Monday, September 20, 2010

My Blog is Moving

I have decided to move my blog to my own server and domain and use WordPress to give me better moderation tools. Setting up this move has taken several days and because of that and some other tasks, I have not been able to post lately because of it. I apologize for the inconvenience that this may cause but I hope that you will create a new bookmark and follow over there.

The new site is at:

Thank you for your patience and I'll see you over there!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

All is Quiet on the Western Front

Things seem to have become quiet on many of the blogs that I follow (mine included). There has not been a private word with directions that has been passed along to those of us who blog. But it is interesting to see this collective quiet.

There is an American fear of quiet. We tend to get worried when people seem to suddenly stop speaking. We fear that anger, or perhaps something worse, is brewing under the surface. As parents we can often get quite concerned when our children's usual flamboyant character becomes retrospective and mute. As a group we tend to prefer people to stay engaged in conversation, expressing every nuance of their feelings and thoughts. It makes us feel safer I think. But it doesn't need to be so. One of my greatest joys in life is sitting beside my wife. We don't necessarily have to talk or be engaged in the same activity (we usually read different sorts of books). The simple experience of being in her presence is, to me who am quite biased in this regard, peaceful joy. We see this among those who have been married for many, many years as they sit together on a park bench, talk walks or just sit in the front parlor together.

I think we have come to a moment of what perhaps ought to be peaceful quiet. We have been living something like the Mass in our lives of late. The first part of the Mass is not even at the church. As Fr. Schmemann correctly points out our hurried little activities at home are the beginnings of a procession into the mystery of Christ. We rise, say some prayers, clean ourselves, get dressed into nice clothes, round up our children (which is ofttimes a struggle to convince them to move beyond a snails pace), and finally get into the car. We arrive at church, greeting the ushers at the door and make our way to our familiar pew to quietly say some more prayers. The bell sounds out from the sacristy and we stand as the moment begins with the wind rushing into the pipes of the organ. The entire Mass of the catechumen we enter a conversation between God and those who have begun a pilgrimage into the inner sanctum.

I have in mind that we have been living in this sort of busy activity and conversation for about a year now. Speculations, hurts, anxieties, dreams, hopes and fears have all been expressed. We have heard of the burdens that others carry and have prayed for them, carrying those people in our hearts. We have found some new members of our family and rejoiced in so doing. And yet, I think that perhaps we have exhausted the first steam of our "worldly cares" and are now ready to lay it aside.

We have come to the offertory. We have entered the beginning of the magnificent silent period wherein it is no longer we who are the narrators, but Christ who is acting and so our voices begin to fall quiet as we strain through that silence to hear the muted whispers of Christ. The traditional silent Canon of the Mass teaches us--should we care to see it--that silence after conversation is the moment in which Christ works. The offertory is upon us, but not yet the Sacrifice, the "institution". And even after the moment which many have been waiting for finally arrives, quiet will remain for a little longer until that time as we are called to receive the great Mystery.

I think we live in a pregnant pause wherein Christ is pulling all things together that we might finally and completely receive all that he has been offering for us. This will be the answer to all of our prayers and concerns, our hurts and anxieties which we have been making known to him through each other. This quiet is a profoundly active and creative one. It is not a void, but an expectation and hope.

It ought to be no surprise of course. We are all Christians and this is how our blessed Lord has ever acted with us. He calls and waits. He listens. He stoops to us and hears our cry, and lifts our feet out of the mire and the clay and set them high upon the rock. What a blessed time we have finally reached, and I can almost hear the simple ringing of the singular small altar bell telling us that we are entering the moment of mystery, the moment of the Church, the Body of Christ, wherein all things are fulfilled.

Friday, September 3, 2010

It's been a While...

since I last posted something up on my blog. I thought I'd let everyone know that I'm in the midst of a major project that requires a great deal of attention. I've finally reached the most labor intensive section, but I hope to be past it in the next week or so. I'll be posting again soon and I'm sure that there will be a lot to say and to talk about.

Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What’s the Ideal Parish Size?

Photo of Skelton, North Riding of Yorkshire
Taken by Allen Barton at Vitrearum's Church Art Blog 
For years I’ve been interested in planting parishes and growing them. My deepest desire when I was in seminary was to plant a mission parish and grow it into a parish, staying there my entire ministry. Several parishes later and I still am attracted to that work. Consequently it ought not to surprise anyone that I’ve read several books about church growth and such. There is a lot of information in these studies that is helpful but I think they carry a peculiar cultural bias that I find  repugnant. All of these books have as their desire to turn every community into a mega-church. They often call these communities “Corporate churches,” which is part of what I find repulsive. Others call them “big box churches.”
What is the ideal size? We can certainly answer the question on several levels. First, let us approach it on a simply practical level. There are certain things that we want our parishes to have and that requires a certain number of parishioners to secure these things. For example, I think everyone wants to have a decent musical program. This will require the hiring of a part-time organist/choirmaster at the least. One will need to have at least 12 solid voices and sometimes this might require supplementing the choir with choral scholars (which are paid) for special feasts. A full-time priest is necessary for minimal parish life. A church building is pretty necessary if there is going to be a developed life with parish education and such. Practically, it is impossible to support even a simple parish with less than 150 or so active parishioners. This would mean the parish would have roughly 50 families and probably an annual budget of $100,000 to $120,000. I would call this the minimum size required to establish a relatively stable community.
Others like the huge churches because they can have large exciting programs. The youth programs are peopled with full-time staff, the church office may have two or three staff members. The music program may be larger with a full-time choir director and a full-time organist. A parochial school may be on site adding many more people who work at the church. As these sorts of programs and ministries increase, so must the size and income of the parish. These parishes can consist of 1,200 or more families.
There is a sense in which the size one prefers is not simply due to programs and such, but is cultural and I would suggest pastoral. Is it necessary for the priest to know all of his people on a first name basis? Is the priest to be primarily an administrator or pastor and teacher? If the parish truly wants the priest to be a pastor and a teacher in their midst, then there is an outside limit as to how many he can adequately care for personally. Most studies suggest that the outside limit to that is about 250 to 300 active parishioners. I personally prefer a parish around 250 or so. Otherwise the priest is little more than a combination administrator/sacramental pez dispenser.
I will whole heartedly admit to this being conditioned by my experience growing up in the Episcopal Church and in the Orthodox Church as a priest. But I think it extends further back too. And it is this distant past that I think may need to be brought forward to our consciences because I have an intuition that the loss of this is part of the fundamental loss of our cultural inheritance and has had disastrous consequences on our moral attitudes and beliefs.
All but a few of us are descendants of immigrants. Some have families who immigrated more recently, and some much further back. (The Winfrey’s came to the colonies from England to Jamestown in 1624.) Most of our ancestors came from a world that was primarily agricultural. The list of changes in our culture caused by the Industrial Revolution is long and tragic. The darkness of Charles Dickens’ works come to mind which describe the injustices of the Industrial age in Victorian England. There is a certain grittiness and sense of alienation that is part of the age. Industrialism has gave way to commercialism--which was equally depersonalizing, and this in turn has given way to a relativism that seeks to find personal meaning as individuals apart from community. It’s bound to fail, because individuals cannot exist apart from a community any more than communities can exist without a gathering of a collection of persons.
There was in the late 19th century a romantic notion of the agrarian society as being the noble society (I might suggest that the current green movement is no less a romanticized notion of civilization. It too is a utopian ideal, which as St. Thomas More who coined the word used, it means, “no where.” It’s a fantasy and illusion.) Yet behind even misguided movements there is often a little truth. The truth of this notion was not that society which is agricultural is more noble, but rather that communities that are fully integrated with each other are healthier and therefore have the capacity to act in noble ways.
Parish churches originally were geographically defined. Several hamlets may be joined together as one parish, or they may be joined to a villages parish. This parish was both sacred and secular in terms of governing and binding the people. Towns would have been divided into several parishes, with cities (properly called) having a cathedral as well as several parishes.
The loss of organic community through industrialization, of the division of Christendom into vying groups, and exaltation of one’s own individuality over community has been catastrophic. Christianity has not learned to function well as though it is a large corporation, because it is ultimately a real community of people joined in life before the Altar of Christ. The entire concerns of the parish (geographical area) are the concerns of the parish church. The essence of community is why I suggest that parishes ought to have something of a membership cap. Once parishes grow to over 500, they lose the character of communities and become corporate administrative units instead.
I would hope that we might look back to the source of our religious cultural experience and embrace what I would think of as a more vibrant and interconnected parochial life. Let our visions be directed more by the English parish church, than by the great French cathedrals as grand as they are. We need intimacy in our society now. We need to have the full experience of a healthy Christian community. The notions of Christianity as entertainment that are unspokenly advocated by the church growth movement will lead to bankruptcy and so many people will leave not just those communities, but Christianity altogether because they will not understand what it truly is.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Resources We Need to Create

