I had not seen this comment from Pope Francis’s celebrated airplane press conference. The Pope was asked to comment on Eastern Christianity. He said something amazing. From the transcript:
In the Orthodox Churches they have kept that pristine liturgy, so beautiful.
We have lost a bit the sense of adoration. They keep, they praise God, they adore God, they sing, time doesn’t count. God is the center, and this is a richness that I would like to say on this occasion in which you ask me this question. Once, speaking of the Western Church, of Western Europe, especially the Church that has grown most, they said this phrase to me: “Lux ex oriente, ex occidente luxus.” Consumerism, wellbeing, have done us so much harm. Instead you keep this beauty of God at the center, the reference. When one reads Dostoyevsky – I believe that for us all he must be an author to read and reread, because he has wisdom – one perceives what the Russian spirit is, the Eastern spirit. It’s something that will do us so much good. We are in need of this renewal, of this fresh air of the East, of this light of the East. John Paul II wrote it in his Letter. But so many times the luxus of the West makes us lose the horizon. I don’t know, it came to me to say this. Thank you.
I hesitate to comment on this because I don’t want to come across as triumphalistic — I very much am not — but it really is true that the liturgy is so much richer, aesthetically, than the Novus Ordo in the West. Even the Pope says so, it appears — and the Pope also says that out of the liturgy, a more general spirit emerges. The thing is, Catholics have within their own Church the same liturgical practices as the Orthodox do: in the Eastern Rite Catholic churches. If you are Catholic and have never been to one, by all means do. I never went to one of the Eastern Rite churches that celebrate the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, as is standard in Orthodox churches, but I was a regular communicant at a Maronite church, which is one of the Eastern Rite churches in communion with Rome (it’s Lebanese). The Maronite liturgy is so beautiful and transcendent. I’ve found in my experience with the Maronites, and in my years as an Orthodox Christian, that the sense of transcendence you get in Eastern churches is so important, and so valuable.
Yesterday I wrote about getting so lost in the liturgy in my parish that I felt a real sense of mystical communion with God. Ours is a little country mission church, not an onion-domed cathedral. The liturgy — the prayers, the chanting, the incense — achieved the same effect. It’s something else, I tell you. I hope that Pope Francis will succeed in welcoming this “light of the East” into Western churches.