Saturday, May 30, 2015

Why do you sleep, my soul?

ψάλλε καὶ γρηγόρησον ἐπὶ τὴν γρηγόρησιν αὐτοῦ,

ὅτι ἀγαθὸς ψαλμὸς τῷ θεῷ ἐξ ἀγαθῆς καρδίας. --- Psalms of Solomon 3:2

Serious study of Early Christianity, its earliest layers of history without the compulsion to find justification for subsequent confessional claims, renders almost immeasurable rewards. It offers us sobering perspective on later developments and imparts a sense of awe when it shows an obscure glimpse though a still opaque window at a world we will likely not comprehend in its totality. This largely due to a combination of limited and sometimes disparate evidence and as both Orthodoxy and Catholicism gradually congealed into their identities, much of the pre-existing context was lost.

Nevertheless, we have glimpses. We have windows with which to gain a haunting view into the spectres of Christianity's past.

The Psalms of Solomon, in a manner we are slowly (if not lethargically) coming to understand, provides such a glimpse. We can be thankful that the scholarly standard of the Greek text (the one oftentimes turned to for any work on this psalter) is readily available in the Biblia Graeca and Septuaginta. This is one of those rare occasions when the original text of an obscure book from the formative history of the canon is relatively accessible.

The passage above is most interesting in that it seems to be garbled Greek allusion to the idea of the egregori or Watchers of the Enochian corpus. Ward notes, and I am inclined to agree with him, that the autou at the end of the first half of the verse can be best explained if gregoresin was less than precise translation of the underlying Hebrew text (no longer extant) which would have been better translated with egregoros/egregori. An allusion to the Watchers seems to fit the over arching concept of the psalm up to this point. The sleeping soul is called upon to be ever awake in praise before God, an attribute commonly ascribed to the Watchers in contemporary literature of the Second Temple period.

We are reasonably sure that such literature underlies much of the New Testament; the ancient authors seem quite familiar with it and it certainly had a place at Qumran. The angelology and greater mythology conveyed by the Watchers/egregori saturates much of the air Early Christianity inhales and exhales - it has left its imprint upon our New Testament.

The Psalms of Solomon themselves seem to have been appropriated by Christianity early one before falling into disuse. Its presence in some manuscripts of the LXX and early use in Christianity should naturally lead us to questions which, as yet, haven't answers. As psalms, we would presume the text were intended for liturgical use. We can only speculate how a text with an allusion to the Watcher's myth (or the Enochian myth) would function liturgically and the nature of the liturgical cosmology behind its use. The text is, as stated, a dim view into a world that was lost as Christianity gradually took on aspects we would find ourselves more comfortable with today.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Frithjof Schoun, Perennialism, and Christology

An interesting read on the Christology of Perennialist author Frithjof Schoun. Schoun's Transcendent Unity of All Religions put him on the map among Perennialist devotees and made him something of an avantgarde favorite among Christian groups that had grown weary of the increasing modernization of the mid-late 20th century.

Perennialism more often than not proves itself to be an attractive yet difficult medicine to swallow for more traditional Christians. Perennialism's staunch rejection of modernity as a signature of the West's intellectual, metaphysical and spiritual decline immediately resonates. It's Christology forces most traditional readers to their limits.

Schoun, like so many of his ilk, was seemingly well versed in Patristic theology and was capable of dialoging with orthodox Christology. The instance that all religion is, ultimately, one seems totally disconnected to the Christology that many such Perennialist authors were well versed in.

To understand how this apparent contradiction was readily demonstrable in Schoun and other Perennialists, one has to appreciate the historical context of the movement and its authors. Despite its rejection of modernity, Perennialism is a product of it, perhaps an unintended bi-product, but produced nonetheless. Perennialism responded to the scientific critique of religion by attempting to find the points of confluence between the great religious traditions in the hope of discovering Religion, conceived as the primordial revelation of the divine that gradually took on culturally specific manifestations.

This was in no small part influenced by the late 19th and early 20th century waves of Hinduism that sought to present the religious tradition of the subcontinent as a scientifically rational religious system that was capable of finding a place for every religious tradition. This perspective was colored by the confessional perspective of its authors. The place at the table set for Christianity, Judaism and others was decorated in the colors of Vedanta Hinduism - everything was filtered through this spectrum.

Perennialism is perhaps a bit more honest with the differences among religions. Schoun clearly delineated what is often times presented as Perennialism's view: all religions are represented by an exoteric particularity, however, they all demonstrate an esoteric uniformity. In the areas of ritual, doctrine and  practice (the exoteric) every religion is a disctinct system. However, when one begins to analyze the higher purpose or goal to which the exoteric distinction point, one should find a uniform vision of the God, the nature of reality, and the purpose of humankind and how to integrate the supernatural with the natural (the esoteric).

