Saturday, March 22, 2008

St. Nicholas of Japan and the Western Rite

St. Nicholas of Japan, Equal-to-the-Apostles

Most of those conversant with the history of Western Rite Orthodoxy know of the approach American Episcopalians made to St. Tikhon (Bellavin) near the turn of the 20th century, asking to join the Orthodox Church while retaining some form of their liturgy. Most, too, know of the communication the Non-Jurors had with Orthodox hierarchy in the early 18th century. However, few knew that St. Nicholas of Japan, Equal-to-the-Apostles, had also responded to what he believed to be an overture from an Anglican church for unity.

I read with interest article entitled "An Attempt at Unity in Japan" by the Rev. Charles Filkins Sweet, which he wrote in 1912 about events that took place in 1909. Sweet served as secretary of the Anglican and Eastern-Orthodox Churches Union in Japan, where he represented the Nippon Sei Ko Kwai (The Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan). St. Nicholas of Japan became its vice president, representing the Haristos Sei Kyo Kwai (The Orthodox Church in Japan). At a meeting of the union, all members present, including St. Nicholas, vowed to pursue church unity, and Sweet wrote up an essay outlining the "variations and differences" between the two churches.

...And in time, an answer came from the Orthodox. By Sweet's account, St. Nicholas' judgment was "based upon the notion that I and my fellows sought for terms in order to make corporate submission--which was by no means our purpose." [1] However, thinking a corporate reunion were being proposed, it is worth noting the Rejoinder's disposition and terms.

Sweet writes that he prepared a paper on the subject of ministry, because:
[F]rom many conversations with Abp. Nicolai (St. Nicholas of Japan - BJ.) I was aware that the objections he made towards Anglican teaching gathered around the sacramental system; and they were quite practical, relating not so much to to the language or meaning of the English Prayer Book as to the practical apprehension in daily life by Anglicans of the need of sacramental grace.

...It is astonishing to see that the sole reason advanced for not making this recognition [of the "validity" of Anglican orders...and it was not necessarily the "sole" one - BJ] is the fact that the English Church does not teach unqualifiedly that there are seven sacraments. (Emphases added.)
In other words, St. Nicholas of Japan did not see the Book of Common Prayer as utterly corrupt and incapable of (some) use in the Orthodox Church, but he insisted those who join the Church share Her faith.

This spirit can be seen in the Orthodox response to Rev. Sweet's paper. A portion of the "Rejoinder on the Part of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission to the Paper of Rev. Charles F. Sweet" is included, the section dealing with — wait for it — Ordination. The Rejoinder asks if Orthodox should "say that [Anglican ordination] is invalid because of its different wording? No; I believe that such a conclusion would not be free from blame as a hasty judgment." Instead, the Rejoinder examines both the Prayer Book ceremony (external form) and the Anglican doctrine of ministry expressed by the 39 Articles (doctrine, or intent). It noted, concerning the Prayer Book rite of ordination, "We do not find that according to this discussion upon the general subject that there is any reason to disapprove the Holy Orders of the Sei Ko Kwai from the point of the external aspect of anshurei [ordination], or as regards the outward ceremony, which is the first part of the fundamental or necessary property of Ordination."

The trouble, the Rejoinder stated, is Anglican doctrine:
[W]e cannot find any classifications of sacraments among all the 39 Articles, except the declaration to the effect that there are two sacraments. Consequently anshurei [ordination] is not called a sacrament. Therefore those who may wish to interpret this Article in the purely Protestant sense would have no difficulty in so doing. Until then we find enough reason for interpreting this article in the former [Orthodox] sense and not in the latter [Protestant], the 25th Article will be a cause, preventing us, the members of the Sei Kyo Kwai [Orthodox], from believing entirely in the Holy Orders of the Sei Ko Kwai [Anglicans].
The Rejoinder showed familiarity with the still-prevalent retort that the 39 Articles must be interpreted by the BCP, rather than vice-versa:
[S]ome theologians of the Sei Ko Kwai assert that we must try to find the true meaning of the 25th Article from the Book of Common Prayer. Yet on what ground ought we, even by putting all due emphasis on the Book of Common Prayer, to lower the value of the 39 Articles? We can find no reason for making light of the Articles.
The Rejoinder concluded on this point, "the Articles remain as an inviolable doctrinal book." Noting the contrast, St. Nicholas is quoted as saying, "Is it not the same as to establish Holy Orders with the right hand and destroy them with the left?"

