Taft on Western use of the East

by scholarspirit

the eminent eastern catholic Fr. Robert Taft writes eloquently and piercingly on the the Eastern role in Western liturgical renewal.  though he is particularly reflecting on the Roman-Eastern interaction, with particular reference to the V-II renewal, his observations are abundantly useuful for the hypothetical project of an Eastern-rite Anglicanism.

eastern influence at V-II was not necessarily anticipatable, particularly given that liturgical movement pioneer Prosper Gueranger of Solesmes held eastern liturgy in contempt.  a similar thing could be said about Anglicanism at this juncture: it is not a natural move, but maybe a helpful one for extraneous reasons.

nevertheless, Taft cautions us to bear in mind proper historical use.  it is quite easy to read into the venerable tradition of an “other” – whether historically or culturally – what we ourselves are looking for.  (indeed, in some respect that is all that we can do; although i would conjecture that on a more individual scale that is (hopefully) mitigated by the context of an ongoing relationship.)

ultimately, as Taft observes:

We study the history of Tradition not because we are interested in reviving the past, but in order to promote a contemporary understanding of Christian life in terms of its origins and evolution, an understanding that challenges myths and frees us from the tyranny not just of any one frozen slice of the past, but also from the tyranny of the latest cliché, so that we can move ahead to solutions suitable for today in faithful freedom, faithful to living Tradition that is always beholden to but never prisoner of the past.

Taft ultimately urges us to consider the virtues and venerability of our own liturgio-cultural heritage:

I say: Turn again to the fathers and mystics at the root of the unparalleled Latin tradition. Meditate on the Rule of St. Benedict, and the great Bernard of Clairvaux. Read de Lubac’s Exegese mideivale. Let us rediscover where we came from before it is too late. The west does not need to turn east, nor does it need to return to a medieval or Tridentine past. It needs to return to its roots. Latin Christianity is just as apostolic, ancient, traditional, patristic, spiritual and monastic as that of the east. I am not really convinced all Catholics know and believe this. [But] that does not mean we have nothing to learn from the east–one can learn from everyone.

still, he turns our attention to several points of contribution that the East can make to Western liturgy, particularly given where we are in terms of our own self-criticism and self-evaluation.

  1. Eastern liturgy balances a high Christology with a tender devotion for the eminently knowable, human, kenotic Christ.
  2. Eastern liturgy is radically trinitarian.
  3. Eastern liturgy retains a sense of the absolute and awesome holiness, transcendence and unknowability of God, who is to be worshiped for that reason alone.
  4. Eastern liturgy is holistic.
  5. Eastern liturgy offers an escape from the “medieval impasse.”
  6. The East is our best reminder that Tradition is integral and indivisible.

an excellent and balanced lecture: and i think helps to undergird the ultimate legitimate purpose of an eastern-rite Anglicanism: not nostalgia, nor idealization, but evangelization.

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