Perennialism settled upon the idea that one must cultivate both exoteric and esoteric observance. It insists that one must have one of the major religious traditions as one's exoteric practice and that the serious seeker of any exoteric tradition will gradually seek out the esoteric tradition of that religion and discover the unity among the religious traditions.

Schoun himself was convert to Catholicism (from Protestanism) before adopting Sufism as his exoteric disciple. Schoun was a Sufi teacher. He insisted, however, this did not contradict the esoteric truths contain in Catholicism, a major one being the Immaculate (Virgin Mother). Schoun believed that the esotericism captured in the development of Mary Immaculate was a clear manifestation of the esoteric truth the binds all of the great religious traditions. In Schoun's letters, one can find a handful of attestations to this, including one where he famously notes that he feels no divorce from "the Immaculate" and she knew quite well why he had to become a Sufi teacher. Schoun, like Rene Guenon before him, grew disillusioned by what he perceived was a burgeoning metaphysical crisis in Catholicisim, one that was galvanized by the very persons who were in roles which should have functioned to restore a deeper appreciation for metaphysics. Rather, both men saw Catholicism as becoming increasingly anti-metaphysical, such that it could not offer a serious counter to modernity.

Traditional Christianity will fault Schoun, much as the article I linked to does, for the bold contradiction that seems to appear in his writings. Christainity claims that Jesus and Jesus alone is God Incarnate. Therefore, there is no unity among religions. Again, we have to point out the Schoun, despite contemporary traditionalists finding much food for thought in his writings, is never really teaching, writing, or arguing within Christian categories. Schoun, and I may be mistaken, considers the Incarnation to constitute part of the exoteric aspect of Christianity. While it is important to understand the Incarnation so one can successfully practice an exoteric tradition, Schoun would not necessarily take the Incarnation up into this idea of universal esoteric truth that is independent of cultural specifications.

With the above in mind, I have to fault Custinger. To force Schoun into the category of a Christian author, thinker, or theologian does a disservice to both Christianity and Perennialism. Schoun appreciated Christianity for what he identified as the great esoteric truths revealed in the religion, truths which were united to similar esoteric truths derived from other religions. As noted above, Perennialism, for all of its rejection of modernity, is a decidedly modernist impulse. It fundamentally embraced one of the early modernist critiques of religion (especially Christianity), namely the number of clear parallels between religions which were taken to argue against any particular claims for a divine revelation. Perennialism not only accepts these parallels, it embraces them as proofs of a primordial revelation from which all religions are derived. Perennialists are themselves the practitioners of the very modern discipline of comparative religious/cultural studies, only they go one step further by claiming that the data drawn from such study yields important clues into the nature of God, soul, spirit and reality itself.

It is against this backdrop of having identified a mystical unifier among all the religious traditions that Perennialism justifies its rejection of modernity. Modernity's crime is its determination to streamline, flatten and thoroughly nominalize reality to the extent these esoteric truths are either unrecognizable or mercilessly oppressed.

I hope Papa Francesco sees the irony in this....

The Vatican Bank is turning big profits.

It'll be interesting to see where it all goes.

Make of it what you will

The Church of England is mulling over a "naming ceremony" for transgender persons upon assumption of their new identity.

It will be a matter of time before the Roman Church begins to feel the pressure to do the same.

The Church of England has been on the forefront of adaptation to increasing secularization. One can look at the numbers and ask whether or not it has done much good to be so inclined. No doubt, Christianity will continue to feel the weight of the West's larger cultural trends - it will increasingly come in contact with men and women from a variety of backgrounds and situations and it will often times need to make difficult pastoral calls on the spot. This said, every indicator implies that the increasing secularization of a religion does not make it more relevant to secular society, but rather aides its decline. The ultimate appeal of any religion in the post-modern West is not how much it affirms the surrounding culture, but how much it offers an alternative to the dominant culture. The degree to which Western hierarchs hone in on this and respond appropriately is the degree to which their respective churches or ecclesial communities survive the attrition of religion.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Until we meet again, Mr. Romeri.

It appears John Romeri has resigned from his position with the archdiocese of Philadelphia after a conflicting interests between he and Archbishop Chaput emerged.

The news was somewhat shocking. I do not know much about Chaput's liturgical leanings; indeed, the reputation that proceeds him made him a darling among neo-conservative types.