I've served in two missions and part of what is needed for mission priests is resources. Having the right books is important--and hopefully these can be printed soon and quickly. And they should be beautiful books and not simply functional. Everything that we offer to God should be our finest in all respects. Yes, good liturgical books are necessary.

But I really have in mind other resources that are needed beyond liturgical books, which I work on a great deal personally. Mission priests need so much more. Here are a couple of items that come to my mind which would greatly help flesh out mission parishes:

Music CDs
I would love it if a choir master would take a small select choir of no more than 6 voices and record simple Mass settings that mission parishes could learn to sing. Most people learn to sing by ear because they don't read music, and yet finding recordings to help them is impossible. When things get recorded it is by larger choirs who really want to do more "interesting" pieces of music which small communities can't hope to do as lovely and as moving as the music is.

What I have in mind would be a CD that includes a recording of the Asperges me, the Vidi aquam (from the Burgess English Gradual), and four different Mass settings: the Missa de Angelis, Missa Marialis (Cum jubilo), the Missa Orbis Factor, and the Missa Pentitentialis. All of these can be found in English translations. The English Gradual is a great source except the organist/choir master would need to write a simple accompaniment for each piece (a possible publication?). The Missa Marialis can be found, with accompaniment, in the 1940 Hymnal and parts of the Missal de Angelis can be found there as well. The traditional Credos associated with each setting should be recorded with the settings to make this a very helpful CD.

I would also like to see a complete CD that includes the entire Requiem Mass in plainsong with a minimum of choristers. This should include the Sub venite, the Mass itself, the In Paradisum, the Absolutions and even the music used at the graveside. This CD would help train a chanter to be able to sing a Requiem solo if needed during the week. What an important resource!

Finally, in regards to music, a CD with the basic music of Vespers would be helpful. A sample psalm of each of the eight modes, the Magnificat and each of the Marian Antiphons (in the simplest of authentic settings) would round this out very nicely. Were these CDs to be created by a nice little choir, it would definitely be an incredible help to many, many missions and small churches. I would also think that the CD set could be sold for a nice little profit as well. I'd buy a set!

A Loan Chest
Missions are expensive to get going, and traditional Western worship requires all sorts of gizmos and whatchamacallits. Often more established parishes have older ones that have been replaced and could give the older piece to a common loan chest. This includes vestments of course. Even donations of new pieces would be great for a loan chest.

A loan chest might actually help some parishes get started. Then they could slowly begin purchasing their own pieces and return the loaners. In addition to providing a living stipend and package for a priest, renting a space and so forth, the material items to begin a parish (new) run about $35,000 or so. It might be able to be done for less with imagination and used items, but it nevertheless is quite an investment. A loan chest would be a magnificent ministry and a great ancillary to evangelism.

Popular Religious Books
Most converts that I have met love to read. It is part of where they are at spiritually. They are trying to learn about their church for their soul's growth and sanctification. It would be helpful to have some books written that would help people learn to participate better in the Mass, to understand what is happening before their eyes. These books certainly should be written on a popular level. There are some out now, but were they written to the particular audience, patrimony, or rite, they would be so much more powerful for the faithful.

Christian Education
The area of Christian education in mission parishes is a daunting topic. Because there are usually too few children to make classes for each age group, more flexible programs are needed. Those with experience in this area would do a great service to the Church if they were to make some of their materials available to the rest of us.

Handbook of Ideas
This may be a particularly American item, but I think it would be helpful to have a handbook of ideas for parish evangelism, parish ministries and so forth. Not all of the ideas would be tried every where, and not all would be even desired. But they might spark other ideas that could be used locally.

One handbook that I've been considering putting together myself deals with building the items needed for a mission that has to set up and take down after each service. This is a not too uncommon experience of mission parishes that borrow space, be it in a school cafeteria or elsewhere. I have in mind to make drawings of how to build a portable altar (which might be modified to become an Altar of Repose), gradines, tabernacle and so forth. I would have suggestions about how to set up the altar so it looked traditional and complete without breaking the bank. Having worked as a draftsman out of high school and later a technical writer and illustrator this would be right up my alley.

Other handbooks would be equally helpful I'm sure.

There is so much that can be done beginning right now. There is no reason that work can't be started even today. Waiting on what may or may not happen in the future is paralyzing and numbing spiritually. Let us all work towards tasks that are helpful to each other and so help to build up the Body of Christ.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why in Texas?

Tarrant County Courthouse in Fort Worth, Texas
One of the readers of this blog asked some questions in the comments section that I thought would be fun to answer. He asked:
"Speaking of Texas, why are there more Western Rite Orthodox parishes and missions there than anywhere else? Why are there more Anglican Use Catholic parishes and missions there than anywhere else?"
I have often thought about this and I have a few intuitions. These are certainly not any thing near to being dogmatic, but they are at least intuitions based on experience and some reflections about the Great Republic of Texas. The common image of Texas is of hot-headed cowboys on horses, of guns in pick truck windows and a particular twang in their speech (if they're from West Texas, it's a drawl in East Texas--I'm from where the West begins, Fort Worth, so it's a light twang unless I'm tired and then it can be heavy). Every one also thinks that the Baptists run every thing there and that there is no real room for anything else.

[Have you ever heard how you keep a baptist from drinking all of your beer on a fishing trip? Invite two baptists, they'll watch each other to make sure they don't drink and you can drink all of your own beer!]

The truth is that there really is something to this. About half of the Anglican Use parishes are in Texas, and a large proportion of the Western Rite Orthodox are also in Texas. These parishes are spread out throughout the state, so it's not a narrowly defined demographic. Those who constitute these parishes are mixed in ethnicity as well, although most of them do tend to be of Anglo extraction. The parishes vary in size a good deal too (the Anglican Use parishes are certainly larger than the WRO parishes though--more on that later). But comparing each of the two groups to themselves, their sizes still vary amongst themselves. The level of giving in these parishes also tends to be very steady and usually self-sacrificing.

So what is it in the water there that makes this possible? The first thing that comes to mind is that Texans are very traditionally minded people, except for Austin perhaps which is known to be the most liberal city in the state. But even in Austin the can be found a goodly number of traditional folks. Texans value the past and there is no place in the US that is more keenly aware and in love with its history than Texas. When I was a kid we had to take a year of Texas history in the 7th grade and I'm told that they now have to take two years of Texas history before graduating from High School. To get an Associate's Degree in Texas one has to take a semester of Texas government. If one wants to be certified to teach in Texas, he has to take a semester of Texas history (in addition to Texas government). Texans know who they are and are proud of it. This translates to the Church. Texans respect that which is established and can point back through time to the beginnings. Traditions and a long history are something that's highly valued.

