Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Melkites Define Latinizations

Of the Blue BlanketWe’re not suggesting this has anything to do with Orthodox Western Rite adherents, but this is certainly an interesting list. It’s from a Melkite site, defining what they see as Latin accretions. Among the Latinizations, they list:

1. Unmarried priesthood
2. Statues
3. Altar rails
4. Confessional boxes
5. Stations of the Cross hanging on walls
6. 3-D Crucifixes on walls
7. Western-style paintings
8. Suppression of liturgical hours
9. Suppression of Presanctified in favour of Divine Liturgy
10. Use of Western style Mass instead of the Liturgies of St. John Crystsostom or St. Basil
11. Introduction of Western prayers: the Rosary, etc.
12. Introduction of Western music and songs
13. Use of musical instruments
14. Emphasizing the words of Institution and silencing the Epiklesis prayers
15. Truncation of prayers, esp. psalms in liturgies
16. Reduction of prostrations and reverences
17. Use of Genuflections, Kneeling
18. Combining Divine Liturgy with other services: marriage, funeral
19. Not distributing the antidoron
20. Elimination of using hot water during Consecration
21. Not having a curtain behind the Royal Doors
23. First Communion and Chrismation separated from Baptism

March 1, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Pieties, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A word or two from Bishop Alexander

Fr. Alexander Turner, SSB“It was the West, however, which would suffer more from these unhappy inclinations, with the emergence of a professional clerical society aloof from the faithful, and a dichotomy between the performer on the one hand and the observer on the other. Mass was said by the priest, heard by the attendants. This movement reached its denouement in the magnificent theatrical productions of the Baroque period, staged with consummate artistry, and overwhelming in their grandeur. From a corporate act of the Christian family, Mass became a religious extravaganza on the one hand, or a mysterious incantation on the other. Small wonder that the layman left the holy sacrifice to professionals and occupied himself instead with devotions—self-centered, sentimental reveries such as the Rosary, or pious irrelevancies assigned to give mystical symbolism to parts of the liturgy. This provided little spiritual nourishment, but it did encourage an appetite for religious sensationalism and novelty, to be fed by a stream of fashionable saints and devotional fads.” – Bp. (later Fr.) Alexander Turner, SSB (first Vicar of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate)

February 26, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite Pieties, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Imagination in Prayer

“I’d like to point out, that I don’t believe the Rosary, the Sacred Heart or “Transsubstantiation” are things that inherently develop from anything in the Pre-Schism West.

The problem with the Rosary is not the prayers being said or even the events being contemplated. The objection is to a clear Patristic teaching that the imagination should not be used in contemplative prayer. That this is a clear part of the Western Patristic and even pietistic traditions, can be demonstrated by a reading of St. John of the Cross or the Cloud of Unknowing.

The Sacred Heart has absolutely nothing to do with the pre-schism West. Sure, the West saw a mystical significance to Christ’s five wounds – but early on, considered this only as a mystery to be pondered – there was no devotion specifically to the wounds apart from Christ as an Whole. Anybody who reads the history of the Sacred Heart devotion and Margaret-Mary Alacoque’s visions, would clearly see that this is a disturbing, unorthodox devotion.

“Using the imagination in prayer can lead to error of the gravest kind, when our own imaginative creations replace the reality, and we can even end up praying to our own mental fantasies.” – [source]

From the Philokalic Fathers:

“In the time of contemplation we must keep our intellect free of all fantasy and image…” – St. Diadochos of Photiki

“The effect of observing the commandments is to free from passion our conceptual images of things. The effect of spiritual reading and contemplation is to detach the intellect from form and matter. It is this which gives rise to undistracted prayer.” – St. Maximos the Confessor

“The fifth form of discipline consists in spiritual prayer, prayer that is offered by the intellect and free from all thoughts. During such prayer the intellect is concentrated within the words spoken and, inexpressibly contrite, it abases itself before God, asking only that His will may be done in all its pursuits and conceptions. It does not pay attention to any thought, shape, colour, light, fire, or anything at all of this kind; but, conscious that it is watched by God and communing with Him alone, it is free from form, colour, and shape.” – St. Peter of Damaskos

Trans-substantiation is more a development of post-schism, Aristotelian fancies being applied to an Apostolic doctrine of East and West.