This being noted, I am relatively familiar with John Romeri's work at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis under Cardinals Rigali and Burke. Under Romeri, the Cathedral Basilica hit its stride; Romeri had, as I recall, found the formula for the Pauline liturgy. The music at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis never fell victim to the pedestrian or suburban American sentimentalism. His use of Latin chant was selective - admittedly, he didn't utilize it as much I would have liked. This said, he probably had the most astute repetior of vernacular compositions anyone could reasonably hope for. The result of his formula was a liturgy of the modern Roman Rite that seemed neither contrived nor artificial.

If there is one music director who learned how to accentuate the strengths of the Pauline liturgy while cloaking its weaknesses, it is Romeri. He has found, as state above, the formula for the modern Roman Rite and his exemplar ought to be the foundation upon which future musicians and directors should build.

That Romeri has found working with Chaput difficult and determine his best option is to resign is a bit mystifying. Frankly, it is hard to see where a point of disagreement could exist, though this will likely come to light in time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Psalms of Solomon - online material available

Resources for studying the Psalms of Solomon are notoriously scarce. The book has traditionally held an unsettled place in the history of the Canon. A few manuscripts of the LXX include it, however, it was not received into the Patriarchal text, nor has it found a place in the NRSV's "ecumenical canon."

Unless you want to shell out a hefty sum for a Brill monograph, there isn't much to work with if you're unable to spend hours at a well stocked theology library.

As such, I was happy to find this dissertation online.

A minor caveat: This was published in 1996. Scholarship advances. This said, the scholarship on the Psalms of Solomon hasn't advanced too much since the publication date. The book is horribly neglected by both academics and theologians and there is little indication this trend will change any time soon.

If your Greek is up to the task, the Biblia Graeca provides ready access to the Greek text. Otherwise, the New English Translation of the Septuagint provides a reliable English edition. Truth be told, the translation of the Psalms of Solomon is one of the major selling points of the NETS - it's one of the few texts that doesn't remind the reader of a slightly reworked NRSV.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The International Religious Commodity

An article at Huffington Post profiling the very Latino make up of the Greek Orthodox Church in Latin America.

The article is source of consternation (or is it neurosis) for some. Rejoicing for others.

A more sobering perspective sees it as another example of the ever more fluid religious landscape brought by globalization.

There are numerous angles by which one can analyze the Roman Church in Latin America and attempt to diagnose the causes for its surprising losses among Latin Americans. The loses are typically in favor of Pentecostal Christianity, though the growth of the Greek Orthodox diocese of Central America, Colombia and Venezuela from 5,000 in 1996 to 550,000 in 2015 is a notable development.

Catholics and Orthodox will likely theologize the reasons. Catholics will claim it is because the Roman Church is or is not doing x and y. The Orthodox will trumpet the depth of the tradition and its tenacity.

In reality, while it is true both are probably correct to varying degrees, the bare fact causal principle is that in the age of globalization, religion is thoroughly exported.

The culture of Latin America is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. Yes, there are residuals of the pre-colonial culture, but Catholicism was thoroughly injected into the region. What is left of the pre-colonial culture is filtered through the lens of Catholicism. Orthodoxy could never have hoped to penetrate the citadel had it not been for globalization, in which commodity and communication transplant ideas (including religions) instantaneously and at the behest of the intended recipient.

To some extent, this is nothing new. The exploration of the new world brought Western Christianity to a new hemisphere. The 1800s witnessed the rise of Buddhism as we know it  in the West (more often than not under the influence of theosophy), as Victorian intellectuals looked to be "liberated" from what they considered to be the chains of Christian dogmatism. The occult revival of the 1960s/70s, coupled with the dawn of New Age spirituality, was equally the result of the commerce of religious ideas. So, in principle, we are not dealing with anything new. The x-factor in the equation is the delivery of information. The information of a new religion in a given geographic territory is now almost instantaneous and fairly democratic - it is not subject to filtering by dominant religious or spiritual classes and is capable of being diffused to a broader base than in previous centuries.

The Orthodox dioceses that have understood this process and leveraged it are openly breaking free from an ethnic enclave. In the US, the Antiochian diocese can make a reasonable claim to leveraging the process. The Greeks, on the other hand, seem at war with themselves over whether or not this is a good thing.

Nevertheless, here we are. Globalization is shifting many of the once taken-for-granted religious delineations. Look at Africa. Catholicism has reaped the benefit of globalization as it continues its march across the continent and undergoes exponential growth.

There will always be the flip side to globalized religion. In the West or in places where Western Christianity was the norm, the traditional religious frame work is suffering attrition. Be it the near collapse in Europe, or the migration of 550,000 Roman Catholics to the Orthodox Church in Latin America, there is a genuine loss worth appreciating. While Catholicism expands in Africa, the rise of a foreign religion in normally animist or Muslim lands invariably stokes social conflict as societies cope with dramatic cultural change.

