Cross-Ecclesial Liturgical Participation

I am pressed for time, so you get another “whimsical” post.

Today I glanced over at Fr. Hunwicke’s web-log where, inter alia, he responds to a question about whether or not a Catholic should attend the Divine Office if it happens to be sung in an Anglican church. He saw no reason why this would be a problem. Given that I have, at best, a spotty knowledge of all of the different uses and revisions to the Anglican liturgy over the years, I am in no way, shape, or form competent to comment on whether one should, or would even want to, attend the Anglican office in a non-Catholic parish. Were I still in Chicago, I probably would slip into the Church of the Ascension down on LaSalle St. for choral Evensong now-and-again. (That Anglo-Catholic parish happens to only be a few doors down from not one, but two, Orthodox parishes — but one is Greek, and they don’t believe in ecumenism with the Orthodox Church in America.) My former home parish, St. John Cantius, recited the office in choir every day, though it was, unfortunately, according to the Liturgia Horarum rather than the traditional Breviarium Roumanum. Still, it had its charms. The able brothers and priests of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius know how to make the most out of the truncated Vespers of the modern Roman Rite. It’s a pity other parishes haven’t done the same.

Anyway, in reflecting for a bit on Fr. Hunwicke’s comments, I started to wonder what the answer(s) would be if an Eastern Catholic or, heck, a Roman Catholic inquired about whether or not they should attend any of the Byzantine hours in an Orthodox parish. I could be wrong, but from my understanding, it seems that in America at least both Vespers and Matins (Orthros) are as scarce — if not scarcer — in Eastern Catholic parishes as they are in non-Russian Orthodox ones. Still, by virtue of the fact that the Orthodox have more parishes in the U.S. than the Eastern Catholics, it stands to reason that one has a better chance of finding an Orthodox parish that serves Vespers than a Catholic one. So why not attend? In fact, I know plenty of Eastern Catholics who, from time to time, do attend Orthodox services, especially when they are away from their home churches. Because I feel like putting on my advocatus diaboli hat for a few moments, let me suggest some reasons why a Catholic should not attend services in an Orthodox parish. Please keep in mind that I am not necessarily convinced by any of these, but I think they’re worth chewing on.

  • The Orthodox don’t like us. Even in America one is more likely to find an Orthodox Christian who actively mocks, denigrates, or even loathes Catholicism (and by extension Catholics). “Uniates,” according to some Orthodox, are the worst of the bunch. Is it in any sense spiritually beneficial or healthy to sneakily pray with those who — at least in the backs of their minds — think we’re the enemy?
  • The Orthodox liturgical calendar is filled with saints the Catholic Church does not recognize. While a bit of due diligence and planning ahead can ensure that one attends services dedicated only to recognized Catholic Saints, there’s always a good chance another, Orthodox-only, saint will be commemorated that day instead.
  • The litanies, hymns, and other prayers of Orthodox services are Orthodox-centric; Catholics are not contemplated. There in no sense, in the Orthodox consciousness, that we are included in their prayers except in the most general sense (“For the peace of the whole world…”).
  • Some, perhaps many, Orthodox believe it is sinful to pray with non-Orthodox. Again, should we really be infringing on their self-chosen exclusivity by showing up to pray and we’re not wanted? And if we are wanted — or even just tolerated — , it is likely in the hopes of converting us.

Like I said, I am not necessarily convinced of any of these points. Were I an Eastern Catholic I probably would be much more tempted to go to Orthodox services if/when my home parish wasn’t offering any. Even so, I would be very uncomfortable with “sneaking around” and hiding who I am and what I believe. I am curious if the rest of you feel the same. And for my Orthodox readers, do you feel the same about Catholic services? That is, do you ever get a hankering to sing and dance to “King of Glory“?

0 Comments

  1. Bernard Brandt
    October 29, 2014

    As to whether a Catholic CAN attend an Orthodox liturgical service, I believe that the several statements of the Second Vatican Council have definitively answered that question in the affirmative.