Now there are a lot of baptists in Texas, but there are a whole lot of them that are looking for something more. But that baptist foundation has been very helpful to the state. They believe in a genuine right and wrong, and they believe there is such a thing as sin and hell. Consequently, Texans believe that there is a morality that is right and that folks should follow it. When churches begin to vier off from the center mark, folks get restless in their pews and they'll take off for somewhere that is perceived to be more solid. This has been one of the great contributing factors to the growth of the AU parishes and the WRO parishes in Texas. They want something that is permanent and not subject to current trends (remember, Texans are traditional folks).

Texans also like something that challenges them. We all think that somewhere deep down inside of us we're really all John Wayne. I even knew a guy in college that tried to walk like the Duke. It was amusing. Liturgical worship with fasting rules and obligations clicks with us--after we get over the initial shock of it if one comes from the baptist church.

Related to challenges is the desire to set out a conquer. Texans think BIG and they aren't afraid to take risks. They keep in their hearts something of the pioneering spirit of going out and making something new. This means in churches, they are perfectly willing to pour themselves into building a parish against all odds if they believe in what it teaches and believes. In too many places elsewhere folks are more like settlers than pioneers. They want to come in a settle once all of the work has been done and the indians have been pushed back. Texans don't mind the work or the fight. And part of that will go into their own pockets. They will support their church, open the pocket books and give. And they'll work too. Often times folks with either work or give. Texans do both.

Texans have that sort of John Wayne go get 'em mindset, but they are taught to be "Southern Gentlemen and Ladies". Now I've lived in North Central Florida and I can say without a doubt Texans are not southerners. We're Texans. But we were all taught--very strictly--to be gentlemen, to know our manners, to open doors for women, to say thank you and greet folks with a smile. Texans are polite and friendly. This helps in growing parishes and making people feel welcome.

And we'll go toe to toe with someone who crosses us. And we won't respect ya if you aren't willing to stand up for what you believe in. We don't want you to be mealy-mouthed and shifty in your thoughts. If you believe something, stand up and say so. We respect men for being men. That is not such a little thing in growing an AU or WRO parish. When men are serving the altar, men will come to the parish. Where things have been feminized, men don't come.

Another element, which is exceptionally important, is that Texans are generally religious people. People will talk about their faith openly and not get offended. It's common conversation. The general attitude is that one is part of a church of some sort. This helps to freely speak about what we believe and bring people into the Church.

Finally, I think the stronger economy that Texas has helps. Things have slowed down there, but it's still moving along. Money certainly helps to build churches. You can't do it without it.

The potential in Texas is enormous. It is truly a ripe field that I think has been prepared by God for this time. If it sounds attractive, then get your gun into your pick-up and head to the promised land, just remember it's a big place that needs big people with big ideas.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Romophobia in the WRV

I've been pondering this topic for some time now and I only recently decided that it needed to be brought up publicly. One of the worst things that any of us can do is to pretend that things are what they really are, and writing openly (and using our names rather than shooting like a sniper in hiding, being called "Anonymous"--are we adults who let their yea, be yea, and their nay, nay?) is the only antidote that I know of. I write openly, with my name and I welcome queries and discussions.

So, as the title of this post suggests, I would like to make a couple of observations--based upon my intuition--about the sickness of Romophobia in the Western Rite. I have seen this for some time and I honestly cannot understand it. My incredulity comes from a couple of places: (1) from the mind of the Western Rite itself, and (2) from Orthodoxy. There will be some who will question my Orthodoxy I know, but of those who are serving in our Western Rite parishes, how many studied in an Orthodox seminary? How many were formed by living within an Orthodox (in this case Eastern Rite) community where Orthodox was taken for granted? How many of them checked their assumptions at the door as they came into Orthodoxy, rather than becoming simply "propositional Orthodox" (they just change conclusive propositions from their former way of life and don't let go of their primary assumptions)? I'm not aware of any. I did this myself, preferring to leave a good paying job behind and sacrifice through seminary work. I don't make light of any of the sacrifices that our clergy in the Western Rite have made--they have made very deep sacrifices. I'm simply giving my pedigree as an Orthodox.

Romophobia is an absurdity within the Western Rite because the Rite itself finds its historic character in, um… well… uh… Rome. I rather suspect that there are some who want to make certain that they look as un-Catholic as possible. On the surface several of these folks have tried to put an "English vernier" on their statements, for example, "The Sarum Use" does this or that or the other. If one is honest, one would have to come to the realization that, through Alcuin, the Roman Rite was powerfully effected by the English. But it was digested and developed within the Diocese of Rome. The Western music of the Church, Gregorian Chant, comes from (here comes that awful place again) Rome. It was codified by (oh horrors!) a Pope, Gregory the Great by name. The Canon of the Mass, called the Liturgy of St. Gregory by our WRV, was set in its normative form by the same Pope Gregory I, in his Sacramentary.

But I know that the concerns flow from certain "devotions" that are thought of a Roman: Sacred Heart (a parallel to the Akathist to the Sweetest Lord Jesus); Stations of the Cross (St. Tikhon of Moscow even led meditations on the Stations when he was in Poland before the US--with both Orthodox and Roman Catholics joining in!). The list goes on to include Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Corpus Christi, and so on. It is almost as if the Romophobes are looking to the 39 Articles of Religion for a guide to their theology, certainly they are held hostage to the 16th century!

This phobia, and even deep hostility, causes them to desire to recreate the WR according to their lights. They desire "to purify" the texts and make them compatible with their assumptions. One has even gone so far as to change the text of the Exsultet, written by St. Ambrose of Milan in the 4th century. I had no idea that we had a theologian and saint that is so exalted in his powers that he can correct a Saint universally beloved in the Church. How fortunate we must be. But the truth is that it is simply a habit of a former Anglican to create his own liturgy. (I am a former Anglican to be sure, but I want to use what is authorized and not to create something from my own prejudice.)

Some of these folks believe that this will make Protestants feel more welcome in their midst and that their churches will thrive and grow. Well, point out to me one of them that has done so with this mindset. Nada, goose-egg, there aren't any. And yet the (gosh I hate to bring it up again) Roman Catholic Church is bringing in Evangelicals and Protestants in great numbers! Romophobia doesn't seem to be at the heart of those who would look at from where they are. It simply doesn't wash.

Romophobia is also a very un-Orthodox illness. Saying that, I have to admit that I've seen Romophobes in Orthodoxy but they aren't particularly healthy. It is impossible to define oneself by saying what one is not. Such negative definitions ought not to be thought of as yet another form of apophaticism. I have been told that back in the 1940s and 1950s Orthodox clergy were very often good friends with their Roman Catholic counterparts. There was no sense of fear of them, rather most of them saw an historic kinship which needed correction, but which still existed in some sense. With the increase of converts, Romophobia has been imported into Orthodoxy from the outside. There have always been tensions and sometimes there have been martyrdoms on both sides of this fence, but it was never from a phobia.

I find that if one holds to this sort of phobia, then there are many things that one will not be able to embrace that are absolutely part of the Orthodox treasury. Another Orthodox priest and I were speaking about the Romophobic content in our WRV and he asked, why didn't they just become Eastern Rite is they are so fearful of things Roman? As we discussed it further, we agreed that those with such an attitude would have problems with things done in Eastern Rite parishes too. [Veneration of the Belt of the Virgin (yes, I've venerated a fragment of it myself)?] Patriarch Cyril Lukaris found that ultimately Protestantism (which is little else but Romophobia made ecclesial) is incompatible with Orthodoxy. No wonder that there have been so very few genuine Anglo-Catholics who came into our WRV, most were "prayer book Catholics" of some sort or another.

It is not my job to correct these things of course. But I will say that unless they are dealt with decisively, then the WRV will implode from the inside because of several visions vying for predominance. The authentic vision must given and enforced, or it will truly be over. The job falls to the Vicar General and we'll all wait to see what he does. The longer he waits to act, the deeper the disease infects and the less likely will there be a cure. I hope that he recognizes that his experience with Eastern Rite parishes does not help him here because he is not dealing with Middle-Easterners but Westerners who want and need a firm direction and clarity. There is something to letting the Holy Spirit do his work, but that should not be relied upon when the same Spirit has given authority to act. Failure to act, is failure to let the Holy Spirit do his work through us--which he is ever wont to do.

