Saturday, May 2, 2015

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.


  1. "Western Rite Orthodoxy" can work but only in theory. You would need someone with a thorough mastery of comparative liturgy and music to pull it off. For a start, they would need to "surgically remove," insofar as this is possible, any vestiges of Franciscan influence on the rite of 1474/1570 and, where it is evident, on the various uses of the Roman Rite. They would need to collect and collate the various liturgical books, so no more "missals," or "breviaries;" having instead the old sacramentaries, legendaria, psalteria, &c. The rubrics of the Roman Canon would have to be wiped clean and written anew to remove any semblance of belief in transubstantiation. Kneeling in liturgical prayer would be abolished as a feudal influence. The mediaeval chant notation (and this is incredibly difficult) would have to be studied and translated, and where do you get the music for Mattins, I wonder? Certain feasts would have to be abolished, such as Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart, &c. The function of the deacon and other ministers would have to be revised. The architecture of churches would have to be looked at; ornaments and ceremonies. The language of the rite would have to be consistent. If Latin, alright but you have to take account of pastoral sensitivities. If English, you need a consistent, fitting translation.

    It would be a never ending project and would likely take many years of earnest study and willing. Certainly much more effort would be required than pasting an epiclesis into the eucharistic prayer. But you'd have to ask yourselves, would it be worth it? Would the "finished" product not be a kind of Frankenstein's monster? And what are the real underlying motives for constructing the rite? Nostalgia for a dead rite? Are we unwilling to let go of a rite that developed under centuries of bad theology and schism? If so then something is very wrong.

  2. Wasn't that what the Vatican II missale and LH tried to do? I think part of the problem was that it was too much of a rush job. Not unlike Cranmer they pruned what they ought not to have and retained what they ought to have pruned.

    I do like the use of Scripture in the Greek rite but am a bit put off by all that ecclesiastical poetry. It's tolerable in Greek but when brought over into English, French or Italian is cloying.

  3. The reality is that the only time a western rite has worked is when it followed the original plan of Overbeck and Mar Gregorius in India, simply use the pre-Vatican II Latin/Roman rite. Anything else is simply playing at liturgy. Any attempt to return to a pristine pre-1054 liturgy is always simply fantasy and usually personal as well. And when done in a Byzantine context, simply ends up by looking a lot like the modern Byzantine rite. Strange how many so-called "ancient western" traditions discovered by these liturgical reconstructions are even, usually Russian post 1666, modern even by Byzantine standards.

    There are groups in the Byzantine Orthodox Church who also want to reconstruct ancient eastern liturgies as well (A certain OCA monastery comes to mind), they are just as artificial and bizarre as the western rite reconstructions. Patrick, kneeling is a very ancient tradition, since when is it Medieval, and why would something be bad simply because it dates from the middle ages?

    1. "The reality is that the only time a western rite has worked is when it followed the original plan of Overbeck and Mar Gregorius in India, simply use the pre-Vatican II Latin/Roman rite. Anything else is simply playing at liturgy."

      I am highly sympathetic to this view. It would make the most sense. Unfortunately, there is just not enough of a demand - most Roman Catholics who enter the Orthodox Church express little to no interest in the Western liturgy.

      The "restored" liturgy offered by the Western Rite Orthodox groups largely reflects their ecclesiastical background and their contemporary agenda.

      The question I have proposed to a few people is whether or not Orthodoxy has any business/competency taking the issue of the Western liturgy on a corporate level. There are plenty that will tell you it doesn't, either because this is, properly speaking, the responsibility of the Patriarch of Rome, or because Greek and Latin Christianity are so distinct that you are dealing with some very different (and highly localized) concepts in a variety of areas.

