Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Perils of Self-Determination

Fr. John Fenton has a depressing but illuminating post about Lutheran Platonism -- that is, the belief prevalent in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod that a Luthero-Baptist and a Luthero-Catholic can equally express "Lutheranism." Although he writes from one background, his words apply to a wide spectrum of denominations -- Episcopalians, traditional Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, and even (perhaps to his horror) ELCA Lutherans.

Fr. Fenton notes his parish is High Church -- he prefers the term "Western Catholic" -- because "they determined to be, self-consciously, an historic liturgical Lutheran parish." He notes:
[T]his is not as it should be. One should not be traditional, liturgical, sacramental, catholic (or whatever other adjective you wish to use) because one has determined to be such. Rather, that is what the Church is, and so that is what you are to be--by definition, not by decision.
In other words, the Church should nurture this environment for every child to spring from Her spiritual womb. No denomination should merely allow one to be an historical, traditional, orthodox, liturgical Christian. As history doth ever teach us, those denominations that permit exceptions to traditional faith, order, or morals soon find the exception becomes the rule -- and the normative rule becomes verboten.

This leads to a few conclusions:

1. Truth is a higher ecclesiastical good than peace found at the lowest common denominator. To be sure, differences in style give no scandal to the Church, but if a denomination is sufficiently "diverse" to make an historical Catholic churchmanship a matter of self-determination, perhaps that is altogether too much libertas in dubiis.
2. Our frailty must humbly acknowledge the need for the Church's guidance. As Fr. Fenton asks, "when 'swimming against the current,' who's to say that you're actually swimming the right way?" The misguided Protestant ideal of anointing every man his own Pope works nearly as well in the ecclesiastical order as anointing every man his own Sovereign works in the secular. We are all-too-human, too far from apatheia ("dispassion") to know the right way, perhaps even to discover it. Our passion-riddled lives require a guide from cradle-to-grave (and beyond!), from pronouncing our first Paters and Aves to mumbling our last.
3. Much of Protestantism is a house of cards. Elizabethan settlements, or truces between "confessional" Lutherans and pietists, inevitably unravel at some point, when one party imposes its will upon another. All the while, the world, the flesh, and the Devil are inconspicuously asserting their own will upon us all. This divided house cannot long withstand their unified assault.
4. The self-determined effort could be better applied. I am by no means diminishing the work so many do to assure their parishes worship in an historical, Catholic manner -- nor the reward God has laid in store for them. I merely mean struggles against the tide of one's church home are praiseworthy, but synergistic struggles with the tide of one's Church are more productive.
5. Even a "nice" church may be worth leaving. If your heart worships in the Orthodox-Catholic manner, and your denomination does not, you have already left. Perhaps it is time to reunite your heart with your body in His Body, His Bride, and our Mother.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Why Do Anglicans Always Look to Rome?

When Episcopalians and other Anglicans become disgruntled with Arch-druid Frank Griswold, et. al., why do they always look to Rome? Dom James Deschene has a more fruitful suggestion for those wishing to leave Canterbury's heresies:
Rather than realigning with Rome at this time, disenchanted and disenfranchised Anglicans have been given a rare opportunity to "go all the way" and return to the original Orthodox church of the English peoples. Providentially, God has prepared the way for them by restoring within present-day Orthodoxy a familiar Anglican liturgy and western rite. Never has it been more possible for Anglicans to "come home" to that true and venerable and familiar Anglicanism of their earliest fathers. That home, grounded on unshakable dogma and firm scriptural faith and tradition, is the true Anglican Church as it existed before the Reformation, before the Great Schism. It is to that faith and tradition that Rome itself needs to return if it is to be truly itself and truly catholic.

This may not be a message new Romans wish to hear, but 1) their philo-Orthodox brand of Anglicanism may have been closer to the apostolic faith doctrinally; and 2) now that they have gone through all the disruption of swimming the Tiber, they have still farther to go. However, those truly dedicated to Our Lord will follow wherever He leads.

The Family of God

What does a good Western Rite Orthodox parish look like?
We should look like a family, a loving, caring, family. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy mind and with all thy soul and with all thy strength, and thy neighbour as thyself.This 'being a loving family' is easy to say, far harder to actually do. It is something which has to be consciously discussed and decided by the congregation. We have to become enthused with the idea that we are a family, that a family of God cares for each member of the family.

...People (both within the family and outside it) should instinctively know that we care without our forcing it upon them. They should feel that they are included without worrying that anyone will interfere. More than that however, it should be apparent to outsiders that here, they will quietly but surely get the spiritual assistance that they need.Building ourselves into genuine families can take time and it isn't by any means easy, and more than building a normal mother-and-father-and-children type family is easy. It takes love, care, judgment and work. The point is that a true Christian Parish family is the only thing that attracts outsiders to Christ.
-- Father Michael, Saint Petroc Magazine, Vol. III No. 2, July 2000.


A Treasury of Great Articles

If you haven't visited Paruchia, you simply must: it is a treasury of outstanding articles on Western Rite Orthodoxy written primarily by ROCOR priests located in monasteries on opposite sides of the world. Dom James Deschene is a very holy Benedictine priest at Christminster Monastery in Rhode Island. Fr. Michael of St. Petroc Monastery in Tasmania has a tireless missionary heart. Both have written moving articles about Orthodoxy, which you should not miss.

Our friend Ari Adams is dedicated to the English usage and follows ROCOR's WRITE practices and customs. He's doing valuable work collating and publishing these. We will be ripping off preserving the best of these for posterity on this blog.

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For Our Francophones

Those who speak French should check out this new blog dedicated to Saint Materne. The blogger, apparently a Western Rite Orthodox from Belgium, looks very interesting. Enjoy!