Sunday, May 13, 2007

On Icons

"For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man."

-Philippians 2:5-7

The history of salvation as expounded by the Christian religion traces its fundamental fountainhead to the incarnation of the Son of God as Man. It is this moment in history, when the Divine entered the mortal world and took flesh and blood, that is one of the most crucial points of Christianity. More than a mere happy accident, the Incarnation was herald to more important events, chief of which is the Passion of Our Lord, wherein the mystical goal of our redemption found its culmination. By taking on a human body, God was able to share in our sufferings; it was the most luminous of all revelations, when the Ineffable and the Eternal walked the earth along with His creatures. It is for this reason that the Church celebrates these events with magisterial pomp and unmatched splendor, and there is no better medium in which this is expressed but through iconography.

Icons, of course, are largely an Eastern phenomenon these days; but the West, too, had its own distinct iconography in the past. So what makes an icon? And for that matter, what is an icon? A quick glance at Eastern theology gives us the definition of icons as the union between the art and those which it tries to portray; it is a confirmation, an affirmation of truth. Thus it is proper to say that icons are written, and not painted, since it is not merely pious art, but more importantly catechetical and didactic art. The icon, then, is a mystical representation of the splendor of God-- the two dimensional character of the images reminds us of the other worldliness of God and points to His divine nature; the gold which frames the image is intended to mirror the bliss of the heavenly court.

I will admit that, although I am intensely fascinated with icons, I know very little about Eastern theology in general. Theologically speaking, however, the icon is perfect, and in it the truths of faith are subliminated to an almost mystical degree. The image of the Christ Pantokrator, stern faced and staring in divine majesty, is a sight to move even the basest of men. It portrays a higher Christological understanding than what is commonly seen here in the West, with its plenitude of wraith-like Christs suffering intense agony in the wood of the Cross. Given this understanding, many, too, in the West would like to adopt the Byzantine icon into Roman Catholicism. But is this really warranted?

I am personally of the opinion that icons should remain an exclusively Eastern phenomenon. I find that most Roman Catholics who would like to see nothing more than a mural of the Pantokrator in the Renaissance dome of a Catholic church are the same people who grew up in a post-Vatican II world and have only begun to realize the richness and breadth of the Christian tradition-- and while this is not necessarily a bad thing, it is important to remember that the West too has had its own tradition of religious iconography, which is Gothic art. It has been said that the two most important things that defined the Middle Ages were the Crusades and the Gothic cathedral: the former, a defensive war that brought home more tragedy and victory, the latter, quite possibly the supreme expression of Western religious thought. So, why the difference in theology (however nuanced and subtle)? Isn't it the same Christ, arrayed in majesty in an icon, and suffering for all the world to see in a Western crucifix?

It is important to remember historical factors here. While the men of the Bosphoros were obsessing over their titles and expounding on Christian religious thought, the men of the Tiber relied on the efforts of a few monks, locked away in their mountainous monasteries, trying to scratch out from the annals of decay any trace of the ancient wisdom that once launched Rome into glorious heights. Impious and unworthy men were straddling the See of Peter, trying-- and in many cases, succeeding-- in arrogating the Holy See for themselves. And when the Byzantines were developing one of the most glorious civilizations this world has ever seen, the West barely survived a devastating plague which wiped out at least a third of all European population, repeated attacks from conquest-minded Muslims, and a host of other factors. Naturally, this heritage of loss, confusion and attrition will form a large part of the Western man's collective consciousness. Hence, perhaps, the lack of 'sophistication' in Western religious iconography.

Perhaps this is also the main reason why depictions of the suffering of Our Lord are so popular here in the West. Much of Western Europe was facing a legion of horrors at every turn during this troublesome period, and how else should they cope with such grief and sorrow? How else could they be like Christ in these moments of tribulation, but by sharing in His suffering? Maybe this is the reason why so many Russians abandoned the Orthodox faith in the wake of the militant, aggressive atheism that spread itself with Communism; they never knew the Lord who suffered. They have never seen God, the Almighty, the Holy One, reduced to practically a mound of bloodied, broken meat, Whose only support is in the hands of His Mother, caught in the grips of despair and sorrow. It is too poetic a religion, which forgets the abruptness and the sometimes raw, heart-breaking nature of life.