Rather than heed his advice, the Anglican author Sweet decided to lecture the Orthodox saint on Orthodoxy:
[I]n the first six or seven centuries the Easterns made no attempts to number the sacraments, and there was no traditional teaching on the point, except that St. Theodore of the Studium, who died in the early part of the ninth century, held that Christ instituted six sacraments...It seems probable that the present list of Seven was taken over from the West to the East.
So, he ascribed the saint's profession of seven sacraments to the "Western captivity"! Like some overzealous Orthodox polemicists — who learn that historically the Orthodox Church did not limit sacramentality to "The Seven Sacraments," and thus insist the Orthodox Church rejects the teaching that there are seven historical sacraments/Mysteries of the Church — Rev. Sweet decided to prove he was more Orthodox than the Orthodox (and a saint, at that).

From the remainder of the article, it is clear St. Nicholas insisted any recognition of Anglican orders in a future reunion would be contingent upon their embracing "the whole faith of the Church." This would be the standard for some time. Eighteen years later, Met. ANTHONY (Khrapovitsky) of ROCOR wrote that Anglican clerics could be received "in existing orders"if they became Orthodox. (Lest any Anglicans rejoice, that was a different Anglican church — and Met. ANTHONY writes, by the same canons, the same treatment could be accorded to Nestorians.)

It is noteworthy that St. Nicholas of Japan, in his contemplation of what he believed to be an appeal for "corporate submission," did not utterly reject either the concept of a Western Rite nor one based upon some version of the Book of Common Prayer. He did not demand Western converts become Byzantine Orthodox. He did not breathe a word about returning to long-dead liturgical forms carbon-dated from 1054 A.D., nor encourage pet theories about liturgical development of the "old Sarum" this or "reconstructed Gallican" that. One sees not a hint of the supposed "two approaches" to the Western Rite in this saint's approach to, again, what he believed was an appeal for "corporate submission." By his response, it appears St. Nicholas of Japan encouraged the development of a Western Rite using some form of the BCP. He was undoubtedly aware of the recent 1904 Russian Observations Upon the American Prayer Book. It would be of great interest to see if rest of this Rejoinder, or additional correspondence, were available, and if he made any reference to the eventual shape of the liturgical life in a future Western Rite Orthodox Church in Japan.

In the end, this "attempt at unity" did not materialize for the same reason as the other examples mentioned above: the Anglicans could not bring themselves to believe in the Orthodox faith. At least in reflection Sweet recognized:
Anglican writers have pressed the objectivity of sacramental doctrine (e.g., that it has a "valid" priesthood - BJ) too hard, and have been dry and formal--even mechanical. Valid ordination alone does not make a Catholic Church. The life of the Catholic Church is something infinitely richer and more various than the Episcopate. We have fallen into the way of dealing with the doctrine of the ministry as if, in proving we have the episcopal succession we prove that we have all we need in order to be Catholics. This is pressing sacramental doctrine beyond all reason, and making the religion of Christ a mere system instead of a gospel.
Had his church taken St. Nicholas of Japan's plea to broaden and deepen its apprehension of the catholic faith, it may have ended up as the second Western Rite church in history.[2] But it appears the Western Rite as practiced in the Antiochian Orthodox Church and ROCOR may have yet another heavenly intercessor.

. Sweet's essay is somewhat contradictory on this point, as he notes at his initial meeting with St. Nicholas, the Nippon Sei Ko Kwai agreed "our final purpose was unity, and...we all believed it was possible, possible even then." However, it seems the Anglicans envisioned "intercommunion" rather than unity on Orthodox terms. They also undoubtedly wished to receive another endorsement of the "validity" of their orders, recently denied by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Apostolicae Curae.

