Friday, July 06, 2007

The Excellence of the Octave

I've been meaning to post on this subject for some time. The commemoration of the Octave of Sts. Peter and Paul, in 2006, inspired me to write. I thought seriously about it after the Octave of St. Benedict and got closer during the Octave of the Nativity of the BVM. As today is the Octave of Sts. Peter and Paul, 2007, the topic again seems appropriate:

One of the elements of Western Rite worship I most appreciate is the existence of the Octave, the deliberate choice to extend the celebration of a given feast for the following seven days. Fundamentally, the Octave honors the saint or holy day by allowing it to impact the Office or Mass — to one degree or another — long after the clock says the observation has expired. The greatest feasts have a privileged octave, meaning the feast is so important its remembrance displaces the actual commemoration of any other feast that happens to coincide with it. Others interact differently with feasts that occur at any time during the intervening eight days. The fundamental principle, though, is that some events in the life of grace are so significant they should be remembered for more than one day. The kalendar offers a hint of this development, keying certain seasons from the great feasts, e.g., the 12 days of Christmas, the Sundays after Epiphany, Paschaltide, and the long season of Pentecost or Trinity (depending on one's relative position to the English Channel). [1]

In one sense, the Octave allows the Church's most preeminent saints and festivals to tower over feria days. They have ascended closer to God and from that ethereal perch cast their shadows over the following seven days.

In another sense, this is a triumph of God over the human fiction of time. God, the eternal I AM, is the One (and only) Being to stand "outside time, for time is only a form of limited being...For God, there is neither past nor future; there is only the present." [2] As Mother Gabriel said, "The Joy of Christ is found only in the Present, in the Eternal Present of God." We continue to offer our devotions in anticipation of the heavenly life, in which we will be occupied with nothing else.

This liturgical observation also serves a practical, pastoral function: it engraves into our consciousness the memories of our most outstanding fathers and mothers in the faith. My grandmother — free of every touch of senility until her death, Deo gratias — repeated things ad infintum, almost inevitably centered on family news or memories; occasionally, these would center around family friends I had not seen since being carried out of the maternity ward. So the kalendar points out the exploits of saints whose names we too often do not know (the much-forgotten Sts. Gervase and Protase [protomartyrs of Milan] or St. Saturninus, for instance). When the kalendar adds an Octave, the Church underscores the importance of remembering their martyria, the testimony of their lives. It is a form of spiritual rote-drill. It is the kalendar's way of telling us, "You can say that again."

This is a more pronounced feature of Western Orthodoxy than its Byzantine complement. There, great feasts have dates of leavetaking (apodosis); however, only four "third class feasts" — saints' days in Western parlance — are in this category, and their apodosis is always the following day. It's literally here today and gone tomorrow. In the West, Sts. Peter and Paul, Benedict [3], John the Baptist, Stephen the Protomartyr, John the Apostle and Evangelist, the Holy Innocents, Joseph, Laurence, and — as a catchall — "All Saints" receive an Octave.

In a transitory world of planned obsolescence, the Octave grows ever more important. God reminds us our "heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed" (St. Matt. 13:15; see also Acts 28:27 and Hebrews 5:11). We often need more than one day, more than one service, to appreciate the splendor of heavenly virtues and the benevolence of their Author.

May our observation of these sacred feasts, and the intercessions of those they honor, ever cause those virtues to take root in us and flower into the bloom of everlasting life. Amen.

1. The penitential seasons likewise anticipate most of these feasts.
2. Fr. Michael Pomazansky, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: A Concise Exposition.
3. On his solemnity, July 11th.

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Episcopal Visits

Next Sunday, July 8, His Grace Bishop MARK of Toledo will pay a (scheduled) visit to Holy Incarnation WRV Orthodox Parish in Detroit. (This after his surprise visit in May.)

Also, I am lax in reporting the first episcopal visit of His Grace Bp. THOMAS of Charleston Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission in Lynchburg, Virginia, June 9-10. This is the home parish of Fr. Alban Waggener, formerly Bishop Robert Waggener of a Continuing Anglican church. Holy Trinity's website has a page dedicated to the visit complete with photographs.

