Thursday, August 3, 2017

WESTERN RITE ORTHODOXY - The English Liturgy in the Orthodox Church

THE ENGLISH LITURGY IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH


The principle Western Rite texts approved for use in both the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and the Antiochian Orthodox Church are the Roman and English Liturgies.  The basis for these texts are found in two important documents: 

The Liturgia Missae Orthodoxo-Catholicae Occidentalis by J. J. Overbeck and approved by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1869; and Russian Observations upon the American Prayer Book, the 1904 response of the Russian Holy Synod to Archbishop (now Saint) Tikhon (Belavin) concerning the use of the 1892 American Book of Common Prayer by Orthodox Christians in the West.

In both cases the Russian Holy Synod took a theological and pastoral approach, and made their decisions on the basis of dogmatic theology and pastoral need. The Orthodox Roman Rite, commonly called the “Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great,” is essentially the Missal of Pius V corrected and adapted for Orthodox use. Likewise, the Holy Synod determined that the English Liturgy, now commonly called the “Liturgy of St. Tikhon,” could be authorized after being corrected theologically and adapted for use in the Orthodox Church. The issue of authorizing these liturgies for use in the Orthodox Church was not examined from the perspective of liturgical history, but solely from the perspectives of dogmatic theology and pastoral need.

The 1549 Book of Common Prayer, a principle source for the Orthodox English Liturgy, is older than the Missal of Pius V (1570), and has its origin in the Sarum Missal. Sarum is an English Usage of the Roman Rite going back to the era of what is commonly called the “undivided” Church, and was the predominant Usage in 16th century England. 

ST. TIKHON AND THE ENGLISH LITURGY

St. Tikhon of Moscow served as the Russian Orthodox Archbishop of North America until 1907. While in America he became close friends with Bishop Charles Grafton, the Anglican bishop of Fon du Lac, Wisconsin. Bishop Grafton, a monk, was deeply committed to Anglican reunion with the Orthodox Church. Through Bishop Grafton, Archbishop Tikhon became intimately acquainted with Anglicans in America, visiting Anglican parishes and observing their worship.

Archbishop Tikhon (Belavin) and Bishop Raphael (Hawaweeny), assisted by Fr. John Kochuroff - all three of whom would later be canonized as Orthodox Saints - petitioned the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church to permit an Orthodox version of the American Book of Common Prayer to be used by Orthodox Christians in the West. Archbishop Tikhon’s request was assigned to a Committee appointed by the Holy Synod on Old Catholic and Anglican questions. The Committee reported in favor of the adaptation of the English Liturgy for Orthodox use and set out the criteria for its correction and adaptation in 1904. The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church formally received and endorsed the report of the Committee.

Unfortunately, with Archbishop Tikhon’s return to Russia in 1907, the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, and the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, with the subsequent  brutal persecution of the Russian Church, the correction and adaptation of the English Liturgy was not actually undertaken at that time. It would have to wait another seventy years.

The Russian Observations upon the American Prayer Book produced by the Committee  on Old Catholic and Anglican questions was translated from Russian into English and published in 1917, with a Preface and Notes by the Anglican liturgical scholar and bishop Dr. Walter Howard Frere. In the Preface, Bishop Frere wrote, “The Observations are not controversial - they are practical in their character and brotherly in their spirit… Further, if we repudiate some of the criticisms, because we may think it arises from prejudice or lack of knowledge and intercourse, we are bound to find also a good deal of criticism which we must lay to heart.”

The Observations were positively received, and much of what they called for was incorporated in the 1928 American, 1928 English Proposed, and 1929 Scottish revisions of the Book of Common Prayer. Even more progress was made with the publication of the Anglican and American Missals, leaving little theological correction and pastoral adaptation remaining for the Orthodox Church to undertake before authorizing the English Liturgy for use.

The Antiochian Orthodox Church was the first to complete the adaptation of the English Liturgy, authorizing it for use forty years ago in 1977. That year, the Church of the Incarnation, an Anglican parish led by its rector Fr. Joseph Angwin, was received into the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, and was the first to use the newly authorized English Liturgy. 

The English Liturgy has commonly become known as the Liturgy of St. Tikhon, not because St. Tikhon had created it or celebrated it, but in his honour because it was through his efforts that it was ultimately authorized for use. Today, the English Liturgy is fully authorized for use in both the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

The Russian Orthodox Church authorizes both the Roman and English Liturgies for use. The authorized Roman Liturgy, commonly called the Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great, can be found here: 


The English Liturgy, commonly called the Liturgy of St. Tikhon, can be found here: 


THE NON-JURORS AND THE ENGLISH LITURGY

The English Liturgy had nearly been authorized for use in the Orthodox Church some two centuries earlier. From 1716 to 1725 the English Non-Jurors carried on a correspondence with three Orthodox Patriarchates, first with Alexandria and then later with Jerusalem and Constantinople also. The Non-Jurors described themselves to the Orthodox as “the remnant of the ancient and once Orthodox Church in Britain.” Reunion of the “British Katholicks”  with the Orthodox Church was their goal, and Tsar Peter the Great of Russia became a champion of the idea. 

