Couldn't one say, however, that all of the places where Orthodoxy took root, were still "Eastern" places? So, it would make sense then that the Eastern-ness of the Rite was what spoke to their hearts?
How would you describe and identify this "core Byzantine perspective"?
No- I don't think so. If you mean the Byzantine rite and the spirituality that went with this, then it arrived in many different cultures and was able to adapt. This was only 'eastern' in the sense that it was east of central Europe.
But of course in recent centuries the Byzantine rite & spirituality has moved all around the world- wherever Orthodoxy has taken root. So again there is an adaptability to this shape of the Liturgy and spirituality which shouldn't be overlooked. To say it the other way around though- it's often assumed that local variants of the services and spirituality would be more relevant to us than something so culturally foreign as the Byzantine. What's overlooked in this however is how culturally exclusive these local variants have become. Thus- to take just one little example- I may have grown up with and felt very comfortable with a post 60s brand of Quebec Roman Catholicism. However this type of Christian liturgy and way of life was unique to the time and place. Meanwhile my next door neighbour may have grown up in the United church of Canada in the 1980s. That too was unique to time and place. What then if we all converted to Orthodoxy could we take on of this past experience that would really unite rather than divide us? So what at first sight may appear local and thus worth looking at could easily end up being something very damaging.
Byzantine spirituality and liturgics combines a number of crucial elements: it is interior & charitable, sober & vigilant, discerning and idealistic, self sacrificing and giving, adapting to the local but keeping the cosmic in mind. It represents something different from our modern experience so that conversion is necessary to grasp it but at the same time it has the ability to transfigure present reality in whatever shape it is.
In my time I have heard the Liturgy: in English in a modern mission Canadian setting, modest and with obvious Russian influences; in settings in western Canada where the Slavonic was sung with a Ukrainian accent and afterwards the absolutely necessary common meal took place in the parish hall (sometimes in the church itself if there was no hall); in English settings where you could hear the Evangelical influence (or alternatively the Carpatho Russian influence); and in Russian settings with 500 parishioners attending and stunning Russian choir. All this variety but one rite and basic over all spirituality that binds us together in Christ.
In Christ- Fr Raphael