The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Roman Catholicism: An Even Shorter Apologia

I am a Roman Catholic because all those who seem to want to defend our Church are either extremely ignorant of history or just plain bald-faced polemicists who will do anything to win an argument. All of our doctrines are cute and kitschy. Why do people want to screw them up by taking the explanations we come up with for them seriously? Don't you know that the word, "Purgatorio" doesn't appear ANYWHERE in the traditional liturgy, or even in the new one? Don't you know that the entire traditional soteriology of the Roman Church is based on medieval models of law and recompense that many of us now find laughable? And the Papacy.... please, don't get me started.....

It's historical accident, people. That's where Faith comes in. I am not saying that these things are outright false. Rather, I am saying that we live in a day and age when we must be more conscious of where these doctrines come from and how they have been changed, forgotten, and distorted over time. Maybe this is how things really are. Our human minds are so small and finite that maybe this is the best we can do with what we are given. But to want to beat everyone over the head about them? To pretend that our arguments are air-tight, and that we have some sort of monopoly on objectivity while we place all of the rest of the Christian confessions on the side of subjectivist, liberal thought with Kant and Derrida? Please!

Vatican II changed much more than anyone wants to admit, for better or worse.

Ranting mode off. For reference, see this post.

(For a more constructive conversation about this, see this post.)


At 2:49 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

I really wanted to post something on the Spanish rock band, La Oreja de Van Gogh. But YouTube is not letting me post videos for some reason. Bumber.

Anyway, you just have to settle for this ranting mess.

At 6:09 PM, Blogger John Adrian Martin said...

It's more helpful than you think.

At 9:18 PM, Blogger Mark said...

It seems that your arguments re: the Traditional liturgy is right on - yet your arguments about "midieval" law and the papacy comes from the complete other direction. The exact reasons that support the traditional liturgy over the newer order is ignored in cases which don't support your viewpoint.

See what Chesterton said:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it." ... Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, or that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.
G.K. Chesterton, The Thing.

I might add (If I be permitted to add to his great bulk) that because something *has* historical roots cannot disqualify it, for even your stand is rooted (albeit disjointedly) in some history or another.

At 9:03 AM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...


Thank you for that. As I have stated before, I don't like the idea of jettisoning anything. In fact, I would be all for re-installing all of the Papal ceremonial that treats the Pope like a demi-god. However, that does not mean I think the theology is as solid as people would like to think it is, and this should give us pause.

Human beings, especially nowadays, are way to dumb to make anything work. So it is best to work with what we are given. I am thus in whole-hearted agreement with the Chesterton quote. But I don't think what I advocate here is an issue of throwing things out, but rather including things that maybe we have been overlooked. I have no problem, for example, with Anselm's doctrine of vicarious satisfaction; but I think it should be accepted as one explanation among others about why God became man. Also, I have no problem with Papal monarchy in principle, but I would like to include other, somewhat latent models of communion theology as well. And of course, I think there seriously has to be a debate as to what role capital "T" Tradition plays in all of this, and what can be changed and what must stay the same. As it stands now, I think there is far too much meddling going on in the transmission of the Church's patrimony.

At 9:45 AM, Blogger D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

Now here's my rant. I'm all smashed on Starbucks and can't help myself.

I don't have much time for the Orthodox equivalents of the neo-Catholic super-apologists who annoy you. Both assume that the history of the Church is a lot more clear cut and "on their side" than it really is. Both lay an absolute claim to the real, true Tradition when in one sense both do, and in another sense neither do. Tradition is not the "possession" of one or the other communion, by which we judge the purity of other Christians or communions: Tradition stands above and beyond both communions and judges us all.

Yes, Newman is right: "To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." But when you get into the tortured world of Orthodox/Catholic difficulties, I've found that history doesn't really get you anywhere. I could make an excellent apologia for the Papacy based upon the history of the "undivided Church" and then turn around immediately and make an equally excellent apologia for Eastern conciliarity based upon the same history. Who is right? Both are right in one sense, and in another sense none are right.

