Saint Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church

Saint Nicholas

Western Rite Orthodoxy

WESTERN RITE ORTHODOXY is the use of the traditional Roman Catholic or Episcopalian
Services and Devotionals, as they were done before the changes of the last fifty years. The
Antiochian Archdiocese has made some modifications, which reflect proper Orthodox theology.

The primary service is the Gregorian Rite Roman Mass, or its Anglican derivative, the 1928
Book of Common Prayer (BCP) Holy Communion Service. The Gregorian Rite is the oldest
liturgy of the undivided Church still in use.
It was written before the time of Pope Damasus
(late fourth century), who is referred to in ancient texts as having made modifications to it.
Some believe it originated with St. Peter, when he came to Rome from Antioch, and St. Paul
may well also have used it when he came to Rome. The rite did not acquire its present name
until the time of St. Gregory the Great in the late Sixth Century.

It is certainly fitting that the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese should reinstitute the traditional
Western Rite for our use. Antioch was where they were first called Christians; where St. Peter
was bishop before he went to Rome; where St. Paul began his missionary journeys before
following Peter to Rome.

The Western Rite Orthodox Parish is a parish consisting entirely of converts. These are people,
who much like you, became unhappy with changes in the churches they belonged to. Some
found the responses of their former churches to their personal life situations to be rigid and
lacking pastoral sensitivity. The reinstitution of the traditional Western Rite is to provide a home
for people whose Christian roots, be they ever so fragile today, are in the ancient tradition of the
western Church. These are usually, but not necessarily, churches that have had a strong sacra-
mental or ceremonial nature to their worship services, such as the Roman Catholic, Episcopalian
or Lutheran traditions.

The Western Rite parish provides to its members the seven sacraments of the historic Church.
These are: Holy Baptism, Confirmation (Chrismation), Holy Communion (open only to confirmed/
chrismated members of the Orthodox Church), Confession (privately to a priest), Marriage (only
between a man and a woman. The Orthodox Church does accept remarriage after a period of
penance), Holy Orders (the Apostolic succession of bishops and the male only priesthood) and
the Anointing of the Sick (healing services)and the Dying (Extreme Unction).

The Orthodox Church believes and teaches unequivocally that confirmed/chrismated members of
the Western Rite Orthodox Parish receive the very Body and Blood of Christ when they make
their Holy Communion. We remain steadfast in the use of the traditional English language in our
services. We believe that the banality and dumbing down of the language of modern Christian
worship, present today in almost all modern western churches, is disrespectful of our own mental
capabilities. But most importantly, it fails to present our best to God. Our continued use of
traditional spoken and written English is repeated visually in our churches themselves. The barren,
austere, iconoclastic modern style of church art, decoration and architecture is totally rejected.

The Western Rite is a home for the person(s) or family who wants to return to the traditional western
services of the Church as they were practiced before the radical changes that have adulterated main-
stream Christianity over the last fifty years. It is about much more than the ritual of the services,
however. The Orthodox Church has much to say to western ears of the healing and restorative graces
of Christianity for the individual as well as the family in this perplexing modern world. Western Rite
Orthodoxy is not a cultic rejection of the world nor is it a charismatic experience. The Western Rite
provides a right western path to a renewed belief and restored faith in the Apostilic Church. It
addresses our personal and family spiritual needs, as well as our hopes for our community and the

It is about the Church which does not retreat the world as we find it, but gives each one of us the
grace and strength to work to change our lives as well as the world around us. The Western Rite
is about Christ's Church, which fosters a personal prayer life, time honored Christian morality
and a biblical faith for all who, in this complex modern world, seek her guidance in their lives.

What Western Rite Orthodoxy Is!

After that brief overview of the what and why of Western Rite Orthodoxy let us give a more
detailed description of the reemergence of the Western Rite in Orthodoxy. When the Western
Church (Roman) and the Eastern Church (Byzantine) separated, and while scholars disagree on
whether there was a specific date or a gradual separation between the two churches that was the
result of theological differences, the Rite of St. Gregory was lost to the Eastern Church.

