Fr. Peter Galadza, whose thoughts on Byzantine liturgy I have discussed before, delivered an interesting talk at last year’s Sheptytsky Institute conference, The Vatican II Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches, entitled “Full, Conscious, and Active Participation: The Influence of Vatican II’s Liturgy Constitution on an Eastern Catholic Worship Aid.” The “worship aid” in question is The Divine Liturgy: An Anthology of Worship which has become the normative liturgical text for English-speaking Ukrainian Greek Catholics. Throughout the presentation, Galadza draws attention to the anthology’s attempt to promote greater lay participation in the services through congregational singing while also highlighting the book’s focus on proper spiritual preparation for the Divine Liturgy (prayer, repentance, and fasting). He also notes places where the book presents abbreviated forms of lengthy Byzantine services such as the Vesperal liturgies for Nativity and Holy Saturday in an attempt to entice more parishes of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) to begin serving them. Despite expressing general satisfaction with The Divine Liturgy, Galadza offers some sobering remarks about the considerable distance the UGCC still has to go (at least in North America) before it truly recaptures its authentic liturgical heritage.
19th C. Russian Orthodoxy—Holy Rus!—is often romanticized by contemporary American Orthodox Christians suffering from an inferiority complex, triumphalism, or both. Even so, it would be unfair to dismiss the genuine religious revival which took place in Russia leading up to the Soviet Revolution, a revival which was as spiritual as it was intellectual. Although it would take some decades before their presence was truly appreciated by the institutional Russian church, the 1800s housed the Optina Elders, St. Theophan the Recluse, St. Philaret of Moscow, and Bishop Ignatius Bryanchaninov. Ss. Seraphim of Sarov and John of Kronstadt serve as spiritual bookends for the century while the ecclesial careers of Metropolitans Evlogy (Georgiyevsky) and Anthony (Kraphavitsky)—two of the most important figures in the history of diaspora Russian Orthodoxy—began. Theologically, most know the 19th C. as a time when “Russian Scholasticism” (for lack of a better term) began to yield some turf to such different currents as a nascent Patristic revival and, much more controversially, German Idealism-inspired mysticism such as Sophiology. Much of this good work would be either destroyed or dispersed during the first half of the 20th C. and arguably it failed to fully refresh the present-day Russian church despite the heroic attempts of some churchmen to reconnect 21st C. Russian Orthodoxy with the possibilities present in the 19th.
When Augustus reigned alone upon earth, the many kingdoms of men came to end: and when Thou wast made man of the pure Virgin, the many gods of idolatry were destroyed. The cities of the world passed under one single rule; and the nations came to believe in one sovereign Godhead. The peoples were enrolled by the decree of Caesar; and we, the faithful, were enrolled in the Name of the Godhead, when Thou, our God, wast made man. Great is Thy mercy, O Lord. Glory be to Thee!
– Doxastikon of Nativity Vespers
In my earlier post, “Edwards Peters Contra the East,” I incorporated some critical remarks concerning Peters’s dismissal of the 692 A.D. Council in Trullo (otherwise known as the Quinisext Council or Penthekte Synod). It is commonplace for Latin Catholics dismissive of the Eastern practice of married clergy without the requirement of perpetual continence to claim, on the one hand, that Trullo introduced innovations into the (Eastern) Church and, on the other, has no standing in the Catholic Church. Indeed, it is not difficult to find popular and academic pieces written from a Latin perspective which dismiss Trullo tout court. This picture is not altogether accurate, as detailed in Fr. Frederick R. McManus’s article, “The Council in Trullo: A Roman Catholic Perspective,” 40 Greek Orthodox Theological Review 79 (1995). Without claiming to summarize all of the article’s contents, allow me to mention a few highlights:
- Although the disciplinary canons promulgated at Trullo were immediately rejected by Pope Sergius I at the close of the seventh century, John VIII, in the ninth century (if not also his predecessor Pope Constantine in the eighth century), accepted those canons which did not contradict the usages and disciplines of the See of Rome. At the heart of Rome’s initial rejection of Trullo was its pretense of defining disciplines and practices for the universal Church, ones which would have contracted longstanding Latin usage (e.g., Lenten fast on Saturdays and mandatory celibacy for deacons and presbyters).
- Numerous sources throughout the medieval period indicate that that Rome recognized that Trullo was binding law for the Greeks (i.e., Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics who follow the Byzantine Rite) even though it had no binding status for Latin Catholics.
- Critical editions of the canons of Trullo — in Latin and Greek — were published first under Blessed Pope Pius IX and, second, under Popes Pius XI and XII when sources were being assembled for what would eventually become the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches.
- Although the 1990 Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches leaves much to be desired in both substance and form, the manner of its promulgation is noteworthy. In his Apostolic constitution Sacri Canones, John Paul II explicitly recognizes the legitimacy of the Eastern canonical tradition, including Trullo.