But, to be fair: yes, it is inevitable that some Eastern Orthodox – perhaps even very spiritually mature belivers – will reject certain Western devotions and practices because they are Western, not because they are unorthodox.

But that means, that those of us who want to see the Western Rite succeed, can offer an important olive branch. In the first place, we must admit that we are not formed in the Orthodox mind, if we have simply been received as Episcopalians or Roman-Catholics turned Orthodox, while making only minimal changes to our spiritual life. Therefore, while it is theoretically possible that our practices are Orthodox, we would hopefully have the humility to admit that we may be poor judges of the matter.

Secondly, we would hopefully admit that the Eastern Rite faithful have an intuitive grasp of Orthdooxy, that we don’t. So, some degree of defference to them is appropriate.

So, the olive branch we can offer: by standing upon the firm foundations of pre-schism, Western Orthodox piety and practice, we cleanly avoid the accusation that our spirituality is influenced by Roman Catholic and Protestant strains of thought. We can then, without having to dissemble or take anything for granted, be quite clear that our practices are different only insofar as they are Western, no insofar as they were developed outside of Orthodoxy.

And when it comes to those few pre-schism practices that scandalize Eastern Rite faithful (and really are not normative even for the pre-schism West – I speak primarily of unleavened hosts, mandatory clerical celibacy and things like bishop-only confirmation), we really should have the humility and wisdom to submit to the more Catholic practices, preserved to this day by the East.

In short, I agree that some Western things may be rejected because of Eastern prejudice, and not because of any true lack of Orthodox piety. However, I also feel that WR converts need to pay more heed to the more refined, Orthodox sensibilities of lifelong Orthodox Christians – and admit that unless we return to pre-schism practices, we are always going to be suspected of “Papist” or Protestant tendencies. The only way to avoid this, is to go back to the Orthopraxy of the West, before Papism and Protestantism existed.”

From [this comment].

February 16, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite Pieties, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , | 13 Comments

4 out of 5 Dentists say: “Tridentine”.

“This leads to a second point: the simple fact is that what is being done in WR parishes in the AOA is NOT pre-schism. It is Tridentine (16th century). Whether it is the Anglican or the Roman ordo missae, it is essentially the Tridientine rituale that is being followed. Certainly some of those practises, especially various rites surrounding Baptism and Holy Week can be traced back as far as the fourth century in terms of their origins, but that doesn’t mean that either the texts of the prayers or the ritual is the same. For example, the Stations of the Cross sprang from the same practise in Jerusalem as the Byzantine reading of the Twelve Passion Gospels during the Mattins of Holy Friday. In Rome, they kept the act of making a procession from one place (statio) to another. In Constantinople, they preserved the readings, which have varied relatively little over the centuries. (I wrote my M.Div. thesis on the Byzantine lectionary for Holy Thursday-Pascha.) There are other points in which the Roman practise reflects the ancient Jerusalem practise to which the pilgrim Egeria bore witness toward the end of the 4th century, and to which the Armenian lectionary bears some testimony at the beginning of the fifth century.

It is not possible, however, to jump from this to saying that the Tridentine ordo and rituale are ‘pre-schism.’ That is just too much of a stretch. If you want to learn about pre-schism ritual, read the Ordo Romanus Primus, which reflects the pontifical liturgy at Rome toward the end of the 7th century. Ironically, it is far more like the Byzantine Rite on the one hand, and the Novus Ordo Missae, which WR people, Anglican or Roman, are trying to escape because it is so mixed up with the theological deviations and other modernisms of the present-day Anglican and Roman communions.” – Mark Harrison 7/9/2006

That’s another interesting point: do we sanction the use of a clearly heterodox devotional practice like the stations of the cross, because it corresponds to a similar Eastern practice. Same argument could be made for the rosary. But is mere correspondence in superficial form sufficient when there is such non-correspondence in the implications of those pieties for the Faith?

January 18, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite -- Tridentine Mass, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

AA WR & Roman Catholic pieties (e.g. Rosary)

Initiation into the Piety of the RosaryFor those concerned about the replacement of genuinely Orthodox pieties with Roman Catholic mariology and pieties, take for example the [Instructions for Praying The Rosary] at St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church, complete with “history” and “how to”.