In 1718, the Orthodox Patriarchs wrote to the British Katholicks about the Non-Juror version of the Book of Common Prayer. They said, “When therefore, we have considered it, if it needs correction, we will correct it, and if possible will give it the sanction of a genuine form.”

Later the Patriarchs wrote to the Non-Jurors saying that in matters of “custom and ecclesiastical order, and for the form and discipline of administering the Sacraments, they will easily be settled when unity is effected. For it is evident from ecclesiastical history that there have been and now are different customs and regulations in different places and Churches, and yet the unity of the Faith and Doctrine is preserved the same” (Orthodoxy & Anglicanism, by V. T. Istavridis; SPCK; 1966; p.5).

In an effort to derail this reunion effort, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote the Orthodox Patriarchs at the request of the British government, warning the Patriarchs that the Non-Jurors were disloyal British subjects and schismatic churchmen, and asking them to end their discussions with them. Tragically, fearing becoming embroiled in British politics, the Patriarchs broke off their dialogue with the Non-Jurors, ending the possibility of restoring Western Orthodoxy at that time.  

THE ENGLISH LITURGY

The English Liturgy is not a distinct Rite, but is a Usage of the Roman Rite with the Sarum Missal as its principle source, and first published in English in 1549 as the Book of Common Prayer. Various Usages of the Roman Rite were common throughout Western Europe before 1570, and in England there were six Usages in 1549, of which Sarum was the most important and most widespread.

A vernacular Order called “Prone” had been inserted into the Latin Mass on Sundays and Holy Days for centuries in France and Germany. Prone consisted of vernacular prayers in preparation for receiving Holy Communion. References to Prone can be found in documents going back to the ninth century. The Order varied widely from place to place. An English version of the Order of Prone, called The Order of Communion, was inserted into the Latin Mass in March of 1548. The Order included an Exhortation to self examination, an Invitation and General Confession, the Absolution and Comfortable Words, the Prayer of Humble Access, and the words of administration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion in English.  

When the Latin Mass was replaced in England by a completely vernacular Liturgy on Pentecost Sunday 1549, the Eucharistic Liturgy continued to include The Order of Communion (Prone). The vernacular Order of Prone had never been part of the Latin Mass in Italy, and was ultimately abolished in the Roman Church by the Missal of Pius V in 1570.

The Mass in England was celebrated entirely in English beginning on Whitsunday (Pentecost) 1549. The Windsor Commission that did the translation work had a wonderful grasp of the English language which enabled them to reproduce the rhythm of liturgical Latin, and to produce an English language Liturgy that was reverent, uplifting and majestic. “Thus, the Book was a reverent adaptation of the Latin rite, possessed of liturgical fitness and a deep Eucharistic piety” (Liturgies of the Western Church, Bard Thompson, Meridian Books, 1961, p. 236).

In the 16th and early 17th centuries England produced three shining jewels of Christian  devotion that are still used in the Orthodox Church today: The Coverdale Psalter, the Authorized or King James Version of the Bible, and the English Liturgy. For centuries the English Liturgy has been described by English speaking Christians as “our incomparable Liturgy.” 

THE ORTHODOX ENGLISH LITURGY

The Orthodox English Liturgy is a Usage of the Roman Rite derived from the Sarum Missal with the 1549 Book of Common Prayer as a principle source, and contains all of the prayers of the Roman Liturgy, with the exception of the Canon because it has its own, corrected and adapted for use in the Orthodox Church according to the criteria set forth in the document, Russian Observations upon the American Prayer Book in 1904.

The English Liturgy is in fact a longer liturgy than that of its Roman parent in that it contains additional prayers and Scripture, and because it includes the ancient liturgical Order called Prone that has been lost elsewhere. The most notable differences between the English and Roman Liturgies authorized for use in the Orthodox Church stem from The Order of Communion or Prone, which remains a part of the English Liturgy, but is not found in the Roman.

THE ENGLISH LITURGICAL TRADITION

While the English Liturgy is rooted in the Sarum Missal and is a Usage of the Roman Rite, the English liturgical tradition has a number of distinctive emphases and elements:

Common Prayer. 
The English liturgical tradition emphasizes the liturgy as the prayer of the whole Church, the work of the people. No Services are conducted by the priest and choir or the priest and acolyte while the congregation remains silent or engages in private devotions. The entire liturgy is celebrated aloud and the congregation makes the responses together. In the English liturgical tradition the laity are not merely spectators “hearing Mass,” but are active worshippers, participating in common prayer

The Holy Scriptures. 
The English lectionary differs from the parent Roman Rite in both the amount and variety of Scripture read. No liturgical tradition places more emphasis on Scripture or reads more Scripture in the daily Services of the Church than the English liturgical tradition. 

