The Western Rite Orthodox concept has been around for about 100 years. Not to be confused with the Eastern notion that the west “used to be” Orthodox prior to 1054 (but no longer is) when I speak of WRO, I mean to discuss the movement to create parishes worshipping according to traditional western styles under Eastern Orthodox bishops.
Like Eastern Catholics who are Easterners in communion with the Roman See, the broad idea here was that these folks would be Latins in communion with Orthodoxy. The main reason and focus for this sort of effort has often been to accommodate Anglicans and Ultrajectines and Catholics.
The history of WRO has been an interesting one. A good deal of the finer points of its creation and authorization have been hotly disputed by the concept’s defenders and detractors. Opinions vary on the wisdom. indeed the very “Orthodoxy” of this movement both by non-Orthodox and Orthodox, Easterners and Westerners alike…
Debates have raged over whether their should be any attempt at a Western rite, (some feeling it is devisive in creating an additional subset in the west among Orthodox who are already divided by jurisdictionalism, others feeling it is a legitimate way to “grow Orthodoxy”. Others have raised issue with the most commonly celebrated liturgy – a version of Cramner’s BCP….
In the past decade there has been a rise in interest in the idea of WRO – especially among Anglicans, Continuing Anglicans and some ex-CEC folks. Some have decided to pursue Orthodoxy through the Western Rite…
Last month this issue came up on the On Our Way Home Forum. It was there that I had first posted a version of the response below. I was made to think about it again this week when I read the comments of one poster over at A Conservative Blog For Peace:
For me, “Is [WRO] really Orthodox?” is an
important question. And I usually get three types of answers:
1. It not an important question. Full stop.
2. Yes, its Orthodox because my Bishop says so. Full stop.
3. No, its not Orthodox because all things Western are now null and void and irredeemable. Full Stop.
My thinking on the matter?
Some speak emphatically of “The Church has said the Western rite is Orthodox” as though a universally accepted mechanism is in place to validate, promulgate and receive this modern expression. I ask, how does one feel comfortable asserting “the church” has roundly endorsed this liturgical expression as being fully Orthodox?
That a few bishops in a few jurisdictions have recieved a few rather small parishes practicing different particular variations of western-style liturgies.. Can that be said to constitute evidence that “The Church has said the Western rite is Orthodox”? On this last question I am prone to believe the answer is “no” and I do so for a number of reasons:
1) I am not sure that the majority of Orthodox bishops in the majority of Orthodox Churches have ever dealt with this let alone studied the question. Have the bishops of Romania, Greece, Ukraine, Byelorussia, taken to study of the issue to make pronouncement? Even here in the US, short of most of the very busy bishops being directly confronted with the matter, I don’t know how many have taken to studying it to make any pronouncement. Has SCOBA – for example – issued a pan-jurisdictional statement on the matter of Metropolitan Phillip’s authorization and support of thee rites? There seems to be mostly official silence leading me to then wonder…
2) Does silence assume assent? But then again there was one Greek Orthodox bishop who was rather critical of the WR going so far as to disallow his priests to have any involvement or concelebration So it can be established that at least some in the dignity of the episcopate have not been favorable. Which leads me to wonder…
3) How are the faithful to decide between the competing claims of hierarchs? It could be offered by some perhaps that the faithful are to generally defer to the decision of their own hierarch, because this will allow for will allow for greater obedience but that sort of also allows for a sort of parochialism in that could cause some amount of disunity among the entire faithful. Two Orthodox neighbors living side by side take two different positions on the Orthodoxy of a Eucharistic expression by virtue of who their bishop is? I guess this begs my last and most strenuous concearn:
4) As I can’t imagine it being accepted that a local hierarch, or a single hiearchichal structure of a jurisdiction would be accepted to be authorized to radically change the Divine Liturgy unilaterally, I simply cannot see how it is accepted that they may introduce these innovations, pronounce them orthodox motu proprio :), and have it be accepted that world Orthodoxy stands behind them. Looking back on the decisions to adopt the Gregorian Calendar or Nikonian rites, (Not half the leap of faith!) I am left scratching my head how it can be asserted that the introduction of these various rites, can be seen as Orthodox …
I wish these folks well in their struggle to work out their salvation in fear and trembling in this context. But my misgivings and concerns about this movement remain.
Despite the very vocal and near-omnipresent internet presence of its most erstwhile supporters, I see much evidence that it is an inorganic, much isolated movement that may not be sustainable and is certainly prone to the manipulations of persons with strong agendas.
The beauty of Orthodoxy as a place to find holiness that made it so very different from different non-Catholic western traditions was and is its organic reality of prayer, fasting, and the reality of local living parishes practicing a living tradition handed down to them with a level of continuity.
The faith of the people – the babbas, the yayas, the peasants, the czar and the shipping magnate, the restraunteur – is/was simple yet complex, unchanged but evolving, and if not uniform down to the last local expression, at least recognized as sharing a singular patrimony in Byzantium.
This neo-Anglicanism under local Orthodox patronage, I just don’t see it.
This entry was posted on Sunday, June 29th, 2008 at 5:14 am and is filed under Catholic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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