Saint Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church

Saint Nicholas

Western Rite Orthodoxy

The Western Rite Ceremonial



The western rites of the Holy Orthodox Church have now been in use for more than
a century.

The intitial action taken by the Holy Synod of Moscow established a "typical" text
for the Gregorian Rite in the 1870's. At the request of Archbishop (later Patriarch
of Moscow) St. Tikhon of America, the Holy Synod of Moscow issued a learned critique
and changes required for conforming of the American Anglican Book of Common Prayer
(1892) for use by Orthodox Christians just after the turn of the Century. On May 31st
1958 His Beatitude, Alexander III, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East [of thrice-
blessed memory], in consultation with the heads of the other Autocephalous Orthodox
Churches, authorised His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony (Bashir) [of thrice-blessed
memory] to establish the western rite in the Antiochian Archdiocese of All North America.

The enunciated prupose for the establishing of the western rite is (1.) to privide a home
in the Hole Orthodox Church for western people of non-Byzantine cultural and religious
heritage, and (2.) To witness to the CATHOLICITY of the Orthodox Church to her
Byzantine-rite people, priests and theologians.

The faith of the western rite is the Faith of the Holy Orthodox Church. The parishes
of the western rites are specifically directed to conform to the main-stream of
pedagogical and theological standards established at St. Vladimir's Seminary,
in New York.

The term "rite" encompasses many important technical issues: the liturgical texts,
the calendar, the regulations of fasting, the vestments, the required matter for the
sacraments, daily prayers of the reverend clergy, clerical attire, theological formation
and education and many other aspects of life. Our liturgical texts are approved by the
Western Rite Commission and Vicariate of the Archdiocese. From the out-set, the
Western Rite Commission has included clergy, theologians and scholars from our
Archdiocese, as well as eminent authorities from other canonical jurisdictions of the
Orthodox Church. The western rite, because it is an intregal part of the Orthodox
Church, is spiritually "at one" with the entire Orthodox world. It is not just "an Antiochian
thing," but rather invloves the whole world of Orthodoxy. Western rite Orthodoxy is never
parochial, eccentric, sui generis nor "congregational" in spirit, but always looks to the
well-being of the whole Body of the faithful.

Approved liturgical texts for the Sacraments have been published by the Archdiocese:
The Orthodox Missal (including both the Gregorian rite and the St. Tikhon Liturgy), the
Orthodox Ritual, the English Office Book, and other authorised and mandated
liturgical texts. There is no authority for any "home-made," extemporaneous, trial or
experimental liturgies. Yhe Church functions under the authority of Christ, and her clergy
are under the authority of the hierarchs who hve been set as the arch-pastors over the
flock of Christ. As in all other matters, the reverend clergy function under the authority
mediated to them by the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, through our Metropolitan
Archbishop.

The fasting rules, vestments of the clergy, clerical attire and other ceremonial details
of the western rite are those of the dissident west in 1950. This date, it is to be noted,
considerably precedes the invocations of the so-called second Vatican "council." In fact,
the authorized western rite forms antedate even the earliest wave of changes instituted in
the West in the mid-and late 1950s.

The Western Rite Edict, and the resultant and subsidiary Commission and Vicariate
which oversees the rite, regulate a full-spectrum of the worship and life of the Church.
The daily offices are divided between the Brevarium Monasticum and the English
Office Book.
The official hymnal of the rite is Hymns Ancient and Modern, and the
Hymnal 1940 is authorised, in large part, for use.

The Sanctorale calendar of the western rite is the Roman Marturology, with any post-
schismatic heretical "saints" and feasts expunged. The western rite uses the common
Orthodox date for Holy Easter, and the Temporale Calendar is based on that date. The
Western Rite Vicariate publishes and annual ORDO delineating the feasts, fasting rules,
and regulations regarding the Calendar and similar related matters.

Because Liturgy is a living thing, organically connected to culture and the daily life of
Christians, there is some minor development and change from time to time in the manner
and way the ceremonies [not the texts] of the Liturgy are carried out. The ceremonial
actions are determined in large part by which of the two western rites are being used. In
the case of St. Augustine's Church, where the Gregorian Rite (the oldest Liturgy of the
Orthodox Church) is utilised, the authoritive source for our ceremonial is the exhaustive
work of eminent ceremonialists Adrian & Fortecue and the Revd J.B. O'Connell, S.J.
in their monumental work, The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described ninth and previous
editions). Those parishes which use the rite of St. Tikhon receive ceremonial direction from
Ritual Notes (eleventh and previous editions) which is and resource based almost entirely
on the seminal work of Fortescue and O'Connell. In some cases, more recent editions of
each book may also prove to be useful, but the older editions are always better sources
for specific ceremonial directions. The clergy are required and morally bound to follow these
authorities in their parishe ceremonial. The are not authorised to "male it up as they go
along." Pastors may be forced to adapt and modify the directions of ceremonial authorities,
because of local circumstances and church design, but the authoritive guides are always
followed as closely as possible. Certainly no modification of ceremonial in a modern and
contemporary direction is ever to undertaken. Orthodox Christians are "maximalists" not
"minimalists" (as the modernists are called).

The worship of the God of Glory should never be mean, common, nor mundane but rather,
ordered and authorised, always beautiful and splendid, raising our hearts and souls
to Heaven.


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