28 September 2013

Orthodoxy Shouldn't Be An Easy Way Out

I've deleted the text of this post and frozen the comments.

It didn't get close to the people it was aimed at, and my bending over backwards not to annoy the Orthodox led me to knock myself out, as it were: I got some facts wrong, hence the corrections from Anagnostis (though some are his points are worth discussion, just not here).

Sorry, folks!


rocinante said...

Perhaps the fault is my comprehension, but several parts of this post are quite unclear to me.

In your first point, the opinion of a single priest about ideal circumstances doesn't spin out to all that much. Orthodox faithful span a wide spectrum from adopting to shunning "Western" practices, beliefs etc. Certainly some parishes and churches such as ROCOR preach certain repudiation of the Western heritage, but the real majority do not.

I don't know what your second point is supposed to argue.

Regarding liturgy, Orthodox don't deny that Eucharist occurs in the Catholic mass, although they don't bother affirming it as repeatedly as we affirm theirs. What is the trouble here? As to their liturgy, it isn't serious to assert that liturgical change has been comparable between the two.

What you refer to by Erastianism is the most valid point. It is rather individualistic for the average Westerner to pick one of the alphabet soup of Orthodox denominations based on some nebulous discernment. That's one of the things keeping me from considering Orthodoxy seriously. I'm not sure if I find our schema of claims to doctrinal continuity much more convincing than theirs. We've kept the commandments about marriage a bit better.

Belloc said...


I'm afraid I don't find any of your points persuasive. I know they're well-intentioned, but I feel each can be easily countered.

I appreciate your effort, but as I indicated in an earlier post, I'm not planning to leave the Church. I'm simply "terrified" that recent events have made Orthodoxy, specifically the Hilarion Alfayev/Kallistos Ware variety, seem attractive in any way at all.

I'd engage your points, but I'm afraid in arguing them I'd only succeed in arguing myself into a place I do not want to be.

Ttony said...

Oh well - it didn't work. I didn't want to write anything critical about the Orthodox, but that's left something that has confused rather than clarified. I think I'd better leave it there.

Anagnostis said...

One or two things to say, when I can get near a proper computer, with a keyboard!

Lazarus said...

Well, I'm grateful for your efforts to articulate the issues!

I did seriously consider Orthodoxy when I was leaving Anglicanism. In the end, I think the main problem was that, whatever the Orthodox criticisms made of Rome -and a key point is that the criticisms vary depending on which Orthodox writer you read (a confusion I found telling in itself)- I found myself thinking that Roman responses to those criticisms were more plausible than the original charges.

I struggle to understand how one can move from (eg) 'Pope Francis isn't a very good Pope' to 'Orthodoxy is right'. I suppose the thought about Francis might trigger theological reflections which would eventually lead you to Orthodoxy, but then I'd be more interested in those reflections than the original psychological trigger. I see your post as an attempt to throw some light on this murky leap: to the extent the post is 'unclear', I suspect that's less your fault than a result of the unclarity of the leap.

Anagnostis said...

Just a few quick comments, Ttony. Forgive me if I've misunderstood (very likely), or if my comments seem disappointing in any way.

I'd like to throw a few thoughts out there for anybody who thinks that Orthodoxy is a reactive answer to post-VII Catholicism.

Quite right. It isn't. Pre-Vatican II Catholicism doesn't bring one any closer, either; and Catholic "Traditionalism" (not the same thing at all) is in many ways about as far away as it gets. Catholics of whatever complexion have to understand that one enters Orthodoxy naked. Everything goes overboard.

Each of the Orthodox Churches is a separate Church: to join one means to repudiate membership of any other.

I was so startled by this assertion I had to read it several times. It's completely and absolutely mistaken. The anomaly of "national jurisdictions" carried over into lands never, or no longer, Orthodox - mission territory in other words - is of recent emergence. It's not difficult to trace historically why and how it has arisen but it certainly is not canonically normative, nor is the soul of the Church (One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic) involved. It's an administrative problem, and perhaps it will begin to resolve itself in due course. Meanwhile, communion between the various jurisdictions is absolutely unimpaired. My own parish was of Cypriot foundation in the 1960's, in the diocese of Thyateira and Great Britain (Constantinople). Today, the priest is Greek but most of the congregation are Slavs of various kinds, Romanians and English. The creed is recited in Greek, English, Slavonic and Romanian. Some parts of the Liturgy are celebrated in the official English translation of the Greek Archdiocese; some others in an English translation originating among the Russians. Our former deacon was for several years attached to the Russian Archdiocese. There is a Russian monastery nearby where our priest goes regularly to help out and hear confessions (he is revered as a sprirtual father among the regulars there, many of whom will seek him out, even when a Russian priest is present). He concelebrates frequently with Russians and Romanians. I sometimes read at the Russian monastery, confess and receive communion there.