Yet this is the era (perhaps even the epoch) in which we find ourselves. Religion is thoroughly invested in the global commoditization of ideas.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Liturgical reform and missed opportunities.

When one makes the effort to digest the array of authors who propelled the liturgical movement, one comes to the unavoidable conclusion: liturgical reform was inevitable. Most everyone agreed that some degree of liturgical reform was desirable. When Pius X began the first movements to modernize the Roman Rite, almost everyone knew further steps in the process were ahead.

The end result, the Pauline liturgy, was disputed. The authors who lived to see the reform of the Roman liturgy brought to its conclusion were not all as a group enthusiastic for the reform. Indeed, many were sorely disappointed.

When time has given us more perspective, we will ultimately be able to appreciate what the liturgical movement was working towards and possibly even revisit the large catalog of work left behind and relatively untouched. There can then be critical analysis of the manner in which the liturgical movement was eventually applied by official channels of liturgical reform.

Invariably, it will be asked whether or not the liturgical reforms of the 20th century adequately reflected the intention of the liturgical movement. The Pauline liturgy will be an object of particular scrutiny. It will be asked if the liturgical movement envisioned recasting what was, practically speaking, the classic form of the Western liturgy. At this point, there may be an honest evaluation.

There will always be a question about what would have happened if the old (and practically classic) Western liturgy had just been put into the vernacular and let be. Was it necessary to go so far as the reform did? Should a liturgy that had come to be regarded as the perennial expression of the Latin Christianity have been so recast so as to have been effectively displaced?

What if the breaks had been put on the process of reform? It is not as though there wasn't an exemplar to work off of. The "Latin Mass" had, for all intents and purposes, been permitted a largely vernacular celebration beginning in 1965, more so in 1967. Was it genuinely necessary to go much further?

I have occasionally heard accounts of those "transitional liturgies." Most every account I've heard presents a moment of dynamism rarely seen among more established forms of Christianity. The "transitional liturgies" were redolent with reverence and stirred the excitement for the sweeping reform. How much of this is nostalgia for a time that actually never was versus a factual account of history? One can only guess, barring critical research into that era.

When the subject of liturgy comes up, it is always possible to collect a number of very specialized critiques. Eventually, however, one has to focus on the practical reality. It is easy enough, as some of the more stalwart Traditionalists have done, to find every proof of theoretical problems with the Missal of 1965. Practically speaking, however, the Missal of 1965 was a missed opportunity. It represents a moment when the old liturgy was permitted a vernacular celebration. At that moment, the law of faith the old liturgy's prayers contained was transmitted into the living language. For a church that had so long resisted the vernacular, this was a watershed moment. The law of faith was taken from the confines of a dead language thoroughly comprehended by a few, into a living language used by all. Specifically, the worldview encapsulated in that particular composition of prayers was provided a living template upon which to operate.

It would only last for five years. One wonders if anyone ever stops to ask if cutting things off after such a brief duration was a mistake. It seems to imply that a thorough recasting of the Roman liturgy had already been decided upon and there was no changing course.

I have yet to discover a satisfactory proposal as to why the old liturgy in the vernacular (essentially the Missal of 1965) was not a practical option. It is simply an accident of history. Like the liturgical movement itself, the transitional missal is an event that other historical circumstances brought to conclusion. There is no way to reconstitute it. Yet, any well stocked theological library is filled with a stinging reminder of a missed opportunity.

Missed opportunities rarely present themselves a second time.

Friday, May 15, 2015


I have always had sympathy for the old Roman liturgy, and, truth be told, whatever intellectual criticisms I may have, my natural inclination was to lean in its direction. Furthermore, I think it a matter of pure honesty to candidly admit the marginalization of Traditionalists in the Roman Church was, plainly, unjust and has only contributed toward cultivating a widespread reactionary impulse among such circles.

Plainly, the situation was handled poorly and pushed a certain segment to the extreme. The aftermath has helped few. The SSPX who, despite protestations to the contrary, are gradually transforming into an institutional alternative to Rome. Even among those in communion with Rome, one sees the aftermath of an ecclesiastical battering, Traditionalist circles becoming a gathering of the maladjusted minority in the Roman Church.

All of the above being noted, Traditionalists do themselves no favors when galvanizing their ranks with whispers of conspiracy and vituperation of the mainline ecclesiastical body.

Intemperance will destroy the Traditionalist option in the end...which is a damned shame - they will have gone on to finish the job they would like to claim the Post-Vatican II Catholic Church started.