During the late Nineteenth Century and early Twentieth Century various Roman and Anglican clergy
approached the Orthodox Church in North America about reintroducing this ancient liturgy into
the Church. While St. Tikhon was still a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America
he presented the cause to the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow for approval.
The Rite of St. Gregory and the Anglican BCP rite, which has become known as the Rite of St. Tikhon
were approved by the Holy Synod in 1904 and later approved by the Holy Synod of Antioch for use
in North America. Hence a parish today has a choice of two rites; the Rite St. Gregory (Pope of
Rome), the oldest liturgy of the undivided Church still in use, or the Rite of St. Tikhon (Patriarch
of Moscow and patron Saint of the Orthodox Western Rite).

With the return of then Bishop Tikhon to Russia and the political turmoil of the Twentieth Century,
the reintroduction of the Western Rite to the American Orthodox Church was delayed until 1962.It
was then that Archbishop Anthony Bashir of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America, with the
approval of the Patriarch of Antioch, promulgated the Western Rite Directory, which officially reintro-
duced the Western Rite to the North American Church. This was done with the stated purpose "to
provide a home in the Orthodox Church for western people of non-Byzantine cultural and religious
backgrounds." They would utilize their own familiar and theologically Orthodox Western Rite liturgical

Western Rite Orthodoxy exists throughout the known world. In the United States this work is overseen
with the blessing of His Eminence, Metropolitan Philip Saliba, Archbishop of the Antiochian Archdiocese
in this country, through the work of the Very Reverend Paul W.S. Schneirla, who serves as the Vicar
General of the Western Rite Vicariate since 1962. Western Rite Orthodoxy has proven itself to be an
excellent out-reach to those who seek the assurance of the Orthodox Catholic Faith and who find
themselves best rooted in their own western liturgical and spiritual ethos.

In France, all native French Orthodox Christians, who number in the thousands, use the form of worship
known as the Gregorian Rite. Other Western Rite parish's use a liturgy based on a derivative of the
Gregorian Rite that is found in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

The theological modifications to the Western Rite Orthodox text are subtle and hardly noticeable to even
the most regular worshipper. Two of these alterations include the deletion of the Filioque [and the Son]
clause in the Nicene Creed and the addition of a stronger epiclesis (invoking of the Holy Ghost) in the
Canon prayer said by the priest at the consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of
Christ. The return to the original form of the Creed affirms the Church's belief that the Holy Ghost is one
of the three Persons of the triune Godhead. In the Nicene Creed, history shows that the phrase "and the
Son," when speaking of the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father was initially an addition by a
local council of Western Bishops. This change in the Creed was originally rejected by the papacy of Rome
in an effort to combat the Arian heresy, which was rampant in Western Europe. The Eastern Bishops argued
the filioque phrase causes a blurring of the roles of each of the three Divine Persons, Father, Son and
Holy Ghost, in the Godhead. It is from the Father that the son is begotten and it is from the Father
that the Holy Ghost proceeds, through the Son. The Holy Ghost retains in the Orthodox popular mind a
much stronger image as a person of the Trinity as opposed to western Christianity were the Holy Ghost
has become, to some degree, a force or spirit which ultimately detracts from His membership in the
Triune Godhead.

In addition to these two changes, the Western Rite includes other minor changes that Roman Catholics
familiar with the pre-Vatican II rite and most Anglo-Catholics (High Church Episcopalians) would find
to be either familiar or certainly acceptable. The Orthodox Western Rite allows western Christians to
retain familiar, traditional forms of worship. Thus insuring themselves of remaining within an eccles-
iastical communion, under Apostolic bishops who attempt to teach and practice the ancient Gospel
of Jesus Christ as it speaks to the needs and concerns of today's men and women.

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, authorized His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony (Bashir) [of thrice-blessed
memory] to establish the western rite in the Antiochian Archdiocese of All North America.

The enunciated purpose for the establishing of the western rite is (1.) to provide 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 involves 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 authorized and mandated
liturgical texts. There is no authority for any "home-made," extemporaneous, trial or
experimental liturgies. The Church functions under the authority of Christ, and her clergy
are under the authority of the hierarchs who have 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

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 Martyrology, 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 parishes ceremonial. The are not authorised to "make 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 authoritative 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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