Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Liturgical Diversity in Rome and Constantinople...

The Pope has told the Anglicans in the US and England the same thing:   "Y'all come and bring your liturgy with you."  It is no secret -- both his desire to embrace the disaffected conservative Anglicans and his ecumenical vision of a reunited church with its center in Rome.  But with this invitation comes a few questions about the long term effect of such liturgical pluralism.

Whether acknowledged or not, the development of a Western rite for Orthodoxy (Antiochian, in the case of US) and an Anglican Ordinariate for Rome, brings with it the specter of the kind of liturgical diversity that is already a permanent fixture in Lutheranism.  With our several choices of Divine Service in LSB and with the various choices in ELW, there are some institutional options given to the local Lutheran parish and Pastor -- much less the choices and variations and "improvements" made upon the service that are not offered institutionally.  [A caveat here:  In my own parish I forsake the "canon" in all the Divine Services of LSB to use one of the Eucharistic prayers from WS, Worship in the Name of Jesus, HS 98, or other sources in the LCMS that have passed doctrinal review in some form.]  But I am not here to talk about Lutherans or Missouri.  I am here to comment upon the testing of the waters of liturgical choices previously unknown to Rome and to a lesser degree in Constantinople.  Rome, of course has had uniate churches which have used an Eastern rite but the local Roman parish or priest does not have the option of choosing the Roman mass one week and the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom the next.  Constantinople has also had various liturgies but all Eastern and none remotely approaching the Western form used by some Latin Rite parishes.  In the past the diversity was well controlled and contained.  I wonder what the future holds for Rome and Constantinople now that official sanction has been given to different rites.  Is the genie out of the bottle?

To some extent I find this confusing.  Those who swim the Tiber or the Bosporus should, in my view, swim all the way and not stop on a sand bar in the middle.  I can well understand the desire to retain the Anglican rite since it is, in many respects, the hallmark of Anglican identity.  But how can one hold on to the hallmark of your Anglican identity and be fully Roman?  In the same way, while I know and respect the integrity of a few of those Lutherans who use a Western rite in Orthodoxy, I am equally confused by this since being Orthodox compels an Eastern rite that mirrors the Eastern theology and perspective that is Orthodoxy.  I can understand why -- Lord knows, I would find it hard to give up Advent, Lutheran hymnody, or the form of the Western Mass in order to embrace the theory of Orthodoxy but theology and practice seem conflicted if you retain the Mass but buy into the Orthodox frame of mind.  But that is me...

Not that Lutherans are immune to this schizophrenia.  We Lutherans have bounced back and forth from the catholic identity of our Confessions to the evangelical embrace of Protestantism and even within the current jurisdictions of Lutheranism are parishes and Pastors who might feel more at home in Presbyterianism or Methodism or the non-denominational sea than in the Lutheran fjord of evangelical catholicism. Our diversity is more institutionalized and that may well be where Orthodoxy and Rome end up -- a theory with diverse practices or rites to reflect the ethnic heritage and personal identity of the folks in the pew.  And that might mean that both Rome and Constantinople (at least on American soil) look more and more like the diversity within Protestanism (at least on the outside).


Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters, you might be interested in the website of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church


an Anglican usage parish. While the language used in their liturgy has the traditional lofty nature of classical Anglican worship the Eucharistic canon is the same as will be found in any Catholic church. This is not the kind of diversity that leads to the extremes of "high" and "low" worship one finds in the Episcopal churches.


Formendacil said...

I wonder if you might be equivocating in your treatment of these two cases, Pastor. You are equating the use of an Anglican-flavoured liturgy in the Western Rite--and surely you concede that the Anglican liturgy is just as Western as Lutheran or Roman liturgies--with the use among the East of a Western liturgy.

Although I can see your point as to how using liturgies outside of one's theological tradition might be setting a bad precedent (I disagree, but that's beside the point), I don't think the two cases here are the same. After all, you admit that the East has many liturgies, but, you say, they are all Eastern. Insofar as the Anglican tradition is Western, surely its use within the Church of the West presents an entirely different case than "Western Rite Orthodoxy"?

Terry Maher said...

The difference is, the reference "Eastern" as Pastor uses it is not just geographical. In saying the various liturgies of the Eastern Church are all Eastern, he is saying they are all Orthodox. There was no Reformation in the East. So one can use "Eastern" and "Orthodox" interchangeably. Anglican use, and for that matter Lutheran use, is not an analagous situation at all. Their origination in the West does not constitute various expressions of the same theology, but different expressions of different theologies. "Western" cannot be used interchangeably with "Anglican", "Lutheran", or for that matter "Catholic".

The "Western Rite" of Western Rite Orthodoxy is the Liturgy of St Gregory the Great. That liturgy is barely different than the English for the Tridentine Rite I grew up with, except for papal references.