The English Liturgy itself places a strong emphasis on the Holy Scriptures. Early in the Ordinary of the English Liturgy the Celebrant prepares the congregation for worship by reciting the Summary of the Law given by our Lord, and on occasion the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments.

The Gospel at Holy Mass is commonly proclaimed from the nave in the the midst of the congregation, reminding everyone that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to be carried out among the people and that the Great Commission is to be advanced.

Biblical preaching is an important part the English liturgical tradition. Sermons are delivered at least every Sunday and Feast Day, and the emphasis is on Biblical preaching where the Scripture readings for the day are unpacked, explained and applied to the lives of listeners. 

The Prayers of the Faithful.
A series of intercessions for the living and the dead in the form of a long Collect called the Prayer for the Whole State of Christ’s Church follows the Offertory. The Prayers of the Faithful had been found early in the Liturgy of the Faithful in the primitive Roman Rite, but had been moved to the Canon by late in the sixth century, leaving the Oremus (Let us pray), but no Intercessions. In the Mozarabic Rite the Intercessions are also found near the Offertory. The English Liturgy preserves this ancient Western practice.

The Order of Communion or Prone. 
The ancient Order of Prone is still used in the English Liturgy. These Communion devotions follow the Liturgy of the Word and begin just before the Sursum Corda and the Canon (Anaphora) of the Mass, and conclude after the reception of Holy Communion. 

It is the proclamation of the Word of God in the readings from Holy Scripture and in the preaching, followed by the response of faith in professing the Nicene Creed, and offering alms, Oblations and prayer, that leads the congregation to contrition, repentance, and deeper conversion to Christ. It is here that the Order of Communion, the ancient Order of Prone begins with the exhortation, “Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins…”  This is followed by a General Confession which on weekdays is prayed kneeling. After the General Confession comes the Absolution and Comfortable Words. The penitential rite being concluded, the Celebrant begins the Sursum Corda and the Canon of the Mass. 

Following the Agnus Dei, the Prayer of Humble Access is said. On weekdays this prayer is said by everyone kneeling. The Prayer of Humble Access is one of the most beautiful and moving in the English Liturgy, and is noted for its rich Eucharistic theology. The Order of Communion or Prone then concludes after the administration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion as the communicants pray together the Prayer of Thanksgiving.

The English Canon.
The first paragraph of the English Canon or Prayer of Consecration takes up the theme of glorifying God from the Sanctus and Benedictus: “All glory be to Thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father,” in thanksgiving for His tender mercy in sending His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ for our redemption. 

The Words of Institution in the English Liturgy follows the Eastern practice rather than the Western. “The Gallican and Roman introduces the words of institution with the phrase, ‘Who, the day before he suffered’ instead of the eastern (and Mozarabic) formula, ‘Who, the the night in which he was betrayed…” (A Short History of the Mass, Orthodoxy, Vol. VII, Number 1, Spring 1956). The English Canon introduces the Words of Institution with+, “For in the night in which he was betrayed.” 

The English Canon follows the Words of Institution with a descending Epiclesis, an Invocation of the Holy Spirit over the Oblations of bread and wine. There are no elevations of the bread and chalice after the Words of Institution because Orthodox sacramental theology considers the Epiclesis to be essential to the Consecration. There was a descending Epiclesis in the English Liturgy before it was authorized for Orthodox use, but it was strengthened and made clearer so as to avoid any possible ambiguity. A descending Epiclesis had to be imported into the Canon of the Roman Liturgy.

THE DIVINE OFFICE

The English Liturgy has beautifully adapted the ancient Benedictine monastic Offices for use in a parochial setting. The Offices of Matins, Vespers and Compline as found in the the book, The English Office Noted are used not only by congregations utilizing the English Liturgy, but by those using the Roman Liturgy as well. In the Western spiritual tradition many of the laity pray the daily Office at home along with the clergy.

By praying these daily Offices, Western Rite Orthodox Christians pray through the entire Psalter each month, and read through the New Testament twice every year, as well as through the greater part of the Old Testament. Ancient Benedictine spirituality has always permeated the English liturgical and spiritual tradition, with the Divine Office serving like a golden setting for the precious jewel of the Holy Eucharist.

CONCLUSION

The Gospel was brought to the British Isles by St. Joseph of Arimathea and his companions directly from Jerusalem. St. Aristobulus, one of the seventy, was the first bishop in Britain. The Church took root and thrived, with British bishops taking part in the Council of Arles in the year 314.

At the time of the Great Schism in 1054, the Church in the British Isles remained Orthodox. This led to the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Norman Invasion had been preached as a crusade to bring an “erring” English Church under Roman authority and was blessed by the pope. All but one of the English bishops were removed from their Sees and imprisoned, and a Norman usurper was placed on the throne of St. Augustine in Canterbury. On October 15, 1072, the last English Orthodox bishop, Ethelric of Durham, died in prison at Westminster after anathematizing the pope. For the next half millennium the English Church maintained an uneasy and often stormy relationship with Rome which had been forged by invasion and conquest.

