Thursday, March 03, 2016

In Defense of Western Rite Orthodoxy

In recent years, some Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States and Great Britain have accepted whole parishes that converted from Anglicanism or Catholicism to Orthodoxy. These few parishes have the unique distinction of providing Orthodox services in the "Western Rite"—high Church services somewhat rewritten to adapt to the Orthodox cycle of services. A deacon of the Orthodox Church, Eastern Rite speaks in defense of this practice:
 
For over a century, the question of the Western Rite within the canonical Orthodox Church has been one of tremendous debate. Many Orthodox Christians of Western ancestry find within it a home, an answer to their deepest longings for a “rebaptism” of Western Christianity, and an opportunity to draw Western Christians back into the fold of the True Church. Others see the Western Rite as something foreign, misleading, and dangerous. These see the Western Rite as an innovation, and even (possibly) heretical.
 
What, though, are we Orthodox, to think of the Western Rite? Is it dangerous and wrong, or is it holy and good? What is the substance of the objections which well-intentioned Orthodox people have, clergy and laity alike? In what follows, I will look at several frequent arguments which are utilized in the opposition to the use of the Western Rite. I will examine them, and will answer them, not only from a Western Orthodox perspective, but also with honest evaluation from Eastern positions.

I will apologize here at the outset for the blunt, and possibly even polemical nature of much of what is said here. However, as our culture quickly descends into a politically correct world, where no one says what he or she actually means, bluntness is sometimes needed to make a firm point. Forgive me, a sinner, for the sake of Christ.

Read the rest here.

23 comments:

Dale said...

One cannot believe that this canard of a supposed westernrite is still making the rounds. Historical it has been an absolute failure. The rite, especially offered by ROCOR is so Russified that trying to find anything remotely western about it is almost comical. They are receiving a parish in Nevada, which is busily installing an ikonostasis. Say it all really.

Prior Martin said...

Dale is right, ROCOR WRV parishes are decorated with icons wall to wall and look nothing like an historical WR church, their parish in Pelion, SC is a fine example of their idea of western. I include a link to the website.

http://www.saintkatherineorthodoxchurch.org/

Dale said...

Prior Martin, here are pictures of a "westerrite" liturgy celebrated in the same church you posted about. It is really quite offensive to us who are of western heritage...that is if it were not so comical:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204973168512526&set=a.10204973168312521.1073741834.1340860564&type=3&theater

Prior Martin said...

Dale,
The photos say it all, the servers look rather Greek to me, and +Jerome wearing his mandyas and klobuk make the photo worth a thousand words. These people wouldn't know WR if it hit them in the face. The Antiochians do a much better job, though they too have some problems.

Dale said...

Prior Martin, but with the new Metropolitan for Antioch in the United States being far less than a supporter and the new Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch also opposed to the western rite, I do not see any future as far as Antioch is concerned either; they have not shut it down, but do not encourage it at all and all of their formerly westerrite communities in New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines (which had the largest numbers), and Canada have all been either closed or have been easternized. As was the situation in England as well. If someone wishes for the traditional western rite and heritage, Byzantine Orthodoxy offers nothing. It is perhaps sad, but the reality.

Greg Pavlik said...

One of the most beautiful religious services I have ever attended was at the western rite St Augustine parish in Denver for Nativity. The fact that eastern bigotry has retarded the development of a healthy western rite is yet another scandal of Orthodoxy.

Han said...

Mr. Pavlik,

I am not sure that it is "eastern bigotry" that is retarding the development of a Western Rite, but rather, the problems with integrating a (or several) Western rite(s) into the Orthodox Church are inherent in a Church that takes seriously the notion that the rule of prayer is the rule of faith. Because the Roman Missal and Office (and its variants) are simply different, the faith espoused is necessarily different. What we are having trouble resolving is whether these differences are manifestations of diversity that can properly exist within the Church or whether they are so substantial that they are to be considered manifestations of a different Faith. As a matter of lived reality, we have historically erred on the side of caution when it comes to rite - see e.g. the Old Believer schism in Russia. This is why we get Byzantinized western rite. I don't think it is supremacist, I think it is motivated by a desire to make sure that Western Orthodoxy is actually orthodox.

Greg Pavlik said...

Who is "we"?

Dale said...

I will agree with Greg here. The Oriental Orthodox do not have these cultural supremacist fixations at all. They happily exist with several, very different liturgical traditions, including by the way, the Roman one as well. One could posit that much like Islam that can only be construed as an Arabic expression of religion, Byzantine Orthodoxy, having become so influenced by Islam, can only perceive of Christianity as Byzantine.

