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.

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

Western Rites and the “Episcopalianizing” of Orthodoxy


Lambeth - Orthodox - AnglicanThe Marcionites would be happy with what the Western Rite enthusiasts have been trying to achieve. A church within a church, a confession within a confession. This pattern – this template – is the gnostic/masonic/revolutionary template from of old. It creates “unity in diversity” by creating within a religious body another religious body that cannot exist outside it but is in contradiction to that in which it inheres. This has been done to every major religious confession. It’s essentially the translation of universalism and the filioque into an ecclesiological expression.

Observe how it was done with the Episcopal Church. The 1979 prayer book gave us not just two different rites, as the 1928 continued to be used simultaneously in most churches (though, as in this case, proponents kept claiming it was all about rites and rites alone); what it did was elucidate, exacerbate, and continue producing two religious cultures, one within the other, but each in contradiction to the other (despite the harmony the enthusiasts would claim). Even the most optimistic glossers of those events now can scarcely deny that the chickens of contradiction have come home to roost. In the early morning hours, the high-church protestant wing, adhering to the ’28 books, would show up to say the spoken prayers. In the later hours, the quasi-catholic wing, to whom the ’79 book and its culture were now effectively glued, showed up with its charismatic converts to sing the new writ (the former would show up to vigils and such, too). And so the holders of the old way were forced into an ever more Protestant mold, while the holders of the catholic way were melded to the new movement. Effectively, this coopted, compromised, and weakened both.

And so tensions that were already there were exacerbated in the extreme, leading to the present troubles. The 28ers began to lose their catholicity for the sake of their Anglicanism, as they left in droves for Continuing groups. The 79ers, offering the heroic myth of a return to ancient practices, found their “catholicity” in indeed embracing all, but therefore putting them at odds with their own moral standards, and so further dividing them. You can’t embrace everything without becoming nothing. When you’re self-definition is open-ended, people will throw a lot of garbage into it. Defections from each ‘canonical’ group to the other became rampant, satisfying neither the leaving nor the receiving parties. The “Continuing” solution, of freezing the religious assets, as it were, simply created little museums dedicated to a myth of purity and the golden age. Now two great myths collided and fed on one another.

In effect, the complete fragmentation of Anglicanism we are currently witnessing is leading not to the end of Anglicanism, but the transformation of it into a faceless goo that is the raw material to be reformatted into something altogether new – something that prepares it for a more global apostasy. And none of its splinters, or splinters within splinters, whether they be in communion or contradistinction, admit fully what has happened.

It’s not a long leap to looking at the same template in relation to the Western Rite and so-called Byzantine Rite. The ’79 and ’28 prayer books overlay quite neatly. It’s “just about rites”, right? We even have the attendant claims of “returns to more ancient practices” and “embracing the culture that surrounds us” – same things the Episcopalians were saying and many now rue – when they’re dealing in reality at all. But one doesn’t even have to squint to see all the rhetoric about a shift in religious culture being trumpeted by Western Rite enthusiasts in one place while simultaneously denied with shrugs and protests in another. This template is that template. The necessary stages in the preparation of any amalgum include a distillation, a simplification, and extraction of the right isotope to define the necessary parts going into the new whole.

One needn’t even mention that this same alchemical process went to work on the great Protestant confessions, and didn’t have far to run to distill them into elements more akin to an ultra-fragmented fundamentalism in some cases, something like episcopalianism in others, and an ultra-refined generic mega-church (a kind of religious androgyny) in the rest.

If you want to see the future of “Orthodoxy” in the vision of those making the most enthusiastic noise about “Western Rites”, you have only to look around you at the crumbling pillars of Rome and her children. The very religiosity into which they wish to initiate us is being boiled down, and our participation will be courted as the ‘recovery’ of something lost (merely an earlier stage in the process) and the ‘purification’ of what was fundamentally fine (a different stew than our fathers ever knew). We are being asked to embrace a new Orthodoxy, a traditional Orthodoxy, and a continuing Orthodoxy, all within the same confession. We are being asked to become Episcopalians in culture and Orthodox in name.

So-called “Western Orthodoxy” is merely a symbol of this process and a symptom of the new order being formed, a different ecclesiology, a pseudo-ekklesia. In and of itself, it certainly has significant problems, many of which have been rather universally recognized [survey]. In terms of what its progress is telling us about the contemporary Orthodox movement (and the very fact that it is movement, and can no longer be considered static or a state – and so now has much in common with the Episcopalian experience) — in those terms, it points to much larger problems that are as yet, just as with the Episcopalians, not widely or fully acknowledged. This despite the countless warnings of monastic communities, ascetic saints, Orthodox prophets, and holy martyrs. Lord have mercy.

You’d think the Episcopalians would like what these folk are up to, but anyone that has suffered what many of them have, through this process, could only look at it with sadness, and perhaps a will to help us fight it. The ones chasing it like a grail are those ‘true believers’ who still think the key problems are gays and women priests, and miss the point entirely. For them, an Episcopalianized Orthodoxy, especially a Western Orthodoxy, is a mirage, and they’re greedily gulping down what many of us recognize as sand. The sad thing is that we are feeding it to them, in the name of disseminating the Faith. This can only happen when we have begun to lose our Faith the same way they did: Quite literally by losing The Faith.

