Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Don't Come Back 'Til Yer Byzantine

Last September, Fr. Thomas Hopko delivered remarks at the Woodstock Forum, in which he rendered his terms of reunion to Rome. The title of this entry should give you a good idea of his general conclusions.

However, of foremost interest to this blog is that Fr. Thomas -- of the OCA -- endorses the concept of a Western Rite, potentially even in Latin. He suggested an Orthodox Pope "would restore the practice of having the priestly celebrant in the Latin liturgy face the altar with the faithful during the prayers and eucharistic offerings." Accepting the Western Rite would be a good place for all Orthodoxy to begin any outreach to the West, and Fr. Hopko takes this for granted. Further, "the Latin liturgy" is understood in the West as referring to the traditional Liturgy of St. Gregory, the Latin Mass, "the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven." This is another nod that the Western Rite has gotten this right.* Acknowledging the right of the West to use either the vernacular or ecclesiastical Latin would give the reunited papacy the same rights every autonomous Orthodox Church enjoys. (Converts are told Orthodox only use the vernacular, but this has frequently not been the case: ask yourself how many Byzantines understand Church Slavonic.) He further recommends the public recitation of the hours in Church -- something more commonly found in the Western Rite than among many of our North American Byzantine brethren. (The OCA churches I've encountered seem to make it a rule never to recite Orthros on Sunday mornings.) The mere acceptance of the Western Rite would be a major step forward from some in his jurisdiction who utterly reject the concept.

So far, so good. Then his analysis begins to differ markedly from most other Orthodox theologians, particularly Bp. Kallistos Ware. Naturally, he assumes the Pope will embrace the Orthodox faith and renounce Papal infallibility and universal jurisdiction, and various other doctrines. Then come the oddities and exaggerations.

Fr. Hopko essentially demands the Pope accept Byzantinization of the minor issues but not the majors. For instance, he says an Orthodox Pope "would also consider enforcing the ancient ascetical and penitential practice of forbidding the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in Christian churches on weekdays of Great Lent. " This is an ancient custom -- of the East, not the West. The Western Rite and traditionalist Roman Catholics maintain the traditional missa praesanctificatorum of Good Friday, but every weekday in Lent?

He also instructs the ByzPope to "forbid private eucharistic celebrations for particular intentions, and for particular pietistic, political or ideological purposes."

He passes on to the differences between Eastern and Western Trinitarian approach. Orthodox teach one should begin by teaching about the Three Divine Persons (with Whom one can have a relationship), then declaring the Unity, rather than the unitary Substance/Essence -- and their arguments are persuasive (though not all Byzantines followed this method). But Fr. Hopko deems the Western Trinitarian approach "unacceptable 'modalism.'" Putting it mildly, this is unacceptable overstatement, and negative hyperbole is not known to help honest dialogue.

Interestingly, he allows "unleavened wafers may be used for pastoral reasons in the churches with this practice, but the pope would affirm leavened bread as normative for the Christian Eucharist." He also permits the use of the filioque, if properly explained (i.e., that the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son). Whatever the merits of the proposal, his allowance is unusual for a man so concerned the Pope ban Lenten weekday Masses. The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation recommended in 2003:

that the Catholic Church, as a consequence of the normative and irrevocable dogmatic value of the Creed of 381, use the original Greek text alone in making translations of that Creed for catechetical and liturgical use.
Fr. Hopko moves on to the ratification of the Papacy by other patriarchs, essentially giving the rest of the Church a veto over the See of Rome. He states, "because of his church's unique position among the churches, and his position in the world, [the Pope] may have to be affirmed in some way by the patriarchs and the primates of autocephalous (i.e. self-governing) archbishoprics and metropolias."

Finally, I'm not sure what he meant by this: "On undecided doctrinal and moral issues the Pope of Rome would use his presidential authority to insure that everyone -- clergyman or layperson -- would be encouraged to freely present his or her arguments concerning Christian teaching and practice as witnessed in the Church's formal testimonies to Christian faith and life." So the pope will be going door-to-door in search of theological insights? Perhaps he could begin with the blogosphere! Watch this spot for tomorrow's papal encyclicals.

In all seriousness, other theologians have approached the concept of reunion and reached more practical conclusions on these issues. However, this blog is merely satisfied Fr. Thomas Hopko has endorsed the idea of an Orthodox Western Rite.

We hope he will pitch that at the next OCA convention; that kind of offer would produce some takers.

* The Liturgy of St. Tikhon doesn't fit into his remarks, as they are directed to the Pope. But I humbly think we did pretty well on that front, too.


Blogger Jim N said...

