Thursday, March 02, 2006

No, the REAL Criticisms of the Western Rite

So, I leave for a week, and all Tartarus breaks loose. Eric Jobe comments on our own page that we're somehow dodging the real Byzantine case against the WR, then Perennial Rambler let all WRO have it. (I'm told; his post disappeared before I got the chance to see it.) Perhaps before I move on to new material, I should tie up loose ends.

Thankfully, Ari has dealt with PR's old post; it should have also dealt with Eric's concerns. To give my own two cents:

Eric says we WRO spend too much time "trying to prove the [historical] validity of the WR," but we "seldom" spend any time "actually addressing the concerns that are brought up by its detractors." He cites opposition "primarily characterized" by three people: Met. Anthony of San Francisco, Bp. Kallistos Ware of Diokleia, and Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann. Of these, only one took an unwaveringly anti-WRV position throughout his life, and only one is still living on this terrestrial coil.

The late Met. Anthony (Gergiannakis) of SF, who went to his eternal reward in December 2004, focused his concerns precisely on the "historical validity" of the WRO. Fr. John Connely answered the late bishop's concerns at length in his paper "Lux Occidentalis."

As Ari pointed out, Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann had taught at the Western Rite seminary in Paris employed by L'ECOF students. Fr. Schmemann criticized a 1958 article by Fr. Paul Schneirla in The Word, but later the same year he joined Fr. Schneirla as a member of the original Western Rite Commission -- along with eminent Byzantine theologian Fr. John Meyendorff and Fr. Stephen Upson. Subdn. Benjamin Andersen noted, "[Fr.] Schneirla recalls [Fr.] Schmemann’s work in particular as being key, as he was familiar with the Liturgical Movement within the Roman Catholic and Anglican communions. Schmemann was particularly instrumental in joining together the separate Rites of Initiation of the Rituale Romanum – Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion – into one unified rite, according to the Orthodox understanding." Presumably, whatever concerns he harbored beforehand vanished during his work with the WRV Commission, as one does not usually promulgate ritualistic norms he hopes no one will ever use.

As for Bp. KALLISTOS, his latest statements on the WR don't match those in the first volume of The Orthodox Church, then written merely by "Timothy Ware." In the original edition, he lauds the idea of the Western Rite and seemed specifically enamored of the French Orthodox approach. By the time he issued his latest revision of The Orthodox Church, which contains 1-2 critical sentences about the idea of the WR, the attitude of his jurisdiction had changed toward L'ECOF. The WRV consciously chose not to duplicate their path. Bp. KAILLISTOS further states he is speaking only of timing, only concerning his native land (Great Britain), and he is only dimly aware of the practices of the Antiochian WRV in North America. However we -- and the many jurisdictions who have accepted the WRV -- may disagree, everyone is entitled to his own opinion; one is not entitled to his own facts, as Met. Anthony, Erica, and all (not some, nor even a few) of our current detractors wish to be.

One bishop does not "the Church" make; on the other hand, the Patriarchates of Antioch, Russia, Alexandria, Romania, ROCOR, possibly soon Serbia, multiple saints, and more than a millenium of shared Church History rather do.

If you are interested in "empirical evidence" about what it's like to worship in the Western Rite, let me give you a very Orthodox response: taste and see. Pray with us, join in the Gregorian chants with us, recite the ancient Western Orthodox prayers with us at every Mass, then "taste and see that the Lord is good." In addition to the abundant, verifiable "empirical evidence" proving the "validity of the WR," the Western Rite is also self-authenticating. Many, many Byzantines who have visited our churches have come to appreciate our practices, just as we appreciate theirs when we are traveling. If you want to get firsthand accounts of other people's reactions to the WRV, come and have your own, then you will understand something of the experiences our lifelong, faithful parishoners have. Like those Byzantine followers before you, you will find people happy to be Orthodox and overjoyed by their participation in these glorious liturgies approved by the Church.

None of which will matter to our hardcore detractors, motivated by misinformation or other concerns, though they are thankfully a minority. But they will not be able to misinform those who have personally experienced the WRV.



Blogger Eric said...

Thankfully, I might have a chance to do what you are saying- visit a WR church. I might be going to Dallas soon, which is home to two parishes.

5:06 AM  
Blogger Huw Richardson said...

Let me make the trip easier for those who (like myself) don't have a parish nearby (ahem. yet).

Use the WR pre- and post-communion prayers from the breviary. Try the daily office (or at least, compline).

These and other *unofficially provided* resources will soon be online (as soon as I can get my act together, that is).

7:30 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Subdn. Benjamin once said, "Texas could compete with Denver for the title of Fourth Rome." :) I hope you enjoy the visit. PLEASE let us know about it here!

4:59 AM  

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