William Witt Blasts the Catholic/Orthodox Churches on WO and My Response #2


My second response to a blast from Professor William Witt My first response is HERE.:

It seems to be de rigeur to continue some of the errors of the polemicists into modern theology by making sharp distinctions between Eastern theology and Western theology on every point and presuming a facile pre schism harmony. There are so many points to be made here, I will try to limit myself to the central ones.

Witt performs a sleight of hand by making all his Eucharistic references to meal rather than to sacrifice. This is a convenient way to avoid all sacerdotal arguments against WO. The “Holy Table” is in both East and West an altar of sacrifice. Some liturgists who play fast and loose with the facts have suggested that the emphasis on sacrifice is a Western preoccupation. This is not born out in the prayers of preparation nor the Eucharistic prayers of the East, nor the imagery of the altar itself which is dominated not be a Last Supper but by an icon of the crucifixion. The loaf of bread is cut with a lance and the prayers of preparation make several references to the lamb of sacrifice.

So the paterfamilias is perhaps a bit of a type for the presiding priest or bishop. But the presidency of Bishop or priest over an assembly was the least part of what they do. No, they do not merely preside (stand over) at Eucharist, but they are priests of the sacrifice of calvary who offer this sacrifice to God. This is true in both East and West, where West excludes many Anglicans and the rest of the protestant world.

Similarly, the idea that the words of institution are somehow unimportant in Eastern liturgies is not born out in the gestures that accompany them. In some Eastern rites all the chants of the people cease during the words of institution so the congregation can hear them when apparently it is not crucial that they hear any other parts of the Eucharistic prayers. The Greeks actually kneel for the words of institution and in other rights the priest makes a solemn bow, touches the floor and crosses himself after the words are spoken over each of the elements, a progression of gestures which is found in no other part of the liturgy.

Thus, we have to look at the priestly antecedants of Christ, the apostles and their successors. These would be the Levitical priesthood of the Temple. Not only are they male, but the victims of their sacrifices also had to be all male.

Thus, it is not the liturgical tradition which sets up absolute distinctions between East and West but the polemical tradition–a tradition of contradistinction which is a relflection of the post Imperial East rather than the East of the undivided Church. Witt tries to play divide and conquer between East and West over WO. But, East and West will withstand his assaults because in reality they are not two opposing systems, but two complimentary ones.


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