Sunday, November 23, 2014

"A much purer form of Byzantine Christianity"

From here:
The Orthodox have retained a much purer form of Byzantine Christianity than Byzantine Catholics. At least here in the USA. All of the Byzantine Catholic Churches (also UGCC) I know of here in eastern PA have no Vespers, Compline, Orthros, Parakleses, and Akathist services. They hold the Divine Liturgy on Saturday evenings and Sundays, like their Novus Ordo-loving Roman Rite brothers do (Mass on Saturdays to fulfill your Sunday obligation). They never talk of the Jesus Prayer or even promote it. Go to Byzantine Seminary Press, and see if they even carry prayer ropes!! You will not find any. The Orthodox just do a way better job at showing the world the riches of Byzantine Christianity. It's a plain fact. I have seen it with my own eyes, and experienced it. At the Second Vatican Council, Byzantine Catholics were told to de-Latinize themselves and return to their own traditions. I think in all fairness the Melkites are the only ones who have made any effort. The Ukrainians and Ruthenians? Forget it; some of them promote the Rosary, and their chanting, if you can call it that, is horrific. I can go on and on. My personal view only!
"The Orthodox have retained a much purer form of Byzantine Christianity than Byzantine Catholics." True. The Catholic Church rightly offers both the unlatinized and latinized forms of the rite, and officially favors the unlatinized, but unlatinized Byzantine Catholics need more support. A number of converts to Byzantine Catholicism get frustrated by what you describe and become Orthodox. Unlatinized: the Melkites (Arabs) and the little Russian Catholic Church, mostly non-Russian Americans.

In my experience, born Orthodox don't talk about or promote the Jesus Prayer either. That they do is a Western myth about Orthodoxy. Prayer ropes are a monastic practice, actually part of the monk's or nun's habit.

Also, Byzantine Christianity is only a means, not an end, so I can't buy denying that the Catholic Church defends the list of beliefs I consider essential (God, Christ, the Trinity, the hypostatic union, Mary the Mother of God, bishops, the Mass, and the option of using images in worship), so that I or others may chase a "purer" ritual form, that is, claiming that the purer ritual form IS the church.

Me, I have a modest unlatinized Russian icon corner on the back wall of the living room: metal Russian crucifix, icon lamp, "Old Man Trinity," Mary, and St. Panteleimon (most of the icons are from a departed old Russian man); the bedroom, while largely "noble simplicity" but with my hats hanging on the walls, is all Latin Catholic (holy-water font and Sacred Heart picture) with the windowsill as a gradine or symbolic altar with metal crucifix, candles, statue of Mary, and reliquary with a relic of St. Augustine (I also have a relic of St. John Neumann). There's a big Latin wall crucifix in the front room. The kitchen has a couple of framed tributes to St. Clement's including an image of the saint; a portrait of Pope Benedict is on the fridge. Rome's home but the Greek Catholics are an option. I even wear a three-bar crucifix. I have various office books for both rites (like my 1957 hand missal, nothing really new in 50 years, just originals, reprints, translations, and abridgements) and my rosaries, one at home for walks around town and another in the car. Devotionally you can do anything you want, and hooray for old latinized forms, but I'm not the kind of Catholic who wants to plonk down a Divine Mercy picture or statue (nice devotion, by the way) in a Byzantine setting; I respect rites' integrity.

The Orthodox might tell you to throw out a lot of your Latin Catholic prayer books and devotional articles; Catholics don't do the reverse, on principle. We include the East.

By the way, I like Leonid Ouspensky's rather recent idea of icons as halfway between Latin Catholic pictures and statues and a sacramental presence.


  1. "Vespers, Compline, Orthros, Parakleses, and Akathist services"
    St. George Romanian Catholic church in Aurora IL, has all those things...and the pastor is a canonical Latin to boot (Monk of Marmion Abbey).

  2. My parish has Vespers, Matins, and from time to time we pray compline and other Byzantine liturgical services. We belong to the Byzantine Catholic Church. I also went to the Byzantine Catholic Seminary press and one can buy prayer ropes and even books on the Jesus prayer. Just saying.

    1. Often the most unlatinized among Ruthenian priests were trained literally in Rome.

    2. Our previous pastor, who is now rector of the Seminary, was trained at the Seminary in Pittsburgh. He is fully committed to the restoration of the unlatinized Liturgical Traditions of the Ruthenian Church. I pray that our future priests learn well. I dearly miss him though, he was a true spiritual father to my family and many in our parish.

  3. Why the nasty and spiteful comments about the chant? I'm afraid he can't have experienced the dreadful wheeze of the Greeks, the infelicitous tremulations of many Russian women vying for their place to reign supreme upon the high "c", the clamorous shouting of the Arabs etc etc to be found in many, nay, most Eastern Churches. Let us pass over the dreadful American "rrrrrr" that rolls with unrestrained luxury through all the recordings of the converts and their penchant for Russian four-part ditties. Just pitiful. They try to carry off the Russian operatic fetish, but with woeful and mediocre results. I am sure they could all do with a little experience of the Latin High Mass, with the Gregorian propers and a good polyphonic setting, to really see how monophonic chant and polyphony can work nicely together in a complimentary way. Try to suggest a bit of Znameny to the Niconian Russians and see what reaction you will get. To finish this comment I must ask that impertinent fellow retract his stupid comment. Protopresbyter Michael Pomozansky of ROCOR wrote a very interesting article on the antiquity of "Uniate" chant and it's curious relation to the Northern Russian Old Believer tradition if he cares to read it. Maybe Eastern Catholics aren't as hung-up on the ritual aspect as the Orthodox. So what! Ritualism is just a sort of heresy that rests upon a "sola pietas" basis. It won't necessarily get you to heaven any the quicker.


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