Fr. John Winfrey is a very good writer, and his three articles (redacted above, into one) forcefully express a philosophy which I believe he sincerely holds. That said, I find the philosophy to be untenable in its conception and highly problematical for implementation.
I will begin by "crunching" some issues and situations, and applying his philosophic principle to them (as I understand it), hoping to demonstrate that unfortunate things would result. First, he is saying, in essence, that nothing which at some point fell out of practice in the West, can be resurrected. That would mean that Gregorian chant, which in its full scope vanished from usage historically, and was resurrected by the Roman church due to scholarly labour, is impermissible in divine worship. How sad!
If we were to implement Fr. John's philosophy, we should be forced to conclude that no BCP rite worship can be permitted in Orthodoxy. I privately opine that the BCP rite, and indeed any other Protestant rite, is to be discouraged in Orthodoxy. In fact, my opinions about the BCP rite are exactly the same as the opinions of the Russian committee which in 1904 published their "findings" on the rite. Exactly the same. Yet I would never try to get involved in "shutting down" someone's BCP rite once it had been previously approved. It's not in me. I have a Gamaliellian approach: If it is of God, it will last; if not, not. Thus I can be at peace, and not feel some Purge has to be launched. It's all for bishops to decide and my part is to obey.
If we were to implement Fr. John's philosophy, we would be forced to exclude the Gallican rite from the Church, for it is a resurrection of the sort decried. Yet a great Saint of modern times, St. John Maximovitch, blessed its use and, going further, celebrated in that rite. Now, this isn't living Orthodoxy? A Liturgy celebrated by a great Saint, is "dead"? St. John's liturgies were "iconoclastic" because they didn't incorporate the construct of "The Patrimony?" Surely not.
Now I will delve into why I find Fr. John's construct ("The Patrimony") to be foundationally faulty as a philosophy, however well-meaning (and I do not attribute to my brother priest any nefarious motives or lack of piety; let that be clear). It attributes to an extra-Ecclesiastical construct an authority which is more or less absolute. "The Patrimony" is seen as a litmus test for the right life of the Western Rite in the Church, though springing largely from heresy and from outside the Church. Is this not problematical? It reminds me of those who refer to "living" and "dead" rites. There is no such thing; in the Church there is life, period. The life of the Church by definition reposes in the Church, as she is manifested on earth. Thus if a rite is celebrated within the Church, it is to that extent, ipso facto, living. Not only that, but the life of the Church consists of all those faithful who came before us. They too get a vote; they are not among the dead, but among the living!
G.K. Chesterton wrote: "Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise [i.e., the power to vote]. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our father." I would extend what Chesterton said, as follows, "Orthodoxy asks us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our great-great-great, etc., grandfather, as long as he held the same priceless Orthodox faith which we hold."
The life of the Church is not constrained to the rites, practices, or customs of those whose deviant beliefs placed them outside her pale long ago, whether knowingly or unknowingly, fairly or unfairly. The "Patrimony" philosophy would indicate that the life of Christ, by which all creation is renewed, is something which resides in a rite or usage per se--in an inculturation. It is related to the philosophy called Ritualism.
Is resurrecting tradition a bonum
? It can be, for we read in 2nd Paralipomenon that king Ezechias found the people had become accustomed to a debased usage in the keeping of the passover, and many other precepts of God, and consulting the scriptures and traditions, he resurrected a more exact performance, with marvellous spiritual results. His success at resurrecting "dead" observances which were not part of the "Patrimony" of his day, is also described in 4th Kings in the 18th chapter.
It can be a bonum
, for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ said in Mark 7, "For leaving the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, the washing of pots and of cups, and many other things you do like to these." He did not accept all the Patrimony of His day, only the best part thereof. Good ritual may be resurrected, to the spiritual refreshment of many, and bad ritual can be allowed to lapse. Who will referee what is "iconoclasm" and what is renewal and what is preservation? Surely the truth of Orthodoxy, the Orthodox heritage, the suggestions of living Saints of God, and the rulings of canonical Orthodox bishops. I do not think that heretics from the recent or distant past can really provide us that lantern of discernment. The Western rite of today needs to be shaped, honed, guided by some principle higher than that of The Patrimony. But I stand squarely with Fr. John, in dreading the intrusions of those who hold scholarly principles higher than the principles of church piety, or who would sweep away some liturgical custom because it doesn't make sense to them, or who think liturgy should be an archaeological re-enactment (!).
The "Patrimony" philosophy falls apart under the magnifying-glass of Christian history, for she is full of resurrections. A few reforms of Pope Pius V, author of the Tridentine mass, were returns "ad fontes," restorations of old usages, or at least were thought to be so. Some of his reforms constituted a peeling-away of interim liturgical accretions, even ones that had been in place for nearly a thousand years. Anglicanism was perpetrated under the banner of a return "ad fontes." The singing of Gregorian chant was achieved as a resurrection--by and large no historical continuity there. Gothic style vestments were a resurrection. Fr. John Connelly of the AWRV has written that certain Saints originally named in the canon of the Mass in Anglo-Saxon England, and later stricken, may be rightfully restored; that would be a resurrection. Within the St. Tikhon Liturgy, putting the Gloria and other items back in, was a resurrection.
Fr. John seems to limit our access to "The Patrimony" to the form it took up to, say, the 1950s. But this discounts the living presence with us of those saints who lived in past centuries. Bishop Jerome's address at his nomination as bishop in the Russian Church Abroad included these remarks:
"For this reason, there are no “closed” or “destroyed” churches, no “abolished” monasteries, because the Lord God, in whom their departed members abide as part of His Church, is outside of time, and they are eternally with Him. One should therefore not suppose that any part of the Church has ceased to exist. For example, the Armenian Church of St. Gregory the Enlightener will always exist in heaven, no matter what the state of the Armenian Church on earth may be. The earthly Roman Church separated from Orthodoxy; but the heavenly, Orthodox Church of Rome will always exist, and St Gregory the Dialogist and the other Orthodox Western Saints are ever with us. The earthly Armenian Church, and the Roman, fell away from the unity of Orthodoxy, and are deprived of communion with us: but the Armenian and Roman Saints, being in the Kingdom of God in heaven, eternally present that spiritual foundation upon which those Churches can be restored. This truth was seen with exceptional spiritual clarity by St John Maximovitch, who restored Western Orthodoxy: he remains invisibly present with us, and his mission lives. In other words, to be Orthodox means to be in union with the whole Orthodox Church, and to accept all of its heritage."
Bishop Jerome wrote some years ago about this same subject, back when people were mocking the Sarum Use efforts which he had pioneered, as representing "antiquarianism" and "archaeology," in a marvellous webpost, re-presented here: http://www.allmercifulsavior.com/Liturgy/Archaeology.html
Fr. John may not have intended it, but I fear that his construct of "The Patrimony" could be used as a club of enforcement for suppressing the prayers of "those others" in favour of "the prayers I myself said just this morning." And that would be a pity. Any valid Orthodox Liturgy, from the present or the past, possesses life and grace. Reverence is to be found among a wide variety of us iconodules, whether Tridentine-rite, Sarum-rite, Anglican-rite, Gallican-rite, Byzantine-rite, Mozarabic-rite, or Ambrosian-rite.
I tend to write in a pointed way, but let it be clear that I respect Fr. John Winfrey and I am discussing his article's ideas without disrespect or condemnation, and with a healthy sense that I could be quite mistaken in many respects. I am not looking down upon a brother priest who can doubtless run rings around me in prayer, intercession, and righteousness. I hope that I may some day kiss his hand.