Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sailing to Byzantium?





















I long for reunion with the Orthodox - but it isn't going to happen. Assuming my habitual role of Little Ray of Sunshine, it's my belief that disunity, dissent and infidelity are destined only to get worse until the Parousia. When Our Lord returns "will he find faith on the earth?"

How do you make three communions? Unite two. You'll have the new united Church and two irreconcileable "remnants". This is historically and sociologically true, but at a deeper level - at the level of the Faith and of theology, we cannot even agree on what "unity" consists of. For the post-Conciliar, Church-as-Communion Papalist, unity seems to consist in the maintenance of a legal status (and sometimes, one is tempted to suggest, a legal fiction). Christians are "united" insofar as the Pope acknowledges "communion" with them, however strange they may have become to one another in fact. This juridical and positivistic mentality is absolutely anathema to the Orthodox for whom communion is essentially a function of unity of faith and worship. The Orthodox Church is a juridical shambles - scandalously so. The Orthodox cannot (ergo do not want to) acheive juridical unity even among themselves. But in Faith and Sacraments they are far more united in fact than those "united" juridically under Peter - and that's the real scandal.

In the first millenium, we thought of the Church as Catholic and the Faith as Orthodox. The bifurcation of those two essential notes has damaged us all, beyond repair in human terms. In the Catholic mind, "orthodoxy" is essentially a question of theological correctness almost independent of praxis. In the Orthodox mind it's precisely the reverse: worship incarnates and therefore precedes doctrine (or lex orandi, lex credendi as we Latins used to proclaim). The Catholic mind approaches obstacles to unity in terms of theological or juridical "problems", admitting of theological or juridical "solutions"; and so we feel hurt and indignant at Orthodox intransigence. For the Orthodox, however, the Roman Church has departed from the unity of the Faith, and no juridical solution is conceivable, far less desireable, in the absence of repentance for, and repudiation of, her errors.

Considering all of this, I'm obliged to admit that it's only the insurmountable obstacle of Matthew 16, 17-19, and the unbearable sense of loss involved in relinquishing the Roman rite that prevents me from making my own "peace with the East".

16 comments:

Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

Isn't there a poem by Yeats by this title? It's a good poem.

Moretben said...

Arturo

THAT is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

Word.

Anonymous said...

Considering all of this, I'm obliged to admit that it's only the insurmountable obstacle of Matthew 16, 17-19, and the unbearable sense of loss involved in relinquishing the Roman rite that prevents me from making my own "peace with the East".

Been there. It took me a quarter century to make that peace. But I did. And that peace is more and more dominating my life. That’s not making light of the Petrine issues. They really are the cornerstone on which the western church stands. I read until my eyes were about to pop out on the subject. But all of the theological development in the west just never sat with me. In the end I asked myself how would Leo the Great have reacted if someone had stood up in downtown Rome circa 431 and proclaimed the dogmas of the First Vatican Council. The answer I came to was that said person would have been condemned as a heretic and sent packing. Once I reached that point it was just a matter of working up the nerve to do what I have long known needed to be done.

Orthodoxy is not perfect. It has more problems that you can shake a stick at. But those problems are juridical and jurisdictional. They are a reflection that Orthodoxy is a faith of sinners, for sinners and by sinners. But they do not touch its sensus fidei. To condemn Orthodoxy, is to condemn The Church of the first millennium. Orthodoxy has not had a major theological controversy since Rome went its way. And yet since Rome left, the West has had nothing but theological controversies.

As for the loss of the Roman Rite, I feel that pain. But I will say the same thing I told the priest when I converted. I am not rejecting Western Christianity. I am embracing Orthodoxy. I still pray the rosary and I still read my missal. I do not live close enough to one but perhaps one day I will be able to attend Mass at a Western Rite parish. Though still small in numbers the Western Rite is growing. But the beauty of the Eastern liturgy is no small gain for the loss. If you have the time to spare, I would suggest spending a week or a few days as your situation permits, in a monastery. That is like a breath of fresh air for the soul.

ICXC
John

Wordsmyth said...

Why do the bishops in the picture wear vestments of different colors? I have seen pics like this before (with different colored vestments) and I always wonder what the deal is. I'm guessing the colors are not based on a "season" in the Church calendar, right?

Anonymous said...

Wordsmyth,
You are correct. In Orthodoxy (Eastern rite) there are general customs for liturgical colors but depending on the location, day and event you may find some considerable variation. Unless I am mistaken the main celebrant in the picture is Patriarch Pavel (Serbian Orthodox) but it appears that he may be celebrating in a Russian Church.

ICXC
John

Steve Hayes said...

Thank you for this. I think you've put your finger on some of the significant differences between Orthodox and Western approaches to ecumenism, and this could help to clarify them.

Concerning Matthew 16:17-19, it might be worth remembering that St Peter was Bishop of Antioch before he was Bishop of Rome.

Moretben said...

John

In the end I asked myself how would Leo the Great have reacted if someone had stood up in downtown Rome circa 431 and proclaimed the dogmas of the First Vatican Council…

…I am not rejecting Western Christianity. I am embracing Orthodoxy.