There's a real ambiguity and uncertainty to being an Orthodox and especially a Western Rite Orthodox. I don't really buy the byzantinocentric view of church history and theology that some Western Rite Orthodox feel obliged to hold:

"Yes, you can have your cute little ritual Western traditions and be nice little Western Catholic types, as long as you agree with us that Rome is an evil schismatic heretical pseudo-church, and as long as some Byzantine academic theologian has done a cut-and-paste job with your treasured patrimony. Then, and only then, will we accept you as something cute to parade around; but of course the hierarchy reserve the right at any time to completely obliterate your traditions - in which case we expect all of you to become happy lobotomized Byzantines."

And this is the generous "liberal" Orthodox take on the Western Rite ... OK, it's an extreme caricature, but there is still some truth to it.

I don't buy the romantic picture of a lovey-dovey first millennium of united "Eastern and Western Orthodoxy" – the one where everyone believed exactly what modern Eastern Orthodox do but sometimes had some different prayers, wore slightly different hats and vestments, and chanted differently.

No, all you had back then were Eastern Churches and Western Churches, and they were not all the same in theology with cute little ritual differences. It was not all lovey-dovey. By the time of St. Leo, and even earlier, there were already at least two very different ecclesiological visions existing in the Church, as well as different visions/viewpoints on just about every other theological topic. Yes, there was a common dogmatic framework, but there was already wild variation within this broad framework. And yet somehow, for the most part (with a few very notable exceptions), East and West were somehow to stay in communion. God only knows how!

This all sounds cynical and relativistic, and admittedly it is. But it's the only sense I've been able to make of the scandalous, blasphemous schism, short of adopting the partisan viewpoint of one or the other side of the schism.

I wish I didn't think about this sort of stuff. I shouldn't regard the 1000 year old schism as a cause for personal anxiety or angst. I just want to be a catholic Christian, say my prayers and go to heaven. For whatever reason, I find myself in communion with an Orthodox bishop in a Western Rite community. All the means of grace are there, and every element necessary to salvation. I'm just struggling to be a decent Christian, sometimes succeeding and often failing miserably; there's no time to waste on what the Monks of Athos are saying this week about panheresies and the Whore of Babylon.

At 3:55 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Wow, bja, how do you really feel?

Seriously, thank you for posting that. You are Western rite Orthodox, sometimes I feel I am Western rite Orthodox in communion with Rome (try to wrap your mind around that one). This is odd, since technically I became Byzantine rite in order to join a particular monastery. So where am I now? Stuck.

I just wish people would stop being so cocky about things. My main fear about all of the religiosity on the Internet, EWTN, and other conservative Roman Catholic venues is that they will transform our religion into something that it isn't; namely, and ideology beholden to a particular set of men in power.

I fear that these Catholic cultural warriors might destroy the wonder and freedom inherent in the Christian message, or at least channel it into an obligatory style that tries to put all of us into an Anglo-Saxon, crypto-Protestant cultural box. A few other Catholic voices on the Internet also share this fear, and some good posts have been making the rounds in the past couple of months concerning these things, although they are often met with incomprehension by other Catholics. Maybe my fear is unwarranted, but we have to find an orthodox Catholic praxis unattached to polemical style, ideological baggage, and ecclesiatical politics. If not, we should just pack our bags and join the Monastery of Esphigmenou on Mt. Athos (Orthodoxia o Thanatos!)

Of course, most Roman Catholic tradtionalists are even worse, but much of what they say is so ridiculous that it almost goes without saying.

Bja, you really need your own blog. I would be the first one to link to you. Thank you for reading, and lay easy on the Starbucks. It's not good for you.

At 4:42 PM, Blogger Ochlophobist said...

BJA has a blog -

In what sense is the schism blasphemous?

I am fully willing to admit that polemical ideologues from both sides of the divide are oft guilty of gross oversimplification and have a rhetorical agenda which they are committed to playing through to the end come hell or high water. Fine. But if one is going to play the cynic, play it all the way! The pro-ecumenist camps are just as polemical (even if polemically tolerant or some such thing), they are just as simplistic in their argumentation, they are just as committed to an ideology. Of course, the pro-ecumenist types are what one will find in prestigious seminaries and graduate schools of theology and thus carry more social credibility today. So what? Frankly, I see Fr. Leonid Kishkovsky vs. Athos as six one way, half dozen the other. Both put on airs. The same arrogance I see in Athos I see in the pro-ecumenists. Both sides think that they and they alone can truly see what divides and what doesn't.

