Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Truth About St. Tikhon and The Liturgy of St. Tikhon

Fr. Matthew Thurman has taken up a long-running (and long-discredited) swipe some of our critics take at the Liturgy of St. Tikhon. Fr. Thurman notes:
One of those old war-horses of critics of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate that gets trotted out every so often concerns the role St. Tikhon had in the formulation of the "Liturgy of St. Tikhon." It is the assertion that "St. Tikhon never approved the 'Liturgy of St. Tikhon.""
He relates the history of how St. Tikhon's Liturgy came to be:
St. Tikhon (then Bishop of North America) was approached at one point by a group of Episcopalians interested in becoming Orthodox, but wanting to retain their Western services as embodied in the 1892 version of the American Book of Common Prayer. Bishop Tikhon forwarded a copy of this book to the Synod of the Russian Church with the request that they review its suitability for use in an Orthodox context in 1904. Their findings were written up as Russian Observations on the American Prayer Book.

An important truth. However, I'm afraid Fr. Thurman leaves out an important piece of the puzzle: the Observations issued in 1904 were not implemented during the three years before St. Tikhon was recalled to Russia, not through any lack of agreement or desire on St. Tikhon's part, but because the Episcopalians who had petitioned him had since lost interest (much as the Non-Jurors or Lutheran Tübingen scholars had centuries earlier).

Secondly, St. Tikhon was the ruling Bishop of North America when the inquiry was made (and later made Archbishop). As the highest-ranking Orthodox prelate in North America, it was well within his authority to simply tell the Episcopalians no if he did not approve of establishing a Western Rite using a modified version of the Book of Common Prayer; he needed no one's approval to issue a denial. He instead appealed to the Mother Church. In 1904, one did not simply e-mail the text; one had to ship the books — at great expense — over oceans. Yet he agreed to mail out a copy of the 1892 Book of Common Prayer, indicating his belief that, under the right conditions, it could be used in the Orthodox worship of God. He would have been intimately familiar with the book's contents, having visited many PECUSA churches, including St. Mark's in Denver (now part of the Western Rite Vicariate). Moreover, nothing in St. Tikhon's hagiography suggests that he was given to imposition. Although he was intellectually lively, he would not ask the Russian Synod to convene a multi-year investigation, during a time when the Church was coming under increasing anarchist and Bolshevik attack, just so the Synod could scratch his intellectual itch. The bishops provided the changes required for the BCP to be changed into an Orthodox liturgy, and there is no indication the saint asked the Synod to provide an answer he had no intention of implementing.

Those who retort "St. Tikhon never approved the 'Liturgy of St. Tikhon'" strongly imply this means that he had no desire to approve such a rite. Their use of this anti-Western Rite mantra conceals the fact that the saint took great pains to ascertain that such a rite could be approved and that, when he did so, it would be recognized by the Church as Orthodox. In other words, it ignores that he went out of his way to create the Liturgy of St. Tikhon, and without his efforts, there would be no such liturgy (which has since been authorized and celebrated within the Antiochian and Alexandrian patriarchates, ROCOR, and I'm told within the Moscow Patriarchate*).

Unfortunately, Episcopalians denied St. Tikhon the opportunity to establish Western Rite churches during the months after he received the Holy Synod's answer. As Fr. Thurman points out, for that matter, St. John Chrysostom did not "authorize" the "Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom" as we have it today; St. Basil did not "authorize" the "Liturgy of St. Basil"; as one reader commented on this blog, St. James did not "authorize" anything approaching the surviving recensions of the "Liturgy of St. James"; and as this blog has noted, it seems likely St. Gregory the Great did not "authorize" the "Presanctified Liturgy of St. Gregory the Dialogist." However, reasonable people are compelled to believe St. Tikhon favored the establishment of such a litugry, and that the Rite rightly bears his name. It seems clear St. Tikhon, in his loving, saintly, pastoral wisdom, would have welcomed such piety.

Fr. Thurman concludes his post with a plea for peace and tolerance; please just leave us alone and let us worship God as the Orthodox Church allows. "[P]erhaps we can now trot this old war horse off to the glue factory where it properly belongs," he implores.

For honest and reasonable people, this should set the matter aside. I fear he underestimates the irrational and intractable nature of some of the Western Rite's self-appointed detractors, for whom lashing the approved practices of the Church fills some kind of emotional void. Nonetheless, we can always pray, as our Byzantine brethren do, "Grant it, O Lord, grant it." Grant us that peace which the world cannot give. Through the prayers of St. Tikhon.

* - Information on the Moscow Patriarchate's Western Rite — including its existence — is kept deliberately vague. However, the celebration of St. Tikhon's Liturgy has been acknowledged by excellent authority.

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Blogger Abu Daoud said...

Greetings to all,

Here is my question about the Western Orthodox Liturgy of Saint Tikhon. I live here in the Middle East, though there are a great number of Westerners here in what is technically the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem. So I am wondering: it is permissible for Westerners to worship using the Liturgy of Saint Tikhon? Do we need to contact the bishop here? Or do we simply need to continue with the Byzantine liturgies used variously in the churches here.

And there are a number of Oriental Orthodox churches here in my city too, like the Syriac Orthodox which I visited this morning (see my blog) or the Armenian Apostolic, for instance.

Please post your thoughts, or is this is too far off the thread just e-mail me: winterlightning@ safe-mail .net

Peace and thanks.

3:56 AM  
Blogger Eric John said...

"Information on the Moscow Patriarchate's Western Rite — including its existence — is kept deliberately vague."

Ha! That's so Russian! As with missiles, they don't want to reveal how many liturgical forms they have in their arsenal. Be afraid, ye men of the West! You're little Voltaire can't save you from the Russian liturgical war machine!

6:52 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

As for the situation in the Middle East, that is a question for your bishops. If there are developments, please let us know.

Eric, now, now....(shaking head in disapproval). :)

God bless,

3:17 AM  

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