Han said...

Mr. Pavlik,

"We" means the Orthodox. I was including you in the pronoun.


Dale,

Would your thesis that Islam affected the self perception of Orthodoxy not be better applied to the Oriental Orthodox. It seems to me that their tolerance of liturgical diversity within their communion is a reflection of the fact that they all had to try to survive in the Islamic world, and compared to that circumstance, the differences between Antioch and Alexandria became minor. Similarly, we see different liturgical recensions between, for example, Greek, Romanian and Russian Orthodoxy, but this is a diversity that we consider minor. I bring this up because it makes no sense for such diversity to exist if liturgical attitudes are to be reduced to "bigotry." A more plausible explanation is that the boundaries of acceptable difference with regard to western rites (or, from the Orthodox perspective, [far] Eastern rites) is not yet settled. It is not "bigotry" it is an attempt to live out liturgical theology. Consider that this western rite(s) [I use the plural because, as Mr. Pavlick would be able to attest since he is a Denverite, there are several] experiment is only about a century old, and we are working with a liturgical and spiritual tradition that has undergone profound change in the years since the solidifying of rites around the 5th century such that there are two very different "Western rite" parishes in Denver - the Roman one Mr. Pavlik attended at Chistmas, and the Anglican one (St. Mark's). It is not as if the Mass and Office served during the time of St. Ambrose has been time-capsuled somewhere to be dusted off as the "Western Rite;" centuries of heresy and schism have left their mark on the prayers of the Christian West. While I too am not a fan of a Byzantinized "Western Rite," the Byzantinization is probably motivated by caution rather than chauvinism - were it otherwise, there would be no Western rite at all.

Han said...

Dale and Mr. Pavlik,

Incidentally, I think it may be helpful to contrast how Uniates work in Catholicism to illustrate my point. By-in-large, Roman Catholics have no problem with Uniates (late 19th Century American persecutions resulting in a second founding of the OCA notwithstanding). Actually, I think they kind of like having them around so that they can feel good about themselves and how "tolerant" they are. This is because (1) the most important aspect of Catholic identity is submission to the Pope of Rome and (2) Catholicism has adopted an atomic theory of sacramental theology wherein if the "form" and "matter" required for "validity" of a sacrament is maintained, everything else about the rite of said sacrament is negotiable. The Unia exists because it was more important for the Catholics to bring the Uniates under Rome than it was to ensure that the Roman and Byzantine rites professed the same faith because, according to Roman Catholic sacramental theology, the Byzantine Divine Liturgy is "valid." I have not done extensive research on the Latinization of the Uniates, but I suspect that they did it to themselves - it was not imposed upon them by Rome. Rather, I think that the Uniates self-Latinized because (1) they wanted to be seen by the Romans as just-as-Catholic and (2) Uniate clerics were influenced by the devotional trends within Roman Catholicism.

In contrast, there is no Orthodox Unia (meaning their was nothing comprable to the Union of Brest where whole dioceses joined with Catholicism). What we have is, at most, an isolated Anglican parish wanting to become Orthodox or a group of disaffected Catholics wanting to become Orthodox but wanting to maintain their rite. In theory, there has to be some Western Orthodoxy because we know that this existed in the past. Then problem arises because Whereas Catholicism is an Authority that happens to have traditions (see, e.g. the Catholic apologetic against Protestantism that attributes "schism upon schism" to the lack of a Pope) Orthodoxy is a Tradition that has authorities. We are trying to figure out how a "Western Rite" that is only a hundred years old after a millennium of abeyance can fit into Tradition. Catholicism had no such problems when it came to Uniates and it disavows them now only because it currently believes them to be a hindrance in snagging all of us at once.

William Tighe said...

"I have not done extensive research on the Latinization of the Uniates, but I suspect that they did it to themselves - it was not imposed upon them by Rome. Rather, I think that the Uniates self-Latinized because (1) they wanted to be seen by the Romans as just-as-Catholic and (2) Uniate clerics were influenced by the devotional trends within Roman Catholicism."

This is, IMO, absolutely correct.

Gregory Manning said...

I say leave the Western Rite folks alone.
Antioch and ROCOR blessed them to try and establish WR churches in the U.S. Whether they sink or swim is up to the Holy Spirit. If you object, go talk to the powers that be. Don't pick on the WR clergy and laity. Trying to establish a mission church is hard enough for all of us but, I dare say, even harder for the WR. If it is the Holy Spirit's will that they flourish then so be it. If, alas, it is not the Holy Spirit's will then so be that as well. Whatever the outcome, Glory be to God! Thy Will, not mine, be done.

