Friday, October 17, 2008

From the Mailbag: Occidentalis Misleads About Dom James Deschene's Office

Q: On the Occidentalis Yahoo Group, the moderator wrote (on October 2, 2008) that Dom James Deschene uses the modern Benedictine office. He wrote that ROCOR approves the:
Tridentine mass. An edition of this service is used at Christminster (Christ the Saviour Monastery) in Hamilton, Ontario, and at the Western rite services done in Oklahoma City. I think the accompanying divine office is the modern Benedictine one, at least in the case of Christminster. (I'm not sure what form of WR divine office Fr. Anthony uses in conjunction with mass).
He contrasted this with "the pre-Reformation Benedictine Office." Does Christminster Monastery really use the modern, post-Novus Ordo Benedictine office?

A: Dom James M. Deschene, hieromonk, certainly does not use the "modern Benedictine" Office, as this individual falsely claims. The Order of St. Benedict in the Roman Catholic Church updated its Liturgy of the Hours following Vatican II and Novus Ordoized them. Neither Hieromonk James Deschene nor anyone else at Christminster Monastery, nor at its attached chapel, has anything whatsoever to do with the "modern Benedictine" office.

This is hardly unknown. I posted on this blog more than two years ago that "in addition to being the unbroken observance of the AWRV, Fr. James Deschene of Christminster Monastery in RI prays these hours." Nor has anyone associated with Christminster been other-than-forthcoming about this fact. Christminster's website notes, "the Hours of the Divine Office - the Work of God as St. Benedict calls it - are sung in chant according to the arrangement he himself set forth in his Holy Rule in the fifth century, and thus the monastic Office is one of the oldest forms of the Hours still in use."

The Breviarium Monasticum is the ancient form of the Benedictine Office, and its structure could be reconstructed by reading St. Benedict's Rule. Somehow, the moderator of the Occidentalis Yahoo Group transformed the most ancient office into "the modern" office and pinned it on Dom James. As noted, the same individual has fibbed on the same group that "Fr. James Deschene of the ROCOR in the U.S. inserts the Litany of Peace (from the Byzantine rite; "In peace let us pray to the Lord," etc.) straight into the middle of his Tridentine Liturgy." (This, too, has been pointed out as false, both here and several times on that group. If this has ever been specifcially retracted, please let me know.)

I also know Dom James does not like the label Tridentine for the simple reason that, for most people, it suggests a late usage, and that is not an accurate view, either of his use or of the Tridentine use. (He is, as usual, correct. See these two posts about attacks on the so-called "Tridentine" Mass's history and liturgics from the same source.) In fact, I know Dom James is a fine traditional Orthodox priest, who has served many long years in ROCOR, and he disdains any form of liturgical modernism or tinkering by self-appointed "scholars."

I am uncertain of the Hours Fr. Anthony Nelson of St. Benedict Orthodox Church (ROCOR) in Oklahoma City celebrates, but we wish him every success, and pray he too is not further maligned or misrepresented by members of this group. (One of its members has implied not so long ago that, due to his bi-ritual church's setup, his Eucharist was invalid and "would seem to make certain implications about the validity of Western Rite Masses in ROCOR." The moderator responded that he was "not so certain anything is implied by this placement of the altar," that Fr. Anthony thought his masses were valid, and this was an "analogue to this placement of the altar (i.e., 'altare' or holy table) in late mediaeval practice on the eve of the R/Deformation" that reflected "the context of the post-mediaeval Roman church.")

Thank you for bringing this misinformation to light. That individual's post displays either ignorance or malice toward canonical Western Rite Orthodox — in this case a long-serving hieromonk — which has long been a hallmark of many of that group's posters (except when it temporarily suits their purposes to tone things down or clam up for awhile). In general, that group is a terrific place to stay away from. As Dom James has written about these provocations, "God save us from 'liturgical wars'!"

This continued misinformation about ROCOR Western Rite monks shows, the "negative campaigning" against other Western Rite Orthodox continues. For shame.

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