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

Did you know you’re “Byzantine Orthodox”?


Western Orthodox - Byzantine OrthodoxNo, I don’t know what it means either. Nor am I aware that the various synods of the world have declared themselves to be any such thing as “Byzantine Orthodox”. But that’s what Western Rite enthusiasts are calling you. It’s because they want to reformulate Holy Orthodoxy into a religious system defined by the selection of a particular rite, the religious endorsement of a body of cultural baggage, and the importation of a whole set of heterodox pieties on the justification that they’re “Western” and “Orthodox” people are willing to use them. They call themselves by the misnonmer “Western Orthodox”, and the only way to keep it from looking like a schism, a fetish, or a ploy (like “Charismatic Orthodox” – no such thing), is to try to rename the rest of us after their heresy. Yes, heresy, for it is certainly heresy to create another “Orthodoxy” in competition with the Orthodoxy already here present, and wed it to anything but itself, and claim that it is the rightful religion of those who live in already-evangelized lands. If it is Orthodoxy, let it be simply that. If it is Orthodoxy-plus or Orthodoxy-light, it is a deception, as well as a heresy.

Those who claim the need to Americanize Orthodoxy, for instance, have reversed the entire order of Orthodox evangelism. Orthodoxy is planted by missionaries in a land, and grows organically from there, without campaigns of special interests trying to ethically cleanse and culturally sanitize and reformat the Faith. The Orthodoxy planted, grown, and still growing in the United States is Orthodoxy planted in a multicultural environment, and it is no wonder that it should be Russian, Greek, Arabic, etc. And there would be no wonder in it being Roman, were such a thing to exist, and were it to keep itself free of stain by abstaining from heterodoxy rather than, like Corinth, remixing its own religion. But it prefers to create a religious fiction – that of a “Western Orthodoxy”, typified across diverse lands and times by liturgical similarities.

It tries both in the US and in history to create homogenization where none exists or existed. It cannot bear diversity, not really. Observe that enthusiasts do not find it enough to be approved, they insist on quelling dissent and claiming they are the legacy and heritage of all future Orthodox here. Homogeneity is their goal, under the term “Western”. What we are witnessing is something that was never Western when the West was Orthodox, nor Orthodox when Orthodoxy was in the West. A presumed “religion of the West”, only in the Orthodox rather than Papal fold. In actuality, it is a vehicle for translating the cultural implications of US and Western European imperialism into religious attitudes. In fact, this is what we mean by ‘religion’ in the negative sense: the process of translating cultural imperatives into religious rubrics.

Just a point to keep in mind: there never was a “Western Patriarch”. There certainly was a Roman Patriarch and, if they want that, let them revive it; let them fill the vacant see. But if they mean to create what never was – a hybrid of Orthodox affiliation with the heterodox notion of a religion based not on the local episcopate, as the Church that Christ and our Fathers have given us once for all, but some quasi-jurisdiction – a popeless or pope-courting ‘Western Orthodoxy’, then let us remember the full and unexpurgated anathemas in our Synodikons, which have much to say to such an ecclesiological-liturgical homonculus.

Indeed, the recent initiatives seem to be an effort to create an ‘Orthodoxy of all the West’ rooted neither in the local Bishop nor even in synods of local Bishops according to some unrealistic plan for episcopal gerrymandering, but rooted in Americanism and the Roman Catholic atmosphere of the Godfather era, sans the Pope (though that can’t be far behind – they’ll eventually need him). Make no mistake, the notion of “Western Orthodoxy” and the fabrication of a “Byzantine Orthodoxy” is an attack on Orthodox ecclesiology in the first place, and a preparation for neopapism in the second.

While we wait for that ridiculous day, let us who are not “Western Orthodox” neither be called “Byzantine Orthodox”, nor any other neologisms, so we don’t cause our brothers to stumble by taking up their error. Those who were first called Christians should beware taking up new names that contradict the very things that make them Christians in the first place.

June 9, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western? | , | 4 Comments

What do Critics Really Think?


Many of the enthusiasts for current Western Rite initiatives have been saying for some time that the primary concerns of those questioning the wisdom of such initiatives were simple prejudice or unfamiliarity. In short, they have, in their rhetoric, reduced all criticism to self-refuting categories. They have not listened.

Poll results:

The results of our poll clearly show that the primary areas of concern are neither small minded nor nitpicking, but are areas of sociological substance and regarding the state of Orthodox spiritual psychology.

