Anglicanorum coetibus and Orthodoxy - Printable Version
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Anglicanorum coetibus/western rite Orthodoxy - Walter - 17-12-2009 06:59 PM
Thank you, Fr Gregory, for laying out the ecclesiological facts on this issue clearly and simply. I am a fairly recent convert to Orthodoxy (Eastern, not Oriental), who after an RC upbringing and many years as an Anglican priest found my way into the Orthodox Church (where I live happily as a layman) as I entered my sixties. I would like to share my joy that by the grace of God I have discovered the Real Thing after years of following what now looks suspiciously like a mirage, and that at the heart of this is a liturgical and spiritual tradition whose riches make their western counterparts appear very thin fare indeed.
As a teenager I got to know an Orthodox priest who had trodden a course somewhat similar to how my own has since turned out. His introduction to Orthodoxy and subsequent monastic profession had been in a small western rite community in France, but its dissolution on the death of its founder (such enterprises are always fairly fragile, and perhaps over-dependent on the charismatic personalities who inspire them) propelled him after not many years into the Orthodox mainstream. His comparison of the difference between the eastern and western traditions to that between colour and black and white affected my eighteen year old ears with that selective deafness young people characteristically display when adults are giving them the benefit of their experience, but now I, too, know it to be true, and would strongly discourage Anglican or RC enquirers from looking for some kind of "halfway house" between their present traditions and Orthodoxy in its full and authentic form.
Orthodox worship is not, as is generally supposed, necessarily "foreign" or exotic. In the UK you may possibly encounter it for the first time in a Greek- or Slavonic-language parish, but this is not "of the essence": one of the strengths of Orthodoxy is its adaptability to local language and culture, and there are nowadays probably as many "English" parishes as others. The length and repetitiousness of the Liturgy may come as a culture shock to Anglicans who expect no service to last longer than an hour, but if it is a participation in the joy of Heaven then double that time (or even more at Pascha, in the middle of the night!) is hardly too long -- there is a refreshing lack of rigidity, so you can always move about, venerate an icon on the other side of the church or go out for a breath of air (try doing that in the CofE!). As for exotic -- have a look at "Forward in Finery" (c/o Facebook): no comment.
Come on in! It will take a year or two to find your feet, but once you've made the necessary (but not necessarily enormous) cultural adjustment you'll never look back. And you will come to recognise in Orthodoxy the authentic Church of the New Testament and the Fathers, which is really all that needs to be said.
- Fr Gregory - 18-12-2009 08:25 AM
Dear Walter: thank you for your comments. Your story is an inspiration to me.
I first found Orthodoxy worship not in splendour and beauty but, it must truly be said, in dank, dark, rather grubby circumstances. It was a small community in an essentially derelict building. It was the middle of winter with a howling gale outside, and bitter winds blowing through the missing windows and rain falling through gaps in the roof. The vestments were shabby and tattered. Everything else ? the vessels, the icons, the altar ? seemed to be the decaying detritus of better days. The chanting was a long way from wonderful. Five of us stood in the congregation, shivering, while a Priest and two assistants (all of whom looked like they lived in cardboard boxes) offered the Divine Liturgy. And yet ? it was the ?and yet? that drew me to Orthodoxy! There was not a single thing about the service that did other than repel me aesthetically, musically, liturgically. And yet ? although it shouldn?t, probably couldn?t, have happened, the Presence of the Divine Glory was overwhelmingly manifest in that place. As we approach the season of the Nativity, I am forced to think that it shouldn?t, probably couldn?t, have manifested in a stable either.
My concerns about the alienating effect of ethnic Orthodoxy are not for me (or you). I find traditional Orthodoxy worship very much to my taste (albeit now, not in derelict buildings!). It is for those who will not even approach that which they perceive to be ?foreign?. What is our responsibility to them? And what is our responsibility to the young Westernised (and whether that is a good thing or not is irrelevant: they are Westernised) Orthodox men and women who are wandering away from the Church in droves? I frequently speak to distressed parents whose children feel alienated from what they now see as a ?foreign Church?. Can we abandon them? In Sydney, where I live, there are no regular Liturgies in English in the Greek Orthodox Church. The same is true for most other Orthodox jurisdictions. Is this how we evangelize those who only speak English?
