Not intending to stir up old embers for the Blowout department, this is a fine article – Distinctions between Orthodoxy and Catholicism.
Many of us Anglicans joke cynically about the “two one true churches”. I really am far beyond having scruples for not being Roman Catholic or not converting to one of the Byzantine Churches, even those offering some kind of Western Rite umbrella to refugees from Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism.
This article does go into some of the deeper issues touching upon human culture and the way Christianity has diversified since its origins. I have been tempted by Orthodoxy, especially in the late 1980’s at the time I met Dr Ray Winch and read about the American Antiochian vicariate. I never got as far as making any serious request. A couple of tentative letters of enquiry simply suggested that I should move to the USA (at my expense) and fit into one of their parishes. Fair enough – they never asked anything of me. It never went any further. The Russian Church (outside Russia) has allowed a number of “refugee” priests to set up groups that are in sociological and financial terms somewhat on a par with Continuing Anglicanism. The difference is that Church of England authorities “recognise” an “official” Church and lend their buildings.
I have already written articles on Western Orthodoxy and published an English translation of Jean-François Mayer’s critical article. It is obviously working out for some people, and I am happy for them. To me, Orthodoxy is a forbidding world. I would only consider it if I were to go and live in Russia or Greece, and attend church as a seeker taking his new world in over a period of several years. Human beings adapt to the changes of life. The expatriate in Greece or Russia, having gone there for reasons of work or life in general, might follow a more secular way of life. I do believe that converting to an institutional church for reasons of believing that it is the “one true church” is the worst possible motivation.
As for being a refugee from Roman Catholicism or Anglicanism, there are plenty of traditionalist groups and Continuing Churches for those of us who stay in our near our native countries. Why become Orthodox unless one is prepared to go all the way and adapt to the receiving community? Even as I ask that question, I have no problem with Western Rite Orthodoxy, but for reasons of de gustibus non est disputandum. Some have a taste for the exotic, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
Our author makes the point:
The private praxis of prayer is another matter. It is entirely possible to observe a Western prayer life in the Orthodox Church, and vice versa, so long as it is a matter of private praxis.
This is possible for all of us, whether we have “moved around” or stayed near our origins. We all have our nagging ideas and feelings, and we desire to rise above our church life that only concerns exoteric religion. Our secret gardens with our illuminations and tempting demons concern only ourselves. Many Christians are reluctant to accept this two-level spiritual existence.
It is perhaps in exploring the world within that we accord less importance to our outward ecclesial membership or even our ministries as priests. Both these are necessary and neglect of them is sinful – but there is something deeper and which attracts us, and gives us courage and energy in our “ordinary” life. A word of caution: attempts at institutionalising or even making a community based on that esoteric aspiration nearly always fail and are characterised by superstition and charlatanism. One thing I have learned in life is not to expect too much from a church or even from other people. The world owes us nothing.