In 1534, the English Reformation began. Unlike the Reformation on the Continent, the English Reformation was carried out by the bishops themselves with the goal of freeing the English Church from Roman domination, and restoring the Faith and Order of the early Church. Having been forcibly separated from the Orthodox Church for nearly half a millennium, restoration was difficult and the journey was a long one. Missteps were made, but also much progress.

The goal of the English Reformation was advanced by the Caroline Divines of the 17th century, the Non-jurors of the 17th and 18th centuries, the Oxford movement of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the Continuing Anglican Movement of the latter 20th and early 21st centuries. The English Liturgy was authorized for use in principle by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1904, but historical circumstances delayed its implementation. 

The English Liturgy was finally corrected theologically and adapted for Orthodox use by the Patriarchate of Antioch, with the first parish using what would become commonly called the Liturgy of St. Tikhon forty years ago in 1977. Today. the English Liturgy is authorized for use in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (Moscow Patriarchate) and the Antiochian Orthodox Church, with the Western Rite Communities of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia being the largest, most widespread and fastest growing.

The Vision Glorious of the Oxford Movement has been fulfilled. What was lost to the Orthodox Church in the wake of the Great Schism and the Norman Conquest has been restored, and Western Orthodoxy is being rebuilt. The English cultural, liturgical and spiritual heritage and patrimony has been preserved in full sacramental communion and visible unity with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church.

For more information on the Western Rite Communities of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia please visit the website of the ROCOR Western Rite Communities: 


Thursday, July 27, 2017

ARE ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS STUBBORN AND CRANKY?

As Orthodox Christians we firmly hold that the Orthodox Church is the original Church founded by Jesus Christ himself, and is therefore the One True Church. We also firmly hold that the Orthodox Christian Faith is the One True Faith. In an era of moral and religious relativism, consumerism, and post-truth that values emotional arguments and “sincerely held personal beliefs” over objective facts, this can indeed sound “stubborn and cranky.” But is it? 

On July 26, 2017, Pravmir, a major Orthodox Church news site published an important article called,  Last Men Standing. It was written by a former Roman Catholic who is now an Orthodox Christian. It is an important article, and I think everyone should read it - especially Roman Catholic traditionalists. 

The article begins:

“As a former Roman Catholic, I used to always view the Orthodox with a kind of annoyance at what I termed their ‘crankiness’, their ‘stubborn nature.’ I used to say to myself in frustration, ‘if they would only stop being so thorny towards us, maybe we could have unity’… I formed a crude caricature of the Orthodox as simply a bunch of old cranks sitting about stroking their beards and talking about everyone was heterodox… “

I hope that you will read the article. Here is the link:


Want to learn more? I encourage you to visit and become a Follower of the Holy Cross Parish Facebook page. I regularly post important informational and inspirational posts there. Here is the link:


Would you like more information on the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church? Here is the link to our Western Rite Communities:


Everyone within driving distance of Omaha, Nebraska is always warmly invited to visit Holy Cross Orthodox Church. We are located at  7545 Main Street, Ralston, Nebraska 68127.

Sunday Matins is at 9:15 AM, with Holy Mass at 10:00 AM, followed by fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall.

We are a faithful, friendly and caring parish, and we have a place for you!

I can be reached by phone at: (402) 573-6558, or by email at: venovak@hughes.net

Blessings!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

THE ORTHODOX WEST

On Friday, July 14th an excellent, professionally produced, half hour documentary on Western Rite Orthodoxy was released. It is called The Orthodox West. It follows a Continuing Anglican bishop and two priests on their journey to becoming Western Rite priests in the Orthodox Church. In is informative, heartwarming and inspiring. I hope that you will see it and share it with others.  Perhaps their journey will become yours! We love being Orthodox. This documentary will explain why.

The Orthodox West can be viewed here:

Thursday, July 6, 2017

AN APPEAL TO TRADITIONAL ROMAN CATHOLICS FROM AN ORTHODOX CATHOLIC PRIEST

Dear friends in Christ,

Each year the Oxford Dictionary chooses a “Word of the Year.” Last year the Word of the Year was “Post-truth.” Ever hear of that word? I hadn’t. Yet, it was the Word of the Year. According to the folks at the Oxford Dictionary, its use increased by 2000% over the previous year.

Here is the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of Post-truth: “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

I may not have heard of the word, “post-truth” before, but I have certainly experienced people who wittingly or unwittingly have embraced it in both the realms of politics and religion. Objective facts seem to mean less and less to more and more people, even professed Christians, and decisions are becoming more often made on the basis “appeals to emotion and personal belief” than on “objective facts.”

