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Monday, June 4, 2012

A Reply To An "Authentic Orthodox" Critic Regarding OCA "Liberal Liturgics"


I will be candid in response to your misconceptions about liturgical theology, understanding that you approach them with a point of view affirming a nominalist status quo. Consider that as your underlying position, because that is precisely the reason behind the OCA reaction to it and our renewal of liturgical witness, frequent communion, liturgical emphasis, etc.

In the MP, be it abroad or at home, this nominalist conception of liturgics as a "ritual" but not fully epikletic mystagogical nor eschatological reality prevails. That hardly makes this point of view "conservative," but, rather, "pseudomorphized" (to use Fr. Florovsky's and Fr. Schmemann's critique of the pre Revolutionary church mindset and practice) and "captive" to Western paradigms of "validity" and uncritical acceptance of later accretions which have obscured and nominalized worship sometimes in the names of later Saints, sometimes in the name of "fidelity," mostly under the purview of obscurantism. Thus, MP practice is not "conservative" but simply "institutional," reflecting Western accretions and understandings adopted when the encounters with the Reformation and Counter Reformation became encapsulized in a clergy schooled to confront these currents under Uniate - Jesuit - Protestant pressure. The dialectical process was premised upon rejection of awareness of the Orthodox position as sovereign and simply resulted in a reverse engineering to "prove" the Orthodox position using the paradigms of Westerners, where the Orthodox position then became marginalized, forgotten, vexed, lost. Pseudomorphosis, Western captivity.

The MP parishes abroad tend to follow an OCA pattern, or unfortunately: a PJ pattern, and thus their liturgical observance is not much different. Admittedly, the presence of pews (not all OCA churches have pews by far and not all future OCA parishes will have them either) and the Western reality does not allow us fully to make as much an impact in the lives of the faithful,but we are not giving up. By the same token, ROCOR (and the Russian and Greek TOCs by extension) have their own issues when it comes to liturgics which makes the matter a wash of liturgical expediencies demanding regularization.


What the OCA set about intentionally to do was to undergird Sacramental witness in the Eucharist and active participation, thereby opening the door for more fulfilling worship in Vespers, Matins, the Hours, etc. when the Eucharist is viewed as the culmination of worship by placing the believer in the eschaton, as a participant in the Kingdom and living member of CHRIST, thereby fulfilling mankind's purpose in the sanctifying of creation. This is the "conservatism" of the Holy Fathers and the true intent of worship. This is the fulfillment of the Kingdom, and anything that undoes that or obscures it with nominalism is far from "conservative" and definitely not Orthodox, but iconoclasm of the Holy Tradition, for it nominalizes the LIFE in the HOLY SPIRIT of Orthodox believers and by its mode relativizes, even attempts to stifle the reality of HIS ADVENT and continued PRESENCE in the Church with nominalist rejection of HIS LIFE for a solely human mode/contrivance.

Fr. Michael Pomazansky's critique suffers on many points. Firstly, it reads as if he has only read the introduction to the "Introduction to Liturgical Theology" and then stopped, thus offering an incomplete treatment. Secondly, he does not deal with the facts Fr. Alexander presents and does not test them on their terms by providing Patristic evidence to the contrary: while that would be quite a task, for the prayers of the liturgies reinforce the reality of Fr. Alexander's liturgical ecclesiology in and of themselves. Thirdly, he returns to the pre Revolutionary paradigm and stamps it as "legitimate!" ignoring all notions of Western accretions and effects on Russian Orthodox liturgics, theology, piety, mindset, and goes forward from that vantage point simply pounding a fist on the table. Fourthly, his appreciation for the eschatological dimensions of the liturgy and of the inherent nominalism of his approach are things he simply refuses to glean out of Fr. Alexander's treatment. He makes it a point to concede an eschatological reality to the Eucharist in later essays but does not address the nominalist accretions which have distanced believers from full participation, nor does he note their harmful effects on piety and on the salvation of souls.

Nominalism is stifling worship and betraying it and preventing people from their full Life in CHRIST. That is Fr. Alexander's point. Fr. Michael just can't get there. That says it all.

