True to Tradition

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The Eastern Catholic equivalent to Roman Catholic liturgical abuse is the issue of ‘Latinisation’. Those of you who are of the Eastern Tradition will understand what I mean, but for those of you reading this from a Latin (or Roman, or Western) perspective, it is important to understand that this is no insult to the venerable Latin Tradition. It is merely to say that what properly belongs to one Church’s life should not be co-opted by the other in what ends up being a pale imitation of the other’s practice. Examples of this would be Eastern Christians doing Stations of the Cross in Lent, or saying the Rosary in public, or using Western-style hymns. There is obviously no problem with any of these forms of worship in their own right, but when taken on by Christians of an ancient, apostolic Rite who have their own beautiful, noble, and profoundly meaningful, forms, they are not only pointless, but can even be destructive.

There was a time when Eastern Catholic Churches lived on the defensive. In many parts of the world, they were viewed with suspicion – often by the very hierarchs (read: Roman Catholic bishops) that should have been caring for, and encouraging, them. As a result, in certain jurisdictions, Eastern parishes sometimes went out of the way to look as ‘Roman’ as possible, lest they be thought of as less than loyal to the See of Peter. The consequences of this can still be seen today, in some of the Ukrainian parishes in Western Canada for example, where they are hardly distinguishable from post-Vatican II Roman Catholic parishes, save for the embroidered cloths draped over the Western holy pictures, or the ‘strange’ (if incomplete) vestments worn by the priest. Ironically, though, these parishes still don’t look enough like standard Roman Catholic parishes to dispel the suspicion, yet neither do they look anything like the Orthodox churches they are supposed to be. Instead, they end up representing a sort of liturgical limbo.

Now, that this unfortunate situation in some places persists, presents a pastoral challenge to be worked through by means of continuous education of the clergy, better catechesis for the faithful, and more loving and observant celebration of the liturgical life everywhere. But when it rears its head afresh in parishes where the priest and people should know better, what we have is either a flagrant disregard for Church Tradition and authority, or it is wilful ignorance; neither of which is virtuous or desirable.

The Eastern Churches have a special vocation in the contemporary world, which is both distinct from, and complementary to, that of the Western Church. Pope John Paul saw it thus, but he was not the only one. The language of the ‘two lungs’ of the Church suggests that the Church’s activity in the world is much diminished when one of the lungs is operating at a reduced capacity – which it certainly is if it is not fully being what it is meant to be.

If a Latin Catholic wanted to use the Jesus Prayer, a chotki, and icons on a personal basis, it could well be for the benefit of his or her spiritual life. Likewise a Greek who found the rosary helpful. But if those same individuals became increasingly immersed in their appropriated practices, it would only make sense for them to begin worshipping within a community that prayed likewise. If, instead, they were to suggest that their personal devotions should become publicly-celebrated features of their native communities, this would be true neither to those communities nor the devotions. It would be tantamount to bringing a hockey puck to a football match. The is nothing wrong with either hockey or football, of course, and if a boy wants to practice the one as a player of the other, then it is his prerogative to do so. Likewise if he wants to change sports altogether. On the other hand, if that same boy wants to import the equipment or the rules of one sport to the other, then he won’t end up playing either.

The Eastern Churches need to be faithful to their inheritance, as the Latin Church needs to be faithful to hers. There is scope on the part of both East and West to take account of the other, but this does not and should not entail any syncretism or confusion. Let the rosary be prayed, but let it be done by those whose vocation it is. Meanwhile, let those of us of the East boldly manifest the beauty and mystery that is genuinely ours, and so be true to our vocation.

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9 responses to “True to Tradition

  1. I think many don’t recognize that the Church’s activity is as you said “diminished” when we are not being faithful to our traditions. The Vatican II document Lumen Gentium par. 23 says that the diversity in our churches is by “divine providence.” If this is so we should take every step to be faithful to the vision of God’s love that our traditions express.

  2. Unfortunately, many western Catholics still think and behave as if the Eastern Churches were simply adjuncts to the Roman Catholic Church. Many do not realise that the Church comprises 23 Churches of which the RC Church is simply one. They are all equal. Size does not equal pre-eminence (although in some minds it probably does).

  3. all the rites have a long history of adopting and adapting each others devotions and liturgical practices, especially in border areas. theres nothing wrong with greeks praying the middle eastern derived way of the cross any more than its wrong for a roman to pray the gallacian derived gloria in excelsis in the Mass or venerating byzantine icons or celebrating the feast of the Nativity of our Lady. to completely segregate the rites for the purpose of segregation is unnatural, uncatholic and unhealthy. its understandable to want to protect against imposition from the outside or adoption of a practice because of an inferiority complex, but the idea to segregate just to segregate needs to be gotten rid of completely to demolish the balkanization mindset that dominates in many quarters of the church