As I said at the beginning, I write openly with my name being known because this must be discussed and resolved once and for all, and no one seems to be doing so. Because I am not in a WR parish currently I needn't fear any reprisals for my comments (except perhaps being forbidden to serve in the WR in some future and unknown case and date). So, my question is this, what is your vision of the WR in Orthodoxy? Is it a reintegration of the Western Church's life into Orthodoxy? or is it a new thing created on the biases of the 16th century Reformation and Romophobia?

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Liturgy of St. Gregory and the Invocation (Epiclesis)

One of the strangest things that exists in the WRV Liturgy of St. Gregory is an epiclesis following the words of Institution. It simply does not belong. When the WR was first authorized by the Holy Synod of Moscow, they required the addition of the epiclesis in the Mass of St. Peter (the old Latin Canon of the Roman Rite) so as not to scandalize Orthodox who were ignorant of the WR and its authenticity. They made clear that it was not done for any theological cause at all and that the old Roman Canon stood as completely valid as it was.

For some time in Russia the argument had been made, perhaps trying to parallel arguments made in the West regarding the moment of consecration, that the bread and wine were changed into the Body and Blood of Christ at the epiclesis, or invocation of the Holy Spirit. For those who had been taught this, it would have been noticed and they may well have thought that the sacrifice had not been offered. Okay. That might be understandable in the pastoral situation of late 19th c. Russia, but the parishes which Overbeck was trying to plant were not in Russia. Much less were those which Mathew tried to establish in England. Nevertheless, the WRV of the Antiochian Archdiocese received the tradition of an invocation in the Canon through Moscow.

This is an oddity because even St. Nicholas of Cabasilas pointed out that the invocation did occur in the West, but it did so during the offertory (i.e., "Veni, sanctificator omnipotens æterne Deus, et benedic hoc sacrificium, tuo sancto nomini præparatum.") rather than after the Words of Institution as is done in the Antiochian (the so-called "Byzantine") Rite. It is at least alluded that both some sort of invocation and the Words of Institution are necessary for a valid Eucharist, the order may differ depending upon the Rite. This is not necessarily so, because one of the monophysite liturgies (Chaldean?, I can't recall now which one) does not have the Words of Institution, and the Coptic liturgy calls down not the Holy Spirit upon the gifts, but the Son. Be that as it may, the most normative Christian pattern would certainly include some sort of an invocation and the Words of Institution.

Fr. Adrian Fortescue suggested in his commentary, The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy, that there seems to have been an invocation somewhere near to the Supra quæ propitio in the Leonine Sacramentary but which was lost to the Sacramentary of St. Gregory the Great, but what its form might have been is unknonwn. More recent scholarship has called into question that there was an invocation in the Roman Mass at all.

Whatever may be the case, we know that the Canon of the Roman Rite was virtually unchanged from the time of St. Gregory the Great until 1962 when St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary was added in two places. When the Council of Florence was convened there was never any concern whatsoever given by the Orthodox about the Rite of Rome. The bread was discussed, and various other things but the Rite itself was never held as problematic.

This being the case, I do not like the fact--even with the authority of the Holy Synod of Moscow and Antioch--that the Roman Rite has been altered for "pastoral reasons." I wish it were possible to get back to the authentic Rite since it cannot be shown to be defective in any sense whatsoever. In fact, it is more ancient than and is at least a venerable as the Anaphora of St. John Chrysostom. I make no comment regarding the Liturgy of St. Tikhon and its reworking at all as my concern and focus has always been the Roman Rite.

But I don't think that anything will change and more's the pity. We could have the real root and trunk, rather than a paste job.

The Mass of St. Peter (or, The Liturgy of St. Gregory)

A received a question/comment via email from a reader of this blog that I thought was worthy of an entry. He wrote: "I really don't understand with the WRO are so in love with Trent. Didn't Fr. Schmemann write somewhere that the Novus Ordo was more in line with Orthodox thinking?"

Trying to be somewhat organized and logical, I'll take the first part first. The WRO are not so much in love with Trent as they are committed to a sense of history. (By-the-way, my use of the pronoun "they" should not be construed to mean that I don't include myself among the Orthodox as a previous commenter accused me--I am an Orthodox. I simply try to write as objectively as possible.) The Latin Mass was used throughout Europe prior to the Schism. The Sarum use is really only a (French) variant of the Latin Mass brought to England by the Normans. The very simple and primitive form of the Roman Mass continued to form the core of most Western Christians from the earliest of days. The Council of Trent did not create a new Mass. They only codified the Roman use (with several Gallican additions) and surpressed any use that was not at least 200 years old. Monastic and Religious Orders were allowed to continue with their own use and calendars. From this view, the Missal of St. Pius V was not anything particularly new but something which gave a more consistent order.

I think this was inevitable at the time it occurred because of the advent of the printing press. Some of the little variations might perhaps be blamed on the fact that missals were written by hand rather than printed. Nevertheless, things had got out of hand with troped Kyries and the like. The very sober and ancient Roman Rite has been preserved for us by the Missal of Trent and its successors.

The Sarum use does have some aficionados among the WRO, but I am not convinced in its appropriateness for a couple of reasons. First of all, speaking purely from the Orthodox position, it is a use that was developed purely in post-schism France and then imported to England via the Normans. I know that many have been promoting the Sarum use as part of an English patrimony, but really that's bullocks. The English used it following 1066, or even later, and they developed it some into the use of York and Hereford, etc. Prior to this the normative Roman use was to be found in England as that is what St. Augustine of Canterbury brought with him from St. Gregory the Great (remember Whitby where the Roman use won the day?). Actually the Sarum use is but one of the many variations of the basic Northern European use. Even Scandinavia used something quite similar. Sarum represents a romantic notion of English Catholicism and expects far too much from it.

Furthermore, the Sarum use (and any of the northern European variants) have long since ceased to be used. They are but a vague memory which is occasionally trotted out in a sample Mass which is pieced together as best as one can interpret. I am personally very reluctant to give much credence to academic recreations of liturgies. The 19th century saw at least two (possibly more) recreations of the Gallican Rite and which were wildly different depending upon how one understood the core of the Rite, whether it was from the Roman family or the Antiochian family. One simply doesn't really know the answer, and so it is largely still left to speculation. Pay your money and take your chance. That is not organic and healthy worship. I could also put forward the example of the Novus Ordo as well, which in many places was based on bad liturgical scholarship and which has since been disproved. Perhaps I'm jaded, but it doesn't make me at all comfortable at trying to recreate a Sarum use.

Both of these observations should give great pause to those who are interested in an Anglican Ordinariates as well concerning the Sarum Use. Coupled to that, in the case of the Anglican Ordinariates, the facts that even the recalcitrant Roman Catholics did not continue to use the Sarum use even though it was allowed following the Reformation and the fact that most Anglo-Catholics used the normal Roman Rite means that there is a legitimate historical and experienced stream of the Roman Rite among both the English Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic. This has not entirely faded into memory either. There are several parishes in England that still use the English Missal (though most do indeed use the Novus Ordo). And there are many more in the United States and elsewhere where the use of an Altar Missal according to the older rubrics still are the assumed practice.