The Pericope of Jesus and the Adulteress

A new book that captures recent proceedings on this disputed portion of the Gospel of John is in preparation.

In many modern Bibles, John 7:53-8:11 is bracketed off or placed in the foot not section of the page. The absence of this pericope from some important early witnesses makes it suspect in contemporary scholarship. Although, as David Black notes, the Vetus Latina attests to the pericope in the second century. Theories that either liturgical exclusion or ecclesiastical suppression impacted the textual tradition of the pericope need careful evaluation.

Liturgical exclusion is not impossible. Christianity could have inherited something of Judaism's sense that certain texts were not appropriate for public or liturgical use and best left for restricted reading. The book of Ezekiel once fell into this category.

Ecclesiastical suppression is possible if we run with Erhman's theory of the "orthodox corruption of scripture." This said, Erhman tends to run a little wild with his allegation of ecclesiastical corruption of the text. The majority of instances are relatively minor; John 7:53-8:11 would be an exceptional instance.

To complicate things further, the grammar and syntax are well within the parameters set by the ancient author. It is either from the ancient author or from someone capable enough to mimic his style. If it is authentic, then there would appear to be an unresolved issue surrounding the early transmission of John's gospel. The manuscript tradition would have diverged at an extremely early stage. This, however, reminds one of Raymond Brown's earlier and somewhat more convoluted hypothesis concerning the development of the Gospel of John - extremely fine proposals have to be viewed with caution.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Religion in America

The recent Pew survey made the rounds.

One can analyze the data from a variety of perspectives. Thankfully, the Pew Research Center allows you to drill down into the survey data.

To some extent the numbers are predictable. The North Eastern US and West Coast have the lowest percentages, as do states with a known libertarian streak. The South and Midwest have a higher percentage of Christians. In all instances, the decline among 18-30 year olds is evident.

What does this bode?

For the immediate future, Christianity is the majority. This said, unaffiliated continues to grow, more so than atheist. The next step is to drill down into the term "unaffiliated." I suspect the consumer culture of the US has an impact. The general "spiritual but not religious" sentiment, particularly along the West Coast, contributes to an eclectic religious praxis. Americans are prone to take what they like from one religion or another, largely for private purposes, without necessarily committing to a religious practice. Which is to say, the rampant New Age spirituality of the 70s and 90s has pretty well settled itself into American culture.

The presence of other religions, while growing, is not exponential. It is to be presumed other religions will invariably be filtered through much of the same consumer spirituality, coming into bouts of conflict with the dominant culture along the way.

Is this end of Christianity in America? Hardly, however, the manner in which religious leaders splice the data will be of importance. Christianity cannot rest on the religious reservoirs in the South and Midwest, nor can it bank on growth through immigration. Christianity must come to terms with its cultural alienation.

Whether Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant, the future of Christianity has less to do with cultural convention, and will be, in large part, comprised of concentrated doses. It was, in my estimation, why the cardinals of the Roman Church rejected the course set by Ratzinger's papacy. Ratzinger had long accepted that the future of Christianity was smaller in size, preceded by a notable period of institutional loss. Attempts to reposition Christianity and reclaim cultural relevance are, perhaps, out of touch with "the signs of the times," and demonstrate a marked refusal to acknowledge the change taking place.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

When Waves of Nostalgia Come Crashing Ashore

Today I came across something I haven't seen in some time. It lay there, waiting for someone to pick it up, feel the heft in their hands, glide their fingers down the supple red leather before taking one of the silk ribbons between thumbs and forefinger. It waited to have its cover opened, hands wading past the first few gilded pages, before coming to those words, <<...INSTAURATUM AUCTORITATE PAULI PP. VI PROMULGATUM>>

I have only seen this particular binding (genuine red leather and gilded pages) of the Pauline Missal twice in my life (counting today). The first time I ever read those words on the title page was approximately 14 or 15 years ago at the theology library of my alma mater. I had finally seen a copy of the Latin edition of Paul VI's missal. I turned to the first Sunday of Advent and found solace in the Ad te levavi... and at that moment, I must admit there was suddenly something familiar about the Pauline liturgy.

I have, generally speaking, lost much of the concern over fortune and misfortune of the Roman liturgy. In part because I'm never regularly involved with it, in greater part because both the history of the original liturgical movement and the praxis of Orthodoxy have provided some perspective on a few of the aims of the Concilium's reforms. Read enough of the liturgical movement and one discovers, even among the members of the Concilium, certain aspects of the Orthodox liturgy had an influence on their thought. Certainly, Orthodox liturgy has resulted in a new appreciation of the liturgical reform in the Roman Church. There are times when one makes a connection and begins to think one understands what the Roman reform may have been after. Bare minimum, one grows to appreciate liturgy in a language other than Latin.