Let’s look at the realm of religion for a moment. I am often in discussions with conservative and traditional-minded Roman Catholics. Sadly, they are in a constant state of agitation, anger and sorrow over the state of the Roman Catholic Church, and I have great sympathy for them.

They believe that Christ himself built the “One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” (Nicene Creed), gave it a deposit of Faith that they are to contend for (Jude 3) and guard (I Tim. 6:20), and that the gates of hell will never prevail against Christ’s One, True Church (Matt. 16:18), so they cannot understand why their Church has been in a constant state of crisis, turmoil and decay for so long.

THE CRISIS IN THE CHURCH

The Church of Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet is one of the most illustrious Roman Catholic churches in formerly Roman Catholic, but now utterly secular Paris, France. It has a long and venerable history. Father Denis Puga (FSSPX) is the new parish priest at the Church of Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet. In the June 2017 issue of his parish newsletter he wrote:

Shortly before undergoing His terrible Passion, Our Lord solemnly warned His disciples: “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat’”(Luke, 22, 31). This warning is also for us today, as the Church, following Her Master, is undergoing a terrible crucifixion. Our Church has been abandoned and betrayed. Our Church has been taken over.

The prudence of a combatant requires that he must never underestimate his adversary. St. Paul tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the princes of darkness. Our adversary? The Demon himself, the Prince of this world, as Jesus was to point out often with great precision. 

We cannot sanctify ourselves outside the present concrete situation of the Holy Catholic Church, the Ark of Salvation which, alone, can lead us safe and sound onto the shores of eternal life.

Now, this Church – we have to acknowledge – is in a catastrophic state, like “a boat leaking water in every side” according to a recent Pope despite the fact that he himself, in his lifetime, contributed  in causing many of the leaks. 

Our Church, for some years now, is as if possessed by an alien spirit, not the Spirit of God: this spirit of the Council which has taken possession of everything, which has insinuated its way everywhere. All of it truly resembles diabolical possession.

The website of the National Catholic Register, “A Service of EWTN”, had an article on the crisis in the Roman Catholic Church dated June 21, 2017, titled, Monsignor Bux: We Are in a Full Crisis of Faith. The article reports:

Theologian and former consulter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith calls on the Pope to make a declaration of faith, warning that unless the Pope safeguards doctrine, he cannot impose discipline.

To resolve the current crisis in the Church over papal teaching and authority, the Pope must make a declaration of faith, affirming what is Catholic and correcting his own “ambiguous and erroneous” words and actions that have been interpreted in a non-Catholic manner.

This is according to Monsignor Nicola Bux, a respected theologian and former consulter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during Benedict XVI’s pontificate.

In the following interview with the Register, Msgr. Bux explains that the Church is in a “full crisis of faith” and that the storms of division the Church is currently experiencing are due to apostasy — the “abandonment of Catholic thought.”

Father Denis Puga (FSSPX), the new pastor at the Church of Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet in Paris says that “Our Church has been abandoned and betrayed.  Our Church has been taken over” and that the Roman Catholic Church today “truly resembles diabolical possession.” 

The National Catholic Register, owned by Mother Angelica’s EWTN says. “Msgr. Bux explains that the Church is in a ‘full crisis of faith’ and that the storms of division the Church is currently experiencing are due to apostasy — the ‘abandonment of Catholic thought.’” According to the article in the National Catholic Register, “the Pope must make a declaration of faith, affirming what is Catholic and correcting his own ‘ambiguous and erroneous’ words and actions...

In the interview Msgr. Bux is asked, “Monsignor Bux, what are the implications of the ‘doctrinal anarchy’ that people see happening for the Church, the souls of the faithful and priests?” 

Msgr. Bux answers, “The first implication of doctrinal anarchy for the Church is division, caused by apostasy, which is the abandonment of Catholic thought, as defined by St. Vincent of Lerins: quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditur (what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all).”

Msgr. Bux is completely correct! “The first implication of doctrinal anarchy for the Church is division, caused by apostasy, which is the abandonment of Catholic thought, as defined by St. Vincent of Lerins: quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditur (what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all).

VATICAN II?

Most traditional Roman Catholics point to the Second Vatican Council as the source of the the apostasy that has taken over the Roman Catholic Church, with many going so far as to describe Vatican II as “the French Revolution in the Church.” But objective students of Church history know that the seeds of catastrophe that germinated at Vatican II and produced such bitter fruit were sown much earlier. 

For the first one thousand years of Christian history there was only one Church, and within this One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church there were five regional centres or Patriarchates: Rome (in Western Europe), Constantinople (in Eastern Europe/Asia Minor), Alexandria in Egypt, Antioch, in Syria “where the disciples were first called Christians” according to the Book of Acts, and Jerusalem (the Mother Church) in the Holy Land.

At the Councils of Nicea in AD 325 and Constantinople in 381 this undivided Catholic Church wrote the Nicene Creed which has long been recited Sunday after Sunday by Catholic Christians. With the Nicene Creed complete, the third Ecumenical Council which met in Ephesus in the year 431 forbade and anathematized any additions to the Nicene Creed.  The entire Church, East and West, held the same Faith and recited the same Creed for centuries.