    As to whether a Catholic SHOULD attend such services, you raise some interesting points; but not, I think, dispositive ones. My experience has been that unless you want to do such things as receive the Eucharist at an Orthodox service, or be behind the iconostasis, there’s generally no problem. I’ve also found that Orthodox tend to be polite about our differences, but then, that has been my own experience. Others may differ on that one. The Blessed Augustine’s words on the subject seem to be the most reasonable: Ama Deus, et fac quod vobis (or, for the latinless, Love God, and do what you will)

    Reply
    1. modestinus
      October 29, 2014

      Well, “should” really is the question here — and I am referring here to regular attendance, not just “visiting” an Orthodox parish. I really have mixed thoughts on it, so I am not wedded to one answer absolutely. Also, I have attended a handful of Orthodox services since leaving, mostly things I would never get any more in the Catholic Church: Great Canon of St. Andrew; Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil for Eve of Nativity and Holy Saturday; etc. Also, I do tend to miss a good, old-fashioned Russian-style Vigil, though I wonder if I’ve lost my liturgical stamina, or comfortable shoes to get me through three hours of standing.

      Reply
  2. The young fogey
    October 29, 2014

    I’ve covered this. In short, can and should you double-dip short of receiving non-Catholic sacraments, in the situations you describe? (Byzantine Catholic wanting a full Byzantine Rite liturgical life but chances are his parish has no Vespers; the Orthodox parish does, etc.) Absolutely! Talk about the right kind of ecumenism. The saints are no problem; the church gives them the benefit of the doubt so they’re recognized. The Russian Catholics venerate post-schism Orthodox ones. Completely foreign to most Slavic Greek Catholics (who are NOT wannabe Orthodox) but a good change, for a change! As for unfriendly, anti-Catholic Orthodox, I’ve found the Slavs in Pennsylvania not to be like hostile online convertodox. Knew an older couple from Coaldale, Pa., who had nothing but good to say about the Roman Rite pastor in that town when they were young.

    If one day I go with the Greek Catholic option (unlikely but you never know), I’d definitely do OCA Vespers.

    Hooray for public recitation of the office including Evensong (again, the right kind of ecumenism).

    Been to Ascension, Chicago: knew a late priest who was curate there in the ’40s. And to Cantius.

    Reply
  3. A. DeVille
    October 29, 2014

    I fully support Fr. John, and have long held choral Anglican Evensong to be the best thing going in the anglophone world. If I had a decent Anglican parish nearby, I’d gladly go on a regular basis, and with the full encouragement of the Catholic Church (cf. inter alia, the 1993 Ecumenical Directory from Rome). I know of only 2 RC parishes on the entire continent where one has a chance of encountering even one of the offices on a semi-regular basis, and while decently done the Anglican tradition is better because they know how to sing and didn’t let a committee write the BCP.

    As for worshiping with the Orthodox, I’m glad you’re not necessarily standing by any of your four reasons as they are uncharacteristically un-serious and thoroughly unconvincing. My sed contra in four parts to match yours:
    1) Many Orthodox DO like us. I attend three large Orthodox parishes here in Ft. Wayne (OCA, Antiochian, Greek) on various occasions, often especially during Lent, and have very amicable relations with all three, esp. the first two–and that includes both clergy and laity. Indeed, for the second year in a row, I’ve worked with the OCA parish to host a Mid-West symposium on Eastern Christianity, including Vespers on both nights of the symposium. And most Saturdays of the year, I am at Vespers in the OCA parish, there being no other options within a 2-hour drive. In all three parishes, I have encountered blank looks of incomprehension when I use the term “Uniate” and in one of them, the priest himself said he scolds any of his parishioners who might use that term as he fully believes it is offensive.
    2) The Orthodox Church is an apostolic Church, and any saint canonized by her is fine in my books, and I have never seen any official teaching from Rome telling me otherwise, nor do I expect to (nor, for that matter, would I accept such a declaration, not least because it would contradict previous Roman statements). I think we need to be as generous as possible here. Thus I may not pull out all the stops to celebrate Alexis Toth with vigor equal to the OCA’s feting of him, say, I do nonetheless have no problem with their doing so–just as I expect they feel similarly to the UGCC’s feting of St. Josaphat.
    3) Orthodox-centric? That’s really a stretch. I think they are Christ-centric. Occasionally, I grant, you get more “thematic” or “polemical” feasts (e.g., some of the hymnody around the Fathers of Nicaea—denouncing Arius, say– or again Alexis Toth, but the tropar and kontak for him is so vague that if you didn’t know the history you’d never bat an eye) but these are vanishingly few, and Catholics have no clean hands here (nor Protestants).
    4) On this fourth point, you’ll want to watch for an article in the fall issue of LOGOS: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies written by an Orthodox scholar who examines the canonical literature, ancient and modern, and has changed his mind, demonstrating (successfully it seems to me) that there is in fact no serious theological or canonical reason why Orthodox cannot pray with non-Orthodox Christians. That’s a separate issue from communicatio in sacris, of course, but even here Orthodoxy is not uniform, with many Orthodox theologians arguing that at least between Catholics and Orthodox if we cannot share the Eucharist yet (an idea I came to reject about five years ago) then there is no reason why we cannot share in other sacraments–see, e.g., Lev Gillet, Radu Bordeianu, Dumitru Staniloae, and others.

