Sunday, June 30, 2013

Western, Now and Truly

“The Orthodox Faith must be capable of expression in terms of the life and thought of western peoples...True western Orthodoxy is to be found by bodies of western people, members of western nations, coming with all their western background, their western habits and traditions, into the circle of the Orthodox Faith. Then we should have an Orthodoxy which was really western because its memory was western – a memory of the Christian history of the West, not as the West now remembers it, but purged and set in perspective by the Orthodox Faith.”

In my last post I shared this quote by H. A. Hodges, which is worth reading again, because he touches on something vital in regards to the restoration of Western Orthodoxy: namely, that the Orthodox Western Rite actually be western. This means western in actuality, not western as we imagine it, or what “western” may have meant 1,200 years ago; the west that battled its own heresies, produced its own glories, wrestled with its own theological approaches and controversies, passed through its own reformation and counter-reformation, and all the messy and beautiful things which that entails. It means acknowledging where we, as western catholics, got things wrong along the way and humbly setting out to restore our magnificent tradition in light of Holy Orthodoxy. This lies at the very heart of the Antiochian approach to Western Orthodoxy; bringing the received tradition of the west to completion in the bosom of the Orthodox Church, so that, in the words of Bishop Jean de Saint-Denis:

“In the light of Orthodoxy...Westerners [can] solve their  problems, heal their anguish, build their Church, and through it bring salvation to their nation.”

Eminent Orthodox theolgoian, Vladimir Lossky said the same thing,

Only a local Western Church can be born from the same Western soil, as the result of a mission, of a restoration of Occidental (Western) Orthodoxy with its traditions, its rite, its spirituality, the cult of its local saints.” 

This does not occur by merely adopting the Eastern Rite in English, nor does it occur by seeking to recreate the past, though we drink deeply from our past and the Eastern tradition. As the first Vicar General of the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate put it:

“Western Orthodoxy is the rediscovery of the Orthodoxy which withered in the west, and its revitalization, not through the transferral of eastern Patristic thought and devotional attitudes, but by the patient searching out, assembly and coordination of the supratemporal factors which created and characterized pre-schismatic occidental Christianity in its essence, and the careful selection of valid survivals in contemporary western thought and culture.”

The ancient faith and spirituality is not frozen in text and rubric, but lies deeper and is living and dynamic. In the words of Fr. Pavel Florensky,

“The Orthodox taste, the Orthodox temper, is felt but it is not subject to arithmetical calculation. Orthodoxy is shown, not proved. That is why there is only one way to understand Orthodoxy: through direct orthodox experience… to become Orthodox, it is necessary to immerse oneself all at once in the very element of Orthodoxy, to begin living in an Orthodox way. There is no other way.”

We are the Church now, we are westerners now, and we are westerners in every way which that implies. For an Orthodoxy to be truly western, it simply must address the west as it actually is and bring healing to the western mind and spirit as it has come down to us and as it has been shaped by passing through its long, complex history. 
“There is no other way.”

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