I do not believe (obviously from my comments!) that the ?Roman option? is acceptable. But ? I must ask, and ask, and ask again ? what are we Orthodox doing to provide an alternative? Not, Walter, for you and for me. But for those who are searching, or feel alienated and lost.
I ask your prayers ? and would value your further comments.
- Walter - 18-12-2009 10:53 AM
Dear Fr Gregory (& anyone else who may read this): Yes, I take your point completely; having myself spent 40 years between my first introduction to the Orthodox Church and entrance into it in a "halfway house" (albeit one without the benefit of communion with Orthodoxy) I'm in no position to criticise such a position for others. But I do nonetheless have strong reservations. Authentic (Eastern) Orthodoxy is closely bound up with its traditional liturgical expression, and allowing people to try and enter into the riches of the Orthodox spiritual tradition while effectively depriving them of its main medium of communication would end up selling them short. (And I don't think it's any good saying that before 1054 the western rites in their earlier forms were as Orthodox as their eastern counterparts; 1000 years of separate development have resulted in two (or more; I can't speak about the Oriental Orthodox tradition) completely different streams. Trying to graft one on to the other would do violence to the integrity of both, and trying to restore some conjectural form of pre-Schism western rite would be the ultimate in bogosity.)
I have another, purely practical reservation, which might also apply to the proposed "Anglican rite" in the RC Church (though that is none of our business). Most ordinary laypeople want quite simply to go to church -- to the normal mainstream liturgy of whatever Christian denomination they happen to belong to, and they don't want to have to drive miles & miles to find it. I am told that if I want to (I don't) I can indeed attend a w. rite liturgy in this country celebrated by a canonical Orthodox priest, but there is only one place where this is regularly available -- a cemetery chapel in Bournemouth. Fine if you live in B'mouth or its hinterland, but what happens if you don't?
anglicanorum coetibus - Antony-Paul - 18-12-2009 04:18 PM
Dear Fr Gregory and Walter,
My own introduction to Orthodoxy certainly involved comparison with my previous church, in order to understand what Orthodoxy was all about. As a 'cradle catholic' with a background including monastic life, I had been worried by developments in the RC church over the years. In particular I was concerned about liturgy and the attitude to practical Christianity. Nevertheless, I have now accepted Orthodoxy in its entirety, and would not be satisfied with a 'half-way house' situation. Thus I agree with Fr Gregory that 'partial' conversion is unacceptable. We have to accept Orthodoxy for what it is, not what we would like it to be, and so do newcomers.
Coming recently to the BOC from Rome I am very conscious of certain practical difficulties that we face. We are numerically very small, spread thinly across the country. Inevitably this means we have extremely limited resources in terms of people, clergy, churches and money. We are perhaps more of a missionary church than one which is firmly established.
You may not be aware that the priest serving Bournemouth actually lives in Portsmouth, and in addition to praying there too he also covers Brighton - an enormous territory. There are also other churches and priests in this country, although they may still be some distance from you. Quite apart from those who are actually unable to travel (perhaps for health reasons) I can understand that many would not care to travel a distance to pray, but surely the effort would be indicative of real committment to Orthodoxy? The very fact that it is not easy makes it more valuable. It becomes part of our prayer which we can offer to God.
If a result of anglicanorum coelibus is a number of people accepting Orthodoxy this position should ease, although perhaps not immediately. Growing numbers would help with our resources in people and income. Adjustments to the legitimacy of orders etc. is a matter for our bishops as discussed by Fr Gregory, but doubtless the numbers of clergy will grow too. There may even be a proliferation of church buildings as CoE/RC premises cease to be used. We are in the position of an infant church, with the opportunity to grow, despite our great Orthodox tradition. I see this as a chance to exercise hope.