Then, in 1014, Rome unilaterally changed the Nicene Creed by adding the Filioque clause (“and the Son”) in violation of the third Ecumenical Council and coming under its anathema, and in contradiction of the clear teaching of the New Testament about the procession of the Holy Spirit (John 15:26). This was not a minor change. It was huge in that it affected Trinitarian theology! It was a seismic shift in the Faith, with repercussions that are still being felt today. Anyone who is not aware of the significance of this change in doctrine should carefully read:

FILIOQUISM IS ARIAN SUBORDINATIONISM APPLIED TO THE SPIRIT


The change in the Nicene Creed led to the Great Schism or division in the year 1054.  As Msgr. Bux has said, “The first implication of doctrinal anarchy for the Church is division, caused by apostasy, which is the abandonment of Catholic thought, as defined by St. Vincent of Lerins: quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditur (what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all).

The Patriarchate of Rome, which had changed the Nicene Creed and abandoned Catholic thought as defined by the Canon of St. Vincent of Lerins, caused a great division or schism in the Church, separating itself from the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem all of which were determined to preserve the Catholic Faith unchanged. Those who maintained the Nicene Creed and the Catholic Faith unchanged are known as the Orthodox, or Orthodox Catholics. The word Orthodox means both Correct Doctrine and Correct Worship. 

The Roman Patriarchate, having separated from the other four Patriarchates eventually became known as the Roman Catholic Church. Search the ancient documents if you like. You will nowhere find the term “Roman Catholic” used anywhere to describe the  Church before the Great Schism. The undivided Church was never called the Roman Catholic Church.

After the Great Schism, Rome tragically continued to change the Faith in violation of the Canon of St. Vincent of Lerins which describes the Catholic Faith as “quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditur (what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all),” ultimately leading to an explosion called the Protestant Reformation (really Revolution) in 1517, which splintered Western Christendom. 

ROME - THE CENTRE OF UNITY?

Modern Roman Catholics are taught that the pope is the visible head of the Church and  that the papal ministry is absolutely essential for the unity of the Church. But is this teaching objectively true, or is it post-truth? Is it based on “objective facts” or based on “appeals to emotion and personal belief”? 

Shall we look at the objective facts of history? For a thousand years there was but One Church, comprised of five ancient Patriarchates, reciting the same Creed, believing in the same Deposit of Faith, and governed in a conciliar manner. Then in 1014, the Patriarchate of Rome changed the Creed of the Church by adding the Filioque clause (“and the Son”), causing the Great Schism in 1054, with Rome falling away from doctrinal unity with the other four ancient Patriarchates and coming under the anathema of the third Ecumenical Council. Rather than the centre of unity, Rome was the cause of division.

In the 14th and early 15th centuries the (now separate) Roman Catholic Church experienced what historians call the Great Western Schism, with rival popes in Rome and Avignon hurling anathemas at one another, and dividing Western Europe into countries that recognized one or the other papal claimants. At one time there were even three rival popes. No one could know for sure who the real legitimate pope was. Rather than the centre of unity, Rome was the cause of further division.

Rome continued to change the Faith and Order of the Western Church until, about a century after the healing of the Great Western Schism, an explosion called the Protestant Reformation began in 1517 over the innovation of indulgences. The Reformation was really a Revolution, as the Roman Catholic Church was splintered into an ever growing number of Protestant sects until today there are by some estimates more than 30,000 competing Protestant denominations, plus uncountable numbers of independent, nondenominational and interdenominational local churches - all claiming to descend from the Protestant Reformation. Rather than a centre of unity, Rome was the cause of division.

The Counter Reformation continued to change the Roman Church even more, with such new dogmas being declared as the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and Papal infallibility in 1870. How could new dogmas be legitimately added to the Deposit of Faith “once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) more than 1800 years after the birth of the Church? Some claim that these dogmas were always held by the Church and were only officially “defined” in the 19th century, but they were unknown to the Eastern Christians, have never been held by the Orthodox, and had not been accepted as dogmas in the West at the time of the Reformation or they would have been hotly debated then.

What most traditional Roman Catholics do not know is that the notion of an Immaculate Conception which was only beginning to be raised in some circles in the post-Great Schism Roman Church was strongly opposed by such thinkers as Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Aquinas as dangerous innovations. Sadly, today there are calls being made by many traditional Roman Catholics to add two more Marian dogmas: that Our Lady is Co-Redemptrix, and Mediator of All Graces, despite the fact that the declaration of new dogmas are a violation of the Canon of St. Vincent of Lerins that the Catholic Faith is “quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditur (what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all).”