An excess of beauty almost always leads to bad taste, or worse, to mere 'prettiness'; the Byzantine icon, though theologically compleat and sublime, is nevertheless too beautiful and sublime to provide man with the necessary 'tools' to explain, and consequently face, the challenge of suffering and woe. In the West, too, this has happened; the excessively ornate, over-the-top frillery of 1700s Rococo culture led sacred art in the Western tradition to a path concerned with mere prettiness and decadence; the wounds of the Suffering Christ have been cleaned up and dressed, His face more like the face of a Roman Emperor--chubby and plumb-- than the bony, lacerated vault of Gothic and Latin Baroque traditions. Perhaps this is the reason why the first openly atheistic figures in Western Europe appeared during this period?

If there is one unforgivable mistake the Renaissance Humanists did, it is their disdain for the burgeoning Gothic--Christian-- art of the Middle Ages as barbaric, tacky and unsophisticated. It is worth remembering that this period saw a revitalization of Classical principles as the fundamental foundation of all beauty. There is hardly a bigger lie; I personally find most Classical buildings too boring and too staid. Stick a huge triangle on top of four pillars and add an egg-shaped dome on top and you have the basic principles of Classical culture, a far cry from the ornate splendor of the Gothic cathedral, where stone melted into lace, where the beauty and glory of God came to life in various colors, and which sustained and united the European people throughout those dark days.

In many ways, this is the same problem I see with people who pine for a greater influence of Eastern thought into the legalistic cum 'spartan' river of thought that makes up Roman Catholicism. It is simply out of character. The West was nurtured in wars and corrupt popes and spoiled, submerged-in-filth heretics. To clamor for icons in Catholicism is, in a way, to lose the identity of the Church, which has always maintained a fervent devotion to the suffering and human Christ. Like the Renaissance Humanists, we are simply displaying a disdain for a tradition which has nurtured such far off countries as those in Latin America and the Far East. It also brings to mind the tragedy that was Vatican II which, in its contempt for the organic development of Christian art as contrary to the 'noble simplicity' of the Early Christians, brought a massive wave of indifference and aversion to Christian culture in general, and whose effects are still largely felt today.

The Western man is losing his identity. It is a sad and ominous thought, but it is true. And to extol icons as some sort of miraculous panacea for the woes of Roman Catholicism is, I think, a worse pipe dream than to hope for a restoration of the monarchy as the ultimate grace from God. The least we can do is to cut ourselves some slack.


Archistrategos said...

An attempt at erudition.

Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

Good try. There were many points that I agreed with.

It is fascinating to contemplate how traditional Byzantine iconography really is, and how analyses of Byzantine aesthetic theology may just be a lot of post facto conjecture. Let it be remembered that most of the ancient icons were destroyed during the rule of the iconoclast emporers, so all we really have are copies of what people THINK the originals looked like. Look at Coptic icons, and you might find something a tad more primitive. I think Coptic icons are lovely.

Byzantium itself suffered many crises, but there might be something to the idea that since it was a relatively intact civilization until 1453, there might have been less tendencies to focus on the human sufferings of Christ. (Though the mutual influences between Byzantium and the West especially leading up to the fall of Constantinople are underplayed now.) Western art, even the stuff you seem to criticize, is part of an organic development. It is very dangerous to speculate "where it all went wrong", since there was a lot going right during that period too. Many a Christian intellectual has tried to speculate, "when it all went wrong", while in the meantime enjoying the benefits and the privileges of the consequences of those periods.

I have an icon that was given to me by a now deceased Russian Orthodox hegumen (abbot) that I wrote about on my blog. It is one of my prized possesions, though I really think I need more statues...

Brother Burn said...

Like your blogsite! will definitley visit often. With all your knowledge and erudtion (and volubility ;) I would have thought you to be an older person. More power to you!

Archistrategos said...


Yup, Coptic icons are definitely lovely! Much more humane and human than the postured severeity of those in Byzantium. I really should get my hands on some of them soon.

I agree that the Renaissance was also a part of this organic tradition, though I still cannot fathom what in blazes they were thinking when they upheld Classical principles to such a degree. It is too cold and rational (reaching its frozen zenith with the neo-classical), at least for me, to express the faith with vitality.

I love the flamboyance and sheer emotional triumph of the Baroque, too, and it is true that to some extent it was influenced by the earlier Renaissance tradition. Ah well. I still love St. Peter's, though. It is too grand to hate.

