, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I read with interest your attacks against the western rites of the Orthodox church. The Byzantine liturgy is like some kind of an oriental exercise in hocus pocis [sic] and not anyway consistent with the glorious theology of the Orthodox fathers. Its transformation in the Slavonic countries was a move to something for civilised westerners, and its continuation in the orientalised Orthodox countries is one of the things that make the Greek-tied Orthodox groups (and Old Kalenderists [sic]) so unsuccessful outside their homelands and with more sophisticated western cultures. I would not want to belong to your jurisdiction.

It is ironic that you would characterize Orthodox worship as hocus-pocus. This formula is thought by some medievalists to derive from an adulteration of the Latin, “Hoc est corpus meum” (“This is my body”). Very early on, the Latin Liturgies fell into abuse, celebrated as they were by untrained priests who had lost a knowledge of the Latin liturgical language. Hence the probable bastardization of various Latin liturgical phrases either by the clergy or by those imitating them.

What survives of the prototypes of these Latin Liturgies, especially those of the pre-Carolingian (pre-ninth-century) era, is at best an historical construct, not a living legacy of an inspired liturgical form. There are amateur historians and liturgists who put forth various “proofs” of the authenticity of supposed pre-Schism Latin liturgical texts and rubrics, but the data put forth are more impressive as monuments to romanticism than to critical historical scholarship. If your characterizations were to be properly applied to anything—and we would question the application of your words to any genuine form of Christian worship—it would be to the artificial Liturgies that hold forth in the so-called “Western Rite” movements in the Orthodox Church.

The Liturgies which have survived in the Orthodox Church no doubt provide, in fact, the prototypes of the lost Latin Liturgies of the undivided Church. Moreover, the “Byzantine Liturgies,” as you would call them, were written by the very Orthodox Fathers to whom you impute a “glorious theology.” It is only the most biased of quasi-scholarly speculation which denies the Patristic roots of the Liturgies of the Eastern Church. And this speculation has been rather adequately impugned by the best objective liturgical scholarship, among Eastern and Western Christian scholars alike.

In addition to anti-Byzantine nescience among a few Western scholars, there exists among others a certain manifest jealousy of Byzantine civilization, the accomplishments of which actually underpin much more of Western civilization than we imagine. We see this jealousy fairly frequently among advocates of Western cultural ascendency. But a characterization of Byzantine civilization as the antithesis of social refinement is not an educated or justified one. It seems that you might find a Western religious affiliation more comfortable than your apparent Orthodox alignment. In any case, your hostility towards the Eastern Church does not bode well for your future maturity within its spiritual system.

We might incidentally add that, while numbers should not measure spiritual success or sobriety, if one were to count the actual numbers of Orthodox believers in the West (not those rather embarrassingly provided for demographic reports), those with “oriental” toots outnumber all others combined—not a failure by your stated standards of success, however meaningless they may be in the context of the catholic (universal) nature of Orthodoxy.

Orthodox Insights — Archbishop Chrysostomos, Bishop Avxentios, and Archimandrite Akakios