Pastor's distinction holds.

In addition to the questions he raises, and in harmony with them, I would add that it is strange indeed to look over the liturgical diversity of the Christian Church through many times and places and find in it justification for diversity in one time or place.

Yet we do that, and in two ways. We as Pastor notes offer one service from this way and the next from another, and we construct new liturgies that are pastiches from various liturgies of the past. Despite the fact that the various "traditions" functioned in no such way.

Chris Jones said...

Pr Peters

This post reflects a lack of clarity about what the point and meaning of the Western Rite in Orthodoxy is. The confusion becomes evident when you write this:

being Orthodox compels an Eastern rite that mirrors the Eastern theology and perspective that is Orthodoxy

I can understand why you would say that, but at a theological level the fact that Orthodoxy is "Eastern Orthodoxy" is an historical accident. For the first millennium of Christianity the Orthodox Church was neither "Eastern" nor "Western" (or rather, it was both); St Augustine and Pope St Gregory the Great were just as much "Orthodox" as were St Athanasius or St Maximus Confessor, and the liturgy of the Roman Church was just as "Orthodox" as that of Constantinople.

The question that arises, then, is what happened in the Great Schism? Did the Orthodox Church lose its Catholicity and become exclusively "Eastern"? Or did the historic Western liturgy and the Western patristic tradition somehow become retroactively heterodox?

I suppose our Roman Catholic friends might say that the Eastern Churches actually did lose their Catholicity. But from an Orthodox perspective the answer to those questions is No. The Orthodox Church is no less Catholic and Apostolic after the schism than before, and the Orthodox saints, fathers, and liturgies of the Orthodox West during the first millennium remain part of the patrimony of the Orthodox Church.

If that is true (and for the Orthodox it is true as a matter of confession), then the Western liturgies remain fully Orthodox and may be used whenever and wherever the Church finds it to be pastorally advantageous to do so. And further, by reclaiming the Western Rite the Orthodox Church is making a concrete confession of her own Catholicity and universality.

Someone who becomes Orthodox in a Western-rite parish hasn't "stopped on a sand bar." They are Orthodox, full stop. They are just as much Orthodox as were Pope St Gregory the Great or St Augustine.

In the interest of full disclosure (for those who do not know me), though I am now Lutheran I was Orthodox for about ten years and part of that time I was a member of a WR parish. When I transferred from an OCA parish to an Antiochian Western-Rite parish, I did not somehow become less Orthodox. (There are some who might say that I didn't become very much less Orthodox when I became Lutheran, either; but that is a discussion for another day.)

BrotherBoris said...

I actually agree with Pastor Peters about Western Rite Orthodoxy here in the United States. I think it is a strange thing, and at one time I belonged to an Antiochian Western Rite parish. I will say this: the Western Rite Orthodox people really are fully Orthodox. Just go to one of their parishes and see. I found the Antiochian Western Rite parish I belonged to thoroughly Orthodox and the priest was very traditional. Over time, however, I felt so isolated there. I wanted to worship according to the Eastern Rite and when an OCA mission started in a neighboring city, I joined it. I have been very happy in the Eastern Rite parish for the past 15 years.

I make a distinction in the Antiochian Western Rite. I don't mind the Roman heritage and the Liturgy of St. Gregory. It is very, very close to the Tridentine Mass. And since Orthodoxy and Catholicism were in communion with each other for over 1,000 years, the Liturgy of St. Gregory does have its place. As St. John Maximovitch says, "the venerable Latin Rite is older than any of the Roman heresies."

My problem with the Antiochian Western Rite is the Anglican baggage and the so-called "Liturgy of St. Tikhon" which was pieced together from the BCP and the Anglican Missal. I think Cranmer and Cranmer's heritage does not belong in Orthodoxy at all, and I will state that very boldly.

Lastly, I would not make too much of the Western Rite Orthodox movement. It is extremely small and most Orthodox have never even heard of it or experienced it.

I think it is about as common in world Orthodox as Lutheran churches that still have hand-pumped bellows on their pipe organs. There might be a few around, but they simply are not enough to worry about.

Chris said...

Pr. Peters,

I wonder what your opinion then is about a group of Eastern Rite Lutherans in Ukraine. Apparently, they were Eastern Rite Catholics but the local bishop forced Latinzations on them and they refused. They became Lutheran and still use the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. Have they stopped on a sandbar along the way?

As far as the Western Rite Orthodox, there are actually 2 jurisdictions that employ it: the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate and the ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia). It's presence in the Orthodox world is controversial especially since we have to ask an honest question which no one wants to answer: Which western Rite? There are many. Besides, considering that the current WRO liturgy is mainly a cut and paste job it is easy to see why so many Orthodox are hostile to it.

