Saturday, March 18, 2006

Time Magazine on the Western Rite

A fascinating article from the annals of Time Magazine -- dated May 1, 1964. (You can read the original article here OR here.)

Eastern but Western

If, by chance, a Roman Catholic walked into Sunday worship at the Church of the Divine Wisdom in Mount Vernon, N.Y., he would feel right at home. The priest at the altar would be wearing alb, chasuble, maniple and stole, the familiar Eucharistic vestments of the Western church; the liturgy he celebrated, except for the use of English instead of Latin, would be almost identical with the Roman Mass. But the worshippers at the church are not Roman Catholics, or even High-Church Anglicans; they are members of the little-known Western Rite of the Orthodox Church.

Keeping the Mass. The Western Rite is an Orthodox attempt to restore the cultural balance of East and West that existed in their church before Rome —as the East believes — fell away into schism in 1054. In doctrine, Western Orthodox believers follow the bearded patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch and Moscow, but their way of worship is the Mass rather than the lengthy Divine Liturgies of the East. The Western Rite missal has been purged of Roman "heresies," such as supererogation, the belief that man can acquire grace through the merits of saints as well as through Christ's redemption. Communion is given in the form of bread and wine instead of bread alone. The Nicene Creed is recited without a major theological cause of the schism, the filioque clause, thereby adhering to Orthodox teaching that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone.

Founder of the Western Rite was the Rev. Joseph Overbeck, a scholarly German priest who converted to Orthodoxy in 1865. Overbeck had only a handful of followers, but he prepared a revision of the Roman missal and outlined a theological defense of the Western Rite idea that eventually convinced Orthodox church leaders. In 1926, the Orthodox Church of Poland accepted the allegiance of some Polish Catholics, who were allowed to keep the Mass and most of their liturgical customs. In the U.S., most of the Western Rite Orthodox belong to the Syrian Antiochian Archdiocese, which drew up rules in 1958 for a Christian who wanted to join the church.

More than Tribal. Western Orthodoxy has been slow to catch on: there are only 3,000 Western Rite Orthodox in about 50 scattered parishes around the world. Even many Eastern Orthodox regard their Western Rite brethren as second-class Christians. But the Rev. William Schneirla, a top-ranking Orthodox theologian from St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York, argues that the Western Rite "is in some respects the most important recent enterprise of Orthodoxy." It gives force to Orthodoxy's claim to be a truly ecumenical church rather than a "tribal religion" and provides "a new instrument for the reawakening missionary thrust of Orthodoxy." Others believe that the new church may help preserve the faith for future generations of U.S. Orthodox who find themselves unsympathetic to the Old World culture and mentality of their fathers.

If only the Church had listened to "Rev. William Schneirla" (that's "Father Paul" to us). His words are as true today as when they were spoken -- given the multicultural melting pot of society, more so. Aspiring tribal religions will not long endure in this culture, and they will certainly never enlighten many souls within it; only a transcendent and charitable expression of the Catholic faith delivered to all nations and cultures can do that.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Western Rite or "Pre-Schism" Reconstructionism?

Subdn. Benjamin Andersen has made an excellent post out of comments posted by our friend, Fr. Matthew Thurman, on the Yahoo Western Rite Orthodoxy chat group. Someone asked about pre-Schism fasting rules, to which Fr. Matthew wisely broadened the discussion to the whole question of renovationism:
The logic goes that, somehow, everything in the Western Church before 1054 AD "counts" in the WR, but everything afterwards is "off limits" or "illegitimate." It's as if the mutual excommunications between the Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch (which were *personal* excommunications, not excommunications of entire Churches) somehow established this impenetrable barrier between the East and the West...[However,] There is the principle that liturgical devotional practices of the rite (including fasting) should not be a matter of historical reconstructionism, but following a living tradition.
Subdeacon Benjamin added:
We are simply Orthodox Christians (because we believe the Orthodox Catholic Faith) who, with the blessing of the Church, worship, pray and live out our Christian existence according to the authentic and venerable traditions of the Western Church, as they have come down to us. That's it, and all of it. Let the great internet theologians say whatever they want; we're just here trying to live out our Christian lives, rejoicing in the communion of the Orthodox Catholic Church, and thankful for the gift of our Western Rite expression.
The Orthodox Church did what She tells us She always does: baptizes acceptable parts of the culture in an area She is evangelizing. The Holy Synod of Russia, moreover, gave specific directions on the adaptation of the "Cranmerian" Liturgy of St. Tikhon for use within Orthodoxy (as did the Patriarch of Antioch). And with the case of the Liturgy of St. Gregory, nearly all the Mass originated pre-Schism in the first place.