Fifthly, Fr. Michael seems ignorant of and/or oblivious to the reality of the Liturgical Movement in which Fr. Alexander participated. This movement examined the history of liturgy, liturgical piety, theology, etc. One of its principle points was that the Byzantine liturgy was the culmination of liturgics and presents an expression of the "pleroma," "fulness" of liturgy LACKING in other liturgies, especially later Western forms, which thereby presents a paradigm of WHOLE Participation in Eucharistic LIFE when liturgical piety is not obscured or reduced in nominalized "symbolic ritualisms" or reduced to discussions of "validity" and "moments" of consecration.


Worship in CHRIST and LIFE IN THE SACRAMENTS CONSECRATES THE BELIEVER TO THE LIFE OF THE GOD MAN IN HEAVEN AND THIS PROCESS OCCURS THROUGHOUT ACTIVE LIFE IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN A LIFE OF ORTHODOX WORSHIP AND DISCIPLINE, REACHING ITS WHOLENESS/FULFILLMENT BY PARTAKING OF HIS BODY AND BLOOD AND CONSTITUTING THE CHURCH IN THE EIGHTH DAY. This is the Orthodox "moment," life, rather, of consecration and these holistic emphases constitute its "validity."

This awareness is the principle reason why Fr. Alexander both abandoned Western Rite paradigms and replied to Vatican II/Uniate types that the Byzantine liturgy does not need a "reform in form or structure" but a RENEWAL IN THE SPIRIT in "consciousness, devotion, piety," for in and of itself, it is an expression of WHOLE LIFE in the HOLY SPIRIT, being the Sacrament of the Kingdom Come, Redeeming the World, above all others. That was Fr. Alexander's answer to the temptation of Liturgical Renovationism. Thus, to accuse him of it, without having read his point of view already discredits the accusation as erroneous, unserious.

To be fair, Fr. Alexander reflects a certain Parisian haughtiness in his blunt use of critical language and the way he expresses himself at times. Yes, this can be deemed to be "overly positivist, higher critical, irreverent," but the underlying issue of restoring Eucharistic piety to a Patristic standard and undoing centuries of spiritually deadening nominalist accretions trumps that point.

The Proskomedia "may have developed" with time to become its modern form, and Fr. Alexander does offer his hypotheses in this regard, but by no means was it not present in earlier liturgy. Thus, its fundamental mystagogical meaning was inherently present at the beginning and has been preserved, not revealed in some papist paradigm of "gradual revelation" of the HOLY SPIRIT, implying a "process of perfection of the process of Divine Revelation." In that sectarian world, the HOLY SPIRIT has "to take time to get it right." That's heretical nonsense.


Fr. Alexander specifically mentions St. Maximos and St. Dionysios, for they were the PRINCIPLE THEOLOGIANS and "GODSEERS," if you will, who expounded the Mystagogy of the Liturgy and revealed to us the theological Truth behind it as a process of participation in the eschaton. "Later" Saints/Fathers either reinforced their views by synthesizing them into theological anthologies or with fragmentary comments but also with accounts of their personal life in the Eucharist in their lives. Some have lost the sense of the eschatological reality of the Liturgy as the nexus of Heaven and Earth and the fulfillment of mankind and his sanctification in CHRIST JESUS where the boundaries between heaven and earth are transcended and the Eight Day of GOD's Glory is manifested. One does "not grow out of this" or "become more reasonable" in liturgical approach when with time this fundamental reality is OBSCURED and NOT REINFORCED, thereby hindering the faithful's conception witness of the Eighth day in the Eucharist. Development, "evolution" as you imply? Not hardly, DEVOLUTION INTO A HERETICAL NOMINALISM which acts to stifle the lives of the believers and their theosis in CHRIST. The very language YOU USE in this regard has about it a sophomoric flippancy UNWORTHY OF THE FATHERS, pregnant with HIGHER CRITICISM and IGNORANT of even the modicum of respect due to those who reveal Divine Truth. The HOLY SPIRIT and worship was not incomplete in the Apostolic Church, but has remained WHOLE, making mankind WHOLE in HIM since the day of Pentecost, and implying otherwise is some sort of Protestant - Renovationist - Ecumenist nonsense unworthy of an Orthodox Christian. The fact your nominalist point of view reinforces this disconnect with Patristic piety and ignorantly insults the work of the HOLY SPIRIT offers all the comment necessary on the heterodoxy of your liturgics.

