mind recognizes itself in the depth of piety of the elder peoples among us.
  • I can acknowledge that there’s no such thing as a “rite of St. Tikhon” and that St. John Maximovitch never sanctioned everything being done in his name – in fact, I can go without namedropping altogether – and still see good reasons for a Western Rite.
  • I don’t have an agenda; I just want to pray. I’m glad to use the Eastern Rites if it’ll make me a better Orthodox Christian.

Now, to be fair, we’ve put words in the mouths of everyone concerned. And it’d be just as fair for you to say, “I don’t think anyone is saying that.” or “I don’t think that’s what they mean by what they’re saying.” It’s an interpretation, to be sure. What we’re saying is that we have seen all these things discussed in one way or another, in one place or many and, if nothing else, it’s helpful to illustrate what we think are indeed two disparate trends which, though you might choose different content, you’ll see if you look.

We encourage you to think about these distinctions, to think about where you are on a map of attitudes toward Western Rites. Indeed, to do it, you have to know what you mean by “Western Rite”. Is that just a matter of a certain text – a different prayer book? Is it an entirely cultual millieu? What does it involve and entail? Would what you really mean amount to the creation of denominations within Orthodoxy, or an artificially imposed (socially engineered) homogeneity? Would it really accomplish the things being claimed for it – is there any evidence to suggest that your version of “Western Rite” would solve the problems it is supposed to solve? Would it create a whole new set of problems? If you’re in one camp or the other, can anything meaningful come of your approach while a significant number of your fellow supporters remain in the other camp? And perhaps: what’s really going on in your own heart? Is it the Cross – that crossroads between public acclaim, the glamour of the world and all its kingdoms, the popularity of Barrabus, the respectability of the Pharisees, the success of the Emperors and Legionaires and, on the other hand, the hard road of quiet salvation, the personal road of stones, the road of rejection even by one’s own family, the road of ascetic feats of which Our Lord said, ‘I go first, you must come after me.’? From where are your ideas and attitudes coming?

Feel free to sound off in the comments section if any of this means anything to you. In any case, while we might have some disagreements over any kind of restoration of Western Rites, and certainly what we’re talking about when we append the article “the” to “Western Rite”, it’s probably clear which path we see as plausible, and which we see as the children of Israel being seduced to bow to the golden calf: ”Come, be more popular, be more accepted, let the world embrace you.” You might not agree with any of this analysis, but that’s OK too. Our goal is to engage you with circumspect thought about what is a divisive topic (divisive is not a bad word, when it’s the calf or the law) – divisive not just for those who support or don’t support some kind of Western Rite environment – but between those who do support it, but don’t agree on what they mean or what they’re supporting.

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June 15, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western? | , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

   

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