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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Canonical Western Rites Conference 2011

From Tuesday, Oct. 4, to Friday, Oct. 7, 2011, the Canonical Western Rites Conference was held in Wappinger Falls, New York, with a number of monastics, clergy, and clergy families in attendance from both the ROCOR Western Rite Vicariate (RWRV) and the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate (AWRV).

above: Clergy, monastics, servers in the borrowed Franciscan church at the Mt. Alvernia Retreat Center, which was the site of the historic conference. Click the image to see more detail.


DAY ONE - Tuesday.

The conference opened with an address by Metropolitan Hilarion of the ROCOR. Vladyka asked the Western rite priests to work towards their integration into the life of the Russian Orthodox Church as a whole, and he encouraged the clergy to learn the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as a secondary rite.

Vespers and confessions, supper, and Compline rounded out this day 1 of the conference.

DAY TWO - Wednesday.

In the early morning, there was a pontifical Mass in Latin celebrated by Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, with Gregorian chant, Anglican chant, and William Byrd's "Mass for Four Voices," all the priests concelebrating with the bishop.

Pontifical Mass:

After breakfast, the day consisted of presentations alternating with Hours of the divine office. Each day the activities were punctuated with the Hours; this is the way the day proceeds in a Western rite monastery. There were talks on the building up of a parish by Fr. Peter Guilianotti, on phyletism by Fr. Irenaeus Watson, on RWRV monastic life and its history and proto-history by Dom James of Christminster, and so forth. Participants were able by this time to meet each other and come to know each other a bit.

Vespers, supper, Compline. You get the drill.

DAY THREE - Thursday.

After a St. Tikhon Mass in English celebrated by Fr. John Connely of the AWRV, and breakfast, there was conference work on various liturgical and paraliturgical questions, a two-part presentation on the Roman Mass by Fr. Nicholas Alford of Washington, D.C. (AWRV), and other features. Sext. Lunch. By this time various participants were able to make good connections with the other men and women participating in the Conference. Part of these days included choir rehearsals for various services. In the evening many of us got pizzas.

Vespers, supper, Compline. There was an evening showing of the movie "The Island" ("Ostrov"), a Russian film about the repentance and salvation of an Orthodox monastic. This film was quite edifying.

DAY FOUR - Friday.

After a Gallican Liturgy celebrated by Fr. Lev Smith of Iowa (RWRV),

we had breakfast.

On this day there was another conference session to work out some details of our WR observances, and the manner in which we conduct our public outreach. Suggestions on next year's conference, which it is thought will include a Sarum Mass to be celebrated by Fr. Hieromonk Aidan (ROCOR) and a Fraternity Liturgy. After this meeting, lunch. Sext. Regretful but mandatory farewells.

above: Clergy, their families, servers, monastics at the Conference. Click the image to see more detail.

This conference was well planned and was remarkably rich and varied in its content. Next year we hope to have some practicums, and we discussed a few minor points for improvement in the execution of the conference. Fr. Abbot David hopes to be able to attend next year's conference, and celebrate the Sarum Mass together with Fr. Aidan, and it is hoped that many of the clergy who had originally planned on attending this year's conference, but in the end were not present, will be present at the 2012 Conference.

Throughout, our Franciscan hosts were kind, gracious, accommodating, and showed a hospitable and irenic spirit. We are grateful to them. And most especially we are grateful to Fr. Anthony (Bondi), RWRV, who was the foremost planner and Force of Nature behind this successful Conference.

Deo Gratias. (Thanks be to God.)

- by a Participant


Paul said...


Matthew M said...

Sounded interesting. Gallican liturgy? I know of it, attended a mission in Anaheim, California back in the 80's. Unfortunately the priest and deacon were a couple of crackerjacks and they wound up going 'old calendar Greek'. Really liked it for what it was. Didn't know there were any still around. A man I knew, Father George Young had a mission in Oregon, Church of the Holy Spirit, I believe.
Glad to see the 2 main jurisdictions working things out together.

Dale said...

Are three-barred Russian crosses worn by so many clergy members as ecclesiastical decorative motives part of the ancient Sarum tradition?

Fr. Aidan said...

It really was awesome, to the extent that it was clearly a genuinely historic moment in Orthodoxy of our times, not to mention the Russian Orthodox Church in particular. And the erudition and piety of the clergy, the wisdom of Fr. Abbot Dom James, the helpful presentations, all of these things made each its deep impression.

Fr. Aidan said...

Yes, there was no tension between the AWRV clergy and the RWRV clergy, just a feeling that we were all brothers.

Fr. Aidan said...

Dale, our resident critic, who keeps us from getting all self-congratulatory and settled in, wrote:

Q.: "Are three-barred Russian crosses worn by so many clergy members as ecclesiastical decorative motives part of the ancient Sarum tradition?"