These observations do not obviate the fact that Latin Catholics will likely continue to raise the false flag that Trullo’s canons concerning priestly celibacy are “an innovation” or that celibate priesthood is ipso facto superior to the married priesthood. Let me close with a reminder that that the crisis of Christianity in modern times — one which can be found in the East and the West — will not be remedied through petty polemics, triumphalism, insult, creative history, or chauvinism. The ancient Latin Catholic discipline of clerical celibacy — in my humble opinion — ought to be respected and retained, and no Easterner — Catholic, Orthodox, or Oriental — should cast aspersions upon it. Perhaps it would be good if, at some point in the future, Eastern Christians take time to reflect more deeply on the unique spiritual and practical benefits of clerical celibacy in the light of their own tradition. Eastern Christendom’s great monastic culture would never have been possible without the discipline of celibacy, nor, in the Catholic context, would the missionary work of the Redemptorists in Ukraine have been possible either. Catholics everywhere should give thanks to God for the gift of the priesthood and pray that more men take up this vocation, married or celibate.
Please pardon me if I should sound like a broken record, but certain discussions in “Eastern Orthodox land” (blogs, social media, streaming radio) about Orthodoxy’s capacity to “transcend” or “stand against” (post)modernity prompt me to repeat that Orthodoxy is eastern in historic geography alone; it is not free from, nor beyond, Western culture. Although contemporary Western historians pay little mind to the direct contribution Byzantium made to the advent of the Italian Renaissance and classical studies, First, Second, and—much later—Third Rome are all built out of materials supplied by Athens and Jerusalem. And as history ambled ahead, Eastern and Western Christendom found themselves confronting the same spiritual and intellectual pathologies (albeit to different degrees), many of which continue to haunt the world to this very day.
It is convenient, and ahistorical, for the Orthodox to blame the amorphous “West” for, well, everything or to posit that the “pure Christian East” and its “authentic spirituality, theology, and liturgy” would have remained “pure” had it not been for the incursion of “Western ideas” starting in the 1500s (or some other arbitrary point in history). Although historic Eastern Orthodox powers such as Russia had a longstanding antagonistic relationship toward the (geographic) West, it was never “free” of Western currents of thought, nor somehow nourished by a “”pristine Byzantinism” which itself was unmoored from the “rationalism” which, allegedly, was an exclusively “Latin thing.” 20th Century Orthodox could write all day about the need for a “neo-Patristic synthesis” or a “return to the sources,” but let’s not forget that there is something genuinely Western (and modern) about such calls, whether certain Orthodox are willing to acknowledge it or not.
Of course, authentic Apostolic Christianity will always stand against destructive ideologies and constructs such as liberalism, historicism, positivism, nihilism, and so forth. The Gospel cannot be reduced to a “worldview” and “modern man” no less than “ancient man” will never need anything greater in life than God. If Eastern Orthodoxy—particularly the minority of Orthodox living in the (geographic) West—have any hope of enlightening others to the truth and necessity of Salvation, then it will have to be accomplished without recourse to grand cultural myths which only serve to reinforce emptyheaded triumphalism.
In the last several years there has been such an explosion of traditional Catholic media that I have had difficulty keeping up with it all. One venture in particular which recently caught my eye, Magnificat Media, is an Internet radio apostolate run by a traditional Catholic family.
Its content includes prayers, music, and original programming such as the show Church and State hosted by my friend Stephen Kokx. In it, Kokx discusses a range of socio-political issues from a traditional (dare I say illiberal?) Catholic perspective while calling attention to teachings from the Church’s authentic social magisterium which remain relevant today. While the show normally airs at 11am, 2pm, and 9pm (EST) on Fridays, it is being broadcast today (12/23/2015) at those same times due to the upcoming Christmas holiday. You can also hear Kokx on the stream throughout the day giving news updates of interest to Catholics.
You can tune-in to the radio’s live stream here. A full broadcast schedule is available here. If you enjoy the content Magnificat Media produces, please do what you can to support this apostolate by spreading the word to other Catholics and sparing them the horror of having to fill their afternoons listening to Fresh Air on NPR.
Edward Peters, who runs the popular canon-law blog In the Light of the Law, is on a crusade for clerical celibacy, and he’s not confining it to the Latin Church alone. Here is what he wrote about the Christian East:
Eastern approaches to married clergy. I say Eastern “approaches” to married clergy because there is not, contrary to popular impression, just one approach among Eastern Catholics. Not all Eastern Churches allow married clergy, and among those that do permit it, not all clerics marry. Still, Eastern Catholic Churches generally accept married men into holy Orders and allow those men to live more conjugato. Now, for reasons that go beyond canonical, Rome has long steered clear of directly addressing how a married, and essentially non-continent, clergy took hold in the East (though most eyes look back to the controversial Synod of Trullo) and asking, in that light, whether this practice should be merely tolerated, mutually respected, or positively protected. A synod purporting to treat of clerical celibacy in the Catholic Church must honestly address the divergence between East and West in this regard.