2. The first was Rene Joseph Vilatte's short-lived submission to Russian Orthodox Bp. VLADIMIR (Sokolovsky-Avtonomov) in 1890-1. That Western Rite Orthodoxy was ever associated with such unstable individuals as Vilatte and, later, Arnold Harris Matthews (and that both would apostasize shortly after their plea for "unity") is greatly to be lamented.

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This Blog Brings Peace with a Former Critic

Some may think, judging from the noise pollution of some hateful anti-Western Rite polemicists, that, should they have the temerity to speak publicly anything concerning the canonical Western Rite, they will receive only hatred and malice. That's why I was pleased to receive this response to my recent post "How Orthodox Saints Assessed Western Spirituality":
I really enjoyed reading this. I was once very zealous in persecuting post-schism devotions without any consideration other than "is it post-schism?" I've come to understand that this approach is too absolutist... too "Western" in some ways.

I would insist that imagination - in actual prayer - is to be discouraged. But, I think Archbishop Hilarion had a good point; a point which I had not considered, in fact. Now that I think about it, Russian Saints counseled that we use the imagination to "warm the heart" as a preparation to prayer. I think that, if we uphold the necessary distinction between imagination used in a limited and proper context as an aid to producing a prayerful spirit (rather than as prayer itself), we would do well.

I ask forgiveness for the times I have been too dogmatic in opposing post-schism things. I think there are still good grounds for being cautious with such things, and making sure that they are used correctly... but I have come to understand that more balance is needed on these matters.
To the man - indeed, now a monk! - who wrote this, I remember your zeal at "persecuting" devotions well! :) I'm glad we agree on a need for balance in this regard; if it was good enough for the saints, it should be good enough for us!

As to the use of imagination during prayer, as I recall we actually agreed on this point during our discussion/blowout argument about the Rosary a few years ago. I suggested meditation on the mystery under consideration prior to prayer, precisely as a means to "warm up the heart" as recommended by, e.g., St. Theophan the Recluse. (I may have used the exact phrase, but I forget.)

Balance is precisely what is needed. Whether we presently agree on the exact contours of this or not, I'm overjoyed that you wrote. I'm happy you have joined a canonical Orthodox Church body (the Greek Orthodox Church) and that you are serving God as part of a larger monastery. Thank you again, and may God save us together.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

One Down...

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, is retiring after 20 years.

The Crusaders established the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1099 as part of their self-imposed imperial kingdom. (Pope Urban II had launched the First Crusade to free Byzantines from Muslim rule, at the express request of Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus.) The Crusaders took the campaign as an opportunity to establish independent spheres of influence, complete with their own episcopacy. Their ecclesiology demanded the establishment of new patriarchates, as Orthodox bishops who did not recognize the Pope as head of the church and font of all holy orders were regarded as "schismatic." For centuries, most of the Latin "patriarchs" of Jerusalem were resident in Rome, but in the last 160 years, they have returned to the Holy Land.

Nowhere has this view of the episcopacy been taken to more extravagant lengths than in Antioch. The Crusaders established their own patriarchate a year before that of Jerusalem and appealed to the pope to personally take the throne. (What was to become of the current resident patriarch, H.H. JOHN IV, they didn't say.) Further schisms have fed the tangled web of overlapping Antiochian patriarchal claimants in communion with Rome. In the city where "they were first called Christians," one could find Roman Catholics under the leadership of:
  1. Melkite Patriarch Gregory III (Laham)
  2. Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir
  3. Syrian Catholic Patriarch, formerly Ignace Pierre VIII (Abdel-Ahad). He resigned in February and has yet to be replaced (to my knowledge).
There had been a Latin Patriarch of Antioch since the time of the Crusades (est. 1098), but the office was allowed to expire in 1964, having been vacant for more than a decade. What bearing that happy example may have upon the current Jerusalem vacancy, I'll leave to my readers to draw.

Readers may also be interested in a related post: "Why Not an Orthodox Pope of Rome?" (For the record, I wrote that in favor of appointing one.)