Likewise an article from The Walsingham Way (Vol II, Num. 1, Fall 99) instructs one that the Rosary is an Orthodox devotion. It makes reference, however, to perfectly normal venerations of the Theotokos, as presumably examples of praying the Rosary. This is the fallacy of equivocation. If one, for instance, compares the 15 prayers of the Elder Zosima to the 15 prayers of the Rosary, the Roman Catholic obesession with the suffering and passion of Christ (and the suggested hetereodox Soteriology if not Christology) becomes as evident as it is in contemporary Roman Catholic “iconography” and in the stations of the cross. Where the Roman Catholic Rosary concentrates on the agony and gore, the Orthodox devotion concentrates on the miraculous triumph of Christ, and on the Theotokos as such. Compare them, using the above two links, if you will.

The Rosary is not Orthodox Soteriology or Piety or DevotionFr. Seraphim Rose: Again drawing from the Holy Fathers, Fr. Seraphim counseled his spiritual children not to trust in or get carried away by their imagination, especially in prayer. Fr. Alexey Young recalls how, when he was still a Roman Catholic preparing to become Orthodox, he was given an important lesson by Fr. Seraphim: “I asked Fr. Seraphim about meditation, which my wife and I, still under the influence of our Roman Catholic background, had made part of our regular routine of morning prayer. We did not yet realize that the Orthodox understanding of meditation is quite different from the Western Christian view. In conversation, Fr. Seraphim explained that the use of imagination in Western spiritual systems of meditation—viz., while saying the Rosary, reciting the Stations of the Cross, or doing the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, etc.—was not compatible with Orthodox spirituality and was forbidden because imagination came into use only after the fall of Adam and Eve; it is one of the lowest functions of the soul and the favorite playground of the devil, who can and does use human imagination in order to deceive and mislead even well-meaning people.” – Fr. Alexey Young, Letters from Fr. Seraphim, pp. 12–13.

Continue reading

January 17, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite -- The Rosary, Western Rite Pieties | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Refugee Liturgical Criticism

“The desire to escape the abuses is noble, of course. It is also true that the Novus Ordo was hijacked. But it is of critical importance that a genuine study and consideration of WR in the Orthodox Church separate the issues of what is happening in Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism from the historical study of the Ordines Romani in their own right. By separating those issues, we can come to a much better understanding, a far more balanced perspective how the present-day WR practises fit into the life of the Orthodox Church.” – Mark Harrison 7/9/2006

December 19, 2007 Posted by | Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liturgy is an Entire Worldview

“It should also be noted that liturgy is more than a dry statement of dogma. It is not sufficient that the doctrines stated in the texts of the prayers not contain theological error. Liturgy involves our entire being and our entire worldview. There is an ancient liturgical axiom that says: lex orandi, lex est credendi (‘the rule of prayer is the rule of faith’); there is a natural correspondence between how we worship and what we believe. Even if the doctrinal statements are in any given prayer are orthodox, how we worship will colour how we receive and process those doctrines and live them out. There is a phrase in the Anglican Canon that reads: ‘Who made there by His one oblation of Himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.’ As the commision requested by St Tikhon observed, these words need to be considered in their historical context. They were intended to be a refutation of the theology of the Eucharist as sacrifice. On the other hand, young people who grow up in WR parishes, in which there will be a proper context for understanding this phrase, will receive it in an Orthodox manner, understanding that Golgotha cannot be historically repeated. Christ’s Sacrifice of Himself on the Cross was a one-time deal; but we, through our offering of bread and wine, ‘do celebrate and make here before thy Divine Majesty, with these thy holy gifts which now offer unto thee, the memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make; having in remembrance his blessed Passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; rendering unto Thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto by the same.’ This can be easily compared to the Byzantine corresponding Byzantine text and seen to be substantially identical. But then, the following paragraph in the Book of Common Prayer, the Invocation, was seen as categorically needing to be augmented to express a clear invocation of the Holy Spirit to make the Holy Gifts the Body and Blood of Christ.” – Mark Harrison 7-9-2006

One might add that, in Orthodox thinking, heaven and earth are joined, time isn’t the same (which is why an orthodox piety is to not carry watches into the eternity of the mystery), and the sacrifice is present at each communion – Christ is not re-sacrificed (that would be heresy), but he as the sacrifice is re-present with us in fullness, apart from the concerns of time.

To his point, the flippancy with which the rites can be viewed in much discussion of “going East” or “going West” seems to detract from the reverence proper to either.

December 18, 2007 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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