Much has been made about the rapprochement between Catholics and the Orthodox following the Catholic-Orthodox meeting last month in Ravenna that agreed the Pope was the leading prelate of Christianity. Of course, this is just the beginning of the many many discussions and agreements that will need to be reached before we have unity.
America, the national Catholic weekly, has an article by Maximos Davies. Davies is a monk of Holy Resurrection Monastery, an Eastern Catholic community. Davies tries to explain that while the theological differences between Catholics and the Orthodox may seem small, the view from the pew is different. He says that the gulf is wider than it may appear and that Catholics may be too optimistic. The entire article is worth a read, but there was one part that really stood out.
Davies tries to educate the reader on the different “cultures” involved with culture used to “describe a mode of being Christian, and such differences are most profound on the level of ecclesial culture. Ecclesial cultures develop distinct theological ideas, but these theological aspects are not simply thought; they are also deeply felt at the level of popular piety and practice.” To highlight his point he makes the following observation. ( emphasis mine)
Two major cultural differences can be detected in the way Orthodox and Catholics live out their visions of Christianity. The first includes attitudes toward liturgy, an area where differences are surprisingly difficult to define, because they go far beyond ritual variance. A common misunderstanding is that Orthodox value “reverence” more highly than Catholics in the contemporary West, but this is not necessarily true; a clown Mass is also reverent in its own way. It matters, though, precisely what is revered. We move closer to the truth if we say that the Orthodox see liturgy as the primary work of Christians, from which every other activity flows. Catholics, on the other hand, tend to see liturgy as one of many Christian labors; it is important and obligatory, but exists among many important works. While it is impossible to make such statements without employing massive generalizations, this difference between the two traditions is nevertheless a source of alienation.
“A clown Mass is also reverent in its own way. It matters, though, precisely what is revered.” No truer words have ever been spoken. Perhaps this cultural divide will not be entirely overcome until the self revering progressive liturgist types have gone the way of the dodo. Perhaps then the cultural divide will not be so great.