Monday, March 13, 2006

Western Rite or "Pre-Schism" Reconstructionism?

Subdn. Benjamin Andersen has made an excellent post out of comments posted by our friend, Fr. Matthew Thurman, on the Yahoo Western Rite Orthodoxy chat group. Someone asked about pre-Schism fasting rules, to which Fr. Matthew wisely broadened the discussion to the whole question of renovationism:
The logic goes that, somehow, everything in the Western Church before 1054 AD "counts" in the WR, but everything afterwards is "off limits" or "illegitimate." It's as if the mutual excommunications between the Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch (which were *personal* excommunications, not excommunications of entire Churches) somehow established this impenetrable barrier between the East and the West...[However,] There is the principle that liturgical devotional practices of the rite (including fasting) should not be a matter of historical reconstructionism, but following a living tradition.
Subdeacon Benjamin added:
We are simply Orthodox Christians (because we believe the Orthodox Catholic Faith) who, with the blessing of the Church, worship, pray and live out our Christian existence according to the authentic and venerable traditions of the Western Church, as they have come down to us. That's it, and all of it. Let the great internet theologians say whatever they want; we're just here trying to live out our Christian lives, rejoicing in the communion of the Orthodox Catholic Church, and thankful for the gift of our Western Rite expression.
The Orthodox Church did what She tells us She always does: baptizes acceptable parts of the culture in an area She is evangelizing. The Holy Synod of Russia, moreover, gave specific directions on the adaptation of the "Cranmerian" Liturgy of St. Tikhon for use within Orthodoxy (as did the Patriarch of Antioch). And with the case of the Liturgy of St. Gregory, nearly all the Mass originated pre-Schism in the first place.

This is stark contrast to either blindly accepting Protestant/Counter-Reformation piety, and choosing to revive some long-dead liturgy, according to the undocumented whims of lone figures here or there -- most of whom, as Subdn. Benjamin wrote, "are not actually Western Rite, and they have no experience of the worship and life of an actual Western Rite community." We accept the fulness of the Orthodox faith, and according to the Church, we express the fulness of that faith in our worship. We are brothers with every Byzantine Orthodox and long for the day we shall be united in faith with those who share our liturgies. It is not necessary either to be a Byzantine, nor an historical re-enactor to be Western Orthodox.

I end my post with the same words Subdn. Benjamin ended his: "Deo gratias!"



Blogger 123 said...

I would love to see more discussion concerning this topic of continuation in the Western Rite. This is the primary argument against a Western Rite that I have seen. "If the Holy Spirit let it die out and it was retained only in heterdox communions, then who are we to resurrect it? apostolic rites from other Eastern churches also went by the wayside". A thorough response to this would be very helpful, especially with a look at the history of other Orthodox rites adn how they went into disuse and were possibly resucitated.

Any plans for a Western Rite parish in NYC anytime soon?

7:45 AM  
Blogger Father Aristibule Adams said...

Contact Fr. Joseph Gentile - his group meets at St. Vincent's Hospital Chapel, NYC. Or did.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Eric John said...

Perhaps I'm out on a limb with this (no surprise), but just because a liturgical rite died out on earth, why would it die out in heaven? There are plenty of liturgical images in Scripture and the lives of saints about the heavenly liturgies, of which our earthly ones are but a reflection. For this reason, I don't think Orthodox rites ever die. Also, it wasn't necessarily the will of God that the rites should fall into disuse. A lot of times, it had more to do with human will--for better or worse. Earthly rulers (secular and ecclesiastical) were influential in the process as were historical events like conquests and genocide. What would the Holy Spirit have against a liturgy in which He had worked for so long? The logic is not comprehensible to me.

One could further argue that the Reformations (both the Papal of the late 11th century and the Lutheran/Protestant of the 16th century) abandoned (changed, edited, discarded), to degrees, the ancient rites. This is not to say that post-reformation liturgical rites are heretical and have no place in Western Rite Orthodoxy; that position, as a generalization, is indefensible. (The Sarum, Tihonian, and Gregorian Western Rite liturgies all have post-schism elements, but they are Orthodox because of their texts and, more importantly, because of their approval by Orthodox hierarchs.) Rather, it accentuates the Orthodoxy of the pre-Reformation rites, that they are part of the Orthodox tradition. Therefore, theoretically, they (the Gallican, Mozarabic, Ambrosian, Ephesian, East Syrian, etc. rites) are still usable, at the discretion of an Orthodox bishop.

2:09 PM  
Blogger D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

The post of my post was simply that the mission of the WRV has nothing to do with any scheme to "restore" defunct liturgical rites of the West. Some folks seem to be confused about this ("well, if they think only pre-1054 stuff is OK, then why do they have a Mass with Cranmerian elements?"). I'm merely trying to clarify.

Other versions of the Orthodox Western Rite seem to have this mission (e.g. the French Orthodox); we simply don't. I wish those folks the best of luck. If they think they can attract people that way, and their Bishops agree, then that's fine.

Theoretically, as Eric John said, some Orthodox community, with the blessing of their Bishop, could restore, say, the Mozarabic Rite. The only objections I would have to such a thing would have to do purely with practical considerations, rather than theological issues.

5:30 PM  
Blogger D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

Sorry ... "the POINT of my post"!

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dn. Benjamin makes a VERY good point.

When seperated groups reunited with the Orthodox Church, the practice has not been to uniformly "roll-back the clock" to before the separation. Rather, as much of the separated trajectory as possible is accepted and "baptised" by the reunification.

For instance, when certain Old Believers were recently reconciled with the great Russian Church, the Old Believers were not required to give up their (older) liturgical and para-traditions.

And I believe the Old Roman Pope instructed Theodore of Canterbury to adapt as many Anglo-Saxon traditions as possible in his (probably unnessary and duplicative) mission to the English.

8:28 PM  

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