If anyone wishes to enter the Orthodox Church, my advice is simply to approach the parish nearest one's home, or the one which uses routinely the most English in the Liturgy, regardless of jurisdiction.

The Orthodox Liturgy has suffered (admittedly a long time ago, now) the same sort of depredation that the Roman Rite has seen since Vatican II and its beautiful Liturgy can be seen as a mutilated form of something earlier and more beautiful (if you were the Orthodox version of a Lefebvrist).

Again, I can't think what you're getting at here. Do you mean the "supplanting" of the Liturgy of St Basil with the shorter Liturgy of St John Chrysostom? But the latter is really just a shorter version of the former, and the former is in any case retained throughout Lent and on other occasions, There is no wholesale alteration, abandonment and substitution of texts or rubrics such as one sees in the West since the 1960's. Perhaps you're referring to cerrtain ceremonial details that came in with the Turkish yoke; but again these are rather abstruse, and wholly "external" to the integrity of the rites.

More to follow...

Anagnostis said...

Erastianism: being part of that part of the Church headed by the Pope means (or meant absolutely until recently) that you were part of a universal Church, not one tied to a specific territory and time. Choosing the Greek rather the Russian Orthodox Church is not simply a question of linguistic preference

Orthodoxy is not "Erastian". It's perfectly true that the state, at different times and places, has attempted to bully, dragoon or otherwise interfere with the hierarchy within its territories - but is this any less true of Roman Catholicism within the old empires? The Austrian imperial governement controlled all ecclesiastical appointments, vetted sermons and publications and even retained the veto in Papal elections until 1904! In any case, look at the so-called "golden age" of the Byzantine sinfonia; very quickly, one realises that most of the saints in times of crisis in relations with the state were those those who resisted and were persecuted by the "Orthodox" emperors and the corrupt hierarchs under their patronage. The period of subjugation by the state of the Russian Church from the time of Peter the Great until the twentieth century is regarded within Orthodoxy as one of "captivity", in many ways akin to - and in a certain sense worse than - the subjugation of Orthodox Christians within the Ottoman Empire.

And however the Orthodox Churches came to where they are now (and after a millennium they will not be moved quickly) , you will have to turn your back on Peter, telling him that you have decided that when what happened a thousand a more years ago happened, you've just realised that you ended up on the wrong side.

There is no possible way of making a "Roman Catholic" case for Orthodoxy. While I make no complaint whatever about "Latins" commenting from a "Latin" perspective, it has to be understood that citing Latin self-understanding in order to demonstrate that the Orthodox are imperfectly, or defectively Roman Catholic, is pointlessly circular. We're not "Roman Catholic" at all!. Moreover it has to be understood that from the Orthodox perspective, the date of 1054 is largely symbolic. The estrangement was gradual; it began many centuries earlier and wasn't definitive until several centuries later. In respect of "Peter", there is the perception of the old Roman Church changing markedly in character under Frankish domination, after which an increasingly partisan overstatement of its particular claims hardened into outright misrepresentation, with disastrous consequences for all.

Rocinante: As our ancient liturgical texts make clear, our understanding of the mystery of Holy Matrimony is markedly different from that of the West. The canons governing divorce and remarriage were established (IIRC) around the time of the Council of Nicea.

Anagnostis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anagnostis said...

A little note about the Rosary, and other Latin devotions: it's not their "western-ness" simply that makes them difficult to place within the patristic spiritual tradition of Orthodoxy, but their promotion of imagination in prayer. This is something the Fathers have always warned against; it can shade of too readily into fantasy, laying us wide open to delusional suggestions, internal and external.

rocinante said...

Yes, I've seen the 'hard' Orthodox storyline before. Play up the decay of Rome starting in the 8th or so centuries using certain synods etc., play down the 19th century vintage of so much of the 'distinctive, ancient' Orthodox commandments. It's a very interesting and modern spin. I can't blame it, really -- if it was the Roman modernists that wanted to cuddle up all of a sudden, I'd start playing up a harder, more distinct identity as well.