At that time, however, detachment leading to any sort of perspective was not possible. There was something familiar and yet strange with Paul VI's missal and I have to think there was a similar reaction to it upon its promulgation. A number of pages into it, and it was easy to imagine how their could have been a niche of priests or liturgists who were brimming with excitement over the Missale Romanum of 1970. It is hard not to sense the somewhat contemporary feel of the Pauline missal. So streamlined in its liturgy, the Latin mass suddenly acquires the ability to keep abreast with the set pace of the post modern world. Again, if one stops and thinks what perhaps less disgruntled voices may have said upon the promulgation of the Pauline missal, one can appreciate how, in some respects, the liturgical reform may have elicited excitement roughly forty years ago.

Certainly by the time I had encountered the Latin text, it was window into another liturgical world. A Latin liturgy was indeed possible with the Pauline liturgy. The books existed, they were real, they were waiting. What remained was the will to attempt such a liturgy on a regular basis.

Of course, shortly thereafter Liturgiam Authenticam was issued, ICEL was reorganized from the top-down and the focus was placed upon re-translating the English edition, with a eye toward other vernacular editions as well.  It remains to be seen if this was the cure to ills afflicting the Roman liturgy or if it was placebo for a clinical condition. What became very apparent, however, was that the question of re-examining the priority of Latin for the revised Roman liturgy was a dead issue, both among progressive deconstructionists and conservative authoritarians, both of whom haggled over the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council and how the vernacular ought to be implemented.

I eventually came to the conclusion that the better step for the Roman liturgical tradition would be to establish celebration of the Pauline liturgy in Latin as the norm. Over time I tempered this a bit. English speaking countries seem more appropriate for such steps. Latin liturgy would, ideally, be the norm in monastic communities, regardless if laity are in attendance. Finally, it doesn't seem like Latin would contribute much to the African Church. Nevertheless, I continue to think the basic premise ought to be tried, if only to lend weight towards transforming the Missale Romanum of 1970 from a produced liturgy to a received liturgy. It would be the difference from a mindset that sees liturgy as predominately something to be created and controlled and liturgy as something to be prayed and revered.

In sum, years later, it seems to me that, if accepted as a received liturgy, the revised Roman liturgy is capable of transmitting the Tradition. True, at times it bears the watermarks of its age. This is true of any liturgy, Latin or Byzantine. What defines a liturgy, however, is not so much the marks of its age, as it is the presence of the perennial qualities of religion. Liturgies devoid of these qualities are quickly consigned to their age and go defunct, more often than not being the products of sectarian impulses which rarely translate well when taken outside of the immediate cultural context that produced them. To this extent, the perennial qualities of religion are present in the revised Roman liturgy, outnumbering the moments when the quality of the times left its mark. It remains an open issue whether responsibility for the institutional collapse of the Roman Church in the Western world (and the rampant heterodoxy in the Western Church in recent history) properly belongs to the liturgical reform or to the culture and church that was its recipient. Without denying Western Christianity lost much during the later stages of 20th century liturgical reform, it is the responsibility of any honest observer to raise this point.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

When the Lion of Judah roars out of Africa

A great article by John Allen on the church in Africa, over viewing the patent difficulty those of us coming from a Western paradigm may have when the African Church finally comes to the foreground.

There is no way around the fact that the African Church is crucially important, both to Rome and to Christianity as whole. The growth continues to be exponential. While Christianity will likely continue its decline in Western Europe and stagnation in the United States, there is no indication it will do anything but grown in Africa.

Last October, the African Church began to flex its muscle, playing no small part in the about face that took place in the closing week to ten days of the last Roman synod. We should reasonably expect that the African bishops will make more maneuvers as the continent comes into its own.

Is anyone in the West genuinely prepared for what the Roman Church will look like under the influence of Africa, let alone what impact it will have on global Christianity? Allen proposes the immediate effect will be a "rebooting" of the Roman Church, a rediscovery of the core from which the West has so long veered away from to the left and to the right. Is this legitimate? It depends if one believes liberals and conservatives have lost the plot, really.