While we don’t pretend this is a sufficiently scientific poll, with requisite controls, sufficient sample size and demographics, etc, we do think it represents the most vocal who have concerns. The most significant concerns were Western/European Phyletism and an essentially Protestant mentality. There were also significant concerns, representing roughly 25% of respondents, about liturgics and devotional pieties not merely being “post-schism” but being in fact heterodox or “post-Orthodox”, as the discussion by respondents throughout this forum will show. None of the concerns, in fact, were merely trivial. Respondents who felt their concerns were not fully represented by the poll, cited expediency as the central concern (what one respondent termed “The Offer”). By expediency is meant the exchange of whole, vast, comprehensive areas of Orthopraxis and the Orthodox Phronema for an influx of conversions.

We therefore offer these results as indication that the vocal critics of much of what passes for “Western Rite” and Western Rite initiatives have substantive concerns that cannot be so easily dismissed, and have faithfully indicated poignant, reasonable, and pointed concern for the salvation of persons in both Western Rite and Eastern Rite, for the spiritual psychology of our religious bodies, and for the pan-Orthodox (read ecumenical) articulations of our Faith. To mischaracterize or dismiss these concerns as either pedestrian or irrelevant would be headstrong, prideful, and ill-advised. We offer this for your consideration.

May 19, 2008 Posted by | -- Phyletism, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Groark on Devotional Abuses


“Novenas, rosaries, holy hours, statue crownings, (are) prepared and offered by various religious  orders, and offered to the people, while the offices of matins or vespers are never heard in parish  churches. Whether these and numerous other abuses will be corrected by the decrees of the  (Second Vatican) Council is a most important question . . .” E. T. Groark, Orthodoxy (Basilian Journal of the Western Rite) Volume X, Number 4, Autumn 1964, p. 120.

May 16, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

St. Raphael on Anglicanism


Pastoral Letter of Bishop Raphael

To My Beloved Clergy and Laity of the Syrian Greek-Orthodox
Catholic Church in North America:

Greetings in Christ Jesus, Our Incarnate Lord and God.

My Beloved Brethren:

Two years ago, while I was Vice-President and member of the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union, being moved with compassion for my children in the Holy Orthodox Faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3), scattered throughout the whole of North America and deprived of the ministrations of the Church; and especially in places far removed from Orthodox centers; and being equally moved with a feeling that the Episcopalian (Anglican) Church possessed largely the Orthodox Faith, as many of the prominent clergy professed the same to me before I studied deeply their doctrinal authorities and their liturgy—the Book of Common Prayer—I wrote a letter as Bishop and Head of the Syrian-Orthodox Mission in North America, giving permission, in which I said that in extreme cases, where no Orthodox priest could be called upon at short notice, the ministrations of the Episcopal (Anglican) clergy might be kindly requested. However, I was most explicit in defining when and how the ministrations should be accepted, and also what exceptions should be made. In writing that letter I hoped, on the one hand, to help my people spiritually, and, on the other hand, to open the way toward bringing the Anglicans into the communion of the Holy Orthodox Faith.

On hearing and in reading that my letter, perhaps unintentionally, was misconstrued by some of the Episcopalian (Anglican) clergy, I wrote a second letter in which I pointed out that my instructions and exceptions had been either overlooked or ignored by many, to wit:

a) They (the Episcopalians) informed the Orthodox people that I recognized the Anglican Communion (Episcopal Church) as being united with the Holy Orthodox Church and their ministry, that is holy orders, as valid.

b) The Episcopal (Anglican) clergy offered their ministrations even when my Orthodox clergy were residing in the same towns and parishes, as pastors.

c) Episcopal clergy said that there was no need of the Orthodox people seeking the ministrations of their own Orthodox priests, for their (the Anglican) ministrations were all that were necessary.

I, therefore, felt bound by all the circumstances to make a thorough study of the Anglican Church’s faith and orders, as well as of her discipline and ritual. After serious consideration I realized that it was my honest duty, as a member of the College of the Holy Orthodox Greek Apostolic Church, and head of the Syrian Mission in North America, to resign from the vice-presidency of and membership in the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union. At the same time, I set forth, in my letter of resignation, my reason for so doing.

I am convinced that the doctrinal teaching and practices, as well as the discipline, of the whole Anglican Church are unacceptable to the Holy Orthodox Church. I make this apology for the Anglicans whom as Christian gentlemen I greatly revere, that the loose teaching of a great many of the prominent Anglican theologians are so hazy in their definitions of truths, and so inclined toward pet heresies that it is hard to tell what they believe. The Anglican Church as a whole has not spoken authoritatively on her doctrine. Her Catholic-minded members can call out her doctrines from many views, but so nebulous is her pathway in the doctrinal world that those who would extend a hand of both Christian and ecclesiastical fellowship dare not, without distrust, grasp the hand of her theologians, for while many are orthodox on some points, they are quite heterodox on others. I speak, of course, from the Holy Orthodox Eastern Catholic point of view. The Holy Orthodox Church has never perceptibly changed from Apostolic times, and, therefore, no one can go astray in finding out what She teaches. Like Her Lord and Master, though at times surrounded with human malaria—which He in His mercy pardons—She is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb. 13:8) the mother and safe deposit of the truth as it is in Jesus (cf. Eph. 4:21).