    • Brian,
      Father is not talking about segregating . What he is saying is in line with the Vatican II Document ORIENTALIUM ECCLESIARUM “6. All members of the Eastern Rite should know and be convinced that they can and should always preserve their legitimate liturgical rite and their established way of life, and that these may not be altered except to obtain for themselves an organic improvement”. There is nothing wrong with adopting other traditions or mixing as long as it helps the “organic” development of the spiritual tradition. Maybe you don’t know this Brian but for centuries many of the Byzantine Catholic Churches that came into communion with Rome experienced an identity crisis . Not having an identity some traditions developed that were borrowed and even alien to the organic spirituality of certain churches. At Vatican II Byzantines and all Eastern Catholics were called to recover their spiritual patrimony. Does this mean we throw out the Rosary being prayed in our churches. No it means we have our own versions, Paraklesis,akathist, or even the rule of the theotokos to name a few, which reflect more our theological vision that we celebrate in our traditions. Eastern Catholic churches have their own unique identity and it’s the obligation of every eastern Catholic to discover what it is.

  4. Western Christians doing Stations of the Cross in Lent the way they do it is wrong. Westerners saying the Rosary in public, if instead of mattins, is also wrong. Using so-called hymns which are only bad songs is an abuse also in the West.

    When a Westerner is in doubt over something, s/he should ask the East and the Orient.

    The Byzantine rite has the 12 stations of the Cross as mattins of the Good Friday. If Westerners wish to do the Way of the Cross, they should compilate Roman mattins with 3 nocturns, comprehending the stations of the Cross.

    The “Western” rosary is not Western. Saint Seraphim of Sarov used it. The Dominicans just took it from the East.

    Heretical and/or ugly images instead of icons are an abuse in the West too. “Versus populum” theology and practice, Eastern or Western, is bad. The “fraction before the fraction” is bad theology overall.

    In Transylvania you can see Byzantine Catholics with Westwards altars, with prefabricated wafers instead of prosphoræ, fake icons, disuse of vespers and mattins. Those horrors were totally absent before 1990. Last but not least, the four Armenian Catholic parishes are put under the RC’s archbishop jurisdiction, while there are plenty of Byzantine Catholic bishops and dioceses around.

  5. For most part I am deeply disappointed at this anonymous “A Ukrainian Greek Catholic Priest in the UK politely comments on things he does and does not like. For the most part.”
    Perhaps he might be very welcomed by Russian Muscovite Patriarchate and be very happy with the ¨Russification vs Latinisation that he is so opposed to it in our Ukrainian Catholic Rite, the doors are wide open and he may leave anytime he likes and stop destroying us any further. We have enough already of this bureaucracy.
    First of all I would like to gladly recommend that he would read very closely The Vatican II document Lumen Gentium par. 23 says that the diversity in our churches is by “divine providence.” If this is so we should take every step to be faithful to the vision of God’s love that our traditions express.
    The very important words “DIVINE PROVIDENCE” and also PRUDENCE need to be in maintaining the catholic faith in general but not “A RADICAL DESTRUCTION” as that priest is proposing.
    Did Jesus Christ when He was suffering and dying on the cross said that He is dying for all the people, or did He say that He was dying for all the people except Ukrainian Catholics?
    So then Ukrainian Catholics do not have pray the Stations of the Cross. I have never seen or heard of such a request of Jesus so what is wrong for the Ukrainian Catholics to pray the Stations of the Cross here in the free world such as England, Canada, America, etc.
    I have seen numerous pictures and videos that Ukrainian Catholic people of Byzantine Rite pray in Ukraine Stations of the Cross and Holy Rosary and there is nothing wrong with that.
    Politely said please get of your pot and smell the roses instead.
    Did Blessed Virgin Mary when she appeared in Lourdes and Fatima said that She is asking all people to pray the Rosary, or did She say that She asks that Rosary be prayed by all the people except the Ukrainian Catholics? Again I have never seen any documents or requesst that such request was ever made.
    So what is wrong with praying the Stations of the Cross and Holy Rosary?????
    In our Eastern Byzantine Ukrainian Rite we have Jesus’s prayer and chotki and again it is nothing wrong for Roman Catholics to pray them if they like, but to drastically throw any of these prayers such as Station of the Cross, Holy Rosary, Jesus’s prayer, chotki to name the that we have been accustomed with for so many years and even decades that is very sickening and perhaps some brains need to be examined.
    We should get to know them better and share with each other and even pray together.
    Please take a close look what Russians and Muscovites are doing in our country of Ukraine is that very prudent and or religious??????
    Perhaps praying the Stations of the Cross and Holy Rosary might save us sooner
    Lastly a remark for making a comparison between religion and sport is somehow out of taste especially that there is no relation between them, football and hockey are two different games altogether and I would think that football and rugby are much closer, but if someone would really like to play both that is football and hockey then perhaps they could do so, one day this and the other day that, as there is an excellent saying “where is the will there is the way”
    Please take into your hearts the very beautiful saying made by St. John Paul II that “our Catholic Church needs to breathe with two lungs” and by doing that we will prosper in the age to come in love and harmony for the glory of God and good of our Western (Roman) Catholic and many Eastern Rite Catholic churches as One, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Amen

  6. the truth hurts. why my reply has been deleted. it was a true and polite response

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