Thanks Brother Burn!I swear I'm not that old... maybe an old soul, but deefinitely no wrinkles! Lol. :))

Archistrategos said...

BTW, i realize the intense irony in the last line, when I myself clamored for the monarchy in December, lol

Anonymous said...

Dear Archistrategos,

I must take issue with your portrayal of the Byzantine empire and of Eastern theology. The Byzantine empire, even as it developed a glorious civilization umnatched in splendor by the West until the 13th century at the earliest, was also in uninterrupted combat with the forces of Islam on one hand, and from the last of the barbarians from beyond the Danube, on the other. This lasted for practically the entire existence of Byzantium, and did not end until Trebizond fell to the Turks in 1461. Byzantium was not an effete civilization, and in hindsight, it served as a buffer zone that caught the bloody blows of the infidel hordes until Western Europe could stand on its own feet. Charles Martel and Charlamagne had their great contribution, but Leo III fighting off the Arabs with Greek Fire at the walls of Constantinople in 717-718 AD was a much bigger factor in delaying the march of Islam than the abovementioned Western warriors. Byzantium was not a gilded paradise. It was a warrior empire and a missionary giant that evangelized the wilderness of Rus and the Bulgars.

Neither can it be said of the Eastern Church that it shies away from suffering and pain. The Byzantine liturgy of Great Week esp. Jerusalem Matins of Great Evening and the Epitaphios Threnos, the stavrotheotokia of the Byzantine Hours, the Great Friday kontakions of Romanus the Melodist and the Byzantine celebration of September 14 with its 500 Kyrie Eleisons sung before the Crucifix, surpass anything in the Latin liturgy when it comes to expressing the emotional intensity of the Passion of the Lord. And don't ever forget that the liturgy of Holy Week as contained in the liturgical books of the Latin rite, whether in the unreformed ones of c.1954, or in the reformed editions of 1956, 1962, and 1965/67, or in the Novus Ordo books of the 1970s, derive much of their richness and pageantry from the ancient Greek liturgy.

Furthermore, take note of the long tradition of kenotic saints and of great ascetics in the East, as well as its history of martyrdom. No persecution faced by the Latin Church in the 20th century, not even that of Spain and Mexico, can compare with the savagery and sustained demoralization inflicted upon the Greek Catholics in Ukraine and Romania. And who can ever forget the martyrdom of the Russian Orthodox Church, which under Communist tyranny suffered more than 200 bishops and tens of thousands of priests killed?

As for Eastern iconography and the Latin rite: do not forget that the "Roman School" of painting and mosaics predominant in Rome from the era of the Greek popes in the 7th century until the late 1200's was overwhelmingly Byzantine in inspiration. I agree with you that the Western Church has its own traditions of art and architecture that it would do well to conserve and use, but to suggest that Eastern sacred art is foreign to the ethos of the Latin Church is to forget that the Western Church, in its patristic theology, music, liturgy and art, is the offspring, daughter and pupil of the East. I suggest that you read Appendix X of Archdale King's "Liturgy of the Roman Church". This appendix is entitled "Byzantine Influence in the Roman Rite."

Perhaps you wonder why I am passionate in defending the Eastern Church, whether Catholic or Orthodox. This is because, quite frankly, we Western-rite Catholics have pooh-poohed them for far too long. We owe it to our Eastern brethren that we recognize their heroism and their invaluable contribution to Christendom.

Carlos Antonio Palad
Defensores Fidei

Archistrategos said...


Fair enough. I suppose I was too critical of Byzantium for my own good, and I owe it to you for reminding me of that civilization's magnificence. For that, I must say thank you!

One of the saddest things in the history of the Church, in my opinion, is the Fourth Crusade, where we Latins mangled the Byzantines for no apparent reason. I was reading Niketas Choniates some time ago, and the description of the Crusaders' barbarity never ceases to appall me. Perhaps the greatest insult was when they placed a harlot in the Patriarch's throne, surely a sight to make any Byzantine weep.

The glory that was Aghia Sophia was also not spared; Choniates tells us that some 40 tons of silver were wrested from the sanctuary, and the 14 by 14 foot altar--- made of purest silver and studded with thousands of gems-- was broken up and distributed among the Crusaders. And the 100 chandeliers that hung from silver chains thick as man's arm, each containing 25 exquisitely carved lamps, were brought crashing down, their light extinguished seemingly forever.