The Orthodox Church differs absolutely with the Anglican Communion in reference to the number of Sacraments and in reference to the doctrinal explanation of the same. The Anglicans say in their Catechism concerning the Sacraments that there are “two only as generally necessary to salvation, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.” I am well aware that, in their two books of homilies (which are not of a binding authority, for the books were prepared only in the reign of Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth for priests who were not permitted to preach their own sermons in England during times both politically and ecclesiastically perilous), it says that there are “five others commonly called Sacraments” (see homily in each book on the Sacraments), but long since they have repudiated in different portions of their Communion this very teaching and absolutely disavow such definitions in their “Articles of Religion” which are bound up in their Book of Common Prayer or Liturgy as one of their authorities.

The Orthodox Church has ever taught that there are seven Sacraments. She plainly points out the fact that each of the seven has an outward and visible sign and an inward and spiritual Grace, and that they are of gospel and apostolic origin.

Again, the Orthodox Church has certain rites and practices associated and necessary in the administration of the Sacraments which neither time nor circumstances must set aside where churches are organized. Yet the Anglicans entirely neglect these, though they once taught and practiced the same in more catholic days.

In the case of the administration of Holy Baptism it is the absolute rule of the Orthodox Church that the candidate must be immersed three times (once in the name of each Person of the Holy Trinity). Immersion is only permissory in the Anglican Communion, and pouring or sprinkling is the general custom. The Anglicans do not use holy oil in the administration, etc., and even in doctrinal teaching in reference to this Sacrament they differ.

As to the doctrine concerning Holy Communion the Anglican Communion has no settled view. The Orthodox Church teaches the doctrine of transubstantiation without going into any scientific or Roman Catholic explanation. The technical word which She uses for the sublime act of the priest by Christ’s authority to consecrate is “transmuting” (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom). She, as I have said, offers no explanation, but She believes and confesses that Christ, the Son of the living God Who came into the world to save sinners, is of a truth in His “all-pure Body” and “precious Blood” (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom) objectively present, and to be worshiped in that Sacrament as He was on earth and is now in risen and glorified majesty in Heaven; and that “the precious and holy and life-giving Body and Blood of Our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ are imparted” (to each soul that comes to that blessed Sacrament) “Unto the remission of sins, and unto life everlasting” (Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom).

Confirmation or the laying on of hands, which the Orthodox Church calls a Sacrament—”Chrismation”—in the Anglican Church is merely the laying on of hands of the Bishop accompanied by a set form of prayers, without the use of Holy Chrism, which has come down from Apostolic days as necessary.

Holy Matrimony is regarded by the Anglican Communion as only a sacred rite which, even if performed by a Justice of the Peace, is regarded as sufficient in the sight of God and man.

Penance is practiced but rarely in the Anglican Communion, and Confession before the reception of Holy Communion is not compulsory. They have altogether set aside the Sacrament of Holy Unction, that is anointing the sick as commanded by Saint James (see James 5:14). In their priesthood they do not teach the true doctrine of the Grace of the Holy Orders. Indeed they have two forms of words for ordination, namely, one which gives the power of absolution to the priest, and the alternative form without the words of Our Lord, whosoever sins ye remit, etc. (John 20: 23). Thus they leave every bishop to choose intention or non-intention in the act of ordination as to the power and Grace of their priesthood (“Ordination of Priests,” Book of Common Prayer).

But, besides all of this, the Anglican Communion ignores the Orthodox Church’s dogmas and teachings, such as the invocation of saints, prayers for the dead, special honor to the blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of God, and reverence for sacred relics, holy pictures and icons. They say of such teaching that it is “a foul thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the word of God” (Article of Religion, XXII).

There is a striking variance between their wording of the Nicene Creed and that of the Holy Orthodox Church; but sadder still, it contains the heresy of the “filioque.”

I do not deem it necessary to mention all the striking differences between the Holy Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion in reference to the authority of holy tradition, the number of Ecumenical Councils, etc. Enough has already been said and pointed out to show that the Anglican Communion differs but little from all other Protestant bodies, and therefore, there cannot be any intercommunion until they return to the ancient Holy Orthodox Faith and practices, and reject Protestant omissions and commissions.