Many thanks for this. It is extremely helpful.

Moretben said...

Steve

Thank you for your kind words, and for the link from your blog.

Death Bredon said...

Well state Ad Orientem. Presently, I strive to hold to the Orthodox, Catholic dogma of Ancinet Fathers while canonically resident in the Anglican Continuum.

Still, I idea of an English Use in Orthodoxy appeals. (The Antiochian Rite of St. Tikon is a Western, NOT English Use, as it is based on Anglican Missals that purposfully edited the Book of Common Prayer in a Tridentine fashion).

Xp

Mike L said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike L said...

I read until my eyes were about to pop out on the subject. But all of the theological development in the west just never sat with me. In the end I asked myself how would Leo the Great have reacted if someone had stood up in downtown Rome circa 431 and proclaimed the dogmas of the First Vatican Council. The answer I came to was that said person would have been condemned as a heretic and sent packing.

John:

Assuming you read Newman until your eyes popped out, I wonder why you reached a conclusion different from his. I reached his conclusion because I was able to explain, using his principles, why it doesn't matter that a Jewish Christian from the first century would probably have reacted to the definitions of the Council of Ephesus in 431 with shock and horror.

No need to reply here; I intend to make a post out of this on my own blog.

Best,
Mike

Ttony said...

Death Bredon

"Still, I idea of an English Use in Orthodoxy appeals. (The Antiochian Rite of St. Tikon is a Western, NOT English Use, as it is based on Anglican Missals that purposfully edited the Book of Common Prayer in a Tridentine fashion)."

It's a do-it-yourself Liturgy, in other words. What is there to stop any community using this rite from accompanying it with "Colours of Day" accompanied by three guitarists of varying ability?

Pontificator said...

For the post-Conciliar, Church-as-Communion Papalist, unity is a legal status. Christians are "united" insofar as the Pope acknowledges "communion" with them.

I'm sorry, but this is simply untrue. It is certainly not true at the formal and theological levels.

Pontificator said...

Oops. I only noticed after I posted my comment that this article is six weeks ago. My apologies.

Moretben said...

Dear Father

Quite so; but it is true as far as large numbers of her children are concerned, and as a direct consequence of policies, strategies and orientations of the Magisterium; this disparity between what the church really believes "in theory", as it were, and what appears self-evident to real live Catholics of whatever hue, is, I suspect, the clue to the entire crisis.

A majority of Catholics appear to believe, for example, that the Church has reversed her former position with regard to the Jews, and embraced full-on dispensationalism. This is not true formally and theologically - but materially? It's undeniable that large numbers of people - laity priests and bishops - have been "confused", to put it charitably, by the post-Conciliar ecumenical climate, culminating in certain activities of the late Holy Father. Whatsmore, they find a dispensationalist view is now insinuated even in the solemn liturgy of Good Friday. The consequence of all that is that any attempts to restate what remains true at the formal and theological level will meet with incomprehension, if not outright indignation. “The Church has changed her teaching on this point”, you will be assured by liberal and “onservative” alike; each will accuse you of “trying to put the clock back”.

At the level of Christian ecumenism, concern for integrity of belief and worship appears wholly secondary to the search for theoretical formulae aimed at narrowing distance, with the primary object of achieving a juridical “unity”. Large numbers of Catholics have become impatient with these theological distinctions, believing quite genuinely that these are no more than impediments to Christ’s will that “all should be One”. Again this inversion is something that has burgeoned under the practical patronage of the Magisterium. One inter-faith stunt (kissing the ring of Dr Rowan Williams, for example) speaks far louder, unfortunately, than Dominus Iesus. We expect prudent bishops to understand that. They don’t seem to – but if they do, what explanation for their behaviour are we to reach for then?

On the present point, that of communion: it is undeniable that there exist at present large numbers of priests, theologians, educators, writers at every level from the popular to the academic, who manifestly do not have the Catholic faith, yet remain “in good standing”. In a very few high profile cases, some of these have incurred mild canonical penalties, which have not, in general, materially altered their standing; at the same time (whatever one’s position on “Traditionalism”) numbers of formally, theologically orthodox Catholics who worship according to Catholic rites and insist on their subjection to the Roman Pontiff are excluded and kept under a cloud of suspicion. Catholicity is reduced to “following the Pope” (whatever that means), so that that those who find themselves in a state of resistance to certain aspects of post-Conciliar policy are accused, nonsensically but with perfect seriousness, of being “Protestant” – as though the only viable definition of Protestantism is “not following the Pope” (whatever that means).

In this climate it is certainly a work of charity to indicate that these “popular” positions (if you like) do not correspond to the teaching of the Church at the formal and theological level. I would simply reply that until the teaching of the Church at the formal and theological level is once more apparent in her Liturgy, and in the words and especially the actions of her hierarchy, the distance between what real live Catholics believe and what sleeps between the covers of the Catechism will continue irresistibly to increase.

In Domino

Ben