Many Years, Masters!


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Love from Our Critics

Some light and love from a persistent critic:
ROCOR has quite uncatholically failed to offer a pastoral provision for married Anglican Bishops seeking reunion, thereby raising inessential Orthodoxy canons to the level of dogma (that which is essential for communio in sacris.)

...your blogger maintains his position that Western Rite Orthodoxy (WRO), is simply not a viable option for traditional Anglicans seeking the authentic Orthodoxy and Catholicity of the Ancient (not Medieval) Church. Traditional Anglicans seeking Ancient Catholicity in their own cultural idiom simply will not find it in the philetism-plagued, ghetto Orthodoxy of today. (Grammar and spelling in original - BJ.)
This blogger also believes "a third approach, not yet offered by Orthodoxy or Anglicanism, is needed for any usable and edifying Orthodox-Catholic English Use." His message seems to be there's not much one can do to further one's spiritual life but read our critic's blog and await further instructions. One wonders if he's given wider consideration to the spiritual perils of remaining out of communion with Christ's Body, the Orthodox Church? Is the devotion to Christ and the catholic ecclesia He founded or to a certain, self-selected form of prayer? Does he believe the Church would give its children a serpent for a fish and a stone for bread?

For the record, ROCOR, along with every other canonical Orthodox jurisdiction, allows married bishops to be priests. The ancient Western Orthodox tradition demanded priestly celibacy earlier than the East began selecting bishops primarily from the monastic life. It's hardly out of the question to ask those who join the Orthodox Church to abide by Her (long-standing) canons. Bp. Robert Waggener gave up his episcopal status to join the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate. Likewise, Antioch did not receive the founders of the Evangelical Orthodox Church as bishops. Such a demand wouldn't be too onerous, if one's goal was unity with Christ's Body, the Church, rather than an authoritative and magisterial position within same. Ultimately, we must come to Christ empty-handed in a spirit of humility.

And ghetto is totally in. Word.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Another New Mission: Sts. Peter and Paul AWRV, Hot Springs, Arkansas

Fr. John (Denzil) of Sts. Peter and Paul Mission, Hot Springs, AR.

When it rains, the Holy Spirit pours!

I'm a little late in wishing a heartfelt Axios! to Fr. John (Denzil). Formerly of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, Fr. John was ordained priest of the newest Western Rite mission: Sts. Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church (Western Rite) of Hot Springs, Arkansas on June 24. (I've had my eye on the excellent blog, Journey to Orthodoxy, for some time, which is largely about this group's journey. Go to the blog for pictures.)

May God save us through Fr. John's prayers. May He bless their congregation through his service, and may He continue to lead many into the Ark of Salvation, our Holy Mother the Orthodox Church.


How Many Recent Western Rite Missions?

On this post Fr. Andrew asked, "How many new parishes of the AWRV [Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate] have been formed in the past couple years?" Taking a quick count off-the-top-of-my-head from the last few months:

Update: Eric Jobe comments, "There is another one in Jacksonville, TX, though I know nothing yet about it. They will be working with St. Paul's in Houston to get started. I believe they are also from the CEC." Thanks, Eric!

I believe this is more than any time in the past several years. Additionally, there are other CEC parishes in the reception or discernment process, and of course there are talks with others yet.

We have much to be thankful for. Deo gratias. May God continue His loving favor in leading souls to His Holy Church.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Oklahoma City: Here Comes the Western Rite

The former Charismatic Episcopal Church in OKC is forming a Western Rite parish now. If you are in the OKC area and are interested, please contact St. Elijah Antiochian Orthodox Church for more information. I had read it would be known as "St. Cyril" WRV Anticohian Church, but Fr. Theodore says it will instead be known as "St. Andre the First Called." But a rose by any other name....

The last 12 months have been a time of explosive growth for the Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, Deo gratias!