I am still yet to see a single valid argument here for the addition of a so-called "Western Rite" into the praxis of the Orthodox Church here in North America.
The Russian Church Abroad has authorised the Western-rite, so I am duty bound to accept this decision. I do however share your misgivings about the place of and the so-called imperative or a Western-rite.
Please address and respond to the following questions:
1. Why is a Western Rite needed here?
There are some who say that the rite is needed for Western people who find the Byzantine too ethnic or exotic. I see this as a form of cultural phyletism. because the Liturgy of S. John Chrysostom is celebrated in Western vernacular languages all over the world and in Asian and other languages also. Bishop Kallistos of Diokeltia wrote:
If we wish to help western persons joining Orthodoxy, the best way is to offer them the possibility of attending the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in the English language. There is nothing "oriental" or "ethnic" about this Liturgy. True, it was written in Greek and not in Latin; but then Plato and Sophocles wrote in Greek, yet we recognize them as part of our shared European culture. The same is true of St. John Chrysostom. We English can feel thoroughly at home in his Liturgy - as I know from my own experience.
2. What is wrong with the Eastern Rite?
I think the Eastern-rite is really the Orthodox rite for all humanity. Christianity is Eastern - our roots and culture and history lay in the Middle East. Fr. Alexander Schmemann writes:
And then the last question: is it quite correct to define our rite as "Eastern" and therefore "foreign to all the Western Christians have known" to quote the Edict? I would like to suggest a rather sharp distinction between "Eastern" and "oriental". No doubt there are many oriental features, oriental ingredients in our liturgical life. No doubt also, that for many Orthodox this "orientalism" seems to be the essential element. But we know that it is not essential and we know that progressively all these "orientalisms" are being eliminated in a very natural and spontaneous process of adjustment of our cult to the American life. But then what remains and what can be described as "Eastern" is nothing else but the Biblical and the Patristic "content" of our liturgy. It is essentially and structurally Biblical and Patristic, and therefore, it is "eastern" in exactly the same measure in which the Bible and the Fathers, or rather, the whole Christianity can be termed "Eastern". But have we not proclaimed time and again in all our encounters with our Western brothers that it is this "East" precisely that constitutes the common and the catholic heritage of the Church and can supply us with a common language which has been lost or distorted? The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or the Easter Canon of St. John of Damascus, are, I believe, much closer to that common and Catholic language of the Church than anything else in any Christian tradition. And I cannot think of any word or phrase in these services that would be "foreign" to a Western Christian and would not be capable of expressing his faith and his experience, if the latter would be genuinely Orthodox . . .
3. Is this not Renovationism to "jump start" a Rite within the Orthodox Church that died out over 1,000 years ago?
I liken it to taking some DNA and reconstructing a prehistoric dinosaur. It arguably is a break with a massive break of hundreds of years of the West being immersed in heterodoxy.
4. Is not restoring something from a long, distant "ideal" past not part of the "Protestant Reformer" mentality? (Think of all the Protestant rhetoric about "restoring the New Testament Church" . .. I find it very similar to the logic of "restoring" the Western Rite in Orthodoxy.
Well there is a certain Anglo-Catholic tradition, taken up by vagantes of picking and choosing ecclesiastically rather than submitting to the Church and tradition. There is a risk of this occurring with the WR. "I can use the 1549 Anglican mass with an Orthodox epiclesis but the Anglican matins and evensong are OK ...." Where does this end?
Have a look at: http://westernritecritic.wordpress.com/
quoted re the risks of this new Western-rite:
If you want to see the future of “Orthodoxy” in the vision of those making the most enthusiastic noise about “Western Rites”, you have only to look around you at the crumbling pillars of Rome and her children. The very religiosity into which they wish to initiate us is being boiled down, and our participation will be courted as the ‘recovery’ of something lost (merely an earlier stage in the process) and the ‘purification’ of what was fundamentally fine (a different stew than our fathers ever knew). We are being asked to embrace a new Orthodoxy, a traditional Orthodoxy, and a continuing Orthodoxy, all within the same confession. We are being asked to become Episcopalians in culture and Orthodox in name.
