East Good: West Bad! - In defence of the Western Rite

Below is something I posted in response to the comments of a seemingly ignorant priest on another website. I don't think I would have been quite as bothered by what he said if it weren't for the fact that he proffered no reasoning whatsoever for his dismissal of the WRite, and it just seemed to be born out of fear of the unknown, or the idea often come across in some Orthodox circles that anything west of Byzantium is of the devil.

I doubt of the "western Orthodoxy" and its "western Rites" they are really a great fall for who practice it and this is demonstrated by its serial failures.

Most of those rites are not the true rites that existed before the Great Schism in West but a medley of all kinds of things that they didn't keep any tradition with respect to Western Church previous to the Great Schism.

I doubt of the orthodoxy of these "western orthodox"

With the greatest of respect due another person and a priest, Father, I must disagree with both your sentiment and the (I assume unintentional) misrepresentation of the rites.

You would have been correct if you had said that none of the rites currently in use within WRite Orthodoxy are identical to the rites which existed in the pre-Schism Orthodox West. That is because this was never the intention, but I cannot agree with your statement that they don't keep any tradition of the Western Church prior to the Great Schism.

The point of the WRite is to restore the Orthodox Faith to the peoples of the western world using a litugical form that is accessible to them and faithful to Western Orthodox tradition. It is not about liturgical archaeology - resurrecting rites that died from use 1000 years ago. All liturgy develops and evolves. This has been the case with the ERite as well. The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom as served today is not the same as it would have been 500, 1000 years ago, and that is a living tradition.

What we have in the West today is many different Christian groups who have their liturgical and spiritual roots in developments on the classical Western liturgical shape that has its origins in Orthodoxy. We cannot resurrect the old pre-Schim rites because they are dead rites. They are not part of a living tradition with their own living spirituality and traditions as practised by the faithful. However, many, many elements of these traditions live on. For example, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer has its roots in the Sarum Rite, which is itself a development of the Liturgy of St John the Divine, which was the liturgy used in much of Britain before the Schism. Even this Liturgy of St John the Divine was done differently in various times and places. Different dioceses in England each had their own traditions, and practices, which were different from each other and from those on the continent. In Rome, the Tidentine Rite was used, which is another organic development of the pre-Schism Orthodox Liturgy. Yet all were Orthodox and all were united in the Faith of the Apostles.

What the WRite is doing today, is taking the surviving elements of those traditions - the ones which have remained practised as part of a living faith, and are perfectly consonant with the Orthodox Faith, and using them in the context of rites which are genuine developments of those which were used in the pre-Schism West.

How many Anglicans and Roman Catholics have I heard say that they would like to explore Orthodoxy further, if only it didn't seem so foreign to them, if only the esoteric liturgy were not so far removed from anything they know of Christianity?

I think the ERite is beautiful, but it does not speak to the British psyche in the same way that the WRite does, and if this is an unnecessary barrier to people coming home to the Faith, then there is no reason why we cannot use Orthodox Western Rites.

Rites like the Divine Liturgy of Sarum, the English Liturgy and the Divine Liturgy of St Gregory are all organic developments of the pre-Schism Liturgy of the West, which developed naturally over time, with their own traditions and piety. All we have done is to correct the very few doctrinal errors that had accrued over time.

(I must say that I have reservations about the Liturgy of St Tikhon, because it isn't an organic development but rather a piecemeal mix'n'match of rites with no traditions of its own. It is a valid Liturgy of the Church and so I would have no problem going to such a Liturgy but I wouldn't encourage its use. However, the others are true developments as the Liturgy grew in different places).

4 responses:

Ben Johnson said...

The basis for St. Tikhon's liturgy is the same as that of the English liturgy: the instructions of the Holy Synod of Russia in response to St. Tikhon in 1904. One added Roman ceremonial (where there had been none), the other added Sarum-onial (where there had been none). Both built upon different extant traditions of the Anglo-Catholic movement.

As for an historical tradition of crossing these streams, of course there is: St. Tikhon's Liturgy is a cross between what undercover RCCs celebrated in England on Sunday morning (when they were in the Anglican church by law) and in the cellar after the priests on the continent were more familiar with the 1570 missale...and before they were all drawn-and-quartered. :)

Michael said...

Thanks for this, Ben.

I was under the impression that the St Tikhon Liturgy was a combination of re-arranged texts of the Book of Common Prayer with supplements and propers from the Anglican Missal (which was nowhere authorised for Anglican use, and, as far as I know, was rarely used as the preference was for The English Missal), and, as you say, used with Roman ceremonial. This seems a highly odd combination of different traditions to me. As I said, I wouldn't have a problem going to this Liturgy, but I'd perhaps be a little uncomfortable if it were adopted as the norm at my parish.

At least the English Liturgy, while being largely a rearrangement of BCP texts, is supplemented with Sarum texts and Sarum ceremonial, in keeping with the Sarum roots of the BCP. It seems to me to find itself grounded in more of a solid and complete liturgical and spiritual tradition.

Have I misunderstood where these rites have come from?

Anonymous said...

It is a misunderstanding that the pre-Schism Anglo-Roman rites are not available or are dead or required "archeology". It has been available but required 'restoration" to its original Orthodoxy (eg, removal of filioque). see St Gregory's Press who has published many volumes of the Monastic Psalter http://holynameabbey.org/PressHome.htm For further comments on the WR see White Stone Journal http://orthodoxwest.info/blog

mr_ricarno said...

Oddly enough, I'm attracted to Orthodoxy precisely because of its alien-ness. I love the Eastern liturgies, and it would be a shame if Orthodox churches in the British Isles were to start using the Western Rite. It's the distinctive liturgical life of the Orthodox Church which I find so powerful and so attractive.

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