    P.S. I hope my responses above do not seem ungrateful in light of your welcome shout-out to my blog!

    Reply
    1. modestinus
      October 29, 2014

      I am on a tablet so I’ll have to keep this brief.

      1. I think your personal interactions, while admirable and praiseworthy, fail to capture the on the ground reality in many Orthodox parishes. While I do know a number of Orthodox clerics and layity are anything but anti-Catholic, I would put them as the exception. Sure, some are indiffetent, but there is a powerful degree of anti-Catholic sentiment in American Orthodoxy — and a disproportionate amount of it comes from converts.

      2. Toth is hardly the only polemical Saint in the Menaion. I don’t see how, for instance, a Catholic could venerate John Maximovitch or Seraphim Rose. Simply because Rome has not forbidden it does not make it praiseworthy.

      3. Yes, Orthodox centric. When the Orthodox refer to Christians, they mean themselves, not others. While most of their prsyers and hymns can be given a more universal construction when placed in a Catholic context, let us not kid ourselves about what they mean in an Orthodox context. When the Orthodox sing The tropar for the Feast of the Cross, they mean what they say when they ask God to preserve *Orthodox Christians.*

      4. I look forward to reading it.

      Reply
      1. Adam DeVille
        October 29, 2014

        1) There are anti-Catholic sentiments among converts in some places, but not all. I was talking with several converts last weekend at OTSA and they are not at all anti-Catholic. Indeed, they are very gracious people and some of them called on their own bishops to be more vigilant in denouncing anti-Catholic sentiment as a “spiritual sickness” and form of “fundamentalism” as it was phrased when I asked them directly and bluntly about this. (My local OCA priest and friend said something very memorable and wise recently, which he tells all newcomers into Orthodoxy: make peace with your spiritual past, and do not bring that bitterness and baggage into Orthodoxy, which must be embraced freely and fully on its own terms, and not as a refuge from whatever you are fleeing.)
        2) How widespread a commemoration does Rose have? I thought he was very much a fringe figure at least in North America (Scott Kenworthy says that the situation is totally different in Russia today where they are absolutely crazy about Rose and all his works have been translated–the only American figure so widely read today after decades of slandering and in some cases literally burning the works of Schmemann, Meyendorff, et al.)
        3) Orthodox are far from having a monopoly on more tribalist or particularist approaches. I’ve seen this sentiment in some Eastern Catholic churches as well as others–e.g., Missouri Synod Lutherans. But this doesn’t bother me because until about a hundred years ago, we were all much more concerned with those who are “nash,” those who are part of our local communities, and did not have much of a “universalist” idea of Christianity, which is a grossly over-rated abstraction in the main. Indeed, in your suggestion here to resist praying with Orthodox, are you not in danger of encouraging a kind of Catholic tribalism?

        Overall, I’m still not at all convinced of why Catholics, respecting the disciplines and practices of both churches, should not worship with Orthodox. In fact, I object most strenuously to the idea and think that a remarkably ungenerous suggestion. Before any unity, however eschatological a hope that may be, can happen, we first have to know one another, and what better way to begin that process than prayer and liturgy together? What is to be accomplished by avoiding such encounters? What good could possibly be served by following your idea and holding ourselves aloof from one another?

        Reply
        1. modestinus
          October 30, 2014

          My hesitation about worshipping with Orthodox has nothing to do with rejecting the idea out of hand because they’re “not Catholic” and everything to do with respecting their mentality, even if it is uncharitable and insulated. Perhaps I am wrong, but I can’t think of a single Orthodox parish in West Michigan save one — maybe two (we have eight) — where I could be openly Catholic and comfortable. There are two priests in this area that I would describe as anti-Catholic, and a third who used to be (though I’m told he’s eased up on the accelerator as of late). I certainly do not believe Catholics should be barred from attending Orthodox services by the Catholic Church, but my suspicion — and maybe I am wrong here — is that the Orthodox, by and large, would prefer we not attend them (unless, of course, we’re looking to convert to Orthodoxy).

