There are many objections to the Orthodox Western Rite. Many are founded on ignorance and can simply be either disregarded or educated away according to mood or circumstance, (such as the lady who flat out refused to believe that anything but the Byzantine Rite was ever used in the Church and tried to convince me that the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom was commonly used in England prior to the Schism). Others do actually have some basis in reality and in genuine concern for the proper passing on and living of the Orthodox Faith and for the spiritual well-being of Orthodox people. These deserve more attention and ought to be taken on board to one degree or another. There are yet others which cannot be so easily categorised because their proponents see them as so self-evident that, in expressing them, they do not often go beyond a brief statement, expecting that this will be readily understood and agreed upon by all right-thinking people, (i.e. people like them). The truth is that this simply serves to further polarise already opposing viewpoints. Then listening stops as, due to human weakness, both sides become defensive and dig their heels in.
One example of this is the position that holds that the restoration of pre-schism western services for use in the Church is "liturgical archaeology". This sort of disparaging terminology may serve as a self-congratulatory mantra among those who already agree with each other but to those who remain to be convinced, it simply shows a lack of respect and a dismissive attitude. Reliance on such belittling expressions instead of actual reasoned and coherent thoughts also suggests a severe lack of confidence in a very weak argument. This may be an inaccurate assessment but it is precisely the picture painted by the way in which this is often presented.
So, let us examine the reasons why people perform this "liturgical archaeology".
There seem to be two main approaches to the Western Rite within Orthodoxy. Both of these approaches may be found in both the Antiochian and ROCOR Western Rite Vicariates. I do not claim impartiality here and, often to my detriment, I am far too outspoken. Therefore, it ought to be clear which approach is my favoured.
The first is to try to rehabilitate heterodox services and culture, bringing them back into Orthodoxy, taking that with which many western converts to Orthodoxy will already be familiar and making it acceptable to the Orthodox ear. I suppose this has a certain appeal to those who are very much attached to the externals of Anglo-Catholic or traditional Roman Catholic worship and wish to continue in these forms while entering the Orthodox Church - personally, I find it very difficult to relate to, despite having been similarly attached to Anglo-Catholicism in my own past. To enact this approach is very easy. What you need to do is to take services as they exist in heterodox, western churches at an agreed date of their most recent agreed general acceptability, (usually Anglican and/or Latin practice of the mid-20th century or some other arbitrary date), remove from them what is obviously incompatible with Orthodoxy, add to them the Orthodox elements that are obviously lacking, then place the results before a Russian or Arab bishop, persuade him that they are Western Orthodox services, and ask his blessing to use them.
Along with this approach often (though not always) comes the importation into Orthodoxy of practices and devotions from the post-schism or even post-reformation period, that are not entirely in keeping with the culture of Orthodoxy and which may even be the result of arguments between Catholics and Protestants in which we Orthodox had no part, which really do not concern us in any way, and which we perhaps ought not to be importing into our Church.
Now, let me make it clear that, whether I like it or not, this approach was given the blessing of the Holy Synod of Russia at the beginning of the 20th century, and those who use these forms of worship today are simply acting in obedience to proper episcopal authority within the Church. However, the Holy Synod's recommendations did not come without some reservation:
The examination of the "Book of Common Prayer" leads to the general conclusion that its actual contents present very little comparatively that clearly contradicts Orthodox teaching, and therefore would not be admissable in Orthodox worship. But this conclusion comes not from the fact that the book is actually Orthodox, but merely from the fact that it was compiled in a spirit of compromise, and that, while skilfully evading all more or less debateable points of doctrine, it endeavours to reconcile tendencies which are really contradictory. Consequently both those who profess protestantism and their opponents can alike use it with a quiet conscience. But worship which is so indefinite and colourless (in its denomination bearing) cannot, of course, be accepted as satisfactory for sons of the Orthodox Church, who are not afraid of their confession of Faith, and still less for sons who have only just joined the Orthodox Church from Anglicanism. If it were, their prayer would not be a full expression of their new beliefs, such as it ought essentially to be.And therein lies the main reason why there are those who eschew this approach in their own worship. Many are converts and for them, conversion means leaving behind a clinging to Anglican forms of worship and a full embracing of Orthodoxy, both internally and externally. That is not to dismiss those who, after some time, are able to do this despite using worship based on the forms of their past homes but rather to express that such forms of worship do make it more difficult for some people. For others, they are simply Western Christians who have embraced Orthodoxy and wish to worship God according to the western forms of worship used by the Saints before them, who walked these isles, who sang those hymns, and so forth. They have no desire to use eastern services, for they are western, and they have no desire to use adapted Anglican services, for they are Orthodox.- from the Russian Synod's observations on the Anglican Prayer Book.
The answer to this is to use existing Western Orthodox services, which is the second approach. These do not require adaptation or supplementation, for the most part, for...