This is stark contrast to either blindly accepting Protestant/Counter-Reformation piety, and choosing to revive some long-dead liturgy, according to the undocumented whims of lone figures here or there -- most of whom, as Subdn. Benjamin wrote, "are not actually Western Rite, and they have no experience of the worship and life of an actual Western Rite community." We accept the fulness of the Orthodox faith, and according to the Church, we express the fulness of that faith in our worship. We are brothers with every Byzantine Orthodox and long for the day we shall be united in faith with those who share our liturgies. It is not necessary either to be a Byzantine, nor an historical re-enactor to be Western Orthodox.

I end my post with the same words Subdn. Benjamin ended his: "Deo gratias!"


Guilt by Association...with Us

Anonymous Lutherans are taking aim our friend, Pastor William Weedon, because some of his words have appeared on -- gasp! -- Orthodox websites (like, say, this one). In defense of my friend, a reality check for his anonymous McCarthyite critics:

1. Pastor Weedon, to my everlasting regret, is still a faithful member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. If you doubt this, ask his District President. (While you're at it, show me the term "District President" in the Bible.)
2. Given the nature of the internet, one often finds his words reposted -- in full or in part, sometimes edited against the author's original point -- with or without permission. If they have been altered or has been posted against one's will, one can ask politely for a change or threaten to sue. Otherwise, if you're not selling those words for a profit, who cares?
3. As triumphalist as the LCMS is (and I know whereof I speak here), why not boast that we tongue-tied Orthodox had to turn to a Lutheran to act as our vox? Why aren't these critics just happy to have LCMS pastors quoted?

And why don't they leave our poor Lutheran friend, Pr. Weedon, alone?

WR Blogosphere Update

Our friend the Orthodox Okie has changed his blog address. The old blog, Orthodox-Okie, is still up for the time being. However, he is now moving to this address: Our links on the left-hand side of this page will shortly be updated to reflect this.

Incidentally, Ari has been reposting some of the "best of" posts from O-O on Paruchia, so as you view this new blog, you also get the joy of seeing some of his best insights of the past. Enjoy.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Most Unique Orthodoxy and Spiritual Sickness

More on The Most Unique Orthodoxy (TM) from on OrthodoxyToday. Dr. Bradley Nassif reminds us our preaching should be about Christ, or as the expression goes, we must "keep the first thing the first thing." Perhaps the most salient quotation in the article is:

We are obsessed with self-definition through negation. It is a sick religious addiction. We often shore up our identity as Orthodox by constantly contrasting ourselves with Evangelicals or Catholics. I wish we would talk more about Christian faith, and less about "Orthodoxy."
His point, of course, is not that "Orthodoxy" is not "Christian faith," nor that discussions of theology have no place in the Church. He is discussing the need for Orthodox "to possess a truly incarnational, trinitarian faith." To do this, "we will constantly need to recover the personal and relational aspects of God in every life-giving action of the Church."

One must question the profit of preaching about other churches, in order to distinguish oneself thereby; how some present Orthodoxy nearly as a Via Media. He may even be wise to examine the role pride plays in the disparaging of other Christians that invariably arises in the process. Whatever one's conscience may reveal, Christ is always ready to forgive through the grace-bearing ministrations of the Church. If we preached that reality, more Christians would avail themselves of these soul-healing medicines.

(Biretta tip: Huw Raphael.)