A.: They are now. Three-bar crosses were well known in the West in the 11th and 12th centuries. Could be they are making a comeback after all this time. I also saw Celtic crosses and what nowadays we call "Latin" crosses. The three-bar ones are cheaper to get, so men's financial means play a part in the choice of cross style. But really we can't get too worried about such details as the style of one's pectoral cross. None of us are really interested in re-enacting some old liturgical form with any archaeological precision, or we'd have to also look at whether our shoes were truly the type of shoes worn at Mass by 12th century or 8th century or even 16th century priests. This could be more of an issue with a bishop, since the Western rite included a special type of shoes and socks for the bishop, with a prayer, but this really is beyond our capability at the moment and need not impair our witness to the world to save souls.

Dale said...

Would it not then have been better, and cheaper, to follow the truly ancient western tradition, and that of all non-Russian jurisdictions and worn no pectoral crosses at all, except of course for bishops and deacons. In the end, since the liturgy must be completely Russified to be acceptable, why bother?

Anonymous said...

Would it be possible to either video services next year or to let AFR record the talks?

Also, is the western architectural tradition (exterior included) being used in any of the WR parishes in North America at present?

Fr. Aidan said...

Fr. Anthony (Bondi) could be asked about the recording issue. I don't know much about that stuff.

There does not exist any one thing that we could identify as "the western architectural tradition," but if you have some specific question, I'll try to answer it.

Eduardus said...


Same goes for the Byzantine/Russian blessing crosses I see in the pictures on the RWRV sites. What's the point of this?

Yes, yes, I know Fr Aidan Keller will immediately chime in and say that there's some sort of precedence somewhere in some obscure nook or cranny of the Western liturgical tradition. I'm not at all impressed with this excuse.

I don't believe for a second that these clergy are doing these things because they know of some obscure medieval ceremony somewhere. They're doing it because they think it looks "Orthodox". Rather like some Eastern Rite Catholics have Low Mass and Rosary, because it proves that they're "Catholic."

Dale said...

I, of course, meant bishops and abbots, not deacons!

Noticed some of the very funny, and decidedly non-western hats as well. It all looks very, very hooky to me.

Please just leave my tradition alone. If you want to play Russian, play Russian, but do not pretend that it is in some way western.

I find all of this play-acting very strange considering the Byzantine attacks againts eastern rite Catholics accusing them of westernizing! Whilst that westernization pales compared to the Byzantinization that is obviously one of the demands of a so-called Orthodox western rite!

Dale said...

I can only speak about the liturgical books and directions put forth by Fr. Aidan, which would call for a full Russian style ikonostatsis, a Russian style cube-shaped altar. So, no, it seems that a "western architectural tradition (exterior included)" will have no place within the Orthodox western rite.

Fr. Aidan said...

What an outpouring of negativity!

Eduardus wrote that I will chime in and state something about blessing crosses. My response: What? Huh?

And Dale mentioned non-Western hats. What? Huh? Can you identify a single Western rite priest or deacon with a non-Western hat?

All this unseemly sniping and teeth-gnashing makes me seriously ponder deleting all negative attack comments with no pretense at being a free forum of discussion. Delete the negative comments, approve the positive and neutral ones. Blog readers, what do you think?

Eduardus said...

Father Aidan, I don't mean to be part of a negative pile-on. But, really ...

When Eastern Orthodox gripe about Latinizations (liturgical, devotional, iconographic, and theological) amongst the "Uniates", I suppose it's okay.

But when Western Christians might voice similar concerns about WRO, all of the sudden it's "unseemly sniping and teeth-gnashing"?

But don't you think that folks like me and Dale have legitimate concerns about the obvious Byzantinizations that exist in both the AWRV and RWRV?

I'm not at all averse to the concept of WRO. I've been an observer of all things WRO for some time. The creeping Byzantinisms convince me that it doesn't work in practice, and that it's not a safe or sane place for Western Christians.

In fact, I think Western Christians, if they want to be Orthodox, would be better off making a clean break with all things Latin and Anglican and just become Eastern Rite. It's far more psychologically healthy.

Convince me that I'm wrong.

Eduardus said...

Examples of RWRV priests blessing crosses, in WR services, found on Fr Keller's own website:

Fr. Aidan said...

No one here is making fun of Uniates' customs and decrying their hats or their shoes or whatever.

There is a lot of Westernisation present in the Russian Church and other of the local Churches, which does NOT arouse suspicion, or generate ire, or provoke much discussion. It's impossible, when cultures come into contact, for there NOT to be some cross-pollination. I am convinced that some of this is just natural and actually unavoidable; it certainly happened in the past in both East-to-West and West-to-East directions; I merely feel one should not change one's liturgical texts to match another rite's, but then I do stand in a minority, I think, or sometimes feel, on that score.

But one thing I know: nothing, nothing, nothing trumps the truth of Christ. And it is present to overflowing fullness in Orthodoxy but is missing from Otherdoxy. That truth is the priceless Pearl; all else flows from it or should. Western Christianity is only true to itself if it is standing in Holy Orthodoxy, for everything incompatible with the living family of Orthodox Christendom is an aberration from the original Western Christian faith planted by the apostles.

