Friday, February 09, 2007

Identity: who/what is an Eastern Christian?
There are understandably different answers from me and from Alexis Tančibok, an independent-church clergyman, but he asks the good question ‘where do each big church’s minority rites fit in?’ Many on all sides except a high-church minority of Eastern Catholics say that ECs are RCs with some Eastern externals for example. And to be a Western Rite Orthodox, whilst retaining one’s Anglo-Catholic liturgical patrimony more or less (like the ECs self-latinised thinking it proved their allegiance, many such byzantinise throwing icons and brass fans up in their churches), is to accept a byzantinocentric view of one’s own history and everything else. I’m also reminded of the Mar Thoma Church, essentially Indian Anglicans formerly of the Syrian Church. (Protestantised — that’s why they left the Syrians — but with Eastern externals and, I’m told, conservative.) So what are they then? I know it’s a tough one: for example I think of Ben Andersen as Western and old acquaintance Stuart Koehl (now a Mere Comments com-box regular), a Byzantine Catholic, as one of that high-church minority is entirely a man of the Christian East!

It’s impossible at least for most people to live fully in more than one rite, which is why biritualism is supposed to be an exception for emergencies, so I’d say biritual RC priests are Westerners. Again the disclaimer: it depends on the person.

Besides what I wrote to Mr Tančibok I tend to use what I call the more-than-half rule: if you’re biritual for some reason but more than 50 per cent of your practice comes from one rite, which is probably as it should be, that’s what you are. Do what you like at home — as long as it’s Catholic and if the content is fine why not use things from Protestant sources? (sometimes I listen to gospel music) — but thou shalt not mix rites in church. (No icon screen in an AC church, no Sacred Heart statue in a Greek church.)

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