Therefore, as the official head of the Syrian Holy Orthodox Catholic Apostolic Church in North America and as one who must give account (Heb. 13:17) before the judgment seat of the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls (I Pet. 2:25), that I have fed the flock of God (I Pet. 5:2), as I have been commissioned by the Holy Orthodox Church, and inasmuch as the Anglican Communion (Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA) does not differ in things vital to the well-being of the Holy Orthodox

Church from some of the most errant Protestant sects, I direct all Orthodox people residing in any community not to seek or to accept the ministrations of the Sacraments and rites from any clergy excepting those of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church, for the Apostolic command that the Orthodox should not commune in ecclesiastical matters with those who are not of the same household of faith (Gal. 6:10), is clear: “Any bishop, or presbyter or deacon who will pray with heretics, let him be anathematized; and if he allows them as clergymen to perform any service, let him be deposed.” (Apostolic Canon 45) “Any bishop, or presbyter who accepts Baptism or the Holy Sacrifice from heretics, we order such to be deposed, for what concord hath Christ with Belial, or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” (Apostolic Canon 46)

As to members of the Holy Orthodox Church living in areas beyond the reach of Orthodox clergy, I direct that the ancient custom of our Holy Church be observed, namely, in cases of extreme necessity, that is, danger of death, children may be baptized by some pious Orthodox layman, or even by the parent of the child, by immersion three times in the names of the (Persons of the) Holy Trinity, and in case of death such baptism is valid; but, if the child should live, he must be brought to an Orthodox priest for the Sacrament of Chrismation.

In the case of the death of an Orthodox person where no priest of the Holy Orthodox Church can be had, a pious layman may read over the corpse, for the comfort of the relatives and the instruction of the persons present, Psalm 90 and Psalm 118, and add thereto the Trisagion (“Holy God, Holy Mighty,” etc.). But let it be noted that as soon as possible the relative must notify some Orthodox bishop or priest and request him to serve the Liturgy and Funeral for the repose of the soul of the departed in his cathedral or parish Church.

As to Holy Matrimony, if there be any parties united in wedlock outside the pale of the holy Orthodox Church because of the remoteness of Orthodox centers from their home, I direct that as soon as possible they either invite an Orthodox priest or go to where he resides and receive from his hands the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony; otherwise they will be considered excommunicated until they submit to the Orthodox Church’s rule.

I further direct that Orthodox Christians should not make it a practice to attend the services of other religious bodies, so that there be no confusion concerning the teaching or doctrines. Instead, I order that the head of each household, or a member, may read the special prayers which can be found in the Hours in the Holy Orthodox Service Book, and such other devotional books as have been set forth by the authority of the Holy Orthodox Church.

Commending our clergy and laity unto the safekeeping of Jesus Christ, and praying that the Holy Spirit may keep us all in the truth and extend the borders of the Holy Orthodox Faith, I remain.

Your affectionate Servant in Christ

+ RAPHAEL,
Bishop of Brooklyn,
Head of the Syrian Greek Orthodox Catholic Mission in North America

Accuracy of translation and fact of the above prescriptive direction and pastoral instruction being still in force and authority, unabated and unmodified, now and for all future time in this jurisdiction, certified April 27, 1927, by:

+AFTIMIOS,
Archbishop of Brooklyn,
First Vicar of the Russian American Jurisdiction,
Head of the Syrian Greek Orthodox Catholic Mission in North America

[Source]

May 8, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Give Evil No Place


It’s worth reminding ourselves, as we do periodically, that we must avoid the blindness that comes and delusion that precedes belittling and ridiculing our brother. For all such offenses, we ask forgiveness. And to any who are caught by the demon that inspires these things, we say “save yourselves, and pray for us, so we can be saved.” We may disagree, indeed must disagree at times, but we are not enemies.

Let us leave off all forms of saying to our brothers “raca”, which in modern parlance is translated: fool, idiot, moron, simpleton, bone-head, dolt, loser, human waste, excrement, or any number of other attributions. But let us give the demon speaking such words through our lips no place, and speak of the limitless value of our brother and only of our own failings. In this way is the Evil One defeated and cast out.

“For this reason it is very beneficial for a person to think of himself as smaller than all, so that he sees the brother as better, in order that he may, with the help of God, be delivered from this evil. ” – Elder Ephraim of Philotheou

In every personal failing we see in another, let us turn the finger around and point it at ourselves. Then people will listen when we speak of real concerns about the directions of our religious communities, and will not confuse this with personal insults. But, as it is, we accept as true all things that people say of our character – that we are silly, angry people, filled with passions. In this way, we will deprive the enemy, too, of power.