...the west was Orthodox for a thousand years, and her venerable liturgy is far older than any of her heresies.These services exist, intact, with very nearly a full complement of prayers, music, and rites for the various parts of the Christian's liturgical life.-St John of Shanghai and San Francisco
Now, some tell us that western services have not been used in Orthodoxy for a millennium. Well, this is, of course, another objection with its basis in ignorance. The western rites of the pre-schism Church were not limited to use in the patriarchate of Rome and that patriarchate's persistent heresy and ultimate departure from the Church of Christ did not see the immediate disappearance of western rites from Orthodoxy. The most famous example of continuation of the Western Rite is perhaps the Amalfion Benedictine monastery that continued on Mount Athos until near the end of the 13th century but there were others in present-day Albania, Turkey, and likely elsewhere, (as indeed there were Byzantine churches in Italy). Up until the 20th century, a form of the western Mass of St Peter (the Roman Mass under the name by which it was known prior to the Gregorian reforms) survived among the Russian Old Believers. This was in a heavily byzantinised form (as was the case with other non-Byzantine Orthodox liturgies during their last days due to the gradual move toward uniformity of rite) but, nonetheless, there it was.
However, leaving aside for the time being the lack of accuracy of the claim, the general point seems to be that the western services have not been in widespread use within Orthodoxy for some considerable time and that any attempt today to resuscitate them is not the Orthodox way.
Well, I have to wonder about this. You see, one benefit that I find in the insistence on pre-schism services in the Western Rite is that they actually have more in common with the eastern liturgies than do those that suffered the eventual effects of the Schism and the Reformation, (see a few examples in my series of posts on ritual overlap, "from East to West"), both in terms of certain practical elements due to their common roots with the east and which they held before the later developments but, more deeply, in the catechetical and spiritually-uplifting richness of theology that they express. The troped propers of the early Sarum Mass are a direct equivalent to the troped daily and festal antiphons of St John Chrysostom's Liturgy, (which were anciently also used on Sundays and have been restored in the modern Greek tradition); the text of the Sarum hymn sung before the day Mass of Pascha is the very same text as one of the Resurrection stikhera at Matins in the week of tone 2; the Offertory procession in a Sarum Mass could easily be mistaken by a casual observer for the Great Entrance; and the thing that convinced a sceptical Greek friend of mine that the Western Rite was indeed Orthodox was reading the Sarum prayer for the blessing of the baptismal water at Pascha, and seeing that it is full to overflowing with the very same richness and super-abundance of the Church's understanding of baptismal regeneration and new life in Christ as can be found in the Trebnik. The ancient rites of the Orthodox west may not have been in widespread continuous use for some time but they are so full of the Faith that has been passed on continuously that, when they are used today, they fit like an old glove, with no evidence that the break ever occurred. If restoring these ancient rites to use is indeed liturgical archaeology, my question is: so what?
I'm afraid that it will simply not do to dismiss something with disparaging language and feel that this is all that is required to persuade thinking people that it is no good, and the onus is on those who oppose the use of these forms of prayer, embracing the words, music and faith of the Orthodox Saints of these isles, to show how they are not suitable for use by Orthodox people.
Those who go to church on Sunday morning are not called upon to be liturgicists or liturgical archaeologists, any more than the patient needs to be a medical scientist or go into the lab to be given medicine. The ‘finished product’ is nevertheless today’s worship; if they hear or join in texts that had been in an ancient manuscript, they need never suspect it, for all that is worth. These materials have been returned to use because they provide what was needed.I think that the point was well made by Bishop Jerome. The people who pray those rites only need know that they pray in an Orthodox fashion, expressing the faith and custom of the Saints of old and according to the Faith passed down for generations since then. The fact that the prayers and rubrics come from a book that may not have been used for a few centuries need not concern them, if they ever know about it at all.- Archpriest John Shaw (now Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, Vicar of the RWRV)
After all, how many people at the average Byzantine Rite parish know the roots of the various elements of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom? How many know which portions go right back to the man himself and which were only added a hundred years ago? Very, very few, I am sure. Discussing the worship of the Church, there are those who suggest that not a word has been added since earliest times and that we must preserve this by refraining from changing anything ourselves (for this would be innovation) or from restoring things that, for good reason, may have fallen into disuse (for this would be archaeology). I would ask such people if they truly suppose that St John Chrysostom included prayers for those who travel by air, or what their views are on the omission of "O Lord, save the king" from the Greek Liturgy when the Byzantine (Roman) empire was no more and there was no longer a king to save.
For three centuries before the Peace of the Church, the early Christians held to an understanding of the worship of heaven reflected on earth, but, due to external influences on the Church, they were unable to actualise it in their earthly worship until the persecutions ceased. Only then were they again able to freely adopt those elements of temple worship that are right and proper to the Christian offering to God but which had been out of use for 300 years. Were they liturgical archaeologists too?
I think that, after all of the scholarship is done, and all of the spoken words and rubrics are fitted together, the question need simply be asked whether or not these services pray Orthodox, whether they lead a person to true repentance and amendment of life, and to being imbued, as part of the Body of Christ, with the energies of God. If the answer is yes, then perhaps the result of the archaeology, if that is indeed what it is, has been the rediscovery of a long-buried treasure which has finally been restored to its rightful owners within the household of God.