Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Western Church vs. the Church in the West

Once in awhile, one will hear from a well-meaning but misguided Byzantine that the Western Rite is unnecessary; what we really need is more use of the Byzantine liturgy in English. These are not new objections. The late Jean de Saint-Denis addressed this issue in 1958, before he became bishop:
The Orthodox Church of France, of which I have the honour and the heavy responsibility of being the president, presents only one part of the canonical problem of the Western Orthodox Church in general. [Whether the Western Orthodox Church proves a true solution or not] depends in part [on] the future of the Western Orthodox Church...

2. Let us not confuse the Orthodox Church in the West with the Western Orthodox Church. The first, born of the political and economical "diaspora" (dispersion) is a phenomenon of our age, as new as ecumenism. We believe firmly that Providence has willed the "diaspora" in order to spread among the Western peoples the luminous message of Orthodoxy. We pay homage to those who, in the midst of the dispersion, have understood and responded to this call from above. However, to preach Orthodoxy is one thing, and to confuse the Church of the "diaspora" with the Western Orthodox Church is another. The Orthodox Church in the West, called to assist the Western Orthodox Church, can neither replace it, nor absorb it. The churches of the "diaspora"' are not abstract; willy-nilly, their nature is twofold: Orthodox on the one hand, Russian, Greek, Serbian, etc., on the other. Likewise their task is double: to live Orthodoxy AND to maintain their national inheritance...In truth, the Church is not only spirit; She has a body. She is not only spiritual life; She is an organization involved in the destiny of nations, in consequence of the Word who involved Himself freely in human history to save the whole man.

The Orthodox Church in the West is a vast problem, but it is not the Western Orthodox Church.

3. The initiative of celebrating the Eastern Liturgy translated into Western languages - French, German, that "youth which by the neglect of parents have forgotten their mother tongue, may not lose touch with their original Church" (official document of the Russian Emigré Church) is a laudable initiative but in no way touches the question of the Western Orthodox Church. That language is the spirit of a nation, that the Liturgy celebrated in the language of the people sanctifies and transfigures it, this is true, but only if this language expresses the marriage of eternal ideas with the genius of the nation...

4. Finally, the conversion of individuals or small groups in the West to EASTERN Orthodoxy does not amount to Western Orthodoxy, either. WESTERN ORTHODOXY IS THE REBIRTH, the restoration of the Orthodox Churches of the West. It confesses and proclaims the dogmas which the Churches of the East confess, those of Constaninople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Moscow, Romania, etc. It recognizes unambiguously that these Churches have remained faithful in their belief and in their tradition to the undivided Church. It is penitent for its historical sins and errors, but it asserts its apostolic past and the preservation of its spiritual, canonical, and liturgical heritage.

It is in the light of Orthodoxy that the Westerners want to solve THEIR problems, heal THEIR anguish, build THEIR Church, and through it bring salvation to THEIR nation. They are not satisfied to be Western on the secular plane; they want to be [Western] also on the ecclesiastical plane.
In other words, English-language Eastern liturgy is not converting the West; it is merely building a better Byzantine embassy: still foreign but now allowing more Westerners to defect. It is a long way from reclaiming the West for Orthodoxy.

(With thanks to Fr. Jack.)



Blogger Eric said...

Wow! Beautiful! That's what I have wanted to say, but never could find the words. Just wow!

7:40 PM  
Blogger Jean-Michel said...

Reposted to French :

ah non peut-ĂȘtre! :-)

holy saturday

6:34 AM  

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