Anglicanorum coetibus/western rite Orthodoxy - Walter - 19-12-2009 03:18 PM
The western rite community in Bourenemouth which I mentioned in my last post is this one:
Saint Eanswythe OSS - Bournemouth, Dorset, UK. - ROCOR
(The above was a link in the Wikipaedia entry for Western Rite; if it doesn't function as a link paste it into Google and take it from there.)
- Antony-Paul - 19-12-2009 07:01 PM
My sincere apologies.
I am ashamed to say I failed to realise you were speaking of the Western Rite church in Bournemouth. My comments referred to the British Orthodox Church of Christ the Saviour in Bournemouth, and the priest there, Father Simon Smyth. My rather pathetic defence is that since this is the BOC site it was to this that I thought you referred!
Mind you, the I stand by the comments I made about our meagre numbers and thin representation across the country, plus my thoughts about travel to worship, and the potential for the future of Orthodoxy in Britain.
anglicanorum coetibus and orthodoxy - kirk yacoub - 21-12-2009 10:00 AM
If I may add a few thoughts to this thread having only just read through it,
I would like to say that, as a convert to Orthodoxy from nothing (I was educated at so-called CofE schools but never practised the faith) and being married to a Polish Roman Catholic, I have a slightly different approach to these matters. Whatever goes on in other Christian communities, no matter how much we disagree with them, must be of interest to us because it gives us an idea of how to approach those who are not Orthodox in order to help them come to us. As a Syriac Orthodox Christian I am able to receive communion at all Roman Catholic services, and my wife is able to receive communion at all Syriac Orthodx services. This has been so for 25 years. The Syriac Church will commune anyone who has been canonically baptised, including Eastern Orthodox Christians, but excluding protestants. All this is done without altering our faith and our canon law.
When I asked to be baptised into the Church I was only asked one question: "Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God?" My affirmation was enough to begin the process. For those already active in the Anglican Church this might present a stumbling-block, because not all C of E members would confess this basic tenet of faith. Although it is officially acceptable for Eastern Orthodox priests to commune Oriental Orthodox Christians, with the Bishop's permission, this is not done everywhere and leads to friction and hurt.
It seems to me that whereas, objectively, the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Churches have enough common ground to be able to work together in many areas, thus striving to welcome the Holy Spirit as the Divine force which will bring us full unity, the Church of England, and other Anglicans are often very far away. Therefore it is right to say that there can be no half-way house, either a person is Orthodox or they are not, and to be Orthodox is to confess fully our faith and abide by our practises.
- John Charmley - 06-04-2010 04:46 PM
This is a fascinating discussion.
I tend to agree with Kirk that we cannot simply regard what happens elsewhere in Christendom as a little local difficulty which has nothing to do with us. As a former high Anglican with long contact with Roman Catholicism, and retaining friends in both Churches, I am deeply saddened by the various crises afflicting both.
But as a convert to Orthodxy, I am at one with Fr. G. I did not flee Anglicanism, it kind of went somewhere else and I found myself left behind. After wandering in the wilderness, during which time Eastern Orthodoxy presented itself as more interested in the adjective than the noun, I was fortunate enough to encounter the BOC.
For me, it was recognising Orthodoxy as the right way; it was the encounter at the Eucharistic Feast which fixed me where I remain.
But I also recognise we are a missionary Church, and I am familiar enough with dealing with people in crisis to know that some of the noises they make are about self-comfort. That goes for some of the comments Fr. G hears from Anglicans. They are seeking comfort, and of course they'd like to keep x and y and would convert 'if only'. Yet, as Pope Benedict has unintentionally shown, when offered the road to Rome, few, at least in the UK, actually take it. What they really want is their C of E back; it has gone, and either they go with its developming understanding of its faith, or they take a hard decision - which is to find an orthodox expression of the faith.
And here we are, the BOC.