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This page last updated 7 July 2007  

Letters to AO

EVERY WEEK WE PUBLISH a selection of letters we receive in response to something you've read at Anglicans Online. Stop by and have a look at what other AO readers are thinking.

Alas, we cannot publish every letter we receive. And we won't publish letters that are anonymous, hateful, illiterate, or otherwise in our judgment do not benefit the readers of Anglicans Online. We usually do not publish letters written in response to other letters. We edit letters to conform with standard AO house style for punctuation, but we do not change, for example, American spelling to conform to Canadian orthography. On occasion we'll gently edit letters that are too verbose in their original form. Email addresses are included when the authors give permission to do so.

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Letters from 25 June to 1 July 2007

Like all letters to the editor everywhere, these letters are the opinions of the writers and not Anglicans Online. We publish letters that we think will be of interest to our readers, whether we agree with them or not. If you'd like to write a letter of your own, click here.

Orthodox anomaly

A propos of your 24 June 2007 front page letter’s suggestion that “the generally accepted meaning of … [the word “orthodox”] seems to be ‘Of or relating to any of the churches or rites of the Eastern Orthodox Church,’” our Egyptian, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Armenian, Syrian and Indian friends who are Oriental, not Eastern, Orthodox, would be rather surprised. The Eastern Orthodox, of course, parted company with the West in a process culminating Great Schism in 1054; the Oriental Orthodox had taken their own path six centuries earlier, as a result of their dissatisfaction with the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Encounters between Oriental Orthodoxy and western Christians have not always been markedly happy: the great catastrophe of Orthodoxy in India was the arrival of Roman Catholic Portuguese who attempted to convert the Orthodox to Catholicism by the sword, in the process destroying their churches and burning their holy books. A consequence for the St Thomas Christians was a splintering into at least a half-dozen groups — some of them continuing as Oriental Orthodox, others becoming Oriental-rite Catholics, other still becoming Roman Catholics — in ways that are depressingly familiar to latter day Anglicans. Other encounters have been more felicitous: one of the groups of St Thomas Christians in India, the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, is, indeed, in full communion with the Anglican Communion.

Oriental Orthodox worship is prodigiously vigorous: in the Malankara Indian Orthodox Church every word of the liturgy is chanted full-voice by huge congregations — in Aramaic in some churches; Malayalam, Hindi or English in others. The ancient provenance of its liturgies is strikingly apparent in, among other things, their frequent similarity with Muslim worship: the Christians whom the Prophet Muhammed would have known, of course would have worshiped in this way. (I shall separately email you a few photos of Orthodox worship in Bombay.) All that being said, I of course fully concur in the view that it is anomalous for Anglicans, traditionalist or otherwise, to refer to themselves as “Orthodox.”

Mac Robb
Holy Trinity, Fortitude Valley (occasionally)
Brisbane, Australia
25 June 2007

We agree that overhauling St John Chysostom is unlikely

I agree with your front-page article that Anglicans should take a card from the Orthodox, particularly when it comes to liturgy. I wish someone had thought of this sooner.

I can't imagine clerical movers and shakers in the Orthodox Church deciding unilaterally to overhaul the Liturgy of St. Chrysostom in hopes of attracting adolescents, young families or other prestige groups by catering for what middle-aged clerics imagined were their tastes; I can't imagine them introducing smarmy cliches to inculcate concern about the environment and about "justice, freedom and peace"; I can't imagine them turning church services into middle-brow social events with all the numinous atmosphere of a PTA meeting in the interests of "building community." I can't imagine them regarding liturgy as a mechanism for manipulating the laity or an entertainment, and then tailoring it to do the job.

H. E. Baber
University of San Diego
San Diego, California, USA
28 June 2007

For more information...

Further to your opening page remarks about orthodox form, there is an excellent collection published in 2004 by the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptyksky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies entitled The Divine Liturgy — an Anthology for Worship. It is quickly becoming the major worship book for Eastern Catholic parishes in Canada. The book is bilingual in parts (Ukrainian-English) but predominantly English. Naturally, it follows the Greek form of worship approved by the Vatican for eastern rite catholics. It's prose style is quite different from what I've been used to in regular RC missals, as is the calendar which, also, commemorates the Eastern saints, including men and women lost through 20th Century persecutions. The Sheptyksky Institute is part of St. Paul University in Ottawa.

Serge Tittley
Thunder Bay, Ontario, CANADA
29 June 2007

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Earlier letters

We launched our 'Letters to AO' section on 11 May 2003. All published letters are in our archives.


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