Saturday, May 05, 2007

Preparation for Communion, East and West

One of my modest projects ("modest" because of my modest time and talents) is to demonstrate the overarching similarities of the Eastern and Western Rites. Along these lines, we've examined Holy Week devotions, Propers for the Nativity of the BVM/Theotokos, Prayers of Thanksgiving, depictions of the Christ Child and the Last Judgment, and even fasting. Today, we examine the prayers of preparation for Holy Communion. (I'm posting this on a Saturday by design.)

The priest and/or the people pray:

In the Latin tradition:In the Byzantine tradition:
O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Who, by the will of the Father and cooperation of the Holy Ghost hast, by Thy death, given life to the world, deliver me, I beseech Thee, by this Thy most holy Body and Blood, from all iniquities and from every evil. Make me ever obedient to Thy commandments, and suffer me not to be ever separated from Thee, Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the same Spirit, God, throughout all ages of ages. Amen.I believe, O Lord, and I confess that thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who didst come into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. And I believe that this is truly thine own immaculate Body, and that this is truly thine own precious Blood. Wherefore I pray thee, have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, of knowledge and of ignorance; and make me worthy to partake without condemnation of thine immaculate Mysteries, unto remission of my sins and unto life everlasting. Amen.
Let not the participation of Thy Body, O Lord Jesus Christ, which I, albeit unworthy, presume to receive, be to me for judgment and condemnation; but by Thy goodness may it be a safeguard and remedy both to soul and body, Who, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen....Not unto judgment nor unto condemnation be my partaking of thy Holy Mysteries, O Lord, but unto the healing of soul and body.

P (Elevating the Host). Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him that takest away the sins of the world.

All. Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

P (Elevating the Lamb).
Holy Things are for the holy.

All. One is Holy. One is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen. (occurs earlier in Liturgy.)

This is an overview; in both rites, the priest and people pray additional prayers (both during the liturgy and even the day before), which are in some cases more similar than these. However, these are the immediate, parallel prayers of preparation for communion in each of the Eucharistic liturgies. Due to my modest time (and talents), we focused on these to compare apples with apples and see...they're both apples!

One aside
: In the Antiochian Liturgy of St. Gregory, the priest prays these prayers (e.g., "Let not the partaking of Thy Body, Lord Jesus Christ"), then later the people pray the Byzantine variants next to them. (e.g., "Not unto judgment"). Given the high overlap, one wonders if it would not be more appropriate for the people to instead pray the historical, Western collect, at least in the second case — as the Western version is actually longer. :)

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Friday, May 04, 2007

A Patristic Prophecy of the Western Rite?

It's not, but it reads as though it were:

St. Sava
of Serbia

We are doomed by fate to be the East in the West and the West in the East, to acknowledge only heavenly Jerusalem beyond us, and here on earth—no one.

(Hat tip: Ephrem)

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

THIS Is What the Western Rite Is

This blog occasionally jokes and has fun. It often responds to contentious misinformation about the Western Rite, which ironically has been used as a club to paint it as contentious. Most often, it tries and fails to describe what the Western Rite of Holy Orthodoxy is all about: Orthodox doctrine, Orthodox worship, but Western ethos.

However, as the phrase goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." This video from St. Paul Orthodox Church (AWRV) in Houston, Texas, is a must-see. This is what the Western Rite is. It's not as good as being there in person, but perhaps it will transmit some of the holiness and joy of worship in the Western Rite. For anyone considering the Western Rite but who cannot visit a parish, this is the best five-and-a-half minutes you will ever spend in your life.

Fr. Petranek has done a spectacular job of welcoming the visitor and reaching beyond, to draw all viewers into the Holy of Holies his congregation enters every blessed Mass.

Two side notes:
1. There is an eloquent testimony of our friend Eric Jobe's role in bringing his parents to the Orthodox Church. I know he would modestly brush aside any compliment, but his father's words are high (and deserved) praise.
2. One of the altar servers who appears tangentially in the video is a man with a pony tail, not a woman. (Wanted to clear that up before rumors started percolating online from the usual suspects.)

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Jim McGreevey: Episcopal Priest?

Former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey isn't going to jail; he's going to an Episcopal seminary.

McGreevey has been accepted to study at the General Theological Seminary in New York, the oldest in the Episcopal Church, school spokesman Bruce Parker said Wednesday. Parker did not know whether the former governor wants to become a priest.

"Mr. McGreevey has been admitted to the master of divinity program and he will be starting in the fall," Parker said. "Where Mr. McGreevey goes with this is up to him.

...His estranged wife, Dina Matos McGreevey, has demanded that their 5-year-old daughter not be allowed to receive communion in the Episcopal Church because she is being raised a Roman Catholic.