In 1870, Rome added yet another new dogma - Papal Infallibility. What most traditional Roman Catholics do not know about is the political maneuvering and tremendous pressure used by Pope Pius IX to get this new dogma declared. Ecumenical Councils are to meet free of outside pressure and their decisions must be unanimous or nearly so. Vatican I was anything but a free Council, and when Pius IX saw that he could not get a near unanimous vote he changed the rules and required only a majority. The night before the vote many bishops left Rome knowing that under the new rules a tragic new innovation would be pushed through. When the vote was taken many bishops were already gone, and lightening struck St. Peter’s where the bishops were meeting during the vote. 

Many Roman Catholics refused to accept the new dogma of Papal Infallibility saying that a New Catholic Faith had been invented at the Vatican Council. Sound familiar? It should as many say the same thing about Vatican II. Professing the “Old Catholic” faith, many Roman Catholics separated from Rome and entered the Orthodox Church or formed Old Catholic Churches in Europe and the United States. Once again, rather than a centre of unity, Rome was a cause of division.

Less than a century after the First Vatican Council ended the Second Vatican Council met in Rome. All of the changes in doctrine and practice adopted over some nine centuries made it easy to again “change the Church” at and after the Second Vatican Council. After all, instead of guarding the Deposit of Faith, Rome had come to teach the idea of “the development of doctrine” in an effort to justify her various changes in “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The Second Vatican Council led to a complete break with the Tradition, and has been rightly called, “the French Revolution in the Church.” This revolution has led large numbers of traditional Roman Catholics to leave the Post-Conciliar Church or to exist in the shadows on its outer fringes. Once again, rather than a centre of unity, Rome has been the cause of division.

Today, every time a new pope is elected the world media and the Roman Catholic faithful speculate as to how the new pope will “change the Church.” But the Church is not supposed to change. Instead, Christians are commanded to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

While Protestantism is divided into countless sects, Rome - as we have seen - is actually the source of division rather than the centre of unity. Even the Roman Church itself is badly divided internally today between liberal modernists, charismatics, milk-toast “moderates,” novus ordo conservatives of all shades, and traditionalists who have staked out various positions on the outer edges of the Post-Conciliar Church or, in the case of the Sedevacantists, beyond it.

What has been the fruit of 1,000 years of Roman separation from the Orthodox Church and doctrinal innovation after innovation? The Great Schism in 1054, the Protestant Revolution that shattered Western Christendom in 1517, and the French Revolution in the Roman Church at Vatican II.

WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

What is the answer for traditional Roman Catholics who love our Lord and his Blessed Mother and who are committed the ancient Deposit of Faith? The Holy Scriptures point the way:

If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).

The answer is not to try to turn the clock back to just before Vatican II as Roman Catholic traditionalists of all varieties often claim. As we have seen, the problems did not originate at Vatican II. They are much older than that. 

The “Undivided” Church of the first millennium had five great Patriarchates or branches. When the Roman Patriarchate changed the Nicene Creed and caused the Great Schism in 1054, the Roman branch was severed from the other four. A great branch severed from a tree still looks green and alive. The larger it is the longer it takes to wither and die. Likewise, the Roman branch still looked strong and vigorous when it was first broken from the Vine, but as we have seen in our survey of Church history it was in fact slowly rotting away until the rot became fully apparent after Vatican II. All of what had long been called Christendom in Western Europe and the Americas has now become post-Christian.

What traditional Roman Catholics need to do is to ask for the old paths and go back to the eleventh century and repair the breach where it began. Everyone agrees that the Orthodox Church still holds the Faith of the “Undivided” Church. The Orthodox Church holds today what all five Patriarchates held during the first millennium of Christian history when there was essentially only One Church. This is an indisputable fact of history that no serious historian or theologian questions. The Orthodox Church has unquestionably guarded the Deposit of Faith. The Orthodox Church is the oldest Church in the world, the original Church, and remains unchanged and unchanging.

The Orthodox Church has never added to or subtracted from the “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), and has never suffered a Reformation, Counter Reformation, or a Revolution as seen at and after the Second Vatican Council. There are no problems with liberal modernism in the Orthodox Church, no waffling on moral teachings, and no movements for women priests, liturgical innovation, or the definition of new dogmas. Despite having no “earthly head” and maintaining the primitive Christian decentralized ecclesiastical structure, the Orthodox Church remains fully united and hasn’t suffered serious schism since 1054. The Orthodox Catholic Church is today what she was 1,000 years ago, 1,500 years ago, 2,000 years ago.

Historically, Rome has claimed that the Orthodox Church is in “schism.” Let’s examine that claim for a moment. The Roman Patriarchate unilaterally changed the Nicene Creed and therefore the Faith of the Church in the year 1014. The other four ancient Patriarchates held to the Creed that the Church had always professed and refused to change the Faith. Rome then found herself under the anathema of the third Ecumenical Council and separated from the other four Patriarchates. It was Rome who chose to change the faith and fell under the anathema of a great Ecumenical Council, not the Eastern Patriarchates. It was Rome who fell away into schism and heresy. The Eastern Patriarchates maintained the Orthodox Catholic Faith unchanged, and continue to do so today.