The one difference that I sense when looking at the two groups is this: We always pick on the motivation of the Athonite, how backwards and deluded he is, etc. But what of the motivation of the ecumenist? The well educated ecumenist who cannot see the pop modernist sentimentality which informs his reading of scripture, his wishy washy negotiable ecclesiology, and his adolescent constant taking of offense at the great "scandal" of "disunity" - such a person is perhaps even more deluded than the Athonite who views RCs as hell fodder. I don't care whether or not ecumenism is the great panheresy. It makes no difference to me as I see it first an foremost as intellectual kitsch and an ecclesial bureaucratic banalization - A Madison Avenue commercial with Rodney King holding hands with Jesus.

At 7:11 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

My bad. I didn't realize it was our beloved blogger from Occidentalis. Love your blog by the way.

Owen, once again we are in fundamental agreement. We are agreeing to disagree. We are agreeing that our minds are too puny to resolve this schism. I will say that the schism is scandalous, but most things about Christianity are scandalous because we simply do not live up to the challenge of the Gospel. Again, we should be asking whether or not we are worthy to receive Communion in our own churches instead of asking why we aren't receiving Communion in other people's churches.

This being said, I have to say that I find Uniatism of any type degrading in principle. I understand that in Eastern Europe in particular, Uniatism is here to stay for reasons that more often than not have little to do with theology, and when they do have to do with theology, have to do with LATIN theology. But I still think that Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism mix like oil and water for a variety of reasons, and one cannot help but want to change the other. Granted, I have never been in Western-rite Orthodox, but I find the premise of its very existence a bit insulting. We Western Christians (I guess it is possible to say I can't call myself that anymore, but bear with me), we Western Christians don't need you Byzantines to tell us what to do. For me, it would be much more dignified if these people just joined the Anglican Continuum.

And of course the same goes for our Uniates. I wouldn't shed a tear if all of them went Orthodox tommorrow. It would probably be better for them. And if I were really serious about practicing in the Byzantine rite, I would join the ROCOR in a heart-beat, and start taking Old Slavonic lessons ASAP. But as it stands now, I have no inclination to do so, and the only way I can see myself doing this is if I fall in love with a nice Orthodox woman or something of that sort. (So now my Orthodox readers know how to get me to become Orthodox...)

In any event, I don't know why we worry so much about these things. I worship with traditional Anglicans four days a week and I feel no inclination to discuss our differences, since I know in the great scheme of things they are menial and only God can sort them out.

At 7:20 PM, Blogger D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

Ochlophobist -

I don't consider myself to be a ecumenist in the sense that Fr Leonid Kishkovsky is. I was very happy when the Antiochians left the NCC. I wouldn't mind at all if all the Orthodox left the WCC tomorrow. My ecumenical take on Protestants is that they should all become Orthodox or RC. So, frankly, I'm not sure that some of your criticisms of "ecumenism" (many of which I agree with) apply to me.

If I am an "ecumenist" it's a "mere catholic ecumenist." I'm interested in what can be done to foster rapprochement between Chalcedonian Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Roman Catholics. I would also include here pockets of "catholic Christians" such as faithful Anglo-Catholics (not "AffCaff").

I know that this sort of thing still puts me under the "anathema" of Orthodox anti-ecumenists. That's fine, as long as it's clear that I am not a WCC/NCC-style ecumenist.

At 7:30 PM, Blogger D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

I don't know precisely why this morning I described the schism as "blasphemous" (maybe it's was the Starbucks talking!). Perhaps it's blasphemous because it is a grave offense to our Lord, who prayed for the unity of his Church. And both sides of the schism have done things to each other, fellow Christians, which can be considered blasphemous insofar as Christ himself is present in his faithful.

At 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the reason why the motivations of the Athonite are questioned while the radical ecumenists are given a pass is that the former seems to be interested in defining himself and his Church by what it is not, whereas the latter seems to be attempting something constructive (constructive because I think everyone agrees that a Christianity divided into different denominations as opposed to one Church is not the Christianity that God intended).