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Prayer for One's Enemies -- from Inside a Nazi Concentration Camp

St. Nicholai of Žiča and South Canaan

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Nicholai (Velimirovic) of Žiča and South Canaan, a Serbian Orthodox saint who reposed in the United States. He came here having spent a number of years being persecuted by the Nazis, ultimately landing as a prisoner in Dachau. It was about them that he wrote this prayer. In continuing our promise of last week, we are happy to reproduce the saint's words here; would that we could reproduce his sanctity, as well:
Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into Your embrace more than friends have.

Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.

They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.

They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.

They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself.

They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:

so that my fleeing to You may have no return;

so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;

so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;

so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;

so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;

ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore, bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands.

For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life.

Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.
St. Nicholas of Žiča and South Canaan (St. Nikolai Velimirovic)

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Off-Topic: News to Make You Cry, and Laugh

Orthodox News:

Ancient Irish cemeteries found in Camblin. A published description notes, "Burials were all in the Christian manner." Other ancient artifacts were also unearthed.

Nubia's Orthodox heritage in peril from Islamic jihad. Yes, contrary to Black Militant propaganda, Christianity is an historic religion for African-Americans. The National Islamic Front of Sudan wants to flood ancient Christian sites yet unexplored.

News to Make You Cry:
Secular Confirmation: Abstinence is Self-Defense.

And News to Make You Smile:
Maybe It's a Tiny Armenian Monk? (That's not intended as an insult.)

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Evangelism St. Patrick's Way

St. Patrick is remembered for being the Apostle to Ireland. There is today perhaps more study of missiology than at any time in the 1500+ years since his translation, yet there is no one alive possessing his stature or effectiveness. Richard Barrett's blog provides some answers as to why that may be. He begins by quoting Alden Swan, who in turn quotes Aaron Wolf, before I quote him. (Is that enough nested quotations?):

"Here’s what I can’t figure out: How in the world did Saint Patrick evangelize all of those Druid priests and clan chieftains without a mission statement? After all, history and tradition tell us that he walked around preaching and performed an occasional miracle. But how did he know what his mission was?" - Aaron D. Wolf, The Mission of Souls: When Experts Attack.

Alden Swan: […] Mr. Wolf raises some interesting questions and challenges to modern Evangelical concepts of evangelization and mission, contrasting the wisdom of being “purpose driven” to the pre-marketing (pre-modern) habit of simply proclaiming the Gospel.

Wow. What a concept.

Richard: This gets me thinking about something which has occurred to me before — I have to believe that liturgy is one of our better and more underappreciated evangelism tools. I guarantee you that St. Patrick wasn’t just walking around preaching and “performing occasional miracles” — he would also have been celebrating the Mass, with the Eucharist as his “mission statement.”

Indeed, one of the best-known episodes in his life involved lighting a Paschal fire in front of Druid priests, which led (after a showdown) to his being free to evangelize the isle of Eire.

Worship is evangelism, and attempting to separate the two, whether inside or outside the Orthodox Church, will lead nowhere.

(Hat Tip: Richard)

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Happy Name Day

I wanted to wish everyone at St. Patrick Antiochian Orthodox Church in Warrenton, VA, a happy name day! I know my wishes will pale next to those of H.G. Bp. THOMAS. According to St. Patrick's website, "His Grace Bishop THOMAS will be celebrating the Divine Liturgy with us on our Patronal Feast, Monday night March 17th begining at 7:00" (Eastern Standard Time).

This blog has been supportive of their journey from the Charismatic Episcopal Church into Orthodoxy, passing on good news about them as it became available. We're glad to have one more item to add, especially on their feast day.

A happy and blessed feast day to St. Patrick's, and "Many Years Master" to Bishop THOMAS.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Met. LAURUS, Memory Eternal

Met. LAURUS, right, with H.H. Patriarch ALEXY II of Moscow.

It is with greatest sadness I must note the passing of Met. LAURUS, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

A servant of the Lord who shepherded ROCOR in its principled opposition — and who manfully recognized when the time for that opposition had ceased. He then led his people through the painful process of reconciliation, and just lived to see its completion. There's much more to say, but I'm afraid I can't say much more at this time.

Requiescat in pace. May his memory be eternal!