If we have to criticize, and we do, and that is what this site is for, it is a criticism of those things which deprive us of salvation, and is not meant to undermine anyone’s view of another person, though we are sure we fail to communicate this at times, and to show sufficient love to our detractors. Pray for us; we cannot walk this delicate path without your prayers.

April 15, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Meditation during prayer


Orthodox MeditationWe recently read a discussion on meditation “prior” to prayer, which included this: “I suggested meditation on the mystery under consideration prior to prayer, precisely as a means to “warm up the heart” as recommended by, e.g., St. Theophan the Recluse.”

Since we don’t know exactly what is meant by this discussion, we offer some theses on the subject:

* Meditation is not prior to prayer but an act of prayer (with the understanding that much that we consider prayer is prior to ‘true prayer’).

* By preparation for prayer, what the Saint is describing is a process of movement from attention to the world to prayerful attention – in short, preparation for prayer is actually movement into true prayer, or beginning to pray, or becoming prayerful. The use of the vehicles of prayer, icons, candles, and even the words are part of these means of preparation.

* The notion that one should have a separate period of meditation on the sufferings of Christ, and afterwards begin praying, strikes us as a Latin approach to piety that is foreign to Orthodox piety, but we are willing to be corrected on this.

* We still have concern that a danger of the use of a heterodox format for meditation in prayer (much less in any way separated programmatically from prayer) is the use of imagination in prayer (the consensus patrum is against this) and its inevitable transformation into fantasy, and fantasy’s transformation into prelest against which, says St. Seraphim, the fathers armed themselves more fiercely than anything.

* “Warming up” is actually warming the heart by means of movement from the cold attention to the world and its cares to the warm attention to union with God. It is not a separate activity ‘prior’ to prayer in the sense that the cited article seems to be indicating. In fact, it would seem to us to be slightly dangerous to engage in any meditation on a subject separate (even if prior) to prayer, since this could only be, in our view, a flight of the imagination’s fancy.

* The kind of attention ‘prior to prayer’ that we are familiar with takes the form of standing in silence and removing from our hearts and minds the attentions to the world, but also removing from our minds and guarding against all false images. This is very important. The notion that these moments of readiness are to be filled with imagination or constructed images of Christ, makes us uncomfortable. It is one thing to be wounded with the fact of Christ’s suffering for us, with its meaning and implications, and it’s another to play in our minds a virtual movie of the Passion, the focus of which becomes rather inevitably a reconstruction of the details. We aren’t meaning to be sticklers, but we think we’re reading these texts slightly differently than some others.

* This puts forth the question not of whether meditation on the Passion is proper in fact (which is and has been acknowledged), but what exactly is meant when the fathers talk of ‘meditating’ on the sufferings of Christ: “the crown of thorns, the robe, the reed, the blows, the smiting on the cheek, the spittings, the irony” [source1] [source2]. Are we talking about running a mental movie, or else what the meaning of these things is for us? We think the latter, and we think that when the fathers speak of considering, meditating, fixing in mind the thorns, they mean not a mental movie but a kind of contemplation (with the aim of prayer, never dangerously separate from prayer) of Christ’s suffering for us. In other words, it proceeds in terms of meaning more than images.

* We take as our primary text Orthodox iconography, and it’s treatment of the Passion, which is not the realism of Latin painting, but the expressionism of Orthodox attitudes on the subject. To the extent that images provide us with impetus to prayer, the icons are the standard, and teach us what kind of images we mean, and indeed offer us an objectivity of images that does not require a subjective searching of mental and cultural movie references, or an illicit realism, which is not ‘real’ at all.

* It’s not as easy as posing various rabbinical authorities against one another in a as though we’re doing either Talmud or mediaeval scholasticism or messing around with Orthodox action figures with their various superpowers: Sts. Diadochos, Maximos, and Peter of Damascus on the one hand and Sts. Ephrem, Tikhon, and John Chrysostom on the other. It’s tantalizing to the Western mind to believe that there are different “schools” of thought on this within the one true faith, and all are equally ‘valid’, but this is to scholasticize Orthodoxy in a neo-Marcionist way; it begs the question by presuming a Western cultural hermeneutic and arriving, of course, at a Latin understanding of how we read the Fathers on these subjects. A better way than to hurl quotations at one another is to presume that there is one consensus of the Fathers, if read in an Orthodox manner, and to read them looking for this consensus and understanding of what they mean in the living context of how the Church has lived and prayed at all times and in every place. Then we will be truly catholic in mind as well as in name. That said, we offer the following texts, since they were first cited by the enthusiasts rather than ourselves, as key texts for consideration of this question: Continue reading

April 14, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Pieties, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | 17 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

The First Denomination within Orthodoxy


First Orthodox Denomination?The Protestant impulse may be loosely defined as that tendency toward fragmentation over the desires, interests, beliefs, persuasions, passions, etc. etc. of religious adherents. There is substantial agreement on “the Faith” itself, but the very process being performed upon the Faith reduces it to a system of ‘essentials’ which are contrasted with non-essentials. In other words, those who disagree on essentials are of a different Faith. Those who disagree on non-essentials are of a different denomination.

