Sunday, June 2, 2013

Western Rite Orthodoxy

Fr. Anthony Chadwick has a most interesting post regarding Western Rite Orthodoxy - a great read if you've never heard of this "curious" branch of the "Orthodox Communion" that falls under the jurisdiction of the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Also, for those who like learn a little more of an author's context, Fr. Chadwick provides insight into his own inquiry into Western Rite Orthodoxy. The entry reminds me of why I find his blog so relevant: a critical examination of Western Christianity (read: Catholicism) makes it all too clear how off of the tracks it has gone. In fact, Fr. Chadwick aptly describes my orientation towards the tradition of my own (Roman Catholicism):  I am truly among those western Christians who for one reason or another can no longer relate to their Churches of origin."

I cannot begin to explain how one becomes alienated from the church of one's origin. I suppose, given enough substantial study of theology, it is a risk. Plainly, my perspective is that the Roman Church went off of the rails with schism and through accidents of history (largely political) took Western Christianity with it. This is a curt summary, but I suppose it gets to the point. There is a Western Orthodox parish nearby. I've looked into it a few times. In my estimation, ever fallible, there is potential to the movement, but there is much it will need to work out if it would survive. The parish is, for my tastes, too enclosed - natural for its stage of development. However, Western Orthodoxy must grow, and in so doing it will experience its fair share of growing pains. There is, however, much potential there. I would be interested in studying The American Altar Missal published by Lancelot Andrewes Press. I don't know if this will be the "definitive" liturgical expression of Western Rite Orthodoxy, but it would give some sense as to its vision for the "Latin" (read: Western) liturgy, regardless of language.

To say I am sympathetic towards any efforts to retain and or retrieve what is left of  pre-Reformation or even pre-Schism Catholicism is, as the cliche` goes, an understatement. There are precious pieces of the early Tradition left, most of which are entirely irrelevant in Western denominations. We have, for instance, four textual critical publications of the  pre-schism Latin Bible: the multi-volume effort from the Benedictine's at St. Jerome's Abbey in Rome, the Weber-Gryson edition, the reconstruction of an eighth century old Latin leaning recension by Dumbarton Oakes, and the  multi-volume Vetus Latina. We have the partially complete Veronese Sacramentary, the Old Gelasian Sacrametary, the Gregorian Sacramentary, and the eighth century Gelasian Sacramentary, in addition to the numerous pre-schism  (and often monastic) sacramentaries published by the Henry Bradshaw Society. Of course, we have numerous old "Roman" orders which provide a glimpse into how the pontifical liturgy was celebrated in earlier centuries.

Yet, we are also painfully limited. The most practical tools are critical reconstructions of early recensions of Latin Bible, however, the percentage of persons interested in Latin, let alone knowledgeable of Latin, is abysmally low. These are tools which largely benefit the specialist, sadly. Fr. Chadwick documents the efforts of Dr. Ray Winch to reconstruct the Mass of Ordo Romanus Primus and the Gregorian Sacramentary for use in Western Rite Orthodoxy. It's an interesting endeavor, however, my own reading of the available evidence (which, I admit, is highly influenced by Bradshaw's general skepticism towards "evidence") leaves me with the impression that while its possible to inform one's liturgy with Ordo Romanus Primus and the supplemented addition of the Hadrianum, it would be difficult to reconstruct that liturgy. This being said, I have only briefly glimpsed the paper published by Dr. Winch which Fr. Chadwick hosts on his website. Thankfully, I now have something to read during the week and hope to provide some reflection on it in the future. Click here to look at it yourself.

It is worth noting that Ordo Romanus Primus seems to have exerted some influence on the early stages of the reform of the Roman liturgy, particularly in the Missal of 1964. That direction, as we know, was quickly abandoned in favor of a more...eclectic approach.