    2. Actually, quite a number of traditionalist Roman Catholics were interested in the Roman rite in Orthodoxy; in Italy in the 1970's there was a mass movement into the Moscow Patriarchate of Catholic traditionalists. After they were received, Moscow made overtures to Rome concerning the Ukrainian situation, in order to placate the Roman Church over the suppression of the Greek Catholics, the Roman rite Orthodox in Italy were told to leave and return to the Roman Catholic Church; there was also a mass movement of Roman riters to western rite Orthodoxy in the Philippines as well as South and Central America, in the end, they were told to adopt the Byzantine rite, or go elsewhere. The Byzantine Church has never been supportive of a Roman rite, or any western rite to be honest. In the end, they will accept, as a bait and switch or property grab, heavily Byzantinized communities of the western rite, realizing that it will be easy to Byzantinize such communities, which is the only real game-plan.

    3. On our side, the Antiochian diocese, we just don't see the demand.

      In Italy, I can see why this happened. Rome views Italy as its own, Moscow views the Ukraine as its own. In the case of Italy, the Catholic identity of the South has always been suspect - Southern Italy being largely Orthodox before the Norman conquest. I imagine Ukrainian Catholics can make a similar claim for certain parts of the Ukraine.

      As a former Roman, I don't find much fault with the Orthodox Churches. Catholicism and Orthodoxy are two very different things, stemming from two very different sources. Whatever common ancestor they had is functionally lost. So, yes, I expect Orthodox to "Byzantinize" Western liturgies, much as I also expect Catholicism to impose celibacy outside of the ancestral country and demand a papal indult to drop the Filioque at the Creed.

      The current environment, which is awash in either "true church" claims or well-meaning (but misguided) affirmations that Catholicism and Orthodoxy are the same are not especially helpful. They are different, they are distinct. Denying this difference hinders one's true experience of either. Meanwhile, resting on true church claims...I will only say that "true church" claims, from the perspective of critical scholarship, are somewhat distorted.

    4. Well, it is good to hear that you are not claiming the one true church title for Byzantium; personally, I fail to see how any church limited to one ethno-cultural liturgical expression can be too much more than an ethnic sect. Both Rome and the Oriental Orthodox have a multitude of ancient liturgical traditions, Byzantium only has one, and then tries to show their catholicity by a fairly stupid song-and-dance about minor ethnic liturgical differences between the Greeks and the Russians to show how they embrace liturgical diversity!

      Any interest in their so-called western rite has been effectively killed in Antioch by the numbers of western rite parishes that have gone Greek rite, often by a personal demand of the Metropolitan, this was especially true of Holy Redeemer in Los Altos, California.

    5. You're overstating the ancient liturgical traditions of Rome. The old roman missal is largely the product of an ethno-cultural expression, one that eliminated most varians. Milan's rite and the few extant rite's of other Sees (including Toledo and Braga) were romanized. The so-called Gallican rite has vanished save for few examples and assimilation into Roman types. With regards to the new Missale Romanum, again, a product of a particular cultural expression - although enough loopholes are there for African and Asian variance. But back to the point, there is just as much ethno-cultural centricism in Rome as there is Byzantium. The Gallican rite would have been the only quantifiable example of a genuinely non-Roman rite - it was thoroughly suppressed. Otherwise, it is shades of Rome all over the Latin tradition for most of history.

      And yes, there are Greek, Slavonic/Russian, and Arabic variances among the more mainline Orthodox. They are as substantive as any one can point to in the Latin tradition.

      Both Rome and Constantinople consolidated liturgical influence over their respective spheres. That is, in a nutshell, the history of how we came to the liturgical rites we have now. One can get lost in minutiae on either side of the equation and insist upon exemplars of diversity, practically speaking, such exemplars are irrelevant.

      Regarding the trials and tribulations of the Western Rite - not being attached to it myself - it makes sense. Orthodoxy and Catholicism are two distinct systems. Furthermore, I would hold the business of the Western liturgy (corporately speaking) belongs to the Patriarch of Rome, practically speaking. I know plenty of people who would disagree with me and take offense at my statement, but having lived along the Tiber before sailing to Byzantium, that is the perspective I have. I could be very wrong.

