Friday, May 29, 2015


The Western Rite Within Orthodoxy

Throughout the first millennium of Christian history the Western Rites existed within the Orthodox Church side by side with the Eastern Rites. Even after the Great Schism of AD 1054, England remained Orthodox until the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Norman Invasion was seen as a crusade to restore the English Church to Rome. After conquering England, the Normans replaced all but one of the English bishops with Normans and forced the Church into submission to Rome.

Western Rite Christians also continued in full communion with the Orthodox Church in Constantinople and other Eastern cities until they were finally absorbed into the Eastern Rite sometime in the thirteenth century. A Benedictine monastery, Amalfion, existed on Mount Athos until 1287, surviving the Great Schism of 1054, the Roman Catholic conquest of Mount Athos in 1204, and the Roman Catholic retreat from Mount Athos in 1261, closing only due to the difficulty of getting vocations from the West. 

A vast number of Orthodox Saints, including many Holy Fathers of the Church, were spiritually nurtured by the Western Rites. The Western Church produced such great spiritual luminaries as Saints Ambrose of Milan, Gregory of Tours, Benedict of Nursia, Leo the Great, Gregory the Great (the Dialogist), Patrick of Ireland, Aidan, Columba, Hilda of Whitby, Bede the Venerable, Jerome, and Augustine of Hippo.

With the closing of Amalfion, the Benedictine monastery on Mount Athos in 1287, the use of the Western Rite, which had been celebrated on the Holy Mountain for more than 300 years, and in the Orthodox Church for nearly thirteen centuries, came to a temporary end.

The English Reformation

The English Reformation which began in 1534, was different from the Reformation on the continent of Europe. No new Church was formed. The Reformation in England was conducted by the bishops themselves with the goal of restoring the Faith and Order of the undivided Church. The work of reform and restoration in the English Church was continued by the Caroline Divines of the 17th century, and the Oxford Movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) wrote, “This [Anglican] appeal to antiquity has led many Anglicans to look with sympathy and interest at the Orthodox Church, and equally it has led many Orthodox to look with interest and sympathy to Anglicanism... firm bonds of Anglo-Orthodox solidarity were established by the end of the nineteenth century” (The Orthodox Church, by Kallistos (Timothy) Ware, Penguin, c. 1993, p. 318). 

Western Orthodox Rebirth

With the declaration of Papal Infallibility by the First Vatican Council in 1870, many concerned Roman Catholics began to rethink their Faith and to call themselves Old Catholics, rejecting what they considered to be a new Faith introduced by the Council. Some of these Old Catholics turned their eyes to the East, to the unchanging Orthodox Catholic Church.

In the wake of the First Vatican Council the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church authorized the use of a corrected Roman Rite by Roman Catholics who were returning to the Orthodox Church. 

In the United States, the restoration of the Western Rites began in 1891 when Bishop Vladimir (Sokolovsky), the Russian Orthodox Bishop of Alaska, formally received a parish of Swiss Old Catholics at Dykesville, near Fon du Lac, Wisconsin.

In 1898 a Western Rite Diocese of Moravia and Silesia was organized in Czechoslovakia by the Russian Orthodox Church.

In 1904, Archbishop Tikhon (Belavin) and Bishop Raphael (Hawaweeny), assisted by Fr. John Kochuroff - all three of whom would later be canonized as Saints - petitioned the Holy Synod of Russia to permit the adaption of the Services of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer for use by Orthodox Christians. In 1907, a commission of the Holy Synod of Russia reported in favor of an adaption of the Book of Common Prayer for use by Western converts, and set out the criteria for adaption. The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted the report. 

A good beginning was made at restoring the Western Rite, but the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the brutal persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church made the development of this work very difficult and it progressed very slowly. Yet, despite the difficulties, Western Rite congregations and monastic communities were established in both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

In 1958, the Patriarchate of Antioch adopted the provisions of the Russian Holy Synod and authorized the restoration of the Western Rite. In 1961, the Western Rite Vicariate was erected in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, with Archpriest Alexander Turner as Vicar General.

Beginning in the 1970s, a growing number of Catholic Anglicans began to see that  due to the changes in their Church, corporate reunion between the Anglican and Orthodox Churches was becoming impossible. Many Anglicans began to enter the Orthodox Church and there are now English Use Western Rite congregations in both the Russian and the Antiochian Orthodox Churches. 