I suppose that the Ochlophobist's encounters with ecumenists has been different from mine since I have not really encountered a radical ecumenist (as described by the Ochlophobist) in any "mere catholic" Church (as described by Subdeacon Benjamin)--only the mild ecumenist.

It really should not be about pretending that differences don't exist, or insisting that differences do not matter--it is a question of whether the differences are of such quality that they justify not being in communion with one another. I agree with the Ochlophobist that Catholicism and Orthodoxy are different religions. The question is whether the Catholic Church can contain within herself multiple religions and still proclaim the Orthodox Faith. If it can, then discussion about particulars may be worthwhile, if it cannot, then the whole ecumenical project, with its dialogues, joint declarations, and what not, is worthless.

At 9:49 PM, Blogger D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

Han -

I believe that there are some very important differences between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, but I would not go as far as to say that they are "different religions."

Maybe there's a semantic problem here, so I will clarify: Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism are not two different religions in the same way that Buddhism and Islam are two different religions.

I don't see how it can be denied that both are clearly Christian. In my book, if you can subscribe to the basic content of the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, you're a Christian, period. And even further than this basic credal agreement (which we do share with orthodox Protestants), I think that both Orthodoxy and Catholicism can be easily shown to be the legitimate heirs of a common catholic "Great Tradition."

Now, again, I would never deny there are some important differences within the "Great Tradition." My concept of "ecumenism" includes facing these differences honestly. But in my understanding there is still a common framework between EOs and RCs which is simply not shared with most Protestants, quasi-Christian sects, and other world religions. This common framework is the basis for what I consider to be "mere catholic ecumenism."

Maybe it's all a foolish pipe dream, or maybe it's a product of the virtue of hope. I don't know. It's the only way I can process the scandal of schism.

At 10:15 PM, Blogger Warren said...

I appreciate your intent, but find your argument intellectually weak.

You're correct in saying things aren't as simple as some apologists make it sound like it is, but neither is what they are saying exactly wrong. They are trying to explain (to people who disagree completely), that it makes sense.

You can (without disagreeing completely with what the Catholic Church teaches) often find many complementary "both-and" aspects of Tradition, Dogma, CAtholic Theology, Liturgy, what-have-you that make it all less clear-cut, less for-all-time-universal, than it actually is.

But your argument cuts both ways, and can be easily used to denigrate that which you wish to protect. Your argument is weak and imprecise and vulnerable to misuse.

I could use your argument, to argue against the traditional Tridentine forms which you appear to quite like. Good. Mee too. But, remember, there were always other rites than the Roman rite, and so the Tridentine rite was not universal, except if you forget for a while that the Catholic church doesn't consist only of the Tridentine form of the Roman Rite. And no, it wasn't always an altar, sometimes it was a table, or no table at all. Sometimes it was over the grave of a martyr. Sometimes a table in someone's house. The first time, with Jesus, it was a table in an upper room, and Jesus was most definitely facing the apostles.

And, the Church is a living thing, and some things are really up to the Pope. He's deciding some of this stuff. He is usually guided by norms that come from many centuries ago, but frankly, he can decide to say that all churches will add or drop some prayer every sunday mass, and we have to do it. It's like that.

Love your blog. Appreciate your intent, but think you're as fuzzy wuzzy as all get out. Which is fine, because my response is fuzzy wuzzy and incomprehensible too, and I shall go to sleep now!


At 10:53 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Dear UltraCrepidarian,

No offense, but.... huh? First of all, I am well aware of the various liturgies of the Church, as I have been a Byzantine rite monk and am still Byzantine rite on the books. Just because during times of persecution they had Mass on a table does not mean that we need to have Masses on tables now. Just because they had seven years canonical penance in the early Church for fornication does not mean that we should have the same penances now. If you are going to use principles, at least be consistent.

And I would ask WHAT is up to the Pope, and how has Papal power been seen throughout history? I remember an anecdote from the reign of Pio Nono where the reactionary Pope refused to insert the name of St. Joseph in the Canon citing that he was only the Pope and had no power to change the Canon! One hundred years later, the Popes jettisoned the Canon altogether. The problem is that the most recent Popes have NOT been guided by the norms of centuries, but have decided to change many thing motu proprio without reference to tradition. (Need we cite JPII's new and improved rosary, just for starters?)