Another reason that the WRO embrace the altar missal as received through the Roman Rite is one of historical authority. In the late 1800s the Holy Synod of Moscow authorized the Roman Missal for Orthodox Use with very minor alterations. They did not authorized creating a museum liturgy, or a scholarly recreation of an earlier use. The Rite which was authorized was the common use of the day. It was not an exotic Rite or ceremonial, and could be found in virtually every Roman Catholic parish around the world at that time. The one great distinction was that it was to be celebrated in the vernacular. (I'll address the inclusion of the Epiclesis, or Invocation in another post.) That Rite was also authorized by Metropolitan Antony Bashir in 1958 when the Antiochian Archdiocese blessed the Western Rite Vicariate. Notice that there was never authorized a Novus Ordo form of the Mass for the WRV, and that the purpose of the WR was to simply live what it had received. It is an historical accident, if you will, that the general use of the West and the WRV are different. But the WRV is bound to the rubrics of the older missals and not the Novus Ordo.

Now for the second part of the comment. I am not aware of Fr. Schmemann having said that the Novus Ordo was more in line with the Orthodox, but if he did, I wouldn't be too surprised. I would very much disagree with him about that though. Fr. Schmemann was heavily influenced by the liturgical scholarship of that time--which created the Novus Ordo--and so that's not surprising to me at all. There are many things which he wrote that I think are profoundly beautify and absolutely spot on. But he is not an infallible teacher and I don't think he would have thought of himself to be so either. This is no knock against either his scholarship nor his priesthood, just a point that he was part of a era and that effected his perspective. It is also interesting to note that he often opined in class several liturgical possibilities but that he never acted upon them personally. His students sometimes did, but never did. Within the past few years, liturgical theology has largely been re-written and it supports the old Mass more than the new. Yet there are still some who are stuck in the 50s-70s works and haven't dug their way of them yet. Pity. It just slows the recovery of the authentic life of the Church.

As far as I'm concerned the best liturgical life--because it never completely ceased to exist in the lives of the faithful throughout the Novus Ordo period, and therefore is still alive--can be found in the English Missal of the Roman Rite. Most people are pretty well convinced now of the value of the vernacular. That's one thing that has been largely accepted, but I would caution that Latin should not be forgotten amongst those who use the Roman Rite. I remember at the end of one Mass I celebrated, it was one of the feasts of our Lady, I sang the Salve Regina in Latin (in the common mode rather than in the 1st mode). It was beautiful. We sang the Ecce Sacerdos in Latin (by Stadtler) when the bishop came. Latin ought not to be lost. But the English used should be an elevated English, of which I think that "Prayer Book" English is the absolute best and sanctified by centuries of use.

The English Missal tradition (and here I'm off topic, but I don't mind) represents the principle stream of European Christianity throughout the centuries in a marvelous linguistic package. It's theology is ancient--not Calvinistic or Reformation, but truly Catholic. It is rich in its applicability to the real daily lives of Christians in all their difficulties and needs. It springs from the very trunk of the Tradition rather than merely an off-shoot. This is why I think many of us WRO love the "Mass of Trent," because it's not the Mass of Trent, but the Mass of the Church throughout the centuries.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Altar Missals and Lectionaries

It is no surprise that I have been working on producing an altar missal. I've been at it for several years now and all of the text is almost complete. I have laid out some of the text already so that I have my templates ready to finish the missal within a couple of months.

One of the things that has been of some interest to me because of the work I've been doing is the lectionary itself. While what I have worked on thus far has been directly pointed to the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate (WRV), it certainly has broader application because there are many who are working on missals at the moment, notably our WRV and those considering the Anglican Ordinariates. I would suspect that there may be some Old Catholics and others who are also working on missals as well.

Some General Thoughts about a new Missal
It would be very tempting to simply reprint an older missal for use today. This has been beautifully done by Lancelot Andrewes Press printing the American Missal. It was supplemented with a couple Canons and a few manuscript Masses so that it can be used by our parishes which use the Liturgy of St. Tikhon (the Anglican form). It can still be used by Anglican parishes without any alteration in their parishes as it stands. Of the two Anglican missals common in the United States the more functional missal was the American rather than the Anglican, notably in the Prefaces which were printed complete without having to flip pages twice to sing a preface. But its typeface was especially unattractive in its early 1950s form (it was better typeset in 1928). The Anglican Missal was better typeset but was more difficult to use. And neither the American nor the Anglican Missals were set in red and black throughout the missal which makes them more difficult to use. I remember hearing one priest accidentally reading the rubrics out loud in the Mass and fading out his voice when he realized what he was doing. Of all the older Anglican Missals--which are necessary to refer to because they alone had everything in the English language--the English Missal is the best.

Missals need to be entirely typeset anew. This allows the calendar to be kept current with Saints who have been glorified/canonized since they were last published. It also allows us to use very clear digital fonts for publication (may our Lord keep us from using Times Roman in everything, how ghastly this font is in liturgical books, fine for newspapers but dreadful elsewhere!). I would also suggest that all books should have a similar "look" that are used within a rite. For example, the missal and the ritual should have a similar quality and texture. Rubrics should be red throughout the missal.

These are general observations but it is helpful to have a model Missal. For my part, I find that the old missals from Ratisbon are the ideal model. The Anglican Missals (of virtually all varieties) never quite came to that high water mark. Although there were other good printers, in the US the Benziger Brothers were most common, I don't think the German firm can be equalled for beauty, clarity and artwork. As a graphic designer, I believe that this should be the model and ideal of all missals that are being worked on currently for whatever community--although there should be some updating of some of its visual typography but this is better to be left to those who have developed this craft.

The Source Text
The source of the text is a necessary issue for all who work on a missal. In this case I am not referring to Anglican vs. Roman sources, but the translations themselves. I don't think that a missal ought to be produced using the contemporary idiom--in that case simply use the Novus Ordo. For the WRV, contemporary language is not allowed, so for us it is a mute point. There are very important reasons for keeping a hieratic language in liturgical worship, but that is for another post.

I argued for the use of the Douay for quite some time. It clearly represents the generally accepted Scriptural text of the West (even the text before the East-West schism). It was largely reworked by Bp. Challoner and often the text from the Authorized Version was taken up wholesale. The Psalter is easier to set to the authentic Gregorian melodies as well. I would still welcome this text, but I am not as set on it as I once was.

The Authorized Version (aka, King James Version) is one of the great anchors of the English language, and as such it would be very difficult to discard it out of hand. I would suggest that it ought to be corrected in those few places that it differs from the traditional text in content. The Coverdale Psalter is again the psalter that has been used liturgically by English speaking people for so long that it doesn't make sense not to use it. I don't believe that the RSV should be used in an altar missal, perhaps for a Novus Ordo sacramentary, but not a traditional missal. For one thing its use of pronoun number is contemporary and would be out of place in a traditionally styled language. Is St. Paul writing to one or to many? Contemporary language cannot make that distinction.

The Lectionary
Turning to the Lectionary itself one comes to more complicated issues and in some cases these will answered by the appropriateness to the group who will use the missal. For example in our WRV some parishes use the old Latin Mass in English (with some odd alterations), while some use a altar missal form of Anglican heritage. For the Latinate group the Roman lectionary is very appropriate, while for the Anglican group a lectionary based upon the BCP is the most appropriate. My own work has been directed largely towards the Roman Use. Having two different missals for our two uses of WR works well for us (here I think the American Missal reprint ought to be authorized for our St. Tikhon parishes), but for others this will not work so well.

I'm not sure at all what Old Catholics might need--or if they even have any sense of consistency any longer so that they might know. The large diversity of Old Catholics boggles the mind. Continuing Anglicans who intend to remain continuing have other issues as well. I would suggest that they should produce their own missals and cease using the old standards. It seems a little more complete, but perhaps they have not reached that age of maturity yet.

Those who are planning on entering the Anglican Ordinariates have a couple of questions to resolve which makes it a more difficult item. Currently the Anglican Use parishes use a form of the modern NO lectionary: a 3-year Sunday Cycle and a 2-year daily cycle. This works well if you have a sacramentary and a separate lectionary. It's disastrous if you are celebrating using the older rubrics! The resulting missal would take a tug boat to move it about. To make something like this practical in a real missal would take five volumes. The cost would be too prohibitive to produce. They also currently use the Catholic version of the RSV.