          As for Seraphim Rose, I would say his veneration is probably less pronounced today than it has been, but it’s still an integral part of American Orthodoxy, particularly for those who attending parishes of the “Slavic tradition” (generally speaking). But there are among the Greeks plenty of Saints who had less-than-favorable attitudes toward the Catholic Church, so I certainly wouldn’t say there is any “safe haven” where one could go in Orthodoxy and not run into commemorations which are eyebrow-raising to say the least. Also, the “Ephraimite” influence among certain circles of Greek Orthodoxy in the U.S. is downright frightening.

          Reply
          1. StephenUSA
            October 30, 2014

            What does Ephraimite refer to? Hyper-tribalism a la a tribe of Israel?

          2. The young fogey
            October 30, 2014

            “Ephraimite” refers to Elder Ephraim, who is trying to start traditional, strict Greek Orthodox monasteries and convents in the U.S. Some say they’re a cult.

    2. Samuel J. Howard
      October 30, 2014

      I know of only 2 RC parishes on the entire continent where one has a chance of encountering even one of the offices on a semi-regular basis

      I assume we mean the North American continent… but I can think of three in Manhattan alone.

      Holy Innocents with Sunday Vespers every Sunday and Vespers and Compline on First Fridays.

      Old St. Patrick with Vespers on First Sundays

      St Vincent Ferrer with weekday Lauds and combined Office of Readings and Vespers (and on Wednesdays Compline).

      St. John Cantius in Chicago celebrates a huge amount of the weekly cycle of the Offices publicly.

      The abscense of the offices from the RC Churches (and also from the Eastern Catholic Churches!) is definitely dire, but it’s not unheard of for RC Churches to celebrate the office.

      Reply
  4. StephenUSA
    October 29, 2014

    I don’t think our prayers for “Orthodox Christians” purposely exclude Catholics per se; it may be more along the lines of the same rationale that JPII used in definitely saying the Church has no authority, or capability even, to ordain women to be priests. Does the Church have the authority and capability to pray with those who do not profess to hold these same beliefs during this common prayer enterprise of people who profess to hold identical beliefs in time and space? One can pray “for” anybody, as indeed the Church does, but “with” is different.

    And, I’m sure that, when enemies are identified, if it has anything to do with actual people, Persians or Moslems would be more likely than western Christians.

    Reply
  5. Vito
    October 30, 2014

    We begin each regular meeting of our local chapter of the Society of St. John Chrysostom with prayer in the tradition of the particular church where the meeting is being held. Since we meet at various area churches: Latin Catholic, Orthodox, Maronite, Byzantine Catholics of various traditions, Coptic Orthodox, etc. our members and friends are exposed to “the other.” As we say in our Chapter Manifeto: ” …we gather regularly to pray together, to eat together, to learn of each other’s beliefs, customs and traditions, and, most of all, to get to know and love each other. When we do this, we believe that we are doing what Jesus asked us to do.”

    Reply
  6. aka
    October 30, 2014

    Visiting Catholics, including Franciscans in robes, sandals, etc. were fixtures at an Orthodox parish I spent much time in, and that was a very traditionalist parish. Of course, everyone there would want a Catholic to convert, duh; the reverse would be true of any Catholics re regularly visiting Orthodoxy. (Assuming for a moment that most Orthodox and most Catholics do not agree that all those outside their own church bounds are without salvation.) That doesn’t mean anyone needs to be (or is) rude about it; any discomfort is typically projected and put on by oneself and not supplied by others. Each group believes there is something important and different about their respective churches and that it would be best if the other converted. If not, they’d be in the same church already. Getting offended at that reality is a lot like that scene in Seinfeld where Elaine gets offended that her Born Again boyfriend thinks she’s going to hell, even though she doesn’t believe in hell. Or, it’s like conservative Protestants who get offended that some Orthodox won’t recognize their well-intentioned baptisms, while they themselves deny the validity of equally well-intentioned baptism by Adventists, JWs, Mormons, and even some Charismatics. It’s all a matter of whose bull is being gored, not that there is a bull being gored.