I have forgotten that Byzantium, too, had suffered; surely the Fall of Constantinople was one of the most depressing episodes in all Western history. But I guess there is always hope; if you've read that poem I posted some days ago, it speaks of the Theotokos' part in bringing the two halves of the Church into a whole again. It is my hope and prayer that this will be fulfilled soon.

And 500 Kyries? I did not know that... and many Catholics cite their difficulty with Latin!

Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

The Menaion states that Kyrie Eleison is sung 100 times on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, not 500. I should know. I had to sing it. 500 times is something I have never heard of before, though it is possible that in some typika this is stipulated.

And I don't think the Holy Week services of the Roman Church are as influenced by the Byzantine services as you represent. Truth be told, the Trisagion on Good Friday I think passed to Rome through Gaul, though it is arguable that the Gallic rite was heavily influenced by the Eastern Church. By the time, however, that Gallic aspects of the liturgy passed to Rome, it was already its own animal. (With the Filoque, for example, that didn't pass to Rome until about the eleventh century.) The use of the Our Father came from the Greek church, but such things as the disappearance of the Alleluia during Lent is completely foreign to the Eastern Church. (Indeed, when I was a monk, I remember singing a rather long and haunting three-fold Greek Alleluia for Holy Week.) My point is: both rites are their own animal and have their own ethos. And both churches have influenced one another in perceptible ways (anyone who has had to suffer Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain's plagiarism of Scupoli knows this fairly well).

And I am officially Greek Catholic on the books.

latinmass1983 said...

I would greatly argue the beauty or greatness of the Western Roman Rite being incomparable to that of the Eastern Liturgies. I would really do.

Also, the Roman Rite does NOT derive its richness from the East. This is not true. True, there were Eastern influences, but that does not mean that we "learned" pageantry from the East. In fact, the East itself took its pageantry from the Emperors and adapted them to the Liturgy, which the West did too.

Now, if you really want to know about pageantry, watch one of those videos of the Papal Coronation Mass. There would not be anything like that in the East!

I would also argue about the music. Gregorian Chant is NOT the same or even similar to Eastern sacred music.

Also, in remembering the greatness of the East... you should also remember that most of the heresies have also come from the East. Even the protestant heresies would also be due to the East (since they were revivals of older, more ancient heresies that arose in the East).

Archistrategos said...

This is really turning out to be an interesting discussion. I agree for the most part that Western Christianity is a different animal than that of the Eastern variety, though there are or were some commonalities between the two. Case in point, the NLM blog currently has a post detailing the presence of flabella in both Western and Eastern rites. Even much of the Papal Ceremonial-- the sedia gestatoria and red buskins, for example-- WERE Byzantine influences. Of course, there is marked difference, too; while the East commemorates the whole of salvation history (I think) in the Divine Liturgy, we Latins focus on the Passion of Our Lord.

I guess that I am really trying to say here is that both sides, East and West, have their own distinct brand of worship that should be allowed to develop organically on their own. Please don't get me wrong: I would like nothing else (ideally) than to see more Byzantine influence in Roman Catholicism, though when it comes down to practicality, it doesn't seem to mesh at all. Can you honestly imagine a procession of icons in some bleak part of Peru? Or for that matter, a hopelessly extravagant Bavarian Baroque altar behind a gold-plated ikonostasis? It is a bit incongruous, no?

In any case, as I've said before, the West did not have a glorious civilization to start with, because it literally had to salvage it from being forgotten, and that was only through the efforts of multitudes of unnnamed monks. Byzantium is no doubt glorious, and Constantinope deserved its title of 'Queen of Cities' most fittingly. However, when it comes down to practicality, we must accept our Latin "shortcomings" because they form part of our history. We can't change the past just by adding some icons. Like it or not, much of Christendom has suffered in the past: Rome was sacked, and Constantinople captured. It is a sad thought, but too often the truth is not good to hear.

Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

The difference between Byzantine worship and traditional Roman worship is like apples and oranges. I won't go into details here, but the ethoi of both forms of worship are WAY different. The fact that the Byzantine churches do not have pews, that people do not see what happens at the altar, the tabernacle is not the center of adoration, etc. means that both going from one service to another is like going to a different planet. I know this from experience, as anyone who knows me will know. Both are beautiful, but very, VERY different. You have to act very differently when you are in either church.