For what it's worth, I think the 3-year cycle should be left for those who will use the Novus Ordo Mass (along with the RSV) and the traditional 1-year cycle should be used by those who will use the traditional Mass. Those who use the Extraordinary Form of Mass are required to use the old lectionary (and calendar) and not to use the the modern lectionary. I believe this should apply equally to those who use the EF in the vernacular as well. I also question the need of the 3-year cycle. The Church (East and West) used the 1-year cycle for at least 1600 years and it made Saints. The Mass lectionary is not about reading through the entire Bible. In all current and ancient lectionaries there are large bits that are not included. A single year also helps to reinforce to the people the mind of the Church. They actually learn what Gospel goes with what feast. This is a good thing which is upset by a 3-year cycle. I would hope--and even plead--that those who are working on this will not introduce something as novel as this into the older use. Remember the parable of the wine-skins.

In addition to the lectionary cycle, those looking at the Anglicanorum Coetibus will also have to look at which lectionary they will use. Will it largely be the BCP lectionary, supplemented by the Roman Missal as was done in the American and Anglican Missals? Will they keep the Sundays after Trinity or will they go to the Sundays after Pentecost instead. Currently the Anglican Use uses the modern lectionary and calendar so it would seem reasonable that the traditional form would use the Roman lectionary as well. Certainly Septuagesima needs to be kept in the traditional form. But there are some Gospels in the Roman lectionary that ought to be exchanged for those in the Anglican lectionary. I have in mind some of the feasts of the B.V. Mary which are only two verses in the Roman use and much fuller in the Anglican. Surely this would be a welcome addition. Again, perhaps the English Missal--having both the Roman Use and the Anglican Use in it--is the best resolution for all, leaving the selection to the individual parish. There will be more prefaces that will require setting as well, for example the Preface of Advent.

The End… Finally
I know that there are many who are working on their own drafts. This is a very large project which also means that there will not be a new missal for any of us very quickly. But an altar missal is the most practical and beautiful of books and it ought to be thought out well on the lines of the older books. Of all the books required for the altar, none is more important than the altar missal. For the Mass is the heart of the Christian Faith.

I would welcome the opportunity to work with others as they proceed on their missal projects. We may well be able to supplement each others work in the spirit of charity and affection. Whatever is done, the missal must look beautiful as well as be functional. Mere pragmatism is an unacceptable offering to God.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Transfiguration

It is an absolute foundation stone that it is the Resurrection of Christ that is the characteristic Feast and focus of the Christian Faith. As St. Paul clearly writes, if Christ is not risen from the dead, we are above all to be pitied. Nothing makes sense without the Resurrection. But having said that, the most characteristic Feast as touches our incorporation into Christ is his Transfiguration. (see Matthew 17:1-8)

There are many themes present in this Feast: it contains an epiphany of the Trinity, it shows the fulfillment of the Old Testament in Christ, and much more. Yet I am always struck by the fact that everything around our Lord is changed. What has been hidden is revealed about everything. Christ did not reach a higher degree at his Transfiguration, rather, the glory that he always had with the Father from the beginning was manifested to the three chosen apostles. They were granted the grace to see what already was present.

And yet there is a change of the elements around our Lord that is striking. Our Lord's clothes become whiter than any fuller could make them. His clothes began to radiate the Light of Christ. When we speak of a Christian's "ministry" we need to be very careful unless we try to clericalize the laity and laicize the clergy, making all ministries interchangeable. The principle ministry of the Christian is his cooperation with God in his own sanctification. The Christian's primary work is to become a Saint.

Very often we assume that this means being set free from our passions and to reach the point of no longer committing personal sins. And in a sense this is true, but it is only the very beginning aspect of our sanctification. To be free from sin still does not mean that we have perfected the virtues, and perfecting the virtues doesn't mean that we have achieved a complete union with God yet. But we often are mislead to assume the bare minimum is the goal because we don't know any better.

The Transfiguration shows that part of our complete union with God is the transfiguration of all that is around us. Even our Lord's clothes began to shine forth with his light. And here is the principle reason that I post this on my Western blog. We must transfigure everything around us including our cultures, our times, our homes, and everything about us. We cannot shed off what we have been formed of so that it is not transfigured and glorified, for all things must be brought into union with Christ. And this includes the Western Rite and all of its music and heritage.

If Christianity is simply about "getting to heaven," then none of this really matters because we can all get to heaven in any liturgical rite. But if Christianity is about the transfiguration of the universe in the glory of Christ, then we must offer ourselves and all that we are made of. Therefore anything that would eliminate, or limit, any of the life of Christ as it has been expressed historically is not fully Christian. I have long stated that one is required to love (not merely tolerate) all of the various liturgical expressions of the Church because they are the movement of the Body of Christ in the Spirit to the Father. That does not mean that we need to be comfortable in all of the Rites, but we need to love them all objectively. This is an essential element of Christianity's redemption of all the created Cosmos.

The Western Rite(s) transfigured many lives into great Saints. St. Gregory the Great (or the Dialogos as he is known in the East) never used the Eastern Rite in his life. St. Benedict of Nursia was nourished with the Latin Mass of St. Leo using unleavened bread. St. John Cassian understood so well that the Eastern approach did not work for Italians and so he altered the monastic life that he had learned in Egypt and Mt. Sinai for those in Italy in his Conferences. St. Leo the Great used the sacramentary of the Mass which he promulgated using a western form of chant and the Latin language. St. Martin of Tours, St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Clement of Rome, and countless more were fully sanctified and are remembered in every Orthodox Church around the world, and none of them ever used the Rites of the East. Their sanctity was and is the same, but their personal culture was Latin, not Greek.

We must firmly reject the ideal of some sort of globalized Byzantium (like a franchised corporation), and embrace the historic understanding of the universal Church which held a unity in diversity. We must be truly "Catholic," (as in the Creed: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic) or else we will not participate in the Faith of Christ, nor shall we extend his Transfiguration to the entire created cosmos but only to approved outlets.

Let us all have a greater sense of our work in transfiguring the world around us in our sanctification. Let us bring all things to Christ that he may bless and dwell in them. Let us rejoice in all that bears the light of Christ. And let us remember that nothing is to be withheld from him even if it does not conform to another's tastes or culture.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Land of Silent Bell Towers

One of the most beautiful sounds in my mind is the sound of church bells calling out. The campanological songs that one remembers in the old movies that were set in England (like Mr. Chips) come to mind. The image of the great bells being rung out in the movie Becket is stirring. But here, in the United States, our bell towers are silent. It seems so strange to me that churches would erect a building with small little towers appended to one or both sides of the front as if they were a necessary decoration only. If churches did purchase bells, they were usually penuriously limited in scope, usually with only one to three bells. This is fine if the church happens to be a small mission type. But if it is a genuine parish church it should actually be an embarrassment. Very few churches in the United States built a well-proportioned, heavy bell tower and far fewer filled it appropriately.

Bells are very much a part of our historic heritage--and this goes throughout the entire Christian world, not only in the West. Churches built towers, campaniles, and filled them bells to sing out to the community at large. The bells marked the great feasts, important moments of the liturgical services, certain daily devotions (like the Angelus), the time of the day, weddings, funerals, deaths and even civil dangers. Bells were a familiar voice of the entire community. They were part of the family in an existential sense.

The bells have not completely ceased ringing out in Europe, and in some places there has been a little renaissance of the campanological art. But in the United States, our towers are largely silent even when they have bells. We seem too timid to proclaim the faith beyond the interior of the church building by ringing a bell. We fear the complaint of neighbors, and perhaps a complete change of 2-1/2 hours may be out of the question here, surely 15 minutes or so shouldn't be out of the question.