So-called “Western Orthodoxy” is merely a symbol of this process and a symptom of the new order being formed, a different ecclesiology, a pseudo-ekklesia. In and of itself, it certainly has significant problems, many of which have been rather universally recognized [survey]. In terms of what its progress is telling us about the contemporary Orthodox movement (and the very fact that it is movement, and can no longer be considered static or a state – and so now has much in common with the Episcopalian experience) — in those terms, it points to much larger problems that are as yet, just as with the Episcopalians, not widely or fully acknowledged. This despite the countless warnings of monastic communities, ascetic saints, Orthodox prophets, and holy martyrs. Lord have mercy.
You’d think the Episcopalians would like what these folk are up to, but anyone that has suffered what many of them have, through this process, could only look at it with sadness, and perhaps a will to help us fight it. The ones chasing it like a grail are those ‘true believers’ who still think the key problems are gays and women priests, and miss the point entirely. For them, an Episcopalianized Orthodoxy, especially a Western Orthodoxy, is a mirage, and they’re greedily gulping down what many of us recognize as sand. The sad thing is that we are feeding it to them, in the name of disseminating the Faith. This can only happen when we have begun to lose our Faith the same way they did: Quite literally by losing The Faith.
5. Perhaps God let the Western Rite die out for a reason?
Maybe He has allowed its rebirth by DNA grafting also?
6. Why has the Orthodox Church of Finland not developed a "Western Rite" for former Lutherans? A case for 'doxing up the Lutheran Liturgy could be made just about as firmly as those who "Orthodoxized" the Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer in the so-called "Divine Liturgy of St. Tikhon."
There is no reason. Take the Anglican prayer book offices of Matins and Evensong that replaced the 7 breviary hours. They were contrived in a non-Catholic Zwingli-an spirit by Cranmer. I cannot understand why the WR don't simply go back to the proper sevenfold pre-Reformation monastic hours.
7. Perhaps the Finnish Orthodox think the best way to evangelize all those Lutherans is to stick with the Eastern Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom?
Bishop Kallistos clearly thinks so, as do many Orthodox bishops ands scholars. Of course some disagree strongly.
8. Lastly, the Tridentine Mass belongs to Rome. I have far too much respect and genuine charity for my Roman Catholic friends and brethren to insult them by trying to do an "Orthodox" version of their Mass. The Latin Mass belongs to Rome, regardless of whatever language it is translated into. Why should Orthodox people tamper with it? Are we going to insert an Epiclesis into the Tridentine Mass? If so, then it isn't the Tridentine Mass anymore. It isn't even Western anymore. We would have just "Byzantinized" it.
If you have to tamper with the Western Latin Catholic or Anglican masses in order to make them Orthodox, there has been something fundamentally rotten in these liturgical uses since day 1. Why correct an error when you can use what the Church has right, has made right? Why not use the Byzantine liturgy in English/French/Japanese/Indonesian/Korean as happens in ROCOR now?
9. Food for thought: If we can't use the Tridentine Mass in the Orthodox Church without tampering with it and changing it, why are we using it at all? Why not just stick with the Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil that formed the piety of our people for generations?
Logically a Western-rite Orthodoxy needs to be a sui juris or autonomous Church within Orthodoxy, with its own bishops, proper theological colleges for clerical formation and the opportunity to be a Western Orthodox Church. In my view if you are going to have a Western-rite Orthodoxy, make it an autonomous Church with its own bishops, synod etc. Of course the falling away from orthodoxy of the French autonomous WR Church after the repose of St. John of Shanghai in 1966 is a warning of what could happen also.
The problem is that right now they are perhaps 5% of converts to Orthodoxy worldwide with 95% being Eastern-rite. If you want proof look at the online clerical directory of the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia in the US, in Great Britain, in Australia. You will see many priests and monastics, deacons, subdeacons and readers - all converts - serving in English and Slavonic. This is mirrored in the numbers of Western convert laity. So you have Eastern Orthodoxy - missionary and evangelical and successful at this competing with the Western-rite for converts.
In my own country after almost 14 years of Western-rite missionary work they have 1 priest and 1 priest-monk who splits his time between the UK and Australia, 1 mission with at best half a dozen people at mass, and if you look at the Eastern-rite it is a different picture. It seems to me that Eastern-rite Orthodoxy can be recognised by Western seekers as a living tradition, as a real tradition, albeit ethnic in many ways. Western people looking at Western-rite Orthodoxy see a reconstruction of DNA, with no organic history before the latter part of the 20th century and have no real connection with Sarum/Celtic so-called pre schism Western spirituality and history. You can at least go into a Greek or Russian parish church and find community, continuity, generation after generation of Orthodox believers. In the WR it is starting from scratch, a much harder proposition.