Western "Eastern Orthodoxy" as Boutique Religion
A Long Overdue Rant
I used to be a spiritual tourist of Orthodox churches. The one shown above is a church of the Jerusalem Patriarchate in Felton, California, which is a splinter group of the Antiochene church five miles down the road. Once, when I first came to this church, a nice lady approached me in the narthex and asked me the most Protestant question I have ever been asked in my life:
"So, where do you fellowship on Sunday mornings?"
My Catholic brain almost blew a fuse. What the heck was she asking? I had to clear the desk in my brain of photos of humeral veils from Spain and Infant of Prague novenas in order to interpret her "Protestantese". "I think," I concluded, "she is asking me where I go to church on Sunday." So I told her that at that point I was going to a Uniate church. (Don't like the term, "Uniate"? Well if the shoe fits...)
That experience alone should have told me to stop sipping the Byzantine punch of icons and troparia, but I didn't. And now, almost four years later, after a changing rites, growing a rather impressive beard and becoming a monk, I can honestly say that I have learned my lesson. The Orthodox way is NOT the answer. If anything, it is for the most part an exotic spirituality that ignores the patrimony of the Western Church and seeks to replace the struggles at the heart of Christianity with escapism.
I will let other members of my small internet parish, of which I am a cardinal archbishop, tell the story:
From the Undercroft:
To "breathe together" - conspirare - is the meaning of "conspiracy". It's what like-thinking, like-loving human beings do as a matter of course. It implies necessarily no organisation nor formal statement of intent; no plan of action nor party line. It’s no more than the normal and natural way of things. It’s what we all do. The wildest and most radical of all conspiracies is of those who seek to breathe together with the Man-God in His Mystical Body.
From Go Sit In The Corner:
And as for spirituality (since I've already played the gender card, it's only fair that I play the race card now), my grandparents lived in a place and time where they had to pay to attend Mass and then were usually not allowed to sit. Other black Catholics in this time period were not allowed to even stay to the end of Mass, so as to avoid any contact with the white congregation. Many black Catholics in southern Louisiana actually had no place to attend Mass, as they were banned from the white churches. Forget whether or not they were spiritually nourished in a Latin Mass, for they were not allowed to enter the Church. Thus, they lost their faith. That is grievous error, that is a Church hierarchy completely and lackadaisically disregarding the lowliest members of the community. Thanks be to God that I live in a time where I am not banned because of my race from attending a Catholic Mass! Thanks be to God that I do not live in a time and place where I would have to worship Him in a cave and risk being hung upside down if discovered! Thanks be to God that He has given me the opportunity to be literate, and read volumes of books, if I so choose, about the liturgy! Praise God for giving me access to the internet, where I can come on here and praise Him or whine about His Church! Thanks be to God for sparing me the suffering of impaired fingers due to motor disorders as I sit here and type this, and for preserving my fingers from mutilation for believing in Him that I would have suffered in previous centuries!
From the Lion and the Cardinal:
...Apologetics require the consideration of Roman Catholicism in contrast to something else, and that is precisely the problematic perspective that I have been trying to correct with everything I do here. A big problem with Roman Catholicism since the rise of Protestantism is that many Catholics been so concerned with responding to skeptics that they have allowed the skeptics to shape the way that they consider the faith. This website is supposed to be a celebration of Roman Catholicism on its own merits.
Also I believe it a bad idea to seek religious guidance on the internet instead of in reality. I do not want to encourage this mistake by pretending to offer any. This is a Roman Catholic website; one of its purposes is constructive criticism of recent developments in Roman Catholicism. Its harshest criticism is based on the writings of Roman Catholic authors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, none of whom ever left the Church. The foundational assumption of their criticism, and mine, is that the Church is indeed true. If it were not, it would not be worth the effort to discuss it. A man who does not hold that foundational assumption is welcome to read this blog and to offer his insight, but if he wants to know which religion to profess, he should ask the Holy Ghost, not some stranger with a pretty website.
The bottom line is that we love our Church. We think that it is the true Church. And we don't need mostly convert Orthdox to come along and whine to us about how bad our Church is. We know better than you do because we stay in it, and some of us see the worst of it week after week. At certain points in the history of this blog, I have said that this is an unhealthy thing, and perhaps it is. But if our Church is not the true Church, than no church is the true Church. This is the case since if God cannot make us work, He will not be able to make anything work. But He is God, so all things are possible to Him.
Eastern Orthodoxy will never, ever, ever take root in the Western soul. At best, it can sprout shallow roots until the next spiritual fad or tent revival comes along. The soul of the West speaks Latin, prays to statues, and fidgets with rosaries. The soul of the West is covered with side altars, wears lace, and sports a lop-sided birretta. And the soul of the West doesn't particularily care what was done one thousand years ago, or whether such-and-such a practice was precisely what the early Church did. A lifetime ago is more than enough for it, since the Holy Ghost was there too. Whether or not the West has been faithful to its own soul is another post altogether....
We chose to stay and fight. We chose to be an open conspiracy against the forces eating away at the One True Church of God. We will not build our small churches with twenty converts singing kontakia in bad King James version-style English. We will not get together for Lent in order to discuss homeopathic medicine over vegan cake and Boca burgers. We will not surrender our churches to the people who want to destroy them in order to dream of some Byzantium that never was. If we aren't the answer, then no one is. If we lived in Romania, maybe it would be different. But we refuse to place in doubt the Faith of our Fathers. Our ancestors were not heretics, our saints were saints, and our churches were the Houses of God and the Gates of Heaven, and we will fight to keep them so.
Orthodox people are more than welcome to read this blog, and I will try to post more in praise of Orthodoxy in the future. But this is a blog that thinks that our Faith is worth fighting for, and we will fight. We will refuse to be a small boutique next to the Hare Krishnas and Scientology. As St. Pius X said:
No, Venerable Brethren, We must repeat with the utmost energy in these times of social and intellectual anarchy when everyone takes it upon himself to teach as a teacher and lawmaker - the City cannot be built otherwise than as God has built it; society cannot be setup unless the Church lays the foundations and supervises the work; no, civilization is not something yet to be found, nor is the New City to be built on hazy notions; it has been in existence and still is: it is Christian civilization, it is the Catholic City. It has only to be set up and restored continually against the unremitting attacks of insane dreamers, rebels and miscreants. OMNIA INSTAURARE IN CHRISTO.
Notre Charge Apostolique
Not taking this in its most integrist reading, we can say that the West does not need Eastern Orthodoxy to restore it. It can surely help, but the West itself has all that is necessary for the restoration of the Church. All we lack is an ardent Faith and a firm resolve. May we pray to God that He might give us these things.