The Marcionites, Masons, and Revolutionaries should be happy, but no one else will be. Not when, instead of coming home to roost, our dove departs for the last time.

June 9, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, -- What is Western? | , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Disaffection and the Social Psychology of Conversion


Well phrased insight here: “…how does the next generation build on the sense of being “disaffected?” It seems the WR in its present form liturgically attempts to even amplify that sense…” – Publican123 from [these comments]

We’d be interested in your comments. If you haven’t yet cast your Western Rite poll vote, that’s still open, too.

May 15, 2008 Posted by | -- Catechesis & Conversion | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Guest Article: Sacred Body Parts


Rightly DividingThis article is a comment contribution by its author.

THE ERROR OF THE SACRED HEART DEVOTION
— Monk Aidan Keller (c) 2008 St. John Cassian Press

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a popular thing in the Roman Catholic Church of today. Frequently we see depictions of the Heart, and in Roman Catholic prayer books there are prayers to it, and consecrations of persons and places to the Heart. It is being called “God’s gift for our age.” What is this gift?

Devotion to the Heart first appeared in the 1600s under the auspices of the Jesuit order, which sought to emphasise the humanity of Christ. This was part of their campaign to make Christianity less demanding, less “other,” more approachable. To forge their new “minimum Christianity,” Jesuit theologians, for example, tried to prove that for a sinner to be absolved, he need only fear hell, or regret the consequences of his sins. The so-called Jansenists, on the other hand, with others who upheld Catholic practice, countered Jesuit teaching, saying it is the love of God which must motivate penitents to come to confession. Whereas Jesuit teachers debated how often it is necessary to love God, one Jesuit divine of the times concluding it is enough if a person love God one time before he die, Orthodox Christianity concerns the fullness of life in Christ and is scarcely interested in what the absolute minimum to achieve salvation would be. The form taken by the newly forged devotion to Jesus’ humanity as popularised by the Jesuits also strayed outside the bounds of Orthodox doctrine. We know that there have been seven Oecumenical Councils of the Church, from whose dogmatic teaching there can be no appeal. The Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431), responding to the teachings of Nestorius, the heretic Patriarch of Constantinople, taught that the Word, the second Person of the Trinity, was made man–that He took a human body and a human soul–that He appeared in the world under the name “Jesus,” and under the title “Christ.” Thus there is only one Person of Jesus Christ, and this Person is to be worshipped with a single worship, that of latria, the kind of worship rendered to God almighty. Nestorius, however, attempted to separate the honour paid to Christ’s humanity from that offered His Divinity. Thus Nestorius had said in a Christmas sermon at Constantinople that it was demeaning for him to worship a babe!

St. Athanasius of Alexandria pointed out the wrongness of worshipping Christ’s body in a separate way, in these words: “We do not worship a created thing, but the Master of created things, the Word of God made flesh. Although the flesh itself, considered separately, is a part of created things, yet it has become the body of God. We do not worship this body after having separated it from the Word. Likewise, we do not separate the Word from the body when we wish to worship Him. But knowing that “the Word was made flesh,” we recognise the Word existing in the flesh as God.” (Ep. ad Adelph., par. 3) Continue reading

March 24, 2008 Posted by | Western Rite -- Sacred Heart, Western Rite Pieties | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Idol Under the Bed


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traditional Theology vs. Orthodox Theology


“As Western Christians become increasingly concerned by the drift of their denominations away from traditional Christian theology and liturgical practice, many have returned to Orthodoxy.” – From the Diocesan News for Clergy and Laity, February 1995, Greek Orthodox Diocese of Denver (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople)

Response: This one sentence is so common, in so many different forms, that it seems representative of the theorum supporting the ballooning of WR in the US. It’s in two parts: 1. The flight of disaffected Anglicans, Protestants, and some Roman Catholics based on what a critic might call mysogyny, homophobia, and an unwillingness to stay and fight for the beliefs they claim to hold so dear. Implicit in the lingo, though is an intentional ambiguity: “traditional Christian theology and liturgical practice” – an argument that there is somehow a theology (or here we take the meaning to be doctrine), and liturgical practice, that was present in those confessions prior to recent changes, whether 1979, 1962, or whatever. 2. This ambiguity is then equated with Orthodox theology, doctrine, and liturgy by calling it a “return” to Orthodoxy. In other words, the argument is being offered, demonstrably untrue, that these people are in their hearts and souls, and their pre-1979 Anglican Prayer Books, and pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism, essentially Orthodox. This is a questionable argument indeed, if not specious, but it may explain why, instead of the ancient liturgics, a revised BCP is used, and instead of the ancient fasting rules, why the 1950 Roman Catholic ones are in vogue. What’s interesting, too, is the departure of the Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions, of their own accord, from “traditional” theology, doctrine, and liturgics. To whom will we flee, with our abbreviated liturgies, our Roman Catholic sacerdotal and mysteriological attitudes, and our own relaxed attitudes about morality? What the above argument seems to present is a general, non-specific religiosity that really does call into question whether converts to the Western Rite are truly converting to Orthodoxy, and likewise whether we ourselves are in fact converting to something else. To quote Vladimir Lossky: “a God in general, who could be the God of Descartes, or the God of Leibnitz, or to some extent the God of oltaire and the de-Christianized Deists of the eighteenth century.”

January 17, 2008 Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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