    6. You seem to be forgetting that within the Church of Rome there also exists Byzantine rite diocese and Patriarchates, as well as Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopian etc. Rome is not limited to only the western expression of the faith.

      There only viable western rite Orthodoxy was to be found within the Indian Orthodox Church, one of the members of the Oriental Orthodox families.

      You have fallen into the trap of thinking that religion is only a question of exterior differences. There are millions of Byzantine rite Catholics.

    7. Within the Church of Rome, there is the liturgy of the Church of Rome, unless you want to subscribe to an ecclesiology that believes the Church of Rome is the Catholic and Apostolic Church. If that is your ecclesiology, more power to ya'. But that is about the only way what you're proposing works.

      "You have fallen into the trap of thinking that religion is only a question of exterior differences."

      Did you even stop to think about what you just typed?

    8. Although I am not a Roman Catholic,the position of the Catholic Church is that they are indeed the Church of all Apostolic Christians and their traditions. Hence, when a Russian, Greek or Ethiopian becomes a Catholic they bring with them their ancient traditions. Rome values such liturgical and ethnic diversity, whilst Byzantium destroys all liturgies not from Byzantine sources. Byzantium is not only opposed to the ancient Roman rite, but to the ancient eastern rites of Oriental Orthodoxy as well.

      For you, as for most Byzantine, the catholic faith and tradition only concerns exteriors, and Byzantine ones at that.

    9. A further problem with your argument is that you're positioning a relatively recent phenomenon (acceptance of non-Roman liturgy as long as such churches confess Roman doctrines) as a perpetual pracice. Rome's policy until recent history was to either replace a non-Roman rite (cf., the Latin missionaries to Ethiopia) or heavily Latinize them. Mind you, these churches stil have to confess peculiar Roman doctrines (orginiating in the Latin Church's poor translation of scripture and equally poor comprehension of Greek). One can argue, as Hull implies in the Banished Heart, the confession of doctrine foreign to these churches is perhaps more dismissive of their traditions than any liturgical legislation could ever be. It has been a long time since liturgical expression held much weight in the Roman Church - it's the confession of dogma that provides all the earmarks of Roman orthodoxy. So great, the Byzantine or Eastern churches get their liturgy legislated toleration by the mid-late 20th century, a point by which liturgical expression has become marginal to doctrinal legislation, even when such legislation is based upon scant historical or textual support.

      Either which way, Rome does the same thing you fault the Orthodox Churches for, it is only a matter of how you like to take your poison.

    10. This is not a new concept. The Byzantine Italo-Greeks of Italy have existed as a viable religious community and tradition for centuries in full communion with Rome. They still have their Byzantine rite after centuries, their main monastery, Grottaferrate, is close enough to the Vatican City to see S Peter's Cathedral, it was founded as a Greek rite monastery in 1004. And has always preserved the Greek rite. have you anything comparable in Byzantium?

    11. "For you, as for most Byzantine, the catholic faith and tradition only concerns exteriors, and Byzantine ones at that."

      Again, do you ever stop to think about what you write?

      I used to be Roman Catholic. I went Orthodox. I also have more academic training under my belt than one probably should in this material.

      Catholicism and Orthodoxy are two distinct systems. From linguistiic and textual perspective, I side with Orthodoxy particularly when it comes peculiar Roman doctrines.

      My position regarding the Western liturgy: it is in a sorry state, but Orthodoxy is not in the position to do anything about it nor have the competency so to do.

      Now, coming from the perspective of critical scholarship, any claims that the apostolic era was either Catholic or Orthodox need to be taken with a grain of salt.

      As pertains the bulk of your comment, I refer to my previous statement: tolerance of non-Latin traditions is relatively new for Rome. Furthermore, tolerance of a Christian tradition outside of one's own is relatively new and not necessarily permenant. This has to be kept in mind.

