Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"Two Approaches" to Western Rite? Not Really

We've heard much about "Two Approaches" to the Western Rite of late, even in the comment section of this blog. Supposedly, the Antiochian Archdiocese favors a "Tridentine" application of the WR, adopting every "Counter-Reformed" devotion and stance of the post-Schism era. Conversely, ROCOR allegedly favors "liturgical archeology," freeing Western liturgies from all post-Schism accretions whatsoever.

Neither is true. As we'll see, there is only one approach to the Western Rite in the Church today.

ROCOR. The belief that ROCOR favors liturgical archeology seemingly derives from the lone blessing given to that phenomenon in Western Rite Orthodox history: ROCOR's short-lived association with L'ECOF, including its "new" Gallican Liturgy (another link here). While St. John the Wonderworker consecrated Jean of St. Denys a bishop, a few things must be recalled:
  1. St. John did not draw up the Gallican Liturgy. The liturgy in question had been prepared by French clergy, particularly then-priest Fr. Evgraph Kovalevsky (later Bp. Jean), before their reception into ROCOR (predating St. John's tenure as European hierarch);
  2. His consecreation of Bp. Jean was controversial in his day, the occasion of a mass boycott; and
  3. Even in his saintly oversight of French Western Rite parishes, he presided over more than Gallican rite parishes.
Under this saint's loving care was a French Orthodox monk graced with the gift of healing. That charismatic monk of sweet spirit, Dom Denis Chambault, followed the traditional Benedictine hours and celebrated the Liturgy of St. Gregory (which its detractors call "Tridentine"). His example inspired Fr. Paul Schneirla, which led to the formation of the Antiochian Western Rite. Meanwhile, Dom James Deschene of Christminster Monastery continues to celebrate a near-Tridentine Mass and has said calling the Latin Mass celebrated in the separated West until the Second Vatican Council "Tridentine" is a misnomer. Speaking of this liturgy, St. John told Dom Augustine Whitfield, “Never, never, never let anyone tell you that, in order to be Orthodox, you must also be eastern. The West was Orthodox for a thousand years, and her venerable liturgy is far older than any of her heresies.” Christminster's Mass, a barely modified form of the Tridentine, endures. [1] Conversely, St. John's children in L'ECOF were quickly disowned by ROCOR and ultimately orphaned by all of Orthodoxy, at least as Gallican Rite restorationists.

Put another way, the only seed planted by St. John Maximovitch's saintly Western Rite oversight to survive within canonical Orthodoxy was in its "Tridentine"/Benedictine expression, preserved by Dom Denis and Dom James, and flowering within the Antiochian WRV.

Antiochian WRV. In accordance with the original Russian approval given to a Western Rite liturgy in 1870, the original parishes to the Antiochian WRV celebrated the "Tridentine" Liturgy of St. Gregory. However, the AWRV did not then, nor does it now, merely accept every development of the Vatican I Romans. (If it did, its faithful could simply join SSPX or the like.) This was fleshed out, for instance, in Fr. Edward Hughes' masterful thesis on the paraliturgical devotions of the Western Rite, in which he rejected any form of the Miraculous Medal devotion, various "maudlin" Sacred Heart prayers, and other post-Schism developments not in keeping with Orthodox theology.

After the Episcopal Church USA began its flirtation with (and ultimately, capituation to) heresy, the Anglican liturgy envisioned by the 1904 synodal document entered Orthodoxy. To bring it into line with the Russian Synod's theological/liturgical observations, the AWRV added prayers from the only other liturgy that commission had approved: the Liturgy of St. Gregory. In doing this, the AWRV followed the vast majority of Anglo-Catholics, who had long before done the same thing to fill the void left by the barebones BCP.

Even at that, St. Peter's Antiochian Orthodox Church (WRV) in Ft. Worth, TX, has a different approach than "Tridentinism." It's not all merely one flavor within Antioch.

Some ask how the work of the ROCOR missions in Australia fit into this picture. Fr. Michael and those missions he oversees celebrate The Sarum Liturgy and The English Liturgy. Perhaps a separate post is in order on this topic, but in the short run, the former (quite distinct from the "Old Sarum Rite Missal" of Old Catholic provenance) would be recognized by another segment of the Anglo-Catholic Movement: those who preferred Sarum to Continental High Church forms. Any Sarum High Churchman of the Oxford period would recognize nearly all of it. The latter is simply a different form of bringing the Book of Common Prayer into conformity with the Russian Observations -- this time adapting the BCP to a Sarum rather than Continential Gregorian framework. (Shades of Percy Dearmer?) Either adaptation fulfills the Observations, though one questions how much the Russian Synod knew of Sarum generally.

In other words, all these are different ways to do the same thing.

At present, no liturgical archeology is at work within the Orthodox Church. Should the Church opt for such a course, She could do so, just as She could theoretically invent a new liturgy all Her own. For pratical reasons, I would suggest neither theory be put into practice.

These are the theories undergirding the alleged "two approaches," which are really but one approach: adapting existing historical Western liturgies already approved for adaptation to Orthodox standards. Let's hear no more of various hair-splitting "two approaches" posts, which serve only to divide an already (numerically speaking) miniscule religious movement (legitimate Western Rite Orthodox in the world), and opt instead to embrace the Church, Her teachings, and whichever approach She has furnished us at present. God will bring all our plans to flower "when your obedience is complete." If we show ourselves true, God will guide us in the way we ought to go. May He always continue to grant us His blessings and rich success in reaping souls for His Kingdom.

1. The additions being a Western litany -- not the Byzantine Great Ektenia, as some have intransigently claimed -- and a slightly different preparation ritual for some Masses.

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Blogger Father Chad said...

What an excellent blog!

Could you please direct me to a copy, perhaps online, of the original Divine Liturgy of Saint Gregory in LATIN. I am particularly interested in reading the corrected Gregorian Canon of the Mass with its Orthodox epiklesis. Thank you for your wonderful writing and posting.

God bless you!


7:56 PM  

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