And I would rather be fuzzy wuzzy then start making crap up to win an argument, like many of the less fuzzy wuzzy apologetically oriented blogs. In what is important, I know exactly what to believe, and what is disputable, I only ask questions. This blog is about questions, not answers. Please refer to the Sarabite Manifesto again, or you will be sent to the Sarabite People's Re-Education Camp.

God bless,

Arturo Vasquez

the Commissar

At 5:05 AM, Blogger Warren said...

Okay, I'll bite:

It's lovely that you've absorbed this little rad-trad anecdote, for instance:

"I remember an anecdote from the reign of Pio Nono where the reactionary Pope refused to insert the name of St. Joseph in the Canon citing that he was only the Pope and had no power to change the Canon! One hundred years later, the Popes jettisoned the Canon altogether."

So you're aware that there are other rites, in which the Canon is either different or not in the form in which it exists in the Tridentine rite. And yet, those masses, you will admit, are valid? So, how if things are "historical accident" as you call them, is it not acceptable for a pope to create a new historical accident, called the "novus ordo". Why are you willing to accept accidents in one century and not in another? Do you not see the problem with a fragile church, in which people had a freedom to make it up as they go, up until, say, the 5th century, 11th century, or 17th century, and after that, no further development is possible? If the historical trend was aggiornamento for a thousand years, and a pope in the middle of that period refused to reverse any of those ornamentations, you suddenly think the whole thing acquires a status similar to the words of Christ in the institution of the mass, which nobody should then alter? I don't understand.


At 8:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


This one thing at least is certain; whatever history teaches, whatever it omits, whatever it exaggerates or extenuates, whatever it says and unsays, at least the Mass of history is not the Novus Ordo. If ever there were a safe truth, it is this.


The traditional Tridentine forms which you appear to quite like. Good. Me too.

Therein is the fundamental misunderstanding of neo-Catholics. They think that tradition exists to be liked.

Ecclesiastical tradition is governed by incommutable principles, and has an objective content. Whether we like it or not is irrelevant. It's not a marketing tool.

At 9:14 AM, Blogger D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

It's lovely that you've absorbed this little rad-trad anecdote

I'm not sure that this is just a "rad-trad" anecdote. Dr Alcuin Reid, who is perhaps a traditionalist but not certainly not a "rad-trad", makes a very similar argument about papal authority and the Liturgy in his book The Organic Development of the Liturgy (a book reviewed very positively and enthusiastically by Cardinal Ratzinger in 2004).

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Bja and Daniel,

Tru' dat. 'Nuf said.


At 9:39 AM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

I'll say just this: there is no amount of apologetics, mental gymanstics, and citations of legal principle that can justify lay Eucharistic ministers, charismatic Masses, and all of the improvisation that goes on in Roman Catholic churches today. These things have never (NEVER!) existed in the Church and they have no right exist. Say anything you want, but you will never be able to justify them from history, and ours is a fundamentally historical religion.

At 12:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the Ultra-Crepidarian's first comment:

"The first time, with Jesus, it was a table in an upper room, and Jesus was most definitely facing the apostles."

Anyone can make a mistake, but anyone who makes such an ignorant mistake with such assurance immediately forfeits all credibility for knowing what he's talking about. In fact, Jesus and the apostles all probably sat on the same side of a sigmoidal-shaped banqueting table, with the other side left free for serving and removing food, replenishing drinks and the like. Ratzinger discusses this in *The Spirit of the Liturgy,* as does Gamber in more than one of his essays in *The Reform of the Roman Rite.*

"Mass facing the people" has always been a particular bete noir of mine, since all of the arguments in its favor are based on exploded historical notions recycled ad nauseam, or else (as in a piece by Abp. Weakland I read some years ago) on the notion that orientation is meaningless to modern Catholics, and that, in any case, "building community" is more important than following "meaningless traditions."

(And, Mr. Vasquez, may I remind you of the e-mail offer I made to you some 2 or 3 weeks ago?)

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Anaxagoras said...