Greg Pavlik said...

The evolution of western Liturgy post-14th century (at which point we can speak of schism in a real sense) is a legitimate area of concern, though I think neither as complicated nor theologically problematic as you suggest - I am less comfortable with the use of the Book of Common Prayer - but I stand by the assertion that is hardly the issue.

If anything, the case of the Raskolniki makes clear that institutionally something else is happening, since the Old Believers were clearly holding to older practices; ditto with respect to the suppression of other eastern rites. Even casual familiarity with present hierarchs and their attitudes on this (and related topics of ethnic identity and language) is enough to know with something approaching absolute certainty that the concerns and problematics of a western rite are not primarily theological. In my view there is a kind of primary temptation present to our ecclesiology that we need not succumb to, but unfortunately often, too often, do.

In any case a combox exchange not going to bear fruit.

(I am not from Denver, as an aside.)

G Sanchez said...

This is a bit late coming, but on the question of Latinizations, while Rome was not involved directly in the process, Roman Catholics -- mainly from Poland -- placed a great deal of pressure on the "Uniate" churches within their sphere of influence to Latinize as a sign of loyalty to both Catholicism and the state. This really kicked into high-gear during the 17th and 18th centuries with push-back starting to emerge in the 19th C. when Galicia was under Austrian rule. However, even then, those clerics who supported a more authentically Byzantine liturgical rite were suspected of being "Russophiles" who were politically disloyal. The matter was only really addressed in the 20th C., first under Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky and then by the Vatican-backed commissions which produced fresh liturgical editions for both the Ruthenian and Russian Catholic churches.

Dale said...

"[C]enturies of heresy and schism have left their mark on the prayers of the Christian West"; one could just as easily say exactly the same thing about the Byzantines, who have been in the forefront of most heresies, including Arianism and iconoclasm, all whilst celebrating the Byzantine rite.

"What we have is, at most, an isolated Anglican parish wanting to become Orthodox or a group of disaffected Catholics wanting to become Orthodox but wanting to maintain their rite"; actually whole diocese have tried to become western rite Orthodox in South America and the Philippines, the demand for such groups has always been to adopt the Greek rite, or go away.

In the end, there will be no western rite in Byzantine Orthodoxy, or any non-Byzantine tradition that includes ancient eastern traditions as well (when a whole diocese from the Assyrian Church joined the Russians in the last century their ancient tradition was immediately destroyed and replaced by the Russian New Rite). Personally, I think the stain of phyletism is so deep that nothing will remove it. Han speaks of western heresies, whilst these are perhaps heresies of the intellect, Byzantine Orthodox phyletism is a heresy of the heart.

Dale said...

In the end, one must admit that Byzantine Orthodoxy has always gone hand-in-hand with imperialism and has always worked with imperial governments to enforce uniformity, to try and pass this off as theological and protecting theological virtue against some perceived horrible influence from the dreaded west, or east, is really rather offensive.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Dale,
Your comments are pushing the boundaries, again. If you want to post substantive criticism I am fine with that, as long as it is respectful. But if you are coming here solely to post inflammatory accusations you will find that my tolerance for trolling has not improved since we last went down this path. As we have indeed been down this road before, I trust I will not have to belabor the point.

Dale said...

I fail to see where I have been inflammatory at all. What I have posted is indeed historical reality, you may not like it, but it is indeed true. But this is your page and you may do whatever you wish with it.

Greg Pavlik said...

"In the end, one must admit that Byzantine Orthodoxy has always gone hand-in-hand with imperialism and has always worked with imperial governments to enforce uniformity, to try and pass this off as theological and protecting theological virtue against some perceived horrible influence from the dreaded west, or east, is really rather offensive."

Except this is obviously not true in the large: think Romania, Carpathian slavs, Georgia, etc, etc. In fact it is so obviously not true as to indeed appear to be malicious.

Dale said...

Greg, a study of the Byzantine relationship to the Oriental Orthodox would show the statement not to be malicious, but true.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Rome has precisely the same issue. Neither the Greek Orthodox nor the Roman Catholic patriarchs seem to have any idea what to do in the absence of Empire, so they are jumping on the globalist, social democratic bandwagon.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Niether the Ecumenical Patriarch nor the Roman Catholic Pope seem to know how ecclesiology should function in the absence of Empire, so they are jumping on the globalist, social democratic bandwagon.