Traditionally, of course, Orthodox Churches grew organically. They were planted by apostles and they were missionized among ‘barbarians’ by those “equal to the apostles”. The notion of programmatically ‘setting up’ a Church was more or less appropriate to the papal or Protestant ecclesiologies.

But what if it were otherwise? What if the Orthodox shared an essentially Protestant/Papal ecclesiology: Church by administration – church by fiat? At least two things would result, but two things, certainly:

1. The impulse and moral justification for creating a church would be “cultural” differences within the fold. This is the Protestant element.
2. The legitimization of this impulse would be juridical – something a hierarchy would sign off on but closely control. This is the Papal element.

And if these two things were to coincide, the result would be an organization within an organization, organism within organism, organ within organ: in short, a church within a church. Anyone else, of course, looking in, would term that a denomination. The basis for departure are the non-essentials, while the basis for administrative authority and control (simultaneously) would be the essentials.

And if this were all there was, these things in theory, we might yet be hesitant to refer to the Western Rite as a denomination within Orthodoxy. But then one reads Western Rite literature, and hears the call to go to one Church if you’re ‘ethnic’ and another if you’re white, to go to one church or another depending on which side of the Bosphorus your ancestry falls, which bank of the Mediterranean, which bloodline, which inclination, how you were raised, where you converted from, etc. This is the language of denominationalism.

Again, though, one might be hesitant to call it that, until one also reads Western Rite apologetics. The sometimes indiscriminate pilfering of the treasure houses of history, finding justifications, references, bloodlines, geneologies, and whatever bases one can for distinction, all the while demanding, often shrilly, recognition of union. This too, holding in constant tension the quest for objective authority in references and the demand for subjective authority in the recognition of others, is the Protestant impulse. And the method of handling texts is akin to arguing your point, and then finding the footnotes to back it up later. Substitute the ‘bible’, and you’ve got the fundamental Protestant hermeneutic, whether you’re doing ‘Orthodox’ hagiography or what have you.

If we took out the words “Western Rite” and inserted the words “Missouri Synod”, one might easily survey a number of “Western Rite” sites and be surprised if someone suggested the Westerrn Rite were anything *but* a denomination of Orthodoxy (aside from the absence of Western Rite bishops that could actually make up their own synod). We mean these observations not to belittle Western Rite endeavours, but rather to call adherents to awareness (no, not of how they look, but) of the religious sociology being introduced into Orthodoxy by the attitudes, mindsets, and resultant activities done in the name of “Western Rite”. A different rite, after all, needn’t be a different denomination, but when a rite is confused with a host of other things, and touted in a tribalist, multiculturalist way, a denomination is what you get, and denominationalism as an impulse – indeed a host of other things that are needed to prop up such an impulse, and which are actually foreign to Orthodoxy of any rite.

In seeking to accurately, adequately, and appropriately pursue a rite, one must not allow a quasi-Protestant, pseudo-Orthodox culture to be constructed that undermines these very efforts. This will prove worse than no effort at all, and what adherents will find themselves clutching in the end is not Orthodoxy but just another religion, whose claim to be the True Faith depends on cognitive dissonance – on saying one thing, and acting as though another were true.

That said, the Orthodox of the rite of St. John (called Eastern, by some), should cease all such denomination-inspiring rhetoric, whether this is making fun of the Russians (as is now popular where Orthodoxy has become an arrogant quasi-Episcopalian dilettantism), or else drawing illicit contrasts between ethnic and non-ethnic, cradle and non-cradle, parochial and monastic, this ethnic group or that one. All such work is the work of Protestantism, even when they call themseles Orthodox, and even when they are clergy or ‘famous’ Orthodox personalities. Many Protestants, in fact, are more Orthodox, when they cast off the very impulse that has so fragmented their Faith and which we now see at work wherever Orthodox has courted acceptance in the cultures in which the heterodox impulse is embedded.

We feel as much at home with those who pray the Western Rite as those who pray the Eastern, when either of them act like Orthodox Christians. But we are concerned that the very things ruining Orthodoxy by Anglicanizing it in so-called “Eastern-rite” churches, is actually generating the programmatic Anglicizing of Orthodoxy in so-called “Western-rite” churches. It’s not our only concern, but a thing seemingly yielding the fruit of Protestantism, and coming from its orchards, bears consideration in that light.