I recall the story about bells from a former parishioner who was from Denmark. She said that before she embraced her Christian faith, she used to get irritated by the sound of the bells on Sunday mornings in Denmark. They would ring throughout the city and it disturbed her. Later, she embraced her faith very devoutly and when she revisited her native country, her attitude to the ringing of bells was markedly different. She loved the sound of them. I have read that there is a real link to one's love of the faith and how one responds the ringing of bells. The bells crash through one's comfortable experience of leisure and call to mind the community that is larger and has more claim on oneself as well as piercing the false wall one builds up against the worship of God in his Church. It is unsettling to sit and enjoy the morning coffee and Sunday paper with the sound of the Church calling to one. It should be so.

Bells are evangelical. They proclaim the Gospel of Christ throughout the area (they can actually be heard a mile or so away when hung properly). They sanctify the time and space that we live in, and so they are not popular with the secularist. They are an habitual voice of faith proclaimed. They speak out that there is a Christian church present, that the worship of God is taking place and as such they are perhaps some of the most cost efficient tools for "getting the word out" about one's community.

They are also comforting. There is something about the sound of a strong and large tenor bell (the largest and deepest bell in a peal, or set, of bells) in a church tower that brings a sense of solidity to one's heart. The slow, steady tolling of the bell at a funeral helps the heart find a beat to live by which aids it to stay afloat in the midst of sorrow. The bells mourn with the bereaved, showing the sadness of all of creation at the loss of a son of God. The comfort of the toll reaches near to a sacramental experience.

What is more celebratory than when near the midnight hour in the cold and frosty dark, the bells sing out in a peal to announce the birth of Christ? They begin with the treble bells and move down sequentially to the tenor, and then they begin moving through a complicated mathematical dance of joy. The darkness comes alive in thanksgiving and exuberance.

And while bells are common to the entire Christian tradition, there is certainly a particular character that is Western. The bells themselves are different. In the Christian East they are cast and hung as they are. In the West, they are turned upside down and turned on a special lathe following their casting so that they may be tuned musically. The West tunes a bell to speak or ring out five distinct tones in the bell. Easterners make an argument that their bells are more Christian because they take the bell as a unique personality as given by God and allow it to speak with its own voice. That certainly represents one campanological school's religious description. It is certainly a nice allegory. But we must note that there is nothing at all dogmatic about it though it a nice way of explaining their approach. The Western approach is not empty of an equally valid and edifying allegory. Bells are tuned just as we fallen human beings must be perfected in our lives until at last we can sing more perfectly the praises of God. The turning becomes an image, or icon, of our spiritual struggles. It's an argument that is equally valid, and, to me, more powerful of where are right now, what is required of us and the beauty of a transfigured life.

The Eastern school is also entirely based on a rhythmic system, which is why the bells don't need to be tuned since it is the rhythm that is important and not the musical tonality. This helps to point out why the East never developed an equivalent of the Carillon so popular among the Belgians who mastered it. Bells are purchased in the East specified by the physical weight of the bell. In the West, they are purchased both by weight and the musical note. Every Western peal of bells can be classified by its musical harmony (diatonic and so forth) and whether or not it is flat, sharp or natural. This would never be thought of amongst the Easterners.

The West is not homogenous in its campanology however. There are some places in which rhythm plays a greater part, although it was never the exclusive focus. Most country parish churches in Italy had three bells, while larger churches had many more. The same was largely true throughout the Mediterranean. But as one moved north the number of bells increased. And as one crossed the English Channel, the theory of bell ringing changed as well.

The English tradition of change ringing is perhaps the most highly developed of all the Western campanological schools. Dedicated teams still practice and play the bells even in smaller parish churches throughout the land. It is an organic and overwhelmingly physical musical experience. The bells seem to even add a little sense of clarity to those who benefit from the work of the bell ringers.

How tragic it is that our towers stand silent. What a farce it is that we so quickly adopt electronic loud speakers to sound out an artificial ring. What does that say about our faith? Is "artificial" really acceptable or an apt description of our faith? Perhaps it is for some. I can accept that one might not be able to have a ready-at-hand team of bell-ringers for every Mass, for every funeral (and sadly, not even for every Sunday), but ought not one strive for this? I would suggest that the ideal is to have bells hung in towers so that they can be rung by hand by use of ropes, and optionally, when necessary, by an electrical motor that swings the bell. I think it is still important that the bells be swung to ring out. It also seems to me that a normal parish church ought to have a peal of six to eight bells, anchored by a goodly sized tenor of at least 10cwt. This would not be a terribly expensive peal and it would be capable a great diversity and beauty. And it ought to be noted that the bells will last for a thousand years being cast of good bell bronze. The investment in a proper peal is very little over the centuries. But we don't think in terms of permanence any longer. A great example of a good parish peal is Bradford Abbas, consisting of 6 bells (13cwt-2-21 in F). A recording of this peal is here:

What would our land be like if the bells began to sing? What would the little country churches that dot our country find if they consistently proclaimed the gospel with bells? I'm not sure that I can answer that with any certainty because I'm not sure how many people would recoil because of their spiritual state rather than be moved by the bells. Yet, I am certain that those who hold the faith would be encouraged, comforted and made more aware of their spiritual lives on a day-to-day, and minute-by-minute basis and surely this could help us begin to rebuild the faith in this formless world.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Seven Steps through Difficult Times

On my other blog, "PadreTex", I posted an article about how to deal with difficult times. Those of us who love the Western Rite and our heritage often find ourselves in such conflict. I commend that article to you (you can find the link on the side bar).

I'll be posting a new article here in the next day or two.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Culture: Local, Regional, and Universal

There's an old rag, "Never ask a man where he's from. If he's from Texas, he'll tell you. If not, you don't want to embarrass him." Everybody knows where I'm from and even this past week it was pointed out that, as a Texan, it puts me at a disadvantage to understand my parishioners because I'm two degrees removed from them: (1) I'm not from the Middle-Eastern culture, and (2) I'm not a Michigander. My assumptions and way of speaking is not immediately understood by them, and theirs is not immediately understood by me. That's a pretty fair comment I think. I have often said to any one who would listen that in assigning clergy, it is important to remember that the United States is not a homogenous culture. It is actually quite regional. We should expect that. Keep in mind that Texas is the size of France, which is known to have a distinct culture.

Why should I bring this up in relation to the Church? Because it is easily assumed that Christianity has only one culture, or that it should only have a singular culture. This is not quite the same thing as phyletism but it can certainly be one of its assumptions (phyletism is the heresy which holds that one's own ethnicity or culture is superior to all others and acts to suppress or subvert other cultures--without action it is only bigotry). I would like to suggest that Christian culture must be seen as a parallel to ecclesiological order. It is unavoidable. Remember Christ became a very specific human being, in a specific historic time, with a specific culture. If we are real human beings, we will have a real culture that is ours and this will impact the life of the Church.

So how do we begin to make heads or tails out of this, and what is the core of Christian culture? Christian culture exists on a local level, a regional level and a universal level (this should sound familiar to the Ravenna Agreement), but it works slightly differently than ecclesiological authority which operates through the Eucharist and is therefore complete locally as well as universally. In Christian culture the common general elements are found in the universal level and then become more specific as one moves down to the local level.

At the universal Christian level are such things as the Sacraments which must be held, the Scriptures, the writings of the Fathers of the Church, etc. These are not just simple and general, but there are some specific things here that cannot be cast off. For example the basic shape of the Eucharist is part of the universal culture of the Church. It begins with preparation, hymns, readings from the Scriptures one always being taken from one of the four the Gospels another usually from one of the Epistles, or in some cases from the Old Testament. There is always the offering of the gifts of wheat bread and real wine from grapes. The consecration of the gifts into the Body and Blood of Christ which include the words of Christ (except in one ancient liturgy) and often an invocation of the Holy Spirit (although not universal in the ancient liturgies). There are the communions and a dismissal.

