Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Cambridge Orthodox Forum Podcast

Some initial thoughts on the recent podcast of Prof. David Frost’s in regards to the Divine Liturgy of St. Tikhon.

     First, the basis of his less-than-favorable view of the Rite of St. Tikhon is a rather unfair (and unfortunate) comparison between the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (which bears little resemblance to the Rite of St. Tikhon) and the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. It is unfair because the Rite of St. Tikhon is not of the same liturgical tradition as the 1662 BCP, and there are some very significant differences. And it is also unfair because the Western Rite had a different historical development than the Eastern Rite of St. John Chrysostom. Thus, the Byzantine Rite is not the measuring stick by which the Western Rite is judged.

     When properly understood as the "daughter rite" of the ancient Roman liturgy that it is, the Rite of St. Tikhon is wholly justified in the spirit of its language. It does not have to use the same brush strokes as the Byzantine liturgy, nor provide the same emphases that Prof. Frost thinks need to be there. It is not responsible to the Eastern Byzantine development of liturgy. It is responsible to its own authentic, equally ancient and equally Apostolic liturgical tradition.

     Second, context is everything. Prof. Frost repeatedly made reference to the intentions of Anglican theologians, as if the practice of the Western Rite within Orthodoxy were the same. On the contrary, our spiritual context as Orthodox Christians is vastly different than that of 17th-century Anglicans. And this is not at all unimportant. The habitiat in which the liturgy exists is what gives it its meaning. The catechesis of Western Orthodox Christians, the spiritual instruction of our priests, bishops, and monks, our experience of pan-Orthodox events and services, our reading of the great spiritual writings of Orthodox Fathers and Saints (both East and West), etc., all give meaning to the prayers and ceremonial of the liturgy.

     Third, most of Prof. Frost’s reflections had to do with his own specific feelings and associations made with the Book of Common Prayer tradition by which he was formed, and were not in any way based upon the way the Western Rite is actually carried out within an Orthodox context. As an example, he had a problem praying the Jesus Prayer because the phrase “a sinner” at the end conjured the vengeful, fearful God he associated with his Anglican upbringing. He then transfers these feelings to speciic prayers found in the Rite of St. Tikhon as if they could not be understood in any other way. This is, again, why context is everything.

     Finally, Prof. Frost mischaracterized Met. KALLISTOS Ware’s thoughts on the Western Rite. Met. KALLISTOS does not place himself in the camp of those who have been vocally opposed to the Western Rite. He merely stated that, at that time (when he wrote his book), and in his particular situation (England), he didn’t think such an endeavor was wise. Fair enough. That has little to do with North American Western Rite Orthodoxy, which is the only place (to my knowledge) where the Divine Liturgy of St. Tikhon is celebrated.

     It was an odd reflection, to say the least. I do not want to call it lazy, for fear of sounding uncharitable, but it was certainly a far cry from any substantial challenge to Western Orthodoxy.

     If Prof. Frost is taken aback by strong, forceful (and biblical) language in regards to sin, perhaps he should read more deeply of the great spiritual literature of the church to which he belongs.


  1. Thank you for this, Reader Cuthbert. I listened to the podcast and was bewildered to hear the Liturgy of St Tikhon attacked from such an obviously Pelagian perspective.

    There seems to be an ecumenical consensus, in both East and West (well, at least between two great Petrine sees), that the "Anglican patrimony" contains many venerable elements that the Great Church should preserve and promote.

    I heard an anecdote which may be apocryphal, but it's still very touching to me: shortly before the release of "Anglicanorum coetibus" Pope (now emeritus) Benedict XVI could be heard in the papal apartments practicing over and over how to read the Prayer of Humble Access.

    I write this (BTW) from Rome, having heard the head of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham speak on how Rome is in the process of considering how best to appropriate the best of the Anglican Eucharistic Liturgy.

    1. P.S. Imagine Papa Ratzinger saying, "Vee do not come to ziss zy table, O Lord ..."

    2. Thank you for the comments, Dom Benedict! That is indeed a very touching scene from the former Pope. I too am looking forward to seeing how Rome will integrate the Anglican heritage. Hope you are enjoying your time in the Eternal City!