April 9, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Phase 3 is Operational


In Phase One of the site, we built up our article database – the focus was on becoming the central resource for criticism of much that flies under the “Western Rite” aegis. Also in this phase, we encouraged discussion, solidified a protocol of discussion free from ad hominem, appeals to authority, etc. This phase has been successful.

In Phase Two, we began including a wider range of material on Orthodoxy. After all, the cure for problems within Orthodox communities is Orthodoxy itself. Of course this attracted far less discussion and interest (sometimes Orthodoxy isn’t very popular among the Orthodox), but it was worth it. It also enabled us to better relate concerns related to Western Rite initiatives to the Faith itself.

As we enter Phase Three of the site, we begin loosely structuring the concerns into areas of interest, discussion, and research. You may have noticed the new category structure on the right. These are now overlapping categories, where before there was only one category per article. This lets the user focus on a particular area of interest, discussion, etc. This may mean less frequent articles, but a more useful overall resource.

March 4, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , | 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

Approaching the Rail


Pain BenitSt. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church (WRV): “However, you are invited and encouraged to come to the altar rail for a blessing from the priest and to receive a piece of the non-sacramental Pain Benit (Antidoron). This is a bread of fellowship which is not the Holy Sacrament, but a sign of our wish to include visitors in a sense of fellowship and hospitality in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

March 3, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

What will You Be doing This Lent?


March 2, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Stations of the Cross, Western Rite Weirdness | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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

Unity and The Apocalypse


The Church of the Seven CouncilsThere seems to be a general ecumenism among many Protestant groups that takes the form of a general wish for Christian unity, catholicity, and indeed Orthodoxy herself. In itself, this is precisely a desire for the things the True Faith gives us in fullness and without lack.

But taken out of that venue and given an Orthodox one, this clamour for unity, if it does not evolve, does not stake stock of the teaching of Christ and the apostles and the fathers after them, can actually become heretical and dangerous. It can take the form not of an ecclesiology that has found the fullness of the Faith, the One undivided Church that can never be broken, the genuine ark carrying us into the Heaven of union with God – but instead an ecclesiology of an even more pronounced branch theory and a spiritual psychology of needing to “fix” the Christian world for Orthodoxy – an inordinate, even foolish, push for a union that can not be.

Augmented by new-convert fervor, with pronouncements and immoderate statements and zeal, and supported by Orthodox who differ from our Fathers, hoping privately for precisely the thing that would cost these new Christians their newfound Faith, for a different use for this energy altogether, we see the trend toward ecumenism receiving a rush of inappropriate and unwise support.

Indeed, this is exactly and precisely the reason why new converts are to keep silent, and not speak on behalf of the Faith, or teach others, or make pronouncements of this sort. That is our tradition and, like so many others, it is there for wise reasons and was established and preserved by wiser men who knew the pitfalls that come from abandoning it. But even in silence, without sound teaching about what the Church really is, and without true conversion to the Faith shared in the consensus of the Fathers, the desire on the one hand to “just love one another” or “get rid of our differences and hug”, or on the other to join with something else based on mere doctrinal agreement or juridical ‘authority’, can mean that the more the Church is seen to be the Church, the more the convert ceases to have converted – ceases to be a part of it.

Let us state categorically: The Church is not broken, nor divided, nor in any way un-whole. The Church is not flawed or incomplete or in any way wayward or improper. The Church is the Lamb without blemish and the spotless Bride. The Church is One and cannot be otherwise. He who speaks against the Church, to imply that she is fractured, scattered, or incomplete, or lacks anything necessary to life and salvation, denounces Christ and his most pure Mother and has renounced Christianity, denied Orthodoxy, and repudiated the True Faith. So beware. Be absolutely sure, if you say such things, you want them repeated back to you on the day of Judgment. Dangerous is that way. Filled with devils and lost men, it is.

If you are a convert and you hear contrary pronouncements, opinions, and agreed statements, you are encouraged to test these things against the consensus patrum, and to listen to the consensus of the holy Athonite monks, who have written quite clear statements of these things as well. On ecclesiology, may we suggest the following articles:

Lastly, let no one deceive you. Our Lord, the Holy Apostles, and our Prophets before them, taught that Christ’s coming was the beginning of the last days, and that these days would end, to quote St. Paul, with a great “falling away” – an unparalleled apostasy – that our own brethren would betray us, believing they do God a service. The Apocalypse provides the image of a single world religion, a unified ‘Christian’ experience that dwarfs the attempt at Babel. Repeatedly, too, in the parables of Christ, we are warned that an apostasy means something that occurs among Christians – occurs from within, rather than from without, even while it is a departure from the Faith of our fathers.