    12. "The Byzantine Italo-Greeks of Italy have existed as a viable religious community and tradition for centuries in full communion with Rome. They still have their Byzantine rite after centuries, their main monastery, Grottaferrate, is close enough to the Vatican City to see S Peter's Cathedral, it was founded as a Greek rite monastery in 1004."

      Grottaferrata was founded by Nilus of Rossano before the Schism and, following Nilus' origins in Byzantine Calabria, was founded in communion with Constantinople. Grottaferrata was spared the systematic purging that the Latin Church applied to the overwhelming majority of Orthodox churches in Sourthern Italy. This is significant, as the Christianity of Southern Italy was Byzantine and for the better part of its existence under the sphere of Constantinople. Grottaferrata was spared largely due its patronage and the protection accorded to it by the nearby Benedictines - although, this too came at the cost of Latinization. Your're talking about one monastery left, when everything else was literally torn down and replaced, when a whole region (beginning just south of Rome) was put through religious re-engineering, and a monastery was forced to accept communion with Rome for its survival. Are you sure you want to use that as your example? I know it is an attractive line, and Italo-Greeks tell themselves it to this day, even as the Orthodox Church reclaims what was left of its old monasteries and churches under legislation from the Italian government. But dig just a little deeper into the historical record, and you find the Italo-Greeks in communion with Rome have to gloss over a lot of data to justify their present canonical position.

      "have you anything comparable in Byzantium?"

      More to the point, given the actual history, should there be (morally speaking) anything comparable in Byzantium?

  4. Perhaps of interest in this context:

    1. Do we have any documentation indicating why Antioch goes from what appears to be a reserved redaction of the Tridentine Missal, to the "Rite of St. Gregory" sanctioned for churches that don't use the Rite of St. Tikhon?

    2. Actually, it was quite the opposite of what you are proposing. Until 1977, and the submission of the former Anglo-Catholic Church of the Incarnation in Detroit, Michigan, the only western rite used in Antioch was the Roman rite (S Gregoria) as originally approved by the Holy Synod of Russian in 1870/71. The Anglican form was approved for use of converting Episcopalians, but the forms, prayers and especially the priestly private prayers had to conform to the Roman rite for it to be approved by Antioch. The originally Anglican from used the old Anglican Missal and the work was done by Fr Joseph Angwin who was pastor of Incarnation.

    3. But we need to get past this Rite of St. Gregory. If someone wants to call it the Rite of Charlemagne, fine, maybe. But if someone really wants to push the idea that the Pre-Vatican II Roman liturgy, or the current Rite of St. Gregory, was or is the liturgy of Gregory I, well, one needs to make the available data work. The evidence doesn't bode well for such a claim. At best, one can reasonably claim that the so-called Tridentine liturgy and the Rite of St. Gregory work off Romano-Gallic-German hybrid that became the basis of the Roman liturgy in 11th century.To claim that that liturgy goes back to Gregory is a strech.

    4. It is as believable as thinking that the modern Byzantine rite is actually the rite of S John...

    5. The canon of the Roman rite is the most ancient in existence today, and almost unchanged from the time of S Gregory. Why would a liturgy not be acceptable if it also draws from Germanic sources? Ethno-racism? Only Greeks are good, everyone else is bad?

    6. "It is as believable as thinking that the modern Byzantine rite is actually the rite of S John."

      Huh...when did I profess to believe in that?

    7. "The canon of the Roman rite is the most ancient in existence today, and almost unchanged from the time of S Gregory. Why would a liturgy not be acceptable if it also draws from Germanic sources? Ethno-racism? Only Greeks are good, everyone else is bad?"

      The Roman liturgy is more than the canon.

      From the time of Gregory? Well, that kind of rides on how you date the manuscript tradition and correlate its contents.

      Um, no only Italians are good...everyone else is simply not Italian.

  5. The Rite of New Skete is quite interesting in that it has done away with much superstitious nonsense and has returned to a better use of scripture. It is such a pity that it seems to be limited to that one monastery.