    Reply
  7. Owen White
    October 30, 2014

    aka’s point is one which provides a bridge, I think, between Adam’s and Mod’s perspectives. I have known many Orthodox (clergy and laity) who were perfectly civil and even suggested common faith bearings when personally relating to Catholics, but these same Orthodox loves Romanides and Metropolitan Hierotheos and Clark Carlton and the usual racket of anti-intellectual The Franks are Coming!!! The Franks are Coming!!! anti-Catholic pseudo-spiritual brain buggery. Not that this sort of civility is uniquely Orthodox, it’s just how most people are in a pluralistic society. Plenty of this sort of Orthodox will talk about those poor Catholic souls in a condescending manner when they aren’t around.

    But Mod is correct about the overwhelming general family of postures towards Catholicism within Orthodoxy. In the U.S. it comes via different angles. Within GOArch the RC is often presented as a legalistic and notoriously conservative sex-obsessed communion. Within the conservative elements in the OCA and the convert AOANA it is considered notoriously liberalized and another form of control freakish watered down Christianity. These postures are the norm, not the exception.

    Reply
  8. Dale
    October 31, 2014

    I think that we have to be careful here; many, especially Arab Orthodox, not their often nutso converts, are not at all anti-Catholic. As an example, we I live the local Antiochian parish that at one time was one of those convert places has been inundated with fairly recent Arab immigrants, and the present priest is also from the Old Country. The converts are now all gone; as is the founding convert priest (An evangelical with virtually no education and who was vehemently anti-Catholic). The last time I attended the parish it was obvious that over half the congregation were not Arab Greek Orthodox, but Melkites and Maronites, all of whom received communion. It is easy to tell the difference. The Melkites kneel from the Sanctus, as do the Maronites, whilst the Orthodox knelt during the Epiclesis. The Melkites and Greek Orthodox cross in the same manner, and the Maronites, using the older formular also found amongst the Oriental Orthodox, crossed from left to right. But once, again all were welcome to communion (the Maronites have now opened their own parish).

    Usually, it is amongst the converts and certain Slav groups that one finds a hideous, unappetizing, and intellectually stupid anti-Catholicism. On John Beeler’s (“Conservative Blog for Peace”) web page we have both been trying to deal with one of those types; waste of time.

    Also, from what I have seen of American Greek Catholicism, the offices are dead; usually even a Saturday vespers is not offered, only a mass for those who wish to watch football on Sunday mornings or whatever. I find this very surprising since in Europe although the offices have died out in the novus ordo, the Greek Catholics still offered both a Saturday vespers as well as a Sunday morning Matins; but that may all be ancient history as well.

    The Ukrainian non-Moscow Orthodox are often very, very close to their Catholic counter-parts; and both are despised by the Russian Orthodox. The difference being that for some very odd reason, the Russian Orthodox accept the baptism of the Ukrainian Catholics and reject the validity of all free Ukrainian Orthodox sacraments.

    Reply
    1. The young fogey
      November 2, 2014

      I think that we have to be careful here; many, especially Arab Orthodox, not their often nutso converts, are not at all anti-Catholic. As an example, we I live the local Antiochian parish that at one time was one of those convert places has been inundated with fairly recent Arab immigrants, and the present priest is also from the Old Country. The converts are now all gone; as is the founding convert priest (An evangelical with virtually no education and who was vehemently anti-Catholic). The last time I attended the parish it was obvious that over half the congregation were not Arab Greek Orthodox, but Melkites and Maronites, all of whom received communion. It is easy to tell the difference. The Melkites kneel from the Sanctus, as do the Maronites, whilst the Orthodox knelt during the Epiclesis. The Melkites and Greek Orthodox cross in the same manner, and the Maronites, using the older formular also found amongst the Oriental Orthodox, crossed from left to right. But once, again all were welcome to communion (the Maronites have now opened their own parish).

      I like this.

      The “Orthodox in communion with Rome” (disloyal, as opposed to loyal, unlatinized Greek Catholic converts, Orthodox wannabes, almost entirely an Internet thing) sometimes use this Middle Eastern model to try to score points against the church (they want us to dump our doctrine and then ask the Orthodox to receive us economically, since in Syria the Orthodox already commune us, etc.).

      The Arabs doing this don’t offend me because they don’t have this bad intent. Nobody in these Middle Eastern and immigrant situations is trying to thumb their nose at the magisterium or leave the church; that’s for the nutso Orthodox wannabes.

      It’s a kind of acknowledgement of our teaching, not just our opinion, that both sides have the sacraments.

      Reply

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