I myself have to admit that I have come to the conclusion that I do not think there should Western Rite parishes. And I come to this conclusion while having gone to Western Rite Vespers many times and being a pretty good friend of the priest. But, the Western Rite (again which one?) is, for lack of a better word, poor or poorer at expressing Orthodox theology. Theosis really cannot be really expressed in a liturgical rite which is heavily juridical in terms of its soteriology.

Those who attend Western Rite churches are fully Orthodox as my friend, Chris Jones, said. But, they are educated essentially in an eastern style catechesis. They use books written by Eastern Rite bishops, theologians, priests and laymen for their studies. But all those books link the lex orandi lex credendi to the Eastern Rite not to the Western. And that, I think, is the heart of the matter: lex orandi, lex credendi.

Your metaphor of a sandbar is not appropriate. I would compare the two rites more to using a 1907 Model T to drive the length of the USA (Western Rite) rather than a decked out SVU (Eastern Rite). Both will get to the same place, but one will have more bumps and hiccups along the way and not be as fast.

The WRO is controversial but because of the existence of this rite does not even come close to the diversity of what modern Protestantism deals with every day.

Anonymous said...

It will be hilarious to view the comments of condescending orthodox folks once Constantinople finally capitulates to the Bishop of Rome. I hope I live to see the day.

Terry Maher said...

Judas Budas, both Chrises in the same combox and Brother Boris too! My naturally shy, retiring, and reticent nature trembles to participate.

I love the Ukranian Lutheran liturgy, even link to it on my blog, but such Orthodox reaction as I have had to it finds it Westernised, Protestantised liturgy in an Eastern shell.

We have two Antiochan Rite (WRO) parishes here in Omaha (one of the Chrises belongs or belonged if I recall) but such Orthodox reaction as I have heard to such places is an unsurity (if that ain't a word it oughta be) as to whether they are truly or fully Orthodox.

A controversy into which I have not delved, as Orthodoxy overall seems sure of having this consensus, but the consensus is that there is a consensus, while aspects of its actual content remain debated as to what it is and who has it.

But I still say that regardless of whose analogies, similes, metaphors and petits four (if I may engage in my favourite device, good old Nietzschean word-dancing, but in any case don't call em petit fours, that's barbarian) the real mystery is why the diversity one sees historically over many times and places is now taken as a goal for one time and place.

Chris Jones said...

once Constantinople finally capitulates ...

First of all, don't hold your breath.

Secondly, if Constantinople "capitulates," she will do so alone. Few or (more likely) none of the other 14 autocephalous Orthodox Churches will follow suit. The Patriarch of Constantinople ain't the Orthodox Pope, and Orthodox don't have to, and don't, do what he says. He's only "first among equals" with the emphasis on "equals." If he should cave to Rome, his place as first among equals will simply be taken by the next most senior bishop who remains Orthodox (that would be the Patriarch of Alexandria, if I recall correctly), just as Constantinople became first among equals only when Rome fell away from the Church.

In short, if Constantinople should "capitulate" it would not mean that the Orthodox Church had submitted to Rome; it would only mean that the Orthodox Church was slightly smaller by those few thousand souls under Constantinople's jurisdiction. No big whoop.

Chris said...


There is only one Antiochian WRO church here in Omaha. The other church is Eastern Rite. Second, I have never belonged to a WRO church; I just occasionally showed up for Friday Vespers or for Tenebrae.

Terry Maher said...

Here in Omaha?? You still here? Judas H, we oughta have lunch at Dundee Dell or something. Kinda like professional wrestlers, go at it to bear hell in the ring, then out for a good time after!

Help me out here. There's St Vincent of Lerins and St Mary which both describe themselves as Antiochan. I know St Vincent is WRO because it started with disaffected Escahoolians and the use an Orthodoxed over BCP for a liturgy. Just checked St Mary's site and it says they use the St John Chrysostom liturgy. So apparently Antiochan can be either Eastern or Western in rite, but Orthodox. Is that right?

I go by St Vincent a lot because it's in my part of town. I'm an east of 72nd kind of guy and rarely get out around St Mary's. Too many white people all in one place. Makes me nervous. You never know what the hell may break out.

Chris Jones said...

The Antiochian Archdiocese is the North American mission of the Church of Antioch, one of the oldest of the Orthodox Churches (you can read about it in the book of Acts). The vast majority of its parishes are Eastern rite. About 10% of its parishes in America are Western rite; the rest of its American parishes, and all of its parishes back home in the Middle East, are Eastern rite.

Chris said...


Drop me an email sometime; we'll have lunch.

St. Mary is Eastern Rite. As Chris already pointed out, the vast majority of Antiochian churches are eastern Rite. St. vincent is part of the Western Rite Vicariate. It is the only one I know of in Nebraska, the Dakotas, Missouri and Kansas. the closest is in Denver, I think.