    1. I have read the Rite of New Skete, although a number of years ago.

      My estimation was, and remains, that it is quite as good, and as bad, as the Rite of Pope Paul VI.

      I have also been in communication, if not communion, with a number of Orthodox. They seem to concur with my opinion. Their words, as a matter of fact, were rather stronger than I would have used myself. Something beginning with "Not with a ten foot pole..."

      You might want to examine what you mean by "superstitious nonsense", or to explicate it a bit better than you have in your brief squib. Personally, I also like to know the name of the person I am speaking with. I am honest enough to give mine. How about you?

  6. As I am attempting to get my wife out of the hospital that she has been in for the last two and a half weeks, this shall have to be brief.

    Nonetheless, perhaps it might be wise for Orthodox Churches to consider Western Latin Rites which existed at the time of the East/West schisms, or predated them: the Ambrosian, the Mozarabic, the (early) Gallican, and the Sarum liturgical rites, instead of liturgical 'reconstructions'. (I hesitate to mention the Italo-Greek, simply because I do not know the state of preservation of its manuscript tradition).

    As for V's concern about the motivations of some Western Rite Orthodox in holding to their particular 'rite', I would agree with him. An attempt to pray these early rites without a requisite liturgical and theological formation would be as fruitless an attempt as dramatic players attempting to perform a play of Shakespeare without a historical and literary understanding of the text. Both would be 'just reading lines.'

    The crucial thing to such a liturgical restoration, however, would be a liturgically informed community or communities which would 'pray' the rite, and to be spiritually informed by that rite. Such communities might profitably start as monastics, like the Russians under Tatar occupation.

  7. As a person who knew the thinking of the Bishop who presented the "Liturgy of St. Gregory" to the Russian Church in 2010 I wish to make a few comments. The "Prayers at the Foot of the Altar" were moved to the sacristy. His insertion of the "deprecation Gelasii" as an option to the Kyrie was done ONLY because of pastoral consideration of the Eastern Orthodox attending some of the Western Rite parishes. His restoration of the Old Testament lesson was both a return to an earlier use in Western Liturgy that had also been done in Rome and elsewhere. However, unlike the others, he went to Gallican sources which had shared the OT Lessons at one time in history with Rome. The Russian Bishops required a descending epiclesis, and out of obedience, he inserted it before the ascending one of the Roman rite. There were other things done out of obedience to the Russian Bishops such as the use of prosphora. So, "V," things were never "fabricated" for and in the Russian Church's Western Rite. However some things were eliminated as not being congruent with Orthodoxy as the Russians understand it.

    The Russians have also approved the Sarum, Milanese / Ambrosian, Gallican, and Carthusian (Dom Augustine) Western Liturgies as well as those approved by the Antiochian Archdiocese.

    What determines the use of a parish is where the converts are coming from when they form a new Orthodox parish.

    If one looks at the current uses in the Russian Church one finds many liturgies: John Chrysostom, Basil, Mark, James, and even a "Liturgy of St Peter" which is an interpolation of the Roman Mass into the Eastern Structure and served as an Eastern Liturgy. And the celebrations differ to some extent depending on the ethnic grouping.

    1. Anonymous, and you should appreciate the "Anonymous"/"V" exchange here, I would very much like to see the text of this liturgy you describe.

    2. Thank you, A., for the information that the Russian Church permits the use of a number of the rites I have mentioned elsewhere. I would, like V., see some confirmation of this. Looking forward to your kind reply, I am,

      Very truly yours, etc.


    1. Thank you, Anonymous, for providing us the text of this fascinating and edifying liturgical text. It is every bit as good as the liturgical rite served and celebrated by the monks of New Skete.

      I suppose that the best thing that can be said of it is the counsel given in the Acts of the Apostles by the Rabbi Gamaliel: If this is not of God, of course it will not continue. But if it is of God, let us take care lest we contend against the will of God.

      In short, to put it rather more crassly, let's run it up the iconostasis and see if anyone venerates it. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The proof of the liturgy is in the praying.