This morning I received an email asking why Orthodox care about the Roman Catholic Mass. That is a perfectly reasonable question and so I thought I would post both the initial email and my reply. I have redacted the name of the correspondent and the name of his publication since it is a fairly well known one among Traditionalist Catholics.
I saw your post on The New Liturgical Movement blog. I would like to know if you and/or your priest or deacon would be interested in answering a question or two about your reactions to a pending freeing of the TLM.
I have conducted several interviews for XXX, including a bishop and Archbishop, and this them kept coming up. In particular, I would be interested in why the interest in this from the Orthodox? What is appealing about it? How do you think the average Orthodox priest, deacon, parishioner would feel about a freeing of the Classical Roman liturgy, and why?
If you know some people who are interested, I could incorporate your e-mailed comments (keep to about a paragraph or less for each answer) into an upcoming article.
Please let me know. For a sampling of previous writings, you can check here. http://www.renewamerica.us/columns/mershon
In Christ Our King,
Christ is Risen!
This will be somewhat brief since a really detailed discussion of the Mass and how it relates to Orthodoxy is beyond the scope of an email. In general the level of interest in the matter, on our side of the fence, is not altogether widespread. It exist primarily in a few subgroups such as liturgists, former Catholics and some members of the clergy. Many Orthodox are completely unaware of the controversy and some, if they were aware, would tell you they had zero interest in what the Catholic Church does. However many Orthodox do grasp that (like it or not) what Rome does is important. Orthodox liturgists have always tended to cringe at the reforms of the Latin Church post Vatican II. There are a number of reasons for this.
First and foremost, Orthodoxy is institutionally suspicious of change. If your changing something the first question from an Orthodox will be "why?" "If it aint broke, don't fix it" could be our motto. Orthodox (who have a clue about these things) can look at the rite of +Pius V and see the pre-schism liturgies of Pope St. Gregory the Great and of St. Peter, less a few add on's that we do not accept like the Filioque and references to the merits of the saints etc. But substantially it's the Gregorian Liturgy of the Orthodox West. By contrast the reformed liturgy of +Paul VI is a radical departure from the liturgical traditions of the past. Even in Orthodoxy some things change. But it's always a very slow gradual change. Organic development in liturgy is permissible. Radical invention is not. The Pauline liturgy implicitly seems to move away from the clear expressions of faith about the sacramental nature of the Divine Liturgy commonly understood in the undivided church of the first millennium.
If you look at the rites employed in Orthodox parishes that follow the Western Rite (yes we have some), none use anything resembling the Novus Ordo. The liturgical rites most commonly employed by Western Rite Orthodox are the Liturgy of Pope St. Gregory the Great and the Liturgy of St. Tikhon. The former is a corrected form of the Pian Missal, and the latter is a corrected form of the High Church Anglican BCP of 1892. They are typically employed by the Western Rite Vicarate (WRV) of the Antiochan Orthodox Archdiocese. The other liturgy employed is the Use of Sarum which is the ancient liturgical rite of parts of pre-schism Britain. This is typically used by parishes under the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and some Old Calendarist sects (although there are some minor differences between the rites used by ROCOR and the Old Calendarists).
As you may be aware there is a fairly lively debate going on within Orthodoxy as to whether or not the Roman Catholic Church retains the grace of valid sacraments (we use the word mysteries). The radical changes in the Latin Rite have been cited by some as evidence of the lack of grace in Catholic sacraments. I do not personally subscribe to this. But I do think as an indication of how seriously the changes in the western rites are taken, that it was in 1973 the ROCOR issued it's decree that it would no longer accept the validity of Catholic baptisms in contravention of the immemorial practice of the Russian Church. Today Roman Catholics (and pretty much everyone else) converting into Orthodoxy via ROCOR must be baptized.
A restoration of the so called Tridentine Rite in the Roman Catholic Church would probably be helpful. It's something that Orthodox can look at and say "we recognize this." The theological chaos now engulfing the Christian West is one of the more alarming things which we see in the modern world. As ongoing discussions about other issues move forward this could have a positive impact on the West's sensus fidei which we perceive as having been horribly compromised in recent decades. Orthodoxy remembers that the West was once part of the undivided church. And as St. John Maximovitch said "... Her venerable liturgies are far older than any of Her heresies."