There are some puzzling remarks made in this paragraph. Let’s go through them.
Fr. Gregory Jensen, an Orthodox priest who has been recruited into the Acton Institute’s side project of manufacturing a pro-capitalist social teaching for the Christian East, opined earlier this month that shifts in retail praxis during this “holiday season” away from the supersized “Black Friday” model (e.g., stores opening up on Thanksgiving) was due to the “moral cues of shoppers.” According to Jensen, shoppers wishing to do wholesome things have helped reshape the behavior of retailers by shaming them into dialing-down their formerly aggressive marketing campaigns for “Black Friday”-exclusive deals and keeping their doors closed so that their employees can spend Thanksgiving (an atrocious holiday) with their families. This alleged shift “is critical for helping us understand the moral goodness of the market economy,” or so says Jensen. Here are a few more of his words:
The centuries-old relationship between Latin and Greek Catholics has been a tumultuous one. Although this is not the place to get into the fraught history of Latin interventionism in Greek—indeed all Eastern—Catholic affairs, most are now aware of the gross injustices suffered by Greek Catholics in the West, particularly in the United States at the hands of Bishop Ireland, Rome’s greatest gift to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Since at least the time of the Second Vatican Council, Latin/Greek relations have improved significantly, though most contemporary Catholics, if they know anything of the Christian East at all, remain content to view Greek Catholicism (Ukrainian, Ruthenian, Melkite, etc.) as little more than an “exotic attraction,” something “interesting” to pay notice to now and again, but not much else. Traditional Latin Catholics have a more complicated relationship with the Greeks. Although there often exists a surface admiration for the East’s liturgical ethos, traditionalists are largely dismissive of, if not directly hostile toward, Greek Catholic traditions such as married clergy or the East’s cool reception of certain Western theological and spiritual currents. What this means in practice is that while there have been a number of conservative Latin Catholics who have made a new home in Greek Catholicism as a way of escaping the liturgical, spiritual, and moral rot which has beset much of contemporary Latin Catholicism, Latin traditionalists have often found it hard to accept Greek Catholicism as anything more than a second-best option in the midst of a first-rate crisis.
I do not believe that any historical concept other than katechon would have been possible for the original Christian faith. The belief that a restrainer holds back the end of the world provides the only bridge between the notion of an eschatological paralysis of all human events and a tremendous historical monolith like that of the Christian empire of the German kings. The authority of church fathers and writers, such as Tertullian, Hieronymus, and Lactantius Firmianus, could be reconciled with the Christian transmission of sibylline prophecies, in the conviction that only the Roman Empire and its Christian perpetuation could explain the endurance of the eon and could preserve it against the overwhelming power of evil. For German monks, this took the form of a lucid Christian faith in potent historical power. Anyone unable to distinguish between the maxims of Haimo of Halberstadt or Adso and the obscure oracles of Pseudo-Methodius or the Tiburtinian sibyls would be able to comprehend the empire of the Christian Middle Ages only in terms of distorting generalizations and parallels, but not in terms of its concrete historical authenticity.
This arresting paragraph, found on pg. 60 of Carl Schmitt’s The Nomos of the Earth in the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum, offers more depth on the importance of the katechon (restrainer) in Schmitt’s thinking and, indeed, in Christian history. The katechon, in Schmitt’s interpretation, injects meaning into history by justifying the political form it had inherited from the Roman Empire. Politics did not end at the Ascension; they took on a new, vastly more important, shape. Political authority was no longer an alien imposition upon the faith of the true believers it Christ. It became the means by which that faith could be sustained, even transmitted, to as many men as possible before the age of antichrist and the triumphant Day of the Lord.
As I noted in yesterday’s post on this subject, it is fashionable for Christians today to decry politics. The most vocal are the young, but there are several generations now of “enlightened Christians” who find it imperative to shed the history of their Faith of all Constantinian elements. They are as embarrassed by Justinian’s cult in the East as they are of Charlemagne’s in the West. They prefer the idea of liberal democracy to everything else because it gets them, and their religion, off the hook for war, destruction, and death. They say that they will die for their “faith in Jesus Christ” but they want nothing to do with the actual faith of Jesus Christ which came into the world at an actual moment in time, when Augustus ruled the earth, and was upheld and delivered throughout all lands by innumerable Christian kings.
Now the Christian authorities of the earth have been displaced and yet the end of the eon has not come to pass. We do not think about the kathechon explicitly anymore, but it must still exist, yes? Something must be holding back the antichrist, as St. Paul tells us. It is not the Roman Empire. It is not the Christian European polities. And it is almost certainly not the United States, one of the greatest affronts to true Christian authority ever conceived by man. (The advent of atheistic communism is only a footnote to the explosion of a thoroughly anthropocentric politics in the 18th Century.)
Maybe it is best not to meditate on this matter too deeply, for it may lead some to conclude the restrainer is no longer present and the End is closer than our pornography-saturated, iPhone-obsessed culture could ever dare contemplate.