Archistrategos said...

Regarding pews: one of the saddest results of the Americanization of the Philippines was the introduction of pews. Up until the 1920s to 1930s, there were practically no pews in the churches here, except for (usually) two long benches arranged immediately outside the altar rails facing each other, where the town elite sat for Mass. Local dignitaries were accorded a special place in a balcony in the sanctuary area, where they had proper seats. Here is a picture of the Cebu cathedral circa 1920's: Picture.

And yes, Byzantine worship differs from the Romano-Gallican liturgy of the West to a remarkable degree. Though I've never been to a Divine Liturgy myself, I think it is safe to say that it is much more mystical and numinous than ours. I know that there is an Orthodox church here in Manila somewhere; perhaps I really should check it out soon.

Anonymous said...

Dear latinmass,

I am afraid that the "praestantia ritus latini" that you champion is no longer tenable, at least since Leo XIII issued Orientalium Dignitas in 1894.

As for pageantry and splendor: much --not all, but much -- of the pageantry and splendor of the papal coronations of old (yes, I've watched almost in its entirety the video of the coronation of Bl. John XXIII, which was reputedly the most complete papal coronation since the 17th century) was due to the secular elements that belonged to it (the arrays of soldiery in armor, the masses of chandaliers and the ranks of the old Roman nobility, the rich burgundy brocade that hung al over St. Peter's basilica), as befitted a rite that echoed an age when the pope was "the father of princes and kings." (I am here talking only of the coronation rite in particular, not of the Tridentine Rite as a whole). The rite itself, however, is quite sober and perfectly Roman, once you take your mind off the the exquisite altar plate, the giant candlesticks and the spectacular vestments (wow, Pope John XXIII's falda was really long!)

As for the Eastern rites: from what I've read of the imperial liturgy in Hagia Sophia, it probably equalled, if it did not surpass, the grandeur of any papal coronation in history. Don't forget that Vladimir's envoys were converted by the "heaven on earth" that they saw there. And when I speak of the elaboration of the rite, I focus primarily on the text of the rite itself. The vsenoschnoe bdenie (plus Hours and Divine Liturgy) in its entirety, celebrated in the grand hierarchical manner of the czarist era, is something that no Latin ritual can conceivably equal in pomp.

But why are we arguing over pomp and splendor? These are not even the heart of the matter. Even as I praised the Byzantine tradition in my original post, I never implied that the Latin rite is inferior to the Byzantine. I simply said that the Latin rite derives much from the East: that much is conceded by liturgical historians, even if disputes may attend the extent of the influence. The Byzantine rite is beautiful in its exuberance and mysticism, but the Latin rite is wonderful in its sobriety and practicality. Each tradition has produced saints, and there need be no fighting over who is superior between the two rites.

As someone who is also deeply involved in the fight for the indult Tridentine Mass, I have never understood why Catholic Latin-rite Traditionalists are so eager to keep putting down the Eastern rites. At the very least, we should acknowledge that they are the equals of the Latin rite. And it is an open question whether Eastern theology is really heretical. The current theological consensus in the Catholic Church is that Orthodoxy and Catholicism share the same faith, but express this faith in radically different concepts and language.


Anonymous said...

Dear Archistrategos,

Don't hold your breath when you go to the Orthodox Cathedral in Paranaque. The liturgy there is, well.. typical non-continental European, Ecumenical Patriarchate mission liturgy, the way many internet fora describe and decry it (except with regards to the language used): deletions of significant portions of the liturgy, many portions recited rather than chanted, very little Greek but lots of vernacular -- (poor) English and good Tagalog -- the liturgy all over in little more than an hour (not counting Orthros), and no real Byzantine chant. If the Russians (who outnumber the Greeks in our country) were to decide to establish a church here, and then celebrate the Liturgy in accordance with the stricter and more elaborate Russian Sabbaitic typikon, they'd steal the thunder from the Greeks.

I must admit that it is a disappointment, if one is only looking for aesthetic and scholarly gratification. However, the spirit of prayer is very much evident, especially among the old ladies and the children who dominate the congreagation. And the "participatio actuosa" of the faithful is as it should be.

I say this as a Latin-rite Catholic who wishes to live and die as a Catholic.

latinmass1983 said...


Regarding pews, why was that not something good? There is nothing wrong with pews, since we in the West have to kneel and genuflect much more frequently than in the East.