It may be popular these days to dismiss all this as the Protestant, millenarian “end times” thinking of the 1970s-1990s. Indeed, when those fundamentalists waiting for something to happen at the Millenium didn’t see it, the mood shifted (not that we don’t remember very disturbing things happening at that time, but they certainly weren’t part of popular fundamentalist conception). And so now is a time of saying, ‘it will not come’, ‘things will go on as they have done’, and we are focused now on finding a way to join what cannot be joined, and the emphasis is on authority and juridical actions, because that is what’s needed for such a thing, and indeed that is how the heterodox think in the first place. But the end will come, deny it all we wish. The end will come, and all the words of Christ will be found true, though all the rest of us be made liars.

It’s cute to hurl at someone “he’s got an emphasis on the apocalypse” or “they’re up in arms over ecumenism”. So was Christ, so were the apostles, and so have the fathers been after them. Indeed, we will all see, at an hour we do not expect.

“The Antichrist can come only as a result of universal Apostasy, that is, the abjuration of the people from God and His paths, when God’s grace withdraws from the people. – Archpriest Boris Molchanoff

February 25, 2008 Posted by | -- Ecclesiology & Ecumenism, -- Eschatology, Western Rite Issues | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

How We Cross Ourselves


Three fingers joined, for the Holy Trinity. Two aside, for the two natures of Christ.“We cross with our right hands from right to left… We hold our hands in a prescribed way: thumb and first two fingertips pressed together, last two fingers pressed down to the palm. Here as elsewhere, the Orthodox impulse is to make everything we do reinforce the Faith.” [antiochian.org]

This is presented as a reminder. Some Orthodox seem to have taken to crossing themselves in another fashion (we’re not wishing to embarrass them by pointing them out). Three fingers joined, for the Holy Trinity. Two aside, for the two natures of Christ. This is the proper way.

February 17, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite Pieties, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

So that’s the Difference!


“The clergymen said there are several differences in worship style between the Eastern and Western rites. … Some worship differences involve music, they said. In the Eastern Orthodox rite, only a cappella singing is allowed, while the Western rite allows the use of an organ.” [source 2/16/08]

February 17, 2008 Posted by | -- What is Western?, Western Rite Quotes | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

East of Eden


“Everyone came out of EO – Christianity is Eastern, and even what we call Western is a continuation of that brought from Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and other Eastern places. The fact is that the Old Ritualists (Old Believer is a pejorative) have an ethos and praxis which is much more like the Western Rite (consider expected behavior in their Temple), or even the dress of their clergy. The Russian Old Rite, in fact, has *very* much in common with old Western liturgy. The Western liturgy itself has had use in the East (as Fr. John R. Shaw of ROCA has documented as regards the Roman Canon’s use by some Old Ritualists up until the 1960’s.) Orthodoxy is not a schism or splinter of Christianity – it is Christianity in the main. It is only consistent with those claims to see the restoration of not only the Russian Old Ritualists, but Western Old Ritualists (WRO) from schism – just as Donatists, Novationists, Monophysites and others returned from Schism. Sadly, the bulk of Western Christianity or most of the hierarchy has no real interest in doing what is necessary to heal their schism from Orthodoxy. But, we who do have a responsibility – just as JJ Overbeck wrote nearly a century and a half ago. Its another vision of Christian Unity than what has been proposed from the Western side – and that is what makes some uncomfortable (they would rather Orthodoxy be the Unia, or lose its strictness as regards dogma and practice.) So – Western Rite Orthodoxy is simply a different response to the claims of the Orthodox to be the Church – probably the only response that doesn’t include triumphalism on the part of either East or West.” [source]

It’s good to feature the best reasoning of one’s presumed opponents. For one thing, anything less is an appeal to straw men. For another, one might eventually want to concede. Choosing the best representatives against your case is a form of humility. In this case, though, concession is certainly not necessary. The arguer offers one of many solutions, but it is an interesting one. Again, most critics would have concerns about implementation, but the spirit in which the above quotation is written might allay those concerns.

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

Two households, both alike in dignity…


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

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

At first we were confused. The East thought that we were West while the West considered us to be East. Some of us misunderstood our place in the clash of currents so they cried that we belong to neither side and others that we belong exclusively to one side or the other. But I tell you Ireneus we are doomed by fate to be the East in the West and the West in the East to acknowledge only heavenly Jerusalem beyond us and here on earth–no one.”

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

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

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