We are blessed at Holy Cross parish. Two years ago we were part of a small English and Celtic (Anglican) branch torn from the Vine, struggling merely to hold onto the faith while our broken branch was tossed about by every wind of doctrine. Today, we are reunited with Orthodox Christians around the world. No longer a broken branch, we have been grafted back into the Vine and are now in full sacramental communion with first century Orthodox Christian communities in the Holy City of Jerusalem, the mother Church of Christendom; Antioch where the book of Acts says the disciples were first called Christians; and Egypt where the Evangelist St. Mark brought the Gospel. We are now fully united with hundreds of millions of Orthodox Christians on every Continent on earth!
We have a family in the parish traveling to Italy this summer and they asked me to find a church for them to attend. I sent them contact information for 167 Orthodox parishes in Italy. I could have found more, but I thought that should give them enough choices! Here in the United States there around 2,000 congregations, with hundreds more in Canada, along with about eighty monastic communities. We have two colleges, many seminaries (plus distance education opportunities), and parochial schools.
By being grafted back into the Orthodox Church from which our English (Anglican) forbearers were torn away against their will by the Norman Conquest in AD 1066, we have not abandoned our English and Celtic heritage and patrimony, but preserved it. Reunited with the whole, the Holy Spirit has breathed new life into Western Orthodoxy and the Western Church is being rebuilt. This is an exciting time to be alive. Rather than circling our wagons and trying to merely hang on and preserve our Faith and patrimony as we had been forced to do for a generation, we are part of a new movement of the Holy Spirit and have a role in rebuilding the Western Church. There are already dozens of Western Rite Orthodox congregations and monastic communities in North America, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and on the Continent of Europe, and this is just the beginning. We are finally free to flourish in union with the whole. We no longer have to fight our own Church - our Church fights for us!
Our Lord founded His Church nearly 2,000 years ago, promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against it, commanded that we "hear [obey] the Church," and said that He would be with His Church until the end of the age when He returns to inaugurate His Kingdom in its fullness. For a thousand years there was essentially one Church. There were five regional Patriarchates or administrative centers in the Church: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria in Egypt, Antioch, and Jerusalem. In AD 1054, Rome unilaterally changed the Nicene Creed and fell away from unity, eventually becoming known as the Roman Catholic Church. The other four Patriarchates, 80% of the Church, maintained the Creed as written and is known as the Orthodox (Right Worship/Right Belief) Church or the Orthodox Catholic Church. In 1054, the English Church (ecclesia anglicana) did not accept the Roman innovations and remained loyal to the Orthodox Christian Faith. This led to the Norman Conquest in 1066. All but one of the native English bishops were replaced by Normans and the Church of England was forced into submission.
After Rome changed the Nicene Creed the Roman Church continued to make changes in the Faith leading to the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant Reformation shattered Western Christendom like a hammer blow against a glass window. Today, according to the journal First Things, there are 45,000 divided and competing Western Christian denominations, with an expected 70,000 by 2050. These 45,000 are denominations, and this number does not take into consideration the vast numbers of independent, interdenominational and nondenominational local congregations. In addition to all of this chaos, there remains the one Orthodox Catholic Church, still unchanged and unchanging, earnestly contending for the faith once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3) and committed to the Canon of St. Vincent of Lerins that the Catholic Faith is that which has been believed, "everywhere, always and by all."
It is no longer necessary to become Eastern in order to be an Orthodox Christian. The Western Church which fell away in 1054, is being rebuilt. St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco said, "Never, never, never let anyone tell you that in order to be Orthodox you must be Eastern. The West was Orthodox for a thousand years."
A visit to Holy Cross parish on a Sunday morning will find us worshipping according to the English Use of the Western Rite. The Music we use for the Ordinary of the Mass is the familiar Merbecke, with Gregorian chant used for the Propers. There are no "cradle Orthodox" at Holy Cross parish. We are all converts. We come from backgrounds as different as Anglican is from Baptist, and the Assemblies of God from Roman Catholicism, yet we have all united together on the basis of the Faith and Order of the Undivided Church.
John Paul II had 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." What he said was true. We have embraced the consensus of the first millennium — and we invite you to do the same. Whatever your Christian tradition may be today, your ancestors were Orthodox Christians until at least 1054.
The doors to Holy Cross parish and to the Western Rite of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) are wide open, the welcome mat is out, and the lights are on. Everyone is always welcome. Join with us and become a part of rebuilding the Western Church in America and throughout the Western world. This is a move of the Holy Spirit and you can have a part in it!