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!