"Queen of Cities." If we go by titles, then "Eternal Rome" or "The Eternal City" or "The City of Popes" have no comparison in East or West. Now, what is meant by "glorious civilization?" Any examples?

Eastern Liturgies being more mystical: Again, I usually hear this from people who are tired of the Novus Ordo, traditional people who have taken the habit of attending the Eastern Liturgies in order to escape from the NO. Who says that there is no or very little mysticism in the Traditional Roman Rite? All this goes back to Fortescue's condemnation of the "prejudice that everything that is Greek must be old" (meaning better because it dates back to Apostolic times or something like that). Well, that is not true.

As Fortescue himself said regarding the Roman Rite " our Mass goes back to the days when it first developed out of the oldest Liturgy of all. It is still redolent of that Liturgy of the days when Caesar ruled the world and thought he could stamp out the faith of Christ, of the days when our fathers met together before dawn to sing hymns to Christ as to a God. The final result of our inquiry is that despite unsolved problems, despite later changes, there is not in Chritendom a Rite so venerable as ours."

The other thing is our Roman Canon has no equal in East or West when it comes to antiquity and uniqueness in the sense that we only had one almost from the very beginning up to the 60's.

sedia gestatoria: Can you expand on its origin being Byzantine? I never heard or saw any Eastern Liturgy using it. Also, the red buskins, I am not really sure, but the use of red for the Pope does not really seem to have come from the East, since in the East they do not really have liturgical colors determined the way we do... and why the buskins specifically?

And also, are we not forgetting that the Orthodox churches are not in union with the Papacy? So, why go to their liturgies? You won't be able to fulfill your obligation anyway.

Archistrategos said...

^ I will let that stand as a valid argument, latinmass. You bring up many good points.

Regarding the sedia and the red buskins: when the Muslims finally conquered Constantinople, the Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos was also one of those killed in the incident; they were able to distinguish him from the rest of the rabble by his red/purple boots.a It is said that when the Byzantine emperors observed in battles, they would be carried in what is called the Imperial Scarlet Panoply, carried on the shoulders of a number of men (he also had his own tent).

IMHO, there is noting wrong with appreciating the Eastern rites because, well, it is the same Mass of the Latins, though as Carlos said, expressed in radically different ways. The reason I say the Divine Liturgy is more mystical is because it is less 'rationalized' than the Roman Mass; let's face it, the most conservative NOMs today are almost nothing but catechesis with some Latin and pretty vestments sprinkled about. Real worship, in the end, is worship because it is unconsciously so. I will try to elaborate on this more soon.

As you can tell, I really don't like arguments; it is something that I dread ever going back to (my argumentative phrase), because I was more hateful than charitable in those times. The main purpose of this blog is to present an alternative view of the Faith than the one that manifests itself in the mainstream-- but then again, I think everyone has given valid points so far. So let's just keep cool, alright? Thanks.

latinmass1983 said...


My experience has been the opposite. Most people who attend the Traditional Rite praise the Eastern Liturgies too much, without really knowing much about them or the origins of some of their practices and customs.

Now, my only or main problem with that is this: There are many things in the New Order of the Mass that the people in charge of the N.O. took from the East. Now, when they (traditionalists who attend Eastern services) see these things (profound bows instead of genuflection or kneeling, vernacular instead of Latin, more "active participation" instead of the silent prayers) in the N.O., they cry, whine, and complain, but when they see them in the Eastern Liturgies, they do not say anything and they even praise eccessively what they do or say. So, this in itself seems to me kind of hypocritical.

archis - O.K. That is clearer. When you said that the buskins and sedia and flabella had an Eastern origin, I thought that you meant that they came from the Eastern churches; I did not think you meant East regionally. The flabella came from Egypt and the Tiara from Syria - I think.

Regarding the sameness of Faith in East and West, I doubt this. The East does not accept Papal Supremacy. They do not hide it nor do they obscure it. They just say it flat out! This is a MAJOR tenet of the Catholic Faith. Another thing is Divorce. The Orthodox chuches accept divorce up to 3 (three) times. The other thing is that some (I'm not sure if all of them), when a Catholic converts to the orthodox church), they rebaptize them and - if they are priests - they re-ordain them.

These things clearly show that they are not the same faith expressed in a different way. These are very serious things that cannot be expressed in different ways. Either you are a priest or you are not; marriage is either indissoluble or not.