Liturgy may develop organically, with the consensus of the community over long stretches of time. No bishop, not even the First Among Equals, can make arbitrary deletions and additions. The modern EWTN papal fanclub in the U.S. doesn't seem to understand this. The pope is a ROCK. Rocks anchor things- keep them from floating away. He is not a rolling marble, a tornado, or a marketing specialist of a company. If you are a faithful Catholic, I would trust that you are faithful to the very Tradition that even says you should have a pope to begin with. That Tradition is beigger than you, bigger than the college of bishops, even bigger than the pope. If you want to put yourself in subjection to something, be subject to that Tradition.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Dr. Tighe,

I didn't get the message, but please offer again. Here is my e-mail:

Drop me a line.

God bless,

Mr. Vasquez (God, that sounds so official....)

At 6:27 PM, Blogger Visibilium said...

I like the idea of Orthodoxy and Latinism as two religions. It may be time for Orthodoxy to consciously distance itself from Latinism and Protestantism. In the West, Latinism and Protestantism have given Christianity such a bad name that snickering at Christ has long been intellectually fashionable.

Separately, I'm currrently wondering whether Western Rite Orthodoxy adequately conveys the Orthodox ontology.

At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arturo, then (if I may),

I just resent you the e-mail I originally sent on Jan. 23rd. I hope it reaches you this time. If not, drop me one at

At 8:07 PM, Blogger D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

Separately, I'm currrently wondering whether Western Rite Orthodoxy adequately conveys the Orthodox ontology.

I often wonder the same about the ancient Liturgies of Jerusalem/Antioch and Alexandria. Maybe the Byzantine Liturgy was the only Liturgy in history which adequately conveyed "Orthodox ontology".

At 8:15 PM, Blogger Ochlophobist said...


Snickering at Christ has been fashionable since the Incarnation, no, since before even then, when those who patiently awaited God's Christ were mocked for their hope. One might blame Prots and RCs for any number of things, sure. That many or most persons snicker at Christ, which Christ Himself told us that they would do, seems to rather belabor any more precise point one might make.

At 4:27 AM, Blogger Visibilium said...


As usual, I am grateful for your patience and diligence in answering my musings. My point, however, was more geared toward contemporary times when the more nonsensical religious choices of Wicca and Buddhism aren't the butt of intellectually fashionable snickering. Yes, Christ told us that people would snicker at us, but don't forget that at one time Christianity was the only intellectually legitimate worldview. Something went horribly wrong, and I lay the blame at the feet of the Latins and their Protestant stepchildren. The Latin opposition to free scientific inquiry, made famous by the Galileo incident, pointed to an ossification and authoritarianism that is quite rightly rejected by many folks. As for the problem with the Protestant stepchild--well, that's a related issue.


Right on, bro, but I don't see a problem with the liturgies of James and Mark. Certainly the world didn't begin with the liturgies of Basil and Chrystostom.

Do you think that the Western Rite is too truncated to convey any ontology? Is it anti-ontology?

At 6:35 AM, Blogger D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

I don't want to turn Arturo's com-box into an intra-Orthodox debate about liturgical rites, but ...

Certainly the world didn't begin with the liturgies of Basil and Chrystostom.

Exactly. That was my point (a bit sarcastic, I apologize)!

Do you think that the Western Rite is too truncated to convey any ontology? Is it anti-ontology?

Frankly, I have no idea what you're talking about. Anti-ontology would be, what, Gnostic? Anti-Incarnation? Anti-Cross? Anti-Resurrection?

At 7:05 AM, Blogger Visibilium said...


I hope that the host will forgive our digression, but I tend to take up arguments where I see them--sorta like the bull in the china shop.

Let's take the Low Mass, for example. It's an extreme case and excites the most controversy. What does it convey--(1) a reality or (2) a series of propositions? If it is the latter, do propositional liturgies have a place in Orthodoxy? How about a severely truncated liturgy with an elongated sermon containing lots of propositions, like the Baptists?

St. Vladimir's emissaries rejected the Western Rite 1000 years ago, and the reason for their rejection is pertinent.

My question is strictly liturgical, and I certainly don't question the full Orthodoxy of the Western Rite community.

