Sunday, December 6, 2009

People Look East?

For some Anglicans, whether still in the Anglican Communion or somewhere in the Continuing spectrum of ecclesial bodies, the prospect of submission to the Pope is unpleasant; some instead look East.

The Nonjurors, unsurprisingly, entered into correspondence with the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs back in the early 18th century; equally unsurprisingly, the Orthodox indicated that the Nonjurors, who represented themselves as the remnant of the ancient Catholic and Orthodox British Church (O Anglicanism! how Janus-faced thou art, shewing whatever visage will appear fairest to whomsoever thou courtest!), must nonetheless accept every single unchanged doctrine of the Holy Orthodox Church, including belief in the change in the bread and wine into the very Body and Blood of Christ with no bread and wine remaining save but in outward appearance (the Greek term used answers to the Latin transsubstantio), invocation of the saints, and veneration of images. These doctrines, plus the suggestion that they should give up their liturgy and use that of St John Chrysostom, the Nonjurors persisted in rejecting, and had the nerve to ask might be considered optional, "second order" issues (cf. Rowan!), which they could leave aside, and yet nonetheless be admitted to "inter-communion". Anglicans of such stiff-necked sorts don't change: all they really want is everyone else to acknowledge them right.

At the time, these negotiations came to nothing, for neither side would give way, and moreover the Patriarchs found out from the then Archbishop of Canterbury that these Nonjurors were an insignificant group of dissenters.

In the late 19th century, some American Episcopalians approached the Russian Orthodox Bishop Tikhon (later glorified by the Russian Church as a saint), asking to become Orthodox but - as usual - keep their Prayer Book. The Russian Church theologians compiled some very valuable notes on the American B.C.P., very perceptively noting its deficiencies and points wherein its Protestantism would have to be corrected. In the event, no one was reconciled at the time...

In past decades, groups of Western Orthodox have been at length finally established, typically using either a version of the Roman Mass Byzantinized with an inserted Epiclesis after the words of consecration, or a mixture of Anglican and some Roman prayers styled the Liturgy of St Tikhon. The latter in particular is a strange hybrid, a real dog's breakfast; I think it an example of how not to compose or correct a rite (e.g. in the amended Prayer of Consecration and Oblation taken from Anglican books, several clauses of the Roman Canon are slotted in, alongside an Epiclesis from Chrysostom's Divine Liturgy).

From what I can make out, these Uniates - for that is what they are, and the Orthodox should not be ashamed to acknowledge this word, for all that they condemn Rome for having Eastern Catholic jurisdictions - are fairly small in number, and some practise faintly ridiculous pastimes, such as composing Offices for obscure English saints, whose cultus is revived precisely because they luckily died ante 1054: for after that date, all were but Western heretics in their eyes.


Michael said...

I have always thought it a bit rich when they condemn us for having diocese in their territories and yet on the flip side of the coin, they invent Western Rites instead of just accepting the valid rites of old.

The reverse of Romanisation.

0TbxXR2Z said...

Not sure who is being criticised in the comment above, but it seems to be the Eastern Churches.

After dealing with the vipers in the diocesan bureaucracies my sympathies are with the Easterners. Where else would you get outright hostility towards a venerable rite such as the Roman Rite and such enthusiasm to cobble together a patchwork of liturgies such as the Book of Common Prayer and claim ancient tradition?

Joshua said...

I don't quite understand your comment...

I have the greatest respect for the Orthodox, but they can be guilty of all the faults of which they accuse Rome, not that the Catholic Church is in a good way at present let's admit! As a friend observed, upon hearing JPII's saying "The Church needs to breathe with both lungs" - What a pity both have emphysema!

Chris Jones said...

No, they are not Uniates.

An Eastern Catholic Church is a "particular Church" distinct from, but remaining in communion with, the Church of Rome. Also, an Eastern Catholic Church is termed sui juris, meaning that it has its own canon law and its own canonical standing, again distinct from Rome.

There is nothing analogous to that in the Orthodox Church. A Western Rite parish in the Orthodox Church is just that -- a parish, not a diocese, exarchate, eparchy, or "particular Church." It does not have its own canon law, and is canonically dependent on the local Orthodox bishop. The only difference between a Western Rite parish and the other parishes in the diocese is that the WR parish, with the blessing of the bishop, serves a different liturgy than the other parishes.

they invent Western Rites instead of just accepting the valid rites of old

This is unkind and not particularly accurate. The liturgy of St Tikhon is not "invented"; it is a judicious adaptation of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer which clears up some of the BCP's deliberate ambiguities and conforms it in general to Orthodox doctrine. It is no more an "invented" liturgy (or a "dog's breakfast") than is the Book of Divine Worship used in Anglican-Use RC parishes. And it has the same intent as the BDW: it is a pastoral accomodation to allow Anglicans to embrace the fullness of the faith while retaining what is good and salutary from their former tradition.

In any case the WR Orthodox have not rejected "the valid rites of old." Many WR parishes (including most of the newer ones) serve the traditional Roman Mass (the liturgy of St Gregory the Great).

Joshua said...


Thank you for explaining how they are not Uniates - nor, I might add, not even members of Ordinariates! ;-)

As for my perhaps overhasty criticisms of the Western Rites set up by the Orthodox, please refer to a new posting of mine, Western Rite Orthodox Anglican Liturgies...

William M. Klimon said...

In this context, I often think of what the Russian Orthodox professor A.N. Mouravieff told the Anglo-Catholic deacon William Palmer (of Magdalen College) in 1841:

"If we had any communication with your Church, it must be through the Pope, and the Church of Rome, nor can we recognize you otherwise. Reconcile yourself to your own Patriarch first, and then come and talk to us, if you think you have anything to say to us."--Notes of a Visit to the Russian Church (1882), p. 230.

Anonymous said...

Chris Jones said: 'No, they are not Uniates.'

But Chris, surely - at least - you can see the similarity?

Rob A