Western Rite Orthodoxy Today

Today there are Western Rite congregations and monasteries in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, with smaller works in the Romanian and Serbian Orthodox Churches. The Western Rite of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is both the largest and fastest growing, with ten Western rite ordinations in the past six months alone.

There are now more than fifty Western Rite Orthodox congregations and monastic communities in the United States, with more in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, and on the continent of Europe. Various Western Rites and Usages are in use, including the Roman, the English, and the Gallican

The Western Rite has been restored to the Orthodox Catholic Church, the post-Christian West is beginning to be re-evangelized and the Western Church rebuilt. This is a move of the Holy Spirit.

St. John (Maximovich) of San Francisco said, “Never, never, never let anyone tell you that, in order to be Orthodox, you must be Eastern. The West was fully Orthodox for a thousand years...”

Come and see. The Orthodox Church welcomes you!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Western Rite Orthodoxy continues to grow and the Western Church continues to be rebuilt. So far in May there have been three Western Rite ordinations, with another ordination to the priesthood  scheduled for later in the month. In addition, two new mission congregations have been established — one in Georgia and the other in West Virginia. All of the ordinations were conducted by His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion.

Joseph (Burt) Weigen was ordained to the order of Subdeacon. Subdeacon Joseph has been assigned to serve at Christminster, an Orthodox Benedictine monastery in Niagra Falls, New York.

Matthias (Miles) Brookes was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood and assigned to minister in the Maine Missions. Fr. Matthias was an Anglican clergyman for over 30 years.

Nicholas Poulin was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood and assigned to minister in the Maine Missions.

Metropolitan Hilarion also issued decrees establishing two new mission congregations: The Western Rite Mission of St Mary the Virgin in Madison, Georgia, with Fr Irenaeus Watson as Priest in Charge; and the Western Rite Mission of St Patrick in Parkersburg West Virginia, with Fr Mark Rowe as Priest in Charge and Gregory Myers as the local contact. Fr. Mark Rowe is a former Anglican priest and is Dean of the ROCOR Western Rite parishes in North America and the United Kingdom.

With six ordinations in December and four more in May, there will have been ten Western Rite ordinations in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) in the last six months.

Next month will be two years since Holy Cross became a Western Rite Orthodox parish. We were received into ROCOR from the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) in June of 2013. Anglicans and other Western Christians can now enter the Orthodox Church while preserving their Western cultural, liturgical and spiritual heritage and patrimony. 

The Orthodox Church is growing rapidly all around the world with some 300 million members. The Russian Orthodox Church alone, with 165 million members, is more than twice the size of the entire Anglican Communion! In the United States there are around 2,000 local congregations and some 80 monastic communities, with hundreds more in Canada. There are many parochial schools, two colleges and more than half a dozen seminaries, plus distance learning programs. There are mission agencies, college ministries, prison ministries, publishing houses, military chaplaincies, and much, much more. In the United States 23% (nearly one in four!) of Orthodox Christians are converts. In our own Synod, three bishops are converts: two from Anglicanism and one from Roman Catholicism. There are dozens of Western Rite Orthodox congregations and monastic communities in North America, with more in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and on the Continent of Europe, and our numbers keep growing.

The Western Church is being rebuilt and we have a part in it. This is the true Reformation and Restoration that so many Western Christians have prayed and longed for. It is a move of the Holy Spirit. Wouldn't it be a blessing to be part of a move of the Holy Spirit? To be a part of making Church history? You can be. The door is open, the welcome mat is out, and there is room for all who would faithfully follow Christ. Everyone is welcome. No one is excluded. Come and see!

Friday, May 1, 2015


For the past 500 years Western Christians have been debating how we are saved. Protestants see salvation as something completely external to man, and profess the doctrine that we are saved by faith alone. To illustrate this, Dr. Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, described Christians as “dunghills covered by snow.”

Roman Catholics on the other hand have insisted that man is saved by faith and good works. Of course no one knows how many good works are necessary for salvation. Roman Catholics are taught that it is necessary to have faith and to live a good moral life. 

What does the Orthodox Church teach about salvation? The Orthodox Church does not teach that we are saved by faith alone, or by faith and good works. The Orthodox Church teaches that we are saved by Jesus Christ.