I reiterate:

"The Divine Liturgy is much more than a symbolic nominalism with a quasi didactic purpose culminating in a magical moment of the Consecration of the Gifts but rather a Mystagogical gathering of the People of God as the Church in a nexus of heaven and earth where they not only partake of but become the Body and Blood of Christ, a moment of fulfilled eschatology where creation is made whole in Christ."


Symbolic nominalism having a "didactic character" which obscures or confuses the faithful and impinges upon the frequency of their full participation in the fulfillment of creation in the Eighth Day has no justification. Do we need metaphor or the WHOLE LIFE in the HOLY SPIRIT in an eschatological fulfillment. Do we need the Eucharist as LIFE, our LIFE, or a pious lecture flattering, obscuring it, making it less accessible, often with theological tangents, in its place?

The custom of the Russian church and of the Church of the Holy Fathers must be one of "madmen" for they understood that in the event that no altar nor Holy Relics presented themselves that then the Eucharist could be celebrated on the living body of a Great Schemamonk, for such a monk is considered to be a living vessel in CHRIST and CONSECRATED, living relics, deified in the Body and Blood of CHRIST by the HOLY SPIRIT sent from GOD the FATHER. And we are ALL CALLED TO THIS REALITY. THIS IS WHY CHRIST BECAME MAN AND IS THE GOD MAN! That is Orthodox Theology. Where, yes, WE DO become inasmuch as we participate in the Uncreated Energies of CHRIST's Grace by the HOLY SPIRIT sent from GOD the FATHER, the BODY and BLOOD of CHRIST. And as we witness Glory and LIVE IN CHRIST through time, our sanctification increases and we are made more Holy, more deified. This is called theosis. This process of pefection has no end according to St. Gregory of Nyssa. Thus, your understanding is warped and heterodox and is again reinforced by your nominalist presuppositions which lead you into grave errors.

This makes the point you are unread and fixated upon establishing differences between "local practices in time" a priori and disqualifies any commentary on an event outside of time in its culmination in the Eighth Day. You present a harangue for nominalism. Nor does your christological understanding even accomodate the Resurrection and Ascension and pouring forth of the SPIRIT to manifest not only CHRIST to us BUT WITHIN US, and as we "put on CHRIST" more worthily with greater reverence we stop rejecting grace freely given and participate ever more in the Life of Holiness in a reality where human nature has a PROTOTYPE fully deified we continually approach and which deifies us by partaking of this NATURE IN THE EUCHARIST and continually sanctifies us in HIS HOLINESS by HIS GODMANHOOD, ie theosis. St. Justin (Popovich) et al.

The process of the Church in America is a process with the goal culminating in a local American Orthodox tradition. Yes, the Neo Patristic Synthesis is a dialogue with our present circumstance taking into account the realities of yesterday and tomorrow and "what has been handed down," but it also entails the appreciation of Patristic piety, understanding, teaching, where, when things have been obscured by nominalism, they must be confronted with a Patristic litmus test, critically evaluated and either transformed or reevaluated. Likewise, the whole notion of "reinstituting past liturgical forms or rites."


We have OUR context. OUR context is shaped by ONE TRUTH and WITNESS, and our local expression will be a culmination of evaluation of what best forms and witnesses to the People of GOD in the Eighth Day and not necessarily what best "restores" or "is most relevent to today."

Where I disagree with some is where they begin to willy nilly omit certain parts of services or amplify their occluded perceptions of antiquity's celebration of these services in most contrived ways. Anything exaggerated, bordering on radical or irreverent revision or even something skirting charismatic demonic mediumism or flirting with a "congregational Priesthood" continually greets jeers both amongst OCA faithful and clergy and has generally died out as unworthy of our local church. I am in opposition to it and resist it. Where I personally am open is in the restoration of the reading of the "private prayers" aloud, the restoration of congregational singing (in conjunction with choirs, cantors, antiphonal singing, etc.) and traditional chant alloyed with some polyphony in a liturgical observance which incorporates in ritual aspects of various Byzantine local churches, but also is open to the liturgical rituals of the pre schism West and Antioch and Alexandria. A melding of these traditions and pieties will eventually create a local American Orthodox liturgical piety. That is the point behind the OCA approach, in my view, and why I endorse it. By the same token, I also endorse a return to a paradigm of "cathedral" versus "monastic" worship where I feel fidelity and a stricter preservation of liturgical forms to be more appropriate in a monastic setting. I feel American Orthodox monasticism should by undergirded by Athonite litugical piety colored by other local church monastic ritual, much like our Mother Russian church observed in its history.