The growing influence of the African Church will likely lead to more than a few bouts of disorientation, I suspect many will not fully recognize the Roman Church they thought they knew. Certainly, restoring the classic Latin liturgy will not be a priority. Indeed, if Arinze's reaction to Ratzinger's Summorum Pontificum was any indication, an African pope may be the most likely to jettison it. As I've written elsewhere, Africa is firmly committed to the Pauline Missal; it is their liturgy, having been the liturgical expression of the Tradition during this period of exponential growth. One would be fighting an uphill battle to convince an African that the Pailine liturgy fails to adequately convey the Tradition. When Africa takes the papacy (not if, but when) such attempts at persuasion will be essentially irrelevant; the African Church has yet to see the new liturgy as a source of rupture or discontinuity.

My generation spent the last decade of John Paul II's pontificate waiting on the African Church. It was based upon the notion that the African Church would eventually save the West from itself. It was a tall order, one probably placed due a fair amount of naivety. This said, Africa will eventually be in pole position. It will continue to grow in influence. It may re-establish the Tradition in the Roman Church.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

For those with a little Italian under their belt...

An excellent overview of the 2008 Italian translation of the Bible produced by the CEI. Sadly, his blog has been silent for some time now.

Although they've received scant attention among English readers (which, all things considered, makes sense), the Italian translations of the last forty or fifty years have been fairly consistent in terms of translation quality. The binding itself is a little on the shoddy side for many of them, but the Italians have typically pursued a very balanced and finely executed theory of translation.

Incidently, minor translation fumbles aside, the Italian bishops were also responsible for the most competently produced versions of the Pauline liturgical books. Not to say this necessarily led to a well executed vernacular liturgy. Anyone who has been around Italy enough can tell you the average Sunday liturgy is about on par with what one finds in the average US parish. However, the translation and selective retension of Latin made strides in passing on a few gems of Latin/Western Christianity.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Reflections on Orthodoxy

It was one year ago that I entered the Orthodox Church. To tackle the reasons behind this decision often proves an impossible task at this stage.

This said, I notice more people contemplating the decision. I offer a few considerations.

1) Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly

When one finally talks to an Orthodox priest, one will notice that he is no rush to "get this thing done" during the course of the calendar year. There is much wisdom to this. The transition from Catholicism to Orthodoxy can be exciting, however, the aftermath can fraught with confusion.

In my case, the whole process was decade, from the moment of making intellectual investigation, up until three years of regularly attending Divine Liturgy.

2) Immerse yourself in the liturgical life as much as possible

Whatever your parish has, make sure you attend. When one acclimates to the rhythm of Orthodox liturgy and prayer, one finds attempts at reintegrating to the Western liturgy somewhat jarring. If this happens, you've likely found your home.

3) The two are not the same

More often than not, you will hear many  people from both the Catholic and Orthodox side talk about all of the similarities between the two. While points of affinity exist, Orthodoxy and Catholicism are two very different expressions of Christianity. To deny this is to deny oneself the fulfillment of either Orthodoxy or Catholicism.

4) There isn't much time for your prior liturgical or para-liturgical practice

Orthodox liturgy demands your attention, almost all of it. If you are of a liturgical mindset, be prepared to put away most of your well worn liturgical books. This will be done out of necessity. Orthodox liturgy requires yet more study, reflection, and contemplation. It is a world all its own and getting a firm intellectual grasp on it is somewhat more challenging than the Western liturgy. Orthodoxy is very protective of its liturgy, even from itself. The Orthodox liturgy is the source of belief and praxis; it conveys and spirituality and worldview that seem lost to the West and thus challenge much of our most intimate suppositions.

5) There is no "pure" church

When one enters Orthodoxy, one agrees to exchange one set of problems for another.

6) Don't try to run away from something

Whatever one might run away from in Catholciism, one will eventually find in Orthodoxy. As such, it is best not to move away from something, but rather move towards something.

7) Don't look back in anger

The transition will never be easy if one holds resentment or anger towards one's church of origin. One will never fully absorb Orthodoxy if one looks back with regret or vitriol upon one's former church. Again, the transition must be a transition towards something, not away from something.

8) One never abandons one's family of origin

As much as one may find the pull of Orthodoxy irresistible, one should always expect to have some concern for one's church of origin. There is no way around this. If one made a healthy transition, one will always have a sympathetic or compassionate eye turned towards ones prior religion. One will do this because, much to the consternation of some, that prior church played a pivotal role in forming you into person who would seek Orthodoxy

Western Rite Orthodoxy (pars secunda)

If you are a member of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, you would have recently received the current issue of The Word. You may have noted an article by Fr. Kenneth DeVoise from the Department of Missions and Evangelism.

Fr. DeVoicse's passion for the Western type of liturgy is evident, there's no disputing that. Furthermore, his desire to see Western Rite Orthodoxy thrive in the Antiochian diocese of North America is clearly conveyed. There's only one problem, and it is a problem redolent in Western Rite Orthodoxy. It is the recitation of the same disputable Western Rite talking points that have succeeded in robbing Western Rite Orthodoxy of much legitimacy.