In the absence of any definitive answers to the contrary, I continue to be a proponent of the Western Rite in Orthodoxy, resting on the guidance of the Moscow Synod 130 years ago.

At 9:08 AM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

You can turn this combox into whatever you wish.


I'll pray for you. That's all I've got to say about that.

At 9:08 AM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9:14 AM, Blogger D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

Let's take the Low Mass, for example. It's an extreme case and excites the most controversy. What does it convey--(1) a reality or (2) a series of propositions?

I don't understand the question. How could it convey anything other than a reality? It's not a scholastic lecture. It's a Sacrament, a holy Mystery. I suppose one could sit through a Low Mass and treat it as "a series of propositions" rather than as a "reality" ... but one could very easily do the same at a Byzantine Liturgy or Vespers service.

A Low Mass is simply a Mass where Deacon and Subdeacon are not present, and where the Mass is not sung. This never developed in the East, which is fine. In the Western Rite, Low Mass is a very helpful option. We can celebrate the Eucharist without a full serving crew and choir. It's the exact same content and "reality" as a High Mass but with simplified ceremonial and no singing.

The Roman Mass is actually rather light on theological "propositions" in contrast with Byzantine Liturgy. I don't see how it could be described as a "propositional" liturgy. There are very few non-scriptural theological compositions present in the Roman Mass (the Roman Church being the most liturgically conservative church in Christendom until fairly recently). In the Roman Rite, you get mainly psalmody and bits of scripture. And when you do get ecclesiastical compositions, they are short and sweet. The tip of the iceberg approach, in other words. This is not due to any "truncation" of an earlier form; this is really the Roman Rite in its native state.

In the Byzantine Liturgy, by contrast, you get all sorts of wordy, florid theological "propositions" thrown at you all the time. I'm not saying this is bad at all (it's actually quite wonderful) ... but it doesn't make any sense to suggest that the Roman Rite is all about "a set of propositions" and the Byzantine Rite is not.

St. Vladimir's emissaries rejected the Western Rite 1000 years ago, and the reason for their rejection is pertinent.

De gustibus non est disputandum.

My question is strictly liturgical, and I certainly don't question the full Orthodoxy of the Western Rite community.

OK, we cool. I ain't mad atcha! :-)

Sorry for hijacking your com-box, Arturo!

At 9:24 AM, Blogger D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

I will just add one more thing. Take a look at Arturo's post about serving Mass, and particularly Low Mass. He expresses it much better than I have ever been able to do. That is the way that most Western Rite folks really do experience liturgy.

At 9:25 AM, Blogger Arturo Vasquez said...

Please read the post above, "On Serving Mass".


It's all good, but we gotta be representin', know what I'm sayin'? Westside 'til I die, suckas!

2Pac would be proud of you.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Visibilium said...

Ok, will do. Thanks.

At 11:31 AM, Blogger Han Ng said...

Subdeacon Benjamin,

I think we agree with each other, and this is just a nomenclature issue. No, Catholicism and Orthodoxy are not different religions in the sense that Buddhism and Islam are. I used the term because I think that the differences go beyond the "two lungs" analogy. This analogy, I think, better describes the differences between the Dominicans and the Jesuits, for example.

Catholicism and Orthodoxy are different religions in a way similar to how 1940's Mexican folk Catholicism and 1940's Franco-Irish-American Catholicism were different religions. I agree with the Ochlophobist that one cannot pretend that the differences are not substantial, and I think that only if we are first honest about these real differences can we take the next step of deciding whether these differences necessitate a schism or whether the Church can include within herself these differences without betraying the Faith.

At 11:36 AM, Blogger D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

Han - I agree wholeheartedly. Thanks for that important clarification.

At 11:45 AM, Blogger D. Benedict Andersen OSB said...

2Pac would be proud of you.

True dat.

At 12:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to second Dr. Tighe's glorious slap-down. No ad occidentalis. Love the sinner, but hate that particular sin, which is the mindset of novus ordo: "I know, let's make it up ourselves the way it really should have been in the 'ancient church.'" Sounds more than a tad Protestant.


Thanks for the interesting thoughts regarding the Western rite and propositions. Very well said.

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