This is the universal shape which can be recognized in all Eucharistic liturgies around the world. The exact words used and the ceremonials which attended the Eucharistic liturgies were made specific on the regional level. At one time there were a great number of various liturgies (or rites) and now there are relatively few. It is common to speak of two major ritual families: the Eastern and the Western, both of which have several variants. For example in the Western there is the Roman, Gallican (French), Mozarabic (Spanish), and Ambrosian (Milanese) Rites. By far the most common of these Latin Rites is the Roman. But it had local variations too such that, if one is aware of the details, one can tell the difference between English customs and German ones.

This is quite important really because it allows the local culture to take both the universal and regional and make them real in a profoundly personal and obedient manner. It reinforces the Gospel itself and the real personality of those around the altar. When a local culture takes the universal and regional, digests it, interiorizes it and embraces it, it gives it back in a marvelously new manner. The local temperament is expressed and understood.

This historical organic life can be challenged and upset in places like the United States which has been characterized both by immigration and migration. Regional religious culture can undone when a large group from another region immigrate. It can also upset things when local character is not understood or is undervalued. The United States is essentially an English culture with some modification. Its cultural roots and biases are English. Its laws are English, both civil and common law (except from Louisiana which has a mix of English and French law). Her religious life was also formed with an English temperament. That's unavoidable since the Church of England was the established Church in most of the early colonies.

With immigration from Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean there has been a large influx of a different regional culture. It is still Christian culture for it holds to the universal pattern as established in the early Church and the Scriptures, but it has as its base a different set of assumptions and resolutions. It's world view is different. Even here the local variations can create tension (i.e., between the Greeks and the Russians, etc.).

But what happens when the later regional mind comes into immediate contact with an established regional culture? They don't seem to mix and create something new. They tend to polarize against one another. They also insist on the conformity of any "converts" into their own regional culture. In the long run the later culture dies--unless it has an incredibly large number--because by the third generation many of its children are gone. The only hope for a long lasting second culture, is that it and not the founding culture adapt to new circumstances. This is true because all of the externals of the civilization and locality are all ready set and are not up for grabs. If this doesn't happen, then the new group becomes increasingly disconnected with the real needs and concerns of those around, becoming nothing more than ethnic enclaves and ghettos with no real formative power.

This is what I think is under the hood of the experience of Orthodoxy in this country. Its culture has been strongly established within its Byzantine history (partly because of the abuse of the Ottoman Turks and the Communists) and is so rigid as to be set in stone. Recovering a "more Orthodox" mind is done by becoming more Greek or whatever. The monasteries of Fr. Ephraim spring to mind. But in parishes there is a disconnect. Children go to the Episcopal Church, or the Roman Catholic Church or whatever and it is not seen as a problem to many families. The children cannot connect to the attendant culture of the parent's parish because the world they live in is not the old country. The local life they have cannot support the local manifestations of a village ten-thousand miles away.

I have already written about the tragedy of people giving up their own culture to adopt a new one. They don't become something new, they only really are able to reject what they are and thereby become nothing, "a man without a country," without a father and mother.

The culture of the United States can only find its real ultimate cultural life in the old Latin Mass. English culture ultimately springs from this as does all of European culture. There are so many unconscious connections to this regional liturgical life in our culture that it would be impossible to list them all. But they are still present in an intuitive sense. Even if we can't quite put our finger on it, we know that there should be something there. It is here that the regional and local cultures must once again begin to live. Authentic life demands it. Sanity demands it. A healthy integrated life demands it. Oremus. (Let us pray.)

Hmmm. A Little House Keeping.

I have been out-of-pocket the last couple of days with no computer access and I regret that. The comments on the last two entries got a little out of hand. I apologize for that. I will give a wide berth in comments but there needs to be a few boundaries.

This blog is for the purpose of supporting the Western Liturgy. I will make comments about concerns and liturgical subjects and the state of the Western Rite. It is not limited to WR Orthodoxy. It will also look at Rome and elsewhere, but I am where I am, so it necessarily circles around the little world of the WR within the Orthodox Church. Having been an Anglo Catholic, it will also look directly at the current world in which Anglo Catholics find themselves.

But this blog is not about attacking the Eastern Rite or Orthodoxy. There are problems with modern Orthodoxy to be sure. I can name them very quickly because I live there. But the Orthodox are Christians, whatever their sins and errors and we should not demonize them. The Eastern Rite, while not my native Rite, is ancient and venerable. Even the WR altar missals refers to it in the preparation of the priest before Mass in very complementary terms. The authentic WR practice has never disparaged the ER's authenticity and apostolic heritage.

Therefore, I need to stress that all of our comments must keep a civil tone. We shall not demonize anyone. We may point out errors, we may disagree, but the tone should be kept high and civil. If this is an ascetic struggle for some, then I would suggest that it's a healthy one regardless of where one stands. I will endeavor to do a better job of monitoring from now on.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Answer for the Western World

I hate like the dickens when someone rages against the Western culture. It just sticks in my crawl. Almost every where one turns, one hears people bashing our European heritage. Academics belittle it as a matter of course. The virtues of the far east are help up as being magnificent, while we are to be considered power and money hungry barbarians.
   There is a reason for all of this and that is that at the very bottom, the elite classes want to abolish Christianity--upon which the Western culture is based. The heritage of those of us from European countries is decidedly Christian. But the very height of that culture is the old Mass. Think of it. All of the most beautiful art, all of the glorious compositions of musical geniuses like Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Victoria, Palestrina were created for the use of the Church's worship. As my mentor used to say, "It is the Mass that matters." And so it is.
   I am convinced that to resurrect the Western culture to its proper place the Mass must be brought back to the center of life. And it must be the old Mass which was the living tradition in the West from the time of the Apostles. It is not enough to have a Eucharistic liturgy. The Divine Liturgy will not function in the manner that is needed. No, it is a product--which is altogether magnificent and beautiful--of a different culture. The Latin Mass (even in liturgical English) is what formed our parents and ancestors. It is still the quiet and almost unknown heartbeat of our culture.
   But it is the very answer to all of our social ills too. Economics? Absolutely! In the Mass one is united to the God-man. We are filled with wonder and moved by the sight of heaven. The world cannot defeat us nor injure us for we have been united with Life himself and death has been annihilated. Therefore we can face the economic woes not only with courage, but with confidence and joy. The Mass is in fact the answer to all of the plagues of human life, for it is the answer that Christ has given us to be joined to him and united in one Body.
   I recall the words of Christ about putting new wine in old wineskins and causing the to burst. Very often I think this has been the experience of people who have become Orthodox. The "native" Orthodox certainly feels as thought the ground has been shifted under their feet and is no longer the same. Their world seems to have burst. The same is experienced by the convert as well. Their world bursts with the new wine poured into their lives. Friends forsake them, the rhythm of life is greatly altered with new liturgical cycles, and what once made intuitive sense in our culture no longer seems to fit as well. Things get forced in, square pegs are hammered into round holes.
   I am always grieved when I see convert clergy begin acting as if there were Greek or Russian, especially when I can tell from their names that they are Scot, or Irish, or English, or German. The only way for them to make sense of this new world is to reject who they were before. They change their names, even if their previous name was a Saint's name, to show that change is complete. [I want to re-embrace my given name of Guy! I love my name, it's a treasured family name as well as being a Saint name. You'll notice that my blog has taken back my name again as I used it before seminary. And yes, I will absolutely answer to Fr. Guy or just Fr. Winfrey.]
   I spoke with one woman today who has found the Eastern Rite too foreign. She loves the faith, but the liturgy and culture are just not hers. And why should she be forced to change what was not required even by the Apostles upon the Gentiles in the Book of Acts? This makes me believe quite strongly that if people are going to be brought into salvation here in this very Euro-centric land, it can only happen with the old Mass. Anything else will burst the wineskins and people will be lost and hurt.
   As my mentor said, "It is the Mass that matters." And so it is. So… Introibo ad altare Dei (I will go unto the altar of God).