Without Orthodoxy, none of this has any meaning, or power, or ability to save. It's just a shell of what was. Western Rite Orthodoxy may be messy, may be in a state of infancy, Orthodox may be impossible to get along with, quirky, small-minded, infuriating, and many other adjectives. But it's just where God is.

Dale said...

"Without Orthodoxy, none of this has any meaning, or power, or ability to save." Perhaps, but is this not the real issue? Can there be an "Orthodoxy" without catholicity? Can any denomination that is tied to single cultural/ethnic tradition be catholic? It would seem that one of the problems with a so-called western rite Orthodoxy is an inability for orthodoxy to accept any tradition other than Byzantine,this is problematic, and I am sorry that you find this simply an example of negativity!

Fr. Aidan said...

Dale, I have nothing against you but I think you are so entrenched in feeling victimized by Eastern people that any points of minutiae are immediately perceived as Proof Positive there can be no support for WR. But against this latter theme come large, crashing waves of contrary evidence: the Conference itself; all the Western vestments and Western liturgies; Western chant and music; use of Latin and English; episcopal support to the degree that a pontifical Mass is sung, like in the days of St. John Maximovitch; support from many participating ER clergy. But all these waves of evidence are dismissed because they do not fit The Mold: Byzantines Hate the West and Can Never Change. It must be very depressing, but I'm here to tell you, things don't have to be so bleak. It reminds me of those who could not endure the ROCOR's rapprochement with Moscow: everything good coming from the MP they dismissed as some fluke, or said it was anecdotal and true change comes from the top. Then tremendous things happened from the very top (glorification of the New Martyrs; a firm stand against false ecumenism) and still they would stop their ears, narrow their eyes, and shake their heads in eternal rejection.

Fortunately, our loving God does not do the same towards us. He does not turn away from us in eternal rejection but says, "He who comes to me, I will in no wise cast out." And such love can save the world.

Subdeacon David Gould said...

I would rather see the cross of Christ - in the Russian or Latin form than no cross on WR or any other Orthodox priests. To not wear the pectoral cross is to lose a witness to the Truth and the cross is the defeat of demons. In regard to Byzantinization, I think that preferable to liturgical archaeology of the Alcuin Club style, resurrecting Sarum amices and rejecting lace trimmed cottas. I see that Dom James wore a purple abbatial zuchetto. Who thinks that all priests and deacons and bishops should not be wearing a black or purple zuchetto not just liturgically, but permanently?

Anonymous said...

Dear Friends,

Years before we came into ROCOR we decided to use the Russian riassa and cross in the Western Rite to honor St John Maximovitch.

It is sad that you were not able to attend, Dale. I think the experience would have been a good one for you and, at the very least, you would have been able to confront those whose haberdashery does not fit your expectations. By the way, I wear French beret outside because it can be folded and easily fits in a pocket.

Please pray for the Western Rite Clergy and Parishes.

Fr Anthony


Dear brothers in Christ
I have listened with interest to your discussion. Now let me put forward a personal question. Here in Scandinavia (Sweden and Norway, to start with, but with many progressing contacts in other parts of continental Europe) we are laying the foundations for a Nordic Western Orthodoxy, that is, 'The Nordic Catholic Church'. Our bishop + Roald Nikolai Flemestad, was consecrated this summer in Scranton by all the bishops of the Polish National Catholic Church, for this purpose, and he is now part of the same synod of bishops as the PNCC:s bishops in the Union of Scranton, the new conservative alternative to the former Old Catholic Union of Utrecht. As Old Catholics, we call ourselves a Western Ortodox Church, we use the liturgy of S:t Gregory and the pre-Vatican II Roman Ritual for all other sacraments and blessing. We strictly use western dress, western liturgical vestment (and crosses)and a western calendar. Of course we hold to the full Orthodox faith, without the later Roman dogmas. PNCC of course has a partial inter-communion with the Roman-Catholic Church in USA and Canada, but are fully orthodox in their theology, as we, the Nordic Catholic Church, their daughter-church in Scandinavia. We call ourselves 'orthodox', unfortunately not yet in communion with any Orthodox jurisdiction in Sweden, but anyway with valid orders and sacraments (PNCC) that both Rome and Constantinople recognize. So what would YOU call us? It would be interesting to know :), since we think that a serious, western orthodox community in Scandinavia for scandinavians, can't be built upon 'imported', eastern orthodoxy, but must take its groundings from our traditions and this seems the only way to do it...

Fr. Aidan said...

1. Nordisk-Katolska Kyrkan, who are you? That is, what is your name?

2. The question was asked what we think of the movement which was described. I would call it a "work in progress." There is still inter-communion with denominations which teach heresy. As long as that is not fixed, and there is not inter-communion with the Orthodox Church, I don't think it can be called Orthodox in the sense St. John Maximovitch, or St. Ambrose of Milan, or St. Patrick of Ireland, are Orthodox.

Fr. Aidan said...

However, I encourage every good step in the direction of Orthodox truth, many such steps are inspired by the Holy Spirit.