Salvation is described as theosis. Through Christ we may be born from above, enter into union with God, be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4), and become by grace what Jesus Christ is by nature. The Good News is not that we are saved in our sins (dunghills covered by snow), or that we can improve morally and become better people through faith in Christ; but that we can become a new creation in Christ. This is the teaching of the Church of the first millennium (the “Undivided” Church), and it remains the teaching of the Orthodox Church today.

The goal of the English Reformation was to restore the Faith and Order of the "Undivided" Church. Some Anglicans understand this. Most however, have never understood this or have forgotten it. Most  have become involved in the Reformation/Post Reformation debates, see Anglicanism as an “ism,” and are content in their own separate denomination. Even if they call it a "branch," it is a branch broken from the Vine. Most Anglicans have come to accept either the Protestant view that we are saved by faith alone, or the Roman Catholic teaching that we are saved by faith and good works.

CS Lewis was one of those Anglicans who understood the goal of the English Reformation, and embraced the Faith of the “Undivided” Church of the first millennium. Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) says, "Again and again we have found that CS Lewis articulates a vision of Christian truth which a member of the Orthodox Church can whole heartedly endorse. His starting point may be that of a Western Christian, but repeatedly his conclusions are Orthodox, with a large as well as a small 'o'."

In his classic work, Mere Christianity, CS Lewis dealt with salvation as theosis. He wrote:

“‘Niceness’—wholesome, integrated personality—is an excellent thing. We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our power to produce a world whereas many people as possible grow up ‘nice’; just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save. 

“For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders—no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings—may even give it an awkward appearance” - Book IV, ch. 10.

“People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, ‘If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.’ I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature…Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other” - Book III, ch. 4.

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible” - Book III, ch. 9.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself” - Book IV, ch. 9.

CS Lewis’ understanding of salvation as theosis was the understanding of the Church of the first millennium in both the East and the West, including that of Blessed Augustine of Hippo. St. Augustine has been misused by both Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. This is obvious from the fact that though claiming him as their own they have come to opposite theological conclusions! 

The Protestant Reformers used proof texts from the writings of St. Augustine, usually from his writings against the Pelagians, to support their novel teachings; while Roman Catholicism reads St. Augustine through the later Schoolmen (Scholasticism) rather than letting him speak for himself. 

Some Christians even claim that St. Augustine was responsible for the theological divisions between Eastern and Western Christendom, but that is not correct. George Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou wrote, “[Georges] Florovsky [the great Russian Orthodox theologian] did not hold Augustine responsible for the theological divisions between eastern and western christianity. Otherwise, it would be difficult to imagine Florovsky referring to Augustine as ‘a Father of the Church Universal’” (Orthodox Readings of Augustine, SVS Press, 2008, p. 27). 

Regarding salvation as theosis, St. Augustine wrote: 

“O men and women, do not cease to hope that you can become children of God, because the very Son of God - that is, God’s Word - has been made flesh and has dwelt among us. Make your return to him; become spirit and dwell in him who has become flesh and dwelt among you. For we have no reason not to hope that by participating in the Word, we humans can become children of God, since the Son of God, by participating in our flesh, has become a son of man. We changeable beings, therefore, transformed into something better, become participants in the Word. For the unchangeable Word, not at all transformed for the worse, was made a sharer in flesh through the mediation of a rational soul” - Ep. 140, to Honoratus.

St. Augustine teaches that we become children of God by participation in the Word who, “being made a partaker of our mortality, made us partakers in his divinity” - Trin. 4.2.4

CS Lewis is not the only Anglican who understood salvation as theosis, “one can find it as a recurring theme within Anglicanism: in Lancelot Andrewes (17th c.), the hymnody of John and Charles Wesley (18th c.), Edward B. Pusey (19th c.), and A. M. Allchin and E. Charles Miller (20th c.)” - Theosis, Orthodoxwiki. 

For those Anglicans who understand the goal of the English Reformation and, like CS Lewis, have embraced the faith of the "Undivided" Church without addition or diminution, it is possible to unite with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church while preserving their English and Celtic cultural, liturgical and spiritual heritage and patrimony. There are now Western Rite Orthodox congregations and monastic communities in North America, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and on the continent of Europe, and our numbers are growing.

Redemption means much more than forgiveness of sins and moral improvement, as important as they are. Redemption means living in union with God, partaking of the Divine nature, and becoming a new creation. As CS Lewis said, “For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature.”