Ben-- you nailed it. I posited the same points in the Orthodoxy Today blog. I am surprised that Hopko's RCC audience didn't start laughing in his face, especially when he demanded that leavened bread be deemed "normative." I used to think he was a serious thinker... but he is clearly a silly man.


8:03 PM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Hi Jim,

Welcome to the blog!

It just struck me odd he let the filioque go but made some of the other demands he did.

For example, how is a priest going to tell the pious ladies who reverently come to the Sacrament every day that they will not have a full Mass anymore during certain periods - in compliance with Byzantine tradition?

I could actually see leavened bread slipping under the radar. WR Orthodox use leavened wafers that look like any other communion wafer. But banning Mass would scandalize the pious.

Thanks for the comments!

God bless,

1:35 AM  
Blogger Susan Peterson said...

I am glad to hear you say these things because (as a Roman Catholic) I had read this list of requirements and thought "Wait a minute, he wants to take away OUR traditions." Why, I thought, was it so awful that the Eastern Rite Catholic churches were somewhat "westernized" and yet here this Bishop (am I correct, can't go back to the post to check without losing my comment) is saying that if we were to be reunited, we would all have to be "easternized."

Along those lines, you say acceptance of the Western Rite would constitute reaching out towards Catholicism....but that we Catholics have an Eastern Rite is considered an insult to Orthodoxy? Does this make any sense?

PS I think you folks do liturgy right, no doubt about it. My son is becoming Orthodox and going to liturgies with him affected me so deeply that I couldn't continue to attend Sunday mass in my parish (ugly church, awful music) any more and have started to attend an Eastern Rite church. I can see in the style of the icons that it is "Westernized" but it is the Rite of St. John C. and reverently celebrated. Perhaps only because it is a larger church, not quite the level of participation or community in the Orthodox churches I have visited (but that is not very many.)
However, I am also very impressed reading through your two Western liturgies. I have been intermittently attending an "Anglican use" mass, which uses mostly the BCP (1928 or earlier style) but which uses the Roman Canon in what I am told is Coverdale's translation. Although the Coverdale is contemporary with Cranmer, the literally translated Latin is NOT in the same style as Cranmer's liturgy and to my mind there is an awkward transition between the two. I wondered, first, why the BCP couldn't be used entire with only a few minor changes...and you have done it. Then I wondered why if we were going to use the Roman canon, why we didn't work at a good modern translation of the whole rite...or just all learn the Latin.
I recently went to (what is called) a Tridentine rite church (run by the FSSP priests) to a high mass at which the choir sang Gregorian chant. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard (even more beautiful than the chanting in the Orthodox parish I attended)-but the choir sang, not the congregation, and we could not hear the priest's part-or the acolyte's part at all. I know there are some parts in the Rite of St John C. that are said quietly by the priest but I don't remember the feeling of being separated from what is happening that I have had both times at the Tridentine rite. When you do it, how much is out loud? Do the people in the congregation make the responses of the acolyte as in what the old missals call a "dialogue mass"?

By the way, you know, don't you, that the Eastern Rite Catholic churches no longer say the filioque? The one I attend has typed papers pasted over that part of the creed of those few sentences without it.
(On the other hand, in that revision, they left "the doors, the doors" out of the rite. Obviously this makes little sense now that we don't send the catechumens out and shut the doors, but I like things like that which are traditions to stay anyway. ) So, back to the filioque, if it is all right for us to leave it out, and for some of you at least it is allright to have it in as long as it is properly understood as meaning "through the son" can't we lay that one to rest?
...Lets have an ecumenical council...
just joking but how I wish I were not.

I am trying to find the post I read on this blog in which someone said his priest hadn't heard that St. Augustine was a heretic and that there was no original sin. Can someone point me to it, give me a link or remind me what it was named?

Thanks and forgive my wandering a bit from topic to topic.

Susan F. Peterson

sorry if this shows up twice. It disappeared from here and didn't appear on the blog -I saved it so am doing it again.

8:00 PM  
Blogger christopher3rd said...

FYI, in traditional Russian practice, an "All Night Vigil" is served the evening prior to Liturgy (Vespers and Matins). The Hours are also said with the 1st Hour following Vigil, and 3rd and 6th immediately prior to Liturgy. Ninth Hour is served immediately prior to Vespers (Little Vespers if a Vigil is to be served). The Old Ritualists serve this all regularly, too, more often and more fully.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Hi Christopher,

Forgive the late response; for whatever reason, I just saw it.

The "All Night Vigil" is the practice in some churches -- but not the OCA ones I've seen. They simply serve Vespers, then call it quits 'til Divine Liturgy the next morning. One at least chants preparations for communion during the Proskomedia.

I've also seen one church (not OCA) that prayed Vespers and half of Matins, with the other half during the Prothesis service the next morning....

3:33 PM  

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