I am fascinated by the Eastern Orthodox Church. I admire their rich liturgical tradition; the exquisite plethora of Saints, Fathers of the Church, monks and martyrs that come from those regions are some of the dearest and most beloved that the Church has known. There is something really mysterious, almost ''holy'' about them - even if this is marred by their obstinate preference for schism rather than a desire for union with Rome, the mother and mistress of all the Churches.
I am particularly interested in so-called ''Western Rite Orthodoxy;'' which is also a source of much amusement. I have known few Orthodox in my life, but the ones I have met have disliked Rome with an astounding bitterness - indeed, a Copt I met once thought much the same of the Papacy as Ian Paisley. This sheds an interesting light on the use of the Latin (or in some cases, Anglican) liturgical rites within Orthodox circles. This article is worth a read. Particularly amusing is the reference to the Novus Ordo as ''infamous!''
It has often been alleged that the Novus Ordo is closer in ''ethos'' to the Eastern liturgies. People who champion this view cite things such as the use of the vernacular, the practice of concelebrations (commonplace in Orthodox churches), and the restoration of the permanent diaconate, which Lumen Gentium states is of ''supreme necessity.'' But these apparent similarities go no deeper than the surface, and are mere red-herrings. The Orthodox liturgies have indeed used the vernacular in their liturgies, but this is generally, and was traditionally, a more archaic and ''courteous'' form of a ''vernacular'' tongue - comparing, for instance, the modern use of English with that used in Elizabethan times, or even earlier. For example, the Greeks use the Greek of St John Chrysostom, the Russians Church Slavonic. The bizarre practice of concelebrations is peculiar to the Eastern churches - that is their tradition. I do not see that the introduction of the practice into the Western Church achieves anything, since it is liturgically unprecedented.
I know a Russian Orthodox who attended a Midnight Mass in Austria some years ago, and he told me that the Liturgy there was wholly alien to him; with no visible signs of devotion among the congregation, the priest having his back on the East (orientation in the liturgical posture being reversed from Godwards to manwards), and sitting upon some sort of ''throne'' as though he were somehow ''in charge'' of it all. The brevity of the Mass, the poverty of its ceremony, the irreverent use of the vulgar tongue, little or no sense of the Sacred at all left him with a strong impression of the weakness of the Novus Ordo in the presentation of Catholic teaching.
Indeed, the apparent similarities of the New Rite with the liturgical rites of the East are overshadowed by a greater number of anachronisms and discrepancies. I would say that the New Rite seems more consonant with the ''liturgical'' uses and customs of Protestant denominations. And whenever I think of this, I call to mind that oft-heard quote by the chief architect of the New Rite, Bugnini: ''We must strip from our Catholic prayers and from the Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren that is for the Protestants.''
I think that the Ecumenical dimension of the New Rite is a ''stumbling block'' for any Orthodox who is genuinely interested in the Catholic Church, precisely because the Old Rite seems more redolent of the Eastern liturgies. The Old Rite is inspired by the same faith, the same profundity, the same longing.
As an aside, I wonder why the Eastern Orthodox church has had no liturgical crisis, or Reformation? It seems to me that such things are logically more suited to schismatics...but maybe one day they will.
The above image depicts an expunged icon of the Saviour from the famous church of Hagia Sophia at Constantinople.