Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | October 2, 2009

Geekin’ with the SubDeacon

So I got a note the other day from a kind reader. I don’t get many notes… maybe it’s a sign… but it got me thinking… and that’s always dangerous. And thinking about one’s geek factor can be even more dangerous.

I mean I’m in in the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church (which wasn’t really part of the conversation with my correspondent)… but if you’d ask, I’d say that in many ways… if not all… my heart’s true home is in the Eastern liturgy. But that’d be too mainstream, right? Right. And we couldn’t do that, now could we? Nope. Like Tina (now it’s Teena, now it’s Tuna… now it’s Tyna) Turner once sang with her ol’ buddy Ike:

‘Course it sort of starts with a duet:

“… and we never ever do anything… nice and easy… now do we? So we’re gonna take the beginning of this song…”
“Left a small WASPy church in the Sub-burbs…”
“…and we’re gonna do it… nice and easy…”
“…’started workin’ Orthodoxy’s… downtown scenes…”
“… and then we’re gonna make it… nice and rough…”

Then they start singing together:

“…but we never missed, one eison in a service”
worryin’ bout the way things might have been…


Shakin’ censors…they keep on smokin’
Hail Holy Theotokos… we keep on hopin’…
Chantin’ on a Sunday

Swung a lot of incense in matins
Pumped double antidorons jus’ tryin’ to live
Feet an’ knees a creakin’
standin’ by the Subdeacon…
Whoa… h-o-w-o-w the Body is hap-py to give

Shakin’ censors…they keep on smokin’
We’re catholic… now but… we’re still not Popin’…
Chantin’ on a Sunday

Yes, it’s just my luck to be in an off-beat rite in an off-beat church. How much geekier can it get? Thomas Merton said God has a sense of humor… and his Buddhist friend Suzuki… who had deal with the fact that his family named him after a motorcycle…. agreed citing the inch worm as proof. Like it would never occur to him to cite his friend Harley Davidson? Nope, couldn’t do that! …as if. I mean… just shows how little these guys really knew, huh? Only I’m thinking they were probably ex-football players or ex-something… and then did the monk thing just ’cause it would be “more ex”, “cool”, “impress the chicks”, etc…. only to find that:

“Hello… you guys just took a vow of chastity…”.
“We did what?”
“Hey… I’m Japanese… if I signed anything like that it must be a language thing…”
“It was IN Japanese!”
“Well…  that let’s me out… I’m American… we don’t do foreign languages, much less math, state capitals… hey is this a game show?”
“Not exactly, guys… more like a MON-a-STERY… emphasis on the stairs… and you’ll be running them… in your sweats from now on. ”
“Signed on the line! Sweet!”
“Oh… I am so Shih Tzuud.”
“Nah… I’m thinkin’ more like we’ve been Basenjied”.

Might say we’re all in a game of “gotcha”… only some of us know and some of us don’t. Some are just playin’ and others playin’ for keeps. Enter the Orthodox Parallelogram, and first thing you know books start coming at you like that door in the opening narrative to Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone :

Twilight Zone narrative by Rod Serling.

Yep, here in the Orthodox Parallelogram, we’ve got books for everything under the sun. But the one thing you really want to know… you’ll probably have to read a zillion books just to find. And then that one thing… whatever it is… will shift and become one other thing… and then another thing, and another and another. Until…

Until one day you realize that one of those things you gotta love about the Western Rite is the infinite number of “experts” who have never actually been to a service… but have somehow judged it from afar…. and surprise… surprise… found it (drum roll please)… unworthy. Hey, it’s a free country, folks are free to think what you want to think, go where you want to go, and get stuck where you want to get stuck… or maybe they just get stuck anyway. There are many reasons to like or dislike something, but articulating it is often a touch more difficult. That’s where things can get kind of weird. Try listening to a guy tell his wife he doesn’t like her dress. Tends to go down hill from the first word that doesn’t sound like: “So where’d you want to go for dinner?” Trust me… I ONLY learn things the hard way in life!… only to forget them later and learn them again.

So the point is that if you don’t like the Western Rite, and they’re plenty of you out there, let me say that y’know… when you think about it… it’s here. And kind of like your wife in her new dress… either be gentle… or rip it with some sensitivity… like you’re really concerned:

“Gee…that’s nice, but I thought you were gonna pick out something more… y’know… Gustavo Cadile-like… or is ol’ Gus just too last year?”
“Whaddya mean? These jeans? Ha! But that’s a great idea… I’ll be back in 30 minutes!”
“Ah… that’d be an ooops.”

Then again… sometimes… it’s not always the answer either. But at least you tried, and at least you’ll get a smile BEFORE you get whacked in the head… or the wallet. But the point is that this takes a bit of research, most don’t do it, and even if you do, you can still wind up on the pavement… one way or the other. And as this relates to the negatives of the Western Rite, let me simply say that I’ve heard a lot, seen a lot, and probably shared a lot of what people “think”. It has its blessings and what not, but sadly “what not” seems to be most of what you’ll see and most of this is just sadly misinformed. FWIW, I thought I’d point a link here for those geek enough to do the research… as to something a little more authoritative on the liturgy than the average ripster is going to touch… which just happens to be written by my priest. 🙂

My view? I’m hanging with Bishop Basil’s comments. But fair enough…one day, I may end up in the Liturgy of St. John… and that’d be fine, too. The truth is that I think this liturgical style faddishness… or preference… seems like arguing about whether a left hand or right hand Orthodox pitcher is “better” when all that matters is pitching it consistently over the plate and winning the game. Distractions are distractions. Let’s worry ’bout the real deal, and just follow Jesus Christ.

And if you’re really geek enough… really an Orthodox geek… then you don’t just leave it at WWJD (“What would Jesus do?”). No. That’s far too simple. You’re working on that while multi-tasking hesychastically on that even tougher question:  “What would the Subdeacon do?”


  1. He would definitely become a real Orthodox.

    Just Kidding.

  2. […] here:  Geekin’ with the SubDeacon Share and […]

  3. ROTFLM-orarion-O!! (Just to let everyone know it wasn’t THIS subdeacon that wrote the note.) You should write speeches for the Bishops. Speaking of…I guess if Sdn.whatshisface wants to do away with Western Rite, he can stay celibate, pray, be really pious and eventually become an archbishop then he can declare it sub-Orthodox in his jurisdiction. That sounds a lot easier than emailing everyone who attends a Western Rite parish and trying to change their minds.

  4. Oops…mea goofa mea goofa mea maxima goofa. I must have gotten lost in one of the tributaries in your stream of conciousness. The Sdn. wasn’t after the Western Rite, so my apologies to slandering his anonymous good name. Point remains the same, however for those who do wish to remove Western Rite from the ummmm…Western Orthodox.

  5. You mentioned about doing research on the Western Rite, for those geek enough… I haven’t done any research beyond attending a Western Rite parish once every month, but even that was enough to highlight the similarities between the Western and Byzantine Rites. They really are the same thing, done differently. And to be honest, it took me some time immersed in both the Western and Byzantine Rites to figure that out. I don’t know if I’m a geek so much as a dullard… 🙂 That said, I think it’s helpful if one is going to speak about the Western Rite, that a significant amount of time is spent in it first.

    Thanks for the very good and needed post!

  6. A quick glance at the 1st link, and it seems like Western Liturgy is pretty much like a Catholic Mass. Interesting.

    I hope one day we can stop dividing ourselves into various subcategories of Orthodox Christianity… and then maybe we could also heal the Schism with Rome… ah, peace.

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