1) The mythical rite of St. Gregory

This the foundational myth among Western Rite Orthodox groups. There is a rite of St. Gregory that has been finally restored in their officially sanctioned liturgies. Where is the manuscript evidence of this rite of St. Gregory? By all accounts, there is none. Rather, we're expected to pull from diverse sources and follow a hypothetical argument of what the liturgy of Gregory of Rome must have been (normally in the light of modern Orthodox liturgics).

2) The Tridentine Liturgy was the first adjustment of rite of St. Gregory in one thousand years

What evidence are we pointing towards for this? The Hadrianum? Okay, fair enough. The Hadrianum is an excellent source for the pontifical liturgy at the time of Pope Hadrian. Excellent. So, I presume the Western Orthodox restored liturgy lacks a proper sanctoral, common massess, etc. correct? Then where are we getting this from? Alcuin's supplement, the same source as the Missal of Rome itself? The moment one accepts the "traditional" sanctoral of the Roman liturgy, one accepts a massive change occurred around the time of Charlamegne. The Tridetine sanctoral, with the exception of added saints, presents nothing new.

Perhaps Fr. De Voise refers to the merits of the saints, a feature expunged from the Tridentine collects in the Western Rite missal. Fair enough. This feature doesn't mesh well with modern Byzantine liturgics. However, this feature is also decidedly pre-schism. We have the manuscript trail pointing to that fact; the merits of the saints are an ancient custom in the clearly Roman type, a trait observable in the Veronese Sacramentary and the Old Gelasian.

Perhaps he means the insertion of an epiclesis? There are a minuscule number of witness (primarily the Missale Gothicum) of an epiclesis in the Latin liturgy. So far as manuscript evidence is concerned, the pre-schism Roman liturgy betrays no indication of a proper epiclesis. So far as concerns the text of the Canon, the Tridentine liturgy reproduces the pre-schism text remarkably well.

In truth, if you want to point towards how the Tridentine Liturgy was an adjustment of the earlier Roman liturgy, then you have to appeal to the rubrics of the Ordo itself. It is a painful fact that when establishing the order of the typical Mass, the Missale Romanum of Pius V ignored all of the available texts providing for a corporate celebration of the Latin liturgy in favor or rubrics which reflected the priests private celebration. This situation was slightly remedied by the publication of the Caeromaniale and Pontificale, however, the damage had been done. Of course, Fr. De Voise doesn't note this, leaving one wondering what exactly he alludes to.

3) The infamous outline

There is a now common outline among Western Orthodox groups which tries to demonstrate how their reconstructed (read: fabricated) liturgy of Rome circa A.D. 1000 was part of a continuum of development from the Roman liturgy circa A.D. 400. In the course of this, there is the assertion that the Missale Romanum of Paul VI has no continuity with the historical tradition of the Latin/Roman liturgy. Whatever my judgments on the Pauline liturgy are, I couldn't help but notice the Western Rite's outline of the Roman liturgy circa 400 A.D. looks startlingly similar to the Ordo Missae promulgated in 1970.

Depending upon one's perspective, the Western Rite in Orthodoxy is either a well meaning but misguided attempt to save classical Western/Latin liturgy, hymody and prayer, or it is the confounding attempt by certain quarters to keep fighting the reformation. Whether either of these are true makes little difference as if the Western Rite continues to go in its current direction, it is lurching towards failure. This is not do some hidden agenda on the part of the Orthodox hierarchy. Rather, it is due to the fact that the Western Rite's advocates have a deficient historical perspective on the Latin liturgical tradition. This is not going to be corrected as long as the Western Rite keeps pulling from its normal reservoirs of adherents.

Western Rite Orthodoxy plainly needs more people coming from the Patriarchate of Rome to guide its liturgical observance. It needs this type of historical perspective. The problem is most Roman Catholics who go Orthodox express little to no interest in the Western liturgy. This is understandable. The Byzantine liturgy is a world unto itself. One spent a life time learning the Roman liturgy, one spends another life time learning the Byzantine - Orthodox liturgy demands that much attention.

For the Western Rite to sruvive in Orthodoxy, its proponents need to seriously reflect upon what they hope to accomplish and why.I suspect the motivations are not as simple as wanting to preserve the Western tradition while at the same time believing papal infallibility is a massive ecclesiological error. A crucial step in this process will be acquiring a more comprehensive historical perspective on the Latin liturgy and an acceptance of its major developments.