Archi - don't worry. No ugly debates are sought here. But people usually talk about the Eastern churches/liturgies as if nothing were wrong, as if everything is perfect with them. That is just a misconception that, in my opinion, is not good to keep, especially because many Catholics tired of the way things are in the West, immediately think of the East.

The other thing is that many westerner look to the East (religiously and philosofically) as something exotic and mystical in general... and I'm talking about Christians and non-Christians. This is we are seeing a lot of Eastern philisofical and religious schools of thought in the West that lead to a stop to preaching to Eastern Orthodox people or an acceptance of Yoga, etc...

Anonymous said...

Dear latinmass,

In your haste to denounce the East, you forget the long line of papal statements praising the beauty of the Eastern rites, from the Allatae Sunt and Ex Quo of Benedict XIV, to the Orientalium Dignitas of Leo XIII, to the numerous statements of John Paul II. And I don't think you see the importance of liturgical variety in the Church, a principle always accepted by the Church. East and West have different mentalities. Your post implies that whatever we criticize in the NO which is present in the Eastern rites, should also be denounced in the Eastern rites. This is really far out, I'm sorry. Just because something is out of place in the Roman liturgical tradition, doesn't mean that its's also wrong in the Eastern liturgical tradition, and vice versa. (Take note that I speak here of liturgical matters, not of doctrinal ones).

Don't argue with me. Argue with the long line of popes who urged the East not to give up its own liturgical patrimony. Argue with the various curial cardinals who, through the centuries, have tried to stop any and all latinizations from creeping into the Eastern Rites. Argue with the great servants of God, Andrei Sheptytsky and Joseph Slipyj, whose fidelity to the most trivial elements of the Byzantine liturgical tradition was equalled only by their love for and loyalty to the Holy See.

The Eastern rites are not to blame for the Novus Ordo. Precisely one of the faults of the Novus Ordo is its hasty and "cut-and-paste" application of certain Eastern practices into the Roman liturgical tradition, unmindful of the importance of organic development. Furthermore, "deep bowing" or proskynesis is not exclusively Eastern; the Carthusian, Dominican and Carmelite rites also had deep bows, because genuflection was actually introduced into the Roman liturgy quite late (c. 15th century).

The Eastern rites are not identical with Eastern Orthodoxy: have you forgotten about the Unia? The Eastern rites are fully Catholic; were they not so, Pope St. Pius X would not have ordered the Russian Catholics to keep the Synodal rite without any change. To condemn the Eastern rites is to condemn the popes who ordered its preservation. It is to cast doubt upon the very infallibility of the Holy See.

Finally, don't lump the Christian East with the Asian East. The two are not the same!

This will be my last post on the topic.

Carlos Palad
Defensores Fidei

latinmass1983 said...


If I had meant what you said, I would have said it exactly the way you said... and it would be far out, as you say. But that was not my point!

My point was: that people who complain about "weird" things done during N.O. Masses should not really do so because when they see these things done in Eastern churches, they do not complain at all. Of course, in Eastern churches they are in their right context, but even if they are not in their right context in the N.O., they should still not be things that they should complain about.

For example: profound vow instead of genuflection. This is done in the East. When they see it done at an Eastern Liturgy, they will not complain (and they should not). BUT, when they see it in the N.O., they do complain! (By "they" I mean "traditional" Catholics who attend Eastern Liturgies). Now, why should they stop attending the N.O. then? Don't they know that at one point the profound bow was part of the Roman Liturgy. I am NOT advocating its return at all because kneeling is far much more expressive, but I'm trying to point the lack of logic that seems to be common among the traditional Catholics (who also attend Eastern liturgies) that I know.

This goes to show that when people (traditional Catholics) praise the eastern liturgies they do not really know what they are talking about. THIS was my point.

Now, you are being very defensive, which is not good since I have not (I don't think I have) condemned the Eastern churches and their practices.
I do know there are those that are in union with the Papacy and I was not mixing them with the Orthodox.

When I talked about the Orthodox churches it was because you said, "The current theological consensus in the Catholic Church is that Orthodoxy and Catholicism share the same faith, but express this faith in radically different concepts and language.

I assumed that when you said Orthodoxy you meant those not in union with the Church because otherwise, if you had meant those in union with the Papacy, Orthodoxy is not one of the names by which they are known.