Ordain a disgraced, openly gay, scandal-ridden, potentially office-abusing, adulterer? It's in keeping with everything they've done of late.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

An Ecclesiological Pascal's Wager

Yes, this is firmly tongue-in-cheek:

I believe everyone could and should be firmly convinced by the Orthodox Church's ecclesiological claims: that She is the One True Church founded by Jesus Christ. If an Orthodox Christian becomes convinced the Roman Catholic Church is that Church, then I'd counsel him to reconsider and read our theology. If at last he could not accept our Church, then he should make an ecclesiological Pascal's Wager:

If he is right that the Papacy is all it claims to be, he is not excluded; since Vatican II, and particularly under the current Pontiff, the RCC considers Orthodoxy a "true particular church" with valid sacraments and orders. The Vatican has a view that Orthodox, in a nutshell, are too dumb to realize we're really part of their church.

If he is wrong (as I believe they are), he is renouncing the true Church and apostasizing. As St. Theophan the Recluse said, "You ask, will the heterodox be saved... Why do you worry about them? They have a Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins... I will tell you one thing, however: should you, being Orthodox and possessing the Truth in its fullness, betray Orthodoxy, and enter a different faith, you will lose your soul forever."

If nothing else, weigh those two outcomes in the balance, then make your decision.

(End naughty jesting.)

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An Ex-Orthodox on "The Journey Home"

I never watch the program, but my ears perked up last week when I heard the guest on EWTN's "The Journey Home" Monday night would be a former Orthodox Christian. Out of concern about what might make an Orthodox convert to Catholicism, I tuned in. As it turned out the man in question, Dn. Joseph Pasquella, is in fact a former Antiochian Orthodox deacon.

Baptized Roman Catholic, he joined The Way International before being inspired by the writings of the Evangelical Orthodox. He then took the St. Stephen's Course, became a deacon, and founded a Byzantine mission in Cape Cod. Then at some point, he felt he had to convert and, after being laicized, became a Ukrainian Catholic deacon and ignorance about the Western Rite may have been a contributing factor.

I wasn't terribly impressed with his presentation. (E.g., he couldn't pronounce "Akathist." He appeared on camera wearing a business suit and a priest's pectoral cross, then gave a priest's benediction. Etc.) I was edified that during this program, aimed at stealing misleading converting Orthodox to the Roman church, many questions came in about Orthodox faith and practice: icons, the Jesus Prayer, our view of the Pope, facing liturgical East, etc. As the Bible says, "You thought evil against me: but God turned it into good, that he might exalt me, as at present you see." Genesis 50:20 (Douay-Rheims).

However most importantly, after watching his testimony, I'm still not entirely certain why he felt he had to leave Orthodoxy and join the Roman church. At one point, he spoke highly of the book Jesus, Peter and the Keys. (I read it and left decidedly unconvinced.) He also alluded to his aversion to not having "a court of last appeal" at the Vatican. (Guess he never heard you could appeal to the Patriarch or the Holy Synod of Antioch; I actually know of someone who did so. Successfully.)

The pivotal moment in his leaving the church seemed to be an episode that occurred as he was lying in bed during an illness. He said he was moved during a televised Vatican service when Pope John Paul II looked at the camera — "I felt like he was looking directly at me," he said and declared, "The Church must breathe with two lungs: East and West."

Which raises the question: was he motivated to leave the Orthodox Church because he believes it only celebrates one liturgy, an Eastern one, and a truly catholic Church must also be Western? What if he had known the Antiochian Church (and ROCOR) have a Western Rite? Should the Evangelical Orthodox who helped him form his mission have told him about the Western Rite? Would knowing about the Western Rite have changed his mind, or slowed him down enough that he might reconsider leaving the Orthodox Church (with all the consequences that brings)? And is he alone in his sentiments?

As I mentioned, he was too inarticulate to ascertain. But these are questions every Orthodox Christian, especially those in positions of leadership, should consider carefully.


Robert Webber, RIP

I'm saddened to report that author and lecturer Robert Webber, the pioneer of "Ancient Future Worship," has passed away. Here is an obituary from Northern Seminary, where he founded the Institute for Worship Studies (which now bears his name).

Webber was known in those circles for his advocacy of more traditional forms of worship. His book and program, Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail, brought many "snake-belly-low" independent Christians into the Episcopal Church, pre-1979. I know some of these "Bob Webber Episcopalians" made their way into Orthodoxy (usually in the Byzantine rite), whether Antiochian or otherwise.

Webber did not enter Orthodoxy (nor, as some of his followers did, Roman Catholicism), because he seemed more than content as an evangelical. I was never terribly comfortable with his call for evangelicals to adopt, add, or amalgamate older worship patterns into their hymnfests and sermon-a-thons. Webber, who understood the mechanics of worship, seemed never to confront the fact that those varying ancient rites 1) were not "adopted" for human convenience; 2) were not intended to be adapted to human whim; and 3) were inextricably tied to a theology and ecclesiology with which they were meant to be accepted in toto. Evangelical Protestantism may well beautify its worship with bits-and-bobs of ancient liturgy, but ultimately it leaves the pastor in a position of absolute autonomy in matters "liturgical" and theological.