In the 20th century the Orthodox Church went through the worst persecution in Christian history. More martyrs died for Christ in 70 years under Soviet Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe than were martyred during the first three centuries of persecution under pagan Rome. Yet today, Communism has gone the way of the dinosaur and the Orthodox Church in Russia and throughout Eastern Europe is undergoing a revival and resurgence that is absolutely unprecedented in Christian history. Tragically, this too is something that most Roman Catholics know little or nothing about. They are still praying for the conversion of Russia when they should be praying for the conversion of Italy and the West. Russia has always been consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and historically has been called the Garden of the Mother of God!

The current persecution of Orthodox Christians in the Middle East has not shaken their faith or weakened their resolve either, and God will undoubtedly use it for good and will bring an Orthodox Christian resurgence in the Moslem dominated Middle East as the blood of the martyrs is the Seed of the Church. The gates of hell have indeed not prevailed against the Orthodox Church just as Christ had promised.

This unprecedented Orthodox revival and resurgence has spread throughout the world. In America the Orthodox Church is one of only a handful of Christian bodies that is growing, and the growth is not through immigration. The percentage of foreign born Orthodox Christians is no larger than the percentage in the population at large. Today 23% of all Orthodox Christians in the United States - about one in four - are converts, as are 30% of the clergy and 43% of seminarians. The numbers are staggering! The Orthodox Church is experiencing a New Springtime, a New Pentecost, and is hard at work re-evangelizing the post-Christian West.

THE RESTORATION OF THE WESTERN CHURCH

An important part of this revival and resurgence is the restoration of the Western Rite in the Orthodox Church and the rebuilding of the Western Church. There are now Western Rite Orthodox congregations and monastic communities in North America, Puerto Rico, Great Britain and the British Commonwealth, and on the Continent of Europe, and their numbers are growing and their communities spreading. Western Rite Communities now exist within the Patriarchates of Moscow, Antioch, Romania and Serbia, with the Western Rite Communities of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) being the largest and fastest growing. 

For more information please visit the website of the ROCOR Western Rite Communities:


and the Facebook page of Holy Cross Parish, the Western Rite Orthodox parish in Omaha, Nebraska that I pastor:


I invite you to Like our Holy Cross Parish Facebook page and to become a Follower of it. Interesting, enlightening and inspiring information is posted regularly.

Today, traditional Roman Catholics who enter the Orthodox Church can worship essentially as they always have, only in full sacramental communion and visible unity with the 300 million member Orthodox Catholic Church. Rather than looking back to the 1950s or to the Council of Trent (which isn’t even as old as the Protestant Reformation!) they can fully embrace the Faith and Order of the “Undivided” Church, the Faith of the Church Fathers, the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the Canon of St. Vincent of Lerins. 

Large numbers of Roman Catholics have already come home to the Orthodox Church and more are coming home every day, but I still find many who know they should come home, but have not yet done so. Sadly, unknowingly, many have embraced the modern notion of post-truth. Rather than dealing with the objective facts, many heed appeals to emotion and retreat, like Protestants, into the realm of personal belief.

I am a convert priest myself and my parish and I have just celebrated our fifth Easter in the Orthodox Church, and we could not be happier. Over the years I have known and worked with Roman Catholics who have become Orthodox Catholics from the Mother Angelica wing of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as from parishes of the Fraternity of St. Peter, the Society of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, the Society of St. Pius X, and the Sedevacantist CMRI. 

Pope John Paul II said, “If at the beginning of the third millennium we are to overcome the divisions of the second millennium, we must return to the consensus of the first millennium.” He was right of course, and the Faith and Order of Orthodox Catholicism is the consensus of the first millennium - that of the “Undivided” Church. 

For a millennium, since causing the Great Schism in 1054, Rome has been the cause of division after division in the West, leading to the splintering of Western Christendom and ultimately to the secularization of the West. But the Orthodox Church is restoring the breach, reuniting Western Christians in the consensus of the first millennium, re-evangelizing the post-Christian West and rebuilding the Western Church.

Traditional-minded Roman Catholic clergy, laity, congregations, religious and religious communities are welcomed with love and open arms. Come and join us in the Work of rebuilding the Western Church and re-evangelizing the post-Christian West. Instead of being angry and frustrated with what you see going on in the Roman Church, you will be at peace spiritually, excited about what God is doing around you, in you and through you, and filled with great hope for the future. 

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).

And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in” (Isaiah 58:12).

We love being Orthodox. You will too. Everyone is welcome. Come and See!

If I can answer any questions for you or help in any way please feel free to contact me by phone at (402) 573-6558 or by email: venovak@hughes.net

May God grant you every grace and blessing,

Fr. Victor+

Fr. Victor Novak
Rector
HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
(402) 573-6558