Let us be clear, we as the OCA are a child of a Russian Orthodoxy which viewed local language, tradition and piety as legitimate in a familial way in a greater multinational family, uniting disparate peoples in language and ethnos in one particular type of Orthodox culture, whose center happened to become Russo- Slavic. That is how people like me in the OCA still term ourselves "Russian Orthodox," but we also understand that this model of Orthodox enculturation of a foreign land will eventually lead to its own local Orthodoxy. We are working to make this day our reality. What we are gifted with in America is an assembling of most all Orthodox local traditions and a melding of them which we desire to assimilate into one whole in a distinct local church formed in appreciation and observation of the example provided for us by our Mother Russian church.

It is thereby we set our guideposts and tune our studies and approach. In observance of piety and life in the Tradition in the Eighth Day by the HOLY SPIRIT. That is the liturgical approach we offer and endorse.

The use of the labels "Renovationists" and "Protestants" in conjunction with the label "conservative" means just what it is constructed to say "conservative Renovationists" and "conservative Protestants." That is what a nominalist "Orthodox" in piety and theological/liturgical/canonical outlook amounts to. That is what your point of view constitutes.

No one is worthy to partake of the Holy and Divine Mysteries, but one becomes less unworthy by partaking of them. Conversely, one becomes MORE UNWORTHY BY NOT PARTAKING OF THEM AND FURTHER ESTRANGES HIMSELF FROM THE LIFE IN CHRIST.


Moreover, the canonical consciousness of St. Nikodemos is something we are all called to "grow into" and it presupposes an increasing formation, piety, life of prayer, sacramental witness, and not a static reality which makes concessions to the modern world and grounds itself on the quicksand of the "times do not permit." That is Renovationism. In this process of formation, therapy, the faithful are formed first as infants, then as children, then as teens, finally as adults, then as our seniors. This begins with an active life in the Mysteries with an understanding of the necessity of the frequency of participation in the LIFE to make it ones OWN to LIVE IN CHRIST and DIE TO THE WORLD and its ways.

Thus, there are no quasi - pious arguments for nominal Eucharistic observance, save PRELEST', and, no the Canons are NOT AN IMPEDIMENT, but, rather, the INFRASTRUCTURE which we grow into and in and increasingly observe, applied to us as we mature. Just as we don't feed infants steak, we don't toss the Pedalion at those just being formed into Orthodoxy. Likewise, just as we are able to eat and be nourished by meat and solid food as adults so too do we increasingly become capable of canonical observance and fidelity. Just as we don't live our lives eating baby food so too must we not ignore nor defy the Holy Canons in our personal formations, ESPECIALLY when some PURPOSE TO OPPOSE HERESY AND SCHISM IN THEIR NAME!!!

You illustrate by your point of view the alienation from Orthodoxy your path has taken, the bankruptcy of nominalism and its inherent assault against Orthodox piety and its maltreatment of Orthodox Christians by setting up chasms between your church polity/mindset and CHRIST. Your words underscore your distance from the actual Holy Tradition. That you ruminate on a litany or liturgical practice does you no justice, for you are leaping before crawling to a disastrous end. To affirm the Tradition is TO LIVE IT IN CHRIST JESUS, not adorn a picture of it. Moreover, no matter how much one adorns the picture, if one neglects to LIVE THE TRADITION, one alienates oneself from the Church, distances oneself from the HOLY SPIRIT, rejects the NEW LIFE in CHRIST.


That is precisely why the nominalism you advocate is heterodox, is sectarian and divorced from Orthodox Faith and practice, and that is why your deformed views on "liturgical conservatism," "outmoded Fathers," "impossible Canons," the "rite of Constantinople vs. 'other rites," etc. all allude to a peering into the Orthodox Church as a critic who never actually lives the LIFE THE CHURCH OFFERS and resists the HOLY SPIRIT by his very callousness and divorce from the reality of CHRIST's Church. This deformed, denatured and spiritually decomposing worldview ruminates on particulars on a whim, but never comes to appreciate the whole, never lives it, constantly flaunts a pseudo-piety, a pseudo-doxy, but never enters the Church to know what it is really talking about. That is its tragedy and the inherent vindication of the approach to Liturgical Theology I have underscored in response to you. Your views are your own rebuttal.

R

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