Shortly before his death, Webber admonished evangelicals to rediscover “the faith articulated by the consensus of the ancient Church and its guardians in the traditions of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, the Protestant Reformation, and the Evangelical awakenings,” as though these bodies were interchangeable. (This has been much analyzed elsewhere.)

However, in the theological and doxological fog of 20th century Evangelical Christianity, Robert Webber raised a vital standard for his Christian brothers and sisters: make worship, not education or infotainment, the central component of your church service. In that capacity, he deepened the spiritual lives of many, reintroducing them to parts of their lost heritage. Orthodox must now give his followers "the rest of the story."


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A High Honor for this Blog

Wow! The Prophet Mohammed himself has linked to me. If you haven't visited this satire website, it is all very un-PC.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Christminster Monastery Moving to Canada

(Dom James M. Descehene sent out this notice today. We wish him well in his move and thank Reader Polycarp for his beneficence. His generosity in time will undoubtedly be repaid in eternity. -- BJ.)

To all friends and benefactors of Christ the Saviour Monastery:

As all of you know, our existence as a western-rite Benedictine community within the Russian Orthodox Church has not been without its struggles. It has only been by the grace of God, the gift of patience, and the prayers and support of our friends and benefactors that we have managed to endure through the past thirteen years.

In 1993, under the loving oversight of Archbishop Hilarion (then Bishop of Manhattan), our existence as a canonical entity separate from the Orthodox Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Royal was formally established. Since that time we have lived in Pawtucket, Cranston, and finally in Providence, in the small house that contains our worship and living space. At the time this was adequate for present needs, but it allows no room for growth in new monastics or the reception of guests or retreatants. We have received men and women as extern oblates, and we treasure their prayerful support. But the true growth of a monastery is measured in its professed monks, and we have not been equipped to seek such growth. We have had to turn away a number of inquirers or encourage them to become Oblates as a temporary measure.

Now, thanks to the vision and material help of some benefactors, we have been invited to move to Ontario, Canada, in the city of Hamilton. Here the vision and efforts of Reader Polycarp (Robert) Sherwood have built the Oratory of Our Lady of Glastonbury. In looking to staff this mission, Mr. Sherwood turned to us, inviting us to move into a monastic building adjacent to the Oratory - a building that he has purchased and is refurbishing precisely to suit the needs of a growing western-rite Orthodox Benedictine monastic community. This is to be the new home of Christ the Saviour Monastery - Christminster - with the Oratory serving as its monastic church.

Generous support for this work is being provided by Mr. Sherwood, Fr. John Connely and the parish of St. Mark's in Denver, and the Saint Lawrence Trust. Archbishop Hilarion graciously obtained from Bishop Gabriel, whose episcopal oversight includes Eastern Canada, a blessing for this move. Further encouragement for this mission has come from Bishop Basil of the Antiochian Diocese of Wichita, and from Father Paul Schneirla, Vicar for the Western Rite in the Antiochian Archdiocese, and a long-time friend and supporter of Christminster's work. All of these have recognized the spiritual value to western-rite Orthodoxy of a fully functioning monastic community in the ancient Benedictine tradition.

We anticipate moving sometime in late 2007. In the meantime, much work needs to be done, both in disengaging ourselves from our present monastic home and in readying our future home in Canada. We ask the prayerful support of everyone during this time, with its inevitable disruptions and adjustments.

Among the most difficult aspects of this move will be leaving behind very dear friends and supporters here in Rhode Island and the New England area. Our wish would be that everyone near and dear to us could just move with us so we could maintain these wonderful relationships. God seems to be calling us out of a comfortable and familiar world into a hopeful but unknown future - not very far away, to be sure, but within an unfamiliar culture and in a new country. It is always difficult to uproot oneself, but especially so as one grows older and tends to prefer stability and avoid change. Indeed, Saint Benedict calls us to stability even as he directs us to hearken to God's voice calling to us. It cannot have been easy for the patriarch Abraham to begin, at an advanced age, his journey of faith, leaving behind the old familiar world. But he is the icon to all of us of heeding the call of God, at whatever cost, and welcoming it as the only wholesome choice to be made. With Abraham, we believe that God, in calling us into a new path and a new place, will remain present and faithful, guiding us, as he has most assuredly done over the years.

We ask of all our friends and benefactors your continued prayers and support for our mission, and for an increase in vocations to the monastic life in the western-rite Orthodox tradition of our holy Father Saint Benedict.

The Rt. Rev. Dom James M. Deschene
Abbot of Christminster
Providence, RI

May 2007

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